Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pantry Basics - How We Manage On Less Money Pt. 2

This is my pantry. It's a plastic shelving unit in the shower stall of our downstairs bathroom. All our bedrooms are upstairs and we have two bathrooms up there so basically this part was just unused space. I don't think we ever took a shower in it the whole time we've lived here. It's great to have a designated space for extra food items but if you don't, be creative and think of some other places you could store a few extra cans and boxes.

One of THE biggest money wasters is to go grocery shopping without a plan! As I said before, you CAN save money if you have a plan and follow it through. Planning your shopping is essential. And I don't just mean menu planning (which is also important and I'll talk about what I do so other time). But actually taking the time to inventory what you have (so you don't buy what you obviously don't need or really eat) and taking the time to look at the sales flyer from the grocery stores you frequent.

I use the "pantry principal" which I learned about in Amy Dacyczyn book "The Tightwad Gazette". To quote from her book "The basic premise is that you stockpile your pantry (and/or freezer....). The sole purpose of grocery shopping becomes replenishing your pantry, not buying ingredients to prepare specific meals." So basically you start buying things in quantity when they are on sale. You can start small and buy just one to use and one for backup or you can decide that you want to set aside a certain amount to build up your pantry (again planning your spending). The goal is to cook from your pantry.

There are lots of lists out there for what a well stocked pantry should have but I think it all depends on what your family eats. No use buying bags and bags of flour when you don't bake. If your family eats lots of canned fruit then you should stock up on canned fruit when it's at its lowest price. Or if you eat lots of chicken breasts like my family, I buy lots of packages when they go on sale so I never am out and I never have to pay full price.

So what I do is I keep a running list of what we need on my fridge. When someone uses the last of something or notices that it's low it gets put on the list. Before I go grocery shopping I check this list against my pantry. I don't expect my family to know what's in the pantry. They just know if there's no more in the fridge or kitchen cupboards. Now, not everything goes on sale. But most things eventually go on sale or you'll have at least a coupon.

You shouldn't go overboard and buy things just cause they're on sale. 20 cans of cheap Chef Boyardee are a waste of money if you don't eat that type of thing! Buy what you eat and only you can determine how much to buy. Having one or two extra cans may be all you have room for or all you need whereas someone else would buy a case.

I check the sales flyers for my local stores. I have a couple that are really close to each other. But I know lots of people that just shop at one store. Whatever works for you! I think Wal-Mart price matches other grocery store flyers. I used to keep a price book but I've found the prices are changing so quickly these days that what I once thought was a high price is now the sale price!!

A stocked pantry can help you survive times of challenge and struggle. It can be a lifesaver in the event of a natural disaster or job loss. Just think how much peace it would bring you to know that you can feed your family in the event of hard times!

Next time I'll talk more about ways I save at the grocery store and some on-line resources I use.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oops Paint

I found this yummy oops paint ( paint that's been mistinted or in this case returned by someone) at Home Depot yesterday and thought it would be perfect for this mirror which I'm putting in my screened in porch. $5 for a whole gallon of paint! I'm sure most of you already know about this, but you can get quarts for $1 and gallons for $5 at the HD in the "oops" section by paint. They also have closeout colors of spray paint. I don't know how much they are at Lowe's.

I've had this mirror for months and knew I wanted to paint it but wasn't sure what color until I saw that paint. A first coat on the mirror. I was going to paint it totally solid but I kind of like how that original color peeks through. My husband says it's very "Vampire Lestat"! I'll see when it's all dry if I'll do a second coat.

I'm liking this color so much I'm going to repaint that red ladderback chair this color. That's the great thing about paint - all it takes is time to transform something!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How We Manage On Less Money Part 1

One of our apple trees

Once again, I'd like to thank you all for the warm welcome back! I'm trying to get around to everyone and hopefully by the weekend I'll have said hello and seen what fabulousness you've all been up to. I am trying to limit my time on the computer as it actually takes quite a bit of my day to do all the things I need to do to keep our finances, house, yard, LIFE going.

So as I mentioned before, when my husband was shifted into another position in his company we lost quite a bit of income - over $600 each check. Not only that, but, we didn't find out this was going to happen until 3 days before payday! Oh yes, somehow they didn't think it important enough to let him know. I found out because I always check his paycheck at their online payroll center (toward the end there I was checking to make sure he was even getting a check). When he called HR about it they said they were planning on telling him on payday and forgot that you could look at paychecks on line 3 days before. I'm sure they wouldn't like to open their checks ON PAYDAY and find it less than what they were used to getting! Anyway......I'm not a financial expert but I can share what we've been doing to cope.

The first thing I want to point out is that we we've been doing the Dave Ramsey program for years and had no credit card debt, had $1000 in an emergency fund and were not living paycheck to paycheck. Get a copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. There's a link in my Amazon box and here's the link to his website Check out the "We Did It" section for inspiration. He often puts his books on sale and many churches offer his Financial Peace program. Also,check your library for a copy. Mary Hunt also has a similar plan.

Debt is bad! I can't encourage you or emphasize enough that if you have debt you should focus on getting out of debt. Debt is not normal. Just because lots of people have credit card debt doesn't make it o.k. Debt limits your choices. Do whatever you have to do to get out of debt.

I think it's important to have a plan. A plan for how to spend your money, how to build up your savings, a menu plan, a shopping plan, you get the idea. I'm a planner. I do think it helps to have a plan to reach a goal no matter what that goal is. You can definitely save money by planning if that's your goal!

To begin with you really need to have an idea of how much money is coming in and how much is going out. I won't use the "The Big Bad B Word" ! I'll say "spending plan". Believe me I didn't want to do it either! There's something about sitting down with your stack of bills and receipts - I guess it fear. Fear that you are living above your means, fear that you're not really doing such a good job being a good steward of your family's money, fear that you really can't tell your wants from your needs and are overspending. Fear of reality!

I'd say it took me several days to write everything down and I use Quicken! But I would sit down and then need a cup of coffee, or I decided I wanted a pen with a pretty ink color (you know so it would look purdy - sheesh!), then I needed a snack, then oh yes I should put the clothes in the washer, or make a call or....a million different things. In the end I didn't sit down and write everything in one shot. I really did it in bits and pieces. It was all I could stand! But I discovered that eliminating a few things(no more random TJ Maxx trips), cutting back on somethings (dropped health club membership for one thing), thinking about certain things in a new way would (could I make my own cleaning products, hang my laundry etc) - well if I did these things we would be alright. It would be a challenge - but it would be fun to see if I could learn some new skills along the way.

I see myself as the Manager of our home and finances and I take my job seriously. I have pride in what I do and I want to do the best job possible. But I don't have it all figured out. I'm always looking for more information! So I hope you guys will chime in with your ideas!

Next time I'll get into some of the specific things we are doing. I'll probably intersperse those kinds of post with pictures of projects I'm working on around the house, I have some books I received when I had my last blog that I never got around to reviewing so I'll do some of that, and I'm cooking more from scratch so I have recipes to share.

Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read this! I'll leave you with a picture I took this morning of one of my sunflowers cause I'm just not used to a post that doesn't have lots of pictures!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Paint Party!

Joy of is having a paint party to celebrate the wonders of spray paint. Doesn't that sound right up my alley! I'm definitely BFF with spray paint, craft paint, oops paint, any paint really. This is part of a project I worked on in May. I had the patio table (which I spray painted white) but no chairs. So I found two ladder back chairs at the thrift store and used spray paint from Lowe's.

I already had a stencil with numbers and letters on it. I got this idea from the Pottery Barn Catalog.

This is a chair that I recently found at Goodwill. It's taken me 3 months to find a similar style as the original two. It still needs another coat of paint and the stencil. My husband wants 4 similar looking chairs so it's taking me a while to find them. Me, I'd do different chairs but marriage is all about compromise right? I need to find one more. Most of the chairs of this style have rush seats which wouldn't last too long outside. So it's taking a while.

Have a great day everyone (we're getting drenched by Fay but since we're in a drought I'm trying to be happy about it).



Monday, August 25, 2008

The Versitility of a Three Tiered Cake Stand

We had a very quiet and relaxing weekend. We were expecting lots of rain from Fay but that only happened Sunday and supposedly tonight into tomorrow. We're under a flood watch - which is better than being under a tornado watch! Aren't y'all sick of Fay! I wish she would just move on!

We went to Home Depot to buy some paint for the dining room but the line was just too long so we went to the thrift store and I found a really cute 3-tiered cake stand. It was $3.23 and apparently it was originally $16.45.

Of course it would be so cute filled with cupcakes, but I don't really make too many of those these days (trying to lose weight). Muffins would be good too - like for a buffet breakfast. I thought it would make a really good piece to use for display. So I rummaged around and found a few things I could use to show you.

Here it is filled with seashells. Of course you would need more than I have here. It should be filled to the brim.

Found some beaded fruit (again I didn't have enough to really fill it). You could fill it with those mini pumpkins for the fall. You could even use some faux flowers. I could see each tier filled with one kind of flower (no stems obviously). How cute would that be!

For Christmas it could be filled with ornaments like this.

I like pieces that you can use in many ways. More bang for your buck. I'd love to hear your ideas for using this! So if you see something like this at the thrift store - don't hesitate!

I want to thank you all for such a warm welcome back! It's so nice to have been missed. I feel like I just moved back to my old home town and all my friends are stopping by to see me. It's a great feeling!

I'm going to start a series of posts that deal with how we've been managing with our severely reduced income. So look for that at the end of the week.

XO, Manuela

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's Been Happening

Foyer Wall

A few people have asked what happened with my husband's job (when I ended my last blog my husband position was about to be eliminated do to the poor economy). Well they decided to keep him on in a position he used to do. He's back to being a District Manager. He's not happy about it because it involves alot of traveling but we're happy to still have our medical benefits and of course a steady paycheck! His salary now is almost $1300 less A MONTH than what he was making before. That's quite a "chunk o change"! So as you can imagine this has thrown a wrench into lots of our plans for the future not to mention how we live day to day.

Our daughter is a junior in high school so she will be off to college in two years and of course the college she really, really, really wants to go to is the Savannah College of Art & Design (right now tuition is about $25,ooo a year. Yikes it gives me palpitations to even think about it! Also this house is a fixer upper and somethings just can't be solved with paint (what??? - no way!!!). Then there's retirement to think about. Not to mention just buying groceries and paying the bills.

So it's a challenge that's for sure. But I have faith that it will all work out. Not the I'll leave it in the Lord's hands and just go along my merry way kind of faith. But the kind that requires me to put out some effort to make things happen. That may mean getting a job outside my home at some point or starting a business (at some point you can only make but so many cuts to your budget). So we'll see what the morrow brings as they say :-)

Anyway, my husband is getting back from Baton Rouge this afternoon and I hope "Fay" doesn't cause him any delays/turbulence. He doesn't like flying and yet his job requires that he fly someplace every week - what a great guy I have!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Under Construction

Hi! I'm baaaack!! Since I deleted my old blog (The Feathered Nest/Typepad) I decided to give blogger a try. I'm still trying to get used to this whole new setup so please be patient as I figure out how to work this site.

Take care,