Friday, October 28, 2016

Birthday Party on a Shoe String budget

We only do birthday parties every other year for our children. Sure you can save the money by never having birthday parties. But I think birthday parties are important childhood memories. I am not an advocate of crazy fancy parties. I think they are too time consuming and costly. Now what I am about to tell you of what I did might think I am being contrary.
1- I start on pinterest. I look for the things that are practical, easy to make, will be an activity or add atmosphere. Above all I look for things that are cheap and easy to make myself. Then I pick 2-3 ideas that I think I can accomplish in the given time and will fulfill my criteria.
2- Of course a theme os decided, not that a theme is needed but it does help direct and limit ideas from getting out of hand. I make a list of possible activities and food. Not everything has to be a apart of a theme. No kid is going to care that a cupcake or cookie isn't within the theme. Yes it is fun and if you can do it without adding extra expense then sure do it, but if you are doing it cheap no kid cares if there is a tot sitting on top. 
3- There is a trade off of food verses time. Food takes time. If you need to fill time, feed the kids a meal and treats will fill that time. Food can make the party more expensive. Make treats yourself. Choose foods that kids like and you already buy in your budget.
Make yourself foods:
Mini sandwiches (cut 4 out of one normal sandwich)
Homemade pizza or pizza bites
Cookies
Cookie bars
Things with dips (pretzels, apples, carrots, celery, peanutbutter, nutella, marshmellow, creamcheese) pick a couple combinations and let the kids dip.
4- I you don't feel the need to feed them stick to cake, ice cream, and water. All you really need is cake.
5- It always makes you feel better when you can cater to food needs/allergies, however remember that if you don't have the budget you should stress about it. Keep it simple. You have every right to ask the parent of the child to bring something for them. They deal with it everyday they know what their child can have. My friend's daughter is deathly allergic to milk, she would much rather bring "safe" food than stress you and have you served her daughter something that puts her life in danger. It is not your job to go way out of your way. Don't feel guilty.
6- Keep activities simple and cheap. Your don't need crafts that cost $4 per child to make. 




























































Saturday, August 13, 2016

School Supplies when Getting out of debt


Each year we're given a list from our schools of what they want us to buy for our student that year.  If you were to buy everything on the list at full price it will cost you around $100 per child. We just can't afford to do that this year. Here are some tips that we have used to get the supplies we need.

1-  Set your budget and stick to it. We decided we could spare $20 each month of the summer to save for school supplies come fall. Including $20 for the first month of school, that gave us $60 total to spend on 3 kids. This is for everything- clothes, backpacks, and all the supplies they need. Take what you have, prioritize what you actually truly need, and spend it on that first. Once it is gone it is gone.

2-  Check the list for what you have already. Honestly you do not need to get a new backpack every year or a new pair of scissors every year. Our school requires the kids to each have their own pair of headphones for the computers and class stations. (They can't share because it spreads lice). I found a good sturdy pair for each kid a few years ago on Amazon. I don't let them play with them over the summer, and they keep them in good condition in the class. They are going on 3 years now. Save the items that can be reused.

3- Identify the items that are necessities. Know what you must have. What folders or notebooks are required for the classes? Does that backpack need replacing this year? Do your kids have underwear that fits? Get those items first before picking up the millions of items on the teachers' wishlist. There are times when you just have to recognize that you can only get so much of what is needed. New clothes are popsicle sticks are fun but not always necessities.

4- On the items you can get the best deals buy an extra. So when it comes to the items on the list, when I find a deal that I can pick up at an awesome price- ie coupons, door busters, rebates, especially deals that I doubt many others are picking up, I get the max number or an extra one. For example, finding a box of a dozen pencils for 50cents a box is great. Even though each teacher requests 2 doz per child, it is a great deal and I pick up an extra box for each class. I may not have the money to buy one of everything on the list, but I can help out where it is a deal that I can afford. No teacher is going to say we have plenty of pencils.

5- Buy all year round or Save all year round. So putting a small amount in your budget all year to spend when those deals come is a great idea. But also watching the sales all year. In addition, things like paper, glue, crayons, cleaning wipes, and tissues are needed all year and teachers will accept donations whenever. I use coupons to pick up tissue boxes throughout the year and sent the box to class. Especially as supplies get low in the classroom the teacher will be grateful for resupplies. Also around the Holidays there are awesome door busters- like crayons for 25 cents a box. Buy then and save till September of restock your teachers. Not all the best deals are during back to school. It is also another way of looking at it if you don't have the money all at once to contribute to the class supplies. Teachers are happy to get donations any time.

6- Coupons. Yes they can be a pain but digital coupons are helping make life easier. Watch of $ off of total purchases. Or store coupons for non-sale items. when you're signed up for Staples deals, they send $10 off coupons every few months that are only good on non-sale items. You must purchase $10 or more to use it. There are lots of items that are needed that are rarely on sale-colored paper,  tissues, and cleaning wipes are great examples. I also look at the grocery store coupons of $5 off when you buy $50 worth of groceries. I'm going to spend $50 easily with a family of 6 and that money is already in my budget. When I have one of those coupons I will pick up $5 worth of school supplies. Hey that is $5 of supplies not coming out of my school supply budget. There are always the normal coupons too. As a side note, a lot of school nurses will accept donations of personal hygiene items for students who can't afford those simple necessities.  If you are super stocked from all your coupon deals consider donating them to the school nurse.

Looking at the list the teacher says you need to send to class is always frustrating when you are trying to put every extra cent toward paying off debt. I am grateful and need to remind myself that even though it  is hard on us and that is money not going toward our debt snowball, but I know that we are better off than some. There are some families out there that aren't just in debt but they don't have enough to buy any supplies let alone actual day to day needs. The things we can afford to buy help everyone in the class, not just my kids.

I know some of my friend have vented about having to buy supplies at all. That is what taxes for for, right? Personally I would rather buy what I can or if we donated money to the schools directly to let the schools buy in bulk. But taxes go to the State or County levels. I have seen that money shrink down before it gets down to the schools and getting those supplies. At least if I am spending the money myself, I know it was spend wisely and went toward what it was suppose to. No detours to another purpose here. Just school supplies. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Month We Gave Up

Since hiding our mistakes and ignoring our problems is how we got into this mess in the first place, I feel obligated to talk about "the month we gave up." It is not easy to admit our shame. But it must be said.

Last month, May, was a miserable failure for us. So much so that by the end of the month we had just given up. In starting June, my husband just wanted to wipe the slate clean and start all over. It was tempting. But I felt we really needed to figure out where we stood. How much trouble we had gotten into.

Sure we could look at all that happened and justify it....
{our son needed surgery, our daughter needed to go to the ER and get staples, we had family obligations that required us to travel when our budget was already stretched thin, bills that showed up out of no where 5 months after I had surgery.} These are all reasons why we went over and way into our Emergency savings. But it is worse than that. We gave up. We realized what a mess we were in and we made the mess worse. We let it get really bad. I just wanted the month to end. There are a few other reasons that my husband says were "planned" for but since I don't know how those books were kept, I *guess* that isn't a contributor. And the only thing that kept us from bouncing checks and overdrafting or using credit cards again, is that we use the previous months funds to pay this month's expenses. It was a choice we made and set up after our tax return gave us a cushion so that we always have a cushion, and never have to worry if all the expenses come due before that month's pay check. The problem with that now is we no longer have the cushion. We are now back on the pay check to pay check budget and because we still have all those bills from last month, we aren't paying any debt this month. We are back on baby step one.

I feel like we are failures. Like we have lost a battle. But you know why we are not? Because we figured it out and we are getting back on track. It is what repentance and starting over is all about. We all make mistakes, we all feel like giving up. Satan wants us to believe that when when make a mistake that is the end. We can't listen to his lies. We must get back up and keep going.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Necessity or Luxury

What qualifies as a NECESSITY? Verses what makes something a LUXURY?

Necessity is defined as being indispensable or required.
Luxury is defined as extravagant living.

In trying to "cut the fat" and live as simply as we can to get out of debt it has really made us consider what can do living without. It has surprised me what I once thought of as a necessity but I can look at as more of a luxury.

What has brought this to the forefront of my thoughts was my shampoo.
I have a salon shampoo that I love to use. Years ago I decided a way to use salon shampoos and rotate it with a bargain shampoo. The salon shampoos last me about two years.  I considered this a necessity. That is until after I purchased it the other day, and realized that was $20 in our household budget that could have went to something else. I haven't opened them yet, I keep debating taking it back. Knowing me I probably won't return it. I feel really guilty about it.

Back when we first started I saw lots of foods that I bought for snack or whatnot as luxuries. One of these was bananas. I love bananas. However, as a snack food they are an expensive item to sit around the kitchen and sometimes go bad because they were forgotten (although super rare at my house since my children devour them). have you ever looked at the cost of a single bunch? Most ran between $3 and $4. That is a lot of my food budget for a snack item my children devoured the moment they saw them.

My husband loves single use drink mixes for his water bottles at work. Granted I love to get them for him because 1- he drinks more water, 2- doesn't and isn't tempted to buy soda pop from the vending machine, 3- they are sugar free and therefore aren't adding the weight on. But at the cost of the packets it was eating into our food budget. Our compromise is that I make a pitcher of a flavor up and fill his water bottles to take it with him. It isn't perfect. It is barely working.

What are some things that you use to see as necessities in your life, but working on getting out of debt has changed your perspective?

My next question is at what point can we add these things back in our lives? Living without some of these things for over a year now, it is really hard mentally denying yourself of any luxuries. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Yard Sale

Most of the lists on how to increase your income contains the suggestion "yard sale". 

I love shopping at yard sales. However, I hate doing them. I never feel like I have enough stuff. I want to feel I am giving people a fair deal, but I also want to feel I recuperated back some of the cost that I put into the items I don't need anymore.
I literally have closets full of baby and toddler clothes. It was taking over the house. I had given way here and there and I had been saving them for future children. But the realization came that it was taking over our house.
The other motivator to actually going through it was lots of extra expenses this month and next. Some of those expenses are: My computer met an unfortunate accident. The desk the computer sits on is all wrong for my new computer (we are making do until we can find an affordable replacement). The lab work bill for my daughter.  There is the post yard sale day (where I get a lot of the clothes and needed items for our family for the next year). Our microwave is on its last leg and any day we expect to need to replace it. My son's birthday. My other son's birthday. Multiple end of the year school fundraisers, including the spring carnival-which we had decided was the one big fundraiser we were going to participate in. Extra doctor appointments and bills. These things all add up. While they weighed on my mind I decided maybe it was time. Also I had just done some "spring" cleaning and identified some items I no longer needed/ was ready to part with.
After all the work to get it together we made about $200. We did two days and closed up about 11am both days. We didn't have any big ticket items to sale. The last time we did a yard sale (about 5 years ago) we had a leather chair that we sold for $170. The most expensive item this time was $20.
So it is $200 more dollars than we did have and more stuff I do not need in our house gone. Afterwards, we took everything over to donate. Yes I could have made more through a local facebook  sales group. But I am so tired of the mess that brings. I post and post, people either never seem interested or they stand me up over and over again. I am done trying to sale things on it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Gifts for teachers

I wanted to do something that was simple but also affordable.

I started on pinterest. Here are some I was considering

Then I started thinking about how they were all food. I started thinking about how teachers probably appreciate things that aren't going to go to their hips. But at the same time last year I did mason jars and we included Peach Herbal Tea with a note to enjoy their summers. They came out to about 3.20 per jar we put together. but something of this cost wasn't what I wanted to spend while we are trying to wise and conservative with our money.
But if teachers get multiple of these, it is a lot of keep around- clutter.
So I started looking for things that aren't food, but once they are used there is no reason to feel the need to keep it.
I decided to look and see what I could buy in sets and keep the cost down. If we did all of my childrens teachers I would need 12 gifts.
Here were some ideas I found on pinterest for non-food but possibly still affordable.
then I found this one and I knew I could buy a set of Sharpies at Costco.
I asked a teacher friend of mine which would you rather get, a Sharpie or a candy bar. She very quickly said "Sharpie" then asked her friend she was with (we were talking on the phone) and her friend said "Sharpie" without missing a beat. 
I bought a pack of Sharpies at Costco. It came with 25 Sharpies. It was $14. Maybe not the best deal but I needed them by tomorrow and it was a set of super fun colors.
I made these tags for the Sharpies
(full size image, ready to print, please "save as" and print)
I'm doing 2 each. I tied a ribbon around them. Each gift is costing us between $1.15 and $1.70.

Lastly I'd like to say, it is not a requirement to give teachers gifts. I am not someone who thinks that you have to. But I wanted to do something to let the awesome teachers have had this year know how much I am grateful for them.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Guaranteed Basic Income

Not trying to get political but I have had lots of thoughts related to getting out of debt and the concept of universal basic income.
To start I want to state where I stand so that one you can identify my bias in what I say, and two because everyone likes their opinion to be heard.

I am for a universal basic income. There are lots of factors that have got me to this point, however, I believe that our countries current circumstances will not allow us to implement such a program. I believe that it is and will be possible for us to get to the point where America is ready to implement this policy. But if certain conditions are not met before doing so I believe that it will impoverish our country to the point that we will no longer be a super power and instead be a second rate country just trying to keep a float. These conditions are: getting America out of debt, removing debt from our country's mindset, and increasing our country's GDP.

This is a topic of conversation that comes up a lot between my husband and I. We both feel that creative jobs are the future and we will not the huge group of manual laborers. In addition, I am more for a program like this instead of all the individual programs that are out there. Part of my favor for this program is based on a program for the homeless that I read about in Utah. The program gives a place to live and a minimum allowance for the person to spend. What made this program so unique was that there was no strings attached. They didn't have to get or stay clean of drugs. If they wanted to get clean there were services offered to them. But they were given the agency to live how they wanted. The program has been wildly successful.

I like that a program such as Guaranteed Basic Income because it gives the agency to the people. So much of what the Left wants to put in place I do not like because what it comes down to is taking away our agency to choose to be charitable and takes away the agency of recipients.

Between my thoughts on America's debt and a recent episode of Freakonomics, this has brought a lot of thoughts together.

Thought One: There are those that argue that the vast amounts of accumulated debt is greatly linked with the low wages and a guaranteed basic income could eliminate the idea that debt is needed.

Personally I do not think that a Basic income would help the debt issues in this nation. I think it *might* decrease those using "payday loans" but without most Americans changing their mindset that debt is needed then we will just have more low income people in more debt because this is "income" and high income opens you up to higher amounts of debt.

Though Two: If America was to implement a Universal income, yes it will help. But so many of American's are underwater, the majority of what they would be receiving will be going to pay off their debt. And if Americans haven't changed their mindset about debt the basic needs that the universal income is there to cover won't be able to be covered. It will be going to pay interest. No amount will ever be enough to give someone who doesn't know how to budget their money and stay out of debt. No amount is enough if they do not know how to live within their means.

We can not force people to make their lives better. However, they will first need to be taught how to make their lives better or the cycle will continue. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Let's talk about Americans' Debt Problem

A friend of mine posted on facebook recently an article written by author Neal Gabler. He brings up a lot of reasons why American's are so in debt. Starting with how with a statistic that "nearly half of Americans would not be able to get together $400 to pay for an emergency." I got the impression that would include even having $400 available in lines of credit to pay for the emergency. It goes on to say that even a small percentages of American's could go on to get $2000 together to pay for an emergency. 
Now we have always had enough lines of credit to pay for a $400 emergency and a $2000 emergency. But regardless if we could get the funds together, if it was possible to pay for it with the credit card- we did. It was easier not to think about it.  That is part of the reason we are in the situation we are in. In addition, if those funds were required in cash, it would just mean that something else would be put on a card.
Before starting on this path of debt reduction, I would have sympathized more with his life story. I would have related more to his plight. But now I look at it and notice that there is a tone of "yes it is my own fault" that they are weighed down by this debt, and he sees himself as breaking a taboo just talking about it. I get the impression that he is also saying "BUT I would make the same choices again and still be in the same situation". He is not saying that debt is a bad choice all the time. I distinctly feel that he is saying that debt is necessary but shackling us as Americans away from our dreams. 
I see the attitude that needs to happen in America as a state of repentance.Repentance is more than just saying you are sorry, but we have to change, to truly repent we must make permanent changes to our lives.

We need to recognize that we have a problem with debt. Each of us individually needs to recognize, then we need to repent of our addiction, by feeling sorrowful for our choice, and then resolving to never use it again. Mr. Gabler did not seem repentant. He recognized that there was a problem, he even seemed remorseful that he made those choices, but it felt that he was still trying to justify his choices. In the end, although he talks about how their past choices are determining their choices today, I would not be surprised to learn that he and his wife are still using credit cards as a way of life. One thing I have realized is that as long as you are a consumer of debt products, eventually you will accumulate debt and become "in-debt". You will never get out of the cycle unless you forsake the products of debt. Yes some people, like my dad, can have a card and pay it all every month. He only uses it for those things were he needs to (internet, hotel bookings, car reservations). For everyday purchases he uses is debit card. I have learned that I am not my dad and neither are most Americans. Especially American's who have been told that they will have to go into debt to enjoy a basic standard of living, that is how it is done, how everyone does it. Especially Americans who have been told that their buying power will never be that of their parents because their income isn't going to increase. It is stagnate. Lastly it is never going to work for Americans who have bought into the mentality that buying stuff is good, and if you can't afford it put it on the card, the card benefits are great. All things that most Americans find normal and how things are done. I so wish I could ask Mr. Gabler some questions. See if he sees this bigger picture. It is never too late to change. Change our lives and repent, and change our spending habits and get out of debt.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Are YOU ready for a world Emergency

My husband and I recently engaged in a conversation about could happen that would force us to live off of what we currently have.
It had all started by being reminded that our water storage needs to be rotated. The conversation then moved to could we live off of what we have and for how long. I estimate we could manage with what we currently have for 3-6 months. The thing I am most concerned over is eggs. I have some egg substitutes but no powdered eggs and if there was a reason to live off of it, once what we have from the store is gone there would be no more eggs. My husband is want to remind me that we do live in a rural community and lots of people raise chickens. Long term we'd probably be fine. 

I remember on my mission for the LDS church in rural Florida there were a number of members who were all converts on one remote community. They all told me the same story about their conversion. Back in the 70's (? I Have never bothered to look up the dates), there was a trucking strike. It lasted a couple months, but the results on this small community were harsh.  It took up to 6 months for every thing to get back to normal and get the everyday goods flowing back into their community. Many people were unable to get goods they needed to live life. All of the stories also mentioned knowing a member of church (never learned if they all knew the same person), and the member of the church was unconcerned with how long it was going to take to get the good flowing again. The member was very open about the teaching of the church, emergency preparedness, and year supply. That is why they were not worried. As a result, each story, would then continue to say that a church that teaches their people isn't crazy and started to investigate the church. {Love this story as how this person(s) was being a member missionary}. 
Back to the conversation with my husband, I can totally see a situation that disrupts the transportation of goods causing such results today.

My husband then reminded me of what happened after the 9-11 attacks (I was in college at the time and shortly after left on my mission so I was most oblivious). The two days of no planes flying devastated many businesses. It was no joking matter. Just two days caused many businesses to have to fold.   Then he reminded me about the volcano in Iceland. So much lost. The economic effects were felt all over Europe and the world. There was the whole discussion over Iceland paying everyone for the economic loss which I thought was crazy because they had no control over a volcano. The volcano could have exploded anywhere. So given these two examples what if there was something that knocked out flight for a week or a month. What could that do to our economy? 

Are you ready if something devastating was to happen and you could buy no groceries for 6 months? 
One last thought, is at what point do we realize we are doing something for the long term and change our choices? My goal is to get to the point where I wouldn't need to change much because I am rotating and using everything I have.
Have you ever done the "emergency challenge"? Randomly pick a day and say that for one week you will act like their are no stores and make do? My mom tells of their Stake President issuing this as a challenge at stake conference. She was a child at the time. I am not a "preper" but this conversation with my husband has caused me to give some thought to it.  What areas am I unprepared? How long could we last? What things am I overlooking? Every time I run out of something I think and I pray that day of doom doesn't come before I could stock up on that item. Is it time to take inventory of your life?
This isn't even taking into account the economic effect it could happen on our families. Could we pay bills? If no one could work would we handle not being paid for a few months? All the more reason we need to be getting out of debt as fast as we all can.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Doctors Bills and thinking you're out of the woods

Last year wasn't a great year for doctor's bills for us. To top it off, we choose to have my tonsils taken out just before the end of the year.
After last year we changed insurances. A number of our doctors were no longer on the plan and that was our number one consideration. I have had a horrible time trying to find a new pediatrician (our last one retired), and for where we live there was only one option left on our insurance and I was not okay with that option. Picking an insurance is hard. Luckily we have lots of options through my husband's employer. However, there is no way to see what option is truly the best option for your pocketbook. One of the frustrations under the last insurance was that going to the doctor was cheap, but they hardly covered anything if you had to go to the hospital. Unless you were actually having a baby, then they covered just about everything. But if you have a D&C because the pregnancy miscarried, it covered almost nothing- which for a grieving mother is not what you want to deal with, the financial costs cause my depression to get worse. One of the things we looked for with our new insurance, was a reasonable hospital trips. We have a $500 copay period now with hospital visits. We have a much high doctor copay but it is a trade off.

I digress from my purpose.

A three weeks ago, right after baths, my daughter comes and tells me that her leg hurts. I look and just below her bum on her right right leg is what looks like a small pimple. She is only 4, I have never seen a pimple on a child that young, nor one on the leg. It had a tiny head on it so I grabbed some supplies and gave it a squeeze. A fair amount of stuff, mostly clear, a little white thing, and then blood. Cleaned it up and put a FROZEN bandage on it and off to bed.
The next evening I mentioned it to my husband and we took a look at it, this time it was the size of a dime and had a pussy head. Again we cleaned it out. My husband, with all his BSA instructor first aid certification, said it looked like a spider bite, and since we have poisonous spiders here, we called the doctor when the office opened.
The doctor took one look at it and said it looked like "community MRSA".  We had to continue to clean it, and bathe her nightly. After bathing we were instructed to clean it with a dab of bleach before bandaging it.
The appointment co-pay was $35 and her prescription was about $2.50- all in all not bad. It cleared up super fast. I was thinking the other day at how blessed we were. This could have turned into something super bad for her and our pocketbook. Yet we caught it in time, we took care of it, and it cleared up with minimal effect. Then our new insurance sent a statement of payment, it was to the lab they sent the sample of fluid to. They said it was to verify it was "community MRSA" and not full on MRSA. The statement from the insurance said they paid $79 and that we owe the provider (hospital lab) $278. WHAT!!!! Just when I though we were getting out of the woods of medical bills from last year. We are *almost* done paying off my hospital bills from surgery. Now this. Granted it is not the bill, not yet.  It makes me so mad. In addition the tests came back inconclusive so we are going to be charged all the money for no results. Yes I am grateful for the previous things mentioned. It could have turned into something so worse.

On another note. I have since learned that the pediatrician I have started taking the kids to only uses the hospital lab. If we were going to the old office, they would have sent it to a different lab and the cost of the lab would have been a lot less. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Thifty Travel Tips

 

Spring break. Growing up we NEVER went anywhere. Which was hard because all our friends did. My birthday was over spring break and on years that I was suppose to get a have a birthday party I never had any friends in town who could come. I would have loved to have done something fantastically fun this year, but was was not in the budget. However, we did manage to drive to Phoenix for an overnight to see my parents, siblings, and get more bread (see previous posts to learn about my awesome bread I get). All that has prompted this post.
On the road tips for doing it thrify (especially with kids)
1- Rest stop breaks: We all need to get out and stretch every so long. If you are traveling by car it has to happen at some point and if you are trying to so a trip on the thrift chances are you are traveling by car. Since 99% of us have smart phones (that is not a real statistic but since you are bothering to read a blog I can only assume you're tech savey enough to have a smart phone) to a search on upcoming towns for parks. If you are a planner or don't use roaming data you can pre-plan and do the research before you get on road. We also search for fast food places with play areas. If we are doing a long trip we normally will eat one packed meal and then one from somewhere on the road. Other places to look for taking a wiggle break: public libraries (finding story time hours was a great idea I saw on another blog), historically sites, public schools playgrounds (when school is not in session), actual rest stops (once driving through Texas we learned that there are stops with build in play grounds and bathrooms).

We avoid fast food play areas or gas stations when we are not already planning on getting food or gas to prevent expensive or extra purchases.
2- planning ahead: calculate your miles, drive times, when you will reach place x,y,&z. Know about when you'll need gas, will want to eat, will need a break. You can save yourself a ton of money by know when and what is ahead.
3- Costco is awesome. They are often located not far off of freeways and interstates It not only privides space to walk around, but it has clean bathrooms, normally the cheapest gas prices you'll get in that area, and when it is time for a meal you can do pizza or hot dogs for cheap. Not to forget the $1.50 for hot dog and drink (with refills- even a refill for the road) is going to be the same price at EVERY Costco. Knowing the exact cost before hand is super. Also if you're a family that craves the sweet treats you can get the softserve for cheaper than most fav travel stops. Plus there are tables to eat at. One last point is if you need on the road snack foods Costco has great bulk prices and quality (cheapest organic snacks out there if that is what you're looking for). Knowing where the Costcos are before hand or using your phone can be a smart move- if you already have a card it is just one more way to get your money worth out of your membership. Warning- not saving money if you fall victim to buying extra stuff. If you can't be trusted either don't let yourself leave the food court or don't go to Costco.
4- Gas. The price per gallon can vary wildly from town to town and even exit to exit. There are websites out there that use big data to show you the trends of what areas have the cheapest and most expensive gas along your routes. There are also phone aps out there, they can work fine, but are limited by their user numbers and may not have much data on your location. If you know where the trends are before hand you can make smart choices that save you (ie filling up at this stop instead of getting stuck paying the most expensive gas in that state because it is your only option).
5- Bring snacks and premade meals. This takes an "expert level" planner. Mostly because, depending on the meals, cannot be prepared too early from departure and I often run out of time before the leaving deadline to make something. As a last resort I have been know to pack a loaf of bread, peanut better jar, knife, and honey bear. If you can manage to prepare it is the thrifty way.
6- Food. So you're not on "expert level" there are still ways to do food thrifty. Besides Costco, there are lots of other places with good priced food. Get in the habit of looking for grocery stores. Most have premade lunches that are healthier than fast food and are often cheaper options. Add that to the opportunity to buy a whole gallon/liter of juice, water, or soda for the price of one person's personal drink. Another consideration is picking up treats. My dad use to promise us Popsicles at the next gas break if we were quiet in the car. Before getting our finances under control we use to bribe our kids with DQ. Now we'll stop at a grocery store and buy a box of Popsicles (or whatever is on sale).  Some place else to consider is ordering pizza. If you have a large group pizza can be quick and cheap. That doesn't mean you are limited to quickest and cheapest pizza. With the invention of cell phones we can call ahead put in our order to be ready just in time to pick it up and be on your way.
6- RedBox: Yes the really thrifty thing to do is to bring movies with you or have them preloaded on the phone or tablet. But on long trips something new is what is needed. Subscribe to their email list. They will send you coupons all the time. Before a trip I make sure to check my inbox or ap to see if I have any coupons. Trips is about the only time we use their service, but I am so grateful. Since you can return it to any location you can rent it in one state and return it the next day two states away.
Hotels:
There are two ways of looking at it. You can either be my parents who bring the tent along as back-up, and then try to see if they can get a last minute deal while standing in a hotel lobby (my dad was of the opinion that having a warm paying body standing in the lobby was more incentive to give his best deal over the phone or the internet) or option two plan ahead, book ahead.
Not going to make a huge list of places to try looking for good deals. But I wanted to mention AirBnB. Depending on what you're looking for you might find your best deal booking this option might be what you're looking for. Best advice is to not get stuck into any one way of searching or booking. Be open to new options. Yes loyalty is comfortable, but if you're looking to be your thriftiness, you may find that in one area it is not the best deal when that way is the best somewhere else. Also if you can be flexible consider it. Example, there may be a convention one weekend that is driving up all the prices while if you can put it off a week you can find a much better deal.
Also we often drive all night to avoid the extra hotel night. We get there faster, kids get less driving fatigue since they were asleep, less traffic to get frusterated at, all with the added benefit that you saved the money on the hotel. Just stay safe. Trade drivers often or pull over and take a power nap.
Flying:
Sometimes you can't avoid the need to fly. There are lots of reasons. When trying to do it thrifty many of the same ideas can apply- bring your meals and snacks. We bring empty water bottles and once through security we fill them up. Be prepared. Think through sceneries, and decide before hand what you can live without if it won't fit in your bag or forget. Buying replacement phone chargers and the like is where you're going to waste the most money. Also by searching online you can learn what food options are in each airport and you can know where you want to get your food while on that layover.
Sight-seeing:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Cheap Meals: English Carrot Stew

If you're buying carrots and potatoes this recipe is a great recipe to use them.



to download right click on photo and Save image As- it is a full size image/print size




CARROT STEW
6 carrots (about 1/2 pound)
3 potatoes (small to medium)
4 celery stalks
1 small onion
1 TBS garlic
Dill -I didn't have Dill we substituted Thyme
Parsley- didn't have parsley substituted Marjoram
Salt
Pepper
4 Chicken bouillon cubes
Peel carrots and sparingly peel potatoes (all the vitamins you get from potatoes are in the skin, do yourself a favor and leave at least some of them there) and put them in a pot to boil.
Finely chop onion and celery and saute in a sprayed pan with garlic (It will add flavor to use butter, the original recipe calls for 2 tbs of butter, if you want to add this make sure to adjust your calories. As for me I used cooking spray). Add dill, parsley, salt and pepper as desired (about 1 to 2 tsp each of dill and parsley)
When everything is soft, its time to put into the blender. Spoon in carrots and potatoes, then celery and onion mixture, then carrots and potatoes and celery and onion mixture, back and forth until the blender is filled (It takes me 2 full blenders with my blender). Puree everything and dump into a bigger pot. (I always spoon in some of the water from the carrot and potato water to the blender so the vegetables will blend up nice and creamy). Do this until everything has been pureed.
Once everything is in the pot, add a little water until creamy soup is the desired thickness (or thinness - I prefer mine a little thicker and creamier). Add chicken bouillon while soup is simmering. Salt and pepper as desired.






Monday, February 29, 2016

Repair, Used, Or New


Our Washing machine has been having a few issues over the past few months. Every time it seems to fix itself or was livable with until a few weeks ago. We had a freeze that partially froze the pipes to our house. This caused our home's water pressure to be practically non-existent. We learned how washers (at least older ones) use the water pressure to turn off. If the pressure is so low, the washer will not be able to stop the incoming water, and overfill. We thought that it would be fixed when the pipes thawed and the pressure was back to normal, but that wasn't the case. After everything thawed, the washer continued to overfill. We did all sorts of trouble shooting thanks to the internet and narrowed it down to three parts. All over $100 to replace. It would almost $100 to have an actual repair man come out and look at it and then we'd still have the cost of the repair.

So when do you decide to call the repairman, to buy a used item, or to break down and pull out the money for a new one?

My husband's opinion is to buy new every time. He says that a true sign of poverty is feeling the feeling/actuality that used is all you can get. My instinct is to repair or buy used, if you can find it. So when this comes up in our marriage we are normally a bit at odds with who's perspective wins out.

A time my perspective worked out for us, is the dishwasher that was in our house when we bought it stopped working because the electrical panel that controls it had been fired by the steam from the dishwasher. My husband agreed to a repairman. That cost us $80 just to come out and look at the appliance. The part, the electrical panel was going to be $200 and the repairman warned us that because of where the design put the panel this will most likely happen again within the next two years. I then got on craigslist and found someone that was upgrading all their appliances to match and was selling their stove and dishwasher. (Sometimes I wish I bought their stove too). Bought their dishwasher for $60 and my husband installed it. It doesn't match the rest of our appliances, it has no frills, and is old as heck- but it works fine and has now lasted us almost 7 years and still working. I call this buy used a win.

However this time with the Washer, I don't feel is a win. My husband to help me feel better calls it a *wash*. I made the pun not him, he is not a punny person.

So I went out and looked for a washer. I found one being sold. The owner said their old washer had broken they got this one from a friend who had a dryer die and they bought a new set, but that this one (being a front loader on a pedestal) didn't fit in his laundry room. I didn't know how I felt about it. He didn't speak a lot of English (or he was pretending not to), and he knew nothing about the washer itself. I did some quick searches on my slow phone internet (because I was in the middle of no where Arizona), he went down to $80 on the price. I decided that it was the cost of the repairman so we wouldn't be out any more than if we had tried that route. When we got it home there was a connecting pipe that was busted. (We honestly could have busted it moving it just as much as they were selling it that way and I didn't see it). But looking on line we were able to purchase a replacement for $6 including shipping. So not that much more of a loss. It came a few days later, my husband installed it, washer worked fine. Life goes on. Until 2 weeks later it just out of no where, in the middle of laundry day, just stops working. The door will no longer close. I troubleshooted on the internet most of my laundry day. My husband spend some time on Saturday, and then after a complete breakdown on my part, we went to Sears and bought the simplest and most affordable Washer we could find. Brought it home and installed it. After all what is the emergency fund for? If not for appliances when you live in the middle of no where and are a family of 6.

My husband says it wasn't a bad choice, it all cost us no worse then calling in the repair man.

Back to the original question: How do you decide what to do- repair, used, new?

rules of thumb my husband and I have developed:

  1. What is the price of a repair man for just coming out?
  2. How often have we repaired an item (ourselves or a repairman) prior? How trustworthy were those repairs? 
  3. What is the going range for NEW of the item at your local stores or online?
  4. Is this a now item or is it something you can do without and save up a few weeks/months for? Is this something that we can borrow, substitute, go old school? Can we wait to at least until a better time of year (seasonal sales, moving sales, holiday sales)?
  5. Have we exhausted our diy options when it comes to fixing it ourselves?
  6. How long have we had this item and how many more years it is reasonable to get out of this type of item?
What are your rules of thumb when solving broken items? When do you choose to repair over Used, or Used over New?



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Christmas wasn't a BUST

We had a Christmas budget, and we kept it!! How many people can say that?
When we set up out budget to be the smallest amount we could make Christmas happen at.
When all the final numbers were tallied and we came in 85 cents under budget! Yay for us!