A Year of Savings: Giving Value to What We Do At Home in 2016
I've done these sort of posts in the past. My last was in 2013 and I felt it got a bit tedious at times but the truth is, like housework, tedium often has purpose. We keep washing dishes and sweeping floors and the end result is a clean and neat home (or at least it is most of the time). Keeping track of what I save by being home doing repetitious tasks, attempting to learn new skills and putting them into practice routinely if they work out, and even those once in awhile things that we happen to do that saves us money now and then...they all add up! While not every single thing brings in a viable sum of money, these savings are the measure of our value in our homes. And so tedium may ensue at times but it's necessary to remind myself, and you, that it's not all for naught, we're not just wasting our time. We are contributing to our household, truly contributing, just as the wage earner does!
This year I'll combine the savings posts with my usual thrifty posts once a month,because it is all savings in the end, isn't it?
January 2: I have been stingy with my perfume of late. My every day bottle and my really good stuff are both very nearly empty. I can replace the every day stuff easily enough. The cost of that has been very stable. The good stuff? It jumped nearly 25% in cost. I was flush with funds in my personal account when I bought that bottle and didn't blink at the price last year when I bought it.
This year...I'm not quite so flush and that 25% jump gave me pause. I can't justify the expense, much as I believe in splurges on things we love. I could use that money elsewhere and that's truth.
So I looked at the stuff I used to wear, another good scent that I like very well and which is real perfume. I noted that the cost of it is up a little but nowhere around the big jump in price on the new scent. In fact, it costs less than HALF. So I ordered my former scent. I will have good perfume once more and I saved money which will be spent in other more needed areas.
While in the laundry area, I unpinned the bread sacks I'd hung up to dry there. I clipped them to a hanger and let them drip over the laundry basket. I am saving bread sacks to pack casseroles and meats for the freezer rather than use zippered bags for those things.
I made a broccoli and cauliflower salad. It's not one of my favorite but it was different and saved lettuce for another salad at another meal. I mixed the two vegetables with a bit of shredded cheddar, a little mayo and sour cream and a sprinkling of dry Ranch dressing mix.
I mixed up sugar free pudding. I used up about 1/2 cup whipped topping, mixing it into the pudding. This makes it 'mousse', lightening and enriching the pudding and even though my whipped topping was the fat free sort it still had that effect on the pudding. The whipped topping had been in the fridge for some time and I didn't want it to sit there and get too old to use.
I saved the whipped topping bowl. I find them handy for storage of leftover salad in the fridge.
I ran out of dog food, so I supplemented their bowls with cat food today. We're going out tomorrow and will stop by grocery then. Just in time, too. I need fruit badly and I've just enough milk to have coffee in the morning.
I made oven fries tonight to go with our supper. I love these low fat fries as much as deep fried ones and they are quickly made from fresh potatoes which are cheaper per pound than most frozen french fries. A bag of frozen french fries, weighing one pound costs about $3 at the grocery. My 5 pound bag of potatoes cost $2.29 at Aldi. If I used the whole bag to make oven fries, I'd have saved $12.71, just to give you an idea of why I choose to cut up my own potatoes at home. Yes, it takes a moderate amount of time, compared to opening a bag and dumping on a baking sheet to go in the oven, but really it's barely 5 minutes work to scrub and cut potatoes and from there the steps are just the same, even the cooking time is about the same, so the monetary savings for that five minutes of effort is well worth it.
January 3: I didn't have enough milk to make oatmeal this morning. I do have powdered milk on hand so I decided to just add the powdered milk and water to the oatmeal. That worked just fine. I think I've just discovered a new way to make our oatmeal and little less expensive!
I fed the dogs cat food this morning. We'll buy dog food on our way home.
I splurged a bit at the grocery today. It's not something I do often nor did we go way out of bounds but I happen to know that the pay check coming in this week will be a nicer one than we'll have all year long. There are two holidays on it. I decided that if ever we were going to splurge today should be the day, not the day we're out doing our main grocery shopping for the month! I think I was spot on that, too. I allowed myself two bunches of flowers this week, but I stayed with the inexpensive bunches ($4 each). We bought fruit (clementines that were big and lovely and fresh pineapple that was buy one get one priced). We also decided to buy a chicken dinner. It was $10.99 for 8 pieces of chicken, 2 16 ounce sides and a 4 pack of rolls. I am deeply grateful to the produce clerk who glanced in our buggy and came around to tell us he'd noticed we had all the components of the store special. He told us to put the items in a special bag (and then went to fetch it himself from the deli department) and the bar code would ring up at the special price. Wasn't that nice?
The taco soup I had cooking in the crock pot (called chili by John and henceforth known as taco chili) was a nice supper. We've plenty for a future meal or two, which will be really nice this chilly week in the South. We're at last having seasonably cool weather.
Spent some time this afternoon scrubbing down the kitchen. Not really a deep cleaning, but just a good wiping down and cleaning the faces of cabinets and appliances, wiping off a section of wall, etc. In a white kitchen, drips and such are glaring. However, the bonus side is that you are inclined to wipe them down and that keeps the crud from building up and because of that a hard deep cleaning session is never in the offing. A huge time and effort saver to do it once a week!
In decluttering mode, I've pulled a cookbook from my kitchen bookshelf. I've made up my mind that I'll either use these cookbooks to cook with or the books must go. And yes, I realize it is sad that my decluttering effort was one book today...
January 4: I've been feeding the pets a little extra food each evening in order to give them extra calories to burn in this cooler weather.
Took all the totes to the shed and organized Christmas items while out there. I discovered an old empty cardboard barium barrel that Mama brought home from the hospital where she worked some 50 years ago. It has a nice metal lid and is solid as can be. With a table round on top it was a bedside table in my childhood home. For years I've used it for storage. It happened to be empty this morning...and it was perfect for my Christmas tree and the four or five Christmas wreaths. No need to go buy the over sized container I'd planned to purchase. Savings $15 I may now use elsewhere.
I had some old curtains in the shed (previously sheets) that I pulled out to make covers for the openings of the dog houses. That should help keep them warmer, too. Blossom has her bed in her 'house' and Maddie's is fitted out with a rug.
I made some phone calls this afternoon that I'd been putting off. Namely I called the health insurance to report the income change. Yes, my premium went up. Yes, I'd already had an increase over last year. When I worked up the new budget sheet, I figured high on insurance costs and we came in UNDER that pre-planned amount. That's terrific as we've had an increase in two other areas and my adjustments were almost covered by that overage in the preliminary planning.
Reheated leftovers of the taco chili for dinner. I made cornbread and a salad to go with the meal. I put a quart of soup in the freezer for another meal. Not bad for a bunch of leftovers from the freezer, a single can of kidney beans and a half pound of ground beef.
I made John's work lunch for tomorrow. Last year I gave up buying sandwich sized bags. I haven't missed them at all. John's sandwiches go just as well in a quart or gallon bag.
I filled the crock pot with hot soapy water to clean it up. I washed dishes in the crock pot first then washed the crock pot.
Turned on a kettle of water to add moisture to the air in the house.
January 5: Packed John's work lunch, made him breakfast. Made sure he took a heavier coat for the cold night work he must do.
We had a great Harvest this week. The trick is to hold on to some of that. I've had my splurge on groceries and that's it for us. We'll stick to routine grocery purchases during the pay period.
Frustrating sort of day. There were some awesome sales this week at Target, Office Depot, Dollar General and a few other stores. Unfortunately the items were not available in quantities needed to make them the great deal they might have been at Target. And the ad plainly read, NO RAIN CHECKS. Ha. I considered it an added savings to NOT get the sales items.
At Office Depot, one group of items rang up just fine but I was overcharged for the other ones. I had to return to the store to sort that out. I am glad I've gotten into the habit of scanning my receipts prior to leaving the parking lot. It's a lot easier to walk back into a store from the parking lot than to plan a return trip that involves driving 70 miles round trip. Saved $5 in price correction.
Went into Dollar General and picked up the two things I went in for, then I added an unplanned item to my buggy. Fortunately that impulse died hard at the register as I waited on the clerks to get change. I asked that it be put back. That is $30 saved that may be used elsewhere.
New lampshades are like a new hairstyle. They can make or break a lamp. I've needed new shades for quite a while for the living room lamps. One was broken and one simply didn't match my newest lamp. I went to At Home to shop remembering that they were reasonably priced and had a huge selection. I came home with two new shades for $26 total. I priced shades at Target and I couldn't buy one for that price.
I've been looking for two or three years now for a new cover for our bed. This year I noted that the quilts I've been using are getting tears in them. I looked online and found a comforter set I liked on clearance at Target for $80 and even put it in my cart online, but I wanted to see if I found anything in a store.
I looked at the stores I visited today and I found a beautiful matelasse quilt for $24. I knew that I'd need a dust ruffle, pillow shams and curtains to match. I found a lovely pair of sheers for $25. For winter that might work well but come summer with the western sun beating on the windows...I needed drapes, too. I went into the dollar store to see if I could find black out curtains. There was a color that looked like it would work. I bought four panels for $36. Does it sound like I've gone crazy with my spending? I still don't have a dust ruffle or pillow shams and I've spent $85. No savings there over the comforter set (which didn't include curtains)!
When I got home, I realized that the new quilt matches the material I've used in the kitchen windows...and I have a whole length of that material on hand yet, enough for a dust ruffle and pillow shams.
January 6: This morning I started hanging curtains in our room and I realized the new room darkening panels were a good foot wider than the blue ones in the living room. That extra width on the double windows in the living room was enough to offset the need of an extra panel and the new ones were a lovely blue grey shade. I swapped curtains (again!) and put the new panels in the living room and the older blue ones back in the bedroom. Now come summer all my west facing windows will have full coverage from the black out curtains and I actually ended up saving the need to go buy two more panels. Savings $18 which may now be used elsewhere and which cuts the cost of my bedding, too, so that mini makeover now costs less than the comforter set I'd thought I'd purchase. So the mini makeover in our room cost $68. That's an added savings of $12 I can now use elsewhere.
Our cars are older, 10 and 11 years old to be exact, but both are good models with low mileage and high value. Even though they are both paid for and we dropped full insurance coverage, we've opted to keep a higher comprehensive coverage on them.
Tuesday morning several deer ran into the highway when John was on his way to work. One of them hit his car. This morning he took the car to the collision center here in town and they wrote him a quote of $2800. We know we must pay our deductible, $500 but there's a savings for us in having that extra coverage of $2300.
Small savings today compared to the start of the day: I stretched a half pound of hamburger with some bread crumbs soaked in milk and a little finely minced onion. My recipe called for four thin patties of beef and I knew half a pound wasn't going to make four patties. With the bread crumbs and onion, I was able to make the four thin patties.
I extended my sugar free butterscotch pudding today by crushing a graham cracker and a half of another one. They were the leftovers of the box and it does seem they always just languish in the cupboard. John never wants to finish the last of anything, saving it for me and I don't touch it thinking he might want it, lol. Well I crushed those crackers today and dumped them into the pudding as I mixed it up. No, it didn't make it grainy but it did extend the pudding! I always pour into bowls, or 4 ounce jars, Today I filled five of the serving cups.
No eggs for breakfast and I simply didn't think to purchase any while I was out yesterday. What to do? I chose to make a pan of hash browns this morning and steamed sausage in the same pan. Served with toast and a clementine, I don't think John missed his morning eggs. Now tomorrow morning I think we'll have pancakes using pancake mix (just adding water) and some type of breakfast meat and then we'll go grocery shopping buy eggs.
The heat was running constantly this morning, so I turned on the propane heater and put my kettle of water on the back burner of the stove once more. The electric heat still came on during the cold morning hours but it stopped running constantly.
Yesterday while I was out, I bought a sandwich for my lunch. I couldn't eat it all, so I brought half home. I reheated it tonight for John's supper. He had a small sandwich left in his work lunch that also went on his plate. His portion of supper was 'free'.
January 7: I washed two older bed pillows this morning and hung on the line to air and dry while we were gone.
We took off a bag of trash, picked up mail and paid the electric bill on our way into and through town this morning.
Remember me saying I'd started checking my receipt before leaving the parking lot? At Aldi my total was way higher than usual. I glanced over the receipt right there in the store and found a HUGE error, a charge for 23 gallons of milk instead of 2. I was refunded that money right away. But as an aside it's nice to know should I ever need to purchase 23 gallons of milk, I could afford to do so at Aldi! Looking at my receipt saved me $51!
At Aldi today I purchased two turkey breasts (name brand) for $1.39 a pound. It's not a whole turkey as I'd hoped but it is a great buy on turkey breasts.
At Publix we saved buying items that we normally use that were on sale. Did I need them all right now? No. I needed some of them right now but why should I pay full price later simply because I don't need something right now? I saved 50% of my total simply buying things on sale. I doubled the value of my spending. It was at this point that I 'went over' the cash I had on hand by $38....but wait...
We went to CVS and I spent another $26. I bought items on sale and saved $46 using coupons and store coupons. I saved another $41 purchasing items on sale. I earned $4 in ECBs.
I didn't splurge or buy multiples of everything at either store. But yes, I was bothered by my overage and the fact that I am over every single pay period. Or so I thought. This afternoon I realized that my problem isn't what I'm spending. I'm well within my budget. My problem is that I fail to take out enough cash to cover my heaviest shopping period at the beginning of each month. Right now I have exactly the amount of cash I need for the shorter pay period in my budget plus enough to set aside some money for my next bulk meat purchase. Come the first pay period of next month I'll be sure to get out the full amount of cash and not what I am sure might be enough. And if I save some of it, so much the better.
Stopped to pay rent on booth. I made $12.
January 8: Washed a full load of clothes. I dried it in stages as I knew the heaviest items wouldn't dry before we had to leave home this morning. I finished those up when I got home.
The eggs we bought this time are large but they looked extra large to me this morning. I cooked 4 instead of 5 as I might do usually. Savings were small but $.12.
John treated us to coffee at the grocery we stopped by...Nope not buying more groceries but taking advantage of Kroger's Free Item Friday. I got a free loaf of bread, savings $3.59.
We splurged on a meal out today. This is something John has begun to do once a month for my sae but I was happy we had the extra in our account to treat ourselves. We ordered from the lunch menu, and I had water.
No need to feed dogs extra tonight as it's not meant to be so cold.
Total Savings this week: $2530.71
How did I come up with my figure? By figuring only those things that actually netted me a real savings of cash or earned income. Taking receipts back to correct overages, free items and coupon savings and good sense items like having the insurance coverage to pay the bulk of that car repair bill, going over ads to discover which items were good sales for our needs, free items, actually using less of something that is easily figured in cost...Those are the actual cash in hand savings I brought about this week. The areas where I estimated what I might use elsewhere is savings just the same as the rest but the cash is not actually generated from those items. And there are multiple areas where I cannot assign a value but I did it to save time or to save wear and tear on an item or simply to stop an expense altogether. My figures will always be skewed because I cannot fully track and keep up with every single savings I make. However, I will attempt at the beginning of each month to account for how I saved and what I earned.
Now please feel free to share your own savings this week. Include a url for your blog or give us an accounting of what you did in the comments.