Category Archives: saving money

Decisions, decisions!

Things got complicated here.

Life got in the way of my plans, but also goaded them on. My plans were for the summer to remove 1/2 of all the stuff here, right?

I didn’t make that goal. But now I really need to, one way or the other. We have decided that we’re going to live in the main part of our house, and turn the areas where we currently sleep and work into storage and other auxilary space. It makes a lot more sense for aging in place; it also will be easier to use the mini-split by itself to heat/cool this place, etc. It will be more economical as well.

This requires a huge shuffle of furniture and stuff. It will also require a huge cull of the same. We talked this morning about what moves where. What the obvious culls are. About getting  estimates for moving the kitchen plumbing, etc. We intend to sell what we can of the excess stuff to pay for this, or just pay down the debt, either will put us in a better place in the future.

I have become completely fascinated by self-sufficiency videos. I’m not chasing the idea that if we don’t grow it, we don’t use it. But one video I watched talked about turning a house into a place producing what you need, instead of being a place where you consume what you need — and get somewhere else. I found another where a retired first-generation geek has automated his house in various unique ways. Many of the videos I’ve found are of people in Texas, California, etc. and we don’t have weather which enables us to use some ideas they do, but there ARE things we can do, sanely.  Consolidating our living space is a big way we can cut down what we own, what we “need,” and use.

It’s remarkably easy to think you need socks when you can only find one pair, because the others are in another part of the house, waiting to be washed or whatever.

Consolidating our living space won’t automatically solve all our disorganization problems, but it likely will help quite a bit!

The minisplit may be put off until spring 2020, but the beginning of the consolidation won’t.

 

Inspirations and Data

There are various places I’ve been getting inspiration, my batteries “recharged,” and just getting useful information.

One of these is the website choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com, which is filled with common sense, realistic advice about living with less stuff, spending less money, and doing so more deliberately.

Another is the woman Lefie, on YouTube. (Link) Most YouTube folks who talk about simplicity or minimalism I find to be rather “holier than thou” an attitude I frankly want to watch about as much as I want someone to pull off my toenails!

Lefie is the only one I’ve found who’s human enough, informative enough, and entertaining enough to keep me interested. Not a lot of what she says is new to me, but it makes me think about whatever again and I don’t resent it. I don’t feel lectured at, and I don’t feel like it’s a preen job where she gets to show off how cool and accomplished she is.

I find most  lifestyle YouTube videos so bizarrely slick that I think it’s like bad TV, rather than other people talking to me about what works for them.  If I want to watch a production, I’ll get a movie, a TV show, etc. with professionals. Most YouTubers are not those things, and they do things like make up and manicures and very spiffed up houses, and then lecture.  (I call these “preen jobs.”)

They don’t have the presentational panache professionals do, their information isn’t fresh enough for me to be interested to watch the entire piece, and in the process, they’re for me, a bad infomercial. I started to watch one yesterday where the woman was doing a house tour. She moved the camera/phone around so much she made me dizzy and I stopped watching.

I’m not their intended audience, I know, but still. Did no one tell her that she can’t just pan around a room at normal walking speed for several minutes without making viewers kind of loopy?

There are a swathe of “frugal substitute” and “what we don’t use any more” YouTube videos, most of which I also find pretty silly or irritating. You can find 2 flavors of these: frugality/save money and minimalist.

I’m glad you use a bullnose clip instead of a chip clip. Terrific! But why use one at all? We use rubberbands, but chip-type snacks are rare here, because, doh, we’ll eat them and we don’t need the calories or salt or to spend the outrageous amount per pound for the snacks to begin with. So when such things make it into the house, they’re usually gone in 1 day, no need for a chip clip or bullnose clip or anything!

dollar sign from zazzle.com

My point there is that it’s MORE frugal and minimalist not to buy them to start with!

The other reason those videos irritate me is that I’ve been doing frugal paring down and substitutions for decades. I have tried 1000s of the ideas already. I keep hoping someone will find a new way to save money, but so far, I haven’t found one.

One way to save money: spend less.

Three strategies to do this: 1) Cheaper substitute. 2) Do without. 3) Use less.

What I’m really looking for these days and haven’t found yet, is the minimalist equivalent to the save money statement above.

That statement took a long time to crystalize from decades of reading, watching, trying, listening, etc.


I’m not a minimalist. I’m a recovering hoarder.

I’m not a frugalista. I’m a person trying to save money for a heating system, get ready for retirement, or just not waste money, because why would you want to waste a resource?

I’m not a YouTube fanatic. I only have subscribed to one channel, Lefie’s. It may be the only one I ever subscribe to!

I am not a 20-40 year old young professional or mom, looking for help, either.


I can come up with the blanket statement for minimalism, but not the detail. The detail requires the understanding that actual usage brings. I’m not a minimalist, right? But here’s the first piece:

One way to be minimalist, that is have less stuff is to get rid of stuff.

Revision: To be minimalist and have less stuff, get rid of stuff.

Revision 2: To become minimalist, remove excess.

It’s the same, obvious statement which can be overlooked amidst all the noise on the subject!


More Food Planning/Use

Today is the day I usually go to the farm for our week’s food. If I’d been home yesterday, I would put aside whatever remaining foodstuffs from last week I didn’t think we’d use.

I’ve started that effort today instead, but it IS being done.

I’ve also planned what I’ll get at the farm, that makes food use a bit less random!

Finally, I go right by our favorite markets on the way home, so I’ll do the weekly shopping. There’s a package of chicken thawing in the fridge for tomorrow and Sunday.

Tonight’s dinner is probably a cheese omelette and salad, or that’s the plan. This is subject to DH’s input, how much and types of cheese we have, etc. We had HM hummus, freshly baked bread, and green salad. It was too hot to cook and I’d been gone all day, no interest in cooking at all!

I culled 2 jars from the pantry as their contents will be replaced, starting today.

This is working! We’ll see if I can keep it up. DH and I have had a few discussions about the “menu plan,” and he thinks it’s a good idea and agrees with my long-term goals: getting us used to smaller, cheaper meals like we’ll have when he’s retired, spending less on restaurants/prefab food, less meat, more veggies, better use of the veggies we’ve paid for (from the farm), and less food waste.

Photo by petra cigale on Unsplash

And for me, the kicker is that this isn’t so rigid that I resent it and it takes away the creativity I normally use when cooking. The I don’t know what to make with what I’ve got randomness is the only piece of cooking I really like: taking a bunch of random ingredients and using up what needs it in a meal.

I know people who sit down and plan a year’s worth of menus at once. I couldn’t do that, any more than I could do something similar to Once a Month Cooking or Mega Cooking. I tend to put pieces aside, not meals. (For example, cooked rice and stems from greens for soup.)

The Menu Plan, Working?

I had come up with a general menu plan. Last week I managed what’s in column 3. (I skipped week 2 as I was sick again and the menu was abandoned!)

Day Plan Actual wk 1 Actual wk 3
Monday Double Veg Lentils & Yams green rice & salad
Tuesday Soup/Stew/Salad Garlic Soup avocado toast, roasted red pepper soup, braised greens**
Wednesday 2nd Veg Lentils & Yams green rice, sauteed mushrooms, salad, fruit
Thursday Egg Asparagus & herb omelette HM hummus, fresh bread, salad
Friday Double Meat BBQ Beef blackberry cobbler (a.m.) and restaurant food (dinner)
Saturday Sandwich BBQ Beef Sandwich None, did flea market, followed by ice cream, then home
Sunday 2nd Meat Lentils & Yams*, salad lemon chicken, salad, corn

*The 3rd portion of lentils & yams was frozen Weds. We finished the beef Saturday, so we ate the last portion of lentils & yams from the freezer.

** The roasted red peppers were a container from the freezer, frozen last September!


I can say that menu planning this much it hit a few of my goals:

  • less waste
  • less meat
  • cheaper meals
  • set aside excess for “instant meals” so we don’t buy frozen food

But this is Memorial Day weekend, which means my big freezer needs to be EMPTY next week. Ack!

pointing fingerThe fridge’s freezer needed to be cleaned first. That’s now been done. 5/27/19 noon.


There is one empty shelf in the fridge’s freezer and one empty shelf in the big freezer. More work required! 6/4/19

Simplify

It just occurred to me that I need to do this with well everything, including the food I make!

Given the “menu plan” I came up with:

  • M Double Veg.
  • Tu Soup/Stew using bits & pieces LO
  • W Second Veg.
  • Th Egg
  • F Double Meat
  • Sa Sandwich
  • Su Second Meat

I’ve been looking at recipes.

Also given that we’re trying to save $, the farm is starting the beginning of June AND I’ve decided I need to set aside some HM instant meals, I’ve been looking at what I might make:

Casseroles and Loaves meat and veg both.

Seasoned Ground Beef Make up a batch of the meat I use for meat loaves and make a batch of meat balls at the same time. Can be used with pasta, or in Albondigas Soup, or smashed with mayo as a sandwich filling, or in a pita with veggies.

The soup/stew base I found last week which I intend to use this year. Making it before I freeze a bunch of it is a really good idea as we’ve never had it!

Salad mixes – like 3 bean salad, except I hate 3 bean salad. But these kinds of salads can be mixed ahead. I’ll have to think/research this idea.

Quiche Base or Mix? Given that I’m supposed to make 1 dinner a week with eggs, maybe this is an idea? Never looked at quiche recipes with that idea.

Those will make the double meals easier. What else can I do?

White Sauce Balls I did this years ago and it was a success. You mix flour, butter, a little milk, salt and if you’re a purist white pepper. (I only use white pepper when I already have it. I don’t care if my white sauce has black speckles or not! YMMV!) You measure this paste out into 1T balls and freeze. Need to make gravy? Grab one or three.

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Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Other ideas:

  • “Tray bakes” or “one pan” meals for the double  meals.
  • Self-frosting cakes (also one pan cakes).
  • Preplanning enough to use all the bits. When I make stuffed tomatoes mid summer as an entree, I use the innards the next day. That’s something I’ve always done. I wonder what else I can set up that way?

Research! Think! Plan! Do!

 

Stair Rails, Minisplits, & Life Work

I told DH yesterday to add to the list I want to replace the stair rail at some point. It’s shiny brass. The house is going towards flat black or brushed zinc hardware. Flat black on incidental stuff and brushed zinc on things like faucets. (Not shiny brass!)

So I did a bit o’ research and so did he, it will cost $100+ these days to replace the railing.  We explored some DIY ideas, and they’d all cost about the same, so why bother?

It’s a detail and not on the urgent list. If we find a  used flat black or brushed chrome set of hardware, we now know where to buy the railing, prefinished or raw lumber. Info. is almost always nice to have.

I had found a fireplace set I didn’t hate for < $100 and sent him a link. He pointed out it has 2 tools more than we actually need and why buy them? The place where I found this I think has some tools a la carte. I’ll have to go look. The tongs from the current set wound up in the flea market pile because of this discussion too.

The minisplits got more discussion, as did the house design ideas we’ve explored. We talked about taking the home plan we now have to a big box store and talking about floor plans, changing the kitchen around, etc. with one of the free kitchen designers. Don’t know if they’ll actually talk to us without a monetary commitment, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.

DH came up with a piece of hobby equipment for the flea market, prompted me to go find 4 bowls and a length of fabric to add to a new flea market box.

I found in the shed a few things I thought were long gone, but no, they were not sold long ago and far away… they’ll either be put in the booth or the new flea market box, after they’re cleaned. I have a silk pantsuit which needs to be ironed before it gets added too. The china and silk will fill up the end of the box — and another cubic foot o’ stuff goes outta here!

That doesn’t seem like much, does it? But we’ve both been sick, for most of 6 weeks with 2 different colds. And the second one is a bitch and a half to kick, let me tell you!

3 rules of work

DH dismantled one of the 2 snowblowers last week. The motor is being kept for a project he has in mind. The rest of the bits and pieces went to the dump. The last of it today. Also, we’ve started hauling the accumulated leaves and bark piles to the dump too.

He resigned from the board he was on and I asked him what we could do to forward his avocation using his now free time? What he did shocked me!

He bought organization materials for the accumulated work, so we can label and catalog it. His heirs will be pleased and I’m relieved. I had this nightmare vision about going through the work and only having my best memory and no knowledge of the technical side of what he did, when and where. Hopefully, at some point, there will be (even self-published) a complete catalog.

We’re adulting here. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening. All I have to do now is find some weird convoluted way to turn it into some $. That’s all?

More Frugality

Because the thing I want to save the $ for is a heating/energy unit, I went looking at our electric company’s website. So they kept referencing apparently an old, Obama-era site, which of course is no longer active, but there’s no other referral.

I am, can you tell, really impressed with our local electric company. Wonder why? See here for more info.

In their defense, I will say that the 3rd time they sent us the “You’re using more energy than your more energy efficient neighbors” letter, they did at least make some reference to what they were comparing us to, a typical home in our zip code. Of course, they never actually said what that was, so it was still meaningless, but less so than previously.

DH is set on getting at least one minisplit  this year and maybe another next year. Okay. The chimney cap we’re replacing this year is the last piece of the chimney/wood stove replacement project. The only piece other than that on the chimney which hasn’t been replaced is the veneer over the pipe, a box around it. I’d love to replace the box, but it’s mostly cosmetic, not structural.

If I win the lottery, we’re going to get the minisplits, solar panels AND a new fake riverrock box around the chimney pipe with a mantel to match. Just sayin’!

Barring that? We’re getting a new chimney cap and at least one minisplit.

My husband said to me, empathically emphatically this morning, that he didn’t want to haul wood or load it into the stove another year.

Okay!

I just have to find a way to make this happen! Squeeze those dollars!


Plant and landscaping frugality: A 1 gallon potted perennial is $35 at Lowes, about $32 with a discount. If you buy them at garden club sales, they’re around $10-$20. Cheaper yet? Layer a 2nd one from one you’ve got, or plant the seeds, or divide it? — Free!

Mulch frugality: Garden centers at big box stores typically sell opened bags of mulch, etc. for 1/2 price. Cheaper yet? Use the pine needles, pine bark, leaves, what have you that you have in your yard already as mulch. Free!

The Celery Thing: I’ve run into this a couple of times, people talking about planting celery plants in their yard. I did this last fall, and the plants are gone this spring, again.

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Photo by Sole D’Alessandro on Unsplash

I went looking for more information. The best I found is a woman who’s been using the same 7 celery plants for years. She lifts them in the fall and makes them houseplants during the winter (and uses them). You can find her write up about this here. (The site is full of interesting ideas too: choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com .)


Gawd I love spring.

And I hate it; I’m always overwhelmed with things to do, ideas to explore, etc. Too much!


Despite still being sick, I managed to spread one of the remaining bags of mulch this morning on the bulb bed. I also transplanted two daffs AND moved some rock, sand, etc. I was wiped out after about an hour, which is typical these days.


On Saturday: the plant sales were a success and not as cheap as I’d hoped. The library/town sale where I’d bought a 1 gallon pot for $10 last year, they were $15. (I got 2.)

The other plant sale where I stopped I got 2 6″ perennials for $5 each.

Sunday? Our next door neighbor took out 90% of a forsythia bush (what the 1 gallon pots held)  and gave me a branch which should get us the last two plants I think I need, for free. I wish I’d known the neighbor was going to whack up his 15 year old plant 1 day earlier, could have saved us $30!