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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Little Ms Do-It-Yourself

For me the worst part of the whole broke and desperate scenario has always been the "what if" question. What if my car breaks down and I can't afford to take it to the shop? What if the washer stops working and I can't afford to call the repair man? What if my son gets a hole in his tennis shoes and I can't afford to replace them? These are scary thoughts and if you don't have an answer they can be down right terrifying!

A long time ago (way before the broke and desperate scenario) I decided I didn't like the feeling of being helpless and at the mercy of either some overpriced repairman or the inflated retail establishments. I figured if it was broken already, and I was careful, I might as well try to fix it first, right? I have been known in years past to take apart vacuum cleaners, laptop computers, toasters, ect. And the truth is the only one of all these things I was not able to fix was the toaster. I was not always sure what it was I did that actually fixed them, but I was grateful and delighted that they once again worked.

The other day I was once again faced with a "what if" situation come to life. The power window on the drivers side of my car stopped working, then a couple of days later the power locks and my alarm system and remote stopped as well. This is not a catastrophic event, I realize this. But it is inconvenient and could be an indicator of a larger problem.

After the initial panic subsided I summoned forth "Little Ms. Do-It-Yourself". This is my alter ego that hangs out in my subconscious until she is asked to come out and play, then happily trots out to explore what ever problem I am facing. My first thought was it had to be fuses. When I couldn't locate the fuse box because it wasn't where I expected it to be (under the driver side dashboard), I consulted my owners manual and was informed it was under the hood in my engine compartment in a locked case. Okaaayyyy. It took me a half an hour to wrestle that box open only to find I have 82 fuses. EIGHTY TWO!!!!! Ok, deep breaths, consult the manual, find the diagram, realize the diagram is actually of the box upside down that I am looking at, identify the right fuses, pull them out and.... crap. The fuses are fine. Now what? My son's comment was "don't worry mom, we will take it in have it looked at". NO. This shall not defeat me. I decided to go searching for answers. After 15 minutes of searching on Google and phrasing my question six different ways, I stumbled on a forum dedicated to my vehicles model. Evidently my problem is relatively common for my car make/year and others have gone searching for the same solution. Lucky for me they have posted both question and several solutions.

I am the first to admit I am not a mechanic. I am a 46 yr old soccer mom who specializes in arts and crafts. But I have always have a fascination for cars and love getting greasy in the pursuit of how things work. That being said, I was pretty skeptical about the solutions posted. Of course the first one was to replace the fuses. Check. The second was so far fetched I had to reread it 3 times to make sure I was understanding it correctly. Here is what it said:

"Remove both battery cables from the terminals, tap them together a couple of times, leave off for at least 5 minutes then reattach the cables to the terminals, making sure to clean the posts of any corrosion."

Really? Should I do a little "electrical system" dance and tap my heels together 3 times as well? Ok, enough of the sarcasm, but you get the idea. I had a little disbelief going on here, but what the heck. Of course the first time I tried it it didn't work. After laughing my butt off at myself that I had actually went through the little process with any thought that it COULD work I realised I had skipped one part. I didn't wait the 5 minutes before reconnecting the cables. So I did it again, waited 10 minutes (just in case) and reconnected the cables. It worked. I couldn't believe it. The logical part of my brain knows it probably has something to do with resetting some electrical power module thingy, but the fanciful part of my brain just said YIPEEEEE!

What is the point of this whole commentary? The point is this. Before we let the panic and despair of the whole situation pull us further under we can look for do-it-yourself solutions. It may not be as easy as picking up the phone and saying "come fix this", or as quick as just running and buying another one, but it is doable. When you feel you are out of options and facing a real dilemma, change your mindset.

Try to calm the panic and evaluate the problem. If the vacuum cleaner is not sucking pull off the hose and check for clogs. Not the problem? Is the brush thing spinning? Look for answers on the Internet, call and ask everyone you know, take the thing apart and look for loose wires, clogs, blown fuses, ect. Don't be afraid to try and fix it yourself first. If you still can't figure it out and can't afford to fix/replace it look for alternatives. Can you live without the window rolling down? Could you borrow a vacuum from your neighbor a couple of times until you can come up with a solution? Could you ask a good friend if you can run a couple of loads of laundry at her place while you sit and have coffee (and some Banana Nut bread you baked and brought with you)? Then, after you have bought a little time look for ways you can divert funds from other areas to cover this expense, keep asking to see if anyone knows of a inexpensive alternative or if anyone knows someone qualified to fix the thing who will work with you. If you put the word out you might even find someone who has an "extra" of whatever it is and is willing to give it to you or work out a fair deal.

If we change our mindset to "I can and will find a solution" instead of throwing our hands in the air and wailing about the injustice of the universe we can find a way to overcome any obstacle life throws in our way.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Dollar Store Dilemma

For years I always considered the dollar store (insert whatever dollar store is closest to you) an occasional stop for things like gift bags, Christmas bows and candy before we went to the movies. Over the last year I have discovered it is so much more and can be a regular weapon in my frugal fight on high consumer prices and my grocery bill.

I have recently started casually introducing the topic of shopping at the dollar store into conversations with my friends to get an idea of the typical attitude. Almost overwhelmingly the consensus was the same. "Great for wrapping paper, cards or party favors, but I would never buy food there!"

The "Dollar Tree" is the local store chain in my area (the west coast). I don't know if they are typical of most dollar store chains. Maybe someone out there can comment on others because I am not likely to travel the country and check this out for myself. That being said, I have been amazed at the plethora of good quality food products I have found.

My conversion was actually purely by accident. I was there looking for a plastic soap dish with a suction cup to stick on the wall of my tiny master bath shower and noticed an end cap display of Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce. This same spaghetti sauce will occasionally go on special for $.99 ea, usually with a coupon, at the grocery store. But this is sporadic at best. The Dollar Tree had three different flavors and when I asked the clerk she said this is a regular stocked item. Huh. I thought maybe I should see what else they "regularly" stock.

 I have to admit that when I perused the shelves of the food isles I saw a very mixed bag of brands, a lot I had never heard of and a few "name brands". The reality is there are very few food items I am a die hard name brand shopper. Do I have my preferences? Of course. I love Coffemate Italian Sweet Cream coffee creamer, but at $3.69 ea, unless it is on special and I have a coupon, I buy Lucerne Italian Sweet Cream which regularly goes on sale here for $2.49, and if I have a coupon, WooooHooooo! It tastes almost as creamy/sweet and I am still satisfied. So if I am willing to try a new brand at the grocery store, why not the dollar store? I started small. They had 2 lb packages of Allegro spaghetti noodles, the Hunt's spaghetti sauce (I bought 2) and 3 count packs of Cup-O-Noodles (these are $.53for 1 on sale at my local grocery store). Total of $4.00. I went home that night and made a big pot of spaghetti for my son and his 2 friends (and 18 yr old boys can eat A LOT) using the noodles, spaghetti sauce and one package of ground turkey I picked up on a big time special at 2/$5.00. It was delicious and there was more than enough to feed the four of us for $5.50.

Before I go any further I want to comment on prepacked foods vs scratch for all the black belt tightwad frugalnistas out there cringing at prepackaged spaghetti sauce. Please see the paragraph at the bottom of this post for my opinion.

Back to the dollar store. After the success of the spaghetti and Cup-O-Noodles, which are a cheap staple in the cupboard for snacks for my son and friends, I was hooked. I went back with a notepad, $20.00 and an open mind. This is what I came home with:

2 2lb pkg spaghetti noodles (off brand)
2 cans Hunt's spaghetti sauce
1 pkg egg noodles (I use these in homemade soup and beef stroganoff, a staple in my house, off brand)
1 package burrito size flour tortillas (8ct, off brand)
1 tall glass jar of minced garlic (off brand)
1 canister of granulated garlic (off brand)
1 canister of onion powder (off brand)
1 canister of season salt (off brand)
1 box of 3 pkg brown gravy mix (used to thicken/flavor soup and beef stroganoff)
1 box cherry poptart like pastry (off brand)
1 can chili (for chili baked potatoes and snacks, off brand)
1 family size box shells and cheese (off brand)
1 box Kraft mac n cheese
2 packages Bar-S classic hot dogs (I use these for dog treats, more on that later)
1 small jar green olives (I like to put out a tray of little foods for company, off brand)
1 bag garlic bagel chips (name brand but it escapes me right now)

Of all that I bought only the green olives, shells and cheese, poptart like pastry and bagel chips are things I normally wouldn't buy because they are way too expensive at the grocery store. Everything else I buy on sale/coupons regularly, but almost never for $1.00.

I am happy to report that the only thing we didn't like was the shells and cheese. Everything else was tasty, fresh and good quality. I have since tried many other food products from Dollar Tree. They have an entire aisle of snack foods. Chips, cookies, candy, etc. When I have a craving for kettle chips (one of my secret obsessions) I stop at the dollar store. The bag isn't as big but they are just as tasty as "Tim's" kettle chips at $3.49 and are only $1.00. I don't need the larger bag. The strawberry fig newton like cookies are yummy. I have bought a large Gatorade (in the cooler) when we head out to school to go with my sons packed lunch. They have an interesting and varied refrigerated/frozen food section. The selection varies widely, week to week, but they always have certain regularly stocked items.

Now after I make out my grocery list using the weekly flyers and coupons on hand I stop at the dollar store to see if they have what I need first. It's not a good place to find staples like flour, sugar, eggs, milk etc, though they do carry those things, and in a pinch if you only need a couple of eggs to get you through $1.00 for 6 is better then buying a whole dozen for $2.29. Especially when you know eggs will be on sale with that coupon for $.99 a dzn in 2 days. But it is definitely one of my best weapons in my arsenal for saving money and still having the life we are comfortable with. If you haven't given it a shot, check out your local dollar store with an open mind and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

I cook most meals from scratch. I prefer fresh vegetables, meat bbq'd (year round) and scratch made potatoes, pasta or rice. But there is a place for "semi homemade" in my household as well. Sometimes meals are a combination of the two. I have limited space (1000 sq ft 3 bd, 2 bth), limited time and limited resources available. Though I live in a small town and am surrounded by farms and ranches ,what we grow in this area is limited because of our climate. Tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower etc is expensive. I also have a black thumb and plants of any kind start screaming when they see me coming. It is not feasible either space, time or money wise to can my own spaghetti sauce. If I truly were a black belt in the area of frugality I would never buy prepackaged food of any kind. I sadly am not. What I am is a freshman frugalnista doing her best to create a quality life that is still comfortable for my family and does not leave me stressed and exhausted at the end of each day. I admit to having a mix of prepackaged as well as staples in my pantry cupboards and fridge/freezer. Some "convenience" foods also regularly find their way into my house if I can find them cheaply enough. Enough said.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Active or Passive

I was reading an article in my ever present Tightwad Gazette last night about active and passive tightwaddery, and I realized I had never really thought about frugality from this perspective.

What is boils down to is this: the things we actually do to save money, conserve resources and frugally increase quality of life for our families are active tightwaddery. The things we don't do that save money, preserve resources or protect the quality of life for our families are passive tightwaddery.

Let me give you a couple of examples. My son loves those frozen bean and cheese burritos. I don't get it but they are one of his favorite go to foods when he gets hungry and needs something now. But the cheapest I have ever been able to find them are $.89 ea for the small ones or $1.00 for the larger ones. He will eat two at a time, sometimes several times a day! So I have developed a homemade substitute (I have included the recipe below) that he swears are waaayyyy better then the frozen kind and alot less expensive. I can buy burritos for $.89 ea or make them for $.49 ea. I make them. This is ACTIVE tightwaddery, something I am actually doing.

Other times when he gets out of classes and we are heading home he is also starving and will say something like "there is Carl's Jr, lets grab a burger, I'll buy". I will look at him and say "By the time you add fries and a drink, for the two of us it's $15.00. I can get you a lift ticket to Hoodoo for $15.00, is it worth it?". My son is an avid snowboarder and his favorite place to ride is Hoodoo resort. I have found a place online where I can get lift tickets on certain days for $15.99, instead of the normal $44.99.  My son will think about it for maybe 1/2 of a second, shake his head and we whiz by the Carl's Jr to home. I probably have something ready to make quickly for dinner already waiting. This is PASSIVE tightwaddery, something we are not doing (not stopping to eat out).

There are probably a lot more passive things we do that save a small amount on any given day then active things that save a large amount. But it's really more about the attitude and mindset for me. Each little thing I do, each decision I make is bringing me closer, or further away to the goals I have set. I am training myself to make the right choices, both active and passive automatically. The bonus in the last scenario is my son is also learning about choices and how they will effect his own quality of life.

One Frugal Thing: I made homemade burritos of course!

                Homemade Frozen Bean/Cheese Burrito Recipe (quick food for teenagers)

I take a can of refried beans (bought on sale for $.89, the cost of one small burrito), put it in a pan with a splash of salsa, a couple of drips of hot sauce and some garlic/onion seasoning powder, stir and heat. Then I take a package of tortillas (package of 8 cost $1.00 at the Dollar Tree) and put them on a plate with a damp paper towel or napkin over them and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. I take out my block of cheese (I have recently been able to find it regularly on special for $5.99 for 2lb) and use the fine shredder side of my grater to grate some up. I place an oblong shape blob of beans in the center of a tortilla, then place some shredded cheese along the top of the blob of beans (I make sure it is evenly distributed so there is cheese in every bite). Fold both of the sides of the tortilla in (this will be the sides (left and right) of the ends of the bean/cheese blob), fold the bottom edge of the tortilla up over the blob and folded-in tortilla sides and tuck down around top edge of beans. What you have now have should look like a fat tortilla envelope. I take the spoon I am using for beans and swipe a smear on the top of the burrito where I am going to fold the "flap" over the top to use as "glue". Fold the top flap of the tortilla over the bean smear and press closed. I can just fit 2 burritos in a regular sized zipper baggie (a box of 30 at Dollar Tree for (you guessed it!) a $1.00, and I wash these and reuse if they are not yucky and I haven't used them for meat). This recipe will make 7 burritos. I usually put one package of 2 in the fridge and 2 packages in the freezer. The last one he always eats as soon as I am done making them.

Here is the dollar breakdown:               
$0.89 (beans)
  1.00 (tortillas)                                Store bought 7 small burritos @ $.89 ea $  6.23
  1.50 (cheese, approx)                     Minus amount to home make                      3.39
--------                                                                                                               --------
$3.39                                                                                            Savings           $2.84  

This is alot of savings as far as I am concerned, plus I know there is no "junk" in these burritos. He just throws them on a plate and heats in micro.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gobble Gobble Redux

My household is small, by family standards. It is just my 18 yr old son, a menagerie of animals and myself. But at Thanksgiving I chose to cook a 13.5 lb turkey. I thought the process of selecting a turkey would be as simple as it has been in years past.

Every grocery store around had a special price on turkey and the prices were as low as $.39 a lb, such a deal! But in years past I had never paid attention to what I had to do to get the "special" price. You have to buy a minimum dollar amount of groceries. The more you spent the cheaper the turkey got. I have always cooked for a crowd because my house has always been where all the "orphans" came for holidays, and I love the feeling of sharing the occasion with all sorts of people. That being said, $100.00 spent on a huge feast to feed 20 people was not unusual. But this year I couldn't do it (spend $100 bucks, the invitation to orphans was still open). Not only did I not have a spare $100 dollars in the budget, I didn't need that much for the meal. Because I have been shopping carefully, stocking up on pantry items when on sale and buying less convenience foods I already had most of the basics for the meal.

I had asked my son what foods bring to mind Thanksgiving. What was important to him that be on the table for it to be a genuine holiday feast. This was what he came up with:

Green Bean Casserole
Mashed potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Cool Whip (this kills me, I am a real whipped cream person all the way)
Deviled Eggs
Olives/Pickles tray

Seems like a lot for just a couple of people, but hey, I asked. So I started doing an inventory of the cupboards and refer to determine what I already had. This is what was on hand:

Canned green beans (bought at a 2/1.00 sale a couple of weeks before)
Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup (bought that week on sale for $.89)
2 packages of french fried onions NOT French's (bought at the Dollar Tree earlier, $1 each, not quite as good as French's, but still good)
Potato's (always have these on hand)
Stuffing fixings (actual bread stuffing, chicken stock, ect)
Eggs (bought that week with a store coupon for $.99)
condiments to make deviled eggs
Olives (bought at the Dollar Tree earlier, then I saw them on sale for $.89 thanksgiving week)
Pickles (always have these in the refer)
Dark Caro Syrup (Don't know when I bought this, but there it was!)
Everything I needed to make pie crusts

I was shocked and I must admit pleasantly surprised to realize I had so much of the meal right in my cupboards.

My grocery list ended up looking like this:

Pumpkin Puree
Heavy Whipping Cream
and drinks

When I happily trotted off to the store to pick up my tiny list and my $.39 lb turkey I was shocked to find it was $1.79 a lb without the minimum purchase! Yikes! And that minimum purchase is BEFORE they ring up the turkey. Okay, I needed to regroup. I went back home, got online and did some research on all the stores it would be feasible for me to stop at in my normal travels that day. I ended up finding the turkey for $1.59 lb, and they had a $3.00 off coupon if it was over 12.5 lb and "fresh". Not exactly the deal of the century, but better than $1.79 lb. On the way there I stopped at another dollar discount store and found pumpkin puree. I ended up buying:

13.5 lb turkey for $18.47
 .5 lb pecans for $3.47
Heavy whipping cream $1.49
2 2ltr soda $1.76 ($.88 ea)
1 can pumpkin puree
total at grocery store= $25.89

Plus I figure about $10.00 for all the stuff I had already. So Thanksgiving dinner cost around $36.00. We ate leftovers for 3 days then it was time to be done with it.

We still had a lot of turkey left on the carcass so I cleaned off all the meat, and put it in a large pot to boil. When it was done I again cleaned off any extra meat while discarding the bones. I had several quarts of turkey broth and extra meat for turkey rice soup, enough meat to make turkey sandwiches for my son's lunch for several days, and made turkey noodles (with peas and corn mixed in) for lunch that day.

As much as I hated paying $1.59 lb for the turkey in the end I feel the whole process was a good investment. We had a lovely holiday and enough leftovers to feed us about a week. Not bad for $36.00 bucks, right?

One Frugal Thing I did today-

 I made my college age son lunch to take to classes instead of him buying fast food when he is STARVING after class. A turkey sandwich, homemade chocolate chip cookies, cheeto-like cheese puffs from the dollar store and a container of homemade potato salad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Frugal Thing

It occurred to me that changing your lifestyle is no easy undertaking. It is hard physically, mentally and emotionally. So I wanted to do something that would give me a little boost every day.

I decided to post one frugal thing I have done each day. In that way I can visually see that I am making a real effort to change my ways for the good of my life and family. When I am really struggling I can go back and look at the cumulative effect of all of those "one things" and realize I really am making a difference in my life.

Since I write this each day in the morning the "One Thing" will be from the day before. Here is mine from yesterday.

                                         One Frugal Thing 11/27/2012

In January of this year I moved my little family (18 yr old son, dogs, cat, reptiles and myself) from Southern California, a very warm climate, to Central Oregon, a four season climate. If you have spent any time in Central Oregon you realize very quickly that at least three of those four seasons can be cold (sometimes very cold). After several years in Cali we had become accustom to being comfortably warm all the time. Though I love all four seasons it is uncomfortable to change climates rapidly.

Heating costs are high everywhere. Both electricity and natural gas bills can eat rapidly into an already strained budget. I decided one area I could cut down on was the heating bill. I have generally kept my home at around 70 -71 degrees never really thinking about how it could fluctuate since my digital thermostat will automatically adjust accordingly. Last night I decided to drop my temp down to 66. This may not seem like a huge drop, but I figure baby steps, right? My son's room is naturally warm as he has reptiles with heat elements in their cages. I piled 2 extra blankets on my bed (I like the weight anyway) and brought the dogs all into my room so they were either snuggled on the bed with me (natural little heat boxes), curled up on the carpet (my house has hardwood floors and can be cold for them to lay on) or toasty on their doggie beds.

I slept like a log so I consider this a successful transition and will continue to keep my thermostat at 66 at night for a week. Next week I will try dropping it to 64. During the day when we are home I usually set it at 70, but the furnace does not kick on very often since I am cooking or running the dryer and the house stays warm on it's own. I am leaving at 66 today and see how it feels.

I know this sounds like a small thing, but I figure the pyramids were built one block at a time, right? I will let you know next month how it effects my electric and gas bills.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reality Check

Every book, article or blog I have ever read about budgeting and getting control of your finances has said the same thing. The first step is to figure out what you have coming in and what you have going out. This makes perfect sense, except sometimes it is easier said then done.

The first part is easy. Most people know EXACTLY how much money they have coming IN. I know I do. Since I was laid off of my job I only have 2 regular sources of income and combined they only come to $1241.00 a month (just for the record, I am not on welfare and I do not receive any maintenance/alimony from my 19 yr marriage). I know I am blessed to have this much without a regular job and I am not complaining. Even though, I still wake up every morning in the midst of an anxiety attack, with my stomach tied into knots. I have a very large amount of debt from both my marriage and the last 3 1/2 yrs of ignorance, depression and my own poor choices. I also run my household on this amount, which consists of an 18 yr old son, 4 dogs, 3 cats, 3 reptiles and a very tiny mouse named Maryjane.

The second part is a lot tougher. If you normally pay for most everything with a debit/credit card it will be easier for you to track as you can just pull up your statements. I pay cash for almost everything, with the exception of a couple of bills I pay online with a debit Visa. This is a lot harder to keep track of, but none the less I did it. The recommended time frame is 30 days to get an accurate read on your spending habits, but if you can do it for several months (or backtrack your expenses for a couple of months) you will have an even better picture of your spending habits.

The results were a real eye opener for me and I bet yours will be for you as well. I was amazed at the things I did on a daily basis without even thinking about it that wasted small amounts of money. When I added them up it came to a large amount of money each month. Most were things I did in the name of saving time because I thought I was too busy to do the frugal alternative. A lot were food related or gas related.

Here are a few examples:

Stopping at the local Tigermart every morning for something to drink on my way out of town.($1.00 - 4.00)

Stopping at the fast food place within an hour of leaving home to get my son something to eat
because I didn't have time to cook/make something before we left. ($5.00-10.00)

Sometimes stopping at another fast food place 4/5 hours later after my son is done with classes (he goes to the local college a couple of towns away and commutes) because he is STARVING when he is done and I am tired and still have a 42 mile drive before we get home. ($5.00-10.00)

Driving either 25 or 42 miles into the larger towns on days we don't HAVE to for relatively unimportant errands or to visit friends. ($10.00 - 25.00)

Stopping at the grocery store to peruse the meat section for dinner since I have no idea what I feel like making for dinner. ($5.00 - 25.00)

Well, you get the idea. I was making terrible choices and had no clue. If you have not done the 30 day tracking of your expenses, I truly recommend sucking it up and doing it. It will give you some ammunition to use against yourself and the forces of evil (just kidding) that are driving you into financial ruin. It will also give you something factual to show your spouse and children when you start tightening your economic belt and they start to squeal. If you are out of money before the of the month, or just living paycheck to paycheck without any reserve it is time to make different choices.

I thought those choices would mean feeling deprived and living a "lesser" life but I was wrong. I am so new into this "frugal lifestyle" but I already can see that life is better, both financially and emotionally. I feel a lot more in control, my son feels better physically without all the fast food, my house is less chaotic and cleaner (that was a real surprise bonus) and for the first time in a long time I can see a little glimmer at the end of the tunnel.

I did the 30 day tracking the old fashioned way (an envelope for receipts, and a piece of paper then transferred info onto a notebook page) but here is a link to a website that has a free tool to help you track your budget.

If you are reading this it is probably because you are in the same place as I am, and need to do SOMETHING. This is the first step to SOMETHING.

Let me know what you come up with and if it is as big of a shock to you as my was to me.

Hope to hear from you, thanks, Tina

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tightwad Gazette

Most of my life I have been a spendthrift with underlying frugal tendencies. I realize this is an oxymoron, but none the less that is how I describe myself if I am being honest. The dictionary defines these terms as:

Spendthrift - One who spends money recklessly or wastefully.

Frugal - characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.

I firmly believe that most people are a hybrid of the two. I have never met a pure spendthrift or a purely frugal person, though I have to admit that, like Bigfoot, I believe they DO EXIST. People tend to lean one way or the other and depending on their circumstances at any given time adjust accordingly. This has always been me.

I have always reacted to whatever flaming poop ball came whizzing past my head, in a state of panic, and prayed for divine intervention. And while I have always manage to squeak through, at the end of the day I am left further behind then when I started.

But what if I could construct a lifestyle in such a way that my family's security and peace of mind were not subject to the whimsy of fate and external forces? To know we always had enough whether the state of the economy was thriving or in the toilet? I realize this is not a new idea. I have had some hazy notion of this float through my brain numerous times over the years. This time it stuck and wouldn't go away.

For anyone who has ever woken up with that sick clutching feeling in your stomach and ache of dread in your heart because you don't know how you can provide for your family through the end of the month, week or day, you have probably had this thought yourself. I decided to stop thinking and start doing.

The first thing I did was go out to the "Magic Garage" (more on this later) and dig out an old friend. It is a book called "The Complete Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced Decision, go figure). I found this book many years ago at a garage sale and bought it out of curiosity. By chapter two I was hooked. The funny thing is that I found it during a period in my life of extreme prosperity and the height of my spendthriftyness. If I had put into practice a lot of the strategies and changed my mindset then, I probably would not be where I am today, or at the very least I would have been better able to cope with the GIANT flaming poop balls that came at me years later. But you know what they say about hindsight...

If you have never heard of this book I have included a link to it's web page on Amazon.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette

I encourage anyone reading this blog to check out this book. The info in it runs the gamut from extremely useful to ridiculously extreme. What makes it so valuable to me is the mindset it puts me in when I read it. I am sure I will refer to the "TG" often as so much of what I am incorporating into my new life has been sparked by what I read in this book.

So as my first frugal bit of advice I would tell you to check with your local library (most have an online catalog system) to see if this book is available. The same information was also published broken up into 3 separate volumes, "The Tightwad Gazette I, II and III", which might also be available. Once you have checked this out, buy it. It is worth every penny. I literally carry it with me when I leave the house. It sits on the seat next to me and when I reach for my purse as I get out of the car I see it and it strengthens my resolve. I am absolutely convinced this is the reason I am currently able to stay strong and not spend on unnecessary items. Sounds silly, and my son thinks I am a nutcase (he's 18, so he thinks I am crazy anyway) but desperate times call for desperate measures and  know myself well enough to admit I need all the help I get in my fight to stay on track.

I hope this post struck a cord with a few other people out there. As much as I would like to know I am not alone in this desperate time of life I hope to help others realize they are not alone either. Please feel free to comment. Has anyone else read the TG?

Hope to hear from you soon, Tina

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sweet Tea

There is an old saying "If Life gives you lemons, make lemonade". It's a great saying and the advice behind it is solid and timeless. But what do you do if you hate lemonade? Say for instance you are really a sweet tea person? This is where I am at.

For the record I would like to clarify, it is not all "Life's" fault. It is a combination of life, divorce, depression, the state of the economy and my own choices.

This blog will chronicle my journey to leading a (dare I say it?) frugal, happy, productive and meaningful life. My goal is to be as self sustaining with the resources I have available while still maintaining a comfortable life in keeping with my beliefs and respecting the enviroment we live in. Whew! That was kind of a lofty statement.

What it boils down to is this. I want to share what I am learning about saving money, making do with less, leaving a smaller footprint and creating a better quality of life for my family. I am hoping somewhere out there are other like-minded people who will stumble on this blog and share there insights. No man is an island and the prospect of doing this alone is not only daunting but lonely. If you are reading this, please leave a comment! I would be thrilled to know I am not alone out here. Knowing this in a general sense isn't as comforting as hearing from a real breathing person.

Hope to hear from you soon, Tina