31 Days Of Spending Zero– Day One

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My husband is retiring from the Army next year. Oh, yes, he’s actively looking for employment for when he gets out, but we have been so spoiled! In addition to his base pay, we also get housing allowance, and health, dental and vision insurance. Short of a job in D. C. (shudder), there is really no job out there that can match what he gets in the Army.

Before everyone starts jumping all over me (why don’t you get a job!), I feel I must point out that I homeschool our four children. I also run a small party-plan business that at this point is not replacing his income. Since home educating our children is a priority for both of us, I will not be able to get a job outside the home (well, I could go back to bartending a few nights a week, if we were that desperate).

As I’m sure those of you who are also stay-at-home-moms know, one of the best ways we can help with the family finances is to be frugal. I’m no spendthrift, we don’t hit the drive-throughs, we try to mainly make food from scratch, we shop the grocery sales and buy generic, we hand down clothes and shoes until they’re falling apart, we shop thrift stores and clearance racks (sometimes I find clothing on a clearance rack that costs less than the same thing used from a thrift store), we outright own our older used vehicles, and we don’t have cable.

BUT, I am guilty of almost daily Starbucks beverages. And not the $2 cup of plain coffee, the $5.83 grande pumpkin spice latte type coffee. That’s *gasp* about $30 a WEEK before tips! That’s $120 a month! And don’t get me started on the ice cream runs, and the couponing (uh, that will be the end of me). “I thought couponing saves you money?” No, not always. Sometimes it tempts you to spend a whole lot, a dollar or two at a time.

So when I saw this “31 Days of living well and spending zero” challenge hosted by Ruth Soukup at Living Well Spending Less, I decided now was as good a time as any to cut out the extra spending. I think it would be a great kickoff to a new habit of overall spending less than I do now.

With pledge signed, I’m ready to embark on this fun challenge!

Blog I’m loving right now

Several years ago, while visiting my in-laws in California, I found a Sunset magazine amongst the stacks of reading material my in-laws displayed on their coffee table.

One particular story really grabbed my attention, and it has been on my mind ever since. It’s about a zero-waste family, yes, family, with kids and a dog. They bring their own jars and bags to the grocery store, only buy clothes from a thrift store, and compost everything. They end up with only about two handfuls of actual trash A YEAR. The clean, minimalist look of their home both took my breath away and made me a little envious.

This morning, as I was thinking about how I’d love to own even less than I do, I thought about that article. After a quick search, I was delighted to discover that yes, the magazine actually posted this story online!

 

Even better, it turns out the female head of the household has a blog!! Check it out for a little zero waste/minimalist inspiration!

Make Money Using Free Sites

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I’m in the process of becoming debt-free, but as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, I don’t exactly have time to get a job outside the home. I am a Damsel in Defense Pro, helping women find the self-defense and security solutions that are right for them, and I am a Beachbody Coach, helping people meet their health and fitness goals, but when you’re working at paying off debt at a gazelle-like speed (Dave Ramsey reference, check out his book!), you have to use every resource at your disposal.

 

So for me, I use a couple different FREE sites! And yes, I personally use them and have used them for a couple years, so I can certify them as 100% NOT A SCAM!

 

The first is Inboxdollars. I have done the surveys and made anywhere from 25 cents to $2 for 10-30 minutes worth of work. You also get two cents per email (on their page) when you click the “confirm this paid email” button. If you actually complete the offers in the emails, you can earn more money, and I will sometimes fill out the email list ones (using an email account I set up just for junk I have no intention of ever reading, like those email lists), but I NEVER complete the offers that require a small purchase to get more money. NOT WORTH IT.

But I mainly use Inboxdollars for the search bar, where I get paid one cent per two searches, with a ten cent bonus every week that I do a search most days. Another money making opportunity I take advantage of on this site are the coupons. Regular manufacturer coupons you can print, and you make ten cents per coupon redeemed. I only recommend this route if you are familiar with couponing and know how to get great deals using coupons.

 

The next I’m featuring today is ebates. Make internet purchases through ebates and get a percentage back. I mainly use it for back-to-school deals, Black Friday purchases (I do NOT like crowds, so if there is a deal I really want, I’m buying it online), and when I’m low on candles from Bath and Body Works (they make cleaning my house easier, and it’s one of my few justifiable splurges). There are also discount codes, and I will only buy when there is an actual need (like recently when my youngest needed new pants), and I buy clearance, use discount codes, and use ebates.

 

Both of those sites are FREE to sign up on, and neither cost money (except when you make a purchase from the external sites on ebates, but ebates itself does not cost a penny, ever). There are a boat load of apps I want to feature in the future, so stay tuned!

 

Oh, and one last note, I am NOT being paid by either site for my review. I’m pretty sure neither site knows my little just-for-fun blog exists!

The End Of Dress On, Hair Down

This morning I put on a pair of jeans for the first time in a week. I missed my jeans, but I’m also missing looking more pulled together. I thought it would be easy to just go through my wardrobe this morning and pull out the stuff I knew I would never wear again (well, I may have worn them once or twice more, but I’m focusing on things that will get worn at least 3 times a month). Then I got to thinking, “Maybe I should rethink what I wear on an average day. I proved I CAN clean the house and care for babies in a dress, and look cute in the process.” So now I’m thinking of how I can use what I have to dress up my jeans on a daily basis. I enjoyed looking nicer.

Here’s a shocker: My hair is still down! Once I got over the initial annoyance of my hair in my face (fixed with headbands and hair clips) and my hair frizzing out (I have an anti frizz cream that works well enough), I didn’t mind it down. But the single biggest reason my hair is still down is last night my husband said he liked my hair down (but he wants me to do what makes me happy). I like making him happy, so even though he is cool with me doing whatever with my hair (it IS my hair) I decided to leave it down unless I absolutely need it up, like in the summer, where the temps regularly stay in the low 100s.

OK, so which thing am I going to work on checking off my list next? Hmm…

Quick Tips For Saving Money On Groceries

OK, I still need to get pictures of my pantry. It looks neater, but it doesn’t have all those cute baskets and door-mounted racks that Better Homes and Gardens shows. The nice thing about getting my pantry organized was I was able to throw out the few garbage foods and expired things we had (not many things, we’re pretty good about rotating storage food so we don’t waste much food).

Speaking of food, it’s only one week into the new year and I’m already hearing, “Waahh! Healthy food is too expensive!” And I say, “WHAAAT?” For my family of 5 (ok, there are 6, but the baby is breastfed and the only table food he eats is off my plate or a shared snack, not his own meals that affect the overall cost of the grocery bill), we spend about $450 a month, and admittedly, it could be lower. My average grocery bill is $80 a week, and that extra $100 or so is spent on extras like coffee from Sam’s Club and things we don’t actually need like my Starbuck’s runs and my husband’s beer. I do not count toilet paper and shampoo as food and it is not included in my budget (I do coupon at CVS and get tp and soap for next to nothing, but that’s not the focus of today’s post).

So, here’s what we do to save money on the grocery bill:

  • Other than beer and milk, we don’t buy beverages. We drink water from the tap. Soda is crazy expensive, terrible for your health and not necessary. We don’t drink juice either, it’s empty calories, and you’re mostly paying for water anyway.
  • We never buy chips, crackers, and other snacky foods. For about $3, I can get a 5 lb bag of apples (I pick the bags with the smallest apples so there are more per bag and they are a correct fruit portion) which the kids eat as snacks throughout the week.
  • We do not shop at only one store. We have two stores within 4 miles of each other that we go to every week. What’s not on sale at one place may be on sale at another and vice versa.
  • I plan a menu for the week based on what’s on sale at either store. If chicken is on sale, we’re eating chicken. If pork is on sale, we’re eating pork. And if it’s a really good price, I’ll buy a couple extra packs and freeze it. Same with fruits, veggies, etc.
  • I only grocery shop once a week. If I forgot an item, too bad, we just tough it out until next week. Going more often, you get tempted to buy more than just that one item, costing more than you budgeted.
  • I only shop from a list. I NEVER go into a store without a plan. I plan my menus from sales flyers, plan my lists from my menus and a quick look in the pantry or fridge. Planning a menu/list only takes about 20 minutes once you get the hang of it, but it could save you tons of money.
  • Some items are always cheap, such as plain old-fashioned oatmeal, celery, carrots, cabbage, greens (collard, mustard, chard, kale), apples and bananas. We use these items for snacks and to round out our meals.
  • If an item we need that week is not on sale, and we didn’t stockpile enough from the last sale, I get the store brand. Seriously, store brand oatmeal or brown rice tastes the same as name brands. Also, against my better judgement (prepackaged cereals are expensive and not that good for you), we always buy the store brand honey nut cheerios in the big bag. Around $4, lasts two weeks.
  • We don’t eat a large variety, by choice, not necessity. Every morning it’s cheerios, oatmeal, scrambled eggs or toast. Sometimes I’ll go all out and make pancakes from scratch (even though I don’t bake much any more, I do keep baking staples on hand for when I do, and pancakes are stupid easy to make from scratch!). Lunch is usually peanut butter and jelly (trying to get away from that) or leftovers from last night’s dinner. Yes, my children have taken leftovers to school by choice. They pack their own lunches so the lunches are less likely to get thrown away. Sometimes, if there’s a good sale on deli meat, I might buy some, even though it’s not good for us 🙂

I can’t think of any more off the top of my head, but that’s a good start. Since I started really thinking about what I’m puting into my and my family’s bodies, I have been getting grossed-out by the thought of prepackaged food.

“But what if I don’t have time to cook from scratch?” Nonsense! You have time to surf the web, watch TV and text your friends on the Facebook, you have time to cook. I use a slow cooker frequently, and I have batch-cooked in the past. Precook some chicken, pre-cut some veggies, it’s insane how much time you save in the long run when you spend an hour or two on your day off pre-making some of your meals for the week.

I’m convinced that those who claim it’s too expensive or hard to eat healthy just don’t want to for real (or truly have no idea, but those in the latter category aren’t the norm IMO). As with anything else, if you want it bad enough, you’ll cut the excuses, and start finding solutions.

I hope I was able to give at least one person some ideas about how to make healthy eating work for them 🙂

Thanksgiving!

Since we don’t have family nearby, we stayed home and cooked our favorites. And now I’m boiling the turkey carcass for stock! I figure I am getting my money’s worth out of the turkey by not only eating the meat, but getting the flavor out of the remains. Plus, in making your own stock, you know what’s in it, or rather, what’s not (fillers, artificial flavors and preservatives, extra salt). It’s a win-win!

One Of My 30 Day Goals, Again

From November 14th to December 15th, I will not spend a dime on anything, no matter how awesome the deal. No clothes (unless they’re free!), no shoes, no toys (the kids already have a ton, and December 16th is still a long time from Christmas should I cave and buy them stuff).

Only groceries and gas, but no driving around for fun. I have two working legs, and it’s not horribly hot outside anymore, I can take the kids for walks when we’re bored (when I’m not reading to them or helping my two year old with an art project while the baby naps).

Also, not bringing stuff into my house somehow doesn’t feel like enough, so I’m committing to setting up a donation box and putting five things a day into it (5×30= 150 items no longer cluttering my house and my mind!). I just need to resist the urge to sell it (although that would help one of my 101/1001 goals of establishing an emergency fund).

Fast, Frugal, Full-Faced Pore Clearing Peel

I can’t remember where I first read about making your own (cheap!) version of those pore strips, but it seems common enough that I shouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes by not giving them credit where credit is due.

I’ve played around with this recipe, and the application until I pretty much got it perfect (for me).

The original recipe calls for one full envelope of unflavored gelatine and 1-2 tablespoons of milk, mix, microwave about 20 seconds, then apply with a popsicle stick or plastic knife as soon as it’s cool enough (but not too cool as it hardens quickly). Let dry, and you’ll know it’s dry when you can’t move your face! Then peel, carefully!

My only tweak is I use half an envelope, and two generous tablespoons of milk, and I apply as thin as possible.

In addition to de-gunked pores, I notice my skin is softer, maybe because of the lactic acid in the milk acts like a mild chemical peel? Or the fat in the milk (we use 2% in this house)? Either way, the gelatine peel is one of my favorite fast and frugal beauty tools!

Oh, I’ve seen it asked on several sites who showcase this cool tip, so I will answer it now: I don’t know of a vegan/vegetarian alternative. I don’t know if soy milk will work, and I think I’ve heard of vegan gelatine made of seaweed (but I could be wrong) and I have no idea if that will work.

I Love Fabric Dye!

I am not a fan of faded denim, but my jeans fade long before I wear them out. I still wear them because it doesn’t make sense to throw out perfectly functioning clothing just because I don’t like the color. So I decided to grab a bottle of fabric dye.

I’m kicking myself for not taking a “before” picture, but you can see the “after” of a skirt I threw in the dye.

That skirt was an awesome thrift store find that I wear all the time, even now, two years after I bought it.

I admit I hoped the color would come out darker, but I didn’t follow directions exactly. The bottle said use one bottle for every two pounds of fabric, and I threw in a pair of my jeans, my skirt, one of older sons’ jeans, and my toddler’s shorts. I may wait a few weeks and dye again.

Since last night, I have been trying to figure out what else I can dye! It is such an easy way to refresh your wardrobe!