From Manuela: I have a special treat for everyone today! A guest post by Lyn, who is a reader of this blog. She always leaves such informative and inspiring comments that I asked her if she would be interested in guest posting as she no longer has a blog herself. Lucky for us she said yes!
I am clearly not speaking of the stock market (I’m sure many of you don’t want to talk about that anyway). These days are not the worst that they could be (it might feel that way to some), nor are they the best. Many of us are finding ourselves pinched more than ever. If you weren’t frugal before, perhaps you are becoming frugal now. If you were frugal already, then you know your game just went up a few notches higher.
Personally I have been frugal my entire life, mostly out of necessity. I have never really had a lot of money or fluff in my life, but I consider that to be a blessing in some ways. It makes me grateful for all that I do have. My husband and I are living on a very modest budget right now of about $25K net. I never mind to share about this (nor does he) because in reality it can help other people in similar circumstances. It can also help those who don’t feel that living on such a budget is a real possibility in life. We live in a modular home (aka nicer single-wide mobile home). We have an older vehicle that has seen many better days. We have enough of what we need though, and are blessed with a little extra too.
With the challenges so many of us face these days, it is easy to get discouraged. I also think during times of duress people tend to want to spend more or to shop more. Of course there is nothing wrong with this if one is truly able to afford these expenditures, but when you are on a tight budget, you really need to count the cost before doing so.
What are some ways that cost little money yet bring a lot of joy to us? Even if your money investments are not holding up so well right now, here are a few ideas for investing of another kind. Since this is a series of three posts, we are going to look at three different areas that we can invest in that don’t take much money. The area we will look at this week is:
Invest In Your Home
When life is stressful, it’s important that we all have a place of comfort to come home to at the end of the day. Even if you are at home full-time, you don’t need or want to be stressed out while you are there either.
1)Make you home feel cozy and welcoming. Even if you’re living on a tight budget it costs nothing to rearrange your furniture and belongings for a new look. You don’t have to have the nicest furniture or fancy adornments to make your home feel welcoming. A throw over the couch or chair will invite someone to take a rest for themselves. If things are worn, you can cover them up. A little paint doesn’t cost much to renew a piece of wood furniture or your walls. You can hang pictures with frames you already own – and use anything from calendar pages to beautiful cards that you already have on hand. You could also buy a few new towels. New towels always cheer me up, whether it’s a new set for the kitchen or new bath towels. Look for them on sale of course. I find that JC Penney has a nice quality bath towel for not a lot of money, and they hold up well.
I love how Manuela can decorate on a dime and that she repurposes items in her home. She shows great examples all the time of how a little paint can give belongings new life. Even if you can’t spend much money on decorating right now, you can change out what items you do have to give you a fresh perspective and uplift your mood. All you need is a little creativity, and if you are creatively-challenged, look at some magazines or magazine sites online for free ideas.
2) Keep it clean, organized and repaired Nothing says love like a home that is nurtured and cared for. It is easy to feel stressed when the home is not clean or is not in order. Focus on a few main rooms (especially those that everyone uses regularly) and keep them neat and clean. At the very least keep one main room in order that everyone spends time in so there is a good place to relax and wind down at the end of the day. You don’t have to be perfect here, just make progress as you can. Also, try to fix things as they come up - before they get worse. I am the least technical person ever, but I’ve managed to learn a few minor things just by researching online. Home repairs can be expensive, so focus on what is important. It’s not always easy to save up for such things when the budget is tight. You can only do the best that you can, otherwise let it go and don’t lose sleep over it.
When it comes to organizing, something we all know is that being organized will save you money. I love organizing magazines, but honestly I cannot afford more for the containers than what I paid for inside of the containers! You can find inexpensive bins, baskets, wire organizers and plastic containers at many dollar stores, discount stores, and even yard sales or thrift stores. I have gotten baskets for as little as .25 at thrift stores before. I also use other items to organize things like a hanging sweater shelf unit, part of a dresser (1/2 of my dresser has clothes, the other half has office supplies). Be creative and look for other uses of what you already have. There is no need to spend a lot of money to get organized.
I had the privilege of attending an Emilie Barnes home seminar when I lived in California quite a few years ago. I was very impressed with how organized her home was. In her clothes closet were beautifully-wrapped shoe boxes that held her shoes. She took something simple and made it quite lovely. Here’s a wonderful lady that could probably afford any type of organizers. She showed me that beauty does not necessarily equal money spent. Sometimes the prettiest things don’t cost anything much at all.
3) Buy or make cleaners that are green and friendly to your health. I have homemade spray cleaners made up of ½ vinegar and ½ water with some essential oils in them. A small bottle of essential oil will go a very long way. I use these often to wipe down things or even to clean my floors with. When I do have a little bit of extra money I buy Method products, which are earth-friendly and are healthy (reasonably priced at Target). Seventh Generation is another good brand (also at Target). When I clean my home, it gives me joy to use products I really like.
4) Plant a garden, even if it's a small one. It’s that time of year for many to start thinking about planning a garden. If you are south or west you are probably already doing this. I live in New England and our planting season does not start until May. However, I’m still planning for it now. With the challenges of the economy, more people will start to garden this year more than ever before. So plan now and shop early for what you will need. It’s an easy way to save money on the food bill.
Raised bed & container veggie garden
Personally I do container gardening as that is what has worked best for me after several attempts of ground gardening. It is very easy to grow herbs and greens. It is virtually effortless! It is not much more trouble to do other plants as well. All you need is a plan, time, a small amount of money, patience and a little reading up on the subject will benefit you too. This investment will come back to you many times over, and best of all you will know what is in your food.
5)Make your yard a pleasant place. Does your yard need a little help? It’s always more pleasant to be at home when our surroundings make us smile. If your yard is full of weeds, dead grass and leaves and doesn’t make you smile, you’ll probably be pretty tempted to get out of the house often just to get away. Even just a bit of tidying up will make you happy when you look out the window. If you have children, let them help you in this project. When it’s prettied up a bit you can even think about adding a few inexpensive flowers or plants or perhaps you can invest in some outdoor furniture or even a picnic table. It’s not necessary though to spend much money in order to make it neat and tidy. Make it a place that you will look forward to going to visit each day – your own personal nature retreat.
Next time we will look at some ways that you can “Invest In Your Family”. Have a lovely week!
Lyn is a homemaker who strives for a frugal and simple life. She’s a student of life who learns everyday and will continue to do so. She’s also thankful that she can write this while looking out her window, admiring the trees and listening to the rain.