Friday, November 20, 2009

Principles of Frugality

In this awful economy, it is more important than ever to learn and apply frugal lifestyles. But for those of us who were brought up in lifestyles of excess, how do we do that?? Here are some lessons I've learned:

* When times of excess do come our way, save, save, save! Even if we only have an extra dollar or two, stash it away where you won't be tempted to spend it. Who knows when you will need that little cash stash?

* Learn to cook. It is SO pricey to eat out! While eating out is great for a once-in-a-while treat, it is a real budget-buster when overdone. Groceries are so much more affordable, and with cooking skills, you can make restaurant-esque meals for a fraction of the price! And a great bonus here is that you control what goes into your food and your portion sizes, which is helpful in weight management!

* Learn crafts. Even if you learn just one new craft, you can save a bundle when you apply it to what your family uses. Take loom knitting, for instance. I can make the entire family winter hats from just one skein of yarn! Or I can use that skein to make a hat & scarf set for one family member! Or I can use it to make a baby blanket, hat, and burp cloth set for a baby shower gift! The possibilities with crafting skills are endless!

* Take the president up on his challenge to further your education. Just one class can become profitable if it is the right class. It doesn't have to be philosophy, business, or some other high-minded class. A basic auto mechanics class can teach you skills you can use to avoid costly repair and maintenance bills! Or you can try a cooking class, a sewing class, a budgeting class, etc...

* Use coupons. We've all been behind the "coupon lady" at the grocery store who searches through her endless purse of coupons for what seems an eternity. I'm not saying to become her, but when you go shopping, plan a shopping list, and take any applicable coupons you have. It adds up! You can get coupons online, in the mail, and in the newspaper! And don't just use coupons for groceries; they save a bundle when you use retailer-specific coupons for places you take your car, or buy your clothes, or eat, too! And when added to sales, the savings can be significant!

* Bundle trips. With gas prices ridiculously high, it's not worth it to take the car out just to the grocery store. Plan a menu and shopping list to last you a week, and then when you go out, use that trip to also put gas in the car, pick up any needed prescriptions, and run any other errands. That saves a bundle when you think about how many times you go to just one place, back home, then back out again--sometimes several times per day!

* Take care of your car. Along the gas mileage line, it saves gas to keep your tires properly inflated, stay on top of basic maintenance (keeping fluids topped off, regular oil changes and tune-ups), and avoid speeding (the most fuel-efficient speed is 55 mph).

* Trade goods. I got free apples from a friend this year, and in return gave him free spiced apple jelly. It's a win-win! You can also trade baby-sitting, driving the carpool to get the kids to school, etc.

* Do the "green" thing. We use CFL's in every light socket in the house, and our electric bill is so much lower than it used to be! When I remember to take my re-useable bags to the grocery store, they knock 5 cents off my bill per bag! These are fairly inexpensive ways to make a difference for the environment and the budget.

* Tolerate some junk-emails and surveys every now & again. Sites like and take a few minutes each day or so to go through your email or take a survey, but pay you back with gift card rewards!

* Take care of yourself. Not only will you be healthier, which cuts medical bills down, but sites like reward you with gift cards or health-related prizes for doing so!

* De-junk. You'd be surprised what you are hanging onto that you don't use, or really even want anymore! Sell items in good condition at a yard sale or an online source such as or in the classifieds section. An added bonus is that the house becomes cleaner and better organized while you get some extra money!

* And finally, when you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it! Food stamps, Medicaid, WIC, and the HEAT program are great examples of the helps available to those who need a little extra help. When you're in a position of abundance, it's always a great idea to give to programs like the food bank and fast offerings to help pay it forward, too. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cute & Useful Car Kits

You need:
1 large square hot pad with hanging loop in the center of one side (a decorative one that you like!)
Snack size resealable baggies
1 cute button
Thread to match your hot pad
Sharp needle

Lay your hot pad down decorative side down. Decide how many pockets you need your kit to have (ie-one for spare money, one for a little sewing kit, one for bandaids, one for medicine sample packs, one for nail care items, one for tissues, etc...). The number you come up with is how many baggies you will need. Lay the first baggie with the bottom of the baggie in the center of the hot pad and the zippered top parallel with the edge of the hot pad that has the hanging loop. Lay the second baggie pointing the other direction with the bottom slightly overlapping the bottom of the first baggie. Lay the third baggie directly over the first baggie, the fourth baggie directly over the second baggie, and continue in this fashion until all baggies are placed with the bottoms overlapping over the center of the hot pad. Sew the baggies in place in a straight line down the middle where the baggies overlap. Fold the hot pad in half around the baggies and sew the button onto the hot pad where the hanging loop meets the other side (so that the loop slips over the button to fasten the kit closed). Fill the baggies with the supplies you need to have with you in the car, fasten the loop over the button, and place in a convenient location in your car!

These also make great gifts for family members, new drivers, etc.!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

1 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 bag (12 oz.) cranberries
1-2 Tbsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

Combine o.j. and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Rinse cranberries and add to the juice mixture. Boil until all the skins pop, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cinnamon/spices and stir, mashing berries to desired consistency.

You can either chill and use right away or can it.

Canning directions:
Yields 3 half-pints

Wash and sterilize jars, and simmer lids until ready to use. Fill each jar to within 1/2-inch of top of jar. Wipe rims with damp cloth to remove residue. Place lids on jars and tighten bands. Place in boiling water bath and process for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Make a Baby Blanket on a Round Loom!

^Erika with her homemade blankie in her car seat.

When people see my baby with her little lavender fuzzy knit blanket, they often ask, "Did someone make that for you?" "Yes," I reply, "I did." They are always astonished. I take pride in my work, but really do it so my kids can have a soft comforting blanket from their mom. (Unfortunately I did not possess this skill when I had Christopher, but both of my girls have one, as do one of my nieces and a nephew.) Keep in mind this is a time-consuming craft, but if you enjoy loom knitting and would like to expand your horizons, here's a great project for you!

You need:

Big round knitting loom (I use Provo Craft's yellow one)

1 skein soft & chunky yarn

Purple loom-knitting tool

Wrap the first row of yarn around the loom as you would for a hat. When you have wrapped the last peg, change direction and go all the way around to the first peg again (the last peg will have one loop, all other pegs will have 2). Switch direction again and wrap all the way around to the last peg (the 1st and last pegs will each have 2 loops, all other pegs will have 3). Starting with the first peg, use the purple tool to pull the bottom loop over the other 2 and over the top of the peg. Wrap the yarn again, starting at the last peg and going around to the first. Starting with the last peg, use the purple tool to pull the bottom loop over. Continue in this fashion, switching directions each time you wrap the pegs and pulling the loops over in the direction that was just wrapped. Once the blanket has reached the desired length, pull the bottom loop over the top loop so that each peg is left with only 1 loop. Starting with the peg that you started with the last time you wrapped the yarn, pull the loop off the peg and onto the hook of the purple tool. Being careful not to slip that loop, pull the next loop onto the hook of the tool so that 2 loops are on the hook. Pull the first loop over the second loop and off the hook. Pull the next peg's loop onto the hook so that there are again 2 loops on the hook, and again pull the first loop over the second loop and off the hook. Continue until you have just the very last loop on the hook and the blanket is completely off the loom. If you haven't already, snip the yarn so that you have approximately 6-12" of a yarn tail. Pull the yarn tail through the last loop to secure it so the blanket won't unravel. Tie off both tails of yarn (where you started and where you finished) and weave the tails through the end of the blanket, trimming where desired. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Work--an ointment for sorrow

Since we're back in the fire, so to speak (financially, at least), I've been stressed out every day. I've also been turning my heart to God to help me through yet another difficult time. My prayers are being answered, with the feelings of where to turn for help, the stumbling upon great deals and ideas for the upcoming holidays, and instruction of what to do to better the situation. Among that instruction is a canning assignment and an increase in my desire to roll up my sleeves and get to work--literally. Rake leaves, do housework, serve others...that seems to be a key to making things better for me. It makes me think back to Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf's mention of work being an ointment for sorrow. We've had over a year-and-a-half of financial difficulties. Would it be easy at this point to wonder "why me?" Sure! Could I succumb to the stress and sorrows of our position? Very easily! But I won't... I choose instead to roll up my sleeves, do some canning, raking, and cleaning, and to apply the ointment of work to my sorrows. I've already noticed that when I can lose myself in work, I feel so much better!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


"It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we'll make the effort. ... It's in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals. If we constantly put our goals off, we will never see them fulfilled."
~President Thomas S. Monson

"Work is an antidote for anxiety, an ointment for sorrow, and a doorway to possibility."
~President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

D&C 31:5
"Thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Emergency Matters

Is it an emergency if you are out of kids' toothpaste but still have plenty of the regular stuff? If you have a 3-year-old having a meltdown over it, then YES IT IS!!! That caused me to think about my 72-hr. kit, where I had conveniently stashed a new bottle of kids' toothpaste a while back.

Not all emergencies are of the fire/earthquake variety. Sometimes you just need a tube of toothpaste a week before payday! I went through an emergency preparedness "phase" when I was a homeowner where I bought a big storage container with a lid and proceeded to put in bungee cords, medical supplies (bandage, hot/ice packs, bandaids, neosporin, gauze, medical tape, thermometer...), a crowbar, bleach, paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste (both kids' and adults'), deodorants, soaps, dish soap, a videotape (for recording personal belongings in case they were destroyed), cleanser, and more. Have I undergone a natural disaster where I have needed it? Thankfully no. Have I needed it at all? Absolutely!

I used the bungee cords to secure a tarp over our belongings when we moved, the crowbar for a demolition project we had, the thermometer when the kids broke my good one, the toilet paper & paper towels to see us through until payday, the bandaids when Christopher used our last 10 for a tiny scrape so there were none when Haleigh got a cut, and the kids' toothpaste to calm a toddler meltdown!

I view it as my non-food storage. I rotate the products and replace the ones I use when I can. It has been a real life-saver! I absolutely recommend that anyone who doesn't have a 72-hour kit start one right away! After all, you never know when an empty bottle of kids' toothpaste will become a life-or-death matter of emergency!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Great Freebies & Dollar-Stretchers!

These days it's hard to get ends to just meet, let alone to have a little extra! Here are a few of my faves for a little boost every now and then:

* If you don't mind some junk email, this is a little gem. It brings deals straight to your inbox, and when you click the link, you get points. If you make a purchase, you get more points. When you've saved up 1400+ points, you can redeem your points for giftcards! I get a couple of giftcards a year this way.

* This is one of those points-for-surveys sites that actually pays! Get a few points for qualifier surveys, and lots of points for full surveys! I've also received products to test & keep through this one (diapers, shampoo, & shaving cream)! Save up 1000+ points and redeem for cash, gift cards, or prizes! I've already received $70 and 100 free Snapfish prints!

* This site sends you full-size samples, small samples to pass around, and coupons to pass around of new products that the companies want to spread the word about! All they ask is that you try them, share your honest opinions, and let them know what others think about the products! Take the surveys they have so that they can match you with the products that they receive! I've had free candy bars, shower cleaner, toothbrush/sanitizer, otc medicine, hair products, sunblock, bug spray, natural acne products, food, lip balm, makeup, and lots more! I just recently received a box of children's Zyrtec pre-measured spoons!

* This one always has free business cards (which were great when I was doing my home business), but it also has frequent freebies like address labels, photo calendars, cards, and more! Just pay shipping!

* Put in your zip code and print out grocery coupons! That simple!

* Run a search on there for free samples, and there are always a few! I've had samples of things from personal care items to pet items to baby items! Completely free!

Hope these sites help you in your search to live frugally, too!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leftover Halloween Candy??

Here are some ideas if your kids brought home too much or your trick-or-treaters didn't use up your supply!

* Chop & freeze for additions to cookies, toppings for ice cream, or sprinkles for frosting.
* Chop and put in a blender with some vanilla ice cream and milk and blend into a milk shake.
* Place in a cute candy dish for visitors to enjoy.
* Use chocolate varieties chopped up in brownies or melted and spread over brownies.
* Give to food pantries/homeless shelters for those who could use a little treat.
* Give to your local dentist--some give prizes in exchange!
* Send to a soldier or missionary who couldn't be here for Halloween.