Wednesday, September 7, 2011

So long!

Since I'm rather strapped for time these days, I'm consolidating this blog with my other blog.

I'll be moving some of the posts over and in a week or so I'll be shutting this one down. I'll still post on the same topics, I'll just be keeping it all on my other blog. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quick and Easy Kid's Bathrobe

LMS has two hooded towels for bathtime: a purple one I made her and a cow one that my mom made her. However, she's realized that mommy has a bathrobe, and awhile ago she decided she needed one too. Being the cheap frugal person that I am, I wasn't going to buy one for her, especially once I realized I could easily make one myself.

On our next infrequent visit to wallyworld we picked out an inexpensive bath towel ($5 or 6, I think) and some coordinating ribbon and bias tape (a dollar or two each).

Then the stuff sat in my craft cabinet for several months.

This week I finally had the time and inclination to make LMS her long-awaited bathrobe.

It was a pretty quick and easy process, but I didn't take pictures, unfortunately. Luckily it's pretty easy to follow the process.

First I folded the towel in half, laid it on the floor, and had LMS lay on top of the towel with her arms outstretched. The fold was at her shoulders.

I decided how wide I wanted the sleeves and body of the bathrobe and carefully cut out the piece below the sleeve on one side. I then had her stand up and I folded the towel in the other direction so I could make sure the cuts were the same on both sides.

I then cut down the middle of the front and cut a small circle on the fold for the neck hole. Next I sewed double bias tape to the cut edges so they'd be nice and neat.

Then I sewed the side seams- first a straight stitch, then a zigzag on the edges. Then I sewed the seam flat so it wouldn't stick up.

I sewed a loop on the back of the neck for easy hanging, then I sewed a ribbon to the bathrobe at the side seams.

LMS loves her new bathrobe!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Yard Saleing

I rarely go to yard sales. Mostly I don't have the patience or the desire to run around town in search of great deals, but also because I try to only go shopping when I'm looking for specific things. If I'm "just looking" I might end up going home with things I don't really need or have space for but will try to find a use for, and I'd spend money I didn't need to be spending.

A couple weeks ago I went to a used curriculum sale in the parking lot of the local Sam's Club. I had a couple things I've been wanting to buy, but have put off for one reason or another, so I looked for them at the sale. It was actually a curriculum sale/yard sale, so not just school books.

My haul:
Rug pad: $2  (brand new, still in package)
Peter Pan DVD: $10 (excellent condition)
3 books: $2
Phonics game: $1
Teach your child to read: $2 (very good condition)
total spent: $17

I definitely got some good deals at this sale, but I also got the items from four different sellers- there was 15 or so families selling stuff, so it was super quick to walk around and find things we needed/wanted. I like big group sales- they're much more efficient :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thinking outside the box (or trash can)

When we moved, we found a few more ways to save money on our monthly expenses. We have a well and a septic tank, so we are no longer paying for our water. We don't live in an HOA, so no monthly or yearly dues. And we didn't sign up for trash pickup.

Well, we did sign up for it, then realized the logistics involved and the cost and said 'forget it!' and canceled it before ever having a pickup.

There were two main problems. The first was the cost: we would be paying for two months' service what we had been paying for three months' service at our old house. The second was the logistics: we live on a narrow private lane with no turn around space. The pickup location for the trash was by the mailboxes next to the main road, a quarter mile from our house.

Were we going to drag a trash can a quarter mile (with hills- the private road is not flat) each way every week? I don't think so!
Do we generate enough trash to justify the increased costs? Nope!

Because of the way we eat, we don't have a lot of packaging to throw away. Most of our trash ends up being fruit and veggie trimmings, and now that we've bought a compost barrel, we'll be composting them, which will further decrease our trash output. Before we moved we would fill a kitchen trash can every two weeks or so. That's two, maybe three bags of trash per month.

In researching our options, I discovered that the local dump will allow you to drop off 30 gallon bags of trash for a dollar a bag. That's two of my 15 gal kitchen bags. You can buy a savers card for $10 that allows you to bring 12 bags of trash, further decreasing the cost.

$1 or $2 dollars a month versus $25? That's pretty much a no-brainer. Of course, it's not quite that simple, but since the dump is on the way to LMS' co-op class, there's not extra mileage or gas involved. The only problem will be hauling the trash in our CRV. But I think I have that figured out- put the trash bags in a large rubbermaid container to prevent leakage and drop off on the way to class, not after. The smell problem should be fairly nonexistent now that we are composting and don't have to worry about rotting fruit and veggies in the trash. And we're buying a truck in a couple months, so if it's really an issue, we can throw it in the back of the truck.

It's a little unconventional, but it will save us a significant amount of money ($275 a year!), so totally worth the small amount of extra work needed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making do

The one thing our new house doesn't have, that we really wanted, is a garage. Our lot is more than big enough to add one, though, so we're hoping to be able to build a garage next summer. In the meantime, we have to come up with ways to work around its absence.

The woodshop/workspace is in the basement bedroom that will eventually become the guest room/exercise room (complete with a murphy bed to save space!). It's actually quite convenient to the rest of my work space (sewing/crafts/etc), but once I start painting furniture I don't think it will be as nice. Though it's definitely better than being out on the screened in back porch at our last house- I was always sweltering or freezing.

The lawnmower is under the deck. Not optimal since it still gets rained on, but there is no way it's coming in the house. The gasoline fumes would be horrible.

The bikes, bike trailer and jogger are back in the waterproof portable tent shed (we had it on the covered back porch at our last house). I didn't want to put it directly on the ground (especially with how much rain we've been getting), so I built a simple platform to set the tent on.

I bought seven or eight 2"x10"x8' treated boards, four 4"x4"x8' treated posts, some decking screws, and some eye hooks. Total cost: under $100. Much cheaper than buying a whole new shed for $800+.

I laid out the 4 posts

Then laid out the 2x10s on top

I tried to keep everything as straight and square as possible, but I didn't stress about it too much. I leveled the ground a little, but left a little bit of a backwards slope because I didn't want water pooling on the platform.The deck screws were self drilling, so I didn't even need to pre-drill the holes (yay!). I used a couple deck screws in between each board as super-high-tech spacers. Once all the boards were screwed down, I screwed in the eye hooks and attached the loops on the tent to the hooks to keep it anchored.

(yes, those are parts to LMS' climbing toy and playhouse. we're finally getting the rest of the pieces from my parents' house this summer!)

I could have had this completely done, from picking up the wood, to unloading it, to building the platform, to putting our bikes in the tent in about two hours. The only reason I didn't? The batteries on my drill hadn't been charged in a couple months and I had to wait for them to charge.

Quick, easy, and cheaper than any of the alternatives, yet works well. Can't go wrong there!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


House hunting has been very eye-opening. We picked a price we were comfortable with that worked well with our budget and then used that as a jumping-off point in our search. We were pretty picky: a specific area (close to Mr S's work), 3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, basement, garage, living, dining, and family rooms, and a decent size lot.

After our first choice fell through, we widened our search area without great results, then focused it closer to Mr S's work and raised our price ceiling. Here's the last three houses (after 15 or 20 previous ones) that we looked at:
10 minutes from work. Brand new (not yet finished), nice little neighborhood, 4 bed, 2 1/2 bath, 2 car garage. No basement though, and the lot was a little smaller than we'd like. And the price was waaaay more than we had ever planned. Sooo tempting though.

Across the street was this house:
50 year old house. 4 bed, 2 1/2 bath, living, dining, family rooms. Full basement and two car garage. Walk up unfinished attic (sooo cool- I would have loved playing up there as a kid). Not as expensive as the house pictured above, but at the top of our budget. Unfortunately, it needs a lot of work: the kitchen was quite scary,
I'm really not sure what a fireplace with cooking hooks is doing in the kitchen, but it was obviously well-used. The house is only 50 years old, not 200!

the bathrooms were original to the house, and the entire house needed to be painted. All that would take a big chunk of money. So tempting though- it had great bones and it would be a lot of fun to update it.

Looking at those houses helped us re-think what our priorities are. Do we want to overextend ourselves when buying a house? Do we want to be house rich and cash poor? Not in this economy we don't. So we looked through the listings again and decided to look at one just down the road from the two houses above. We hadn't looked at it before because it doesn't have a garage. On the other hand, the price was good and the lot is big enough to build a garage in the future.
10 minutes from work, 4 bed, 3 1/2 bath, living and dining rooms on the main floor, family room and 4th bedroom in the full finished basement, 1 3/4 acre lot. An added bonus is that it has a well and septic tank so buh-bye monthly water bills! There won't be HOA fees either, so more money saved.

While the house doesn't have a garage, we're happy with everything else and we're not over-spending. We'll be saving up and hope to build the garage next summer.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Frugal eating: Elk hunting

very redneck picture, I know, but I wanted proof I was there :)

I went hunting for the first time over Christmas. It used to be that hunting was the cheap way to feed your family. These days, though, there's fees attached to it: your state hunting license and the tag for the animal (and the conservation fee, and whatever else your state decides to charge). And you can't just go to the woods or fields behind your house (unless you happen to own lots of acreage). Now you have to travel and stay overnight and deal with all the associated costs.

This year our hunting area was 8 hours away, so there was the gas to drive there and back. Because it was so far away we camped near our hunting area. My in-laws have a camping trailer, which makes winter camping really nice, especially when it rains all night and then starts snowing and everything is a huge, muddy mess.

There's also the food, guns, ammo for target practice and the actual hunt, winter gear for trekking through the mountains without getting hypothermia, and meat processing.

Ok, so we could process the meat ourselves, but I have to say I'd rather pay someone else to do it. It's time-consuming, tedious, and messy if you don't have the proper equipment, and there's so many other things I'd rather do with my time.

Once you add everything up, I'm not completely sure we save money by hunting for our meat rather than buying it in the grocery store, but this is another case where health benefits (especially given all the health problems we have) trump financial cost. And elk, along with deer and antelope, are the original organic, grass-fed red meat. ie, it's healthy :)

And I have to say that having the ability and the knowledge of how to feed your family is pretty priceless.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Awesome toy storage

...that I built myself.

I love how it turned out.
LMS loves that she can actually find her toys
I love that it didn't cost an arm and a leg, like a storebought version would have
LMS loves that her dress up clothes are easy to find
I love that I was able to customize the design to fit our needs
LMS doesn't mind putting her toys away now that she knows where they all go
I love that it's easy to keep things organized

I found the plans on Ana White's site, the drawers were here and  here and the shelf unit was here.

I love her site! I found it a year ago, and when I did, I had a total epiphany. Instead of wasting money on shoddily built furniture, being unhappy with ugly furniture, or just doing without furniture (which is what we've been doing), I realized I could build it myself. And I could customize the dimensions, colors, and so on, to fit our needs and desires. Ana provides free plans to build furniture, and the directions are clear and easy to follow.

I built the drawers as the plans said, but I adjusted the shelf unit. It wasn't originally supposed to be used for toy storage. I flipped it on its side, shortened the length by two inches so it would be the same length as the drawers, moved one shelf up and eliminated another, added a backing, and and added hooks for dressup clothes. It was all relatively easy to do, though I didn't pay as close attention to some of the instructions as I should have, so the far right column of shelves is a bit narrower than the others. Not really a problem, other than it's too narrow for the metal framed baskets to fit in. For safety, I screwed 1x3's into the back, securing the drawers together and the shelf to the drawers. I definitely don't want the shelves tipping over when (not if) she tries climbing them.

It did take longer to build than I planned, but I really like how they turned out. I can't wait till we move to house with an actual workshop. I think I'll be able to get a lot more done if I'm not sweating like a pig or freezing  to death on the screened in back porch where I've been doing my woodworking.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My awesome new desk

...that I built all by myself.

My old workspace (on a different wall before I moved things around):

The rickety desk that we've had since we were newlyweds and that's been through a few too many moves. The oh-so-classy plastic folding table.

No storage, uneven heights, wobbly legs, big gaps on either end. Totally inefficient. (all the stuff under the table had found other homes, but it still didn't work for me)

My new computer station:

Storage and printer in the middle:

My sewing station:

Lots of room to store things when they're not being used.
Lots of room to work.
Nice level workspace.
Love it!

I found the plans on Ana White's site, here, here, and here. The original plans called for two bases, but I knew I wanted a longer desk, so I built 3 instead. I also eliminated the drawers and changed the shelves and dividers to fit my CPU base and my sewing machines. I had to use two desktops (from Lowes), so I altered her desktop plans a little to allow the desktops to be connected underneath, eliminating any movement that might occur. I love her plans- they're easy to follow and easy to build!

I do need to add more paint to the desktop, but it'll have to wait till spring. I only managed one coat before it got too cold and my paint froze. Just one hazard of not having a real workshop.

I know I need a better chair than our extra dining chair, but I need to build a kitchen and a desk for LMS first. Then we'll both get cute chairs and I'll get a rug for the room.

And I need some decorations for the wall, and the list goes on...  :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on staying the course

A couple months ago we decided (for various reasons) that we were going to sell our car and buy a truck at Christmas. The car is paid off and we would use the proceeds of its sale to pay off part of the truck.

However, we would still have a monthly payment, which would slow us down in paying off our other debts.

In the end, we weren't able to sell our car for the price we wanted, and we realized we need to be in the best financial position possible to buy a house soon. Our lease is up at the end of March, and we had originally planned on asking for a month to month or 6 month extension, but the owner really wants to sell the house, and is kind of uptight about it. So, we've started our house hunt. This means we need to find a house we like (layout, space, etc) in a location we like, for a price we can afford. 

In talking it over, we realized that buying a truck two or three months before buying a house probably isn't the best idea. Which is really frustrating since we've been eyeing these trucks for the last 6 or 7 years and were looking forward to finally being able to buy it. We're still planning on buying it, but we'll have to see how things pan out over the next few months to determine when that will be.

It was sooo tempting to lose focus on our efforts to get out of debt. We did see the folly of that in the end, and re-committed to paying off our debts as quickly as possible. We will probably end up buying a house a little sooner than we had planned (we were thinking late spring, early summer), but it should all still work out.