Thursday, January 24, 2013

Starbuck’s Should be a Treat, Not a Lifestyle Choice

I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea.  But even so, going to a place like Starbuck’s is nice.  I use the term Starbuck’s generically in this case, fill in the name of any similar place, such as Panera Bread or Tim Horton (shout-out to Kim!).  In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself from time to time.  I know a lot is being said lately about austerity measures, both in our personal lives and in government.  Some people can live in total deprivation, keep their eyes on the prize, and be content.  I am not one of them.  Before my BFF moved away we took the time occasionally to go out and have a treat.  Might have been dinner, or a drink and pastry, or even a snowcone.  The place didn’t matter, it was a time to decompress from our busy lives and catch up.  I miss those dates with her but that just means the time we will spend together on our infrequent visits will be that much sweeter.

My problem with the aforementioned treat spots comes when people start treating themselves too frequently.  It’s no longer special.  It can turn into a habit, something you don’t even enjoy anymore but since you stop for coffee and a muffin on the way home every day, why change the pattern today?  And it turns into an enormous money drain.

As in most areas, I don’t want to say “This is the way it should be done”.  Rather, my message is “Think before you act”.  Not original, I know.  Very little in this world is original, but when it’s good advice, it bears repeating.  And this is good advice. 

THINK.  What is that purchase costing you per week?  Per month?  THINK.  How could that money be better spent?  THINK.  Are there alternatives that will satisfy?  How can you implement them? 

If coffee and pastries are your thing, do an internet search.  Here’s a coffee treat recipe I’m told is really tasty.        

I like chai tea, but at Panera it’s around $3.  Not worth it.  I can throw some cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and cream or milk into a cup of tea and it’s just as tasty, in my opinion.  No idea what it costs but I can assure you, it’s nowhere near $3 per serving.

As for those pastries, baking from scratch can be fun, and a worthwhile skill to cultivate if you don’t already know how.  Yes, I know it takes time, and you’re a very busy person.  We all are.  Even a muffin mix is cheaper than one muffin at a coffee shop.  And once people know you can bake, you’re going to be very popular. 

THINK.  That’s all I’m asking.              

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Maybe I should stop dissing the mall

I got an amazing deal last night.  I never have a “nice” coat since I rarely use one here.  I make do with old sweaters and stuff my mom gives me, plus a hoodie.  I got a stain on my 3yo hoodie which was starting to look worn anyway, so last night I was at the mall and stepped into Avenue to see if they had any deals.  I found a nice quilted coat in khaki, reg. $60, marked down to $18.  I got it!  Then I got up this morning and it was 31 degrees so I cut the tags off and wore it.  Not the greatest picture but here you go:
And why was I at the mall, you ask?  Isn’t that Mecca for the shopaholic looking to load up on overpriced merchandise?  Maybe not.  Apparently the mall carousel is free on Tuesdays.  Yesterday Ayla asked if I would keep the baby after work so she could take Drake.  I asked if I could take him and go with them, she said sure.  So when I got home we went, he rode the carousel 4 times, and we went to the indoor playground they have there so he could play for a little while.  I took Zane into Avenue with me while Ayla took Drake to the playground.  I was thirsty so I sprung for 2 sodas (my first one in months), 75 cents apiece.  So the entire outing cost $1.50, plus gas to get there.  The coat doesn’t count because I had already decided to buy one when I found the right deal. 
Here are the kids, enjoying the outing:
Yeah, that was money well spent.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Quilt Challenge

I have several quilts to make this year, and I’ve decided to challenge myself to something a little different with the first one.  Normally I make quilts with whatever fabric I have on hand, which can include leftover pieces of fabric I’ve purchased for other projects, pieces of clothing I’ve cut up, fabric I’ve been given, and sometimes I even buy new fabric just to fill in an area I feel a quilt needs.  But this one is going to be made completely of fabrics that had a previous life.  Meaning, it must have been used somehow before.  The only new piece will be the batting.  I’ve got squares cut from shirts, dresses and sheets, and so far I’ve made 16 squares of the 20 I’ll need.  It’s a simple 9 patch so it goes pretty quickly, I started it on Saturday.  It’s turning out extremely pretty!  The sashing will be made of a sheet, and I plan to do a patchwork border as well, then a solid border. 
Over the weekend I also made a wall hanging for Zane’s room.  I bought all the elements new except the green paint.  But even so, the project was inexpensive, I think it cost around $5.  And so cute!  It will be perfect over his bed.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Favorite Project

I made a lot of stuff last year.  In addition to my tried and true items, I learned a few new techniques and tried new patterns.  I even created a pattern of my very own, after losing my favorite knitted slipper pattern and realizing it’s no longer free online.  It’s only $2 to replace it, but it’s the principle of the thing.  It was free for years, now it’s $2.  And I’m not paying.  So I combined elements of what I could remember from that pattern with a baby bootie pattern and came up with a very serviceable adult slipper that is still not perfect, but I’m tweaking it every time.

Out of all the things I made last year, I’ve decided my FAVORITE is the sweater I knitted, then embroidered for Lyla’s Christmas present.  Here it is:
What, you may ask, is on my agenda for crafting this year?  I think there are several quilts in my future.  More sewing of all types, I want to expand my knowledge and ability in the area of sewing clothing.  Nothing fancy-shmancy, just more than pajama pants.  I definitely want to learn to sew pencil skirts for myself.  I love them and find them flattering.  All the knitting I've done this year was with heavy acrylic yarn because that's what I had on hand, but this year I want to try making clothing with lighter weight yarn, possibly even cotton.  This is Florida, after all.  The heavy knitted items won't get much use unless we vacation in cold places.  Which isn't out of the question, but still.  I need to be practical, learn to make things we can use often.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Returning to normal?

I had some dental work done on Friday.  I’m recovering nicely, it‘s sore today but I’m at work and doing OK.  I still have to be careful while eating, last night for supper I ate a bowl of oatmeal.  This morning I’m having toast with marmalade, it’s good but I have to chew slowly and carefully.  I have a can of soup for my lunch.  I think the new partial fits better, well it’s the same partial but they changed up the right side to accommodate the new work.  It used to slip up and down a little bit and was uncomfortable sometimes.  Now, it seems to fit better.  Time will tell, once I can start eating properly we’ll see, but I think this is better.

While I’m glad this dental work is behind me, I have to say it put a pretty good sized dent into my savings.  If I‘m going to meet my goals this year I’ll have to buckle down on the savings by being more frugal, more careful with spending.  I know there are still changes I can make.  Also once Ayla is recovered from her C section she’ll be going back to work, that will ease some of my spending.    

Since I was recovering, I had a very restful weekend.  I spent it watching TV, reading, knitting and holding Zane.  Several times I’d let Drake get on my bed and he’d play all around me, all I had to do was smile at him and he was fine.  We told him I didn’t feel good and he was not pushy with me at all.  I finished the book I was reading, 1000 White Women, it was good but sad at the end, as I expected it to be.  I didn’t get to finish watching Downton Abbey but I did watch several episodes of Hawaii 5-0.  I also knitted a slipper, once I finish the pair they’ll go into the gift box and probably go to my dad, or Shane or Randy, for a birthday gift.
I cooked some dry kidney beans yesterday and Ayla used them to make a very good pot of chili last night.  She uses less chili powder and more sugar in hers but otherwise it’s the same recipe I taught her, and Shane and Drake prefer hers, I have never seen Drake eat so much.  She said she feels bad, making “my” recipes in front of me, and changing them.  I keep telling her, if you cook, you do it to YOUR taste.  I was able to eat some of it because the beans were really soft, and it was delicious.  I also taught her how to get tomato stains out of her shirt and explained, that’s why I change clothes before cooking, and we also have 2 aprons.  She had never noticed the aprons hanging on the wall but said she would use them from now on.
Apparently the lid I grabbed this morning for my tea cup is the wrong one.  Every time I take a drink it dribbles on my shirt.  I hope I can get the stains out tonight, this is a new and very comfortable shirt.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What a ride

The past few weeks have been pretty crazy.  On December 29th, we woke up with the flu.  Of course our biggest fear was that the newborn might get it, and sure enough, a few days later he did.  He and his parents rang in the new year from a hospital room.  And he’s back in the hospital again, apparently he also developed an ear infection, and can’t kick the cough (none of us can) and he was refusing to eat.  But I’m told he’s much better today and might even come home.  This has been miserable for all of us and I am so ready to discover anew what “normal” feels like.

I’d like to say I’ve been focused on my frugal goals because it’s a new year but seriously, with all of us sick we’re barely putting one foot in front of the other.  It’s been a chore to keep enough clean laundry around, and some sort of food on the table.  But just before Christmas I did make a list of goals, I’m sure it’s not complete but it’s a place to begin.  Some are related to being frugal, others are not.  Here’s what I have at the moment.

In 2013 I plan to:

Travel to New Orleans to my nephew’s wedding in April

Travel to Italy

Complete at least 2 semesters

Make bread at least once a week

Continue menu planning and cooking from scratch 4-5 nights per week

Continue my quest to utilize leftovers so there is no waste

Bring breakfast to work every day, eliminating my personal relationship with the drive-thru person at Burger King

Pay down credit card and KEEP it down this time

Increase personal savings, in addition to travel fund

Make most, if not all, gifts again this year

Further declutter my house, beginning with my bedroom closet


Regarding gifts, there will be several quilts made this year.  I’m sure people will be expecting their annual pajama pants at Christmas and I have no problem continuing that tradition but to accomplish that, it has to be spread out over the year.  I never want to get caught at the last minute having to buy fabric and make a dozen pair of PJs!  That would not be frugal or fun.  And half the fun is taking advantage of sales throughout the year to get the best possible price on new fabrics.  At least that’s fun for me.