Friday, January 29, 2010

Snowstorm Economics

We sure don't have to worry about shopping right now - it's snowing, snowing, snowing and nobody will be getting out in this stuff!  The snow has got me thinking, though.  Do you ever run to the store for milk, bread and eggs when you hear snow is in the forecast?  A lot of folks do.  How come those folks don't run out for a new coverlet to match their sheets?  What about a new gadget for the kitchen?  Nobody runs out before a snowstorm for the latest style of stretch denim????  Are you kidding me?  Of course not, that would be silly.  Those items are not necessary to get us through life, are they?  That's sort of the approach we are taking right now.  If we don't need it during a snowstorm, we probably don't need it at all.  Of course this excludes my Tic Tac addiction :).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Measuring Progress

Someone asked me recently how we would know if this was really working if we were not keeping an actual budget.  Not to laugh (hard, that is) but it will be sooooo easy to know because if it is working there will actually be a little money at the end of the month.  Guess what?  My husband finally balanced the checkbook last night and SUCCESS!  We are not as broke as we usually are.  This might even motivate him to look at the finances a little more often - after all, who wants to go through a checkbook every few days when you know it is just going to depress you?  It is also surprising how many fewer receipts there are floating about the table, in my purse and shoved into my husband's wallet.  The trips to the store are SO much shorter.  And, we have survived without the usual extras, just fine in fact.  So, we are approaching the end of our first month shopping thin and glad to say that so far we are not suffering or barefoot or threadbare or ... you get the idea.  One down and eleven to go - wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just a Phone Call Away to Saving $300 A Year???

Heard about this phone service called Magic Jack - I have personally talked with someone who has it and really loves it.  Have you heard of it before? We are currently spending about $30 a month for our land line, or about $360 a year.  Supposedly with Magic Jack we can cut $320 dollars off that price the first year and $300 off every year after that.  They charge right at $40 the first year and $20 every year after that.  That sounds amazing to me!  We tried going to cell phones only for a while - we did not have reliable enough service to continue but I sure would be willing to try this thing out - it can't hurt and we might end up saving a bundle!  Feedback from you guys always welcome.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Okay -  sorry about not posting yesterday but was under the weather (yuck)  Check out the gift I made for the birthday boy - but shhh! Don't show and tell cause his birthday is this weekend.  I am very happy with how it came out.  I had the cork board, the fabric, ribbon, buttons, letters (everything) so no purchase of anything was involved with making this.  He can put pics in it, use tacs on it, whatever!  And, his room is camo already.  So, I hope he likes it and keep it under your hat!  What do you think?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Birthday Challenge

I guess you might say our first "big" challenge has come up.  We have a little friend with a birthday just around the corner and as you all know that have been following along we cannot purchase anything that isn't depletable or edible.  The friend is turning 9 so a basket of fruit really isn't going to do the trick.  What on earth can we make for a 9-year-old boy that he will actually like?  I am limited to the supplies I already have.  This calls for a trip up to the attic storage to check out what kind of supplies I have on hand.  I will definitely post a pic of what I come up with soon.  

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Are You Doing?

From time to time I will post things that you share with me about your own personal "frugal" journey, if you are taking one.  Today, I will introduce you to one the followers of the blog - Pam Taylor.  She is married and the mother of two children living outside the Memphis, TN area.  Pam is definitely absorbing frugality and trying new things all the time.  She has made homemade dryer sheets, homemade facial and hand moisturizer as well as homemade hand sanitizer.  She hangs her laundry to dry when she can and she is one smart shopper, looking for the best buys all the time.  I hope she will continue to share her smart shopping ideas with us.  She finds her recipes  for her homemade concoctions online - you can enter the words "frugal living" in your internet search engine and you will be amazed at the things you will find!  Happy frugality everyone! 

See bottom of blog for Pam's Hand and Body Lotion recipe.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Color of Money ... and Hair

Okay - I confess - yes, I had my hair colored today.  Is that wrong?  To be honest with you, I just don't know.  It is a service which I cannot perform myself for a couple of reasons.  First, I am not allowed to go into a store and buy hair color in a box by the standards we set up - I don't consider it depletable and it is not edible.  Second, I do not have the skill set to do what my talented stylist, Paige, can do.  I am not a manicure or pedicure type of girl so I do not spend money on these things.  Am I making excuses for this?  Still don't know really.  I do know that I can't look into the mirror at all that gray hair, get depressed and then come to the realization that I am not allowed to go on a shopping spree to make myself feel better, so I think I just decided that getting my hair colored was a totally okay thing to do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cool Site To Check Out

If you are looking to make something unique you might get an idea or two or ten at www.instructables.com    I did not go through the entire site, as there is bunches to check out but did see all kinds of hand-made gift ideas.  Have at it and let me know what you think.

Questions and Answers

I have been getting questions about the Avon I sell.  Do I buy it?  How can those things be depletable?  What do you do with the money you make from your sales? 
1.  I can only buy products for myself and family from Avon that are depletable just like anywhere else.  This would include deodorant, soap, and shampoo.  It can include makeup and lotions, etc. but ONLY if I have completely used up what I currently have.  If I still have blush then, NO, I cannot buy more blush.  What about mascara?  I usually have a rule of about 3 or 4 months on replacing mascara due to the buildup of bacteria that can start growing.  Much like a toothbrush, if it poses a health risk it probably needs to be replaced.  However, I found a container of mascara (a different brand) that has never been opened so I cannot replace my mascara from Avon until I have opened and used the other one for at least 3 months.
2.  I have said this before, but most of you know that when you are getting started in a business most every dime you make goes right back into the business.  However, even here expenses can be spared.  I do not have much extra product on hand because I cannot use my husband's income to fund my Avon business.  Money I make from Avon, therefore, funds any purchases necessary for my business or I simply do not buy it.  I keep close tabs on my inventory, bags, the number of catalogs I purchase to hand out, etc.  I may really love the handbags and the sandals and the .... but I cannot purchase them and I will not because I want to keep my integrity through this process.   

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wouldn't A Budget Be Easier??????

For many years we have attempted to make budgets, write down our income and write down what we spend, etc.  This method just does not seem to work for us.  For one thing, we have not been disciplined enough and we don't seem to have the time to put into counting up all our receipts and keeping track of every penny spent and every item we have purchased.  We now realize one glaring reason for this - there have just been too many items on the receipts to begin with.  Once we made the decision to cut out non-depletables our receipts have gotten smaller and basically consists of food and toilet paper!  For us, it is easier to give ourselves two categories in which to shop for - depletables and edibles. 

Before when we would budget we actually put aside the cash for certain items like car maintenance, haircuts, etc. into envelopes and put the envelopes into a file folder.  When it was time for these expenses we pulled out the correct envelope and used it for that expense.  However, just knowing the cash was in the file folder was an attraction we could not avoid.  We might "borrow" from the haircut envelope for something else we wanted with every intention of replacing it but never would.  With the method we are using now, it feels as though we are removing the "money" from the equation; instead, we are focusing on the stuff, which is the source of our problem.  In this way, we are not constantly worrying over every penny spent but focusing on the things we are buying.  We are challenging ourselves to come up with creative substitutes and not pointing fingers at each other over how much money we spent on this or that because we know what we are allowed to purchase plain and simple.  In the end, extra money will, hopefully, be the result without us constantly having to focus on it directly.  We are also able to use this journey to teach our children the value of recognizing needs versus wants and that in itself has more value than any extra dollars we may end up with.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Turtle Trouble

We have a turtle - a red-eared slider. He is the aquatic variety and we love him.  His name is Twister.  Right before we started this shopping thin experiment his light stopped working at the top of his tank.  He requires a certain amount of light a day and therefore we knew we needed to get bulbs.  Unfortunately, light bulbs were not the problem after all.  There seemed to be a problem elsewhere because replacement bulbs did not solve our problem.  Thus, our little guy was still in the dark.  However, the new year was now upon us - now what?  The new tank light/case/cover was at least $20 and is certainly not depletable.  I have to give my husband credit here - he is creative!  We had an old reading lamp in the attic that has a clamp to attach it to whatever surface you happen to have.  He hooked it up to the table the turtle tank is on and presto! - We have light for our pet.  And get this - Twister loves this light much better than the one that came with the tank.  He sits on his rock basking in the "sunlight" and I swear I thought I saw him smiling!  Just one more example of how necessity is the mother of invention.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kudos

I sent my husband, Quade, a text yesterday afternoon letting him know I needed a couple of grocery items from the store - things I simply forgot to put on the list the other day. I obviously need to work on my list-making so that we are not making in-between trips unless it is absolutely necessary. Asking my dear husband to do this requires a little faith on my part. Although he is committed to our experiment this year and I know he wants us to succeed I also know that he is quite tempted by the clearance aisles. He is also our big DVD buyer so the idea of him going solo to the store is one that strikes a bit of fear in my heart. I held my breath as he walked in after his shopping trip and cautiously pulled each item from the white plastic bags. I am happy to report that he did GREAT! He only purchased what he was asked to purchase. He did admit, however, that it felt weird to him to go in and buy only food and leave. I am very proud of him today and this strengthened my resolve, as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Like To Buy Books - Now What?

We think of our local library - The Benton County Public Libary - as an entertainment center, where practically everything and every activity is FREE! Our library is phenomenal and if any of you in the blogosphere think we live in a bustling metropolis with many more choices than other towns, think again. Our county may have 17,000 residents living here. However, our library is fantastic with many children's programs, computer access, videos, geneology studies, monthly art/craft shows, summer concerts and of course, books! Currently, they have been offering Saturday craft classes and the class plus supplies is completely free. Since I think of books as special treasures it is important to have a wonderful library with tons of books from which to choose. I sure won't be buying any this year since I can't eat them and they are not depletable!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Men's Dinner

For those of you following along I promised an update about the gifts my husband and son needed for the men's dinner they attended tonight. It turns out my husband had several things stored away that he purchased over the past year at different times when they were on sale. We actually had plenty of things to choose from that would work perfectly so they were promptly wrapped up - and yes we already had the wrapping. Since we were low on tissue paper to stuff in the box around the gift, my husband took a hunting catalog, shredded it up and that became our "tissue" paper! Worked marvelously!

It's Actually Working!

We headed out today as a family of four to our local Wal-Mart Superstore. We had three purposes:
1. To purchase groceries.
2. To purchase gifts for a baby shower (not with our money but with baby shower hostess money. I am the women's ministry leader at our church and sometimes my duties include shopping for showers.)
3. To allow our oldest boy (age 7) to choose something to purchase with Christmas money he had received as gifts. He had a total of $60.

The grocery shopping was very easy - we had a list and only purchased what was on the list. The baby shower shopping was easy - I had a certain amount of funding from the hostesses and spent only that amount.

The part that posed a slight challenge was the shopping our boy, Kelby, was to do. He knew someone had opened a small savings account for him at Christmas and mistakenly believed he could access those funds any time he wanted for whatever he wanted. He learned on this day that this was for his "future." He only had the $60 dollars he brought with him at his spending disposal and began to wonder if the Wii game he was interested in was really worth the $49.99 price. After all, this would only leave him with $10 for quite a long time to come unless he managed to earn money somehow through the year. He then asked if there were any less expensive Wii games elsewhere and there happened to be a rack of games priced around $19.99. He chose one of these and left quite satisfied at getting a game and still having money to spare.

We did get spotted shopping by someone aware of our little project - the peeked inside the cart and seemed satisified! I did explain why I had a cart full of baby items and also explained why Kelby was looking at Wii games! This accountability thing is really working out. Thanks for everyone's interest in our shopping thin program.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rules of the Road

We are learning as we go - obviously we are not experts at frugal living or we wouldn't have had to embark upon this little experiment to begin with. However, we have made a few rules for ourselves. If you plan on attempting anything like this for your family by all means you must develop a rule book that will work for you. Since this is an experiment in progress I am sure we will discover a few new things to add to our book in the coming year. This is pretty much the way we have started, though.

1. My husband's income is our only source of income. I began selling Avon in November; however, anyone that has ever started a new business knows that basically every dime earned goes right back into the business until the business gets on its feet. Therefore, our income is based on my husband's earnings and our expenditures are, as well. I have discovered, though, that by purchasing my shampoo, deodorant (very cheap) and soap through Avon I have already began saving money in these areas.
2. We are only purchasing food or depletable items. We have also decided to add a few non-depletables to the list such as napkins, plastic cutlery, disposable cups and paper plates. We may add to this list as time progresses.
3. Gift giving this year will be strictly hand-made items, gifts we have received and never used thereby employing the idea of re-gifting and also food gifts. Food gifts might include a gift certificate to a store that ONLY sells food such as our local meat market. Grocery stores will not be included because they sell so many other things there. You might be wondering about gift certificates to restaurants. We have debated this one. Due to the fact that this could get just as expensive as any other purchase, if we were to go this route we will set a limit of no more than $10 for any gift certificate to a restaurant. What would be the point if we spent $25 or more on gift certificates to restaurants - we wouldn't save much.
4. What happens if WE receive a gift certificate (as a birthday gift, etc.) to a grocery store, department store, etc.? This would be money we could spend any way we want since it is not part of our family income. However, I think we will be much more likely to seriously consider how we spend it if we were to get a gift like this. When we have precious few dollars to spend on anything we want then wisdom will likely prevail.
5. How will we provide for items our children need such as shoes and clothes? Hopefully, they won't need much over the year. However, clothes wear out and shoes are ruined in mudholes. If this happens, we have a couple of choices. We can post that we are looking for clothing items either by donation from family members that have children or use a barter and trade system. Another option is to visit a thrift store and see if we can give items we have no need for anymore towards a store credit. The credit can then be used when our family needs something. Lastly, another option would be if we were to receive a gift card to a store (as mentioned above) we could always use this to purchase something our children absolutely need.

I will be posting other things when we think of them. The meat market gift card may wind up being just the ticket for the men's dinner Saturday night - we'll see. :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Update on Heartbreak Hotel

It seems that we will have satellite television for another five months. I was completely surprised when I called to cancel our service today and found out that we are under contract for another five months!! However, the gentleman in customer service informed me we could save nearly $11 every month by making two changes - one is to make sure our receiver is connected to a phone line. The other is to cancel the 'extended warranty' on the receivers. I am ashamed to say I didn't even realize we were paying for an extended warranty. Of course, Kelby is quite pleased that he will still have Sponge Bob on a regular basis.

Last Minute Oops!

My husband and oldest son, age 7, are attending a men's dinner at church Saturday night. I found out last night they are each supposed to bring a $10 gift for a game they are playing. My first response was, "Oh, I better pick something up" and then my next response was, "Oh, I can't do that! Now what am I going to do?" I don't have an answer for that question yet but I am thinking on it - will post when I come up with something - wish me luck!!!!! Feel free to send suggestions!!! Remember, I cannot purchase anything that is not depletable or a food item.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

My husband was at work when a coworker demanded an explanation for seeing our vehicle in the Wal-Mart parking lot last night around 9 p.m. For the record - we were out of coffee- which is by all accounts edible and completely consumable. I found this to be so funny though that I thought I would share it with you all. For complete transparency, however, any of you are welcome to stop me at any time in any store and request to take a look in the cart - if you catch me buying something non-depletable by all means report me! That is, if you recognize me behind the shades.

Funny Substitutes

In talking with friends about our project, a discussion ensued about how to replace items if we need them. I mentioned my jaw pops and clicks and I joked that I need to see a dentist to replace some teeth. My friend (and he knows who he is) suggested "false teeth" were not depletable and I couldn't buy them but I might find some free ones at a local funeral home.

This got me thinking about other funny substitutes - what if our lawnmower breaks? I think goats would readily do the trick and they could provide cheese and milk, too!

What about the lamp in the living room? Well, candlelight is so romantic isn't it?

What about the toaster or the oven? George Foreman will become my new best friend.

No hammer? I have every size cast iron skillet and they would do the job.

Dishwasher on the blink? I have these two metal basins with a water supply that usually just hold dirty dishes but I think I could actually wash them there!

Microwave goes out? Cry.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Heartbreak Hotel

My boy, Kelby, thinks we’ve checked in permanently and for one reason – we are canceling our satellite service. Yes, we are saying goodbye to television as we know it. Why you ask? Is it one of my non-depletables? Not exactly. I don’t see it fitting into a category per se. However, now that we will need to make most of our gifts and become more creative with things we need, one of our biggest new necessities will be time. How can we get more of that? We could simply turn the television off but we aren’t that disciplined. I mean, honestly, if you know your favorite program is on, are you going to turn it off to make a present for your Aunt Martha? Or, will you watch it, tell yourself you'll do it later and then find yourself in line at Wal-Mart the next day buying something? I know the answer for us. Not to mention, the money we would spend on television every month can be put aside in a special fund. We brokered a deal with our 7-year-old. He gets to take half the money we save from not paying for television and spend it any way he wants. For us, because we have the least expensive package, he will have approximately $192.00 at the end of the year. You might think we are crazy for making this deal but getting rid of television was a particularly upsetting idea for him. He really loves to watch certain shows after school. We also think that after a year of learning to spend money in a different way, we have hope that he will have a new respect for money and not spend it foolishly. And yes, I have been accused of being na├»ve before…

Monday, January 4, 2010

Clearance

It's on sale, marked down 75% and I want it. What is it? Doesn't matter - this is when I love, love, love shopping online. After Christmas and through January I am usually online looking for deals and I always find them. My shopping cart might have over 20 items in it and I am paying less than $100.00. The brown boxes will arrive in less than two weeks and I will happily march them up the attic steps, labeled Christmas 2010. Satisfaction and calm will settle in over my good judgment at finding these extra special bargains and for being well prepared for the next Christmas season.

It is not happening this year. I cannot even visit the websites I normally go to for a little "window shopping" because I know where it will lead - and I just can't go there and stick to our plan. For those of you not 'shopping thin' I highly recommend Cabelas Bargain Cave - go and enjoy a little after-Christmas shopping for me, will you?

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Challenge

Happy New Year to everyone! This morning I reached for my stapler, which I use often for school and other things. It wouldn't work. I opened it, replaced the staples and still it wouldn't work. Normally, I would toss it in the trash and put it on my Wal-Mart list. But I can't do that - a stapler is a nondepletable. Uh-oh. How important is that stapler? I would really like to have it. It's a small item but a useful one. It wouldn't cost much to replace, but that's not the point. It isn't on the list of allowable items to purchase this year. So, what did I do? I asked my dear husband to take a look at it. At first he didn't think he could make it work again. And then I reminded him that it was not depletable. Funny how that motivates a person - five minutes later the stapler was working. We may discover some hidden talents around here!