Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Frugal February - Creative Thinking - #6

"When starting out, don't worry about not having enough money. Limited funds are a blessing, not a curse. Nothing encourages creative thinking in quite the same way." - H. Jackson Brown, Life's Little Instruction Book.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Frugal February - BumGenius! -#5

Gotta say that I never thought I'd be "that mom" who does cloth diapers, but I love my bumGenius diapers! And...they are a great subject for Frugal February! I was given most of mine, so the initial investment wasn't as much (they usually run $16-$17 each).

Some of the factors that make these great are:
  • They grow with the kid (fits 7-35 lbs).
  • They each come with two inserts, making them even more customizable...Knowing that Allie fills her diaper more at a certain time of the day allows me to put in the super-duty insert!
  • They cut down on diaper costs. Check out this diaper calculator to see your savings.
  • They can be used for more than one kid!
  • They are "greener" than disposables.
  • If washed and cared for properly (meaning no stains), they could be resold on consignment websites.
  • They are cute, cute, cute!
Now, I'm not gonna lie and say they are perfect. Far from it. Here are a couple of downsides:
  • Cleaning out dirty ones is a crappy job. Literally. I have had a few incidents where I am up to my elbows in poop. Not many. Thankfully, I have an additional insert that I try to put in that catches the solids and is biodegradable...I can just toss it in and flush. But on those times when I forget to put that in, or if the girls have solids that are, um...less than solid...I have a mess on my hands.
  • Storing dirty ones is sometimes stinky. I usually rinse them out and throw them in a pail and wait for them all to get dirty before I do a load (to save water, detergent, energy). This is fine when I am staying home all day and committed to using them. It gets trickier when we are out and about and I have to use disposables, therefore making the time the used ones sit drag out...this is bad for the nose sometimes.
  • The velcro straps kind of get pilly after being washed over and over.
  • They are bulkier than disposables, so sometimes the girls' clothes don't fit as well when wearing them.
All in all, these are great items to have for the stay at home mom who sticks around the house a good bit. I wouldn't send my kids to church or Mother's Morning Out with them on because I feel like it gives the nursery workers more work and can get messy (I'll admit, I don't always check and empty the diaper bags as soon as I get home).

I would say that we have saved $150-$300 since we've been using them.

For more info on cloth diapers, hop on over to my friend and fellow mama, Kelly's site.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Frugal February - Brandon's Wisdom- Entry #4

Brandon always likes to chime in with, "No matter how great the sale, you always save more by not buying anything at all."

Hmmph. I guess he's right.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Frugal February - A Drop In The Bucket - Entry #3

I don't know the people who designed and built our home (or the other homes in my neighborhood that are clones to my home....home clones, I guess.) But if I ever get a chance to meet them, I am going to have a few questions for them, the first one being, "what in the world were you thinking with the plumbing in this house?"

Like any good storyteller, I tend to embellish minor details to help make what I'm saying vivid and memorable. For example, "That book was so good, I read it in about 2.5 minutes flat." But let me just say that while I admit that fact, I am not exaggerating in the least bit when I tell you that it takes at least 3-4 minutes (depending on outside temperatures) to get the hot water to come out of the shower head in our master bathroom. I literally turn on the water as hot as it can go and wait. Sometimes I do push ups and sit ups. Today I got in 100 ab moves before I checked to see if there was hot water and it was just getting warm. And don't even get me started at how frustrated I get when I can't use warm water to wash my hands immediately after using the restroom...ugh!

That is what brings me to this post...I had to come up with a way to save all that precious water! It began when we first moved into the house and there was a massive drought going on in the area. Lakes were being sucked dry, the news was pleading with the community to conserve water, etc, etc, etc...I hated the fact that at least 5 gallons was probably going straight down my drain before I even stepped into the shower.

So I got a bucket.

And I put that bucket under the water flow. It catches almost all of the cold water that comes out (yes, it's a 5 gallon bucket and almost full), and then I heave (or if I'm preggo, I have Brandon heave) it away and take my shower.

What do I do with my bucket o' cold water? A number of things:
  • I usually put it in the washing machine. My machine stops putting water in the basin when it gets to a certain level, so this hastens the process and the amount of water needed to wash clothes. Obviously, this works best with a cold water setting.
  • Sometimes I use it in the girls' bathtub. It works out that the hot water comes in and adds to the cold bucket water at just the right level for safety and comfort.
  • During the summer, I like to use it outside in my garden, or for my plants.
So, it may seem like a little thing, but those 5 gallons at every shower add up!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Frugal February -Grocery Guru? Perhaps not. - Entry #2

Frugal February began with a trip to the grocery store. This is more significant than may come across on the surface. Going to the grocery store may not seem like a big deal, but when you're trying to spend as little as possible, it becomes a little more complicated. Let me indulge you:

Before going to the grocery store, I had to take inventory of my fridge, freezer, pantry and cabinets. What do we have? What do we need (as in staples). I realized during this step, that we really have a lot more than I thought. This is the result of many couponing frenzies when I would have been a fool not to get something for FREE or for mere pennies (more on this later). So I have lots of rice, pasta, canned goods, etc...that need to get eaten up! I also made note of all the fresh fruits and veggies that I have that will go bad if I don't use them soon.

After taking inventory, I decided on a meal plan for the week and beyond. I wanted to use all of my perishable foods without having them go to waste. I also purposed to utilize some of the aforementioned extras that are plaguing my pantry.

This week, for example, I am making Whole Wheat Bread, Canadian Stew, Turkey Chili, Barley w/ tomatoes & basil, Chicken & Sweet potatoes, Salmon Cakes w/ Rice, and Tacos.

Next, I checked my coupon stash and the store circulars to see if there were any can't-let-them-get-by-me deals. I tried to match up sales and coupons.

Finally, I came up with a list of about 10 items that I needed this week. This included a few items for the kids and a few that the recipes called for.

The next thing I knew, I was strapping Allie to my chest in the Baby Bjorn and wiping down the "car" cart with antibacterial wipes for Ella.

Here's a clincher...and I have to give myself a pat on the back for this one cause it's a true sign that I am really working hard on this Frugal February thing...I bought ONLY what was on my list. Even with Ella in the cart, I was able to keep my blinders on and work my plan. Yay!

Now, I know that there are some super couponers out there who are so savvy at this shopping thing that they regularly save more than they spend. That is not me. I will forever be amazed at some of these women who have the time, energy and organization to do that, but I'm at a place where I just can't be that person right now. I'll do what I can and not let myself feel condemned because I don't have staggering numbers to show off yet.

So that's it. I got all of our groceries for the week for less than half what I usually spend. It's a start.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Frugal February - Entry #1

It's February 1, 2010. We are officially in FRUGAL FEBRUARY! What's FRUGAL FEBRUARY, you wonder? I thought you'd never ask.

FRUGAL FEBRUARY is an experiment that the Berrys are doing. We are trying to see how little we can live on in the month of February.

There are a number of reasons why we are trying out FRUGAL FEBRUARY. Some include (but are not limited to):
  • The economy: We all know that the economy is bad. That's not new news. Thankfully, we have just recently felt the belt tighten a little in terms of Brandon's paycheck and other work-related expenses that were once covered, but are now not covered due to the economy and cutbacks that the church has wisely made. It is nice to know that God is our provider, and He has used Brandon's job to provide for our family in great ways.
  • The discipline: It is good for us to work discipline into every area of our lives. Last month, for me, it was in the area of eating. I finished a 21 day Daniel Fast as I abstained from all meats, dairy products, and sweets of every kind. I never thought I could do it, but I did! Now, even after I have finished the fast, I am still able to hold on to some of the discipline that I put on myself as I choose what and how much to eat. This month we are disciplining ourselves in the financial areas of our lives. It is so easy to become "fat and lazy" in this realm...going out to eat for convenience or just because I don't want to do dishes...buying things at the grocery store that I won't really use or need in the near future and/or that may go bad before I use them...wastefulness needs to end (or at least get a good spanking).
  • The need: I am not saying that Brandon and I flippantly spend our money. In fact, I would categorize us in the more conservative tier of our friends when it comes to what we spend and how often we spend money. We do this for a few reasons, but mostly because we want to have more to give to the Kingdom of God and those who are truly in need. This isn't a "pat yourself on the back" moment...it is the reality of our lives when we live them by our principles and convictions. We usually have enough left over each month to be able to bless others with food, clothing, a nice gift, or even a little help with someone's bills which have had to be neglected because of temporary setbacks. This doesn't just feel good, it IS good, according to God (See Matthew 25:40 for just a few examples of what He says about helping others). Recently, we have had more people express a need than we have resources for, so that has aided our decision to do our FRUGAL FEBRUARY experiment.

That's my rant...I wanna hear your rave. How does your family cut expenses? I want any and all ideas! Please comment and let me know...I'll promise to read them and try as many as I can out.