Monday, February 29, 2016

A Day At The Barn

It was Echo's turn to play.
Preacher my other horse, the chestnut quarter horse, has been getting ridden more lately.  
So Saturday it was Echo's turn.
Echo is part paint, part draft.
Sort of like a big kid.
He just turned 10 yrs. old, or is it 11?
He's gentle and kind and sometimes doesn't know his own size.

He's a comfortable ride because he's wide.  Part of the draft in him.

He, like all my animals I guess, loves treats.  (You know . . . a foodie!)
He's looking for treats in my pocket!
And begging!!

He ran around and kicked up his heels a few times.

He finally did go over a line of poles on the ground but mostly he avoided them.  You see, Echo is scared of ground poles.  (long story)

He finally touched the pole to find the carrot.

He almost knows how to bow.

Michele walked him out after his afternoon of running around.

A fun afternoon.


Ways I Saved

I'm keeping a little list of small ways I am trying to save money each week.
This is last week's list.

•Instead of buying books or audio books, I use the library
I got 3 new audio books this past week to listen to in the car.

•Made a week's menu and only used things I had from the pantry and freezer.
This kept me from having to shop.

•Using whole milk in my coffee instead of buying half n half.

•My chickens gave me 3 eggs and are starting to lay better as spring and longer days approach.

•Collecting all my food scrapes for my chickens or the compost pile.

•Using up one cake mix and frosting to make a cake to take to the barn.
(well half of it anyway : ))

•Used my Starbucks gift card to stop for "free" coffee and lunch one day.

•Darned a pair of socks and fixed my down jacket zipper.

Share the ways you all save every week.


The Things I Learned the Past Week

I learn (or sometimes re-learn) new things every week.  So I decided I'd try and have a short little weekly blog post about just that!

Here's the past week's light bulb moments.

•  Freeze left-overs in single size containers!
Most everything in my freezers are in large containers so that when I thaw them out I have to eat what-ever it is for multiple days that week!

•  Don't try to mix up a cake mix with your hand-held mixer!
It  isn't quite strong enough and requires the big one!
(I found that out yesterday.)

•  I don't really need half n half for my coffee.
Whole milk (not 2%) is just as good and will save me from buying cream.

•  I need an indoor "mouser" cat (or two).
I've noticed increasing little noises here and there since my last one is gone.

That's it for last week.
I'll start my new list for this week  : ))



Friday, February 26, 2016

Saving Money With Meal Planning

For years, I've heard that meal planning saves money, however, I always thought it was a silly idea since I no longer had a family to cook for.
It's just me.
Why would I have to plan?
I just sort of cooked on the spare of the moment.   I would see recipes, especially on Pinterest that would look wonderful and I ran right to the grocery store.
I made a small list just for those few things on that one recipe.
Good start right?
But I not only bought for that dinner, I also wandered around and collected whatever else I had thought I had seen on Pinterest.
Of course, many times that food would go onto the pantry or into the freezer and I'd forget why I bought them.
Oh yes, and I used to coupon.
Only I used the coupons to save the money printed on them, whether I really needed those things or not.
(I still have about a dozen bottles of dish detergent that were really good prices!)
I have a dishwasher!!
So they are on a shelf in the cellar.

OK, I'm really excited about trying the menu planning thing.
I've taken stock of my pantry and freezers and made out the menus for the rest of this week and am working on next week.
My plan is to only use what I already have since my grocery envelope is almost empty for this month.
So far so good.
It should be fairly easy as I have many containers of things like left over chile, spaghetti sauce and chicken soup in the freezer downstairs.
That's another story.  I've never learned to really just cook for one.
So I'm always cooking recipes for 4-6 plus I don't eat as big a helping as I used to when I was younger.
Hence, all those leftovers!!
I printed out a couple different menu plan templates from Pinterest to try and see which one suits me the best.

Any suggestions from you experienced meal planners about any of this??  Please leave them in the comment box!

OH . . . . .
Dottie, left me an egg this morning!
See, if you keep chickens you'll never go hungry . . . at least when they're laying good!


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trying To Eat Healthy On A Tight Budget

I have really committed myself to eating healthier.
I wish I had done this years ago but I can only deal with the here and now.
I am trying to deal with over spending on my budget.
I mean, my expenses seem to be more than my basic every month income.
However, I can't just toss the food that I already have in my pantry and freezer!
Here's just a fraction of what I mean!

I am buying all organic fruits and vegetables (perishables) that are on the "dirty dozen plus" list, but what about all the canned and boxed things in my pantry and my freezer?

I can't afford to throw it away and start fresh.
So . . .
I'll try and just cook from what I have and when I need new, I will buy much healthier.  
That will prove to be some interesting meals!
*I'll put some links to the "Dirty Dozen Plus" and the "Clean 15" at the bottom of this post.
(It is referring to what fruits and vegetables have the most pesticides sprayed on them.) 

Now, my menu planning venture.
I have downloaded some menu planning templates I can use but I will have to go stand in my pantry and sort though my frozen foods in my freezers to make out the menus.
(There's loads of menu planning things on Pinterest.)
I want to make the menus from what I have and not have to go shopping.  That will save me money till the end of the month.  (Because my grocery envelope is about empty!)

It's going to require some thought and some undisturbed quiet time!
My brain doesn't work as well as it used to!

Any ideas about any of the above would be deeply appreciated!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Saving $$$ Things That Work, Things That Don't.

Yesterday I posted about my written budget.
I listed the categories that I use.
You have to personalize your budget to your own lifestyle.
My biggest expenses are my equity loan payment and my horse's board.
I can't do much about either one of those.
I don't have a house payment.
The things I could think about changing are these:
I could get rid of my land phone which I think I will do.
My cable is my mobile phone and my computer service also so I can't get rid of cable.
My TV is satellite. 
I have very minimum basic so I don't want to get rid of TV altogether if I don't have to.
I cannot get rid of my lawn care or snow plowing because I can't do those myself.
My handyman is also a necessity now as he does things or helps me do things around outside in the summer that I cannot do myself.

I can possibly get rid of my cleaning service.  I only have them come once a month mostly to clean my hardwood floors.  But I could cut that if necessary, which would save about $80./mo.
I was getting a massage twice a month and foot reflexology every week but I have cut those for the past 2 months which is a savings of $177./mo.
I decided not to buy or lease a new car so I am keeping my 2003 Honda.
So I have no car payment.
Maintenance has been minimal so far.
I don't drive far so gas is also minimal even when the price was higher.
As I've gotten older, especially the last couple years, my medical expenses have been higher.
I have good coverage and drug coverage but there's still things that you have to pay out yourself.
I have upped the deductible on all my insurances.
I have unsubscribed to all magazines and newspaper.
I have no automatic payments going out to charities anymore.
I will always have vet bills because I will always have pets!
Unfortunately, I am still over budget every month!
A lot of it is from those expenses that come once or twice a year that I haven't set aside a fund for.
I have to figure out how to do that.
I think I will try to call my utility, cable and satellite companies and try to get my fees reduced.  
I heard you should try that!
I also know I can get my grocery bill for the month down.
That's something I can work on right now.
Cook at home.  Don't eat out.
When possible use what you already have in your freezer and pantry.  
Be creative.
Menu plan and buy only things from the list you take to the store.
Don't ever forget your list and try to wing it!
Don't shop when you're hungry.

If you have Aldi, shop there!  
It's amazing how much less you'll pay and their brands are just as good.
Buy fruits and vegetables in season.
Don't scrimp on quality.
I buy organic when possible and I won't stop that.  So look for sales and the best prices elsewhere if Aldi doesn't have it.
Go meatless at least twice a week.
These are the things I know will work.

The thing I am having trouble with is my willingness to give up some things 
how I am distributing the money in my envelopes at the beginning of the month.
I don't think the answer is robbing from other envelopes to buy groceries I want.
The answer has to be to reduce the money in the other envelopes because obviously I've put too much in them!
How will I do that????
The first thing I am trying is menu planning.
I'll let you know how that goes.
if any of you have any ideas about any of this, please leave me a comment!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My attempt at Saving Money; The Written Budget

You have to have a budget!!
A written down, black and white budget.
It took me until last year to actually come to this conclusion!
It makes you accountable.
I think that's the biggest thing!
And also, it is what showed me that I was spending way more than my monthly income!
When I finally woke up to that fact, I sent for Dave Ramsey's book, "Total Money Makeover" to help!

I had been listening to his program on the radio and online for a few months and knew I had to get rid of my credit card debt first.
Credit cards!!!
No wonder I didn't realize what I was spending.
Using credit cards doesn't seem like you're really spending your cash!
As far as my monthly income goes;
I'm not counting my savings and what is in the stock market.  My monthly income is just that.
Social security, my pension, my husband's partial pension (which was quite a bit larger when he was alive of course,) plus another benefit from my husband's police and fire group.  The biggest amount comes from interest on a note I'm holding from selling our FL house.
I had to decide what categories that I should have listed on my budget.

Here are my categories for Expenses:
Emergency Fund
Housing, which includes:  heat, electricity, phones, cable/satellite, lawncare/winter plowing,
                 house cleaning, plumber, garden, handyman
Transportation:  (all things car)
Food:  groceries and restaurant
Lifestyle:  personal, misc., pets, vet, horse board
Insurance and taxes

Yes, Housing is the big category and adds up to be the most money,
but groceries is the second and I think that's the one I can do much better at.

Here are some things to consider:
#1.  I'm 73 and can't do as much as I used to do so I have to have some help.
So that is the reason for house cleaning once a month, handyman, lawn care and snowplowing.
#2.  It is a lot more expensive to live in the country.

So let me know what you think about my budget.
And tomorrow we'll start on ways I'm working to cut my expenses.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Can I Live On My Small Fixed Income?

I must say, that I have never been one to be frugal at anything, especially when it came to spending.  Not that I bought really expensive things at all but when my husband was alive, I just never thought about money!!
In fact, I must have been in that mind-set even when I was young.  I remember my father always telling me "that I thought I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth!"

It really wasn't till recently, when of course, I knew the stock market wasn't doing too well, that I thought possibly I should pay attention to what I had and how it was doing!
Hence, deciding to put myself on an actual written down budget.
Up to that point, I never did have a budget!!
Well, I had a rude awakening.
A wide-eyed moment!
Not the good kind.
I discovered that I was spending more than was coming in!
Every Month!!
That is the first "no-no" of living without going broke!
Kind of scary!!!
I started listening to Dave Ramsey about getting rid of my debt I had on credit cards and using only cash for the things I needed.
I bought his book, "The Total Money Makeover"
(Recommended by the way!)
I took the credit cards out of my purse and put them away.
I successfully got rid of my credit card debt and only have the debt of an equity loan that I had taken out when I redid my kitchen and a couple other rooms in my old house.
I use an online budget tracker called "EveryDollar" that Dave Ramsey recommended.  
(That's when I found out I had a spending problem.)
Or rather a money management problem.
So now, at the first of the month, I take a certain amount from the bank and distribute it into the envelope system that I carry with me to be my spending money for the month.
Of course, first I had to work out a budget and budget categories and figure out what I could spend.
I'm still working on that somewhat to tweak it so it works better.
Because I still am not being FRUGAL enough!!!!
I have to do more.
So that is what these next few posts will be about.
Me finding ways to cut my budget still further.
Things that work for me and things that don't.
I am trying to develop a frugal mindset that will work for me without sacrificing my quality of life.
I don't want to have to stress over money!!
In my next few posts, I'll discuss the things I am trying that are working and some things that haven't worked for me.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Spirit, Truly a Spirit Now.


She was my first female dog.
I've always had male dogs, at least since I've been an adult.
I don't know why.
I've had labs before the pointers and they were neutered males too.
Spirit was very "girly".
Such a gentle little lady.
Dexter liked her too, but after she was here a few months, I could tell that she became the dominant dog.
Dexter would definitely let her have her way if there was a difference in opinion.
No growling, no snarling, just a look. 
Spirit was a gentle, pure soul.
She went to Heaven this past Tuesday.
I thought I was prepared because she had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer 4 months ago and the chemo and other treatments didn't do anything to slow it down.
I thought I was more prepared to make that horrible decision when she began to feel badly and began to lose all the weight.
   I thought . . . . 
But I was wrong.

She went off into Heaven so peacefully.
I can only believe that she is now pain free and can run and play and breathe easily.
Mommy will see you again "little girl".
I know you'll be waiting with Rocky and Monk.
I love you.

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