Sunday, January 26, 2014

Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments

We ran in to a snafu where our finances are concerned and things will be extremely tight for the next week yet this has only seemed to enflame my enthusiasm for my financial endeavors.
The updates for the week are as follows:

*52 Week Savings Plan:  There is still only $10 in this account as I had paid in advance for the remainder of the month of January.

*Christmas Jar of Change:  As I am cleaning, purging, organizing every nook and cranny of my home I am finding change - a little change here, a little change there, a little change everywhere.  We are a family that values a penny and yet we have managed to lose track of so many.  Albeit a little surprising it does allow me to toss another $2.93 in to the Christmas Jar of Change and when added to the previous balance of $39.47 that makes for a grand total of 42.40.

*Favorite Frugal Accomplishments:

- I bought 54 forever stamps before the rate of postage increases this month.

-I cleaned and inventoried the pantry, fridge, and freezer and am planning all menus around what I already have on hand.  This has already helped me reduce the number of times that I go through the drive thru.  Well, if I am being perfectly honest, the financial snafu had something to do with that as well.  But it is nice to know that beyond a very small amount of essentials I could feed my family complete breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for easily three weeks without going to the grocery store.

- I had some delightful entertainment for FREE.  Maceo was required to perform in a promotional performance of Music Man Jr. at a community event and I, of course, opted to stay and watch the performance.  What I found was that our actors were one in a lineup of numerous performances and I was treated to Irish dancing, Korean music and a really beautiful Korean fan dance.  Apparently this is an annual Martin Luther King Jr. day event and I will write it on the calendar for next year.

- Bishop got invited to a birthday party. There really wasn't any money to go shopping for a gift so we figured out something we could do using only what we had in the house.  The truly frugal gift would have been the lego tank that I have stashed somewhere in this house.  Alas, I could not find it (illustrating the need for me to clean, purge and organize every nook and cranny of my property) so we came up with a less frugal but a truly satisfying gift.  We took some cash out of our entertainment budget envelope, folded it in to a shuriken, attached it to a piece of paper, drew a ninja and called it good.  It was fun and entertaining to create and was well received by the birthday boy.

- I then felt compelled to come up with a birthday gift for my grand-niece using only what was available in the house.  She is having a Willy Wonka themed birthday and I wanted to do something candy related without it actually involving candy (she will surely have plenty of that at her party) so I made her two pretty-cute-if-I-do-say-so-myself perler bead candies.  I attached christmas ornament hooks on them so that she can hang them in her room or on her tree next year and wrapped them candy fashion with things that I had on hand.

-While sorting through my card stash to find my niece a birthday card I also found numerous get well cards that I had forgotten about.  I am needing get well cards for the several family members that have been struggling with pneumonia and now I have them (for FREE!).  So next week I will mail my free get well cards with my lower priced forever stamps and consider that another frugal accomplishment.

- There were also some victories in the kitchen beyond cleaning and inventorying.  I made three loaves of banana bread, have done well using leftovers, and have used powdered milk for all cooking endeavors that required milk.  I then snuck the remaining powdered milk in to the jug of regular milk.  (Shhhh.....the kids don't know, tee hee hee).

- My niece popped in for a little visit and I was able to extend some hospitality by making cookies from the frozen cookie dough that I had stashed in the freezer and I sent her home with a hot chocolate goodie bag that included the peppermint marshmallows that she really loved whenever she came for the hot chocolate bar.

- Although every accomplishment listed above makes me giggle just a little bit my favorite frugal accomplishment would be scoring FREE drawing lessons.  Bishop has been wanting to take drawing lessons with one caveat, that I attend them with him.  Prior to Christmas we took a class for a test drive.  That class was going to cost us $10 an hour per person for a total of $40 each week.  After completing our first class we were relating our experience to a friend (an artist friend who is in school to become an art teacher) and she made an offer we couldn't refuse.  She offered to come to our house one time per week and give us drawing lessons at no charge.  She considers the opportunity to practice teaching her payment.  We bought our supplies for less then $40, didn't have to drive to a lesson, learned things we didn't know and had fun visiting with our friend.

What a great week!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Financial Goals and Frugal Accomplishments

I am still excited about the new year and all the possibilities that it seems to possess.  I have been pondering dreams and thinking of goals and adding to my to-do list
This year has the potential to be a very busy year with travels and transitions.  Christian will likely be graduating at the end of this year and will need to move on to a graduate program, this will involve a move and, prior to that, possibly even scouting trips.  He has been invited to go on an international relations related trip to China for honor students.  We would like to be able to make this happen.  Maceo and Bishop haven't seen their dad in a year and a half so it seems that a trip to South Korea is in order for the three of us.  It would be ideal if we could spend more time in New Mexico as my grandparents are ailing and I would love to visit my daughter in California.
All of this is very exciting but very daunting as well, as it will be very costly.  So, naturally, my attention turns to financial matters.  It will be necessary for me to take an honest look at my debt and expenditures and update my financial accountability log.  Of course, this has been added to the master to-do list.  I have also added a couple of other finance-related items to the to-do list including:

* doing my own version of the 52 week money challenge which will allow me to save close to $1400 by years end in a relatively painless manner.  This will help defray moving expenses for Christian.

*nspired by Patsy at A Working Pantry I will collect my change throughout the year and devote it to Christmas expenses.  December is typically a costly month for us with Christmas, property taxes due, vehicle registration due, and, hopefully, travel expenses (I really like to get my daughter home for Christmas, it means so much to both of us).  We anticipate that this December will be even more costly with Christian's graduation and pending move.  I must be prepared.

* also, inspired by The Prudent Homemaker, I will attempt to document my weekly frugal accomplishments.  I am hoping that this exercise will impact the way that I view even the smallest of my finance-related decisions.  I hope that it will inspire me to be more steadfast in doing the things that I know make a difference and more creative in finding new ways to make a difference financially.

For the purposes of accountability and inspiration, I am thinking that I will occasionally post an update on these particular items on my to-do list.
Consider this the first bit of documentation towards that end.
*52 Week Savings Plan:  There is presently $10 in that savings account.

*Christmas Jar of Change:  I started with a jar that I had already been dropping some change in to.  Now this jar is specifically for Christmas expenditures and will be added to with deliberate intent.  The jar's starting balance was $28.03.  At the end of last week I cleaned out my purse and found an additional $11.44 worth of change (no wonder my purse felt so heavy).  The current total in the jar is $39.47.  That is a nice start.

*And now for some of my favorite frugal accomplishments from last week:
-I had received a free pocket calendar from a local business while doing Christmas shopping and I have now tucked that calendar in to my purse and am using it to document my daily spending. 
-I returned to utilizing cash for grocery shopping to prevent me from going over my budget.
-I used a 40% off coupon for an educational-related item that was necessary to purchase.
-I utilized a $10 coupon at a local department store to purchase a really nice, warm shirt that was on clearance.  I paid $8.61 out of pocket.  This will be a 2014 Christmas gift for Bishop unless we find that he is in need of it sooner then that.
-I used fuel rewards points when filling up my vehicle.  It was a .30 per gallon savings.
-I bought a bag of lemons for the highly discounted price of .99.  I was originally planning to juice these and freeze the juice for future consumption; however, while dropping some items off at the thrift store, I serendipitously stumbled across a .25 book entitled The Science of a Lemon and the lemons then became the subject of numerous science experiments.  $1.25 makes for a frugal science curriculum.
-Another item on my master to-do list involves going through every nook and cranny of my property in order to purge and organize (I have presently taken two garbage bags and a box of items to the thrift store).  While sorting through items I have unearthed items that I had purchased as gifts and then promptly misplaced or tucked away in a place so hidden and safe that even I couldn't find them.  I have also been able to go "shopping" for gifts amongst the items that I was willing to let go (ie. someone will be getting a really fabulous vintage Christmas decoration as a gift for 2014 Christmas).  It has been really rewarding.

I am excited about becoming more disciplined and deliberate.  I am excited about the financial adventure that I am embarking on.  I am really excited about all the possibilities that this year holds. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year, Everyone!!!

I hope that everyone had a blessed holiday season and, for that matter, I really hope that everyone had a blessed 2013.  And now,  welcome to 2014 and all of its beautiful, wonderful possibilities!
This time of transition is a natural time to reflect on what has been and think of what could be.
I started the year by celebrating my youngest son's birthday and learning how to needle felt.
I recognized Christian's birthday even while he was away on a month-long adventure to Korea.  I recognized my sweet girls birthday and enjoyed visiting with her when she came home for a visit and then we made a trek to New Mexico to celebrate my dear grandmother's 90th birthday.  I sent a son to boy scout camp and another one to church camp and to theatre camp.  I helped one son prepare for auditions while another son got his grill on!  We went to the fair and took an invigorating trip to St. Louis.  I celebrated yet another child's birthday and enjoyed a visit from my father.  I took my own adventurous journey to Korea and yet another trip to New Mexico to visit with my ailing 94-year-old grandfather.  I buried five of my lovely ladies.  I got to watch Maceo perform in Little Mermaid Jr. and get cast in Music Man Jr.  And I ended the year by spending precious time with all my children as my dear Keegan was able to make it home for Christmas.  I enjoyed another year of football with my family.  I won our fantasy football regular season (but couldn't win in the post season) and our family pick'ems and my Bengals are going to the NFL playoffs.  I did a 5K, I began to find my voice regarding educational philosophy, and began a series entitled Lifestyle of Learning.  It was an eventful and blessed year, particularly in regards to family.  This would be the first year of many in which I was able to visit with all my grandparents, parents and siblings.
Now, I look forward to what I hope to experience in this new year. 
I don't make resolutions, so to speak.  I make to-do lists.
Thus far my 2014 to-do list looks a little like this:
-Get blog completely updated.
-Print blog in to book form.
-Play my mandolin.
-Carve a spoon.
-Do succession planting.
-Build fencing to protect the ladies.
-Wet felt something.
-Get a freezer.
-Ferment something.
-Make at least 5 homemade gifts.
-Raise a chick.
-Take a trip.
This list will continue to grow and hopefully I will come close to checking everything off.
Over the next month,  I know that the list will expand to include some health and educational goals, home improvement projects and some financial goals. 
And speaking of financial goals, my niece, Sarah, and her husband, Kevin, have set themselves a challenging goal for the month of January.  They are determined to have a spending freeze this month.  I find that to be exciting and inspiring.  If you do as well and find yourself curious about how that is going for them then feel free to check out their blog.

Happy New Year, Everyone!
May you be richly blessed!