Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nothingness, Nashville, and Side Jobs

It has been a very laid back sort of week at our house. We have not done much in outside of working this week. Hubby is getting a little frustrated and is ready for a vacation. We are both looking forward to our mini-vacation to Nashville, TN tomorrow. We will be leaving home at noon tomorrow and won’t do much other than dinner out and the concert. On Saturday, we hope to get in some shopping. We don’t want to go to the mall or anything. Our main objective is to find a few interesting thrift stores and check out their goods. This is a far cry from my past life. When I was married the first time, my then husband and I went to Nashville for our honeymoon. We spent two days shopping in every single mall. It exhausted me and he loved it! To say I am not much of a shopper is an accurate statement!

On a financial note, Hubby has a few side jobs lined up. Both of them were by word of mouth. I love that he did one job for a lady off of an online group and she has referred him to two other couples. One of the couples had him to paint the front porch and as a result of this, they sold their house quickly. Now they have called him again to have him come out to do a few minor things that the realtor wanted repaired. He has to give one bid this afternoon and another on Tuesday. The first job will probably be done on Sunday afternoon. This is a good thing. We want to build up our funds again.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Agenda, Yard Sales, and Eating Out

I cannot say that this weekend was particularly fruitful for me. I really did not accomplish the goals I set for myself. This week, I will try to find the time to make granola and laundry detergent!

Mom and I went to yard sales on Saturday morning. I got 13 books (4 of which were for my mom), a cool diffuser necklace, a set of Pilates cards and exercise book, some kitty toys, and my mom bought me an Eeyore bubble blower (these sold at the Disney Store for $20 or so!). I spent a total of $8.

We went back out after eating a light breakfast at 10:30 and we hit a few more sales. None of these had anything worth getting, except for one. We stopped only because it was next to another sale. There I found a big bag full of t-shirts. They were all the same (grey Reebok tees) in M, L, and XL sizes. I casually asked the price. The lady said $1 each. These were priced $15.99 on the tags! They bought them for a ball team and ended up not using them after all. I snagged all of the ones in a size L (6 in all) and paid $5.00. My mom got 3 of the XL ones for herself. The 6 I got are for my husband to wear to work. I could not buy him the generic thin tees for that price!

My total spent for the day was $12. This is more than my norm but is still very good.

Hubby was working on the car most of the weekend. On Saturday evening, he said he wanted to go out to dinner. I know he was trying to be nice to me since I’d had a trying day. However, I also knew that $25 or so for dinner was not in the budget! Instead I went into the kitchen and cleaned it up some (it was a mess from Hubby’s cooking earlier in the week) before making twice baked potatoes and defrosting chicken. We ended up eating chicken fettuccini and saving the potatoes for snacks (Hubby loves these). Dinner cost less than $3 instead of $25.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Frugally Speaking

This week has been an expensive one for our little family. $340 for two new front tires on my car yesterday is going to make for even leaner times ahead.

I have decided that I have to stop beating myself up over the little things. In life, we have to have faith that things will turn out right. My worrying won’t make the money magically appear. Meditation and prayer will calm the nerves and the rest will fall into place.

I’ve been looking around on the internet while at work (it has been a slow week) and found a few things I can do to save some money.

-- I would like to try my hand at homemade granola. I love granola on yogurt and I also like it as a cereal. The stuff isn’t very cheap and I never see coupons for it. Also, I don’t like dates or nuts in mine so if I make it, those can be eliminated.

-- I think I’m going to attempt to make homemade laundry detergent.

Any suggestions for these two items or other money saving ideas can be left in the comments!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Free Pearl Earrings

Pearls and more Pearls

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

List O' Freebies

Do any of you keep track of the Freebies that come into your life? I have found that it is very rewarding to see these things listed. The last page in my paper journal is reserved for these little things. Be it a donut at work or a book from the local freecycle group, whatever it is, I will write it down.

On those days when I’m feeling particularly low or when I feel like I am beating my head against a wall with these frugal endeavors, I like to read over the list. It makes me feel good.

I also keep a list of the random kindnesses I do for others. This forces me to focus on being kind and generous to my fellowman.

Today, my boss took us out to lunch for a co-worker's birthday. We were treated to P.F. Changs and had so much food that I have enough left over for dinner tonight for Hubby and myself!

Thoughts on Debt Reduction

I have gotten some advice from people on fine tuning our budget. I will be considering some of their opinions such as cutting down on Hubby’s soda and trying to get our credit card debt down to just one card.

Another thing I did not mention is that Hubby does earn money from time to time on side jobs (painting, drywall, HVAC, etc). This money is split 50% to credit cards, 25% to savings (emergency fund), and 25% is his ‘extra’ money. We use this for little things we may want but certainly do not need.

Hubby also makes armour. This money is split in a similar way but 25% goes back into materials or supplies for his workshop.

I am trying to get a Free Checking account. We want to go with Univest but will need a local bank to deposit Hubby’s check since his company does not offer direct deposit. Mine could be directly deposited into our main account. We would gain a small interest amount which is higher than we currently get on our savings account. I’m also changing our savings account to one without a fee. This one is charging $5 if you get below $500. Normally this does not happen but this month, for the second time ever; we’re getting hit with this fee. If I can get the accounts changed over, we will have put an additional $120 in our pockets. That money can go straight to the credit card bills. $10 may not sound like a lot but it really can add up!

In theory, by July, we could be putting an additional $50 per month on the credit card bills. This would really help to get the amounts down.

I found this great calculator for debt reduction ( from CNN. Based upon their calculations which are so much better than my own estimations, we will be debt free in 1 year and 8 months! This gives me an incentive. I would like to get it paid off sooner by making payments when we have extra funds available.

Hubby is on board with this too. He wants to get it paid off as soon as possible. This is a good thing because if we both have the same goal, we can encourage each other!

My Current Budget

Take Home – Bi Weekly = $690

Outgoing – Bi Weekly
House Payment - $375 (1/2 of the total)
Credit Card - $75
Angel Food - $25 (food package)
Soda/Beer (Hubby) - $20
Groceries - $75
Household Expense - $25
Pets (food & litter for 2 dogs and 4 cats) - $30
Yard Sales (clothing, gifts, etc) - $25
TOTAL Outgoing = $650

Take Home – Bi Monthly = $895

Savings = $100

Outgoing – Bi Monthly (Last Day of Month)
Car Insurance - $85
House Insurance - $65
Home Phone - $30
Internet - $45
Water and trash removal - $40
Property Taxes - $75
Gasoline - $150 (based on one tank of gas per week for me and one every other week for Hubby)
My nails - $20 (I have gel nail overlays)
Credit cards - $175
Medical - $50
Stop Smoking Aids - $40
TOTAL Outgoing = $791

Outgoing – Bi Monthly (15th of Month)
Bank Fees - $10
Call Phone - $112
Curves $32
Electric and gas - $225
Satellite - $55
Gasoline - $150 (based on one tank of gas per week for me and one every other week for Hubby)
SCA (Our Hobby) - $50 (this goes in savings until we need it for event fees)
My nails - $20 (I have gel nail overlays)
Credit cards - $40
Medical - $50
Stop Smoking Aids - $40
TOTAL Outgoing = $784

I can see a few things that are not frugal:

  • My nails for one. However, I have razor sharp nails that have actually cut my scalp and face while sleeping. The gel makes them not so sharp and therefore safe.

  • Curves - I'm in a contract for one year. The doctor prescribed exercise and I thought this was the best option at the time.

  • Soda & Beer - Hubby does not ask for much. He just likes the occasional cold beer and would like soda to be avaialble.

Need Your Advice Please

Today I calculated our take home income. It isn’t very pretty. Both of us work full time jobs and yet, after taxes, child support, medical insurance, and life insurance, our household income is roughly $38,000. This is roughly 63% of our combined wages.

Straight away, we put $2,400 aside for savings. This money ends up being used for our property taxes each year ($1,065 for 2006). I want to change that if I can. I would like to find ways to pay off our credit card debt (around $5,500) and save more money for emergencies.

I feel as if I am already doing most all of the things posed by other people as being frugal. I already use cloth napkins, shop at Aldi or Save-a-Lot, make food from scratch, etc. We wear yard sale or thrift store clothing 99% of the time. I'm already paying an extra $50 to principle on our house payment each month. In fact, the way we've set up payments, we also make an extra payment each year.

I've been a thrifty person most of my life. I don't really know of any other places where I can cut my spending (besides the item I’m mentioned in my previous post).

My challenge to you is for you to suggest ways that we can tighten our financial belts and save more money.

I will be posting all of our saving techniques here and will let you know if they work or not.

Smoking Away Our Cash

At our house, we are trying to find ways to cut costs even more.

The first thing we are doing will actually cost us money for a few weeks. Hubby is going to quit smoking. He had gotten to where he was smoking a pack of cigarettes each day at a cost of roughly $2.20 per day. (OUCH!) He decided that he would like to quit.

I was sent a 2 week supply of the nicotine patches a few months ago. He is starting out on these. We were also given about 10 coupons for $7 off a box of the patches. However, upon doing a cost per patch analysis, I found that it would be cheaper to purchase the patches in generic form from Sam’s Club. It will cost just about $2.50 per patch for approximately 6 to 8 weeks. Two months of spending more will be worth it once we begin reaping the benefits of an additional $15 per week ($800 per year!!). I will be putting this money into a glass jar at home for a while so that my husband can see just what he is saving by not smoking.

Monday, April 16, 2007


We have Dish Network at our house. I know it isn’t the most frugal thing to have but we have it. About a month and a half ago, someone called and offered us a special on Showtime. We agreed as long as we could drop Starz at no cost. Did you know they charge $5 to change your service?! We got the bill. It was $88! We were charged for two premium packages!!

Hubby called them today and got nowhere. The phone employees are all overseas (India? Pakistan?) and they have language barriers. While I realize that they are just doing their job, don’t they realize that I do not want to pay them that kind of money for services I do not have?

We really enjoy watching television at our house. However, after the treatment we received from three employees today, I do believe that when our contract is up with Dish Network, we will cancel our service.

I sent a complaint email today. They are supposed to respond within 24 hours. I’ll keep you posted!

Gutter Talk

Last Wednesday, I checked my email to find that someone was giving away rain gutters. Her husband did not like to clean them so they were tearing them down. I jumped on the offer and explained in email that Hubby and I would love to have these gutters to put up on our home. I went on to tell her that we are working on improving an older property (40 years old in a Military town) as inexpensively as we can.

The lady gave us the gutters because we were actually going to use them and not just sell them for aluminum scrap!

Yesterday, my Beloved and I put them up. Our house is a smaller (1100 sq ft) ranch house with a peak on one side of the roof structure. We put the gutters on the flat side and still have enough to do the front and possibly the back of the Hubby’s small workshop.

Our total monetary investment in the entire job (house and workshop) is $18. This was the cost of the end caps, downspout cut out thing, and brackets. We mainly reused the screws and stuff already attached to the gutters. At one point, we thought we’d need to go out and purchase a piece to join the two lengths we used for the front of the house. At my suggestion, Hubby fabricated his own piece from the scraps. That is $5 or so saved right there! Hubby estimates that the total cost would have been around $175 if we’d purchased new from the home improvement store.

Incidentally, these gutters are the higher quality ones not the flimsy ones that one would buy and install themselves. We got high quality gutters for $18 and some sweat equity!

I should add that we have quite a few tools around our house. Hubby used a chop saw, a caulk gun, pliers, and a drill that we already own to complete the job. The whole thing was done in less than 2 hours.

The house looks different now. I think it looks more put together. We still need to hose them off but they look great! The best thing about them is when it rains, we won’t have a mini lake in front of our porch!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Going, Going, Gone!

The past few days have not been very frugal. Hubby and I had to dip into our already diminished savings in order to purchase a much needed part for my beloved car. You see, my car is a Camaro convertible. It was not the car I picked rather it picked me. She has been a great car but lets face it, she is 10 years old. We knew that the top was going about a year ago. My nephew was living with us when I got my car (used in 2001). To my dismay I found that he was putting his school books on the convertible top while waiting for the school bus! This stretched the canvas. Over time, weather, sun, and wind have damaged it.

We knew the lowest price for one through a catalog company (with hubby doing the labor) was $850 plus shipping and that was only if they were able to get the item. Ouch! The idea was to hold off for a while and re-build the savings account. However, the car had other ideas! Last week I noticed that the entire top of the back window had released from the canvas. The bottom did this in the past and we repaired it temporarily with duct tape. Since this was not repairable, we had to suck it up and order a new top and back glass panel.

Before going to the low priced catalog company, Hubby checked out ebay. To his delight, he found a company that uses factory specs to custom make the top. The item comes with all of the hardware necessary, a 7 year warranty, and instructions. The best part is that it cost only $515 WITH shipping!

So yes, I find it hard to realize that our savings is basically gone. However, I know that we can and will build it back up soon. Things happen in life and we have to roll with the punches.

If you want to see the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. ~Dolly Parton

Monday, April 09, 2007

Super Special Day

Hubby & I have a Super Special Day coming up. I'm so excited that I must share.

One of my favorite musicians of all times is Loreena McKennit. You can visit her at her webpage which is I never thought she would tour again, much less in the United States. Hubby and I always agreed that should she perform anywhere near us, we would do our best to attend.

Lo and behold, Loreena McKennit is touring Europe and the US to promote her newest album. She is coming to Nashville on April 27th and is playing the Ryman Auditorium! I found out about it before tickets went on sale to the public. As a member of her e-newsletter, I was able to order tickets in advance. We're sitting 4th row center. We feel so lucky!

Anyway, the Super Speical Day is really two days. We're going to Nashville early and plan to have a nice late lunch. We've reserved a lower priced hotel room about 12 miles away ($59 as opposed to $189 closer to downtown). We would like to find something fun to do Friday during the day and possibly even Saturday morning. We love thrift shopping, flea markets, yard sales, etc. We're not really "mall people" so to speak. I thought we may go to the zoo or something.

If anybody has suggestions, please share them!

Pixie Wardrobe - Monday

Dark orange shirt - Free (Freecycle)
Olive green pants - Free (Freecycle)
Black socks - Free (Freecycle)
Birkenstocks - $4

Cheap outfit today, my friends. LOL!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pixie Wardrobe - Thursday

It has gotten cool again here in the Mid-South so I had to pull out a jacket. This should add to the "price" of my daily wardrobe.

- Khakis - Free from a fellow Freecycler
- Black polo shirt - Free from my mom (she paid 50 cents for it at a church yard sale)
- Rainbow "happy" socks - 50 cents
- 6 year old Birkenstocks - $4 in new condition from a flea market in FL
- Red & grey fleece jacket - Free from my neighbor (payment for helping with her yard sale)

Total - $4.50

Playing in the Pantry

Hubby & I did something last night that really NEEDED to be done a long time ago. We cleaned and organized the pantry. Our pantry was added into a previously empty space in the kitchen just before we moved into the house 3 years ago (we rented first then purchased). While I like having a pantry, this one is quite inconvenient for us.

I found that we had too much opened stuff. I think the company helped themselves to things and as a result, I had two bags of pretzels opened and several other duplicates. I solved this by putting them into a plastic container. All snacks are in a big plastic container.

After looking at our pantry, I realize why people say there is nothing to eat at our house. I have 3 kinds of flour, sugar, dry beans, rice, pasta, cocoa, and various other ingredients. The only pre-made things are animal crackers, graham crackers, saltines, and pretzels. There are no snack cakes or oreos or anything like that. If we want cookies, we use the raw ingredients to make them. To the untrained eye, I guess we really must be starving! *Giggle*

By cleaning the pantry, I was able to better organize things. I have put like items together and that makes it easier to see what I have on hand. This weekend, I hope to stock up on a few of the depleted items so that I have a full larder once again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

We had company last night and of course, that ruined our budget! While I did not succumb to the “Let’s go out to sushi” request, we did go get 5 for $5 burgers from Sonic. This was, for us, a compromise. While I would love to go out for a nice sushi treat with Hubby, it would be better enjoyed on a weekend when we could linger over our meal and spend time together. A quick weekday meal would ruin the experience for me.

Tonight I’m making up another batch of pasta salad. I have all of the ingredients on hand and this makes enough for those quick weekend lunches. I probably will not serve this for dinner though since it tastes better once chilled. I think tonight potato soup from the freezer.

I need to remember to cook when I feel well enough and store the foods in the freezer. I do want to do an inventory of the freezer(s) soon so I can keep up with my cooking. I hate it when I feel I have to eat out or eat junk because I feel so horrid.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Building, Learning, And Earning

This weekend, my husband took the time to build a very sturdy set of shelves. The only out of pocket cost was for the 2 x 4’s. The other materials were items that we had on hand. These shelves are very sturdy and are much like those used in factory settings. He made them large enough so that each of the 3 shelves will hold 6 of the large plastic storage totes. The bottom shelf will actually house the big sized tools (shop vac, etc.). This will allow us to store all of our camping equipment, car repair/car wash items, tools, etc. on our screened in patio rather than outside in his sheet metal shop. By moving the items to the patio area, the shop is then opened up so that Hubby can once again work on his side business making medieval styled armour for sale.

We did not have enough totes to hold all of the miscellaneous items so Hubby ran to the store to get some. Our neighbor saw him unloading the totes and offered to give us as many spares as we needed. What a blessing! We were able to return the 6 totes and get our money back! This serves to remind me that I should always ask around before making a purchase. These totes technically could have waited until we could get them second hand. We need to remember to be patient and wait for things to come to us.

Thanks to a side job that Hubby did yesterday we have the money for our taxes without having to dip into savings. This is a blessing because we just had to pull $1100 out for property taxes last month. This left us with a very small balance that we’re trying to grow once again.

We also have enough left over to do a little home improvement. Hubby would like to do some pea gravel paths in our yard. It will beautify our little piece of land without having to re-sod the grass. Grass really does not like to grow in our front yard. We put in a front garden last year that spans a large portion in front of our house. Since we used herbs in this garden, 95% of it is coming back beautifully. I love the look of a somewhat wild garden!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Need Suggestions

On Sunday, my parents are coming over for lunch. It is a combination easter and birthday dinner (my mom's birthday was April 1st). I have also invited my neighbor and her two children to come over.

I want to cook a good, low cost meal. It does not need to be traditional easter fare, just good home cooking. I am feeding 5 adults and 2 kids. Please give me any and all suggestions!!!

Pixie Wardrobe - Weekend & Monday

Denim capris - $1
Flip Flops - 50 cents
Red Foot Locker brand teeshirt - free
Total - $1.50

Denim capris - $1
Flip Flops - 50 cents
Purple tshirt from mom - free
Total - $1.50

Khaki pants - $1 at a thrift store no less than 5 years ago (worn nicely now!)
Light yellow shirt - free from freecycle bag of goodies
black thin jacket (kept at work for cool days) - 25 cents from a yard sale
brown sandals - $9 (Yes, I'm getting a lot of use out of them!)
Total - $10.25

Yard Sales + Lots of Walking = Fibro Flare!

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a few days. I went to a community yard sale on Saturday and I guess I did too much. Now I'm paying the price for my "fun" so to speak.

I got 12 books for a total of $3.75. This means I paid right at 31 cents per book. Two of them are a gift for my mom for her birthday. The others will probably be read and either given to my mom or sold at the local Bookrack. I can trade books there for same genre books. They take my books and give me 1/4 of cover price. They sell them at 1/2 of cover price. If I pay 50 cents or so for the book, in essence I am making money.

I also got a clock for my kitchen ($1). We are in the process of remodeling this room and the clock is the perfect match to the colors and style I selected.

I picked up a nice decorative basket to sit on the kitchen counter to hold my medications for $1.00. I also got hubby a new (literally) belt ($1) and pair of like new shoes ($1). I got a tea light style lamp ($1), a party lite bowl and plate set ($1), and a small Tupperware brand container (50 cents).

All in all I think I quite well. I did not find any work shorts or tees for Hubby but I still have the rest of the summer left for 'shopping'. We're not in a desperate need for these items but they are things he will definately need and use.

The rest of the weekend was spent trying to recouperate. I did manage to get the kitchen cleaned up and part of the refrigerator organized but that took 1 1/2 hours instead of the normal 20 minutes. I didn't get the summer stuff out of the attic or the winter stuff put up. I guess that can wait until later in the week.