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.