A Year of Savings: 2013

May 8:  Mama gave me a stack of her recently read, still current, magazines.  And a bundle of coupons from her Sunday paper.  I consider it a score on two counts: I can stock up on any really excellent buys on personal care or pet food if a sale comes along with those additional coupons.  I make good use of the magazines: first I read them for inspiration and ideas, I gather coupons from them, I remove the photos and recipes I can use or want to ship off to the younger ones for their use.

Bought cushions for the patio furniture today.  I looked at the dollar store sale and the cushions were nice, but not enough of any one kind to make out.  These were just a little more than the sale price at the dollar store, but comparable to the usual price and I think better quality.

Though I was sorely tempted to buy more plants I restrained myself.  I have a tendency to buy without a plan of where I'm going to use a plant.  This time of year a garden center/nursery is more temptation than chocolate!  No telling how much money I saved myself, lol.

May 9:  Put the new cushions on the chairs and realized the old cushions, while terribly faded are still in really good condition.  I have a plan to reuse them.  Not having to buy more cushions for the other seating will net me a savings of $22.

Made bread for Shabat.  I decided to be adventuresome.  I made Challah.  We used to buy this for Shabat at $3.29/ loaf.  My loaves are smaller because I opted to make several from a single batch of dough.  I know I can keep them in the freezer for Shabat.  My savings: $2.29.

Shopped at home: cooking oil, coffee, shortening, pineapple, flour all came from pantry shelves, milk and loaf bread from freezer.  I always feel so clever when I can make out a short list and simply go to the pantry and pull items.  I get double satisfaction because I know the items were bought at good sale prices and I didn't have to make a special trip to town to fill my outages.

Thawed two chicken breasts for dinner but they were HUGE.  I cooked one for dinner, sliced the other into flat pieces to season and panfry for another meal.  Doubling up on meals from a single packet of meat is a good way to save.  I got four servings of meat twice from two breasts.  Savings $3.

May 10: No spending.  I washed a load of dishes on the short cycle, using less water and electricity.  I cut the heat dry option off a long time ago.  I check periodically to be sure it's still off.  Now and then it gets bumped on.  We hung a load of clothes to dry.  All these things do save money even if I'm not sure how to go about calculating the savings.

May 11:  To town with a list of things I needed to purchase.  I happened to carry more than just the dollar store list with me, which worked out well for me when I noted that I could purchase two of the arts and crafts supplies I had on my list for less than I'd pay at the hobby store.  Savings $5.

Brainstorm this evening: create a thrift store shopping list.  I was playing around on Pinterest when I realized that I seldom think of the items I could really use when I'm in the thrift store.  True it is fun to just troll around and see what inspires you but sometimes it's nice to buy items that you could really use (for organization purposes say) that you would normally come across at the thrift stores.

 I'd meant to run by pharmacy to pick up John's prescription but a phone call let us know it was not ready.  So glad that I discovered that before I'd driven 39 miles to pick it up!  Savings $3.29.  Limited my shopping to our hometown instead.

May 12:  John brought a Sunday paper in with him when he came home.  We only buy on the two Sundays that he works unless we're out and about (seldom).  Lots of coupons today.  We easily saved the cost of the paper. savings $2.

May 13:  A day at home, doing the homey sorts of things.  One trick I learned from Mrs. Catherine was to take my digital camera and photograph each area of my home.  It's an eye opener to look at those images on my computer and 'see' the clutter I've been blind to all along.  I spent two hours going back through each area after viewing the photos and cleared out the extra things.  The cost of doing this was $0, but it made all the difference in the world in how my home looked after those 'extras' were removed.

May 14:  Harvest Day in our home.  I didn't pick up take out this day since we'd eaten out over the weekend.  Savings $10.

Went into a grocery planning to buy their specially priced plants...Only to discover at cash register that the sale plants were gone and the sign left up in error.  The manager didn't want to mark down the plants I'd chosen, so I thanked them but declined to purchase.  Savings $14.

May 15:  Another day at home.  John wanted to plan a little trip for next week while he's off these extra days, so I packed up my usual 'grocery sack' of items that are pricey to buy but so necessary for cooking: olive oil, aluminum foil, paper towel, peanut butter, jelly, coffees, condiments, salt and pepper, etc.  This saved us about $50.

May 16:  We weren't buying many groceries this week...Had to think of a meal we could have, so I turned to the pantry.  Pasta, Alfredo sauce, a handful of peas harvested from my vines, a little diced zucchini, red bell pepper, a few roasted asparagus spears.  This made a nice Pasta Primavera and cost very little to make.  It was enough to serve three (Katie came down to pack up a truck load of stuff for her move).

Despite the aphid infestation, I managed to harvest a couple dozen peas from the vines.  I planted FIVE peas from the packet of seeds, just five and I think I harvested close to 60 tiny green peas, so sweet and tender.  I don't believe the rest will make now the weather has heated up so much but I'll plant more in the fall.  Those five peas cost me less than $.02.

May 17:  Errands and grocery day.  I bought very few grocery: milk, bread, cheese, eggs to leave at home for our return, milk and bread and cheese to take on our trip. I froze all the milk and one loaf of bread to insure it was fresh when we returned.  Savings: $80, the grocery money not used.  That should nicely cover any foodstuffs we purchase next week. I won't add this in as savings because we will spend it as you'll see.

May 18:  John wanted to check out a Guitar Center in the city where we attend synagogue.  It happened to be in a shopping center where I usually shop for bras.  I don't go there often, but I always check for bras. My size is difficult to find.  I found three bras.  Bless the girl for telling me they were on sale and giving me an 'extra discount' when they didn't have a fourth bra that would have qualified me for the special price.  Savings $25.

May 19:  Off for our trip.  The room was paid for with John's birthday  and Christmas funds, so no money used from savings for that.  We packed a picnic lunch to eat along the way.  Savings for lunch: $15.

Stopped at the grocery store and picked up eggs, soda (free coupon/savings $3.99), salad items, chips, a quick meal for supper (our meats were still frozen solid as was the milk!), and a few other items we didn't have on hand at home.  I had my list made out Saturday night and double checked it before going into the store.  I spent $62.  Savings $18(the remainder of the grocery money).

One unexpected savings occurred at the grocery.  I stopped to look longingly at the Bbq'd chicken wings, but at $6.99/pound they were just too high.  The deli clerk watched us then asked, "Why didn't you want wings?"  I was embarrassed but told him truthfully they were just too high for my budget.  He said "If you buy a bucket with at least 2 pounds in it I will let you have them for $4.99/pound."  Well...that was more within my budget limits and was certainly not going to cost more than other options we were considering.  We had wings as a meal that evening and enough left to eat as a mid afternoon snack after a morning outing. 

May 20-22:  Meals were prepared in our room except two that we ate out.  We limited our activities to low cost ones that we knew we'd enjoy, mostly drives and rides.  I forgot to bring along my moisturizer and didn't bring the butter I had in the fridge ready to pack.  We didn't go back to the store to purchase either item.  We made do without them.  I've learned my lesson.  My skin did not like the hand lotion as a substitute, but we made do all the same.  Not going back to the store saved us at least $12.
May 23:  Headed home we stopped for another picnic meal.  I made a big salad from leftovers from the week served with crackers, muffins and juice we'd frozen to keep the salad cold which was partially thawed by the time we stopped.  Savings:  $15.

We had to stop at the Commissioner's office on our way home to fill out some necessary paperwork.  John ran into a friend who was lugging a 25pound bag of Vidalia onions about.  She kindly offered us some and we accepted two huge onions.  These things go for about $.99/pound this time of year.  Savings of that gift: $2.50.

May 24:  I thawed milk and bread overnight.  We ate cereal for breakfast with strawberries from the freezer that I'd thawed slightly in the microwave.  Our main meal today was a roasted onion (John does this and I'm not sure exactly how it's prepared, but he peels and cores a whole onion, hollows it out and stuffs in a bouillon cube and  perhaps a pat of butter.  Then he wraps it in foil and bakes in the oven).  I had some twice baked potato halves from the freezer that we popped into the oven alongside.  We polished off the last of the cookies from the cookie jar for our sweet.  I should have gone to the store, but I just didn't feel up to it...Besides we have dinner out tonight at the EMS dinner.

Our AC was not working as it ought.  I was pretty sure I knew the trouble, but we had to have the HVAC people to come out to tend to it.  Well...we've been setting a little aside each  month since last May when they had to come out.  It seemed to me that since this is about an annual thing we might as well have funds on hand.  John was pretty proud when we received our total bill of $159 and I told him we had $146 set aside.  We only had to cover $13 of that bill.

May 25:  John was offered a plate of leftovers from the EMS dinner's low country boil.  He brought home beef sausage and potatoes.  He fried these up this morning along with eggs for our breakfast.  Very tasty meal.

Katie and her boyfriend were due down to move her furniture (they were bringing a trailer to haul things in).  I'd thawed a chicken overnight to roast, stuffing with half an onion and fresh rosemary from my bush.  That fresh rosemary at the back door...Savings $2.99 the cost of fresh herbs at the grocery.

I had to think hard to determine what we'd have with our roast chicken.  I searched high and low and formed a plan.  The amazing thing was I realized, once I'd started thinking, we had all sorts of options even though I was low on produce.  And when Katie announced mid-cobbler making that there was not enough sugar in the canister, I had only to send her to the pantry to retrieve a bag from the bucket.

Loaded the dishwasher after dinner and set the dishes to wash on a short cycle.

Today was our 19th anniversary.  No big fan fare, no cards to shove in a drawer and forget about, no dinner out.  I was perfectly pleased with a requested item we'd bought at a gift shop on our trip: sterling silver hoop earrings that were not pricey in the least but a good basic item missing from my accessories wardrobe.  John said he counted the savings I'd helped make on the trip as his gift.  That made me feel pretty proud.

May 26:   Went to the grocery at last.  I was out of bread and while I could make more there was still that sadly lacking fresh salad items.  I spent $69 and saved $32 by using sales to my advantage.  I stocked up on some sales items that we can't buy at Aldi (all beef kosher hot dogs, vegetarian baked beans, soda) and a couple items that we just like better from the other store (salad dressing and bbq sauce for those days when I've forgotten to make up fresh).  John was paid on Friday so shopping was from this pay period's budgeted amount, not extra money spent.  We'll make an Aldi run later this week.

I broke a major shopping rule: don't go when you're hungry.  Well I restrained myself from any impulse buys save one item: a fresh mint plant for $2.99.  That I will plant and harvest mint from all summer long.  I love having my own fresh herbs.  I could have bought a few mint sprigs from the produce refrigerator section for the same price but I'll save many times that cost over the summer.  I'll count it as a savings of $2.99 because it will definitely pay for itself in the coming months.

Yes, I was really hungry after leaving the store.  John was working OT hours for a Memorial day celebration in his work county.  I went by Burger King and noted their frozen lemonade was on sale for $1 for a small.  I decided to order a burger and small fries and asked for the frozen drink as part of my combo meal.  Ha.  The drink rang up for $.50 with that combo, so a small savings of $.50.

Another impulse I'd had to curb at the grocery was my longing for fresh flowers.  I haven't bought a bouquet of flowers in MONTHS partly due to expense and the need to use that money elsewhere in my grocery budget.  However, when I arrived home, I realized the little red roses that Nancy gave me years ago had been especially prolific in blooming this year.  I cut easily a dozen or more flowers and have a lovely bouquet in my home.  It smells soooo good, which hot house roses seldom do.  Savings:$10 the cost of a standard grocery store mixed bouquet.

Gave myself a pedicure this evening, complete with cute little embellishments on my freshly painted nails.  Savings $20.

May 27:  Mixed up my own pancake batter this morning. I used some of the homemade buttermilk in it which makes the cakes especially light and fluffy. Savings over box mix: $.50.

I had more pancake mix than needed for one meal and lately it seems that frozen pancakes never make it to the table, only to the dogs' pans.  I put the leftover batter in a jar, capped it and stored in the fridge.  I'll have pancakes later in the week made fresh.

May 28:  I purposely waited until the sun was down behind the pecan tree this evening then stripped our bed and washed sheets. I wanted the heat of the day to be dissipated and the air conditioner to not be running as it had all day long so that I could use our dryer. Yes, I used the dryer.  I knew John would do linens from his bed at work when he came in and want to use the line.  I made sure to time the dryer load and even though the timer hadn't gone off I used my nose and determined the clothes smelled dry.  And they were!  I'll be sure to cut my time by 5 minutes next time I use the dryer for that particular load of laundry.

Mama is coming to dinner tomorrow.  I worked ahead preparing items like the relish tray and made Lemony Lemon Brownies for dessert.  The recipe called for the juice and zest of a lemon...Well I used the only fresh lemon in the house on Monday to make a Chicken and Tortellini Salad.  I had as it happened, put the lemon halves in the freezer because I'd thought it a shame to waste the beautiful zest.  I also had cubes of frozen lemon juice from the last of the fall lemons I'd juiced.  Ta da!  Zest and lemon juice, both fresh and neither one purchased especially for this recipe.  By the way, I thought zesting the frozen shells was much easier than zesting fresh lemon halves. Small savings of $.62.

May 29:  I grilled out for Mama's birthday.  I used a saved cardboard egg carton with 15 charcoals in it to start my fire.  I truly was of the mindset before I began grilling that you needed lots of coals to produce the heat necessary to cook with.  You don't!  I should be able to stretch this small bag of coals far enough to last through six or eight grillings.  That's a huge savings with charcoal averaging $5/bag.  I estimate savings at $5 which I think is being conservative.

I bought the hot dogs and buns for burgers and hot dogs on sale during the Memorial Day sales.  These sales had ended by Wednesday.  I saved $4 taking advantage of sales earlier in the week.

The roses were done by the time this birthday date rolled around.  I went out to the yard and pieced together a bouquet of day lily in old soda pop bottles for the dinner table.

I sent the brownies home with Mama and my niece because John is not fond of sharp lemony tastes.  I had promised to make him a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  I baked the layers tonight, meant to make the frosting tonight too but didn't have but half as much confectioner's sugar as the recipe required. None in my pantry either!   I added that item to my shopping list and promised him I'd finish the cake after grocery shopping tomorrow.

May 30:  We shopped at Aldi.  I spent every penny of my remaining budget.  John told me in the car, "I'd never have believed you'd come out anywhere near that low a figure with all that food.  I was certain we'd be way over."  I told him I'd wondered if we'd manage, too.  I told him we'd been in other grocery chains and bought a lot less food and spent a good deal more.  The back to basics approach at Aldi's has really kept our budget in line and filled our pantry and freezer.

Even at Aldi it's easy to get in the habit of buying things that aren't necessary but nice to  have about.  Like chips.  And cookies.  We limit ourselves to ONE bag of chips and ONE bag of fig bars per pay period.  If we have company who help themselves we go with out.  I can manage any number of treats for us without those purchased items. Those two items together are about $4 unless they are on sale (more frequently than you'd think) when we will spend $3.  

John offered to buy me lunch out, but I reminded him we had lots of leftovers at home.  He was pleased with his options here at home and suggested he'd take me out later in the week for a little road trip and lunch out to follow instead if I insisted on the leftovers.  Eat leftovers and get a road trip and a meal out or get a meal out and go home?  Not a hard choice now is it?  We ate the leftovers.

I finished the cake frosting and we had cake mid-afternoon as a treat.

John went out to mow the lawn.  Having a bigger mower may sound like an unnecessary expense but he mows about 3 acres or more of lawn.  This 46inch mower has cut mowing time from 6 hours to 3 and our gasoline usage from one tank to 1/2 tank each pay period.  That is a huge savings of time and money on both counts.

May 31:  After discussion yesterday afternoon, and working to get the house cleaned and the lawn mowed, we decided we'd take our road trip and go out to lunch today.  That meant John could work on CEUs Sunday, do a small home repair job on Monday and rest all day Tuesday for the work week ahead.  Those CEUs are online courses he can take right here at home.  I've already planned my projects for the day while he works.

Received my credit card bill today and the figure was not for the faint of heart.  It was HIGH.  However, it was not as great a shock as you might think.  For one thing every penny is already in the bank except one charge that will be taken from my next pay period's grocery budget (and that was planned that way).  Whew!  lol.  Seriously, we made a decision years ago that we'd never use the credit card or gas card unless we could pay for the purchases that very day.  We write them out as an entry in the checkbook just as though we'd used a check to pay for them at the moment we purchased the items.  We have not paid one finance charge on our cards in the past 10 years.  I cant' count it as savings because I don't know how to estimate what we've saved but I'll wager it's in the THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.  We've built up our credit and we've had a cash reserve we could draw on if dire emergencies arose before the bill came due (thankfully none have).  I admit this practice is NOT for the undisciplined.  It often means I have to say NO to myself about a piece of clothing or an item for my home that I'd like to have or even NEED. I adjust my attitude when I start to feel sorry for myself and move on.  Life's too short to dread going to the mailbox everyday.  Been there and done that!

The tax estimate came in for the property taxes today.  I went to my little ledger and looked to see how we were progressing in that area.  I have over half the property taxes in the account at present.  We're ahead of  target and should have that full amount by end of summer.

I also received two free individual servings of Ovaltine chocolate milk mix in the mail along with a $2 coupon.

I didn't really pay attention to the blurb on the Dr. Pepper box when I picked it up last month but before I put it in the trash I read it and I'm glad I did.  There was a coupon code good for one movie rental.  Savings $4.99.

Total: $264.57
Total Savings For May:  $410.59  

It's been an interesting month in The Blue House.  Lots of minor repairs of many items, road trips, savings, hard work, fun, blessings and just routine every day stuff.  

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