Every Day

Merry Christmas

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

We will be taking the next week or so off to spend time with family and friends. Then I will be back in savings mode for about a week and then I am off to Disney World for a much needed break and vacation.

When I get back my topics for January will be mostly financial.  Hope to talk with you all then.

Every Day

It Isn’t Christmas Here Without………………

We all have our favorites that we make during the holidays. One that we have made for all of our married years is Chex Party Mix. I got my recipe from my mother in law and I have been making it ever since. I know everyone’s recipe is a little different. But here is mine:

1 Box of Wheat Chex
1 Box of Rice Chex
1 Box of Cheerios
1 Bag of Thin Pretzel sticks
3 lbs. of Mixed Nuts( no peanuts- Hubby doesn’t like them)

2 cups of Canola oil
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp. salt (optional)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Garlic Salt

Combine the cereals, nuts, and pretzel sticks in a large pot. Blend remaining ingredients well. Then pour them over the dry ingredients mixing well to ensure equal distribution. Cover and bake 1 hour at 250 degrees. Uncover and bake for 1 hour stirring every ten minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Our tips: Hubby makes a double batch of sauce. He likes it better that way. He blends the sauce in our Vitamix so that it blends really well. It is not a cheap recipe with the nuts Hubby wants but I try to plan in advance and watch for them to go on sale. This makes so much that it probably costs no more in the long run than buying snacks.

Many Christmases I have given a tin of this to family, friends and neighbors. Everyone ends up with the recipe because they ask for it.  

The only things I have left to make this weekend are 
two loaves of pumpkin bread and a batch of English Toffee. Then I will be ready for Christmas.

What is your favorite for Christmas that you always make?  In the spirit of Christmas, would you share with us?     

Every Day

2018 Budget Continued

The last time I blogged about this topic, I informed you that we will be spending $75.00 per week for food and $100. per week for other incidentals. They were covered here: A New Budget for 2018.

We have been using the $ 75.00 per week food budget for quite a while now and it works well. I have stayed under budget all month. Matter of fact, I only spent $32. last week and I still have my $75.00 for this week. Are you wondering what happens to that money if I don’t spend it? For this month, whatever is left over will go into savings.

Starting the first week in January 2018, $75.00 will go into my cash envelope every week. Whatever is leftover each week will roll into the next week or weeks. It is nice to be able to build up the budget for the weeks that I see a great deal on meat or something else that we use all of the time. It can also be used for something special when company comes. 

The same will happen with the $100. per week in the incidental budget. It will get put in it’s own cash envelope.

I am using cash as a learning tool for all of you. I find that you really think more about what is a need or a want when you have to hand over hard earned cash. It is just too easy for a lot of people to put these things on a credit card each week and go over the budget. Then before they know it they have either gone into debt or added to the debt they already have. If you need to get rid of debt, cash is the way to go. If you can track what you are spending and pay that credit card off every month without fail, then go ahead and use the credit card. Otherwise use cash!

Next, we set our budget for eating out. The amount we settled on is $100. per month. We only plan on eating out once every couple of months. Cooking at home is the way we will go most of the time. We have a favorite restaurant that is very expensive. We prefer to eat there so $200. every other month will allow us to do that. That envelope will also build up with what we don’t spend. With the diet we follow we will not be eating any fast food. 

Gasoline is set at $50.00 per month. We don’t put a lot of mileage on our SUV except when we travel so this should be plenty. We will use our credit card for this because it is convenient. It is too darn cold here to have to run in to pay for gas. We will track this in Quicken.

I believe this is most of the flexible spending that we do. Most of our bills like cable, internet, telephone, insurances, utilities and property maintenance, etc. are pretty much set in stone. I have finally reconciled with the fact that Hubby wants his cable TV, internet and phone so that will be $188. per month. Yup that is what our bill is now. It just keeps going up with this new company, Spectrum. UGH! As much as it pains me, I have given in to the fact that Hubby loves his cable.

Our utility bill for natural gas and electric for the past year was $1724.39. I know it’s high but Hubby is always cold so we have to keep him warm. If we can lower it in other areas except for heat, we will continue to do those things efficiently.

To change the subject a minute, my washing machine is working perfectly again. Was it a fluke that perhaps a valve hung up? Maybe. Will it happen again? I hope not. But Hubby and I have money saved to pay cash for a washer and dryer when and if we need them. For when I do need one, I really appreciate all of you who gave me some ideas by telling me about your washing machines. Thank you. 

Our cellphone is handled by my son. We have already paid him one year in advance for all of 2018. We get one heck of a deal by doing this through him.

We own our home so have no house payment. But we do have hefty property and school taxes so we put that money aside each month in our tax savings account so that the money is there when we need it. 

Our medical and dental is expensive especially since we are older. It seems like we are always running to one doctor or another, the lab or the dentist. We keep the money in our savings account and track it with Quicken. Anything that we don’t use cash for is only tracked with Quicken. We do whatever we can health wise to keep these bills low. We have managed to become healthier and have gotten off of 4 different medications this past year. We are trying like crazy with this diet to get off another one. That is saving us a lot of money and making a healthier lifestyle for us.

So I hope you have your budgets ready for the New Year. If you don’t have a budget, make one. You don’t want to be one of those people who realize all of a sudden that you are spending thousands more per year than you are bringing in. If you are it is time to get out of that hole, pay off you debt, start saving and live a stress free life. The best to everyone for 2018.

I will be spending a lot of time the next two weeks clearing the clutter out of our basement for the New Year, planning what I need to take on my trip to Disney, and spending time with family. So I will be on here sporadically when I have something to share.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Every Day

Washing Machine Help!

I washed a load of wash last night and threw it in the dryer. When I transferred the wash, I saw no water in the tub. When we got up this morning there was two full buckets of water in the machine. Has this ever happened to any of you? Hubby things the valve for the water may not have turned off.

So I bailed the water out and washed a small load this morning. It is drying now. There again was no water in the tub when I took the wash out. I am keeping an eye on the washing machine every 1/2 hour or so to see if I get water in the tub again.

I bought these HE’s second hand from my son and DIL. I think they had them about 3 years when they lived in AZ. So I believe these machines are about 12 years old. They are due to have something go wrong or just die. We do have a wonderful local family to owns a repair service who I can call if need be. But depending on the price to fix, I may be in the market for a washing machine or set.

These large HE’s are huge in my small laundry room so I would be in the market for smaller ones. I think they have smaller energy efficient machines now. Does anyone have them? I would love to know what brand and/or model you have and how you like it.

Thanks for your help.   

Every Day

Dollar Tree Haul

Shopping at Dollar Tree is so much fun. I went today. I also went last week but I forgot to take a picture. Sorry! 

But anyhow today’s haul was a good one. I love, love, love their off brand magic erasers. So I picked up a couple of boxes. I keep one in every room which is handy for when I need it. After I dust baseboards, I use one to get any spots off. They can be used for a million things.

I was almost out of parchment paper so I picked up two. The coconut oil spray works really well and mine was almost gone.

You can tell that Hubby was really excited to get new pill containers. He tore the packaging off before I could get my picture. I actually picked up 5 of these. They are hard to find around here. He uses two and I use two (night time and morning pills). But when I put pills in them, I do two weeks  at a time so I use 4. I had found these last week and only bought one. I wanted to use it for a while and if I liked it then get more. Since I did like it, I rushed back to get them for both of us. These fit so easily in your hand and take up very little room. I think I will love it for my trip too. We have been using the large long ones but these are so much better.

I also picked up 6 of the long slim rectangular storage bins. I love these for vanity items and desk drawers. 

The magic erasers are sitting on two cabinet shelf dividers which I use on a shelf in my closet. They are flimsier than ones that I paid a lot more money for. But they are perfect for the lightweight things I will use them for.

And lastly, my favorite score of the day was 5 packages of cutting mats. They come two to a pack and I needed about 10 to do my refrigerator. I wanted something that would protect my refrigerator shelves when something gets spilled. I hate it when spilled milk or something else gets down in the cracks and crevices and you have to take everything apart to clean in the sink. These will prevent much of that. I can just wipe them off on the day before grocery day. So these will be a project for me in the next couple of days. Over the years I have looked at the expensive fridge mats and I don’t want to spend close to $100. to do my refridgerator. These may not be as good but will do the job for $ 5.00.

So this haul cost me $ 24.76 including tax.

Do any of you use these items? What else do you buy that you love? Please leave a comment and share with all of us.

Every Day

A New Budget for 2018

We are doing things a little bit differently this coming year so that we can keep our eye targeted on the budget and not overspend. We have an expensive item that we are saving for so overspending is OUT!

As I told you in a prior post, we are budgeting $75. per week for the two of us for food, cleaning supplies, HBA, and plastic and food saver baggies. We have used this food budget the past couple of months and it is working well. 

So then we talked about how much should we spend on allowances( more on that in a moment), hair salon appointments, home decor ( little things, not furniture or flooring), clothing, car washes, etc.

Basically these are items that we have some control over and that fluctuate from time to time. As far as allowances are concerned, we don’t really use an allowance system. If we need to spend money, we just do it. So no allowances for 2018 for us.

Hair salon appointments have gotten out of control. I spend on average $ 110. to $140. a month on my hair. I have haircuts, color, and highlights every month/or every other month. Yes, it is a high end salon in our area and it is a luxury I enjoy. It also saves me from making a mess in my home when I am coloring my own hair. However when I realized that this works out to $ 1320. to $ 1680. per year just for me, I was aghast. I didn’t realize how expensive it was until I looked at the annual amount. Hubby spends $15. per month on his haircut or $ 180. per year.  

So I am going to try to go longer between haircuts. Perhaps that will be 6-8 weeks. I am also considering going back to coloring my own hair and forgetting about the highlights. I hate the idea but I also hate the idea of spending that much money at the salon every year.

Home decor are the little things like pillows, plants, candles, etc. that we bring home to add something new to the decor. These can add up fast if we don’t pay attention. Since I don’t like a lot of decorative things that I have to dust and maintain, I am pretty minimalist in this area. 

Hubby and I have all the clothes we need so we just replace things as they wear out or as we go down in sizes. I have to get some new pants soon. You should have seen me trying to keep my slacks up in the market the other day. I needed a belt. That is when I realized I had to go down a size. So I will be hitting the consignment store for a few new to me pairs. I don’t want to buy anything expensive because I plan on losing more weight. 

It will also cover all of the little things like stopping for a car wash, paying for dry cleaning, the little things we buy at the gas station store, a magazine we want, etc. You get the idea.

So after lots of conversation and deciding what this would cover, we are going to spend no more than $100. per week in this category. We believe that $ 5200. per year is more than plenty for this spending. 

So these are two categories that we have decided in our 2018 budget. We will be doing our best to stick to them and reporting it to you to keep us accountable. 

How are you doing setting your 2018 budget? If you have never set a budget before, take a look at your spending for 2017 and set a reasonable one. When you don’t know what you are spending that is when you get into trouble. I have heard from so many people that they didn’t realize they were spending $10,000. to $20,000. more per year than their income until they tracked it. They said no wonder we had so much credit card debt. It is a lot easier to track your income and expenses every year than it is so be stressed out and wondering how you are going to pay those credit card bills. Pay off the debt, don’t add another dime to it and you will see how nice it is to be debt free and saving for emergencies and things you want.

More to come soon. 

Every Day

Dollar Tree Gifts, etc.

For those of you looking for stocking stuffers or a small gift for a neighbor or friend, I found these Bolero soaps at Dollar tree yesterday. They are natural and the scents are wonderful. I picked up the Vanilla Cream and the Apple and Cinnamon. But they did have others. 

If you are lucky enough to find the lotion that matches, you could make a small gift basket for someone. Mine did not have them. 

I have read that some offices are stuffing stockings for co-workers rather than buy an expensive individual gift for each one. Stockings are put up for each worker and then you put an inexpensive gift in each one. This soap would work, a lottery scratch off, a pen or pencils. You can buy the little Kleenex travel packs at 3 for $1.00 at my Dollar Tree. Target has nice Christmas socks for $ .97 each. You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this. 

You could even make something for the stockings like a homemade bookmark.  There are some ideas at
Tip Junkie . You could bake a couple of cookies for each one.

I have lots of neighbors who are teachers and I asked each of them what is their favorite Christmas gift that their students give them. Hands down it was a few Christmas cookies or baked breads in a pretty bag, tin,or box. They told me they love getting those because they either don’t bake or can’t find the time to bake.

Fortunately I don’t have stockings or co-worker gifts to do anymore. The co-worker gifts were the bane of my existence when I worked. We had a woman in the office who baked cookies, fudge, breads, etc. for over 35 workers every year. It made people feel inferior if they didn’t give everyone a gift at Christmas. So many of them spent money that they really couldn’t afford to give gifts. We did not make a lot of money at this particular job.

I was in our accumulation phase of money at both my early married jobs and while the boys were in private school and college. Money to pay for these things and to save for our retirement. I really did not want to spend a lot of money buying Christmas gifts for everyone. So I would bake also. I could put a few decorated cookies in a nice small Christmas goodie bag for every person and let that suffice. That didn’t hurt my budget and got the job done. 

I wish I had had the guts back then to do what another co-worker did when presented with a situation such as this. He took the Christmas party day off from work every year. He told me that most of the people were not his friends, just co-workers,  and he did not feel like he should give them a gift.

We always had some kind of gift giving situation in our office. Baby showers, bridal showers, every holiday imaginable party, etc. It was ridiculous! But my friend(co-worker) was never to be found at any of them. He never participated. He had the right idea. He invested his money in the stock market every week and today he is retired and traveling the world. I am happy for him that he is still able to do it.

So what do you do for gifts at work? I am very curious.  

Every Day

When Your Meal is a Dud!

For dinner last night I put a large piece of chuck roast from the meat market in the crockpot. As the day wore on and the pot roast defrosted I took the meat out and cut it into chunks and put it back in the pot. That was not a good idea.

When we started dishing it up for dinner, most of the pot roast had shredded. Hubby likes a good chunk of meat in his stew not shreds. He ate some but asked what I could do to fix it for tonight.

Since he likes beef barley soup, I decided I would try to turn the stew into soup. There was more than enough meat, it was just shredded like you see in the picture above. I took all of Hubby’s potatoes out and will fry them one morning for breakfast for him.

Then I cut up the large chunks of celery that were in the pot and made sure there was enough carrots. I added water and some beef bouillon cubes. 

Next, I opened my large can of pearled barley from
Honeyville  and added some. We will let it cook on low. Then just before I serve it, I will add some canned veggies if needed.

In this home, I don’t waste food. So I will try to rescue a bad meal every time and turn it into something else. I will post a picture later of the finished soup. 

Honeyville cans of food are wonderful to keep in long or short term. I believe this can of barley was purchased over 3 years ago. It will get used up this winter for lots of soups. If I hadn’t opened it, it would last 10-15 years.

I also purchase some dehydrated celery, carrots, and onions from them for winter soups. They are so nice to keep on hand for when you need them.

Do you try to rescue meals that don’t turn out the way you want them to? Or do you throw them out?

This is what it has been doing here today. It has stopped snowing but the wind is brutal. I had to go out and get some pretty plates for my dessert that I am taking to the Christmas party. I filled up the car with gas using $.60 off a gallon that I earned at Top’s. So I paid $ 1.999 for 358 miles of gasoline. The wind was so bad that I had a hard time staying on my feet. 

Here is the finished beef barley soup and it was delicious. Half is going in the freezer for future meals and we will eat half tonight and the next couple of days.

Every Day

Frugal Things We Have Done The Past Couple of Weeks

These are the things that we have done the past couple of weeks to save some money:

– I baked two loaves of homemade pumpkin bread. One is for a hostess gift for a Christmas party that we are going to. One is for this Sunday’s breakfast when my son and grandson visit. Both have been frozen until I need them.

– I made and froze in portions a pan of lasagna so that Hubby doesn’t feel the need to go out and eat while I am in Disney World. I put them in food saver bags that he can steam or microwave. I ended up with 5 in the upstairs freezer and 5 I am putting in the basement freezer after I take this picture.

– We have been turning off all appliances when they are not in use to save on the electricity bill. I turn the gas stove top off a few minutes early when I am using it. The residual heat on my gas burners lets me finish what I am cooking. I do the same when I am using the gas oven or the electric toaster oven. We use the toaster oven more frequently than the big oven to save on energy. 

– The only lights we use are at night, when it is dreary, or when I am taking a picture for this blog. We turn them off when we leave a room.

– I continue to take navy showers to save on gas and water. I capture the water in a bucket while the shower is warming up. It can be used to wash a floor or flush the toilet a couple of times or in the nice weather it can water plants outside. My water saving is what I learned to do in Arizona because water was precious there.

– I continue to take two books a week out of the library and read them weekly. I no longer purchase books unless it is a book that I will read over and over again. 

– I am sticking to my $ 75. a week budget for food, etc. It is working well.

– My son who was here over Thanksgiving changed our outlook from his server, that is on it’s last leg, to the cloud. He also installed a new router for us. Ours was not working well. Then he fixed some problems that I was having with my computer and cleaned up some things for me. My e-mail is working great now. He didn’t charge me a dime not even for the new router. Thanks to him for all his hard work and generosity. Both of my sons are very generous with their time and money.

– I developed a problem with my wireless PC constantly disconnecting from the network that our family is on. I couldn’t leave my computer for a moment without it disconnecting. It was very annoying to have to reconnect manually all of the time. Both of my son’s figured it was a hardware problem with my computer. Since I don’t want to purchase a brand new computer anytime soon since this one is only three years old, my younger son fixed the problem last Sunday. He installed a new Wifi adapter, no charge to us. Thanks to him for fixing this. I stay connected whenever I am on the computer now.

– I have been doing 2 loads of laundry a week. I use the HE to wash and I hang them to dry. 

– I have a 10 oz. bag of shrimp that I am thawing in the fridge for tonight’s dinner. We will have shrimp cocktails and big salads. Easy dinner!

– I deposited $ 46.34 in rebate checks via my mobile app. This saves me the gasoline to go to the bank.

– I mailed $14. in wine and liquor rebates last week.

– I had an expiring heavy cream in the fridge. I put it in my Vitamix and made whipped cream.

– We had leftover scrambled eggs from breakfast last Sunday so I made a couple of wraps with the eggs, bacon, and cheese and froze them. They will make a quick breakfast on errand day.

– Entertainment this week has been Arizona Monopoly, football, and You Tube Videos. I am watching decluttering videos right now so that I can get motivated to declutter our Christmas decorations. We don’t need all that we have anymore. 

What have you done frugally the last week or so? Please share with all of us.

Every Day

Lasagna For The Freezer

I am making a big pan of lasagna to freeze in portions for Hubby. The first thing I did was get out the huge foil pan to bake it in and all of the ingredients.

OOPS! I forgot one ingredient. 

I sprayed the big foil pan on the sides and bottom with oil. Then I put down a layer of lasagna noodles which I smothered in spaghetti sauce. I never boil my noodles in advance. Cooking the lasagna in the oven for an hour cooks them perfectly.

Next I cooked up the ground beef and Italian sausage. I layered some of the cooked meat on top of the noodles. Then I layered some pepperoni. Next was a layer of fresh mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and some Italian seasoning. 

Then I layered the cottage cheese. I use that instead of ricotta because Hubby doesn’t like ricotta. I spread all with a layer of spaghetti sauce and Italian seasoning. Then I sprinkled a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Then I started another layer of noodles again and layered everything else again. After I put the spaghetti sauce on top, I put another layer of noodles and some sauce and a good sprinkling of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.

Next I covered it with foil and put it in the refrigerator until 15 minutes before I was going to bake it. I baked it covered all but the last 10 minutes at 350 degrees for 1 hour. The last 10 minutes I wanted the cheese on top to crisp up a little. When it cools, I will freeze it in portion sizes so that Hubby can pull one out the night before he eats it. All he will have to do is put it in the microwave on his dinner plate until it it hot. 

Now doesn’t that look good? So good that Hubby wanted a large piece for dinner. I cheated on my diet and had a very small sliver along with a huge green salad. It was so delicious! Just waiting for it to cool so I can food saver it in portions.