Saturday, February 28, 2009

Investing In What Matters Pt. 1 - Guest Post by Lyn

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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring Garden In A Gravy Boat

I usually don't like to keep the plants I buy for indoors in the containers they come in. So when I found a large white gravy boat on clearance at Target a few weeks I ago I knew it would make a great planter.

I planted some little Grape Hyacinths and some mini daffodils in it!

I've planted various Paperwhites and Jonquils in this black transferware tureen all winter

This Campanula is planted in a small galvanized bucket from IKEA. This is actually a spring through summer flowering perennial. I'll plant it in my garden when it starts to look a little tired. Actually all the potted flowers get planted in my garden when they're spent. Double the bang for my buck as most of them will either come back next year or bloom again now in my garden. In the mean time they brighten my interiors!

Don't forget that this weekend I have a guest post by one of my readers and also check out the beautiful "Inspire Me" board that Karen made! Let me know if you make one as I'd love to see it! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sanctuary Arts Makeover Party

Hi everyone! Jen is having a makeover party today so be sure to visit her Sanctuary Arts At Home Makeover Party for more fun makeovers!

This is not my makeover for today. This is an ottoman I made about 10 years ago and I'm surprised it's held up as well as it has! The previous owners left an old Naugahyde ottoman in the house when we bought it and I just added another layer of foam to make it higher and some fabric & fringe. Well, I've been wanting a storage ottoman for a couple of years now. I've seen them for anywhere from $129 to $79 and that was more than I wanted to spend. Fortunately Target had some on sale a few weeks back for $59 so I snatched one up!

You know how "they" always say that every room needs a bit of black, well every room needs a bit of animal print too! With about $4 worth of fabric I covered the top of the ottoman. That big leather "man chair" below is my husband's and I just felt that with an ottoman that dark it needed a bit of livening up! Otherwise that would be one dark corner! So I took the top off and wrapped the fabric around (the same way I did on the memory board in the post below), put the top back on and I think it looks much better!

Now I have a place to stash all our throws and I can quickly put away newspapers, magazines, whatever if I need to do a quick clean up.

The old ottoman will go in the garage sale I'm having in a few weeks.

We've always had that animal print pillow and I added a yellow and red toile one to try and brighten up that big ol' dark chair (I guess you can tell it's not my favorite chair - but my husband is 6'2" so he needs a big chair to be comfy and that's the one he wanted!)

I found a plate with various animal prints on it at TJ Maxx for $3.99 and I stacked one of red transferware plates in front of it.

If you'd like to see some more makeovers that I've done please click on the links below.

Fireplace Makeover
Dining Room Table & Chair Makeover
Some Small Makeovers
Favorite Before & Afters of 2008

P.S. to my regular readers - yesterday was my daughter's 17th birthday (Happy Birthday Baby!) and my husband is on vacation this week, she's playing hooky from school today (don't tell~smile). Anyway, I have posts scheduled for this week that I hope you'll enjoy, but I will not be around. Sunday I have a fabulous guest post by a reader so be sure to stop in then. I'll catch up with everyone next week!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Inspire Me Board

Last December Ally (Ally's Corner) left a comment where she said she makes a "vision board" each year. She said "I put on the board everything I would like to see happen in my life in the New Year. Last year I was able to pay off some debt and clean and organize my house. Both of those were on my vision board."

I've been thinking about this ever since! Inspiration boards aren't new. Decorators and artist use them all the time, but to use one to help you reach a goal was new to me. I'm a very visual person and have been wanting some way to have a visual reminder of the things I'm working toward. I've really been thinking about what I want to do with my life a lot lately. I guess it's because my daughter will be going off to college in a year and it'll just be me and hubby! I need something to help inspire me to reach my personal goals. So I thought I'd do an "Inspire Me" board.

First I needed some kind of board. Well I have two of these black and white toile boards but I want to put this in my office where I'll see it every day and the colors are more muted and romantic in there and this would bother me. So I, of course, have to makeover this board!

Your Inspire Me board can be anything, an old cork board, a frame with some chicken wire or cardboard behind it, anything you can tack some things that will inspire you to meet your goals. But if you have a memory board that you want to makeover here's how. If you already know how to make one then skip on down to the bottom!

Step 1 - I took the ribbon and buttons off the old board mainly because I wanted to keep them to use in the future. If you don't care about that you can just cover the board with a layer of polyester batting and proceed from there.

I'm sure I can use those cute toile buttons on something else -pushpins, magnets maybe?

Then I cut my fabric a few inches wider than the board as it's going to wrap around. Better to cut too much fabric than to not have enough to wrap. You can always trim it later. Position your board in the center of your fabric.

Next you're going to start stapling. I love my automatic stapler! It makes it much easier to do these types of projects! First you're going to wrap the fabric around one side and put a staple in the center. Then you go to the opposite side and you're going to pull the fabric over the frame taut and staple in the center. Repeat this on the two remaining sides. Then go back to your first side and start stapling the fabric on the frame. Repeat on all sides leaving the corners which are next.

There a couple of different ways you can do corners. I take the center part and and pull it taut and staple it to the corner of the frame. Then I take the sides and fold them in and staple so it looks like this

You shouldn't have too much excess fabric but you can trim it if you do. Now you're done stapling and you can flip it around and it should look like this.

You can keep it this way or you can add ribbon. I decided to add some ribbon. Not as much as was on it originally. I LOVE this fabric!

I took some ribbon and layed it diagonally, stapling it onto the back of one corner and then pulling it fairly taut to the other corner and stapling that one on the back as well. Make an X with your ribbon.

It doesn't have to be perfect!

So if you want to add more ribbon do so. I am just keeping the two and I put a staple in the center because I'm going to add a covered button.

Get a covered button kit and follow the instructions on the back. I've never done one before but it was really easy! Just hot glue the button over the staple.

There you have it! Now for the fun stuff!

Start collecting pictures, articles, sayings, quotes from people you admire anything that is a reminder of your goal or that you feel will help you reach your goal.

Here's the beginning of mine.

I've always been interested in self-sufficiency and I've always wanted to combine that with some type of out reach program. I'd love to be able to grow food year round and combine it with beautiful flower gardens. I love to have chickens maybe ducks and rabbits too. I'd love to know how to can, weave, knit, crochet, a lot of things that could be categorized as "homesteading skills". But most importantly, I'd like to be able to share these things with other. Whether it's me teaching people or me providing the facilities for workshops. I'm still working on exactly how I want to do this, but for the time being that's what I'm working toward.

So on my Inspire Me board I have a few pictures from magazines and some key phrases that fit with what my goals are. I'll add more as I find things that speak to me.

There are no rules as to what you can and can't put on your board. Your board will probably change, maybe you'll take things down as you reach those goals and add new ones. Maybe you'll decide to change goals. Whatever you do, it should be a visual kick in the behind so to speak to remind you to work toward your goals!

Let me know if you make one. I'd love to see it!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Being Organized Saves You Money

I don't think that I'm naturally organized. I do have to work at it. But then whenever I say that people always leave comments like "your house is so organized". So maybe I am on a certain level. I'd give myself a B for organization. I had a friend who Really was organized. For example, she had everything in her garage stored in plastic bins, the bins were numbered and she had an inventory of the bins on her computer and a print out. So if she wanted to find flowered teapot #1 she could look it up on her computer and know which numbered bin it was in. That's being organized!

I like things to be tidy and it's hard for me to function when things are messy and seem out of control. But even if it didn't come naturally to me I would do it if it helped me be a better manager of our money. The one thing I've realized in organizing my garage is that I thought I had a pretty good handle on what I had, but I don't! I know I've said before that you can never have enough urns but really, how many urns do I need!

I counted 10 urns in the garage and 4 that I'm using in the house not counting the ones that are in the garden and patio. That's enough I think! So on the decorative accessories/paint front I need to get better organized. I found out that I have several cans of paint that look very similar! Even though they're Ooops paint - I still don't need 3 different gallons of robin's egg blue paint! I do have a pretty good idea about what I have in my pantry and freezer though.

This is how I organize my chest freezer. I use the Ziploc Big Bags to organize my freezer items by category. I got the idea to use these bags from Brenda(Thank You!). They're not freezer bags but just storage bags. I have all my chicken in one bag, all my beef & pork in another, and veggies in another. I have one for frozen convenience food like a few Lean Cuisines, T.G.I Friday Fajitas etc. (It's cheaper to make one of those than to go out to eat when you don't feel like cooking). And one for shredded cheeses. I use a little plastic bin to gather a few odds and ends. Somethings like frozen pizza are just stacked underneath the bags. Using these bags keeps all the like things together and makes it easier to get stuff out. I don't have a written freezer inventory but I usually make note when I get something out if an item is low. Like if I get a package of chicken legs out I see how many more packages there are.

An organized pantry and freezer lets you know what you have and what you need. You don't buy what you already have enough of. Plus you know when you're getting low and can plan to buy on sale.

Being organized enough to know what you already have and where it is saves you money! Think of all the times you knew you had something but didn't know where it was so you bought it again! Or you didn't even know you had something already and bought it again! Do you know how many AA batteries you have? Every time we're in Home Depot my husband asks me do we need batteries? How many staplers do you have, how many do you need? How many extension cords do you need? How many bags of sugar, flour etc do you have? Do you really need more measuring spoons?

Here are some other ways that being organized can help save you money. If you coupon, you can save money my keeping your coupons organized and knowing what you have and taking them with you!

You can save on late fees if you have a system for paying your bills, knowing when your library books are due, or when movie rentals are due. You know these days, one late bill on any credit card can increase your interest rate on all your cards! Also, how many times have you had to pay extra to send a payment by overnite mail or even when you make a payment by phone they try to charge you a "service" charge!

You can save money on gas if you organize your errands so that you're not wasting time and gas running around. I usually have one day where I try to do all my errands in a certain area. Then I have a day at home. Then I might have another day where I do all my errands in the other part of town. That way I'm not running around everyday here and there.

Those are just a few ideas. How has being organized helped you save money? Or, how has being disorganized cost you money?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My 2 Favorite Furniture Makeovers

Hello everyone! I'm deep in the throes of an upholstery project and I'm still organizing my garage so I thought we'd revisit two makeovers that I did a few years ago. Some of you may remember these!

You've seen this chair many times!

This is what it looked like before. I did this last year.

A bit of paint and some new fabric and you have a whole new chair!

This is the before of my dining room table. We were building our screened in porch when I took this picture and the wall where the buffet is has now been replaced by french doors. I really wanted a round white table but just couldn't afford one at the time. So I decided to paint my table.

Many, many coats of paint later.... and the new french doors (and unfinished walls). I did this in 2007!

I really love it white! It was a job painting it but so worth it! I just think everything looks better on it now that it's white.

You've all seen this table a million times and you'll probably see it a million more because I love to change the table linens and centerpiece at least once a week! It's a quick and inexpensive way to change the look of my dining room!

Think of me when you're having fun this weekend! I'll still be cleaning up the garage! It has to be finished by Monday (I'll let you know why next week). Have a fabulous weekend everyone!