Frugal Budgeting for Frugal Living

August 5, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Budgeting · Comments Off on Frugal Budgeting for Frugal Living 

Budgeting is probably the most important part of living a frugal life. Yes, it’s boring, and yes, it does take up a fair amount of time. But, think of it this way, if you don’t write down a budget and stick to it, then how do you know that you’re not spending more than you’re earning–or at the least–more than you should?

To start creating a budget, you need to determine how much money you have coming into your household each month. It’s essential that you stick to figuring out your finances by the month. Remember to write down all of wages, and anything else that you earn or bring in such as child support or SSI.

Now, start thinking about the essentials you have to pay for every month. This includes electricity, water, telephone, cable, car essentials like gas and oil, etc. Don’t forget to include food, but try to be as strict with yourself as possible in this area. A great way to plan how much money you need each month for groceries is by creating a menu for every day of the month. Plan every meal and decide exactly what you need to buy. You should then be able to easily determine what you’ll need to budget for food for the month.

Include an allowance for paying off debt. If you owe money to several places such as bank credit cards, store credit cards, car loans, etc., also decide how you’ll repay them. There are two ways of looking at budgeting to pay off debts.

The first option is to pick the bill that will be quickest and easiest to pay off. Then, once you’ve chosen a bill, pay only the minimum amount necessary each month on the other bills and put as much money as you can manage into that chosen debt.

The second option is to target the debt that you are paying the most interest on. Once you wipe out the highest interest debt, you will have more money to pay off the rest because your largest “drain” will be gone.

Once you’ve worked out your regular expenses, subtract this amount from your earnings and divide the remaining amount among the non-essentials such as entertainment and clothing. It’s also important to plan for an emergency because you can never predict when something bad is going to happen: your car could break down, your son might rip his soccer uniform or the electric bill might be more than you expect. Planning for such emergencies prepares you to cope with the worst. Then, if anything is left over at the end of the month, treat the family to a nice meal or a day trip somewhere.

If you’re overall expenses add up to more than your income, you’ll obviously have to reevaluate the non-essential portion of your budget. It’s crucial that you’re honest with yourself about your spending habits. Without total self-disclosure you’ll never be able to set up a realistic budget.

It’s also crucial that you stick to your budget. This will get easier with time. But don’t feel like you have to stick to the same budget every month. Variety is the spice of life, so change the non-essentials you budget for and do things a little differently one month.

Budgeting is always stressful the first time or two you try it, especially when you have to drop some “luxuries” that you’ve become accustomed to. But you’ll quickly settle into a pattern and even learn to appreciate the simpler, cheaper things in your life. That’s when all your frugal living efforts will begin to pay off.

Be Creative With Halloween Decorations!

October 22, 2008 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Holiday Ideas · Comments Off on Be Creative With Halloween Decorations! 

by Jill Cooper
http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

I just stepped outside and took a deep breath and then another one and another one. No I don’t have a breathing problem or anything. It’s just that for the first time in months, I don’t feel like I’m breathing in an aquarium. The air is crisp and cool and that means fall is here and the humidity is gone!

At one point in our lives, that would have been the signal for us to haul out boxes and sacks full of Halloween decorations and go to work. It would usually take us at least a month to put everything out. We were one of those families who would put out a “monstrous” (Ha!Ha! No pun intended) display. We literally had hundreds of people drive by our home just to see our decorations. It really was a lot of work, especially because back then you couldn’t really buy much to use for outside Halloween decorations. We had to use our imagination and make our own.

We like to have fun at Halloween and not scare the wits out of everyone, so we try to keep our decorations cute and funny looking. To us, Halloween is a time for children to dress up and for one night a year be what they always dreamed of being, whether it’s a fairy princess, a ballerina, Superman or even a robot. They get to be on the “stage” for one night to show everyone how beautiful, strong or funny they look. And to end a perfect night they get tons of candy, bags of candy and did I mention, a whole bunch of candy??

Here are some ideas of things we did to have a whole lot of fun for very little money. You can use these same basic principles for any holiday decorating.

1. You don’t have to have a lot of decorations for your display to look nice. I drive by one home every year and each season the owners put out one simple something. For example, in the summer they have one beautiful pot of flowers sitting on their porch. In the fall a pot of mums, for Halloween, one pumpkin with a smiley face and at Christmas one pretty lit up wreath on the door. It’s never a lot, but I always get pleasure when I drive by the place and see their one simple decoration.

2. We work all year buying things at garage sales or thrift stores for our decorations. We started out with about 25 plastic pumpkins to set out for a pumpkin patch. The next year we added another 50 and drilled holes in the bottoms so we could put lights in them. After a few years we had 200-300 of them that we had collected. We never paid more then 5-10 cents for them. If you want to have a big display, start small and just add a little bit more to your decorations each year.

3. Cute homemade decorations make Halloween fun! If you see something in a magazine or somewhere that you think is cute but too expensive, try to copy it and make it yourself:

* I saw a cute rake in a magazine that I loved. It was an old rake that had a few silk flowers tied on it and a sign that said “Free leaves, rake all you want.” I just happened to have a dead 50 year old rake in my shed I was going to throw away, so I pulled it out, found an old board and some paint (I could have used a marker too), painted on the words and tied on a couple of stray silk flowers that I had and voila! I had a cute rake and saved about $25.

* It takes nothing to stuff some old clothes with plastic bags and make a scarecrow family.

* If you are a little handy, put your talent to good use. My husband took and old metal trash can and motorized it so that the lid moved up and down and when it opened it popped out a Sylvester the cat.

4. We found decorations in unusual places. Once we went to the grocery store where they had a gigantic pumpkin. The thing was about 8-10 feet across. We asked the manager it they threw it out at the end of the season and he said no. We told him what we needed it for and discovered that he had seen our display and liked it. He said “Come by on Halloween morning and you can take it to use and then bring it back.” It doesn’t ever hurt to ask about anything. Most people aren’t mean and hateful, but are usually kind and helpful.

5. Get more bang for your buck. Buy things that have a big impact but cost little. A couple of bags of spider webs and plastic spiders can cover a lot of area and look “cool” but cost very little. I use spider webs for everything. They’re great to use to cover throw pillows for a party, put in your hair, hang on the lights or wrap around the handles of silverware. You just can’t have too much.

6. Use what you already have around the house.

* We were having a Halloween party and to add to the effect, we dug out some black sheets and covered all the furniture. It changed the whole look of the room.

* Another year, my husband found some 10 foot long, thin metal rods. We stuck them in the ground, added styrofoam wig heads to each one and hung some large pieces of sheer fabric I had gotten for free from a friend over the tops of the heads. Everyone loved them. The sheer material had a much more realistic see through look then just a sheet. At night, you couldn’t see the rod so it looked like these ghosts were floating 10 feet up in the air.

7. Start the day after Halloween to prepare for next year. If your kids get a bunch of plastic spiders when they go trick or treating, save them and add them to the decoration box. If your child dressed as a pumpkin this year, save the costume, stuff it next year and set it out with the decorations. Try to think of ways to incorporate any old costumes into your decorations.

Acres of Apples, Frugal to the Core

October 22, 2008 · Filed Under Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Acres of Apples, Frugal to the Core 

By Jill Cooper
http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

I’ve always dreamed of having an apple tree in my back yard. You know the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for?” Now that I actually have my own apple tree, I stand in my yard watching the apples piling up around me thinking, “Oh no — What do I do with this mess now?” If I could make gasoline out of apples, I could retire, but since that is not an option and my frugal mind will not allow me to waste one apple, I have had to come up with some yummier “apple disposal” methods. If you find that you have a few dozen more apples than you know what to do with, these recipes from LivingOnADime.com will help settle your frugal dilemma.

Other Uses:

~When you have a partially eaten apple, save the good part and chop into pieces. Place in a microwave safe dish. Blend together 1 tsp. each brown sugar, flour, oatmeal and margarine and a dash of cinnamon. Top the apple with the topping and microwave until tender.
~Core and slice apples very thin. Dehydrate and use in granolas, eat alone or soften in warm water to use in recipes.
~Slice and use in Pancakes or waffles.
~Freeze. Peel, slice and core and then store in 2 cups portions in freezer bags.
~Use soft apples in cooking.
~Cut into small pieces and add to salads with a fruit based dressing.

Apple Butter

9 to 10 apples, cored, peeled and chopped
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. salt

Place everything into a crockpot. Stir, cover and cook on high 1 hour. Cook on low for 9-11 hours or until thick and dark brown. Stir occasionally. Uncover and cook on low 1 hour longer. Stir with whisk until smooth. Refrigerate or Freeze. Makes 2 pints.

Apple Pie Filling

9 cups baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
5 cups water
2 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Toss apples with lemon juice and set aside. Combine the rest of ingredients in Dutch oven and bring to a boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add apples and return to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender (6-10 minutes). Cool for 30 minutes. Then ladle into freezer containers or bake immediately. Makes two 9-inch pies.

Fried Apples

4 large apples, cored and sliced
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cut apples into 1/4 inch slices. Heat butter in a large skillet. Put the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon in the skillet and cover. Over medium-low heat, cook apple slices 7-10 minutes or until they begin to soften and the syrup thickens. Serve coated with excess syrup on top. Serves 4.

Baked Apples

apples, cored
raisins (optional)
1 tsp. margarine
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1 Tbsp. honey or brown sugar
(These amounts are per apple.)

For each person use 1 apple. Fill the center of the apple with all the ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees until tender or put in a Dutch oven on top of stove and simmer on very low until tender.

Apple Snack

2 qts. apples, peeled, cored and halved

Coarsely grate apples. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 225 degrees until dry. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Apple Crisp

6 apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon and/or nutmeg
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange apples in well-greased baking dish. Blend all remaining ingredients except water. Spread evenly over top of apples. Pour water over the topping. Bake 45 minutes until apples are tender and top is crisp. Serves 6.

Peach Crisp

Use peaches in place of apples.

~When you have a partially eaten apple, save the good part and chop into pieces. Place in a microwave-safe dish. Blend together 1 tsp. each brown sugar, flour, oatmeal and margarine and a dash of cinnamon. Top the apple with the topping and microwave until tender.

Popsicle Paradise!

October 22, 2008 · Filed Under Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Popsicle Paradise! 

By Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam
http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

Remember when you used to sit on your front steps on a hot summer day eating a popsicle? It was usually red or purple and on special occasions you got a fudgesicle. Remember how you tried to lick the drips faster than the sun could melt them? Sometimes the drips would roll down your fingers, forcing you to make the mind numbing decision whether to lick your fingers or the new drips forming on your popsicle.

Every once in a while a few drips would get out of control and fall on your bare toes. Remember how your dog’s tongue felt like sandpaper when he licked the sweet gooeyness off of them?

It’s funny how we try to make drama and expensive memories for our children when it’s the simple everyday things we remember the most.

Try some of these ideas to keep the kids entertained this summer:

To find popsicle molds, look at discount and mail order stores or garage sales. If you don’t have any molds, use small paper or plastic cups. Put a wooden stick or plastic spoon in the center.

For mini popsicles, pour orange, apple or grape juice or flavored drink mix into ice cube trays. Partially freeze and then place toothpicks in the center of each cube (or place plastic wrap over the top, secure and insert toothpicks through plastic wrap).

Making your own popsicles can give great variety and keep your kids cool this summer!

For non-traditional popsicles:

* Freeze applesauce in popsicle molds.

* Mix fruit or jam into yogurt. Freeze in small, snack sized Ziploc bags for frozen yogurt on the go. Cut a hole in the end of the bag for easy access/eating.

* Mix gelatin and freeze. Add gummie fish or worms before freezing for added fun.

* Freeze syrup from canned fruit.

* Add food coloring or sprinkles to yogurt or softened ice cream for added pizzazz. Then freeze in popsicle molds.

* When you have leftover jam or jelly, put ¼ cup of hot water in the jar and shake well. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

* If jelly or jam doesn’t set up well, use for popsicles or add more water, boil and make syrup.

* Make a batch of pudding. Add coconut, nuts, marshmallows, crushed cookies or sprinkles if desired. Pour into molds. Freeze several hours until firm.

* Stick a toothpick in the center of blackberries, strawberries, raspberries or sliced bananas.Dip in chocolate if desired. Freeze on a tray. Once frozen, store in freezer bags.

* For easy snow cones, freeze orange juice (or any other flavored juice) in ice cube trays. Store frozen juice cubes in a plastic bag. Blend 5 cubes in the blender until they have a shaved ice consistency. The shaved ice will keep its consistency if kept frozen in a container.

* For watermelon popsicles, blend one cup each watermelon chunks (seeds removed), orange juice and water. Blend well. Then pour and freeze into molds.

* For strawberry popsicles, blend 2 cups strawberries, 1 cup vanilla ice cream or yogurt, 4 cups orange juice and 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend smooth. Pour into molds and freeze.

* For banana popsicles, dissolve one 3 oz. package strawberry gelatin with one cup boiling water. In a blender, mix gelatin, 1 banana and 1 cup yogurt or ice cream. Blend well and pour into molds.

Pudding Pops

1 pkg. pudding (not instant*)
3 cups milk

Combine 1 large package of pudding with 3 cups of milk. Mix only enough to blend well. Quickly pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Chocolate and vanilla pudding may be layered for a fun treat. Makes 8-10 popsicles.

*Regular homemade pudding may be used instead of store-bought pudding mix.

Packing Food for Road Trips

October 22, 2008 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Packing Food for Road Trips 

by Jill Cooper
http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

If you have some money saved for a trip but you know that the gas cost is going to eat most of your funds, try cutting your budget in another area, like your food. Consider taking your food with you. Going out to eat on a trip does not hold the excitement that it once did. Most families go out to eat so often at home that the novelty of it has worn off. The next time you travel try packing your own food.

Don’t forget breakfast — Sometimes getting on the road the first thing in the morning is such a rush that it might be easier to wait and eat breakfast after you have driven an hour or two. This works especially well if you have to start out in the wee hours of the morning.

Breakfast

* Muffins, banana or apple bread Don’t forget the butter or cream cheese

* Donuts, honey buns
If you think it will be easier for you, buy them individually packaged. I’m not sure why, but kids seem to love individually packaged things and it makes everything more fun.

* Bagels with cream cheese and jam
Mix the jam and cream cheese together and place in a small container before you leave.

* Individual boxes of cereal with milk
When I was young I always thought that it was so neat to be able to cut the sides of the boxes open and use the cereal box for a bowl. My mom thought it was neat because she didn’t have to bring extra bowls and could toss the boxes.

* Hard boiled eggs

* Little smoky sausages (the pre-cooked kind)
These can be eaten out of the package, but if you like them hot, place them in a small thermos and pour very hot to boiling water over them. Put on the lid and by the time you are ready to eat them, the water will have heated them through.

Lunch and Dinner

* Sandwiches
Sandwiches are always great for a trip. Use hoagie buns instead of regular sandwich bread. It makes them a little more special and they don’t crush as easily. Good old peanut butter is great for the kids. Pay just a few more pennies and get the peanut butter in the tube. No messy knives and it’s smaller than a jar. If you have spare packets of jelly from eating out, use those or buy jelly in the tube, too. If you put lettuce or tomato on your sandwiches, bag them separately and put them on just before you are ready to eat.

* Chicken or slices of ham
Fried chicken is always a good picnic stand by. See later tips on keeping it cold.

* Hot dogs
As with the little sausages, put the hot dogs in a thermos and cover with boiling water. They will be perfectly cooked when ready to eat. To me these are so much Easier than sandwiches and everyone loves them.

* Potato salad or pasta salad
Keep them in a small cooler.

* Chips, crackers and cheeses
Buy chips in the cans. Slice or cut cheeses into cubes before you leave. Cheese sticks are perfect.

* Baked beans
Once again, they keep great in a thermos.

* Fruits and veggies
Apples, Oranges (already peeled) and firmer fruits. Clean and bag carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, cauliflower or other vegetables.

* Cookies, brownies, quick breads and muffins These are the best desserts.

* Drinks
Of course pop works great, but I like to freeze bottles of lemonade. Lemonade seems more refreshing. You can also have juice or iced tea in bottles and coffee in a thermos for coffee drinkers. Be sure to freeze all your drinks to help keep your other foods cool in place of ice.

Don’t forget the water!

General Tips

* Kids usually whine and fuss for one of two reasons. They are hungry or tired. This is especially true on trips, so bring plenty of snacks and a pillow for everyone.

* If you have room, box each family member’s meal in his own box like the box lunches they give out at activities. This is really handy if you have to eat while driving. When finished eating, each person can put his empty wrappers in his own box for easy clean up.

* Be sure to bring those extra ketchup, mustard, salt, and pepper packets you get from fast food. Don’t forget the plastic knives, forks and spoons along with napkins and a paring knife. Make sure just about everything is disposable.

* If money is tight, you don’t have to have elaborate meals. I still fondly remember the trips when we stopped and bought a bag of chips, a loaf of bread, a package of bologna and cheese. We washed it down with an icy cold Pepsi and nothing tasted better.

* If you can, buy the gadget that you plug into the lighter plug in your car to heat water. It works well for instant coffee, oatmeal and hot chocolate.

In this day and age with so many convenience foods available, it isn’t hard to pack a lunch for the road. Even using those convenience foods, it is usually cheaper than buying food for the whole family at a fast food place.

Feeding a Family for $300 a month?

October 17, 2008 · Filed Under Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Feeding a Family for $300 a month? 

By Tawra Kellam

www.LivingOnADime.com

I do something that most people think they can’t do today. I feed my family of 5 for $300 a month. Most people say that’s an impossible feat, but what boggles minds even more is that I do it without using coupons.

How do I do it? First, I use what I have. If I don’t have milk in the house, I don’t make a special trip to the store for it. The kids won’t die from malnutrition if they miss drinking milk for a day or two. If I’m out of bread, I’ll make some cornbread or muffins. If I’m out of fresh veggies, I will use canned or frozen instead. Stop going to the store for one or two things. I shop for food 2-3 times a month and that’s it. You’d be amazed how much this saves on the cost of gas.

Shopping the clearance sections, I regularly find milk on clearance for $1.20 a gallon. My store marks the milk down a few days before the “sell by” date. The great part is that milk stays fresh for 1 week after it’s opened. I generally only buy the milk when it’s marked down and I buy enough to last until the next time I find a great deal on it. I throw several in the freezer and then I don’t have to make a special trip for milk (or pay the premium price). Just thaw, shake and serve.

Purchase meat only on sale or on clearance. Again, butchers mark down their meat a day or two before the “sell by” date. Generally, meat is good for 3-4 days after the “sell by” date in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.

I never buy meat unless it’s on sale for $1.99 or less a pound. If it’s not on sale, we don’t eat it. (Even so, we never have a shortage of meat in our house.) You can get some great unadvertised deals just by watching the meat counter’s clearance items. I found 5 lb. rolls of hamburger for $2.95 each just the other day. Of course, I stocked up and will have enough hamburger to last the next 6 months.

I can get “soup bones” with enough meat on them to make a great vegetable stew for under $2.00 for the entire family! Add some rolls and you have a complete meal for 5 for less than $3.00. When chicken is on sale for $1.66 per pound, I stock up. I do this with all my meats. This way we can always have a variety of meats.”

Another important tip: Ask. Most people are intimidated by asking, but I regularly ask when things will go on sale or be marked down. By asking, I’ve found out that bananas, milk and meat are marked down each morning. I try to shop in the mornings to get the best deals. When we lived in Texas, the stores marked things down in the evening, so we made it a point to go shopping in the evening. Adjust your shopping times to find the best deals.

Serve your family proper portions of food. Most parents give their kids way too much milk, juice and soda. My kids get soda on special occasions only. They eat milk with their cereal. For snacks, they eat a piece of string cheese, fruit or one or two cookies. The kids don’t sip on milk or juice all day long. They drink water and are just fine with it.

As a general rule, I try to give them one vegetable and one fruit for lunch and dinner and then a piece of fruit with cookies or cheese as a snack.* This way, they get their “five a day” in very easily. Stop letting kids just “graze” on chips and other snack food all day. My kids get one small “bowl” of chips (1/2 cup to 1 cup depending on the size of the chips) a day and that’s it.

So what do we eat? Here are some of our menus:

*Slow cooked roast,* brown gravy, onions, carrots, potatoes, buttermilk muffins and a fruit plate (The next day, the leftovers from the roast are used as barbecue beef along with potato salad, green beans and strawberries or grapes.)

*Pizza (homemade),* tossed salad and fruit
*Maple glazed chicken,* scalloped potatoes, glazed carrots,applesauce and dinner rolls
*Sloppy Joes,* cucumbers and tomatoes
*Tacos,* refried beans, green beans, sliced apples and tortilla chips w/ honey

With savvy shopping, you to can cut your grocery bill even when prices are going up!

Too Many Oranges?

October 16, 2008 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Too Many Oranges? 

by Tawra Kellam

http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

It’s that time of year. You found a really good deal on oranges but you purchased a few more than you can eat. Now what do you do with them. Here are a few suggestions from www.LivingOnADime.com to get you started.

1. Make juice out of the oranges and then use the peels for Candied Orange Peels.

2. Use the leftover syrup from Candied Orange Peels on pancakes or French Toast. The syrup can also be used to make popsicles.

3. Wash peels thoroughly. Grate the peel before using and freeze the zest for later use.

4. Cut up orange segments and use as a garnish for salads. Use in fruit salad or sliced as a side dish.

5. Cut up slices and use a garnish for meat or relish dishes.

6. Cut up peels. In a saucepan add peels, 1 cinnamon stick, a few cloves and fill to the top with water. Simmer for a nice potpourri or dry peels and use in dry potpourri.

*Easy Orange Marmalade*

1 orange*
1 Tbsp. water
½ cup sugar

Cut the un-peeled orange and place into a blender or food processor with the water. Pour mixture into a saucepan with the sugar and boil for 15 minutes.

*If a non-organic orange is used wash peels throughly before peeling.

*Candied Orange Peel*

Peels from 3 large oranges, grapefruits or lemons*
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
water

Cut the peel on each fruit into quarters. Pull the peel off in these quarter sections. Slice peel into ¼ inch-wide strips. In a saucepan add salt and cover with cold water. Boil 15 minutes, pour off water and add fresh water. Boil 20 minutes. Change water again and boil another 20 minutes. Drain and cover with 2 ½ cups sugar and 1 cup water. Simmer, stirring constantly, until all the syrup has boiled away. Do not let the peels scorch. Spread on wax paper. Roll peels in remaining sugar. Let dry. Store in an airtight container. Keeps one week or can be frozen.

*If non-organic fruit is used wash peels throughly before peeling.

Valentine’s Day On A Dime

October 16, 2008 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Holiday Ideas · Comments Off on Valentine’s Day On A Dime 

by Tawra Kellam

http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

Using a little imagination, you can make your Valentine’s day a little more fun and a lot less expensive. If you want to add a little personalized romance or if you don’t have the time or money to buy all the pre-made things in the store, here are some ideas from livingonadime.com to help you make the day special.

*For the Kids:* My mom always made a great but inexpensive Valentine’s Day treat for us. She would take construction paper and cut a big heart out of it. (About 8×10 inches) then she would staple the edges together and write our names and an I love you on the outside. Then she would fill the heart with candy, purchased on learance after Christmas. It was very inexpensive but we loved it!

Do a Valentine’s treasure hunt. Leave little notes around with the last one leading back to the kitchen table with heart full of candy.

For Lunches: Make heart shaped Valentine’s cookies, cut the kids (or hubby’s) sandwiches with a heart shaped cookie cutter to make a heart sandwich. Add a few Valentine’s chocolates and put a note in red with a big heart on their napkin.

Serve anything red for the day. Serve red Jell-o, red pudding, red apples, toast with strawberry jelly, tomato soup, red applesauce, red Kool-aid, strawberry milk, or red frosted cookies. Use powered food coloring from the cake store to get the deepest shade of red. Leave sticks of red gum in their Valentine’s Day cards.

Make red heart shaped cupcakes. Make cupcakes as usual but place a marble down the side of the muffin tin between the muffin tin and each cupcake cup. This will make heart shaped cupcakes.

Make hearts out of chocolate chips in each of your pancakes.

Mail your pre-addressed and stamped Valentines to Loveland, Colorado and they will postmark them and mail them for you. Send them to: Postmaster, Attn: Valentines, Loveland, CO 80537

Make a treasure hunt for your spouse. Start by mailing or e-mailing him the first clue. Then leave clues all over the house, yard, car or his office telling him where to find the next clue. End the hunt by making a picnic in the back yard or going to a park for a picnic. Use your imagination and have fun. The simple things are the ones people remember.

*Things to do with or for your honey:*

Go to a bookstore and enjoy the silence and browse. Get a cup of coffee and make a date of it.

Celebrate Valentine’s day AFTER Valentine’s day. Everything is half off.

Mail a love letter to your hubby’s work.

Send your spouse a sexy email message.

Leave “Why I love you” message all over the house. Buy a package of the cheap Valentines. Leave a message on each one and hide them all over the house for your honey. They will get to enjoy the gift for months!

Use lipstick to make hearts and love notes on the rear view mirror, car windows, bathroom mirror or windows of the house. Leave a kiss on his napkin for lunch or dinner.

Make a bunch of hearts out of construction paper. Put a love note on each one. Paste them all over the front door or car before your hubby or kids come home from work.

If you don’t have money to go out, have a picnic on the floor. Use some candles and lay a soft blanket on the floor. Put on some soft music and have a romantic Valentine’s dinner on the floor. Use some white Christmas lights for additional romantic lighting!

Stop Eating Your Way Into Debt!

October 16, 2008 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Stop Eating Your Way Into Debt! 

by Jill Cooper
http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

At this time of year, there are usually 3 things people are panicking about: how to lose weight, how to save money, and how to get organized. We have already touched on losing weight so this week I would like to touch on saving money.

Hopefully most of you realize that you can get into deep debt if you buy a house or a car you can’t afford. That seems to be pretty obvious, although a lot of people do it anyway. But that is not what I want to deal with today. The Bible talks about the little foxes that spoil the vine. What that is talking about is the little things that sneak into our lives without us realizing it. They start picking away at the vines in our lives until it destroys us. One of those “little foxes” is eating out.

Eating out is among the of the top causes of personal debt. Most of us hunt for the best interest rates on our mortgages and we complain about the awful price of gas the whole time we are pumping it.

Interestingly enough though, I have yet to hear one person groan about the awful prices they had to pay for lunch today or tell how they were “duped” into having to pay such high prices at their favorite restaurant. I mean really, the government should step in and make all restaurants take steak off of their menus so I won’t be tempted to order it. Of course then there are those fast food places. They shouldn’t be allowed to build so close to the road and make it so convenient for me to drive in there each day. They have a lot of nerve expecting me to be a responsible adult who knows what I can or can’t afford and should or shouldn’t do.

Tut, tut. I had better behave or I will have to fire myself. HA! HA! But I do feel so much better for getting that off of my chest.

Anyway where was I? Oh, yes — saving money and eating out. I know most of the excuses we use to justify eating out when it doesn’t really fit in the budget: “I don’t have time”, “I’m too busy”, “I don’t know how to cook”, and last but not least, “it’s so much easier to eat out”.

I totally understand. I too don’t have time to do things. I don’t have time to take care of my yard, so I will hire a crew of gardeners to do it. I too don’t have time to clean my house so I will have a housekeeper come in every day and do it for me. I don’t know how to cook so I need a chef (the best French one, of course) and it is so much easier to hit my garage sales if I am chauffeur driven.

Obviously my examples are tongue in cheek but, as ridiculous as that all sounds, that really is what a lot of us are doing. In the same way that I can’t afford a gardener, housekeeper or chauffeur and I would be pretty foolish to go hire them, many of us can’t afford to go out to eat but do it anyway. I don’t think most people really realize how much they spend eating out each month and would be shocked to find that they could probably hire a housekeeper or a gardener for that same amount.

Take one week and write down how much you spend eating out. That includes all those coffees, soft drinks, things from the vending machines and snacks you buy throughout the day. Be sure to write down the amount of anything that goes into you and your family’s mouths for an average week. I’m afraid you may be unpleasantly surprised. Multiply it by 4 to get a monthly estimate and I think you would be just plain shocked.

I’m beginning to wonder if another reason we eat out so much is that it has just become a habit. Like many bad habits, we get so comfortable with them that we don’t want to change them. Even when we know that a habit is destructive to us (physically, financially and even emotionally), we still do it.

Some of us look down our noses at other people with “bad habits” like drug addicts and alcoholics and can’t understand why they don’t just kick their habits. “Don’t they see what they are doing to their families????”

What is the difference between other people’s destructive habits and our repeatedly going out to eat and charging it? We know the food isn’t as good for our families, we know we don’t have the money to pay for it, and we know on bill paying day we will be so stressed that we will take it out on everyone around us. We so proudly display our bumper stickers that say “Say no to drugs.” but how many of us could proudly display a bumper sticker that says “Say no to debt, I’m debt free”.

(Please do not e-mail me about drug addicts and alcoholics. If you do, you are missing the point of the article and are only making it more clear to me that you are not willing to own up to or face the real issue –your debt.)

I know those words may sound harsh to some, but if you have seen and dealt with as many families as I have, whose homes have been or are being destroyed because of financial irresponsibility, you would understand why I can’t always sugar coat things. We sink into a fog of apathy, hopelessness and discouragement and just give up trying. I really want you to understand you can fix your finances, but it will take a little bit of work and effort on your part. Don’t just throw up your hands and give up.

There is a story in the Bible (John 5) that tells about a man who couldn’t walk. He had laid by a healing pool for 38 years. If he could dip in the pool when the water stirred, he would be healed. Jesus asks him what he is doing there and he says “Well, I just don’t have anyone who will carry me and put me in the pool” (Poor little old me.) Jesus then asks him, “Do you really want to get healed?” This might seem to us a strange question but, as I once heard a woman speaker point out, if he really wanted to get healed wouldn’t he have tried some way to inch his way over to that pool even if he could only make it a half an inch a day no matter how hard it was?

Maybe Jesus asked this question because He too thought here was is a man, like so many do these days, making excuses, being a victim and waiting for someone else to fix his problem for him. What did Jesus tell him to do? GET UP! (stand on your own two feet), TAKE UP YOUR BED (start being responsible for your own things), and WALK (become active in solving your own problems which may mean physical labor, or doing without somethings).

You need to be like the lame man and GET UP, TAKE UP YOUR BED and WALK. If you know you are going out to eat too much then stop saying you’re a victim of these “hard economic times”. Be responsible for the “bed” (or the debts that you have now) and actively start doing something about it today. It isn’t as hard as you think. I can take every excuse for eating out that I mentioned above and prove that they’re not really valid.

“I don’t have time.” For the amount of time it takes you to drive to some place, wait for them to take your order and then wait for them to prepare your order, I can give you 10 menus or more that would take less time for you to fix at home.

“I’m too busy.” If you are too busy to take time to feed your family, something that is a necessity of life, then you are too busy. I have very rarely heard anyone say that they are too busy to get their hair done, go shopping, go to sports activities, talk on the phone or spend time on the computer. You really can find the time.

If I sound like I don’t have patience with that excuse, it’s because I don’t. I was a single mom with 2 teens, working 60 -70 hours a week, doing all my own yard work, home repairs, and on and on and guess what? Except when I was ill, I always found time to make breakfast and dinner.

“I don’t know how to cook.” So learn. Start simple. Even my 9 year old grandson could boil himself a hot dog. You don’t have to produce a gourmet meal to make your family happy and, in most cases, they would prefer you didn’t. There are simple enough instructions on the back of a package of spaghetti noodles that, once again, even a child can read and do. Warm up a jar of sauce and dinner is served. You now have 2 main dishes that take less than 10 minutes to prepare.

I understand that man can’t live on hot dogs alone (although I think kids can), but don’t worry — after a week or two of simple dishes, you can move on to more complicated things like frozen French fries and frying hamburgers 😉 Plus if you really get stuck, I just happen to know of this really good cookbook called Dining on A Dime that can help you. 😉

“It’s so much easier.” I guess that depends on your definition of easy. To me, going to a restaurant, sitting and listening to loud music for 30 minutes with fussy, hungry, complaining kids is not my idea of fun. Going to a drive-thru is, at times, not much better. Lately it seems as if the line of cars wraps around the whole building at every fast food joint that I drive by. I was amazed to see every restaurant’s parking lot jam packed two days after Christmas. (Must be that all those people who couldn’t afford Christmas had gotten a wind fall.) Sorry, once again I digress.

You may say “The restaurant where I go isn’t that bad.” but my point is that everything has it’s drawbacks whether you stay at home to eat or go out to eat. It’s just a matter of what you make up your mind to put up with. Do you want the pain of cooking or the pain of not knowing how to pay your bills.

If you are in debt, it would be wise to start putting up with a few of the drawbacks that come with eating at home. Besides, if you are really serious about saving money, there are ways to make cooking at home much easier.

You can use convenience foods. There is nothing wrong with buying things like French bread, canned biscuits or bagged salad. Line the pans you use with foil, or use disposable pans. It’s cheaper in the long run to use these than going out to eat.

Clean up as you cook. This is very important because I notice a lot of people make a bigger mess than necessary when they cook.

Instead of messing up the whole stove by repeatedly laying a sticky spoon on it, use a spoon holder or cup. It is a simple thing that makes clean up so much easier.

Keep some hot soapy water in the sink while you are cooking and wash things as you finish with them.

Don’t set that carton of milk down on the counter after you pour it. While it is still in your hand put it back in the fridge.

Keep the amount of utensils you use to a minimum. You don’t need to put a lid on a pot every time you cook something.

Don’t always think gourmet. Most families are so excited to get a homemade meal that they don’t care what you serve them. Besides, almost any meal can be made to look “gourmet”. Fruit sliced and arranged nicely on a plate, muffins keeping warm and nestled in a napkin inside a basket or mashed potatoes mounded high with a chunk of golden butter melting down the sides all have eye appeal. All right — I made myself hungry! Maybe it’s time to quit for lunch.

Clean up is one of the main reasons people hate to eat at home, but if you clean as you go like I mentioned earlier and everyone pitches in to help clean up after dinner, it should only take about 15 minutes to get it all put away.* It would take longer than that to drive to a fast food
place and return home.

Pull out those crock pots. It takes about 5 minutes to throw in a roast, potatoes and carrots. It takes the same amount of time to throw in the ingredients for chili, stew or veggie soup.

If you are dragging the kids to an after school game: Instead of going to a fast food drive in, throw some hot dogs in a thermos and cover with boiling water. They will be cooked and ready to eat by the time you get there. How long does it really take to grab a few pieces of fruit, a bag of cleaned veggies and some chips to go with them? Maybe 2 minutes? How hard is that to cook?

You could also have sloppy joes simmering in a crock pot and pour those in the thermos for an on the run meal. To make it even easier, heat it up from a jar and then pour it in the thermos.

I don’t know who set the standard that cooking a meal in 30 minutes is fast. If I took that long to cook a meal every night I would never get anything done. There are tons of meals out there that require 15 minutes or less prep time.

If you don’t know where to start, then drag out our cookbook or go to our website. We have lots of ideas there to get you started. Sometimes we like to make things more complicated than they really are because that gives us a good excuse not to do them. Where there is a will there is a way.

Do you really want to get out of debt? Then GET UP, STOP CHARGING, and GET COOKING!

Foot Soak Recipe

October 14, 2008 · Filed Under Cheap Beauty Tips · Comments Off on Foot Soak Recipe 

As Moms, we know the meaning of stress! And, we know the meaning of frugality. Take care of yourself with these recipes for foot soaks you can make from home.

Home Lemon Foot Mask

Ingredients:
1 tbsp vodka
1 egg
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 drop lemon essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well.
Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Soak your feet in the mixture for
about 15 minutes.
Massage the Mask into your feet if you’d like.
Rinse with plenty of warm water.

Take some time to pamper yourself. You can find more homemade spa recipes here.

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