Saturday, January 30, 2010

Experiment Status Report

Over the last few months, I've suggested a lot of tricks and tips on this blog. In the process, as I've read and researched, I've learned a few things and have tried them out. So today I thought I would give you an update of my various frugal forays.

Baking Soda as Shampoo
Back in November, I wrote about going au naturale when it comes to hygiene products. One of the things I mentioned was using baking soda instead of shampoo. I read all about it and people swore by it, saying it made their hair look better than it ever had. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know how I feel about baking soda (*sigh* it's magic powder), I was more than ready to give it a go.

It worked quite well. My hair felt clean and light - most of the time. There were some days that I felt like my scalp was overcompensating for all oils I'd stripped it of over the years with traditional shampoo - there were a few greasy days, to be sure. But, for the most part, my hair was clean, shiny, and manageable.

Conclusion: I'm back to regular shampoo. I have an awesome hook-up for non-toxic, natural shampoo (like the kind you get at a health food store) so I didn't really need the baking soda method to save money. But that wasn't the main reason I quit using baking soda as my shampoo. Call me lame, but I missed the bubbles of regular shampoo. There's just something soothing about washing your hair with sudsy shampoo compared to rubbing a grainy paste into your hair. But, I learned a good lesson from the experiment: I can use baking soda when I'm in a pinch and have no shampoo.

Apple Cider Vinegar as ConditionerYou should see my bathroom. It's modern meets pioneer, thanks to the row of mason jars full of baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, castor oil. Anyway, along with using baking soda, I read that apple cider vinegar works well as a conditioner/detangler. I wasn't as gung-ho about the vinegar thing as I was about baking soda. I was okay with my hair smelling like baking soda (since it has no smell), but vinegar has a very distinct smell. But I was determined not to preach anything I didn't practice, so I gave it a try.

The apple cider vinegar totally works! It's weird and I don't know how, but it really does soften and detangle your hair! My mom (my co-guinea pig) and I were amazed. And it doesn't leave your hair smelling like vinegar at all. I mixed up the concoction (2 tbsp. of vinegar to a quart of water) while I was in the shower and poured it on my hair after scrubbing with baking soda.

Conclusion: I'm not really using this anymore either. Like I said, it worked great, but I didn't need to do this to save money either (remember the aforementioned awesome hook-up?). But I just ran out of conditioner and used the apple cider vinegar today. Worked like a charm. So, like the baking soda, I'm glad I know about this. It's good to use when I'm out of the regular stuff. And if I ever stop getting free shampoo and conditioner, I may go back to this method.

Homemade Dishwasher Powder
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned a new book I got from PaperBackSwap called Baking Soda: 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of. One of the first things I read about was how to make your own dishwasher powder. Since I only buy the natural, non-toxic dishwasher soap (I like the Method dishwasher tabs), it can get kind of spendy (though they don't cost nearly as much as the Method site says they should. Yay for Target.). Needless to say, I was really excited to try to make my own natural dishwasher powder and save a few bucks.

According to the book, you mix two tablespoons of baking soda with two tablespoons of borax (which, as I was looking for it at the store, I couldn't help saying to myself, with a horrible Borat accent, "Wheresa da Borax?" I'm such a nerd. ). I had to go to three stores before I found a box of borax, but once I did, I hurried home and ran my homemade concoction through a dishwasher cycle.

Conclusion: Didn't work at all. I have to say, I feel slighty betrayed by baking soda (I'm going to blame the borax) and a little leery of trying anything else in that book. Once the load of dishes was done, I pulled out a glass and inspected it. It looked like I hadn't even washed it; in fact, it might have looked worse (it was all cloudy and filmy). All I could think was that the author 1) only had 499 uses for baking soda and added this one without trying it out first, 2) was high or something if she did try it out and thought it worked, or 3) that her dishwasher was better than mine and that I needed a new one. In any case, I quickly abandoned the homemade dishwasher powder, plunked down $3.99 at Target for my usual tabs, and rewashed the dishes (sparkling clean after the second cycle, I might add).

The Oil Cleansing Method
In the same post that I mentioned the baking soda and vinegar hair care ideas, I also mentioned the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) for your face. Basically, you use a ratio of olive oil and castor oil, depending on the type of skin you have. You rub that mixture on your dry face for a minute, steam your face with a hot washcloth,and then wipe it off with the washcloth. I mentioned in the post that I really liked it, but that I was going to give it some more time. My skin changes throughout the the month, depending on stress and hormones, so I needed a bigger window of time to see if it worked.

In the meantime, I mentioned this method to my mom. She tried the baking soda and vinegar thing for her hair and wasn't a big fan. She couldn't deal with the occasional greasy hair days that come with the baking soda method. But she was undaunted by the semi-failure of that experiment and she moved on to trying out the OCM on her face. The best thing about us both taking part in this "experiment" is that she and I have totally different skin: mine is mostly dry and hers is more oily. This way, we can attest to how it works for the entire skin spectrum. Impressed, aren't you? This is about as scientific as I get.

Conclusion: Mom and I are completely converted to the oil cleansing method. I never had many problems with my skin in the first place, but it was looking kind of dull and spotty before I tried this out. My mom, on the other hand, has always struggled with her skin and followed a fairly strict facial cleansing routine, but it just got too expensive. She tried this and she swears it works just as well, if not better, than what she used to use. I can see a difference in both of us since we've used it. Plus, we both like it because it's all-natural and there are no weird chemicals on our faces. So, not only is this a frugal alternative to all the facial creams and potions out there, but it works really well!

Did you try any of these suggestions when I mentioned them in previous posts? Are there any frugal experiments of your own that you've tried lately? Better yet, is there anything YOU think I should try?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This Old Bath Towel

First of all, I have to apologize about the lack of regularity of posts on this blog. January has a way of sapping my energy and motivation. February will be better. I actually like February.

Okay, moving on. I'm still sewing! My first project was enjoyable enough and the end result not nearly the disappointment I thought it would be, so I moved on to another project from Handmade Home. Since I needed a new rug for the bathroom upstairs, so I decided to tackle the towel rug (click on page 57). Mine didn't turn out quite as well as the finished product in the book, but I figure it's not too bad for my second sewing project ever.

I didn't need many supplies at all for this project. I bought a yard of funky fabric at IKEA for six bucks and then I just used a towel that's been taking up space in the linen closet. I think the towel was one of the thousands we got for our wedding. The towel served us well, but it had some bleached out spots and was looking a little too shabby to hang up in the bathroom. So, I decided to cut it up.

The project is fairly simple - and coming from someone as inexperienced as I am, that's saying something. You need a 34" x 21" piece of cotton fabric and 34" x 21" piece of towel, along with 8 2" x 22" inch strips of towel. Add some thread and pins and you're on your way!

Pin the strips of towel however you like on the fabric. I followed the book and did some of my strips straight and others slanted. Once you've got it all pinned, sew them to the fabric. Next, you lay the towel right side up and put the fabric you just sewed on top of the towel, right side down. Pin together and then stitch around the edges, stopping just four inches short of where you started. This was the most frustrating part for me. I think I may have used a towel that was too thick. The needle of my sewing machine kept getting jammed and I even had to replace it after it broke. But I was still undaunted and finished it. Well, mostly.

After you've stitched it, turn it right side out. Then, you're supposed to topstitch the whole thing, but I couldn't feed it through my sewing machine, even with the foot up. I'm sure there's some way around it, but I'm a complete novice. So, I skipped that last step and sewed the four-inch gap by hand. Works for me.

Like I said, maybe not as pretty as the one in the book, but I like it. The thing I'm going to like about the towel rug is how easy it will be to wash and it will be absorbent. Plus, I got my new rug for a bargain - it only cost around $3-4 to make (since I didn't need the whole yard of fabric), and it gives my house a unique, homemade touch. I think I'm really starting to get into this whole sewing thing...

One other note: I've got another giveaway coming up soon. I've been scouring the thrift stores for a particular item and I found it today! (along with a Rockband guitar for the PlayStation 3. *fingers crossed* Please work, please work...) I think it's hilarious. You may just think I'm weird. In any case, I thought I'd let you know.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Easy, From-Scratch Chicken Noodle Soup

My poor husband has been working long hours at work and battling a cold for the last several days. No fun. Yesterday, I had a headache, along with a good amount of stress and fatigue (I'll share no details except for the fact that potty training is frustrating. Grrrrr.). Plus, the weather is wet and cold. In fact, the third Monday of January (aka "Blue Monday") is officially the most depressing day of the year; no wonder we've all been feeling kind of...well, blah around our house lately. So, for dinner last night, I made a comfort food staple: chicken noodle soup.

Not only is this recipe delicious in its simplicity, but it's also ridiculously easy and dirt cheap to make. It's especially inexpensive if you made your own chicken/turkey stock like I suggested around Thanksgiving. Plus, there are various studies about the health benefits of this soup. Just eating it for dinner last night made me feel less stressed and my headache went away. I have to say, though, that the canned chicken noodle soup just doesn't cut it for me. I'm sorry - chicken noodle soup should be homemade. But seriously, you can make a delicious, from-scratch pot of this soup almost as fast. Bonus: any leftovers can be frozen and used for anytime you're feeling under the weather.

I used about twelve cups of stock for my soup. I freeze my stock in zipper bags (2 cups of stock in each), so when I'm ready to use them, I hold them under running water for a little bit and then heat the icy stock blocks in the pot until it comes to a nice, easy boil. Meanwhile, I've also got some of my shredded meat thawing (though, you could always skip the meat and use a nice, vegetable stock like I used to in my vegetarian days. Also very good, in my opinion).

While the stock is heating, chop up your vegetables. I just used the basics: carrot, celery, and onion. Add to the boiling stock.

Add the chicken/turkey - it was still fairly frozen when I put it in. Also, add your noodles. I usually use wide egg noodles, but since I didn't have any, I just improvised with spaghetti, broken in half. I cooked the meat, noodles, and vegetables in the broth for about 11 minutes.

Ahhhhh.... Comfort in a bowl.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Rag Bag

Drum roll please....

I started taking sewing lessons.

My sewing machine really isn't that scary after all.

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, my sister-in-law is giving me sewing lessons and we started by making the rag bag project from the book Handmade Home. Basically, it's just a cute drawstring sack that you store your rags in. I just made one for the kitchen and I'm going to make another for the bathroom upstairs. Maybe it's weird, but putting something as mundane as a cleaning rag in a homemade, colorful bag helps change my attitude about cleaning. A little. Kind of how new dishtowels make doing the dishes a little nicer. I don't know why, but there you have it...

The project is fairly simple (except for the buttonhole part - we just improvised and it worked fine). It doesn't take much fabric, either - just a yard of material, plus some bias tape and embroidery floss. I would give the step by step on how to make it, but the author does such a better job. Just check out this link -- or the book, for that matter.

Ta-da! I sewed something and it actually resembles the finished product in the book! (the bow looks crooked because the bag is cinched - the bow is the end of the drawstring) I can feel the trauma and shame of my failed attempt at making a windsock in my seventh grade home ec. class lifting...

The other reason I'm mentioning the rag bag (besides highlighting my sewing baby step) is that I've been really thinking about having a completely paper-free home when it comes to cleaning. It started when I was in my son's pediatrician's office, reading a magazine. According to the article I read, just by eliminating paper towels, the average family could save anywhere from $100-$200 a year. Plus, I just read a post on Simple Mom about going paperless in your kitchen and I thought this was an concept worth sharing.

I'm sure people get tired of me always getting on the soapbox and talking about how beneficial it would be for us, especially in today's economy, to return to the way our grandmothers took care of their homes and how they fed their families. They managed without paper towels. The rag bag was a common thing in a household. Even as a kid, my mom mostly used dishtowels and rags for all the cleaning. I do the same in my house and after some transition, we're paper towel-free now. I haven't really missed them, either.

The key to making this work is to have a lot of rags at your disposal. I have a couple drawers in my kitchen full of them. This does mean a little extra laundry, but not a ridiculous amount. I have different rags and cloths that I use in each room. I know which ones are for the kitchen, which ones are for the bathroom (very important - even though I wash them in hot water with bleach, I still don't like the idea of cleaning the kitchen with rags I use in the bathroom. Ick.), and what ones I use for all the other various messes in my house.

We save the super-worn rags for the garage, for things like oil changes or painting jobs. Just this past weekend, I was going through some old clothes that have too many holes and stains in them even for the thrift store, so I just cut them up for cleaning and garage rags. Those can even just be used once - it gets at least one more use before it ends up in the trash. I was going to make a cute rag bag for the garage, but I made a sack (so easy to do - how-to here) out of my husband's accidentally-bleached Pink Floyd t-shirt instead. Got to keep things manly in there.

There's really no single, magic bullet to saving money and making your life frugal - it's all about making little adjustments here and there that eventually add up. Going paper-free in your cleaning is just one of those adjustments.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to Build a Year's Supply of Food Storage with Only $5 a Week

Like most people, I make resolutions every year. Some I actually follow through with; others...well, not so much. Like I resolved to floss every day last year; only sort of did. I resolved to finally start my novel; totally did that and I'm about half-way through my first draft. I also resolved to keep my bedroom clean; didn't happen at all...

One of my goals this year is to keep up on my food storage. A principle that my church teaches is that every family should have at least a three-month supply of food and eventually a year's worth of food storage in case of emergencies or some kind of financial difficulty. The thought of getting together a year's worth of food storage is a little daunting - especially if you think you have to do it all at once. However, I have a great list of purchases to make every week - which usually only tacks on about $5 onto your grocery budget per week (granted, there are weeks, now and then, that fall somewhere a little closer to $10).

When I first started doing this (rather unsuccessfully, I might add) when I first got married, I thought you had to save everything you bought for that unknown emergency or for hard times. This didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, so I kind of gave up on it. However, once I understood how to work my food storage into my everyday cooking, the concept of food storage clicked. For example, if you've followed the weekly food storage purchases, you'll have 100 pounds of flour. I use my food storage flour, but once it runs out, I buy another 25 lb. bag to replace it, even though I've still have 75 lbs. left. Then, if you do run on hard times or if there is an emergency, you use what you've stored up (you can worry about replacing it later). I know lots of people - especially since the economy took a turn for the worse - who have relied on their food storage. That's one great thing about having even just a month's supply of food: it brings peace of mind.

So, I thought I would post my weekly food storage purchase schedule. You don't need to follow it exactly. Mine is based on one my mom had, but I altered it to fit into what I cook and what my family eats, along with certain basic needs (like toilet paper, soap, etc.) and for cleaning (that's why there's so much baking soda). I'll post the whole list here, but I'll also keep a weekly reminder in the sidebar if you want to follow along. So, without further ado, here is THE LIST...

Week 1: 25 lbs. all-purpose flour
Week 2: 10 lbs. sugar
Week 3: 5 lbs. peanut butter (I don't ever include jam on this list since I can a ton of it in the fall, but if you don't do this, you can consider buying a jar of jam every time peanut butter is listed)
Week 4: 2 large cans (28 oz.) or 4 medium cans (14 oz.) of tomatoes (diced, crushed, or whole)
Week 5: 4 cans of chicken or tuna
Week 6: 12 rolls of toilet paper & a tube of toothpaste
Week 7: 5 lbs. popcorn kernels
Week 8: 5 lbs. baking soda
Week 9: at least 5 cans of beans, any variety (you can substitute dried beans - I do the canned ones because I'm more likely to use them. It's good to have some dried on hand because they keep for a long time.)
Week 10: 4 lbs. brown sugar
Week 11: 6 lbs. pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, egg noodles - any variety)
Week 12: 4 cans of fruit & 4 cans of vegetables
Week 13: 25 lbs. all-purpose flour (you can also do whole-wheat flour if you prefer)
Week 14: 10 lbs. rice
Week 15: One container of each: mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup
Week 16: A gallon of bleach & a bottle of aspirin/ibuprofen/Tylenol (either regular or children's strength, depending on your family's needs)
Week 17: 2 cans of beans & 2 cans of refried beans
Week 18: 4 lbs. powdered milk
Week 19: 1 lb. yeast
Week 20: 3-5 lbs. honey
Week 21: 2 gallons of white vinegar
Week 22: 25 lbs. flour
Week 23: 5 lbs. peanut butter
Week 24: 2 large cans or 4 medium cans of tomatoes (diced, crushed, or whole)
Week 25: 2 lbs. cornmeal
Week 26: 4 cans chicken or tuna
Week 27: 1 gallon of vegetable or olive oil (or a half-gallon of each)
Week 28: 6 lbs. of pasta & 5 lbs. brown rice
Week 29: 12 rolls toilet paper
Week 30: 1 large box of instant potatoes & 4 bars of soap
Week 31: 2 bags of chocolate chips & box of cocoa powder
Week 32: 5-10 lbs. sugar
Week 33: 2 cans baking powder & 5 lbs. baking soda
Week 34: 6-8 lbs. rolled or steel-cut oats
Week 35: can of shortening (I hate this stuff. This goo is so horrible for you. One of my resolutions last year was not to use shortening anymore and I actually followed through with it. However, I include it because it might be useful in an emergency. Even then, when this week comes around, I still might not buy it. This might be my week to buy a big bag of cat food. Pets need food storage too, right?)
Week 36: 25 lbs. of flour
Week 37: 4 lbs. powdered milk
Week 38: 4 cans fruit & 4 cans vegetables
Week 39: 4 cans of soup
Week 40: 3 cans beans & 2 cans refried beans (again, you can substitute this for dried beans)
Week 41: 10 lbs. sugar
Week 42: One container of each: mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup
Week 43: 2 large cans or 4 medium cans of tomatoes (crushed, diced, or whole)
Week 44: 6-8 lbs. of pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, egg noodles -- whatever variety you use most).
Week 45: Up to 15 lbs. of various flours - whole wheat, barley, spelt, potato,etc.
Week 46: 4 lbs. powdered sugar
Week 47: 5-6 lbs. (80-96 oz.) laundry detergent & a gallon of bleach
Week 48: 6-8 lbs. rolled or steel-cut oats
Week 49: a bottle of real maple syrup
Week 50: a box of cornstarch & a box of matches and some candles (store in a jar)
Week 51: 1 gallon of vegetable oil or olive oil (or a half-gallon of each)
Week 52: 50 lbs. good quality wheat & wheat grinder (this is a good one to work up to throughout the year.)
That's a long list, I know. You can add or remove whatever you want - it has to work for your family or you'll just be wasting money. Last year, I was pretty good about following this until about week 22 and I felt so good about it. It was nice to have a stocked pantry and knowing that, even if worse came to worse, at least that aspect of our lives would be taken care of. And that's worth an extra five bucks a week.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Report: What I'm Reading

I'm a reader. I love books. Plain and simple. And since I can't help but share the things I love with anyone who will listen (or read, in this case), I thought I would tell you what I'm reading right now. Well, at least those that relate to this blog and its parsimonious purposes. I mean, sharing the novel I'm reading right now wouldn't make much sense now, would it? (In case you were wondering, though, it's called The Outlander by Gil Adamson)

Cooking Fun: 121 Simple Recipes to Make with Kids and Crafting Fun: 101 Things to Make and Do with Kids, both by Rae Grant
I can't remember where I found out about these books, but I'm glad I did. I finally got them! I got Cooking Fun from my husband for Christmas and once I looked through it, I had to order Crafting Fun. The thing I love about these books is how they're a return to a simpler era. The recipes aren't difficult and the crafts aren't ornate. But there's just this heirloom quality to all the recipes and ideas in these books. Plus, I love the way they're designed. I'm a sucker for anything retro (if you hadn't noticed that already by my blog header). If you want a sneak peek into the books, check out the books' websites here and here. I'm so excited to try these activities with my little guy!

Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of by Vicky Lansky
If you've been following this blog, you'll know of my love affair with baking soda (and its explosive companion, vinegar). The stuff is amazing! Great for cleaning, hygiene, health remedies, and cooking. Anyway, I found this book on PaperBackSwap (yet another shameless plug for that site - love it!) and was intrigued. I just got it in the mail a few days ago, so I've only thumbed through it. Rest assured, I will be eagerly sharing the highlights of the book with you in the near-future.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 & 2 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
I was a little hesitant to include these books. I mean, there are recipes in those books that are by no means frugal. Well, unless you raise your own pork for the suckling pig recipe (yep, it's in there). I made the beouf bourguignon a few months ago (I'm making my way through these books very slowly) and it was delicious, but pricey. I probably spent close to $20 making it, which is waaaaay more than I spend on meal prep. Splurging once in a while is okay in my book.

Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning these books is because they're full of great basics. It's almost like a textbook of how to cook well; I think it has practical info any home cook should know. A couple days ago, I poached my first egg (remember that part in Julie & Julia? Love that movie...) and it was absolutely delicious. I am determined to bring you, my dear readers, instructions on how to make homemade eggs Benedict so you don't have to go to some fancy schmancy breakfast place for them (I've been craving them ever since I went to a fancy schmancy bed and breakfast for my anniversary a year and a half ago). That's one of the things I love about these cookbooks - you can make foods at home that seem like a luxury. Making some of the dishes in this book might cost a little more than you're used to spending on ingredients, but if you're making a special meal for a special event, you can save a lot of money by making it yourself and eating at home!

Anyway, check it out at the library or the bookstore to see if it's for you (and then buy it off Amazon - much cheaper than the bookstore). You'll be surprised a how approachable a lot of the recipes are - and how you can work some of them into your menu planning and food budget.

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book
One of my goals for 2010 is to tackle the art of textiles. I consider myself a fairly good cook/baker/gardener/homemaker, except for the fact that I am 98% clueless about anything that involves the use of a needle and thread (the 2% is based on the fact that I know how to sew a button back onto a shirt. I also made my homemade grocery bags a while ago, so I have a very limited knowledge - but still some knowledge - of how to use my sewing machine). I've always been intrigued by knitting - it just seems so homey and relaxing. Plus, I like the look of knit things over crocheted stuff (nothing against that or anything). Then I read an article about the actual psychological benefits of knitting - not only was knitting your own things economical, but stress-reducing, too!

So, in an attempt to keep one of my new year resolutions and deal with anxieties, I ordered Vogue Knitting (it had the best reviews on Amazon) and realized that it's kind of hard to learn how to knit from a book. Don't get me wrong - this book is very thorough, but I was stumped. On Christmas Eve, though, my awesome sister-in-law arranged a knitting lesson from one of her friends. So now that I've gotten the gist of it firsthand, I'm feeling a little more comfortable with this book and my knitting prospects.

Handmade Home: Simple Ways Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Blake Soule
I can't even tell you how much I love this book. It's beautiful and it makes me want to be a better mother and homemaker (sneak peek here). Despite all its loveliness, though, the book leaves me a little frustrated. I want to make everything in it (with the possible exception of the feminine cloth. Think about it. Okay, moving on.), but I feel totally intimidated with sewing. Enter the aforementioned awesome sister-in-law: for my Christmas gift, she is giving me sewing lessons! Woo-hoo! I think my first project will be the potholders. Or the towel rug. Or the rag bag. Or maybe the Mama's Bag....

What are you reading right now? Any frugal/cooking/sewing books you recommend I add to my ever-expanding reading list?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Random Reuses: The Oatmeal Tunnel

Last week, I wrote about a book called Vinegar, Duct Tape, Milk Jugs & More and I decided I would start a new feature called "Random Reuses". In those posts, I would either show how I implemented the ideas from the book (which is chock full of interesting ways to reuse things) or share a few of my own ideas. Well, this post features neither. This was my mom's idea. That said, I bring you....

The Oatmeal Tunnel!
My son is obsessed with trains and he especially loves driving his toy trains through tunnels. He used to have some plastic ones that came with his track set, but when he inherited these Thomas trains from our neighbor, the tunnels weren't tall enough. We built them out of blocks and Legos, but they weren't as portable as the plastic ones. Then my mom thought of this - she simply cut an empty oatmeal canister in half. Voila! Two portable tunnels.

Now if I just were crafty enough to decorate the outside and make it actually look like a tunnel...

One other note: In my post on Friday, I mentioned the Dave Ramsey financial plan and the 'Baby Steps'. I'd highly recommend checking out the newest post on Simple Mom where she introduces the seven Baby Steps and then outlines the first two in more detail. If you're not familiar with the Dave Ramsey plan, this is a great introduction!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lovely Links: New Year's Day Edition

-My husband's favorite artist, J.C. Leyendecker, was famous (among other things) for his annual New Year's baby. I thought it'd be apropos to feature cover from a hundred years ago on here today.-

2010. Can you believe we're starting a new decade already? It doesn't seem that long ago that we were all excited about the beginning of a new millennium and wondering if Y2K was going to shut down civilization. I love the prospect of a new year, of a clean start, a fresh beginning. It's a nice feeling to put the busy, indulgent holiday season behind us (as fun as it was) and refocus on everyday life and goals. Hence the reason for my goal-oriented list of links...

Making Financial Goals for 2010 - Simple Mom
This link offers a lot of great ideas about how to refocus on financial goals, especially after the holiday spending blitz. I particularly liked how she talks about various funds - this year, my husband and I will be working on our six-month emergency fund (Baby Step 3 of the Dave Ramsey program), while also contributing to our car fund and vacation fund. The most important thing about this post, I think, is that it is a good prompt for some self-reflection and a great starting point for a discussion with your spouse (if applicable) for about the state of your financial life.

Welcome 2010 - Small Notebook
This link has some other great links to ways to stay organized and to streamline your home and finances. I feel hypocritical writing this because my house is an utter disaster right now, but I think it's really hard to live a frugal lifestyle if your house is messy and if your finances are unorganized. It's difficult to be creative in the midst of chaos and no one wants to cook or spend much time in cluttered kitchen. Don't get me wrong (seriously, you should see my house right now - DISASTER) - I don't think one's house needs to be spotless to live well, but it sure does help my mood and it lifts my spirits when my household is running in a neat and organized way.

Three Goals to Guide You
by Thomas S. Monson
The previous links were about getting your finances and your household in order, but, you can't really enjoy any of that if your personal and spiritual life is in disarray. The three goals in the article: study diligently, pray earnestly, and serve willingly. Great advice for anyone, of any faith.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Theodore Roosevelt
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