Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What You Say WIth Your Money

This quote crossed my desk last week, "Everytime you spend money, you are making a choice in how you want the world to be." Think about it for a few minutes. I have been thinking about it for a week and these thoughts come to mind.

Where you shop is a choice.
What you buy is a choice, as in brand name or store brand etc.
How you pay is a choice, cash, check, debit or credit.
How you carry out your purchase is a choice, paper or plastic, or did you bring your own shopping bag.
How you get to the place where you shop, is a choice. Did you walk or drive, did you car pool if you drove? Are you making several small stops and combining your trip as you shop?
How often you shop, is a choice.

Some would tell me I am clueless, that they have to go to the grocery store everyday or that they cannot walk to the nearest set of store. I can hear a lot of just how silly this concept list of mine is, but, stop and think.

I am a thrift store person, becuase I choose recycled first when possible. That means used clothing, appliances, books, toys whatever I can find that fits our need, I look for used first. Yes, it's a personal choice, one I do even if I can pay cash for a new item at full price. Why? Because I hate things that are still good being thrown out. And yes, I am cheap. Yes, I am forced to shop and buy products like everyone else from time to time. I buy what works for us best, not really caring if it's name brand or not, sometimes less expense is just as good or better, sometimes, that is not the case. I try to get dollar value, first and foremost.

I did not have a debt card until last year when the bank sent me one after months of hounding me to get one. I know that merchants pay a fee everytime I swipe that card so I do my best not to use it in stores. Most stores I shop I know the owners personally and do what I can to help them watch their bottom line.

Yes, I carry my own shopping bag or use a box. In some parts of the country this is common practice, not in North Mississippi. I have to explain myself to check out people often. At times I have to bag my own as they will not touch the non-store issued bag. Sad isn't it. Do you know how much petro goes into making plastic bags?  Gas is four bucks a gallon and people wonder why.

Walking to a store. Yes I do understand living an hour from the nearest mall. I understand living ten miles from a country market. Still, when I can, and that's most everyday it's not raining, if I need something local, I walk. I may walk ten miles for something, but I walk. You would think I would loose weight and look great with that, nope, not at all. Makes me fear what I would weight if I never walked....

Have you thought about how and where you spend money? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Help, My Money Cushion is Gone!

For as long as I can remember I have had one debt free...have savings. Sadly with a massive debt due to a special needs and sick child, that debt free thing as been more like chasing a butterfly than a reality. Still, I have been steady making progress on paying off debt. I have held onto savings for years, sometimes a nice amount, sometimes enough to keep the account open.

I have been carless for a year now. It was no big deal as our son was unemployed and living with us, which meant I had his car as needed. Recently, that changed. I no longer have his car. Okay, so it was time to deal with the no car issue. We did. We bought a rodeo in need of a new engine one week and the engine the next. Our trusty mechanic who knows we live with way, was happy to get the business. He checked the rodeo and gave me a list of needs beyond the motor and kindly let me shop eBay for the best deals. I was excited and pleased to know in a matter of weeks, I'll be sporting an old rodeo with new parts. One we could pay for out of savings. One we paid cash for...and then...the other shoe fell.

Why is it when you are on top of things, something always fall off? Yesterday as my husband drove in to work, a two hour commute he makes twice a week, the water pump on his rodeo blew up. Yes, it had to be towed in. Yes it has to been fixed...yes he called and asked, "Do we have any money left after buying the stuff for the car?" We did, we don't now that I know the cost of fixing his transportation. And so life goes.

Today I start over. Today I find more ways to build back up the savings it took us a year to save. It would be easy to toss my hands in the air and say we will never win. But we will and you will, if you just keep at it. While I was down watching an online bank transfer from savings to checking wipe us out, I was proud of that savings to keep us from reaching for credit. That's a big win, and I have to keep focused on that point.

How do you cope with broken things, emergencies and the unexpected? As your plan worked? What advise to you have for someone wanting to get back on their feet fast?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Not Just Gas That's Going Up!

You would have be under a rock not to know everyone is worried about gas hitting five dollars a gallon. Fact is folks, while you are looking for the lowest gas price, making sure you keep the car full, you might be missing the big picture.

Diesel prices.

Everything in the country is transported using diesel. For years diesel was cheaper than gas, and a bargain, now, it cost more. The higher cost is due to a change in environmental requirements a few year ago. While few people watched, the price of this fuel used by tractor trailer rigs or 18 wheelers, climbed. What does that mean to us? When the price of transportation goes up, so does food.

You can't store gas long term. You can, store food. Knowing this, your best savings during this gas hike might be to put your money into food first. If you own a deep freezer, this weekend, clean it out, cook up older meats, and take an inventory of what's in there. Now it not the time to store loaves of bread and boxes of girl scout cookies, though, I fully understand hording the latter. Rather, make room for the meats your family eats on a regular biases. Beef will make the highest rise in price, love taco night, better watch savings for ground meats. Chicken is expected to stay at a lower rise in price due to the fact that most chicken does not travel as far. However, we only buy organic and for us, we have seen that price rise this year.

As we are headed into summer, well spring really, fresh vegetables will soon be sold at farmer markets. I would not worry as much about stocking up on vegetables as meats. If you don't have a deep freezer but depend on the refrigerator freezer, treat it the same way. Clean it out, organize, label and know what you have. Check the local grocery store ads and carefully load up as needed.

Next time you buy gas, look over at the price of diesel if it is sold. This will help you know were food and other transportation prices are headed. Also when you are filling up the tank, don't for get to check the air pressure of your tires, make sure they are at the right rating for better fuel consumption. Check air filters, belts, and hoses, all these effect your cars fuel needs. Finally remember to slow down. Fast driving, ridding the breaks all add to your gas cost. 

Like you I am concerned. I am blessed to live in town so that I can walk to the places I need to go. Still, to reach most anything beyond basic needs, I have to leave and drive into the nearest city. That means at least 80 miles. I'll be leaving the area very little, and only to care for family. Good news all that walking may help me get fit and thin again!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Line Drying Clothing Saves More Than Money

I was very blessed to get to know my husbands Grandmother, Mrs. Minnie. She lived to be 97 and died in her sleep, a nice way to go. A fire ball red head in her younger days, she was pure fire to the end. She was also amazingly smart about life. Mrs. Minnie was a school teacher until she wed in her late 20's and went on to have 5 children. Sadly she was a widow before the oldest was 13. Mrs. Minnie sat on her front porch with a loaded shot gun when she learned the state was coming to divide her kids up between her brother in laws to raise. She did not use that gun, but I understand she did point it at the sheriff who said if she could keep "them kids fed and clothed," he would stay out of it. She did, all 5 went on to finish their education and 4 went on to graduate from college, one did not as he went to war.

Mrs. Minnie taught Sunday school for well over 50 years. She even taught in the nursing home were she spent her last few years. When I met her, she was kind and full of advise for our up coming marriage. She shared with me the modern things she liked, including the clothes drier. I recall her with great fondness saying to me,"I don't know why on earth anyone would hang out clothing to dry, it's just plain silly." I just smiled, I knew she was remembering her life in the early 1900's of Monday morning washing day, and line drying diapers in the middle of winter over the fire place. With all due respect, this is the one area I could not agree with Mrs. Minnie about. I have a passion about line drying clothing.

Automatic clothes driers use and waste a great deal of energy. I never understood running a hot machine in the middle of summer, and the air conditioner at the same time. More than that, line dried clothing last longer. The wear and tear in a drier breaks down the fabric much faster. Plus, I admit, the smell, oh the smell of fresh dried linens and towels, nothing makes my house smell better. So how do you successfully line dry? Believe it or not, there are some rules.

First, know if you can even have a clothes line on your property. City and other codes may not allow such. Then choose what works best with your yard and situation. I use a retractable line that will hold several loads, but when I am finished, even the poles are removed from the yard and the area goes back to normal. Small wooden folding units are great on non windy days or inside. Dry whites in full bright sun. This helps them to naturally bleach and will help get rid of any yellowing or stains. Dark colors do not need to be placed in full sun. dry late in the day or in the shade. Sometimes of the year many not be suitable due to pollen and allergies. For those times I hang the clothing up inside or if they have been outside and have pollen on them, toss in the drier on air fluff to clean them up.

You don't need to use fabric softener if you line dry, because there is no static cling. What I like best about line drying is the natural work out. Bending, stretching, carrying, walking, it's a physical workout. When my children where small, I had them help hand me clothes pins and count the number of shirts, socks, or whatever as a learning tool. When they were older, they helped fold and carry in the baskets of clothing.

How much do I save not using a drier? In all honestly I do not know in energy, but I do know in the cost of buying machines, have saved a couple thousand. I do know that the work out time, the time spend hanging out clothing bring me peace, and that is a savings as well.

I think of Mrs. Minnie sometimes when I see shirts blowing in the breeze, and I smile. I am happy she got to have her automatic drier and see so many advances in her life time. Yet I am happy I held onto a few old fashioned ways, if nothing more than to remember how things used to be done.....back when.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's Valentines Day What to do This year

I looked at the calendar yesterday and panicked. Valentines Day is upon us and I have not started a single project.  For many this is the day for lovers, ever see that long line of men at the grocery check out with last minute cards, flowers and candy? For others, it's about being a school room mother who makes cup cakes and helps with a party. But for some, Valentines Day is a reminder they are alone. No sweetheart, maybe the children are grown or you have never had any, and all the people around you make you feel lost and empty on February 14th.

Surprise, it's not about you. This is not a day to focus on you and your life, it's a day to give back. If you are one of the people with nobody to share the day with, or have small children, this is a day to spend on others. Here are a few tips and ideas we have done over the years.

1. If you are an animal person, make today about visiting the local animal shelter. The workers there are often unsung heros. Take pet supplies, used blankets and towels, usually you can get a bag full for a couple of bucks and Salvation Army, pet food for the animals and gifts for the workers. A warm batch of cookies and some coffee is a nice afternoon treat. Offer to help walk a dog while you are there.

2. Adopt a family in need. People have different needs, it's not always about money. If you attend church, inquire about helping a family on the prayer list. A family with a sick family member would welcome a meal delivered to their home, bring some valentines themed cookies or cupcakes as well. Make a special get well card for the family member. Look into helping a family home bound with a special needs child, ask them if you can sit while they go out, or possibly take out the siblings for a fun night.

3. Visit the nursing home. Call first to learn any rules and times for meals and snacks. If allowed, take flowers, cards, ect., to residents. Eat a meal with a widow or widower. Ask them to tell you how they met their spouse, what was dating like for them, when did they know they were in love. Some people cannot wait to share, and you can learn a lot about another time in History from these precious people.

4. If you live near a children's hospital, call and find out the rules for visiting. Some places will allow you to hold a party in sun rooms for the children. Take craft supplies to help them make Valentines for parent's other children and hospital staff. Read a book to them, Jack Prelutsky It's Valentines Day comes to mind.

5. Reach out to an Army family. Many people have loved ones deployed on this day. Take baked goods or a meal to the family and thank them for their service. Let them know you care.

6. Reach out to the everyday people in your life. Take cookies or cup cakes to the grocery store where you shop most often and drop off at the service desk to share with people at work. Remember the postal clerk and take treats to the post office. How about the trash collector? The police and fire department? All these people are important in our lives, remind them that you know this and today, you are saying thank you.

When we step out of our box and look at all the amazing people around us, we see people just waiting to share a few minutes or even hours with us. Take time to remind others just how special they are to you, and you will discover, the day is pretty amazing, even without a sweetheart to share it with.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My First Box of Flowers

I do not have a bucket list. I really am not sure what I would list if I did. One thing is for sure, if I made a list of all the things I have yet to do or experience, there is one, I could not list as that happened yesterday.

Growing up we didn't make a big to do out of birthdays. I did have a couple of parties as a little girl and one when I turned 13. No, not the rent out the community center and have a girl boy dance party the way some of my friends parents did for them, but a group of girls from school over for cake one cold, rainy Saturday morning. I still remember it fondly as my Mom even bought a store bought cake, my first and only outside our wedding cake.

I did not plan to make a big deal out of this birthday either, but it turned out to be big on many levels. All of my brothers called, that's a record. My oldest son found time to come home and take his little brother John out on Friday night so I could have dinner alone with my husband. A first in a very, very long time. The biggest surprise of all, was a box brought to the house by UPS.

I glanced the familiar big brown delivery truck backing into my driveway Friday morning. My first thought was what now, I didn't buy anything, who ordered something and didn't tell me. I opened the door as soon as Mike the driver rang the door bell. Mike was smiling, and he nodded to the box he had just placed on the bench outside the door. FLOWERS! It was a huge green and white box from Pro Flowers! I snatched the box up and dashed back inside. I stood very still for a minute staring at the box I placed on the kitchen table. For a minute visions of movie scenes danced in my head. I saw myself as Marlyn Monroe spinning in a circle holding an open box of flowers in her arms. Visions of Dorothy getting flowers from George on the television show Hazel crossed my mind. I was one of them, one of the special people in this life that get flowers in a box!

Now don't get me wrong, I have had flowers before. I got a few rose buds in my day in high school and college. I am Southern, flowers are something your raise like tomatoes, you plant seeds, water and fret over them, weed them, and cut flowers to share with others right out of your garden. I have always loved raising my zinnias and daisies, cutting them to bring inside or use to decorate the church for showers and weddings. Winter always leaves a empty space in my home, a longing for fresh cut bright beautiful flowers to make the dark winter days seem brighter. I have stopped at Kroger and run my hand over the blooms thinking how wonderful it would be to buy a bouquet and bring them home. I never do, I just think about it.  Now here I was about to open a box with real fresh cut flowers inside.

I held my breath. First of all, who sent them? Not my husband. Not that he wouldn't but to spend money on such would only make me worry about the things we needed to pay off instead. I have always told him no when he saw that look of longing in my eyes as I lingered over flowers in the grocery. No, it was not him. I slowly started to open the box, stopped and ran to the pantry to get a vase. I chose the larger one I use in the summer for zinnias. I filled it with cool water and ran back to the box. NOW I told myself, now you are ready to open the box. I pulled on the zip tab, took a deep breath, reached into the box and pulled out the flowers.

I couldn't breath as I held them close. The card, I needed to see who sent them, but I didn't want to put them down long enough to open it. Slowly I placed the flowers down and took the card in my hand. As I did, my hand brushed a new, shiny glass vase! WOW! I got a new vase even. Getting flowers in a box, I quickly learned, come with all kind of extras. I transferred the water to the new vase, took the flowers over to the kitchen sink, snipped off the ends, and put them in the vase. Now, to unravel who the gift giver was.

Sometimes your heart just stops or skips a beat because a moment in your life is so special. The giver was a family I know only from that amazing circle of friendship that grows on the internet. A best friend I have never had the privileged of sitting down with in person and yet, feel like I do whenever we speak on the web. She has two adorable little boys who are kind enough to keep my refrigerator covered with art work. Now after years of long distant letters and short internet chats, I felt this friendship had come full circle. I knew that I was important in her life the way she is important in mine.

I sat down and looked at my flowers while choosing a chocolate that came in the box as well. If I had a bucket list I thought to myself, I could cross off got flowers delivered to the door, and I could cross off, made a best friend via the internet. I could also cross of being adopted as a long distant aunt by two wonderful little boys.

This morning the flowers were in full bloom. My family has all commented if they had known just how much they would mean to me, they would have bought some as well. They are missing the point, yes the flowers do mean oh so much to me, but the true meaning is in the fact that I know my life as value to another person. You cannot put a price on such a gift. You cannot box it up and ship it across country. You can however, enjoy the feeling, and that, will last long after the flower blooms have faded. Thank you sweet friend for the gift of value, the best gift I got this year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Green Cleaning is Dollar Green Savings!

I grew up in a very clean home. I also grew up in a toxic waste dump. My Mother was a clean freak the way some people hoard. As children our first walker was the vacuum cleaner. Yes, we were well trained in the school of germ and dirt free living from birth on. What I did not know until I left home, was why I grew up with chronic health issues and odd rashes. I learned that the cleaners my Mom so loved, were actually killing me. The toxic fumes, the constant contact with Lysol in every form, Purex and more, left me ill.

It was very freeing for me to be away from the toxic cleaners. This did not mean I went the other direction and stopped cleaning, but rather I learned how to clean without killing myself. I researched how my great grandmom made her own supplies and I made some life changes. In the mid 80's I learned from library books how to "green clean" without toxins. In a nut shell, I was green before green was popular.

I always knew green cleaning was less expensive, but I really didn't see how much until last week. I did my Mom's shopping for her, and bought the supplies on her list. I was shocked at the price of washing powder, and her long list of toxic cleaning supplies. I realized all this time I had actually cut out a big expense without even realizing it. In the honor of saving both money and the environment, I am posting a few tips.

Washing Powder:
1 cup of Borax, sold on the detergent isle.
1 cup of WASHING soda ( do not confuse with baking soda)
2 cups ground soap   Zote or Fels_Naptha are made for clothing.
Most body bars are not pure soap and should not be used. However little known fact, Lux was used for years for washing clothing.
essential oils if you wish to add a smell like lavender, which I admit, I love. 10 -15 drops will usually do. Mix well and store in air tight container. I use about one heaping tablespoon for most loads.
I  have bought an off brand powdered oxy product at Dollar tree and added into this mix, about half a cup.
Also if you want a disinfecting form of powder, add a few drops of tea tree oil and shake well. Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant and is the key in the Melaleuca brand of cleaners.

Fabric softener is not necessary if you line dry. An inexpensive alternative to fabric softener is baking soda. Just add 1/2 a cup during the rinse cycle.

I line dry. This drives my Mother crazy. The cost of a dryer when the sun is free drives me nuts. The one thing I love the most is the smell of line dried clothing. That smell drifts through my clean house on laundry day and nothing, nothing bottled can come close. It is to my family, the smell of home, and I am thankful my husband appreciates that fresh line dried smell.

What else do I use in my home? I keep a gallon of white vinegar on hand for cleaning and germ killing. Yes it stinks, but the smells goes when it dries. It shines counters, mirrors, stainless steel very well. Can be added to wash to kill germs, wipe down furniture, doors and floors when sickness is in the house.

That brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide, I keep several on hand, in the laundry, the bath and so on. This will clean and disinfect without a smell and cost only pennies. Great on blood stains too. Do be careful about spilling on color fast surfaces, it can bleach. This makes it idea to add to a load of whites, a cup at a time for extra cleaning. I keep some in a spray bottle and spray little tight area I cannot reach to bubble out dirt. Does a good job on the toilet!

Need scouring power? Use baking soda on a wet sponge. Mix up a paste of baking soda and washing soda and borax for sinks, stoves, ect.

I know, you use sprays to make the house smell clean. Try boiling some cinnamon on the stove for a nice welcome home smell. White vinegar on a rag and swing it in the air will remove smoke, pet odor and other unpleasant smells. Use baking soda on the carpet to remove smells, vacuum after about 30 minutes. This is a double help, the baking soda in the vacuum helps keep the cleaner smelling clean.

Do you know how to make your own cleaning supplies? If so share some of your tips. What do you like and can't live without?  How to you save money on things you cannot live without.