31 Day No Spend Challenge

(just a quick note- I started this challenge before beginning this blog, so the dates are posted at the top of each blog in the text until I catch up with today)

August 1st, 2014

 

Today our family started a 31 day no spend challenge.  This actually started a couple of weeks ago preparing for this month.

First, we looked over what the rules of the challenge were and discussed them with our family. (2 boys ages 11 & 16)  Pretty basic: Don’t spend anything that is not necessary and set ground rules for what is.  We decided that fresh produce is a necessity, so we allowed $50/paycheck to spend ($150 total since it is a 3 paycheck month).  Technically, the food part will actually extend into Sept since the last check of the month will be so close to the beginning of the next month.

Second, we allowed for any expenses that may not be normal or necessary, but would interrupt the flow of our budget or life in the positive direction, such as our Friends of the Library card, which is due in August, but is good for the entire year and saves us A LOT on gas by not needing to drive from one library branch to another to pick up books.  It also saves the fee to have them shipped to the library of our choice, so I can sit at home, order the books I want online through the library website and when they are available, I am notified by email and we have 8 days to pick them up.  We also get $3 off in the library bookstore, which allows us to shop their once a year book sale and get quite a few books for free.  The other expense is our YMCA membership.  This I do view as a necessity and would have been not worth our time or money to cancel for one month, only to sign back up next month and have to pay fees all over again. We also kept our Netflix as it is our only form of entertainment for the same reason.  We already have Amazon Prime, which through Amazon mom also gives me up to 20% off subscribe and save items, not to mention the free videos, books, shipping, etc.  Well worth the $75 fee we paid this year.

Third, I inventoried our pantry, fridge and freezer.  This sounds more daunting that is really was.  Being somewhat of a retired extreme couponer, we have a lot of food on hand.  At first, I didn’t think we would have enough to come up with real meals throughout the month, but as I got to writing it all down, I quickly realized how much excess we have.

Fourth, I developed a loose meal and recipe plan for the entire month. This happened in three steps.  I sat the kids down and we brainstormed together what meals they would like.  I added in the things I know my husband would eat and and then looked at the food we had on hand and wrote down every meal I knew I could fix at least once.  The last thing I did in this step is to transfer the meals to a calendar to make sure I had planned enough meals and servings for each person.  This was actually the most difficult part as I have not EVER liked or been successful with meal planning.  So, the items I wrote on the calendar may or may not be eaten on the day I have them scheduled.

Once I had these things done, I was ready to start cooking and preparing for the month.  I spent one day making granola, granola bars, oatmeal, and chili.  Today, I made pulled pork with carrots.

I also looked around the house carefully to make sure there were no items that NEEDED to be purchased before the end of July to sustain us through August, such as shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.  This does not include clothing, unless maybe if your kid’s shoes are falling off their feet, which mine were not.

I made a trip to the store to get butter, brown sugar & almond milk, which I would not include as fresh food items and so could not be purchased after July 31st.  I also purchased so hair detangler, which for me is a must have or my hair breaks off in clumps from all the tangles. I also bought a couple pairs of jeans from Goodwill for myself as my oldest and most favorite pair had just last week developed a large hole where I could not repair it due to the fact the fabric simply no longer existed! Since I only paid $3.99 for a pair of Old Navy jeans, I feel like I saved instead of spent!

So what is my thought about the first day?

 

Personally, I think it went great.  The boy’s understood that there would be no  spending of any kind and if it wasn’t free, don’t even bother.  They tend to have an issue with the “I wants”, so I was concerned that they would really dig their heels in on this one, but instead, upon visiting a friend, who happened to be having a garage sale (one of my children’s favorite things and something we all do regularly), they walked by the items and longingly looked at them, repeated their price, touched them and then walked away!  Not even a look at me to try to ask with puppy-dog eyes or anything.

The other thing I noticed is I felt free.  I wasn’t bound by the thought of spending money.  No drinks (we brought our own from home), or food or other extras that we might want, but not really need. We simply went about our day and I knew that if someone asked me to purchase something, I could simply say, “Sorry, we are on a no spend month.”

 

I am a frugal person by nature, always have been, always will.  I learn something new every day about frugality.  I hope to be able to share some of these things with you: from grocery to budget to homemade products and ways to save big and live more abundantly and not be tied down with stuff!

 

John 10:9-11 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.…

 

Cleaning Out Life

I realize that I continue to only make sporadic posts even though I have lots to write about.  It has really bothered me because I see quite a few things slipping in my life and I have prayed a lot about what needs to go and what needs to stay and why.  

Yesterday, I cleaned out my Facebook friend list. I started with 719 friends and then I unfriended 145 people.  I also stopped following or left 40 groups and stopped following or unliked nearly 200 pages!!!  This was cleansing for me even though Facebook is not something I see in front of me in real life, I found it consuming my time more and more and quite frankly, there were some people who were not in any way uplifting to me that I had kept simply in the hopes of ministering to them somehow.  I also got rid of anyone who made me feel bad about myself or had been a negative person in my past that despite forgiving them, I was reminded of the hurt every time I saw a post from them. 

Originally, I was thinking I would get rid of everyone except for family and my church friends. Several people who were on the original cut list actually contacted me and asked to stay my friend because they liked to hear what was going on in my life and they lived too far away to ever actually see me.  Those people I kept because how can you say no to someone who went out of their way to stay your friend, even if from afar.  I also was not cutting people out because I was trying to be mean, I simply need to put God first more and things like FB less.  This was the first step.

  If you are wondering why I was even doing that much and not just closing my FB down entirely, well, I happen to be the Women’s Ministry leader at my church and I am in charge of the content of said FB page.  I will say, I am working on a way around that and may get to shut my page down anyhow, but this will not be soon.

In addition to the clutter in my “real world” surroundings, my electronic and virtual life is cluttered as well.  Both of these keeps me from fully enjoying my friends and family and actually keeps from from accomplishing tasks in  a reasonable amount of time. So, in keeping with my decluttering and ridding my home of 50% of its contents, I am also ridding my internet life of just as much if not more.

With everything going on with the care of my mother, etc, my physical life decluttering has been sporadic at best, but I still think I will be able to attain my goal by the end of the year.  I have a 9 months left to complete this.

Being frugal and thrifty and declutttering are not how I honor God.  I honor God by the fruits of these things.  What I am able to bless people with financially, with my surplus of things and with my time.  I would like more time and money, so thereby as I declutter, I have less to take care of and less to worry about and more money and time to serve others.  It really is pretty freeing when you think about it.

In fact, it is so freeing, I had to stop myself from deleting even more people.  I am giving myself a couple day break, but once I got started, I just wanted to delete, delete, delete!  It was a little heady, so I slowed myself down! 🙂

I am turning now to my email accounts (yes plural) and the nearly 40,000 emails between them.  My husband says this is very freeing as well.  We shall see.

I hope you have a blessed week and hopefully the next time I write it will be about another room I have accomplished!

Strawberries!!!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to purchase strawberries from a local family who lives in an Amish community near us.  They had shipped strawberries from Florida and were selling them for $16/flat. All the comments that I saw about the strawberries were very positive, so I took a bit of my birthday money (my birthday was yesterday, Feb 19th) and splurged on a flat of strawberries. There were 6 plastic containers per side and each one was overflowing.  I didn’t weigh this, but even so, that makes each basket $1.33 each!

2015-02-18 12.23.58

They completely lived up to my expectations and I happily spent the rest of the day rinsing, slicing, dehydrating and sugaring strawberries.

To freeze the strawberries for later use, I rinsed and sliced them and spread them out on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  I ended up squeezing them much closer together than what the picture shows, and ended up with 4 large trays and 1 small tray

2015-02-18 12.24.12

After they are frozen, simply remove from wax paper and put into a freezer container or seal in vacuum bags.

2015-02-19 11.13.42

I also “sugared” some of the strawberries using Truvia.

2015-02-18 13.07.11

Next, I dehydrated some of them.  I started by rinsing and slicing. Then I put them into  lemon juice and let them soak for 5 minutes.

2015-02-18 13.31.02

After soaking, I placed them onto the dehydrator.  I have not been satisfied with strawberries dehydrated in the past, but I think the addition of the lemon juice will help them retain their shape and color better.  I made 4 trays.

2015-02-18 13.31.14

I don’t have a picture, but they did turn out great.  They are not something you would just sit down and munch on as they are pretty tart and tend to really stick in your teeth once water is introduced, but putting them into cereal or oatmeal will be perfect!

No counting done today, but the several hours it took to take care of these was well worth the time.  I did also keep two of the containers out just to eat and made one smoothie as well, so these strawberries went a long way and will keep my family happy for the rest of the winter while we wait for strawberries to be ripe here in the Midwest!

Yesterday I Got Rid of…

Yesterday, I got rid of 133 items in my house.  This included paper as well as actual items.  These items are currently waiting to be transported to the nearest Goodwill or other place similar to that. In addition, I am desperately trying to get items ready for a Kid’s consignment sale and need to have that completed by Sunday.  I currently have 226 items going to the sale with probably another 150 to go.

So where have I been for the last month?  Well, I am glad you asked.

With my mother starting dialysis in December 2014, I was her driver for the first month & half three times per week to and from the clinic.  In the last week of January, she started her PD home dialysis training, which we thought would be better and allow us to mostly get back to a normal schedule and quit hemorrhaging money as the clinic is 30 minutes away from home. It didn’t quite work out that way.  By the end of her training week, she was very sick with an infection and ended up staying a week at the hospital. It meant even more time away from home and taking  care of the rest of my family and left virtually no time for things such as organizing, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, much less blogging.

The day after she came home, I fell down the stairs.

2015-02-12 21.48.31

One to Two minutes post fall. 

Huge goose egg on the side of my foot.  I thought it was broken with all the popping and cracking that happened and I came within less than a half inch of hitting my head.  I also managed to land in such a way that this was my only injury and I didn’t even spill the drink I was carrying! Praise the Lord!

So, went to the ER and no breaks, just soft tissue damage.  This was another HUGE praise as I am the person who does most of the driving in my house. (My mom, my kids, etc) My prayer was I would be able to drive by Tuesday (yesterday) and I am proud to report that I did! (although it was a little rough)

2015-02-14 18.24.34 2015-02-16 14.52.40

This was two days ago and the only change to it is from the red spot on the side of my ankle, which is some sort of weird bruise, to the tips of my toes is all a nice shade of blue.  The darker spots are pooling blood, which is normal and the swelling that you see on the top of my foot may take a couple weeks to go away.

So to recap, I had hand surgery in January, which kept me from typing well, then dialysis and subsequent hospitalization of my mother and then graceful me falls down the stairs. Oh yeah and don’t forget when my husband was laid off.  He is back to work, Praise the Lord! Yes, I would say we are done with trouble for awhile, thank you very much.

So, back to the matter at hand. Clearing my house of STUFF.  Since we had the lay off and craziness go on in Jan, our no spend month ended up falling apart.  Meals had to be purchased, extra expenses due to travel, etc. I am not sure if I will do the no spend month again this year as both this time and the last we had a lot of things derail us from it, so my new strategy is just simply no spend unless I absolutely have to., which is pretty much what we do anyway, but I am going to be a little more intentional with everything.

I did finish with the bathroom, here is an after shot and I continue to remove items and hope to be at the 50% mark by the end of the year.  I am currently at 251 items.  I still have 151 items to get rid of to get to 50% in just this one room, but I make progress every day!

 2015-02-05 17.20.01

Another room that I don’t have a picture of is the Kitchen.  I posted before that we had gotten rid of 405 items and since then another 12 have left.  This is another area I hope to improve on over the remainder of the year, but instead of dwelling on what else in this one room, I have turned my focus and attention elsewhere.

The next area I tackled and the one that I delivered 133 items out of yesterday was a place at the bottom of the stairs just past where I fell.  In this space it has our printer, 2 sewing machines and cabinets,  a bar that was been turned around to use for shelving, a bookcase, 2 student desks, a  rolling cart and a couple of chairs.  What I removed was mostly papers and books and some toys and misc items that seem to somehow crawl their way into spaces they don’t belong.  I am no where near done with this space either, but as I move throughout the house, I now have more room to relocate items that don’t belong in the space I find them in but do not want to get rid of.  My hope is to turn this area into our home school/craft storage area.  I happen to have home school and craft items spread ALL over my house, so it will be nice to have them all in one place!

Another area I have been working on in is our master bedroom.  I am no where near done with this room either, so here are the before pictures and as I work, I will update with the after.

2015-02-02 15.47.52 2015-02-02 15.48.00room itself

2015-02-02 15.48.11walk in closet

When my mother moved in with us, we gave her the master suite and moved into a much smaller room downstairs.  We tried to cram all of the stuff we had been able to store upstairs and unfortunately, this is the result.  Plenty of room upstairs, not so much downstairs.  Yet another reason why we are downsizing our life.  So far, I have been able to get rid of 97 items out of the bedroom.  I probably will not count this room as it will take forever to count, but I will post the total number of items and new pictures when it is completed!  Stay tuned!

Giving a Haircut frugally

As we counted and cleaned out the bathroom (of which I am still removing things day by day), I looked at some of the items I was counting and nearly didn’t count them.

One of these items was the set of hair clippers that I cut every family member’s hair with except my own.  They are all boys, so this isn’t difficult and I noticed a few years ago that the hair dressers had traded in their scissors for the clippers anyway, so why was I paying them for something I could do at home?

By keeping these clippers and cutting my husband’s hair and my two youngest boys, I save approximately $180 per year. ($15 x 12 haircuts- 4 per year per person) If we go by the standard of a haircut every 6 weeks, then that amount saved jumps to $390 per year!

So why didn’t I want to count my clippers?  By counting my clippers and adding them to the list of potential things to get rid of this year, if I were to actually do so, would cost me way more than to keep them in the drawer.  They cost $20 originally and come with several lengths of cuts, a pair of scissors, a bottle of oil, hair clips and sometimes a cape.

When I first started cutting my family’s hair, let’s just say, it wasn’t always pretty.  My husband encouraged me by asking me the question, “You know the difference between and bad haircut and a good haircut?  Three days.”

I will say, in my humble opinion, this was not always true, but he has never complained of my blunders with the clippers and I have become more skilled over the years and am able to trim around the ears and clean the edges up quite nicely.

Each of them have drastically different hair types as well.  My husband’s is thick, but soft. My middle son’s hair is extra thick, coarse and wiry and is by far the easiest to cut and my youngest son’s hair is the most difficult as it is thinner, softer and tends to not hold it’s shape.  We also learned a long time ago that he looks TERRIBLE with a buzz cut that the other two prefer, so it has taken longer to get the length of his hair correct and to even it up so it looks neat and tidy.

I tell you all this to give you encouragement if you have thought about ditching the hair stylist and doing your family’s hair yourself.  I do also cut my own hair to trim it and keep the split ends at bay but generally go in twice a year and have to cleaned up.

This was a post I had wanted to do a week or so ago before life got in the way.  Just an update, my hand is recovering nicely.  I still have 5 or 6 stitches that will come out in a week, but I am able to use my hand almost completely like normal.

Thank you for reading and I will get back to business as usual in a few more days.

God Bless!

Being Thankful

Regardless of where this life takes me, I will always be frugal.  I believe it is somehow ingrained in my DNA and for that, I am grateful.  More times than not, frugality has taken me through some rough patches and I always learn something new about myself that maybe I wasn’t listening to God about and He needed to make it a little more clear to me.

This week has been one of those times.

First, I have learned how to do a lot of things and adapt well to not having the use of my right hand.  I would say, if I had a choice of a limb to not be able to use, I would probably choose a leg as there is still income I can make simply using the computer and in the last few days, I have felt that issue over and over again with the things I have been unable to do.  Simple things like write my name, take my bra off, lift ANYTHING, remove the cap off a pill bottle, start my car…things we take for granted every day.

This morning as I got ready to leave for the Dr’s appointment to remove the silly, cumbersome wrapping that has kept me immobile and perpetually giving people the finger (particularly distracting at church), I thanked God for the lesson in not taking the wonderful things I have for granted.  I have the ability to use my hand this evening, even though it is still sore, it is nearly like normal.  I have great people.  I would not have been able to do most of the things I have done over the last several days without the help of my husband and children. I have my Lord, who has provided me with a safe haven, a shelter to weather this and the uncertainty that lies ahead for my husband and his job. We are blessed. I will not take it for granted. I am blessed. Praise the Lord for the ability to use all of my senses and limbs and to be mostly in good health.
Praise the Lord that my husband gets a paycheck for at least the next 60 days with insurance coverage. Praise the Lord that I can go get a job if I need to and have lots of skills at my disposal. Praise the Lord that my kids are healthy and safe and have plenty of food.

Tomorrow evening I am teaching a class on how to coupon.  I am blessed that there is such an interest that I will have a few dollars to put away to weather this storm.  I am blessed to have the opportunity to share my knowledge with others to help their families.

Don’t forget who made you and put you here with a purpose and a mission to complete.  What that exact mission and purpose is you must figure out between you and God.  He thinks you are perfect and beautiful and worthy. My middle son has autism and I tell him how God made him special to fulfill a purpose. He needs to have God help him find his way. It is no different for me or you. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God himself. That is amazing and wonderful and hopeful.

It is how I move through the storms in peace. God carries me.

I will be back to more frugalness tomorrow, but for now, God Bless You!

When Life Interrupts Life

Yesterday, Friday, Jan 16, I had surgery on my hand making it very difficult to type this blog.  The surgery was no big deal, just a little cyst on my right hand, but as a result, I have my arm wrapped from my finger all the way to mid forearm.

2015-01-16 15.51.18

This last week prior to this surgery was spent trying to get my mom’s spaces cleared enough to make room for her medical supplies, so we have not worked toward our goal of clearing out our possessions. To make matters worse, we had run into a couple situations that we had been caught away from home and due to appointments running late, etc had needed to purchase a couple of meals. We did, however, due to the sweet relief in the price of gas, was able to put $100 back in our account towards that.

I had also been a little lazy in paying off bills because I was so busy with everything else, but God always has a plan and he can even use our exhaustion or laziness to protect us. In this case, He protected us.

On Thursday, along with 600 other people, my husband was laid off at his job.  He works in aircraft and it is not completely unexpected, but this one came out of the blue. As per God’s protection, my husband receives 60 days of pay and full benefits through this time.  We are hopeful that he will be called back during that time, but we also know that aircraft is feast or famine. So our no spend month, pay down debt has changed to save every penny for the possible rainy days ahead.

I need to give my poor hand a rest, so I will end here, but expect another post next week as I start to explain what we do in times of famine.

God Bless everyone and just know that I do this blog in the hopes of being encouraging and informative.

Kitchen- DONE! 31 Day No Spend Challenge, Day 7

I knew I would be gone for a couple of days due to getting back into our normal schedule with hubby at work and kids doing their schoolwork, but this week is proving to be very challenging for me.  Due to a change in my mother’s dialysis schedule, we now have to make room for a very large supply of home dialysis supplies to be delivered late next week. This is about a month earlier than what I was expecting and needless to say, we are not prepared for it.

Just to give you a little background on what our life looks like here, my mother moved in with us due to her poor health.  This had been the plan since we purchased this house in 2006, but we were only able to move her in 2013. I believe this was all God’s plan and timing as I became ill shortly after moving into our new home and spent the next two years battling that round of the kidney disease. It would have been very hard for her to move in with us at that time as I was unable to do much.

Having said that, my mother has a lot of STUFF. Most she will never use.  She has multiples upon multiples of things and often those things go bad and have to be thrown away.  She has things she has had since the 80’s that she thinks one day she may need it!!

One of the main reasons I am working to get rid of 50% of our possessions is due to the amount of stuff my mom has brought into the house.  Now with needing to put a very large pallet of medical supplies PERMANTENTLY somewhere in the house, I am attempting to clear out a space in one of her rooms so that these items have a home.

Because of this, I am shifting my efforts to her things instead of our things, but I did manage to get the kitchen mostly completed before I had to start on her things.

My dear husband and my 16 year old agreed to count the kitchen for me.  This is only the items that were in the 4 walls of the kitchen and do not include the dining room or pantry, where the majority of our cooking items are located.  I also have to wonder about some of the counts, as I did not get a clear response to how things were counted, except that some small items such as twist-ties were either counted as one or sometimes counted individually, so this is probably not a completely accurate figure, but we went with it anyway.

Our Kitchen count was 1253 items, which meant that 626 items need to be removed.  I would love to say that we met and exceeded that goal, but of course, we fell short.  We are not quite done with our counting however because we put all of our utensils in a box and whatever is left at the end of 30 days gets tossed.

We managed to get rid of 405 items out of the 626, so we have 221 to go.  I expect to see about 50 more items to go, so we actually will be closer on the kitchen than we were on the bathroom.

I may update with pictures of the kitchen now, but I haven’t had time to take them.  When I get them, I will come back and post them in here.

I did follow a suggestion I saw on another site that said to take a picture of recipes that you want to keep.  Most of the recipes today can be found online, but there are some very old recipes that of course are a little more difficult to come by or I also have some gluten free recipes that were given to me, so those I took pictures of and the rest I threw out.  We had multiples of the same recipe stuck in this drawer and that, so it was easy to get rid of the multiples.  All in all, the kitchen feels much more spacious and clean, even though there is still more work to be done there.

I have also started on my clothing, shoes and jewelry.  I am no where near done to counting and have only done the clothes that just plain don’t fit at this point.  I also counted 28 pairs of shoes, of which I can only wear about 6 pairs, so that will be more than 50% on shoes!

Quick update on the No Spend Month, we are doing fine.  Keeping focused.  Yesterday, I spent the day at my church from 9am-4pm. I didn’t pack anything for lunch, so I had to call my husband to bring me a sandwich when he brought the kids to me.  I did bring breakfast and at my morning Bible study there were some snacks, so I was fine until we got home at 5pm.  I will need to prepare a little better in the future for Tuesdays, as this is our busiest day of the week.

I am feeling pretty confident that we will make it the entire month and have a few things paid off.  I have already sold more than $150 in items to put toward debt.  That makes me happy, since it is only the 7th of Jan!

I leave you with one of the Memory verses from the Bible study I am in and is personally one of my favorites. I say it often, pray it often and know that it is Truth. Happy Wed everyone!