Showing posts with label frugal living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label frugal living. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Want to Save Money? Learn To Live With Less!


Money is a necessary evil. We need it to pay bills, buy items we need, and put gas in the car. While we hear of people (and possibly know people) who might be able to live without money, it is nearly impossible to do so.

However, there is this idea that we need more things than we really do to live a comfortable life. That idea is really prevalent in America. We earn money and we think we need to spend money on more things. Then we try to earn more money just to spend more money for more things we thought we needed. It's a vicious cycle.

Yet we wonder why we cannot save money...

You want to save money? You need to learn to live with less! The less you need, the less money you spend. So what does this mean?

  • Less toys
  • Less gadgets
  • Less collectibles
  • Less clothes
  • Less furniture
  • Less shoes
  • Less etc. 

We can live with less than what we have or think we "need" to have. You don't have to be a minimalist (although that is a great lifestyle) to live with less. You won't be depriving yourself if you do not have more than ten shirts or see latest movie out.

Really. You just need shelter, food, water, and protection. Yes, that is a prepping concept, but it applies to more than just prepping. Once your basic needs are met, almost everything else is a "want". And what do you really want?

  • A house?
  • A car?
  • College savings?
  • The ability to be able to afford unexpected repairs?
  • Retirement?
  • Early retirement?
  • Financial stability?
  • Pay off debts?

You are trying to achieve goals by saving money. Buying and living with less stuff is keeping you in line with your goals and priorities. We already have too many people thinking that a lot of debt is good and that social security will cover their retirement. By learning to live with less now, you will be more financially comfortable later on in life. Your retirement will not be contingent on what the government will pay you in social security (or if they pay you - the money has to be there first).

What do you have to do to learn to live with less?

  • Realize not everything has to be replaced with new when broken.
  • Realize not everything has to be replaced when broken.
  • Fix your own broken things.
  • Make do, do without, use it up, wear it out.
  • Realize you only might only need one thing instead of multiples (this does not apply to some things - more than one flashlight is a good thing!).
  • Use services like the library for books and movies. 
  • Take advantage of free things and gifts. 
  • Sell your unnecessary things. 

Learning to live with less to save money can only be a benefit to you and your future. The less you need now, the less you will need late on. Saving money now will help you to save money later when you will be on a limited budget.

How will you learn to live with less to save money?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - February Edition


February is here! The month of love, the month of cabin fever, the month of boredom...

Actually, we haven't had much in the way of cabin fever. The month started out cold, but today we will be in the 60's for temperatures! In February! I will take it!

Just to have a thunderstorm and snowstorm at the end of the month...February you fickle....

We are just patiently waiting for Spring to come by trying to get stuff done indoors. We are still working on that bedroom that I hope to have the painting done by the end of the weekend. We have the floor done. (YES!) The walls have been given a couple coats of paint to freshen it up, but we decided to go back and do the trim. It needed to be touched up and I couldn't match the original color so I decided to do it again. While I am doing that, the ceiling will need to be done again. And the quarter round will need to be bought, painted, cut and attached. So much fun!



I still want to get the upstairs hallway painted too this winter. That should not take as long, but I am not sure what to do about the trim. The paint on the trim is enamel based which means it will not be painted over well. I might just rip it off and put new trim on. We haven't really talked about it yet.

All the upstairs doors also need to be addressed. A few of them need to be sanded down and stained or repainted. Hinges are the big problem and will probably need to be replaced. Rob has been constantly re-tightening screws and they seem to come loose again.

All those things above? The joys of living in an old house. The reasons I hate tackling remodeling projects. One thing turns into another thing to fix and to do. Plans get bigger and more work becomes involved. Ugh. I love the finished project, but I don't love the mess and constantly changing plans to get there.

Otherwise, I have been still hauling things to the thrift store. I am stunned by how much stuff we have gotten rid of. I have been finding even more things that I really thought I needed, but really don't need or use. However, I am going to start entering the sentimental things area of decluttering and I am not sure what I will do then.

I hope to start tomatoes soon in the seed pods. I might get a grow light to help with the growing since I lack good southern exposure in my house. I really want to start growing my tomatoes from seed. I spend way too much money on tomato plants!

Since I like to save money, Rob and I have been really examining our utility bill. We are both fully committed to seeing that bill drop considerably. We have ideas as to what we want to do and what needs to be focused on. We are both appalled by how much it has gone up. We are also baffled by a few fees on the bill, namely an access charge that costs us $37 a month no matter what. 

We haven't done a lot of prepping lately. This is not because we are comfortable with the state of the world today. We are far from being comfortable. We have been looking at guns and did go to our first and second gun shows in one day. We walked away with empty hands, but it is great to handle the guns and know what feels comfortable in our hands. We have also been exploring off grid options so we aren't screwed if the electricity disappears for awhile. 

Sometimes, prepping isn't about what you purchase. Sometimes, prepping is about the research and the decisions to make the future easier.

What have you been doing in February?

Thanks,
Erica



Friday, January 6, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - January Edition (Goals, Life, Etc.)


Were you ready for the holiday chaos to be over? I was. I love the holidays, but I do not like the craziness of the season. I have scaled back a lot in my celebrating, but the struggle to make the season simple is real. 

December was also Paige's birthday. She turned 16! Yikes! Where has the time gone?!?! She also got one of these: 


Watch out world! 

We are buried in snow and ice right now. That is the reality of living in the Midwest in winter. The wind has been crazy though! If the wind hasn't been crazy, the really cold temperatures have been! We are on our second "cold snap" of the winter. This morning we woke up to -7℉! Brrr....

As I mentioned before, I do not really have any goals or resolutions for the year. Okay, I take that back. I have five things I want to see happen, but they are fairly personal and not really relating to homesteading: 

  1. I want to get $1000 in a savings account for emergencies.
  2. I want to save $1000 for next Christmas.
  3. I want to pay cash for a new to me vehicle.
  4. I want to go on at least two dates a month with Rob - more than just eating out. (He really doesn't know about this one, but he will when he reads this!) 
  5. I want to read a chapter in a book or a magazine almost every day. 

These are very simple, yet personal goals for the year. I do not really have homesteading, prepping, or self-sufficiency goals as of right now. I am going with the flow of these. I have a lot of things I would like to see happen, but I am not setting anything in stone. Truth be told, my mind is kind of scattered right now and I am just letting things happen as they come. We have a lot of projects that need to be done and they will come first. 

I already started the first project. I am remodeling the upstairs master bedroom. We do not use it right now, but would love to move back up there. We sleep in the basement bedroom that I set up for myself about eight years ago. I love this space, but we are going to turn that into badly needed guest bedroom(s). So it is time to create a space that is both of ours and that we love to come to every night. 



We first moved the full size bed that was in there to Paige's room. She had a twin size bed, but the bed was small and the mattress was less than stellar. We threw out the mattress and the broken bunk mate that was under it. 

I have the carpet, padding, and linoleum torn up. Actually, there wasn't much tearing up to do. None of it really reached the edges and none of it was attached to the floor in any way. I cut the carpet up in sections to haul out. The padding was already in easy to handle sections. The linoleum was broken up in easy to handle sections also. The floor now looks like this: 



I will be painting the walls first. The paint needs to be freshened up. Then the floor will be sanded and sealed. Rob wants to match the trim to the floor so we will be replacing at least the floor trim if not all of it. Then we start bed shopping. We are switching from a queen size bed to a king size bed. We both need plenty of space to sleep!

Rob is finishing up the wiring in the shop. He has done so much in there and it looks so nice! He now has plenty of outlets and lighting. He has learned how to wire a three way switch with multiple lights which was a challenge for him. He has also added a lot of insulation to the walls and around the windows which has made a big difference in that room. He has more plans for the shop including adding shelving and cabinets for storage. 

Since it is winter, we have time to get the indoor projects done! When the weather turns nice again (hurry up Spring!), we will be cleaning up the yard and working outdoors again. We will also be building a new chicken coop! 



You can check out my latest YouTube video! That will give you an idea of what I was up to in December. I was mostly trying to clear up some clutter and to clean up my side of the office a bit. 

How is your January going? Let me know in the comments below! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, December 26, 2016

How To Start Saving Money For Next Christmas


What do you mean next Christmas? Christmas was, like, yesterday!

I know, I know. However, now is the time to set your budget for next Christmas and to start saving money for it. You know how much you spent on gifts, food, entertainment, and all the little extras. If you don't know, now is a good time to find the receipts and add them up. 

Now that you might be in shock over how much you spent, you need to take the time now to come up with a plan for next year. My goal is to pay cash or have the money in my checking account to pay for Christmas. I start early buying gifts so I can spread out the spending more. Saving money now allows me to start buying early because I have the money already saved.

If you were forced to use credit cards to pay for Christmas this year, this plan is for you too. Pay off those credit cards as quickly as possible and start putting some money away for next Christmas. If you used credit cards for the points and cash backs and can pay them off right away, that last little bit was directed at you. I understand using credit cards for those sort of things. Just be able to pay them off right away, okay?

Saving money for next Christmas can be painless, but might also require a little sacrifice of time, money, and giving up a guilty pleasure or two. You are trying to not stress about how to pay for Christmas when December rolls around. You want to give the best Christmas you can reasonably afford to. This is how you can do that. 

How To Start Saving Money For Next Christmas:

1. Set a budget! Look at how much you spent for this previous Christmas. Did you spend more than you thought? Were there some surprises you were not anticipating? Do you or your significant other like to go overboard with the gifts? Now is the time to look at these things. 

You can set your budget according to what you spent this year. If you thought you spent way too much, set a specific dollar amount you will spend on the kids, grandkids, parents, and everyone else that you bought for. If you know that you will have to chip in on a gift for the boss or a coach, figure that in. Then set a budget for food, the extras, and entertainment. 

For the rest of the steps, my estimated budget is $1000 (which is close, but I using this amount for figuring the rest of the steps). 

2. Come up with a savings plan. You know how many paychecks you will have between now and next Christmas. In my case, exactly 26 paychecks will happen. How much can you spare from your budget to save for next Christmas? I know I can usually spare $25 a pay period (and that is being stingy). At roughly $50 a month, I will be saving $600. 

An easy way to make sure the money is being saved is to have it automatically taken out of your account and put directly into a savings account. You can do this by having it direct deposited from your paycheck or setting up an automatic transfer with your bank. If you have good self-discipline, you can do the transferring yourself. 

Some people prefer to save money as cash and to use cash. You can still withdraw the money every pay period and put in an envelope marked for Christmas. If you think you might have trouble with spending it on other things, put it somewhere safe in the house and not in your purse/wallet. Otherwise, leave it with a trusted family member or friend who will also not spend it for you.

3. Figure out how to make up the deficit. If you cannot save enough money from just your paychecks, you need to figure out how to make up the difference. As you can figure, I still have $400 to come up with to make up the difference. Honestly, this is just making extra money and we should all know how to do this by now. If not, here are some ideas:

  • Side Jobs
  • Tax Refund
  • Selling Unused or Not Needed Things
  • Redeeming Cans and Bottles for the Deposit (If you have this option)
  • Selling Things on Consignment
  • Babysitting, Pet-sitting, and House-sitting

Put this money away in the Christmas savings. If you earn more money than you need, then keep saving it for other things. You can never have too much money saved, especially in the emergency fund!

4. When you do decide to start shopping, spend wisely. You never know when you might trip over a deal of the lifetime on something you wanted to give as a gift. When you do spend, use the cash you saved or transfer the money into your checking account. 

5. Keep a careful accounting of what you are spending through the year. You can use this for the following year's Christmas budget. Sometimes, surprises happen and you have to spend money on a gift you were not planning on. Keep the receipts in an envelope with a small ledger of what spending has occurred. This way, you can figure that in for next year. 

How do you save money for Christmas? 

Thanks for reading, 
Erica


Thursday, December 22, 2016

My Mind Is Literally Going In A Hundred Directions...


I haven't done a post like this in a long time, but the end of the year is coming. This post may be a little long, but I want to explain where I am at right now, what I am interested in now, and where I am at in life. I haven't even looked at my goals for this year in about six months. I know some have been accomplished, but not all of them. I don't think, as of right now, I will set specific goals for next year.

I am okay with that.

Because my mind is going in a hundred directions. Literally.

My life this year has been crazy. In January, Rob and I started living together and there continues to be a lot of adjustments for both of us as well as the kids. The kids at home are busy and continuing to live the life of a 16 year old and a 12 year old. Although I do have to say having a 12 year old boy after three girls is quite different. Not always in a good way either.

However, my interests are the same and different. This is where my mind is going right now.

I still love and am interested in what this blog is about: prepping, homesteading, and frugality. I struggle to separate the three of them in my mind most days. I wonder how much more I can do and what I should do. I always plan to be more frugal in the next year even though I can't always figure out how to be even more frugal than I already am. However, there is always more to be done.

Our finances are going to change in January a bit and that will be an interesting challenge. As for many people, health insurance rates are going to rise for us too. We are also taking on a couple bills that the landlords had paid for in the past which will need to be added in the budget. We have separate accounts and separate budgets, but we usually discuss and decide how joint bills will be paid.

I am going to try to participate in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge by The Frugalwoods. I adore their blog! I saw their post about this challenge and knew I should participate. I love a good challenge once I have my mind convinced to do it.

We are also looking at ways to lose some, if not all, of our dependence on electricity. We have been talking about and researching solar and wind energy to either power some of our things like the well pump or to be a back-up when the power goes out. We have some ways to heat the house if we lose power. However, the whole house is electric so we need to figure out something different. We are just a little leery about the power grid and its stability...

I am now finding myself passionately interested in minimalism, zero waste lifestyle, living with less, decluttering, and methods of  organization. I have been decluttering a lot more this last year because nothing says you have too much stuff than moving in with someone! The organizing needed to happen because I was, and sometimes still am, the only person who can find things. That does not work when you really do not want the other people in your life dependent upon you!

Why such the interest in these things? I see them as an extension of prepping, homesteading, and frugality. I think they fit hand in hand. Too much stuff and too much waste can clutter up your efforts in prepping and homesteading. Not being organized means you spend precious time finding your stuff and/or buying replacements when you can't find them. Both of those things can thwart your frugal ways by spending your time and money when you didn't need to. Having order can be benefit to every area of your life.

It also can be a vicious circle which is why I spend more time studying more of these things. I want to break the cycle.

Speaking of breaking the cycle, I need to do so on my health too. I thought my yearly doctor's visit would be the wake-up call I needed. It wasn't. My blood tests and my screens all came back nearly perfect. Cholesterol was a little high. The doctor mentioned I should lose weight, but was pleased because my weight had not increased.  She still thinks I need to be on a low carb diet because she thinks everyone should be. I do agree with her on that.

So now I research and try to implement methods, meals, and snacks that are low carb. This is so hard! I have a heck of a sweet tooth when it comes to chocolate, caramel, and a certain company's oatmeal cream pies. None of which are mentioned on the various low carb plans! Right now, my research keeps leading me to the Ketogenic diet and the Trim Healthy Mama diet. I have mostly converted my sugar usage to sugar substitutes like Stevia, Erythritol, and Xylitol or combination of them. The rest of my diet needs work.

This is a switch for me honestly. I am still very interested in natural health and eating naturally. I still think some of the foods I am not suppose to have are still very healthy for me. I have a tough time giving up legumes, some grains, honey, bread, and jams made from scratch. Fruit hasn't been a huge deal for me because I can't digest a lot of it. I like strawberries and blueberries in season so I am fine with those being a treat.

I also still want to grow most of my own food. I miss my garden now that winter is here and I am thinking about getting a greenhouse. It would be nice to keep growing more cold tolerant crops in the winter. I miss having chickens, but they are coming back this Spring. I want fresh eggs again! We are planting more fruit trees next year also. My interest in being self-sustainable will never go away. 

This seems like a lot of directions for the mind to go. I get so interested in so many things! The mind is going crazy with all this information and decisions to be made!

But, as always, I am still interested in writing, blogging, and vlogging. The more I see the connections in everything I am interested in, the more I want to talk about it. This blog will probably expand more into all these areas as I learn more and experience more of what I am interested in. I think prepping, homesteading, and being frugal can and does encompass all these things.

All this has made making goals for next year very difficult. I will probably do monthly goals and make the changes a bit more bite-size. I want to learn more, do more, be more, and have enough to live life.

Where is your mind going? What is your next year going to look like?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

10 Money Saving Hacks For A Happier (And Cheaper) Holidays!


In 10 Money Saving Tips for a Frugal Holidays, I focused on how to save money on gifts and stockings. Those tips have saved people a lot of money since the post was published. However, during the holidays, saving money on gifts is not the only way to save money!

During the holidays, normally frugal people can even go crazy and spend money that they know better than to spend! Something about the holiday spirit makes people throw out their budgets and good caution. We want to be generous, treat people well, and generally have a good time. That is great to do, but we can all practice good sense with these money saving hacks listed below!

1. Respect the traditions. If you have certain things you do every year and you know your family will miss them if you don't do them, keep the traditions alive as long as you can afford it. The costs of these traditions should already be in your holiday budget. If you take the whole family to a big show every year, that costs should already be figured into your budget. Another idea would be to make that big show a gift to the family members that go.

If the traditions become too much and cause too much of a strain on your budget, maybe it is time to reconsider. Which leads to...

2. Create new traditions. Think about the things you really love about the holidays and set up a new tradition that supports what you love. Do you love the extra time you get to spend with family? Start a Christmas movie night and have popcorn, hot chocolate, and cookies while watching the movies. Love the holiday lights? Take a driving tour of the lights in your city. Love to sing? Go caroling with your family and neighbors and take a plate of cookies to the elderly.

3. Set a menu and a meal plan. If you know you are hosting the big meal, are contributing to a potluck, and/or will have family around for a few days, time to meal plan. Remember to include some of the family favorites, have a soup night, a leftover night, and a pizza night! This way you know what to buy, how much to budget, and you can buy in one trip. Hopefully, you will avoid having to send someone to the grocery store!

4. Make the big meals potluck. Big holiday meals can be such a strain on the host! To make this holiday season easy on everyone, make the meal a potluck. You can still make the meat and a side, but assign someone to bringing bread, salads, appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and even drinks. The variety is great and your day will be much easier (and cheaper)!

5. Do Not Buy Your Wrapping Paper or Christmas Cards Until After Christmas! This should go without saying, but buy your wrapping paper and cards after the holidays for the following year. You can save 50-75% off!

6. Use what you have for decorations. More than likely, you do not need any more decorations. Personally, I have enough decorations for three trees and I only put one. Not to much the knick-knacks, the garland, and the million of other holiday things I have. You are probably in the same boat. Get creative and ban yourself from buying anymore Christmas decorations!

7. Stick with homemade goodies instead of store bought. You can plan ahead and freeze the cookies that can be frozen. Store bought goodies look so good, but those cookies and cakes are so expensive. The inflated cost on them is ridiculous! If you are a novice baker, offer to host a cookie swap. Everyone can bake together or just bring what they baked. Then you can swap with each other and bring home some different and delicious goodies!

8. Think simple in terms of decorations, food, and festivities. It is much more frugal to be simple in your approach to the holidays. Going overboard is nothing but a big pain in the wallet! You might like to "wow" your guests, but your guests will appreciate whatever you serve and your presentation. The point of the festivities is to spend time together! Going overboard can complicate that and make your guests feel overwhelmed or inadequate.

9. Have small, intimate gatherings instead of big parties. Everyone will get more quality time together, the food and drink expenses will be cheaper, and you won't have the potential clean-up expenses from a large crowd. You could go a step further and specify "no gifts" to keep the costs down more. This is about spending time together during the holidays, not about who can spend the most.


10. Ditch the matching holiday outfits. Unless you can truly afford it, ditch the cute Christmas dresses for little girls and stop trying to find matching pajamas for everyone in the family. I have heard of people spending hundreds of dollars just for everyone to match and look just so. You are trying to save money, not spend more! The cute little holiday dresses only get worn a few times before the season is over. If you are lucky, you can pass them down. Otherwise, the dresses and the outgrown pajamas end up being donated or thrown away. Just avoid it! Save your money!

These tips are just small things you can do to save money over the holidays, but they can save you a lot of money! Little things can add up in terms of spending and saving money. Christmas is a great time to show your love and appreciation of those around you, but keep the spending within your budget. Do not let the little things and the desire to impress others ruin your budget!

What do you do to save money during the holidays?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Homemade Chili - A Winter's Delight!


Chili is probably one of our favorite soups/stews at our house. Everyone loves it except for my son who doesn't love beans, but loves the rest of it! My daughters make it at their college apartment  for themselves and their friends. This goes over very well for crowds. We make this a lot in the winter!

The original recipe was my mom's recipe. However, I couldn't leave well enough alone. She doesn't blame me. She messes with recipes too! 

This recipe is really versatile! I have warmed up the recipe a bit from my mom's recipe because I like my chili a little spicier, but not too spicy. However, you can add more spice, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or some hot sauce if you would like. 

I also use two pounds of ground meat in my recipe. I usually use one pound of ground beef and one pound of ground pork. You can use whatever you like. This is good with all ground beef, all ground pork, with ground venison, and/or ground turkey. You can cut back on the meat to only 1-1/2 pounds of ground meat, but I like my chili to be more like stew instead of soup. So I use more meat. 

The tomatoes can also be played with a little. I usually use a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes. I have also used a quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes. If I use whole tomatoes, I just crush them with my hands before adding them to the pot. 

If you are accommodating the picky people in your life (no judgment from me on this!), you can use a 1/4 cup of dried minced onion instead of using the fresh chopped onion. You can also use 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder instead of minced fresh garlic. 

You can also make them on the stove or put in the slow cooker on low all day! Didn't I say this was versatile? 

Homemade Chili

2 pounds of ground meat
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped

Seasonings:
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Canned goods:
1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes or a quart jar of home canned tomatoes
1 - 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I use mild)
1 - 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 15 ounce can chili beans with sauce, undrained



Brown the meat with garlic and onion. If you using the dried versions of garlic and onion, you can still add them now. If you cooking this on the stove, brown the meat in the pot you are using to make the chili. I usually use my 6 quart cast iron enamel pot. If you are using the slow cooker, just brown the meat in a frying pan.



After the meat is browned, you can drain it if you would like. I don't usually drain my meat unless the meat is swimming in the grease. I like the favor the grease adds and I don't usually have a lot of grease in the pan. 



If you are making this on the stove, add the seasonings and the canned goods to the pot. If you are making this in a slow cooker, you can add the meat, seasonings, and canned goods to the slow cooker. Stir well. 



Bring the chili up to just a boil and then turn it down to low. Cover and simmer on low for a hour or longer if you want. 

With the slow cooker, set it to low and let it cook for 8-10 hours. Although, we have ate it after 4-6 hours with no problem. 

This serves at least 4-6 people. We serve it with cheese, crackers, and sour cream. 

I also apologize for the splatter stains on the stove. Just keeping it real. Normally, the stove is a lot cleaner!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, November 18, 2016

Frugal Update for Nov. 17th Vlog - Check it out today!

Last night, I posted a video on what we have been up to. I am giving you all an update on the frugal happenings of my life. I am talking about the deer I hit, the damages, and costs. I am also talking about selling things, cold lunches, and other ways we are saving money!


What have you all been doing to save money? 

Thanks for watching,
Erica

Monday, October 31, 2016

16 Ways To Stay Warm This Winter & Not Have To Crank Up The Thermostat


Winter is barreling down the tracks as we speak! Since it always promises to be a cold winter here in the Midwest, I thought I would share some tips and tricks to stay warm this winter and not have to crank up that thermostat!

Saving money is more important than ever now so if you can find ways to keep the bills low, you can save even more money! Before you start these tips though, you and your family need to agree on a minimum and maximum temperature you are willing to keep the house. Make a sign to put by the thermostat and set the settings in the thermostat. This will help keep your heating bill consistent.

16 Ways To Stay Warm This Winter & Not Have To Crank Up The Thermostat

1. Wear clothes! I know this is a given, but I know people who can't understand why their heat bill is so high. They are wearing shorts and tank top in the house with their heat on 80 degrees! What?!?! Wear some layers, put on some socks, and you will stay much warmer without having the heat so high.

2. Get your furnace and heat system checked out. Just like you, your heating system needs a good check-up every 1-2 years to make sure it is running smoothly and efficiently! If you have a propane system, make sure you get a leak check done on your tank and regulators so you are not loosing propane in the air. Be sure to always change your filters on a regular basis. 

3. Layer up your beds. Make sure you have blankets and quilts for the beds so you can add more layers to the bed to stay warm without having to turn up the thermostat.

4. Turn down the thermostat overnight. Most people sleep better in a cooler environment anyway, but keeping the thermostat turned down also saves you money. See #3 and wear some more clothes to bed to stay warm!

5. Shut off the rooms you are not using. If you have rooms that you are clearly not using and nothing in them will freeze, close off those rooms. Turn the registers to close and keep the doors closed so you are not heating those rooms.

6. Put plastic on the windows. This saves us a tremendous amount of money. I recommend doing the north and west facing windows for certain, but we try to do all the windows if we can. We have a bay window that is just a drafty pain in the neck so it has plastic almost all year around.

7. Use extra heaters or baseboard heat. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but hear me out. If you have rooms that you are using that the heat does not reach well through the vents, shutting off those vents and putting a heater or electric baseboard heat in the room will keep it warmer. Your furnace will not have to work so hard to heat that room thus saving you money.

8. Keep moving! We get rather sedentary in the winter. We sit on the couch, covered in blankets, and wonder why we are so cold! Time to get moving! Working out, keeping the house clean, and taking care of those indoor projects will help get the blood moving and keep you warmer!

9. Eat hot food and drink hot drinks. It makes sense, doesn't it? If you eat warm, hearty foods, you will get warm. If you drink hot drinks to warm up, you will stay warm.

10. Light some candles. They add warmth to the air, great ambiance, and cover up the funky air smell in the house. You can also make some clay pot warmers to add some more warmth to the room.

11. Wear a hat in the house. You will stay warmer if the head is covered. You really do lose body heat when you have your skin or head uncovered. Wear a hat and you will stay warmer.

12. Make sure the windows are closed and the doors stay close! We have storm windows and we use those babies all summer. The breeze is great! However, money will just go out the window if the windows are properly close. Make sure the storm windows are closed and the windows are closed/locked in the proper position.

And yell at the kids for not closing the door. You have my permission!

13. Fill in the gaps and block the drafts. On a breezy day this fall, take a walk around your house inside and out. If you see some gaps outside, fill them in with caulk or expandable foam. Inside the house, look for fluttering curtains. Take a match along the outside walls inside your house and look for the flame to flicker or go out. Address the drafts. Either do #6 or fill in the gaps if you can. Also, using a draft blocker on the bottom of your doors will keep the house warmer too.

14. Hang heavy insulated curtains that are designed to block drafts and keep the house warmer. They really do help to keep the house warmer.

15. Use hot water bottles and hot bricks covered in towels to help warm up beds and bodies at bedtime. Getting into a warm cozy bed is the best thing ever. Getting into bed with cold sheets is not the best thing ever. Waiting for those sheets to warm is torture! Putting a hot water bottle or a hot brick covered with a towel into the bed to warm up will help you stay warm!

16. Snuggle with the one you love! Cuddling with another person helps you both warm up and create more body heat! Some of you are very anti-cuddling (and I get that, trust me!), but winter is the time to put aside your personal preferences and help your partner stay warmer. You will also be saving money which might help this idea seem like a better one!

I know some of you are going to say "put in a wood burner!" which is a lovely thing, but some people cannot put them in. Apartments, rentals, and some insurances are completely against the idea. However, if you can, do consider it!

These are all ways we use to save money while staying warm in the winter. What do you do to stay warm in the winter?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Saturday, October 29, 2016

20 Things We Do Not Throw Away


Every year, more and more trash is accumulated in our landfills due to our wasteful habits. Many people will only use something once and throw it away. Many people still do not recycle their packaging despite the increasing availability of recycling centers. And many people would rather throw away their old things rather than take them to a thrift store or consignment shop. 

However, being a believer in the frugal lifestyle and a student of the zero waste lifestyle, I cannot do that. We actually have very little trash for a house this size most of the time. We recycle as much as possible. I sell the things we do not use anymore or I donate them to the thrift shop. We try to use things until they are no longer functional. We fix broken things to be used again. 

Below is a list of things we do not throw away. I know I am forgetting things, but this is a good start!

1. Anything that is recyclable. I was raised to recycle and still do this as much as possible.

2. Twist ties from bread and buns.

3. Nuts, bolts, nails, washers, and screws. Unless they are rusty or bent. Or cheap and will strip out on the first twist of the drill.

4. Resealable plastic bags. We wash them out and reuse them until they have holes or held raw meat.

5. Brown paper bags.

6. Gift bags and tissue gift wrap.

7. Plastic store bags.

8. Buckets of just about any size.

9. Food! We have made a concentrated effort to be much more diligent about this. Having a dog and chickens helps to make sure food does not go to waste.

10. Rubber bands from anything.

11. Buttons. I even cut them off shorts and shirts before we use them for rags or throw them away if they are usable as rags. 

12. Hand soap containers. We refill these until the pump does not work anymore.

13. Whipped topping and big yogurt containers. How else are you suppose to send leftovers home with people?

14. Canning jars. If they can't be used for canning, we use them to store dry goods.

15. Paper. I try to use both sides of the paper before I put it in the burn bin or recycle it.

16. Boxes. I need them for storage and for my giveaway box. If we can't use them anymore, we recycle them.

17. Towels. If they can't be used for bathing or nice kitchen towels anymore, we use them for rags.

18. Clothes. They are either sold, given to someone in need, or donated unless they are too worn out. 

19. Blankets and sheets. We either donate them if they have been outgrown (by teenagers too cool for Disney sheets), use them as drop cloths, to protect plants, or we store them for company. They are never thrown away!

20. Totes of all sizes. I am just amazed at how many people just throw these out on the premise that they don't need them anymore. I can't think of a time I haven't needed them! I keep these and reuse the totes until they are broken past the point that duct tape doesn't hold them together anymore!

This is just a starter list. We have a lot more that we just don't throw away. Although, in the spirit of being honest, sometimes things just end up in the trash. Cleaning out a bedroom just does something to my mind, but I always still have a giveaway box!

What don't you throw away?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Is It Better To Live Within Your Means or Try To Earn More To Afford More?


This is the fairly simple question. The answer is much more complicated. 

Is it better to learn to live within your means? The answer should be yes for many reasons. Many people struggle with this though. 

We think we are entitled to things. We think we deserve certain things because we work hard. We think we should have a fancy house, a new car, expensive vacations every year (sometimes multiple times a year), name brand clothes, the newest gadgets, expensive cell phone plans, satellite/cable television, and more.

Saving money and working towards things like homes and cars was a concept that was extremely common until the late 1940's and the 1950's. To be in debt to someone was considered to be a temporary thing, not a lifestyle. Debts were paid off quickly if debt was even accrued. Cash and bartering was the common practice. Producing your own goods was considered the best thing for families. It was a matter of pride to have money in the bank.

Attitudes have changed. Drastically. Marketing targeted the newly created middle class and baby boomers. Buying on credit became the thing to do in order to have nice things. You work hard so you deserve to play hard. You kids needed the newest toys. If your friends have it, so should you! Why have old things like hand-me-down furniture when you can have new furniture? 

Young adults then wanted what their parents had. They didn't realize or didn't care that their parents had worked hard for what they had. They didn't understand how their parents had scrimped and saved for their home, nice car, and relaxed middle years. They just wanted what their parents had and they wanted it now. Whether or not they made enough money to afford it.

Who cares if they could afford it? They could just buy it on credit!

The lesson that was forgotten in just a few generations was to learn to live within their own means. To budget their income. To save for what they wanted instead of using a credit card or borrowing the money. 

I have no room to talk, by the way. Most of us do not have room to talk.

We learned from those around us. I was fortunate to have extremely frugal parents, but they struggled too. I have had some extremely hard money lessons. I thought I could handle all the debt I accrued and my daily expenses and bills too. I was pretty stupid. 

I still struggle with living within my means. Every two weeks, my budget is planned out. However, a major unplanned expense can throw my budget off for months. A small miscalculation can have me overdrawn for a week or more. Even though I make extra money from my Ebay sales, this blog, and selling things online, sometimes it doesn't seem like enough. 

Unfortunately, most of us are this way or have been this way. Being in debt is stressful. Many people cannot afford to miss work or use very limited personal time off. Many cannot afford to miss a paycheck or to lose their jobs. Many struggle just to live within their means. So they try to earn more.

Adding to your income can sometimes be the solution to getting out of debt or getting some necessary home/car repairs done. Whether it is a series of small independent jobs, a part-time job, working a side hustle, working from home, or selling off unnecessary things, making extra money can always help. However, these can come at a cost too.

You can become dependent on the extra income and pretty soon that will not be enough either. You will spend even more time away from loved ones if you work outside of the home. Temporary sacrifice can be a good thing to help pay off debt or to get your savings built up, but long-term sacrifice can have an effect on your life, your relationships with loved ones, and your health. Is it worth it?

Even if you work from home to make extra money, there is a cost involved. You have to spend time away from the family in a quiet space to work. If you work after everyone goes to sleep, you get less sleep which impacts your health. Income is not always consistent. Depending on the week or season of life, you might not be able to work as much as you would like or need to. Sometimes, working at home also involves spending more to make more which can not always be a good thing. 

Don't get me wrong - I think working at home to make extra money is the way to go if you can do it. It takes a lot of discipline to work consistently and get as much done as you can with the distractions around you. You have to make your life just as much of a priority as your work, but it can be done. 

If you are single and alone, these costs may not bother you. If you are in debt or need extra money for a new car, by all means, try to earn more. It is better to live life, go into a relationship, or even a marriage debt free and with a comfortable cushion of savings. 

However, if you are working more to afford more, is it worth the cost? Is spending time away from your family so they can have more worth the cost? If you are working all the overtime you can get to be able to live in a five bedroom home when a three bedroom home would do just fine, is it worth it? If you are driving a gas guzzling status symbol to work when a small compact would cost so much less, is it worth it? Is killing yourself to be able to afford more worth it?

I think it is better to live within your means. I say this knowing that I work a few jobs from home, but I am trying to build a cushion in my budget and be able to afford repairs, birthdays, and holidays. I try to work when my kids will be the least impacted like over my lunch hour or at night after they go to bed. Sometimes I include them in my work if I can. I tried the part-time work outside of the home and the sacrifice wasn't worth it. I missed too much time with them and, as a single mom, I couldn't afford to do that. So I learned to live within my means and make sacrifices at home of things we did not need.

Learning to live within your means makes you more content and happier. You don't feel the pressure to keep up with the neighbors or your friends because you made the commitment to make the most of what you earn and that's it. If you need to earn more, you know it is because you need to get something you need or to make repairs that are in your budget. 

What do you think? Is it better to live within your means or try to earn more to afford more?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - August 8 (Garden, Life, Bathroom, and Being Frugal!)


This last week has been busy! Again. Surprised, aren't you? 

I promise the winter updates will not be nearly as exciting as these summer ones. The weather is nice, hot, humid, and we are just trying to get everything done outside that we can. Except...



We ended up doing an impromptu remodel on our downstairs bathroom. You know, toliets leak once in a while. A new ring, some chalk, and new vinyl flooring will make it better. The walls need to be painted too, but I need to read up about how to paint over wallpaper. I don't have any desire to take wallpaper off of plaster.

We weeded about half of the garden. The garden and produce remaining probably thanks me, but it just seems like a lot of work. We are getting zucchini, summer squash, a few tomatoes, and a lot of green beans! I think I got all the onions dug out. They were a little on the small side, but still good. The shallots are just about reading to be dug out too. 

I haven't done a lot of canning this summer yet. As much as I believe in putting up as much produce as I can, I am trying to make sure it is produce we will eat in canned form. I can't wait for the tomatoes to take off. I will make a ton of tomato sauce, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa. We eat a lot of those things. I did get eleven quarts of green beans canned though. I love green beans!

We have been really trying hard to be more frugal. I am pretty frugal naturally. I would be even more frugal if I could remember to make snacks for myself and take them to work! We have a couple of short trips we want to take in the next few months. So we are really buckling down on spending money. We have only eaten out once in the last month. We are really trying hard to make sure no food goes to waste. We are generally just being more creative about fixing things and not spending money if we can help it.

Another reason I am buckling down on being frugal and being more aware of money going out is that school starts in two weeks. I seem to spend a lot of money on a lot of things when school starts. Today I paid our school fees and that was $110. Ouch! I still have to pay band and choir uniform fees for Paige. Dane will not have those until next year. 

We also did not qualify for free or reduced lunch program at school because I make just enough money to not qualify. I figured out the rates of lunch per day ($2.40 for high school, $2.35 for middle school) and took that times twenty days for the month. That would be almost $100 a month for just school lunches! Owww!!!

The kids have been informed they will be eating more cold lunches than hot lunches and no more breakfast ($1.55 each per day) at school. They actually seem to be fine with it. I am doing more research on cold lunch ideas so we don't get bored. 



Our local county fair was last week. Paige got three blue and one red ribbon on her art projects. Dane got two blue ribbons on his picture frame and Lego project. They were happy and I was happy that we got there in one piece. Fair time can be rather stressful!



How did your week go? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, July 29, 2016

Eight Ways to Avoid Frugal Burnout


Are you tired of pinching pennies?

Are you tired of beans and rice?

Are you tired of wondering when the debt will be paid off?

Are you tired of being frugal?

Frugal burnout is a real thing, folks!

Constantly watching your pennies and wondering when you can afford what you really need or want just gets to you after awhile. I know, for me, that I just get tired of it all. I get tired of checking my bank account constantly. I get tired of keeping track of my spending. I get tired of not being able to buy whatever I want. I get tired of saying no to my kids. You get the idea. 

Being that aware of your money all the time can wear a person out. Even though you should have an emergency fund, real life happens. Your car breaks down or an emergency room trip happens. It just makes you want to throw your hands up in the air and cry! 

You are trying so hard to get ahead! You are being as frugal as you can and life is still tough. This is where frugal burnout comes in. You get so tired of trying to be frugal and pinch pennies that you just give up. You lose track of the goals you set. Your budget starts to go awry. You make a purchase of your credit card. 

You can avoid frugal burnout! Here is how:

1. Look at and assess your financial goals. Having your goals written out and visible helps to keep you focused. Some people need visual reminders to keep motivated. Having a meeting with your significant other (or yourself) and reassessing your goals every month will help keep you on track. 

2. Stay motivated! Keep track of your progress. Make a chart showing how much you have to pay off and how much you have paid off. Keep the chart updated and celebrate your progress in a fun, free way. 

3. Have fun! Laugh a little! Sometimes people can get way, way, way too serious about being frugal and then they get burnt out. Remember to have some fun and laugh! Play games, attend a free concert, have friends over, watch a funny movie, and cut loose for awhile! Your outlook on your frugal life will be much better for it!

4. Realize setbacks are inevitable and you can do this. Stuff happens. You can plan and anticipate as much as possible with your budget and finances. However, sometimes the car battery will die. You might get into a car accident. You might be laid off from work unexpectedly. You can still be a frugal maniac! Regroup, replan, and get back at it!

5. Find someone who is frugal and start a support group. Seriously, find some like minded people. They are great for accountability, for new ideas, for support, and for having fun with! 

6. Watch your favorite frugal YouTube videos and channels! Get yourself some inspiration! I love to listen to YouTube videos while working or just working. I have learned some great tips and ideas that I would never have thought of myself. Listen to others talk about their frugal ideas and journeys have given me a lot of motivation and inspiration over the years. 

Some of my favorite frugal YouTube Channels are Living on a Dime, Big Family Homestead, Jordan Page Fun Cheap or Free, Lydia Senn, and frugalgreengirl

7. Read the Tightwad Gazette (or reread!). I am not kidding. This is the best frugal book out there. I learned so much from this book and was able to adjust my attitude in several areas of my life to become more frugal. If you can not afford it, ask your library if they have it or can get it for you. Take the time to read this book from cover to cover. You will not regret it!

8. Reassess the budget. Sometimes the budget needs tweaking. You should review it every month. However, even I am not very good at this. Take some time this weekend to see if the budget is working, where you need to improve, where you can cut back at, and where you are spending your money

Whatever your frugal goals are, you can do it. If you get into a slump, use one of these ideas to get you back on track!

What do you do when you are in a frugal burnout?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

60 Ways To Save Money Today


Saving money is always important. For most people, it is a part of every decision they make. 

With the economy in a precarious position, we all need to work on saving more money! Practicing good money-saving habits now will help you in the future when the money might be tighter than ever. The tips below will help you save more money and might even give you more ideas on how to save money in other areas of your life. 

With that said, here is 60 Ways To Save Money Today:

1. Eat up the leftovers in the fridge. It's just food!

2. Eat from your fridge first to use up the food that will go bad the fastest.

3. Do not eat out - unless you scored a free meal for yourself or your family!

4. Use your gift cards - saving them for some rainy day is wasting money.

5. Use coupons on things you buy.

6. Use your store loyalty cards. Load coupons and store specials on them.

7. Sign up for free samples and accept them when shopping. Free is good!

8. Use sites like Swagbucks to earn points for gift cards and Ebates to earn money back on online purchases.

9. Buy soda pop from the store instead of the convenience store. You will save over $1.00 a bottle and $.50 a can.

10. Better yet, give up soda pop and drink water instead.

11. Use your public library for books and movies. If the library doesn't have the book you want, they can usually get it for you a different way!

12. Make your coffee and tea at home instead of buying it at the fancy coffee places.

13. Check the pressure in your tires. Properly inflated tires will help your fuel mileage and save money on gas!

14. Bring your lunch and snacks to work. Eating out is just expensive!

15. Shop for clothes at thrift stores and garage sales.

16. Make a budget and stick to it!

17. Commit to a clothes buying ban. See how long you can go without buying clothes.

18. Start a no spend month. Set boundaries and see what you can live without.

19. Buy used instead of new. Rarely do you need anything brand new.

20. Bring your snacks and drinks to kids' ball games. Buying at the concession stand can be expensive!

21. Have movie night in instead of going to the movie theater. Pop your own popcorn, rent a movie, and relax in your home for a lot less money!

22. Cut your own bangs, groom your eye brows, and even trim your own hair. I save myself $10 by cutting my own bangs tweezing my eye brows in between hair cuts.

23. Make your own laundry detergent instead buying the expensive stuff at the store.

24. Make your cleaners with vinegar, water, baking soda, and salt. If you already have essential oils, add them in too!

25. Wash your vehicles at home. Detail the insides of your vehicle at home too!

26. Rent or borrow equipment you are only going to use once or twice.

27. Hang clothes outside or on a clothes rack to dry instead of using the clothes dryer.

28. Cancel the cable and/or satellite. Sign for the cheaper Netflix, Hulu, or just watch YouTube videos for free!

29. Drive right by the coffee shop, the convenience store, and the donut shop! Don't stop!

30. Never, ever shop without a list. The list will help you remember what you are getting (saving extra trips) and you should not be tempted to buy anything else.

31. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. Knowing what you are going to make will save you from being tempted to eat out and/or making an extra trip to the grocery store.

32. If you have people coming over, make the meal potluck or have them bring their own drinks.

33. Turn old shirts and socks into rags and stop using paper towels!

34. Stay home for the day. Get things done around the house or just chill for the day!

35. Fix your own things and do your work if possible. You can Google or YouTube for instructions.

36. Run errands while on your lunch break or after work. You will save money doing that instead of running them on the weekends.

37. Look at your grocery ads to see what is on sale. Plan your menu around them.

38. Wait 3-7 days before making any major purchases. Sometimes you can find a better deal or realize that you can live without it.

39. When shopping online, add items to your cart and then save it for at least three days. A discount may come along or you may realize that you no longer want those items.

40. Use cash when shopping. When the cash runs out, you are done.

41. Have at-home date nights. Pop in a movie, make your steak dinner, play cards or a game, and chill in the comfort of your home. Going out is so expensive and overrated!

42. Shut off lights in the house and unplug the electronics chargers.

43. Go one step further. Shut off the air conditioning and open the windows. Your house will get aired out and your electric bill will go down. (Of course, use your discretion on this.)

44. Use rags instead of paper towels.

45. If you can, walk or bike instead of driving.

46. Use your grill or slow cooker instead of your oven in the summer. Keeps the house cooler and saves on electricity.

47. Mend your clothing instead of throwing them away.

48. Get organized. Knowing what you have and where to find will keep you from buying a item that you have and can't find.

49. Before you make a purchase online, find out if there is a coupon code available. If there is, use it!

50. Stop the kids cold with all the requests to buy stuff at school. I swear I get a new request for a t-shirt every other week. Unless it is necessary for the class or participation, don't spend the money.

51. Want to hang out with your friends? Invite them over for coffee, tea, or drinks. Take a walk together, watch a movie together, or just hang out and talk!

52. Before purchasing anything, ask yourself if it is a need or a want. If you are really strapped for cash, then you know what you need to answer.

53. Take shorter showers and use cold water to wash laundry to save money on electricity for your water heater and (if you have one) well pump.

54. Wear clothes more than once if you can. Wearing clothes more than once saves you money because you will do less laundry!

55. Down to the bottom of that soap bottle? Doesn't matter what kind of soap you are using, add a little water to the bottom to get the rest of that soap out! 

56. Clean and declutter your house. You will feel better when you have it done and you may never know what you will find! You will also have a lower heating/cooling bill because you won't be heating/cooling as much stuff.

57. Grow a garden. You will be growing your own food for a lot less money than buying the produce in the store.

58. Get rid of the subscription services like Stitch Fix, Just Fab, Birch Box, etc. You are paying a fee for every one you are subscribed to. Stitch Fix takes $20 out of your account on the month you get a fix and you don't get that back unless you purchase an overpriced piece of clothing.

59. Buy generic over brand name. I have very few things I am brand loyal too anymore, but OTC medications, body wash, and many more things are just fine as generic!

60. Invest in some mini-scrapers and super skinny scrapers. They will help you get the last of the peanut butter, ketchup, mustard, lotion, etc. By not doing this, you will be throwing money away when you recycle the bottles. 

Did you get some ideas? What will you try first? What ideas do you have to save money today?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



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