Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hey! I can take a hint!

So last week I revisited my Black belt frugality series and added a few extra things, i.e ideas and/ or encouragement.  I was amazed to see the interest in this one post.  My previous post about weight loss sat there all forlorn to the sound of crickets chirruping.  So I have taken the hint.  You guys care more about frugality in all it's many forms.  Weight loss...not so much.  That's cool.  I can live with that.  No hurt feelings (sniff, sniff).  Nah seriously, I want the posts I write to be relevant to you guys.  Otherwise I'm just sounding off.  Fun as that can be sometimes, it isn't what I'm shooting for.

But now I'm at a loss.  What do I write about?  My garden is to bed for the winter and I have released all my frugal tidbits.  What I need to do then is to write about new frugal things I've discovered.  That doesn't happen every week.  Hmmmmmm.

I KNOW!  E-Commerce!  No, I'm not talking about online shopping.  I'm talking about online selling.  I kid you not.  I have become a proponent of online selling of handmade goods.  There are many crafty selling websites out there; Pintrest, Etsy, even Amazon to name a few.  I would say choose the one that works for you.  I use Etsy.  I started my Etsy shop to sell doll clothes in March of last year.  I sold mainly cloth baby doll diapers at first, but as the holidays get closer my Etsy shop has started to regularly sell.  I used to think I would need to set up a booth at a local fair/festival to be able to sell my doll clothes.  With my online shop that hasn't been the case.  A small .20 fee lists each item for 4 months.  If that item sells, Etsy takes 3.5%.  I can print shipping labels through them and everything.  I've been keeping a little Quicken account for my "business" to keep track of income verses expenses.  I wanted to make sure this was working.  Though just starting out, I've managed to clear approximately $200 in profit give or take.  That's after all expenses: Etsy fees, Supplies, Etc.  I'm not having to rent a booth.  I don't have to lug everything from home to whatever festival I'm attending.  Instead I'm able to sell all over.  In fact I've sold quite a few items to people in Canada!

I write about this because, if you are staying home and crafty, this can give you a way to bring in a bit extra doing what you enjoy.  My funds either go into the general home fund, or they help support my composition doll habit.  While not exactly a full income right now, it helps some.  It helps a lot.  And it helps me stay home and do other things around the home to help save money.  It's a win, win.  So if you have a craft you like to make and sell.  I highly suggest trying an online selling site.  They recommend you start off with 10 items.  I started with 7 and worked my way up to 10.  Now I have 30...well, 29.  I just sold something today.  I have to get back to sewing.

Well what do you know.  I had something to share today.  Go figure.  Have a blessed week!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Black Belt frugality revisited.

Just over a year ago on Aug 31st 2015, I worked my last day at an away from home job.  My husband makes about $40.000 a year, give or take.  To walk away from my income and live on just what he makes was a huge step.  It required work from me.  There is a trade off one way or the other.  When I left my job, it wasn't to come home and watch soaps.  I don't have a hair dresser, get my nails done, or shop the latest trends.  My job was to offset my lost income, by saving money at home.  I say all of this to not brag about my money saving skills.  Those are still a work in progress.  I continue to learn each day (and a lot of that is through mistakes).  No, I write all of this to say IT CAN BE DONE!  IT DOES TAKE WORK!  It is possible to live on one income if you're willing to make the necessary sacrifices.  We chose to go to one income, but many people are forced into a single income.  Through a layoff or an illness.  Suddenly being dropped into this lifestyle can be intimidating.  I know there are many of you out there who either want to be a single income family or are facing being a single income family through no fault of your own.  In any case, I thought a re-do of my Black belt frugality series might be prudent.  Although the series dealt primarily with grocery shopping, I feel it's a good start.  The links are below.  Whether a voluntary or involuntary single income home , food is what they call a "Non-fixed expense" and that's where you make things work.  I won't address food in this post.  These links are all the info I have for that topic.  Instead I will focus on other expenses.  Let me say first I am not an expert, I'm just someone who is speaking from my own experience.

1) Other non-fixed expenses- can be utilities, gas, and clothing.  These are areas where the amount to be spent is based on your personal behavior or needs.  Adjust the behavior or needs, and your expenses change.

A) Utilities- Cable and phone is addressed below.  Other utilities are electricity/gas and water.  Everyone can grasp the standard ways of using  less of these items; turn off lights, water, etc when not needed.  I get that.  We're talking black belt though.  That means you are constantly looking for ways to use less.  Ways you haven't thought of before.

Vampire power-  Drives me nuts!  This is the unseen power loss.  Do you leave your phone,tablet, MP3 charger plugged into the wall without said electronic gadget attached?  What you don't realize is that charger is still drawing electricity....all day and sending it out into nothingness cause nothing is charging.  Your dollars are just floating away!  Charge your gadget then immediately unplug the charger from the wall.   Once your gadget is charged it no longer needs to be on the charger.  It will not plug the hole.  Unplug!  In fact unplug anything not currently being used.  They all draw power.  The coffee maker, lamps, tv's etc.  Yes it is inconvenient to have to re-plug something, but worth it.

Vampire water-  This is my own term.  This is the water that has to run down the drain for hot water to get to you.  It's harder for me to do this in my shower because lugging a 5 gallon bucket through my house to reuse the water is iffy.  I do it sometimes, but will admit I'm not consistent with it. But in my kitchen, I keep a pitcher nearby to catch the water til it runs hot.  I use this for the dogs water, coffee, whatever.  It's clean water and a clean pitcher so I can do what I want with it.  Water from my shower goes into the wash or is used to water my garden if need be.

The idea is to pay attention to the utility use around you and be constantly looking for ways to use it all wisely.  Ways to use less or make what is used do double duty.  When I use my canners, the water isn't dumped out.  The water bath canner water is used in my washer and the pressure canner is used to water plants.  The water from my washer is used to water my garden in a drought situation.  Make your utilities work harder for what you pay them.  I use my dryer in the winter to help heat the house!  Clothesline in the summer because the dryer does heat the house!

B) Gas-  Gas use goes down when one spouse is home, but there are still things you can do to make it even more so.  Combine trips so you're traveling less often.  Watch for the lowest gas prices and fill up then (as long as your budgeted gas money allows it).  If you can fill up in the morning when temps are cooler (less evaporation) and fill up slower(less air in the line).  Keep your car tuned up and your tires at the right pressure.

C) Clothing- Thrift store, yard sales, clearance sales, etc are awesome and a good line of defense.  Then comes some serious clothing shopping.  Learn a new skill!  Internet use does help when it comes to learning a new skill.  In this case sewing.  Now, in this day and age, fabric is almost as much as an outfit.  You have to be careful with how you sew.  I get the vast majority of my fabric from thrift stores.  Sometimes it's fabric by the yard, but may times it's king size sheets!  I look for colors I like in either cotton or flannel sheets.  King size sheets give me the most yardage for my money.  Can't sew an item from beginning to end? Then use these new skills to re-purpose something.  Make a thrift store shirt, jeans, or sweater small enough to fit you if they're too large by making a tuck or making a seam smaller.  Do you like an article of clothing all but....?  Well remove the offensive part.  You can add trim to a sweater that has a small stain near a button.  Revamp your thrift store purchases.  In many cases this can allow you to get the item cheaper.  Want to make something but patterns are too expensive?  You can sometimes find patters on sale during the holidays for .99 each, but in a pinch, you can take a shirt you like and use it (without cutting it) as a pattern.  Just lay it out seam to seam and cut out a matching piece from your fabric.  Add an extra 5/8th inch on either side, top and bottom of each piece to allow for you to sew it up.  A 5/8th inch seam allowance is used in all sewing patterns.  Don't have s sewing machine?  A needle and thread works well too.  Just be patient and take your time as you learn to sew by hand.

2) Semi non fixed expenses like car insurance, homeowners insurance, and even taxes (yes I said taxes), can be altered in some cases when your income changes or if you don't mind a little time on the phone.

A) Auto/Home Insurance- When it comes to car insurance and homeowners insurance, taking the time to make a phone call or two to find the best rate for you can greatly lower what you owe to cover your house or car.  I made a call one day and saved almost $700 for our car insurance, without changing my coverage!

 Re-evaluate your insurance needs.  A paid off clunker may be a good choice for liability insurance. If your cars value is close to the deductible on your insurance, it's worth putting it in liability only status.

You can also change your deductible for both (as long as you meet state requirements).  A higher deductible can mean a lower premium.

Discounts, use them!  Many insurance companies will give you a discount if the bill is paid in full for the 6 mths and/or for allowing them to bill you online.  If you can't do it this 6 mths; take your premium.  Divide it by 6 (mths) and set aside that amount each pay period in order to have the premium the next go around.  That's exactly what we do.  When insurance is due again, I move over the funds from savings to checking and it comes out of there.  It's the same as making a payment, only we pay less overall and, instead of paying interest to them, we earn interest from our savings.
When you're shopping around for auto or homeowners insurance, consider the discount you get when you combine both policies.

Gimmicks- Don't fall for the "Safe driving bonus checks", "accident forgiveness", or model year newer gimmicks.  You pay a higher premium for these and either get reimbursed the extra when you don't have a wreck or if you do have a wreck you have already paid for the extra year.

B) Taxes- Okay so all of you have probably not read a word I've written after first writing "taxes".  So here goes.  There are very few pluses when it comes to taxes, but there are some.  Changes in your income, change your taxes.  On the negative side, more income= more taxes.  On the positive side, less income can mean less taxes.  Not just a decrease in your overall tax bill, but a decrease in how much is withheld from the pay check you're receiving.  In order for this wonderful withholding to happen, You have to make a change in your withholding status.

 Fill out a new W2!  One spouse is now home, claim them as a dependent.  Claim all of your dependents.  Many will claim "single with no dependents" in order to have more taken out of each paycheck to get a Biiiiig tax refund In April(which they then blow).  This is a mistake even when you have two incomes.  By having a large withdrawal from your paycheck, you are allowing the US government to use YOUR money INTEREST FREE for the year, while you go without and probably end up making payments (with interest) because you can't afford something you need (or want).  It's better to arrange things where you owe a little to Uncle Sam or just not get a refund.  You would be amazed at how much more money you will have coming in each paycheck.  INCOME BOOST!  If you have to have money taken out of your check as a "forced savings account".  Just have the money automatically withdrawn to a savings account!  At least you can access that anytime of year when necessary and it earns interest for you!

3)Want or Need?  This is a choice each family makes; Cable/Satellite, Cellphone, a second car, and internet.  Your level of wiggle room in your single income budget will determine what choices you have.

A) Cable/ Satellite-  Evaluate what you can afford, and purchase the lowest package necessary.  Cable is a want.  Premium channels are a luxury.   In extreme situations, Cable can be cancelled entirely.  In a time of Hulu and Netflix, cable is becoming even more optional.   We have cable for football, but our cable is free with the internet we have to have.  It wouldn't save us anything to cancel just the cable, but in an emergency, the internet/cable is gone without a doubt.  It is a want.

B) Cellphone-  We've never had a cell phone with the exception of a pre-paid tracfone.  We've never needed a cell phone (although Diva would say otherwise). We use the tracfone very rarely.  We use Vonage, and our home phone is $12.75 a month.  Draw back to Vonage is that it is internet based.  No internet, no phone.  In all honesty, if we had to cancel our internet and vonage, the tracfone would still suit our needs.  I can live without a phone. (I know.  I heard the audible gasp from people).

C) Second Car- With one spouse now home, rethinking a second car may be an option.  If the car in question has a payment attached, then it also has full coverage insurance.  CHA CHING!  Sell the car!  You have just loosened your budget by taking that payment out.  In addition you can take that premium amount off your insurance.  Plus no tags!  If the car is paid for, better still.  You get all the joys of the car off your insurance, no tags, and a chunk of money added to your savings account for emergencies.  A second car is a want pure and simple.   If you want it, and your budget allows it, then great.  The choice is yours.  These are just ideas.

D) Internet-  Contrary to popular belief, internet, while fun and convenient, is not a "need".  The public library has computers and internet available for library members (and the membership is free ((for you anyway)).  Many businesses have wi fi.  Yes you have to travel somewhere, but if you combined a trip to the library with other errands then there's no additional travel expense.  Eh!  It gets you out of the house and can be an event for the kids.  I'm not saying it's ideal, but in a dire financial situation it beats being broke.

These are just a start.  Be aware of things you can change as you go about your day.  Re-think daily uses.  Yes, some of these things are easier to do when you have one spouse at home, but a lot of these can be done with both spouses working.  How awesome would it be to have more money working for you regardless of being a one or two income home.  Finally,  I will say this.  We were able to choose for me to stay home because we got out of debt.  Getting out of debt is the great frugal thing you can accomplish aside from avoiding debt in the first place.  I wish we knew then what we know now.  I could have been home a looooong time ago.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


I just wanted to take this moment to announce I HAVE COVERED THE GARDEN WITH BLACK PLASTIC!    Not shouting, just excited.  I have finally done the deed.  In addition I pruned back my blueberry bushes, namely the tree saplings growing up around them.  

On a side note, Just as there are no atheist in fox holes, I don't see how anyone can be a gardener and not believe in God.   Case in point; I have noticed that weeds tend to look similar to the plants they compete with.  Now I'm sure some would say it's because of some nutrient or other condition for which they both share a need.  I'm sure that is the scientific explanation.  However, I believe science just helps us see God's hand in things.  After Adam and Eve screwed up, one of the things God told them in Genesis 3 17-19 " Cursed is the ground because of you.  Through painful toil will you eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field."  I see this every season.  Never fails.  And it never fails that, for the most part, the weeds look like my wanted plants.  I say all of this to justify tree saplings growing in my blueberry bushes.  I didn't notice them until the sapling was taller than my blueberry bushes.  The leaves, while similar to my blueberry leaves, were larger, but since the plant grew up through the center of my blueberry bush, it wasn't apparent until it got taller than the blueberry bush.  I wouldn't want you to think I was negligent in my gardening duties.  

So anyway, I just wanted to put everyone's mind at rest about  the black plastic saga.  Thanks for your support.  Lol

Friday, October 14, 2016

Well I need to get to gettin!

It's a wee bit earlier here on the frugal maven homestead.  We rise early during the week for DH to get ready for work.  While he was on the treadmill (I know.  He's weird that way) I was planning my day.  It dawned on me just how much I still need to accomplish before it gets too cold outside.  The list is longer than I originally thought.  I have been distracted by the lure of cute baby doll clothes.  Here are the tasks still left for me to do:

1.  Cut down some large weed trees.  Yes I said trees.  There are many, but two of them are growing around my blueberry bushes.  These are actual tree saplings and so their roots are strong.  Need those out of there.  ASAP!
2.  Drag the black plastic out and cover my garden beds.  I know I've mentioned this before.  I always seem to put it off.  Bad Maven!  Bad Maven!  But I will get it done
3.  Pull up the rest of my tomato plants.  We are in a drought right now so anything I still have growing isn't going to produce much between now and the first frost.  Might as well go ahead and get the rest of the beds cleaned out and turned under (and covered by black plastic...Ahem)
4.  Weed the strawberry bed and get it ready to cover with pine straw before the first frost.  I'll do the same with my herb bed, but it is already cleaned out.  I have three volunteer parsley plants I am hopeful will over winter well.
5.  Start another compost pile.  I haven't focused only on doll clothes.  The other day I cleaned out from under our back deck and got everything organized.  It looks awesome if I do say so myself.  But while doing that I designated a 5 gallon bucket for compost scraps.  I can have it by the back door so that I can fill it without spending much time outside during the colder months.  So I am starting another compost pile and then once it gets pretty good size, I'll turn it and place the other pile on top to be used first next spring.  That's the plan anyway.
6.  Spread lime over the garden beds.  Be advised these "to do's" aren't in order.  I will cast Lime before covering with black plastic.
7. Clean out and organize the shed,putting the kerosene heater towards the front for easy accessibility.  We don't get snow very often.  We get ice most of the time and as such lose power.  I would rather not have to slip slide to the shed only to have to dig out the heater.  kwim?  Better to have it close to the door.

On the "not gardening, but still to do " list is a) replace 7 deck planks on the back deck and b) replace the interior part of two storm windows.

I realize reading my "to do" list is like watching paint dry, but this blog post is also doubling as my actual list.  Sooooo yea.  Sorry bout that.  Hey!  You're helping me out!  Thanks!  I do hope you can glean something from my to do's.  So now that I've finished my breakfast and coffee, I will be heading out to get started.  What do you think the odds are that I'll get this done today?  Mmmm yea I didn't think so either.

Friday, October 7, 2016

UGH! Apparently counting calories and colds don't mix.and other ramblings

And she was just trucking along when she started to feel a  Yep!  That's how my week started.  I plugged along though, working out in the yard and doing some major house cleaning stuff.  As the week went along the feeling became more pronounce and as of Wed I had the cough and a scratchy throat.  I still functioned pretty well.  I don't feel bad per sea.  Just not as energetic and then this cough and throat is kind of a bore.  Problem is, when I feel like this I always, always, always, want to eat.  Especially carbs.  The combination of wanting to eat and not wanting to move can be detrimental over time.  I am just hoping to hold my ground, but I'm not gonna sweat it.  I should be on the up side in a few days and can get back on track.  Until then I will do the best I can to keep track of what I'm eating.  Making no promises as to how pretty the tally will be for now.  Stand by.

I have been productive this week, even with feeling puny.  I've completed a lot of sewing projects for my Etsy page.  I was happy to see an outfit I made sell a couple of days ago.  I've sold a lot of baby doll diapers and slips, but not many outfits.  I've since sold my first outfit.  I just sold this little number called "Little Boy's Sunday Best".

I had been feeling a little discouraged thinking I wasn't doing so hot on my Etsy shop.  I keep a running tally type account with my Quicken and it had I was in the black a about $100.  That's after expenses like Etsy fee's. shipping, supplies, etc.  At least I was in the black, but I felt like it was slow going.  On a lark I looked back over the last 30 days on my shop and found I had made $146 in the last 30 days.  Not too bad for 30 days, considering the fact that I'm just starting out.  I'm hopeful things pick up for the holidays.  On a frugal side note, I am always looking for baby fabric with which to make doll clothes.  While waiting for my son to get out of class, I strolled through our local Good Will store.  I lucked up and found a pair of white eyelet pillow shams for $2 and then 2+ yards of actual baby knit fabric for about $2.  While watching a show with Dh I ripped (by that I mean I used a seam ripper) apart one of the shams and got 5 yards of eyelet lace and then 2 decent panels of eyelet fabric.  I already have plans for the eyelet fabric.  I have a doll I'm working on.  By that I mean I am learning to restore her.  I plan to use the fabric to make her outfit.  Once I have it finished, I will post it along with the finished doll.

To help streamline my massive sewing endeavors, I moved my sewing machine table and stuff into the Mancave/Gym.  I have my little corner, but it doesn't affect the over all manliness of the room (ahem).  One day I'll have a sewing room (hope), but until then this is much easier.  Mainly due to the power strip that hold all the power for my serger, sewing machine, iron, and light.  With one switch I can turn everything on.  Now, instead of pulling out the ironing board every time I wanted to sew, I have a folded towel in place with which to press seams or hems etc.  When I'm working on large clothes for myself or Dh, I will need to pull out the ironing board, but for doll clothes I'm good.

Do you feel like I talk about dolls a lot?  I know.  I'm sorry.  Just a big kid I guess.   On a different note,  We did finally get a dryer.  Still using the uh solar dryer, much to our youngest dismay.  Difference is we can now toss the semi-dry clothes into the dryer for a couple of minutes to fluff so they are softer.  Once cold weather comes, we will use the dryer exclusively because it helps warm the house.  Until then we pioneer away.

So now that I've finished my lunch (I counted it and we are on track!), I'm off to go make some bread cause we are out and I do mean out!  Then off to more sewing.

Loving it!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Major overhaul before winter

So....sore...  I haven't worked like that in a long time.  Today we changed out the sand in the runs and coops, and moved the little coop in place so that both coops are at either end of the big wooden run.  As we moved the old sand, we would lug the full buckets of spent sand into the raised beds to be turned in later (probably tomorrow).  After removing the old sand it was time to shovel the new sand out of the truck and in to the new bed area.  We just finished up about an hour ago.  I now have had a shower and rested for a bit and can say I am really sore!  Every muscle in my back and shoulders hurts as well as my hands.  This is back breaking work, but very satisfying now that it's done.

After the sand was in place, we moved the little coop to attach to the big run.  We put the divider back up inside the run, giving one half to Garris and his ladies and the other half to the "babies".  It got rather comical while Dh was in the run putting the divider up.  The "babies" were in the run while he was working.  The white one kept pulling on his t shirt.  She wasn't hurting him.  He seemed to be more of a curiosity.  He picked her up and started petting her crooning "I'm gonna lover her and feed her and call her George!".  Then he let go of her and she just sat there looking around and hanging out in his lap.  Meanwhile the two black hens came up and started pulling on his t shirt.  It was funny...Guess you just have to be there.

So now we have everybody cleaned out and spruced up. Ready for winter time.  We will repeat this fun in about 6 months.  Everyone is watered and fed and eggs are collected for the day.  Good.  I'm ready to call it a day.  The rest of my day I think I will sew, but not doll clothes.  I need some sweat pants for winter time.  Right now I have shorts or jeans, but nothing to wear just around.  DH wants some sweat pants too.  I think I have some fabric that will work and so I plan to do that tonight while he's at a show with our oldest son.  Well I will sew and go pick up our youngest after he gets off work.

On a cute side note, I thought I would post a somewhat appropriate pic for your viewing pleasure.  Have a great weekend!