Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cheap February Projects

So I started off this month with a determination to "do something" about my office/craft room. I had thought about it for months, but it never seemed like the right time.

Yeah... it wasn't. Did you know that February is a short month? I still had taxes to do. And then I started a new online project. And then... well, it's gone by.

The room has been painted and the chest of drawers looks pretty good, too. What else? Hm. Oh, I did buy a cute little... um.. thing. I set it on a speaker. And I hung a bulletin board.

Oh, well. There's always next month, right?

There's that "thing" on the speaker, but you can hardly see it. Click on the image if you just have to. And, yeah, that's the barest my desk has been in a long time. I couldn't find the rest of my "stuff" when I tried to put everything back, and I didn't clean off the things I was working with, but it looks better than it usually does!

The best part about it is that when I'm all done with it, I will have spent about $150. I'll post an updated picture of it then and explain what I did. IF I ever get to that point!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Time to Think About Vegetable Seeds for Your Garden

Frugally speaking, it's time to start looking for free seed starting containers and sort through the seeds you saved last year. If you didn't save any, it's time to plan on what you have to buy, add up the cost and make a decision to save them next year. Packets of seed each year is an expense that can easily be eliminated.

Some seeds are easier to save than others, but all seeds can be saved. For instance, if you let one or two radishes go to seed, you will have enough radish seed to last a few years. Nature is generous! Kale, lettuce, spinach and similar leafy vegetables will set enough seed from a very few plants (or even one plant) to save for the next year with seed left over.

Beans and peas of all kinds produce plenty of seed if you choose a couple of plants and mark them when you are harvesting. Tomatoes, peppers and squashes take a little more care, but not much and one vegetable will have more than enough seeds to save.

Saving seeds from year to year not only saves you money, it ensures the best harvest you can get because each year the seed gets more comfortable in the specific climate of your garden and can produce better and bigger vegetables.

Make it a point this year to save more seeds of your own and pay less for someone else to do it for you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Creative With Cardboard

Still got cardboard boxes hanging around after the holidays? Put them to good use! Cardboard is a surprisingly sturdy material that's also easy to cut, fold and otherwise manipulate. The only downsides are that water will destroy it and it burns quickly.

You can cut it with sturdy scissors or a sharp knife, paint it, decorate it with contact paper or colored tape or decoupage it. As a matter of fact, it will do a lot of things that wood will, and it's a lot cheaper (free!).

I just came across a really cool shoe rack you can make of cardboard here, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. You can make anything from emergency tables for kids to "paper" chains that will last holiday after holiday.

One of the easiest things to make from small cardboard boxes is storage boxes and bins. Sure, you can use them just like the are, but what's the fun in that? Go dig up some leftover paint and/or a leftover strip of contact paper, or yesterday's newspaper and decoupage glue. Have fun decorating a few boxes that you can leave out in plain sight instead of shoving them to the back corner of the closet. You can make them a lot prettier than any storage box you can buy and you can customize them to exactly suit your room!

Never get rid of a cardboard box without asking yourself if it will fill a need in your home. There are lots and lots of pages on the internet with so many projects made from cardboard that I couldn't even list them here.

Let us know what you find and what you decide to make! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Save on Groceries by Using Less Meat

Buy by the serving instead of by the pound. How many servings will you get from a whole chicken?

Most people in the developed nations eat too much protein. With higher costs for meat, it's one thing we can learn to save money on without feeling guilty or as if our diets are lacking in nutrition. It may very well be better for us health-wise as well as budget-wise, when we cut back on using meat.

You can make a lot of dishes with a minimum of meat. Use whatever recipe you like for meat casseroles, but cut back on the meat and add extra of the other ingredients.

Use all of the meat you buy, by using the pan drippings to flavor soup or rice or noodles (and calling it meat), or boiling all bones after they've been cooked, to get all the little bits of meat from them. The water they're boiled in makes good broth for flavoring other dishes, or as a base for soup or stew. Freeze the bits of meat until you have enough for a main dish.

Instead of hamburger gravy, use bits of any leftover meat to put in milk gravy and serve over toast, potatoes, noodles or rice.

There are many ways to save on meat, but it mostly boils down to using less in recipes and/or per serving and not wasting any leftovers.

Image courtesy of morguefile.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ammonia

Ammonia isn't as popular as a cleaning agent as it could be because many people don't like the fumes. It's cheap and efficient when you have a tough cleaning job involving grease or unknown gunk, though, and since manufacturer's have added scents, ammonia isn't even quite as smelly.

Those famous fumes are the real gunk-loosening power of ammonia. To use them, put a small amount of ammonia in a container that can be closed - like your oven or a plastic bag. To minimize the use even more (and maximize your savings), put it in a shallow container like a pie pan (glass only) in the bottom rack of your oven, then put drip pans, electric skillets or anything else that's coated with grease or baked on gunk, in the oven. Close the oven door and leave it all there overnight. The gunk will be loosened by morning so a quick scrub will have everything, including the oven, shining.

It will also remove wax on floors, clean windows (very much diluted), woodwork and almost anything else.

At the price, you can't beat it's cleaning power, but it isn't as friendly as vinegar or baking soda, so keep it away from kids and pets and don't breathe any more fumes than you have to.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fiscal Fasting

You can do it however you want to, from staying away from the grocery store to not buying anything except necessities, like toilet paper and coffee.  Some people do it for a full year while some go on a fiscal fast for a week or a month.

Even if you do it for one day now and then, you will save money.

The key is to not spend anything at all unless it's absolutely necessary for a certain period of time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Financial Resolutions for 2015

Did you make a financial resolution? That's one of the most common resolutions, right after losing weight/getting fit.

Saving more money and paying off debt are the two essential financial resolutions that most people shoot for, but can you be more frugal to meet that goal?

You might, and it might not hurt as much as you think it will.

FOOD:

Use ALL of it. The bread heels, the broccoli stems, the radish leaves... all of it. Then take the roots of celery and onions and lettuce and regrow them so you don't have to buy them again.

Save all the "little bits" of vegetables and meat in a container in the freezer. When you have enough, make soup with it.

Cook from scratch. Learn how to make gravy, biscuits and more and quit buying them already made.

CLOTHING

Put yourself on a clothing fast. Unless your shoes are really worn (really worn), you don't need a new pair. Your clothing is probably good enough to last through the rest of the winter, at the least.

Learn to patch and darn, sew buttons back on, sew up a hem or a seam. Do the best you can to make the clothes you have look good and last.

FURNITURE

Unless your furniture is literally falling apart, don't buy any. If you really, really need a coffee table, find a sturdy cardboard box, fill it with magazines or newspaper and put a cloth over it. Do the same for end tables. Use throws over the worst part of the couch.

MISCELLANEOUS

Do you need washcloths? Take an old towel, cut it to the right size and hem it to make a washcloth. Repeat until you run out of material.

Potholders are easy to make and they don't have to be fancy to work well. It's simply cloth folded and sewn together so there is enough padding to keep from burning yourself.

Rugs can be made of rags or yarn or strips of cloth.

Let your imagination work for you and find ways to get what you really need, but don't mistake wants for needs. And stay out of the stores if you really want to fulfill your financial resolution. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Frugal Weather?

Not when it's snowing and blowing out there and you're trying to stay warm! But even then, you can do some things to help with the heating bill and keep everyone comfy and cozy.

Pass out the blankets, the hot chocolate and the board games. No board games? Make up some word games or tell stories, or just talk. Keep everyone in the same room and busy and it will seem warmer and more comfortable.

If you don't have the problem of a snowstorm or cold weather, maybe you're experiencing a late January thaw, as we are here. Right now, the windows are open to freshen the air, the heater is turned off and I am wearing flipflops! It's officially 71 degrees. That's almost scary, but it sure is frugal.

When you get an occasional day like that in the winter, make the best use of it possible.

Today would be a great day to do laundry and hang it outside, for instance.

Open all the windows and doors that you can and let the stale winter air out. Your home will smell and feel much fresher than artificial scents can ever make it.

Turn off the heat if you can. Even if it's a little cooler than 71, you can put on an extra sweater and rough it for a few hours, until it starts to cool down noticeably.

Go outside and get some sunshine and take the kids with you. It will make all of you feel better and lighten your moods.

If you're sitting on the East Coast right now and anticipating a huge storm, or are in the midst of it, you might think that I'm gloating a little. I'm not; we have those storms, too, and I'm sure ours is coming soon.

It's frugal and smart to enjoy what we have, when we have it. 



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year, Again

It seems as if the wheels of time go around and around faster and faster. Here we are, at the beginning of another new year, looking forward to being able to do things we didn't do last year; learn things we didn't learn; lose weight we didn't lose; save money we didn't save.

Hope springs eternal, they say. Without hope and a new beginning now and then, where would we be?

So I want to wish you a very good new year. No matter what your resolutions or hopes or dreams are, I hope they all come to fruition in 2015.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Leftover Christmas Candy

If you have Christmas candy left over, save it for the next holiday! There are a lot of things you can do with candy canes, for instance. Face them toward each other, tie a pretty ribbon around the hooks and make a heart from them. Give them to your valentine.Or crush them and serve them over ice cream any time.

Chocolate candy can be melted down and reformed to suit the occasion. Got chocolate Santas? Make chocolate something else with it. Melt it down, add some peanuts and let it harden again. Or use candy molds or anything to shape it into something else.

Hard candy will keep indefinitely if kept in a more or less cool place that's dry. Just save it until next Christmas and you will save yourself some money.