Planning a wedding on a budget

I have a lot going on this summer. It’s the season of beautiful weather, vacations, garage sales, outings to the river with my doggies, and a wedding to pull together. It seems like just yesterday, not 6 months ago, that my lovely daughter, Carmen, got engaged. The happy couple is planning on paying for the majority of the wedding themselves. Of course my husband and myself are pitching in a bit, but, keeping the expenditures to a minimum is top priority. The wedding is coming up in just under 6 weeks. There is so much to do!

I have spent hours upon hours on Pinterest saving pins for frugal ideas on decorations, floral arrangements, backdrops, themes… Oh my goodness there is so much information out there! I absolutely adore Pinterest… way more than I should.

HOW IT ALL STARTED…

The official engagement Facebook post

 

 

THE ENGAGEMENT: Christmas day, 2017, Carmen’s boyfriend, Jacob, popped the question. (He’s such a great guy! We are absolutely thrilled to have him officially join our family!After a few weeks, it was decided to have the wedding in August of 2018. That gave us 8 months to plan a wedding.

 

Grange hall down the street. A more inexpensive venue with lots of perks

 

 

THE VENUE:  Carmen and Jacob wanted to have a smaller wedding, and the place they picked was perfect. Carmen already knew where she wanted to have the wedding. That was good since our timeline was pretty short. There is a grange/community hall just down the street from where I live that she picked. It’s a mile away from my home. It was nicely priced to “rent”, and there’s ample parking. She wants an outdoor wedding, and it has these two trees out front on the right side that will be perfect for the ceremony. It’s also a neat old building with a nice kitchen/dining area in the basement. It has a nice space upstairs for dancing, and a stage as well. There is a lot of history to that old building for me. I went to the school across the street from it when I was a child. I ate lunch in that grange hall every day in grade school for 4+ years. We had Christmas programs and talent shows there. There are so many good memories. I’m happy to have a wonderful one as an adult too.

Doing the engagement photos yourself can save you literally thousands of dollars.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Photographers can be one of the biggest expenses for a wedding… Engagement photos… the wedding itself… Hours upon hours are spent taking photos and editing. Since I am a photographer, it was a natural decision for me to do the engagement shoot. After all, IT’S FREE if I do them. We picked a spot and set up a time. I brought some props, and so did they. The photos turned out really nice. We were all pleased with the way they looked. We decided to use one of these photos for the wedding invitations. I had originally thought about doing the photos for the actual wedding myself, BUT… I am the Matron on Honor, (seriously LOVE this girl for choosing me!) and I just can’t visualize how that is going to logistically work. Besides, I am going to have enough going on that day…  I don’t need to worry about that too. I have quite a few photographer friends, and I hired one to do the photos. The photographer and I went to high school together, so there’s some history there as well.  He does great work, and gave me a great deal. It KILLS ME to have to pay someone else to do it, but, after some very serious internal struggles and conversations with my family, I agreed. I paid for the photographer. It was still quite expensive, (but about half the price from if I were to hire a stranger), so I didn’t want the kids to have to fork out the money for that part.

THE WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENTS AND WEDDING BOOK: I am a HUGE fan of Shutterfly. They have an excellent variety of choices for wedding announcements and books (and pretty much anything else you would want). You can use your own photos, and fill everything out the way YOU want, and their turn-around time is pretty quick… We received the announcements within 4 days! They are ALWAYS having sales and promotions. I was able to get the wedding announcements for around 75% off, thanks to all the coupon codes I found. They offer rectangle shapes, and ones with rounded corners. Rounded corners look very elegant, but it costs extra… by 20¢ per card! I only ordered 90 cards. Just imagine the cost for several hundred!

This little tool, that I already had, saved me $18 on wedding announcements!

Lucky for me, I already had a paper cutter for rounding corners. I was able to save $18 by spending 30 minutes and rounding the corners myself. Definitely worth a half an hour of my time. Score one small frugal victory!

Carmen and Jacob created an event on Facebook and used that as their “Save the Date” in lieu of purchasing and mailing out cards. They invited their family and friends, and I was able to invite my family and friends that I wanted present as well. We used that forum to get all the addresses that we needed for the official invitation. This also gave them a general idea of how many people would be present on the day of their wedding.

The wedding book I ordered was also 75% off with all the coupon codes. I was able to use all my own pictures and create a completely personal book for guests to write in and peruse. I am excited to see the results.  ONLY TWO MORE DAYS UNTIL IT’S HERE!

 

THE OFFICIANT: Carmen and Jacob weren’t sure who was going to perform the ceremony. They did quite a bit of thinking on the subject and everyone they could think of was either busy or out of town. At this point, with less than 6 weeks to go, I was getting a little bit nervous about finding someone, so I did something crazy… I went online and became an ordained minister, able to perform weddings in Oregon. Yep, I really did! I just received all my official paperwork in the mail last week. I texted my friends in my music circle and told them what I had done. They were VERY surprised to say the least. Haha! (That sparked a round of interesting thoughts for future adventures… THAT will be for another post!). I explained to them that I was creating a backup plan just in case the couple couldn’t come up with someone. One of my girls said that if they couldn’t come up with anyone, she would be willing to get ordained and perform the ceremony. I mentioned this to Carmen, and she said she would absolutely love to have my friend perform their wedding. She knows her, and really likes her. The next day, this same friend got hold of me to ask if I would be willing to do her daughter’s senior pictures, and how much would I charge… We had a brief discussion, and we decided to trade services. She is going to become an ordained minister, and then perform the wedding ceremony, and I’m going to do her daughter’s senior pictures.

Just…. WOW

THE DECORATIONS: Carmen has been gathering items to use for decorations for quite awhile. She has bought most of them during extreme sales or in the clearance section. I had an idea for lighting and using my canning jars for subtle lighting.  I have the wire hangers that go around the lip of the jars, so they could be hung up if we chose to go that route. I will use them on our front and back porches after the wedding. I wanted to have nice subtle lighting out there anyway. Carmen chose to have a retro/vintage themed wedding. We have a lot of friends with vintage cars, so we kindly asked if we could “borrow” their cars for a few hours on a Saturday evening. One of which she will arrive in just before the wedding. She has a lot of Matchbox cars that she is going to put on the food tables for decorations. We are going to be making the centerpieces for all the tables with fabric that she purchased on clearance several years ago. Carmen doesn’t want a lot of flowers at her wedding, so she will have a bouquet to walk down the aisle with, and that is it. As for the ceremony outside… The background behind the trees is not exactly ideal, or romantic… two streets join, street signs, a house, and a school. After talking it over with my husband, we decided that we are going to purchase two 4’x8′ sheets of wood lattice and place them between and slightly behind the two trees. We are going to attach fabric, in one of their chosen colors, to the backside of the lattice to hide the eyesores behind it. My husband can reuse the lattice after the wedding for some projects he is working on. MULTI PURPOSE ITEMS ARE FANTASTIC!

Draping made out of tool is simple and pretty inexpensive. USE YOUR COUPONS!

We are then going to make a nice flowing drape out of tool on top and flowing down the sides to frame it. We have several fabric stores in town that have coupons weekly. We should be able to get this at 75% off regular pricing, making this a nice frugal item. Carmen suggested reselling it after the wedding to recoup some of the overall costs of the wedding. If we can do this with many of the items we are purchasing strictly for the wedding, that will be a big help in the long run. All in all, the decorations will come in well under $300, and most will be re-purposed after the wedding.

THE DRESS: Carmen was all for buying a wedding dress second hand, however, her fiancé insisted that she buy a brand new dress… it’s their wedding, after all. After doing some research, she decided on a store. They were having a sale, and the beautiful dress she picked was $500. Considering how much many wedding dresses cost, it was a price that she could live with. She cringed as she pulled out her debit card to pay for it, but, considering the woman next to us was spending over $2000…  (Sorry, there will not be a photo of the dress until after the wedding, for obvious reasons.)

THE BRIDESMAIDS/MATRON OF HONOR ATTIRE, HAIR AND MAKEUP: Carmen wanted to choose something that her chosen friends could wear later… not something that will sit in their closets and gather dust. She decided on vintage style dresses that the girls will purchase for $30-$40. The colors can vary as long the chosen wedding colors are in there somewhere. Same for the shoes… Something within the vintage theme that are comfortable and they can use at a later time. I already have a dress and shoes that fit the criteria. Each of the ladies will do their own hair and makeup, and Carmen will help with any last minute details if the need arises. She’s an expert with vintage hair and makeup.

THE MEN’S SUITS: My understanding is that the men are going to wear suits, which they already own. The ties will have the wedding colors. The groom will be wearing a suit as well.

THE MUSIC/DJ: The ceremony itself will have pre-recorded music through speakers. She didn’t feel the need for live music. As for the reception, she has a playlist put together on her iPod that she is going to play through the speakers inside the building. She can play whatever she wants, and it will be all the music she loves and likes to dance to.

THE FOOD: The couple has decided on a potluck style for food for the guests. They wanted something simple with variety that all the people could enjoy. As for the cake… They are going with a very out of the norm item… Pizza. Different? Definitely, and I love everything about it. Why be traditional?!

THE SETUP AND TEAR DOWN: Family and friends will be doing the wedding setup and tear down of everything. We get the keys to the building two days before the wedding, and have them until two days after the wedding, to get everything cleaned up. We can do all the inside decorating in the two days before and set up the outside Saturday morning, since the ceremony doesn’t start until early evening. Then we will have the two days after to get everything cleaned up.

Things are slowly starting to come together. I’m sure there are things we haven’t thought of yet. When they come up, we’ll deal with it accordingly. You don’t realize how short 8 months really is, until you are trying to plan a wedding. The engagement happens, and then suddenly, there’s 6 weeks left to go. Now it’s a mad dash to get all the details done. It will happen, the wedding day will arrive, and everything will be fine… and even if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, that’s okay. It will generate a wonderful set of memories to share later on! (My wedding was at the Justice of the Peace, it took about 10 minutes, with three guests, and they forgot to charge us for the ceremony. We wore regular clothes, and my husband had a mullet. We will never forget that, and we love telling the story!)

LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN!

 

 

 

 

Having an emergency 72 hour kit

No one wants to think about the possibility of a natural disaster or some kind of emergency that causes us to have to evacuate our homes for a period of time. I know I don’t want to think about it, BUT WE NEED TO. We need to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice with items to sustain us… For every member of our family living in our home… Pets included. Think about all the things that have happened in recent years… Forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes…  It seems they happen more and more frequently. It also seems that they are more severe. Many of these events are requiring evacuations, and they need to happen quickly. Are you ready for that?

By no means am I the guru “know it all” when it comes to emergency preparedness, BUT, my parents were adamant about having a 72 hour kit, and at least a 6 month supply of food. (I’ve mentioned that I live in the house that I grew up in… I STILL have close to 1000 pounds of wheat in my basement! 😳) I watched my mom take sheets, make them into bandage strips, sterilize them, and vacu-seal them for our kits. I watched her buy 5 gallon plastic buckets to store our kits in… Waterproof and durable. She crocheted large doilies to go over them and set houseplants on them in the living room… Close and ready to grab if needed.

Being prepared is critical

I do things a bit differently than mom did, but yes, I have kits for two adults, two children, and three large dogs. I don’t have five gallon pails though. I purchased two backpack kits, and added in dog food and clothing. I also have an emergency “bug-out” backpack that stays in my car at all times. (Thank you, my co-workers, for putting that one together when I was preparing for a long road trip with a very questionably nasty winter forecast possibility. It’s nice that people worry!)  Purchased kits can be spendy, but I don’t feel bad about this purchase. For me, peace of mind made this an easy decision. The backpacks are designed to hold everything that comes in the kits, and has first aid items as well. Do your research, and I’m sure you can come up with something to fit you and your family’s needs. It was just simpler for me to do this than try to gather up all the different items, and pray that I didn’t miss anything important… I worried about that.

It’s also a good idea to have a stash of emergency funds… as in cash money. If there’s a disaster, are debit/credit card machines going to be working? Maybe, but maybe not. Do you really want to take that chance? I know I don’t!

One thing my parents always did routinely was to fill up the car when it got down to half a tank. I will be the first to admit that I am not good at that. Call it laziness if you like, but, that requires getting gas more frequently. In the long run though, you’re still going to be spending the same amount for gas every month. You’re filling up half a tank instead of a full one. Think about it for a minute though… If you have to leave in a hurry, are you going to need to wait in line for gas along with everyone in the town you live in? No thank you, not me! I’d rather be heading away from whatever disaster is coming!

One of the other very important things to have is a plan. Have a family meeting and discuss what to do in the event of an emergency. Talk about what to do in certain circumstances. If the situation applies, have an escape route… Have a meeting spot… Have a code word. Make sure everyone knows what to do, where to go, who to call, and who to trust. I cannot stress this enough. HAVE A PLAN!

Lately, emergency preparedness has been repeatedly creeping up in my thoughts.  I want to be prepared, and I want YOU to be prepared. What are you waiting for? Make your list of things you need. Do some research if you need to, and get it done! https://www.ready.gov/ Personally, I would rather have my kits and not need them, than have the emergency and have nothing to survive on.

 

What will you be doing this summer?

Summer is upon us! There are so many things to love about summer.  Ah, the sun, the barbeques, the vacations, and… THE GARAGE SALES!

I love shopping garage sales for the incredible bargains, but I’m going to focus on the HAVING garage sales. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m not overly fond of putting on a sale, but I am on a mission this year. I desperately want to pare down my possessions. I make progress every week, which is good, but I’m gearing up for sale day. I still have a few weeks to go, and that’s great! I’m looking forward to filling up all my large boxes with items to be sold… which means more stuff leaving my home! I’m even taking this a step further. I’m planning with my neighbors and we’re going to have our sales on the same weekend. How awesome is that? Neighborhood sales attract more attention, which hopefully means more people and more of my stuff going away!

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I know I keep focusing on items going away. Yes, that is intentional. There are a few reasons why…  #1- I need the ongoing pep-talk. I’ve been making excellent progress, and I would like it to continue. In this case, I am my own personal cheerleader.  #2- I am trying to change my mindset. I am trying to reverse 40+ years of keep, save, and buy multiples of everything. I’m tired of storing so much. I’m tired of having to find bigger totes and shelves. When I’m asked if I have big plans for the weekend, and my response is all too often, “I’m going to be cleaning and organizing my music/computer room… AGAIN”, then obviously, things need to change!

I started following a Facebook page called Becoming Minimalist a while back.  I am inspired by Joshua Becker. His posts are not only interesting, but I find them to be quite insightful. I love the little sayings he posts. I can relate. I take them to heart. I’m trying to embrace this way of thinking in order to take my home back and not let my stuff own ME.

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Let’s buckle down and go through our stuff! Call your friends and neighbors and get to selling! (And don’t forget to donate what you don’t sell!)  Less stuff means less cleaning and less stress. Let’s take back our evenings and weekends, and do the things we really want to do… ENJOY LIFE.

LET”S DO THIS!!

 

Minimalistic traveling

Over the last few years, I seem to have started traveling more. Admittedly, it is mostly for work, but not all. I have done more air travel recently than I have the entire rest of my life. That’s probably not saying too much, but it’s true! For the most part, I enjoy it. (I’d enjoy it a bit more if I didn’t get motion sickness from bumpy flights though!) I love seeing new places and taking in different scenery.

There are some things I have learned from my recent travels. First off, I really detest checking my bags. I like having my eye on my stuff at all times if possible. Okay, some smaller planes still make you hand over your small suitcase\carry on, but at least it goes from the trolley at the front of the plane directly into the plane, and right back to me when the flight is over. Hey, I don’t trust people! I’ve had my suitcase gone through more than once! Secondly, because of that fact, I have to pack smarter. As you have probably already figured out, I like stuff. I like taking my stuff with me. You know… just in case! I have finally figured out that packing lighter and smarter isn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.

I think what helps me the most is HOW I pack. I used to fold everything all nice and neat and lay things on top of each other, just like I would in my dresser. Turns out, at least for me, if I roll up my clothes, I have considerably more room. (AND less wrinkles!) I can put the things that I would put in my backpack in there as well. I was so mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner. Seriously! This could have made my previous trips so much easier. I always bring too many extras. How about instead of 3 extras, just take 1? I actually did it. It’s amazing how much more room I have when I don’t try to take my entire closet with me! This doesn’t mean I can take a lot of other things with me. I see all that extra room in my suitcase, and I feel the need to fill it up with things. I refrained. I am making progress!

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This is half of what I brought the first time I came to Montana. One pair of jeans (besides what I wore on the trip over), pajama top and bottom, two tank tops (for under shirts), a t-shirt, a dressier tank, and two different styles of sweaters in case eating out was going to happen. I also brought three pairs of socks (one extra), same for my other under things, and an extra pair of more comfortable shoes. One layer in my suitcase! Woo hoo! I don’t think you realize how big of a deal this is for me!

I gathered all my other stuff. One small bag of makeup, one baggie of chargers, and two baggies of miscellaneous toiletries that I have to bring. I simply can’t use hotel shampoos and conditioners. My hair is too picky for that.

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There is still a ton of room in there. I would call this a success! (There is some dramatic dance moves going on right now!)

So, what it comes down to is this… Plan ahead. Make a list in advance of what items you want to take. Then, take the time to assess what is on your list. What can you eliminate? What isn’t necessary? Can you survive your trip without it? If you can’t, is there a smaller version you can take? It seems like it should be a no brainer, but sometimes these things just don’t occur to us when we’re in the act of packing. I actually did purchase a few “mini” travel items that took up half the space… Deodorant, first aid kit, and toothpaste. There was nothing overly extravagant, and the total cost was under ten dollars. The nice thing is that I won’t have to purchase them for a few more trips, so it’s totally worth it to me!

There is a certain feeling of freedom when we have less to (literally) carry around. Go on your trip, have fun, and take less with you! You’ll have less to keep track of. You’ll thank yourself for it!

My need to have less stuff

I have a confession to make. Lately I’ve been feeling very closed in and trapped by my stuff. Over the last year I have gotten rid of a lot of things. I’ve had garage sales, and donated trunk loads of my unwanted and unused goods. I have a lot less. So why do I still feel like I’m drowning?

I have theories of course. I have problem areas in my home… my dining room table, a certain oversized bookshelf, and my computer/craft/music room. These are either my high traffic areas, or where I spend much of my time. I’ll be the first to admit that when I get home from work lately, I’m tired. I collapse on the couch and don’t want to move. That is where the problems start. Everything that has happened during the day doesn’t get taken care of, so it starts to build up. It sure doesn’t take long!

The “drop zone” at the end of the day

Where items with no home hang out

I also bring things home. That offsets all that I have disposed of.

I’m sure you can relate. I know I’m guilty of not putting things away. We don’t have control of what happens in our homes when we leave for work, unless you live by yourself. It all adds up in a hurry. Then, within a few days, I start to feel the stress of all my stuff hanging around… far away from where their rightful place is. I feel like I’ve lost control. My stuff owns ME.

IT NEEDS TO STOP!

I’ve read many articles, blog posts, and books about decluttering and minimalism. It all sounds so appealing… so very nice. My big struggle is getting past my heritage and upbringing. You see, I come from a long line of pack rats. NOTE, I did NOT say hoarders. My family has long believed in stocking up on things… getting extra when there’s a deal to be had. It’s not garbage and nastiness… Just lots of items for later use… large boxes of various electronic cables, canning jars full of random nails and screws, shoe boxes full of artist paint brushes. I’ve noticed, as I look around my home, that I tend to do the same things. What makes it all the more ironic, is that I live in the house I grew up in. I still have things in my basement that my dad saved. (Cabinet drawers full of screws, nails, zip ties, etc.) There used to be A LOT more things, but I finally got up the courage to sift through most of it.

I just need to be brutally honest with myself when I take time to deep clean. I need to take every single thing out of my closet and start asking myself those all important questions that all those articles have brought to my attention. Do I use this item daily?  When was the last time I used it? If I were to get rid of it, is there another item that I have that could work similarly to this one? Do I know anyone that I could borrow one from if it was absolutely necessary? If there are several similar items, is there possibly one item that could do all the things that the multiple items can do?

I need to get a variety of boxes together and designate them for definite keepers, undecided, throw away, and donate/garage sale. Ultimately, what I like to do is have my garage sale, and then donate what doesn’t sell. I try to find a cause to donate the clothes, crafts, and other specific items to, whether it be shelters, nursing homes, schools, or various local charities that could use them before donating to my local thrift stores.

I have already decided to do a garage sale this year. I’m really not all that fond of putting on garage sales. I never have been. I work in customer service, so sometimes having a break from people is nice. However, I will admit, that when my daughter comes and hangs out all day with me, it is much more tolerable. We usually don’t make a ton of money, but I do enjoy her company. We listen to music, talk, and laugh obnoxiously… THAT I enjoy immensely. I think the biggest thing that I have learned about the yard/garage sale process, from my coworker, is to price all your items as soon as you have decided to sell them BEFORE you even put them in that designated box. When you’re ready to have your sale, you don’t have to spend the time pricing everything frantically as you’re staging all your tables. It takes so much stress out of the entire process! (Thank you, Angie, for THE MOST amazing advice!) I am even going to talk to my neighbors about the possibility of a neighborhood sale. That would bring in more potential customers. Why not? Last year, I designated the money I made for birthday and Christmas presents. It worked out really well. AND I GOT RID OF STUFF! Watching my things leave with an excited person was refreshingly pleasant. I’m glad someone will enjoy them.

As the summer season approaches, I am going to try and be more vigilant about putting things away as soon as I’m done with them. I’m going to recommit to my “5 things a day” rule. I’m going to put my reusable grocery bags back in my car as soon as I’m done putting my groceries away. If I bring something home, I am going to try to get rid of two things for every one thing I have brought in. I’m going to “Power Hour” my way around my house and have my biggest garage sale to date. (Last year’s was pretty big, so I have a lot of things I need to get rid of!) I’m going to go thru all my clothes and shoes, and get rid of the things I truly don’t wear anymore. I’m determined to reduce the amount of things in my home!

Sometimes all it takes is the realization to reawaken the declutter beast. That has happened to me.

ARE YOU READY TO OWN LESS? I KNOW I AM!

Here a penny, there a penny: Saving for the holidays

I love change.  Let me clarify…. The coin kind of change. Those lovely shiny circles that jingle in the bottom of my purse, and weigh down my pockets. That’s just one of the beautiful bonuses to using cash to pay for my purchases. I get LOTS of coinage.

I know many of you would prefer to not have anything to do with change, but I love it. When I have some extra dollar bills, I’ll actually exchange them at my bank for a roll of dimes or quarters. Why, you ask? Well, for me, there’s a lot less temptation to spend it. I’m not real likely to carry a canning jar full of change in my purse because I feel like it. Hey, I’m still human. I’m not immune to the impulse buy unfortunately.

Did you know a full quart canning jar of quarters is $158? It really is! I haven’t filled up a jar of dimes, nickels or pennies yet, but I’ll let you know when I find out!  I’m hoping a jar of dimes will be around $500.  How awesome would that be?! The best part about my “piggy bank” jars to me, is that it’s so exciting to watch them fill up. I took four jars and etched them for the different coins. I’m a craftsy person. I liked the idea. I think they look pretty cool. Yes, I have four jars. I’m a bit OCD… they NEED to be separated!

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First and foremost I use these coins for Christmas presents. It may be May but it IS NOT too early to start thinking about your holiday shopping planning. Would you rather fork out hundreds in November and December, or save a little cash all year long? The majority of the country goes deep into debt because of the holidays. I absolutely refuse to let that happen. Think about it… set aside $50/month for 12 months, and you have $600 in December. That’s $12.50 per week… That’s practically one espresso and one fast food lunch.  Start this month and you’ll have $350 by December.  Save $100/month starting now and have $800! Utilizing a spending freeze could be quite beneficial here. (Hint hint 😉) Obviously, you don’t have to wait until Christmas to purchase your gifts. If you find a great deal, by all means, get it! It’s all about SAVING and DISCOUNTS right? Some opportunities are too good to pass up! But ABSOLUTELY set a budget and have a plan.

You should already know what the people on your list want or need. Think about having 6 months to find those perfect gifts instead of weeks or days. See? Planning not only will save you time later on, but added stress. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy the holidays instead of feeling weighed down by it. Granted, some last minute emergency present is bound to rear its ugly head. It always does. Not only should you expect it, you should (hopefully) have a little money leftover to use for said gift. Remember your self control. What’s left over should be put in your fund for next year.

That, my friends, is how I fund my Christmas every year. Make your change work for you!

 

 

 

 

 

Organizing for food storage

I’m making dinner. I’ve got my casserole almost ready for the oven, and then it happens… I’m out of that last, vital ingredient I need. You know which one I’m talking about. It’s the one item that makes or breaks the meal. I run down to my basement, flip on the light, and there it is… the one I so desperately needed. I do a little dance, and run back to the kitchen with a smile on my face. Dinner is saved.

I love the idea of food storage. I have roughly a 3 month supply of food in my basement. I don’t know what I would do without it. It has saved my family more than once over the years. This subject, to me, lies in the gray area where minimalism is concerned. Yes, I really want to have less stuff. I am slowly making my way through my belongings and getting rid of unused and unwanted items. Food storage, however, is something that I will not compromise on. I want to be prepared… emergencies or whatever other circumstances come my way.

It is extremely important to be organized when it comes to food storage. Having too much, isn’t necessarily a good thing, and neither is not having enough. Decide how far ahead you want to be, and start planning. Plan out menus for the month. Start with the meals that you know you have the ingredients for. As you get to the meals that are missing items, write them down. You can then look through your weekly ads every week until you find your needs on sale. This is where inventory lists come into play. You will know exactly what you have and what you need. I use separate sheets of paper for different categories and subcategories of items.

The categories/subcategories I use are:

FREEZER: meat, vegetables, whole meals, breakfast, desserts, and other.

PANTRY: potatoes/rice, pasta, meat, vegetables/fruits, beans(legumes), sauces & dressings, soups, cereal, peanut butter/jelly, snacks, desserts, whole meals, flours, sugars, add ins (coconut, chocolate chips, raisins, etc), juices, spices, and other.

PERSONAL HYGIENE/CLEANING: hair (shampoo, conditioner, hair spray), paper products (toilet paper, paper towels), laundry products (laundry soap, fabric softener), kitchen/cleaning (dish soap, cleaning products), personal hygiene (bar soap, tooth paste & mouth wash, floss, feminine products, deodorant), band-aids & other first aid items.

Obviously, you can pick and choose what to add and to eliminate in the lists I have here, but they are a good guideline to start with. Under each subcategory, I write what I have, what size, and how many. I try to keep these lists on my fridge so I can refer to it when I’m looking through recipes. I also check off items when they are brought up from the basement so my counts are (hopefully) correct. I have included PDF’s of my lists in this post. Personally, I write down all my specifics… (green beans, corn, etc), on my lists, and then laminate them. Then I can use a dry erase marker on top and simply change the quantity. Easy. I hope these help you!

FREEZER INVENTORY LIST 1

PANTRY INVENTORY LIST 1

PANTRY INVENTORY LIST 2

PANTRY INVENTORY LIST 3

PERSONAL HYGIENE INVENTORY LIST

These lists help me tremendously when I’m going through the grocery ads. I know what I need, and what I don’t need. I can keep an eye out for items that I’ve used. I complete an inventory of my goods every three months to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.

Rotating your food storage is a must! I use the CanSolidator rack system for my canned foods. These help take the chore out of rotating. All I have to do it load them up, and the oldest gets used first. There are labels included. They’re adjustable for different sized cans as well. I absolutely love these babies. They are a little bit of an investment, but they really do help keep me organized. CanSolidator

So there you have it… Meal planning, creating and taking inventory! Your effort on these will help you make the most of what you have, and save you so much time and effort in the long term. LET’S DO THIS!

 

My love/hate relationship with credit cards

Once upon a time, I had credit cards… A LOT of credit cards. I had one for every store in town, plus the Costco card, several visas, and so on. I could get one, so why not? I used every single one when there was still month at the end of the money. The splurge for having a great day… It didn’t take long until not only was our income not quite enough, then it became MUCH less than enough, with the credit card payments added in. It’s the worst feeling in the world… when you have to decide which bills are going to be lucky enough to get paid that month. Should I pay my car insurance or buy groceries? That’s when the depression sets in, and the stress and worry takes over.

Fast forward several years, and my credit cards are finally all paid off, thanks to some very creative financial means. I have closed several of my credit card accounts. I want to close them all, honestly. They’re nothing but trouble for me.

This is where my love/hate relationship comes into play. Credit cards have their place, and there are so many things in our lives that require one… rental cars, hotels, online shopping, among a variety of others. My problem, however, is that I have a very hard time finding balance when using them. I have them stashed in a secret place in my home. This way there is no way for temptation when I am in town. Online is a whole different thing entirely. I have given myself an allowance every month. I got a prepaid visa credit card from Walmart.  This card gives me peace of mind when I shop online, and doesn’t allow me to go over my budget. Along with that, if by chance my information gets stolen, there are limited funds available. It depends on which card you choose, but, the one I chose has a $3 monthly fee, along with a $3 fee when you have funds added. For me, $6/month is a small price to pay for piece of mind and control of my spending. My address is assigned to the card, so any online purchases are possible, unlike prepaid visa gift cards.

The one thing that my husband talked me into was the Amazon rewards credit card. I was hesitant. I didn’t want another credit card. I made a deal with him. We were going to be making a larger purchase on Amazon, and getting this card would not only give us $70 off that large purchase, but also pay us 5% back. If I use it for gas, I get 3% back. Anything else, I get 1%. That was hard to pass up. I closed several of my other credit card accounts to offset this one. Some say that closing accounts can damage your credit score. Some say that it doesn’t. I really don’t care either way. Honestly, I’m not planning on making any big purchases for at least the next 5 years, so I’d rather close them, and build my credit back up. I don’t intend to use it for everything. I will however, use it for my Amazon and gas purchases. I get points that I can use on Amazon on the next billing cycle. walmart-moneycard-preferred FREE MONEY! I’ll make it a point to pay that credit card every week, if it has been used. If I don’t have the money in my account to pay cash, I won’t buy it. Period.

I get an offer to open an account at every store I go to.  I’ll save money, they say. As hard as it is for me to say no when they dangle the carrot of savings in front of me, I simply say, “No thanks. I get in too much trouble that way”. They smile knowingly, and then the little impulsive, hazardous moment passes. Whew!

What it comes down to is this…  If you have credit cards, that, in itself isn’t bad. When they start to become a habit and a necessity, that’s when problems start to arise. I urge you to take a step back and really look at your financial habits. See if there’s an alternative method that can better your financial future.

YOU ARE IN CHARGE of your financial future.  Make it work for you!

 

Getting rid of clutter

There is nothing more frustrating than getting my hands on a potentially informative “how to” book, only to find upon completion, that I have learned absolutely nothing new. I have high hopes that there will be great insight for making my minimalist hopes a reality. I need an easy, realistic, virtually pain free, “baby steps” process to make all my dreams come true. I need something to be spelled out for me and tell me exactly what to do. I look around me, see all the stuff, and immediately say, “Nope. I can’t do this”. I have failed before I have even started.

I am definitely NOT a hoarder. I have, however, inherited the pack-rat gene. (Obstacle #1) Yep, it’s true. Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery, am I right?! It has taken me a very long time to get a grip on it. At first, I was in denial. I couldn’t possibly do what my parents AND grandparents did. Then, through some in depth soul-searching, my eyes were opened, and all my stuff stared me down and slapped me in the face. Oh. My. Gosh. I hold onto stuff, “just in case”, exactly like they did. I didn’t think it was a problem, until it WAS a problem. At that point, I decided I needed to dig in and get rid of things. Obstacle #2- I have a great deal of emotional attachment to my stuff. I have good reason to be this way. I have a pretty small family, and both my parents have passed on. I am so afraid that if I get rid of things, I am going to forget all the memories that go with them. Most of these things have no real value to anyone but me. Obstacle #3- I have things set aside for all those amazing creative, craftsy ideas that are floating around in my head. I have A LOT of great ideas, and they always reveal themselves when I lie down for bed, or wake me up at 2:30 in the morning. Seriously. So now, I have piles, bins, and baskets stuffed full of these projects in various stages of completion. Ostacle #4- I also have piles of broken things that I feel I can fix. I am a handy person. I love to fix things. I’m good at fixing things. I SHOULD fix the things.

My tips for MY obstacles seem to work for me. I would love to think that they will work for everyone, but, we know how that goes. If you haven’t tried them, by all means, give it a try. It might surprise you.

Obstacle #1- Admitting you have too much stuff is a HUGE deal. You’ve recognized it. Now you notice all that stuff sitting around.That’s good! It’s time to watch it go away.

Obstacle #2- When it comes to MY emotional obstacles, I decided that taking a digital picture(s) of the item, and getting rid of the actual item will still allow me to recollect the memory associated with the item without actually having the item IN MY HOUSE. It works, and I love it.

Obstacle #3- This one was one of the hardest for me. I have these visions of amazing projects becoming even more amazing things I will cherish forever….  HA! I have such a giant pile of projects, I don’t think I’ll be done by the time I’m ready to retire. Having said that, I have become very brutal with my decisions of what to keep. Honestly, I threw away probably 100 projects I wanted to do. Why? I have had some of these projects since before I moved into my current home… 18 YEARS AGO. Yep, you guessed it. Buh-bye! It’s not going to happen if it hasn’t by now.

Obstacle #4- This obstacle very closely resembles obstacle #3. Most of the items in my “to fix” bin have been there for years. My intentions for wanting to fix these things is warranted, but, obviously, I haven’t missed it enough to bother with fixing, so, out it goes. It feels good, doesn’t it? I’m breathing a deep sigh of relief right now.

I am going to spell it out for YOU and tell YOU what to do. I have two ideas that will rock your world. The first one is “5 things”. I want you to commit to getting rid of 5 things a day. That isn’t hard to do. It could be as simple as those sad socks that lost their mate a year ago, or the ink pen that writes terribly but is oh-so cute. Seriously, throw it away. Just let it happen! 5 THINGS will change you! If you started today, by the end of the year you would have 1,825 less things! Really!

Here’s idea number two… My friend introduced me to a little pot of gold… two simple words…  POWER HOUR.  This may not seem all that great, but, this will soon be your best friend. Imagine an entire phone free, facebook free, snapchat free hour, listening to your most motivational music, focusing on one thing, and taming the beast. Throw things away. Clean. Organize. Exercise. For one incredibly focused hour. Then, at the end of your hour, look around at what you’ve done and celebrate! You deserve it! By all means, if you feel like continuing, do it! You don’t have to though, and that’s okay. It’s progress.

My take on the “how to” of decluttering works for me. I have gotten rid of so many things! I literally breathe a sigh of relief when I look around and things have a home. I feel less stressed. That, my friends, is what it’s all about.