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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Plan Your Retirement Now and Secure Your Future!


Plan Your Retirement Now and Secure Your Future!

This is an unpaid sponsored post. I believe strongly in saving for retirement as social security will not likely be enough to cover your expenses in retirement. Please check out this website and the cool tools they have to help you save for retirement!
As we grow closer to the end of yet another year many begin to take stock of our financial situations. It is tough being pulled in so many directions - children’s college funds, vacation and family outings, home ownership and more. But it’s important not to neglect long-term savings for your retirement years. I didn’t really take retirement savings seriously until I turned 40. Now I feel like I am having to catch up on my contributions to my retirement fund.  

Understanding retirement needs can be confusing sometimes and may feel like an overwhelming and impossible task. That’s why I am sharing these simple tips for helping you get started with easy-to-understand resources at AceYourRetirement.org. Here are seven things to consider to help you maximize your retirement savings.

  1. Minimize debt - but not at the expense of paying into your 401k or other retirement accounts. The less debt-load you have during your retirement, the more you’ll be able to make your retirement dollars stretch.
  2. Don’t rely solely on Social Security - in fact people are often recommended to wait until up to age 70 to collect Social Security to allow benefits to grow more.
  3. Consider whether downsizing your living quarters makes sense once children are grown and out of the house.
  4. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date and talk to your spouse/partner to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  5. If you’ve been divorced but not remarried you may be eligible to Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
  6. Enroll in a retirement savings plan. Even a little bit held out from each paycheck can really add up.
  7. Never contribute less to your 401k account than your employer matches if they offer a matching program. Save more if possible and increase your savings by 1% per year whenever possible.


As we approach a new year it’s important to take stock of your current situation, and make adjustments where needed. Pop over to AceYourRetirement.org and get personalized, simple tips on how to jumpstart your retirement savings. It was so helpful to me to see a couple areas that I could adjust to help improve the financial situation of our family. I need to increase my contributions to my 401K that is offered at my work. I currently contribute 2% and will be increasing it to 3-5% in January. I also need to get my student loans paid off to so I can put that money in savings.
I wasn’t surprised to find out that I was the only one struggling with what to do with our finances. I double-checked to make sure that we were maxing out what my employer will match and we found out we needed to adjust our contributions slightly. Today, many Americans households have virtually no retirement savings. This shortfall is especially critical for people in their late 40s and older, who are only years away from retirement.  Americans know they should be focused on the long-term, with nearly 6 in 10 (58%) preferring to save for retirement over something more short-term, a vacation (40%).  But approximately 2 in 5 households headed by people age 55-64—over 9 million households—have no retirement assets saved at all. Among workers with access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, more than 7 million don’t participate. 28% of people with access to an employer-sponsored plan do not contribute enough money to reach their company match, meaning they are essentially leaving free money on the table.
Taking steps to take control of your retirement planning could have a positive impact in many areas of your life. More than half of people in their 40s and 50s say that feeling more confident about saving for retirement would help them feel less stressed (54%). And 46% would be happier knowing they are taking care of their family’s future. I know I feel better after working through the AARP website AceYourRetirement.org. We’ve been savvy with our money - paid off car loans ahead of schedule, lived almost debt free for awhile...I know we are capable of achieving large financial goals. But I just wasn’t sure where to start. Now I feel much more confident and you can too.

Where will you start with your retirement planning? What’s your biggest challenge today?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, November 2, 2017

20 Ideas For Raising Kids Frugally


Kids can be so expensive. There is the expected expenses of clothing and feeding them. Then there are the unexpected expenses of injuries, wisdom teeth, illnesses, and notes from school saying they owe money for this or that. Either way, kids costs money.

I am here to tell you that after raising two kids to adulthood and two kids on their way to adulthood, that kids do not have to be expensive at all. In fact, you can raise kids rather frugally. Most of these tactics are not one-time savings ideas, but are everyday savings ideas. Whether you are a prepper, homesteader, or average suburban family, these ideas are all for you.

I want to preface this list by saying if you are serious about raising your kids frugally, then you need to put yourself into a frugal mindset. Being frugal is not a one-time thing. Being frugal is saving and not spending money everyday and every minute of the day. Being frugal is in the decisions you make and what you are willing to do to have to spend any more money that you have to.

20 Ideas For Raising Kids Frugally

1. Teach your kids to make do with what they have instead having to have something new.

2. Encourage your kids' creativity in what they can do with what they have. Have them play dress-up and use their imaginations. Let them build forts in the living room. Let them draw on scratch paper. All of this costs you very little or nothing and the kids are much better for it.

3. Accept hand me down clothes, toys, and any baby goods you can. Free is good!

4. Learn to go to the thrift and consignment shops first for clothes and baby goods before going to a regular store.

5. Look on eBay and Craigslist for used goods and presents that your kids need.

6. Teach your kids the difference between needs and wants. They might need regular training on this especially when they are preteens and teenagers.

7. Before shopping for back to school goods, look at what they had the year before and reuse the backpacks and supplies that can be reused.

8. Scour garage sales for what they need and for presents. I have found so many brand new things at garage sales and spent so little for presents.

9. Teach them when they are little that leftovers are a good thing! They should know that leftover food should be ate the next day or two so that food is not wasted.

10. Pack their school lunches instead of buying hot lunches from school. It is cheaper and a whole lot healthier for them to take their own lunches. If you have a kids with food allergies or intolerances, taking your own food is so much cheaper and you don't have to battle with the school.

11. Limit gift giving. We only do 4-5 presents for Christmas and birthdays. Easter is a small gift basket. Holidays are no excuse for going overboard on presents and busting your budget. By keeping the expectations of the holidays reasonable, you are keeping their expectations reasonable too.

12. If you have multiple children, keep all the decent hand me down clothes for the next kid. Even if you have three girls and one boy, a lot of the tee shirts, sweatshirts, and gym shorts could be passed down girl to boy and vice versa. If you have baby clothes, keep them as neutral as possible to pass down also.

13. Learn to mend clothes and repair shoes and toys. Fixing things is a lot cheaper than buying new.

14. Say no to a lot of activities that your kids can be in. One or two activities is not a bad thing, but sports and dance classes can really rack up the dollars. Kids exploring their passions and figuring out what they want to be interested in should not be discouraged, but being in several things at once is very costly financially and mentally.

15. Eating out should be a treat. Kids should not be eating out or being taken through the drive through several times a week. Eating at home is so much cheaper and healthier.

16. Say no to your kids. Kids do not have to have everything their little hearts desire. In fact, teaching them limits now will only benefit you and them later. If you can't handle their temper tantrums and sad faces, you need to understand that this is a part of parenting and deal with it.

17. Say no to a lot of the school expenses. Fundraisers, t-shirts, doodahs, and whatnots get to be very expensive very fast. I don't blame the schools for trying to raise money because the budgets are so tight. I don't have a problem with my own kids trying to raise their money for trips. However, I am very discerning about which fundraisers we buy from and what school things we buy. If my kids want to spend their own money on those things, they can.

18. Limit electronics and cellphones. Your kids do not need to be on their electronics all the time especially at an young age. Cellphones should not be given to anyone under 13 years of age except in certain cases. All these things cost money for the plans, the electricity, and the time wasted on them. Trust me, we have made many mistakes in this category and I am just telling you what I have learned. Limit the electronics and kids will find out they have other interests and hobbies.

19. Limit their toys and clothes. Again, this is another category that I have made many mistakes in. More clothes and more toys is expensive and not just to your pocketbook, but your time. Also, kids learn to be discontented when they have a lot of things because they expect more. If they have a few toys, enough clothes for a week or two, and you tell them no to more, they will learn to be happy with what they have.

20. Say yes to free classes and free experiences. A lot of things for kids are offered for free and you should be on the lookout for that. Your extension office, schools, local conservation groups, churches, and so many more groups offer all sorts of free things that you can take advantage of for your kids.

There are so many more ways to save money while raising kids. These are the lessons that I learned and am still learning. These are the tips that helped me. While I had help from grandparents, I still have to do what I could to save money so I could make ends meet. I bet a lot of you are in the same situation.

What are your favorite ways to raise you kids frugally?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 29

Happy Sunday everyone!

To start, I apologize for missing last week. While I realize this weekly post is not everyone's cup of tea, it serves as a place for me to get my thoughts straight. It also helps me keep track of what I have done and not done. Let's put more emphasis on what is not done because that is how I am feeling.

Actually, let's back up a little more. I struggle to stay focused on the best of days. If I didn't know better, I would probably have the adult version of ADD. However, I am not going to pursue finding out because I already know I have a problem. I survive off of to-do lists and mini self-challenges. I keep a never-ending to-do list in a journal that I carry in my purse. I also write down anything and everything I want and need to remember. Hopefully, I remember to write it down. I also heavily use my Google calendar on my phone to remember appointments and anything that I have to do that day that I don't trust myself to remember.

Yes, I have a problem. I feel sorry for anyone who has to live with me!

Now, add anxiety and stress to my already struggling focus and I am toast. I have barely gotten anything done this last week. If I had any commitments to anyone, I remembered to do those. So I remembered to pick the last of my green tomatoes and green peppers and gave them to a friend. Rob and I sold a lot of eggs last week and I remembered to get those to the right people. I remembered to make food for the week today. We have a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches, baked oatmeal muffins, egg muffins, and granola bars for breakfasts and lunches this week.

On a whim, I decided to steam my farm fresh eggs instead of boiling them to make hard boiled eggs. They turned out great and they peel so much easier!

We will take the victories where we can!

I need to finish putting the garden to rest and get the garlic planted. The weather has been wet and rainy with the appearance of snow. We did get our first frost. I am hoping to get a warm up in November so I can finish. I still need to dig potatoes too. The strawberries have been mulched by the pine needles nearby, but I want to get more pine needles on them. The weather was nice for a few days this last week, but I was busy at work with harvest and pretty dang tired by the time I got home.

I realize that was just an excuse. I have been feeling guilty for not getting more done at home. I admire the people who can get so much done in a day. Every time I sit down for a rest, I feel like I should be doing more. I hate feeling convicted about an area of my life, but it is better to have this happening now. If something happens where I have to be working harder, I don't want to be dealing with these feeling then.

Other than that, I have been trying to figure out ways to make more money. Yes, I know I should be content with what I make already. However, I have medical bills, dental bills, and an upcoming wisdom teeth surgery (Paige) to pay for. Nevermind, I still need to put tires on the van and replace the front tie rods. Also nevermind, Christmas and a birthday (Paige) is coming up too! Ugh. I am not good about being behind on my bills. It makes me cranky and think about money all the time. It really, really stresses me out.

Since I am not willing to practice the world's oldest profession, I have been trying to find things to sell and to flip. I have been cleaning a house for a friend once a month. I am working on taking pictures of my kids' discarded things to sell. I have been playing on Swagbucks again to earn points for Amazon cards. We have been selling eggs. Basically, however I can make a dollar, I will be trying. I can always get part-time job, but I still need to be a mama too.

So this has been me in a nutshell this last two weeks. I know a lot more has been going on, but this is what has been on my mind. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, but I strive every day to do my best.

What have you been up to lately? What is on your mind?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What This Prepper Buys: The $36 Dollar Tree Spree

Dollar Tree is possibly one of my favorite places to purchase prepping supplies for stockpiling. Everything's a dollar or less and we usually find good generic replacements for high dollar goods. While cheap goods is not always a good thing for prepping, sometimes it is a good way to build up your stockpile. If you are conscious about what you are buying and try it out before SHTF happens, you will know if it is a good deal or not.



Everything shown in the picture was $1 each. I spent more than $36 on this trip, but some of the items were for everyday use. I didn't buy anything spectacular. I have a decent basic stockpile and I am adding to it. I am also starting to plug holes in my stockpile and shore up some weak areas.

Let me explain what I purchased this time. I will start with the food items. I bought egg noodles because they figure in my food storage meals like Tuna Noodle Casserole. Lasagna is a popular birthday meal here and I always try to keep those noodles on hand. I bought eight containers of spices and herbs because I never want to run out of seasonings. Coconut oil cooking spray is a necessity in my mind. Seasoned bread crumbs also figure into some of my food storage meals as well as my garden fresh meals. Canned chicken is also considered a necessity in my food storage.

I always pick up those four packs of emergency candles when I can. Candles are not a great source of light, but they will light up a room enough to see and provide comfort.

I am also adding to my first aid stock too from Dollar Tree. I like the smaller packages because they are easier to pack for vehicles and bags. This time I got a couple of bandage wraps for sprains and other injuries. I also got 2x2 gauze pads after using some when I had nose surgery. By the way, they are a perfect size for drip pads under your nose! I also got a pack of 8 mini-size facial tissues for bags and bug-out bags. They are the perfect size in my opinion and light to carry.

I have started buying more of the hand soap refills rather than hand soap dispensers. I got two this time. I have plenty of hand soap dispensers already and I think refilling them is a better answer than keep buying them.

I also bought a fair amount of cleaning supplies this time. I needed more dusting spray and glass cleaner. I try to keep plenty of bathroom cleaner to keep the bathrooms sanitized. I wanted to buy more spray cleaners, but I didn't like their selection today. I have also started to keep more air freshening items on hand too so the house doesn't stink when things are starting too.

I also bought more Krazy glue because I also needed more of it. And really, can you have too much Krazy glue? It can fix and hold together a lot of stuff!

You can build up your stockpile cheaply. You don't have to spend $36 like I did, but $5-10 a week would be doing more than doing nothing. Look at what you need and start stockpiling!

By the way, you can check out my "What This Prepper Buys" here and here

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Easy Skillet Spaghetti: A Great Dinner for a Busy Night!


We are a busy household. A lot of nights we do not eat supper until 7:30 - 8:00 at night. Sometimes we need to make supper on the fly and have something on the table quickly. Sometimes we just want to make something quick and easy because we are tired. This Skillet Spaghetti fits the bill.

This recipe is easy. Very easy! It is a cheap meal to make. It is also made in one large skillet or dutch oven. One pot meals are my favorite meals. So just about anything made in one pot will get a chance at this household. I based this recipe off of one that I first made 12-15 years ago. I have since changed this recipe and completely lost the original recipe. 

Easy Skillet Spaghetti

Serves 4-6 people

1 pound ground beef
1 - 24 ounce jar of pasta (spaghetti) sauce
24 ounces water
12 ounces spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds
Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese for garnish



1. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet or dutch oven until done. You can drain the grease if you feel there is too much, but I generally do not drain the grease.



2. Add the spaghetti sauce to the ground beef. 



Fill the jar back up to the sauce level with water. Add the water to the skillet and stir. 



Bring to just a boil over medium high heat. 



3. Add the broken spaghetti noodles to the skillet and stir. You want the noodles covered with sauce. 



Cover the skillet and turn the temperature down to medium low heat. 



4. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The skillet spaghetti will be done when the noodles are cooked and most of the sauce is soaked up. 

5. You can sprinkle with mozzarella cheese to make this cheesy. The cheese will melt rather quickly on its own. I usually let people sprinkle their own parmesan cheese.

Serve with garlic bread and a salad if you so desire.

Notes:
* If the noodles do not seem cooked enough and the sauce is mostly soaked up, you can add 1/2 cup water at a time until the noodles are soft.
* If you use whole wheat spaghetti noodles, most of those boxes are 13-13.5 ounce boxes. You can add an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce to use the whole box. 

I know it is so simple, but I believe in giving all busy families the same tools to getting a filling dinner on the table. I hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 1, 2017

Sunday greetings, everyone!

In talking to some of my readers and good friends, I found out that while they liked my blog posts (thanks!) they wanted me to go back to doing something of a regular update about what we do around here. They also liked when I talked about what I thought of things and what I am interested in. I was a little surprised to tell you the truth. I was pretty sure no one really wanted to know what goes on inside my brain!

Well, this last week was more than just unproductive. I didn't get hardly anything done except run some errands on Friday, ship books, and go to some of the kids things Friday and Saturday. I finally had nose surgery on Monday morning and that knocked me out for a few days. Quite frankly, I am still not sure what I am going to get done to today because I don't want to jeopardize the surgery. I had bilateral inferior turbinate reduction surgery so I could breath through my nose again for the first time in 20+ years. The surgeon took a fair amount of tissue and membranes out so I have two clear nasal passages.

Let me tell you this, healing is not fun. I had the best care from Rob who has been wanting me to get this surgery done for a while. I am not a good patient because I am too used to doing stuff. I constantly got told "no, you aren't doing that". However, I got caught up on a few documentaries, some reading, a lot of sleep, and my DVR. I was allowed to put supper in the slow cooker two nights and to make bread because I used the bread maker to do the mixing and kneading.

This all goes back to something I have talked about before. Now is the time to take care of your health and any issues you may have. Tomorrow may be too late. I am working at losing weight (lost 15 pounds so far!), getting healthier, and having a better quality of life. Not being able to breath well or right was significantly impacting it. I am sleeping so much better now. I don't run out of breath because I can breath through my nose. I wasn't a natural mouth breather so this has been huge!

I will be canning tomatoes today and starting to wrap up the garden. Fall is definitely here in Iowa. While I expect we will have a warm-up again, the tomatoes are done. I have been letting them just ripen in the garden since I couldn't do anything with them. The potatoes need to be dug, but I need to get a new pitchfork. I broke the last one beyond repair. The peppers are still ripening and I will leave them alone a little while longer. The garden needs a good weeding and then putting to rest.

I doubt that will all happen this week, but the canning of tomatoes will happen this week if not today. I will probably turn them into crushed tomatoes because I can turn crushed tomatoes into chili or another sauce if I want to. Otherwise I can chunk them up and can them that way too. I try to keep the canning simple most of the time.

Chickens were moved to their new coop about six weeks ago and they are doing great. We have been letting them free range when we are home on the weekends and after work. We lost two hens to coyotes and I am not very happy about that. We have a young pack of coyotes around us right now, but I think they must be moving southward. I don't hear them at night as much. We still have a rooster though and I am looking for a home for him. I might have one for him, but if you are interested, please let me know!

We also have eggs taking over the fridge and back-up fridge so it is time to start selling! Additional income is always good!

I have been trying to find new ways to save money and have been going back to some of my old ways to save money. I have been trying to be more cognizant of the way money is being spent, but it is just being spent. I have gone back to couponing a little and using money savings I already possess in terms of value cards I have bought through the school. Some days, it seems like we live as frugal as we can, but it will never be enough. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I am some bigger purchases I have to make.

I really need to buy two sets of tires this fall and have been looking for a good deal on barely used or new tires. Tires are just expensive though! So are car parts since Paige got into an accident last month. Most of that damage is cosmetic, but the whole drivers side panels and doors need to be replaced. Hopefully, the other driver's insurance will pay for it, but there is no guarantee since the claim is now in arbitration. (Long story for another day).

We are trying to get stuff done before winter comes or when we can't do anything after work because there is no daylight left. We really need to address the well room and get the top of that sealed. Our well room is attached to the basement of our house and has its own cement ceiling and cover. They are both cracked and water is leaking in. I have had a tarp over it for years, but the tarp is no longer doing the job. I just need to borrow the pressure washer from work, clean it, and get it sealed so the cracks are no longer a problem. I want to be able to store potatoes and other vegetables in the well room again without them spoiling.

You might notice the lack of discussion on prepping, but to me this is all prepping. Gardening, chickens, vehicles, health, and property maintenance/projects are all prepping. Almost everything we do is prepping. Every day, we just do what we can do and put the rest on tomorrow's list.

How has your week been going? What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Clean Out Your Freezers With Me In August!


I declare August as National Clean Out Your Freezer(s) Month.

Why? The reasons are endless...

  • School is starting soon for us and may have already started for you.
  • Summer bounty is flowing in from the garden.
  • There may still be meals in the freezer from last year's freezer cooking binge.
  • There may be meat from 2014 in the bottom of the freezer.
  • There may be frozen vegetables and fruits from 2012.
  • You may have a storage shortage in the freezer.
  • You may have to get really creative in order to put even more in the freezer!
  • You may have leftovers from two Christmases ago still frozen in your favorite containers...

Most of those, if not all, are a true story in this house! I bet they are true for your house too, but I will not point any fingers. I have a full-size chest freezer as well as the freezer in my refrigerator. I am going to concentrate mainly on the chest freezer, but the other freezer will be looked at too.

No matter if you are a prepper or a homesteader, this needs to be done. You need to keep rotating your stock or you might lose it to freezer burn or worse. You have to make room for any garden produce you might freeze. If you are into frugal living or sustainability, food waste is your enemy. Losing food to sheer negligence or lack of organization is a detriment to everything you are trying to attain. 



How should we go about cleaning out the freezers? However works best for you.

I would recommend doing an inventory of all the contents of your freezer and using up the oldest food first. If some of that food is badly or obviously freezer burnt, pitch it or feed it to the chickens if the food is safe for them. You don't need to eat bad freezer-burnt food for the sake of saving money - trust me, I have done that and it wasn't pleasant!

If you want to put the freezer inventory on a spreadsheet, I would recommend this one from Lesa at Better Hens and Gardens. If you want to do just printable freezer inventory sheets, I really like the printable from Fun, Cheap or Free. She also gives great tips!

Now I am one of "those people" who think food that frozen and still looks good is edible. I don't take much stock in dates on frozen food. However, for this freezer cleanout, you should probably eat the oldest food first due to making room for new and better tasting food.

Now, if being this organized makes you twitch, you can do a simpler method(s) that I have also used myself. You can work from right to left/left to right in the freezer. You can just grab a basket, find the oldest food, put that food in the basket, and vow to eat that up first. You can just open the freezer, grab the first thing you see, and make something with it. You can do whatever floats your boat in this challenge.



At the end of month, when you have eaten down your freezers, you should probably spend some time on Labor Day weekend or before cleaning and defrosting your freezers. Goodness knows they will need it! You will be able to see how gross they have probably become!

For this to be fun for everyone and to follow me while I do this, you can follow me on Instagram where I will post regular pictures of what the freezer looks like and what we are eating. You can also follow me on Facebook where I will also post pictures and encouragement for you all.

Please join me in this Freezer Cleanout Challenge! I would love to see what you are all doing as well! You can tag me by using the hashtag #lifeinruraliowafreezerchallenge. If you all use the hashtag, you should be able to see what each other is doing too! We can encourage each other!

Let me know in the comments if you are joining and what you want to accomplish in this challenge!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, June 9, 2017

Worried About Climate Change? 11 Ways To Make Your Own Changes!


Climate change (aka global warming) is the new "hot" topic due to recent events. All these countries are "worried" about the planet and want changes to be made. They want the United States to fund all these changes without any real say about where the money goes. All the while, the two main offenders of climate change, China and India, have no plans to decrease emissions from their factories and will increase their emissions for at least the next 5-10 years. Yet, they are criticizing the United States even though we have made great strides in reducing emissions and becoming more environmentally friendly.  However, this does not stop the supporters of climate change and those who do not actually read what the United States would have to do in order to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Environmentalism is a popular thing right now and rightfully so. We should all care about the planet we live on, how we treat it. and what we can do to make it a better place. Climate change, though, is not just an international or national problem. It is a personal problem. We all have to make changes at every level to reduce our impact on the planet. Most of that can be done at home!

Climate change is affected by humans on a world wide scale. We have factories that put out emissions in order to keep up with our growing demand of things. We have a demand for oil that is at very high levels and we keep searching for more oil. We rip through forests without replanting. We deforest areas for more farmland and housing developments. We have huge factory farms to feed our growing population. We have huge landfills that are full and we are running out of room for more. And what fuels all of this: demand and consumerism.

If we make choices to reduce demand and consume less products, we would have a better planet.

11 Ways To Make Your Own Changes:

1. Stop littering! You think this is not a problem any more? I live on a county road and I can tell you this is still a big problem. Use a trash can and recycle! If we put trash were it needs to go and recycle all the cans and bottles that people like to throw out of their vehicles, we would make a big impact.

2. Think about what you buy and how it is packaged. Excess packaging leads to more trash and more resources used by manufacturers. Buy products with less packaging. Buy in bulk if you can and it is feasible for you. If your store has bulk bins for food, ask if they will allow to bring in your own containers and save even more on packaging.


3. Use plastic as little as possible. Bring your own shopping and produce bags when you shop. Choose glass instead of plastic. Creating plastic creates a strain on our resources and uses materials that can be better used for other things. If you need to use plastic, look for plastic that can be recycled.

4. Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. It may take a little more effort on your part, but recycling creates less waste going to the landfill. Less waste at the landfill means less natural resources being impacted. I grew up with recycling and it blows my mind how many people do not recycle simply because it "takes too much time". Recycling takes very little time.

5. Stop buying disposable products and reuse. We are such a disposable society and that needs to stop. Look for products that can used multiple times. Carry your own water bottle and coffee mug with you instead of getting convenience store paper or Styrofoam cups. Put a water filter on your tap, refill your own bottles, and stop using plastic bottles.

6. Fix your things. So many things end up in the trash because we don't have the desire or ability to fix them. Again, being a disposable society, we throw it away and buy new. With the Internet and YouTube, we have no excuse for not being able to figure out how to fix things. Fix your things and use them until they absolutely cannot be used or fixed anymore.

7. Buy used. Not everything needs to be bought new. Thrift stores are packed and overloaded with things that need to be bought and can bless another household. Craigslist, Facebook sale sites, Ebay, and local sale groups are abounding with listings of things that people don't use or need anymore. Buy used things and stop the cycle of consumerism.

8. Stop being a consumer. We buy so much stuff that we don't really need. People often have enough clothes to wear without washing for a month. Kids have more toys than they have time to play with them. Garages are stuffed full of things that we did not need. The cycle of consumerism needs to stop! You need to really think about your purchases, how much you will use them, and what benefit they will bring to your life. Most of the time you can live without it.


9. Rent or borrow things. While I do think you need your own tools and similar things, you don't need to have everything. We rent or borrow tools for our bigger projects because we will only use them once and owning those items will not have any long term benefits for us. Many people buy a tool or an item for a project that they will never use again. That item just sits there, collecting dust, and will not be a benefit to anyone.

10. Drive less and smarter. People are on the go all the time. Yet, they will run to town for just one thing. You should combine your errands. You can try to carpool. You need to question whether you need to drive at all or if you really need the things you are running to town for. You need to question the vehicle you are driving. Do you really need a vehicle of that size? Can you survive with a smaller, more efficient car?


11. Plant your own gardens and trees. One of the ways you can help with climate change is to grow things. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. We need more oxygen. Also, by planting your food, you become less of a consumer and more of a producer. By planting edible producing trees and bushes, you create a reusable food source for your family and your neighborhood.

What other suggestions do you have to reduce climate change on a personal level?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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


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