Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Year Aspirations Follow-Up: Q1

Below is the list of aspirations I made for myself for the New Year.  I will tell you, things arent going as well as I had planned; however, I will not let that discourage me!  I have to work hard in the 2nd quarter to get caught up to be able to attain my goals.  I will highlight and comment only on the areas that are going well..
::Read the 1 Year Bible  
::Lose 25 lbs and be more mindful of my health 
::Read 24 books :  Right now, I am on my 12th book this year! This number will stop growing when I can be outside working on the garden.
::Learn about medicinal herbs
::Minimalize wardrobe and buy new (to me) clothes that flatter by body type (Dress Your Best )

::Do not take in any more critters! So far, a success this year. :-)
::Learn how to save our own seeds
::Expand the garden to be able to preserve more
::Make a chicken garden to feed the chickens self-sufficiently throughout the year
::Grow herbs for medicinal purposes

::Pay down (at least) $10,000 principal on the mortgage :
So far, we've paid over $6,000 toward the principal of our mortgage!  We are well on our way!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Correlation: Limiting Clutter and Lower Spending

I finally have my husband on board with de-cluttering our home and acknowledging that we have too much stuff.  It took me organizing my closet and commenting on how much I love how clean and organized everything was to get my husband to join the club.  He started with his closet, purging the majority of his clothes: many of them I had never even seen him wear.  Next, he turned all of his clothes one way.  If he wears an item, he will hang it up the other way so he can see what he does and does not wear.  In other words, hubby is taking this de-cluttering idea further than me! J 

After we purged and organized the contents of our bedroom closets, armoires, storage under the bed, bedside tables and dressers, we moved onto the kitchen.  I woke up one morning, and Todd had all of the contents of our kitchen cupboards on the countertops and dining room table.  We went through every single item, getting rid of those that were expired or items that we would not use.  This took us less than 45 minutes to complete: we took on this task one morning before I left for work!

Confession:  The oldest item we found in the cupboard was a box of cornbread muffin mix in a box.  I have been making my own homemade cornbread for the past several years, so I never had a need to use the boxed product.  The expiration date:  April 2009! 

Now, we are going through our home room by room, little by little, getting rid of the contents we do not use as we go.  I still have a date with the Tupperware/storage container cupboard one of these weekends, but things are coming along.

I have noticed that since we have been working on our home, the natural spender in our family (my husband) has been making fewer trips to Walmart before work in the mornings.  We went out for a date at the end of February and I was astonished that we went to 4 stores and spent only $9.12.  That $9.12 was on items that we needed only.

I am noticing a direct correlation between de-cluttering our home, the amount of stuff we bring into our home, and the amount of money we are spending.  Being the natural saver and the one who is looking to simplify our lives, I am enjoying watching this process unfold.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saving Money: Print and Media

I have written before about going to the library, but I thought it was worth mentioning again.  To read the original post, you can find it here. 

We take advantage of our library every single week.  You can find me there picking up new release DVD’s, old DVD’s that we may have missed, movies I enjoy and want to watch again, audio books, and physical books.  I don’t believe in purchasing DVD’s or books unless I know I will watch or read them more than once.  This not only saves us money, but keeps stuff from accumulating around the house.

Lately, we have gotten into more resources our library has available. 

I will admit that I enjoy reading magazines from time to time.  Instead of purchasing my own subscription, I get the magazines each and every month from the library.  Hubby has found this resource invaluable when doing research from Consumer Reports.

We had a gentleman come to our door asking if we wanted to get the local paper several weeks back: We declined.  We are able to check out newspapers from our town, the three larger cities around our town as well as national newspapers from our library.  We are not news or newspaper type of people – we enjoy a life where the negativity stays out of our home.  Some call it ignorance; however, we are unapologetic about being uninformed.  If a news story interests us online, we will read it.  We don’t like to be inundated with it.

Free Classes
Not only does our library offer book discussions, there are also classes to learn how to knit, use/create Google Docs, estate planning, seed-swapping and many other courses throughout the year.  I am amazed at how much our library offers considering we are a town of 5,000 residents!

Our library also offers a free online program to learn how to speak different languages.  I would like to learn how to speak Spanish, Italian and French one day.  Maybe I will try to re-learn Spanish come winter when there is no garden work to be done. 

What programs does your library offer?
Do you take advantage of them?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reflection: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

I would like to mention that if we are talking about ice cream sundaes, bigger is most definitely better (in my opinion)!  However, today, I am going to talk about the size of our home.

Back before Todd and I were married, I owned an 1100 sq ft home in the city.  At the time, I thought the home was perfect and I couldn’t see myself ever moving away.  It was the perfect size for me as a single woman, with just one room that wasn’t used (the spare bedroom).  It had a decent sized back yard and a front porch that I loved sitting on in the evenings and weekends reading a book or just watching the neighborhood kids run and play.

Then Todd moved in. Todd moved in with the contents of his 1400+ sq ft home along with my belongings.  We made it work, even though the basement was full with a lot of his “stuff.”  In hindsight, this 1100 sq ft house was the perfect size for us as a couple.  While engaged, I dreamed of starting a family and living on a nice piece of property with a large garden and some animals, so I started looking for homes with a little bit of land (more than a quarter acre).

I found one in our price range (very inexpensive) with a half acre out in a town I had never heard of.  Todd scheduled an appointment with the realtor of the home and went to go take a look while I was at work the next day.  Todd, being the visionary man that he is, was able to look past the flaws of the home and saw what the home could one day be with hard work, sweat and tears.  He called me and said he liked it and thought we should put an offer in on the house.  The realtor put in the offer, and we were informed that the house had just been sent to auction the day before, that we would have to bid for it online.  We did just that.

We ended up getting the home for less than what we were going to offer for it.  But I am getting off-topic.

Back in the day, I dreamed of a larger house for Todd and me, and the pitter-patter of little feet we were hoping to have.  Today, I sit in one of the 4 rooms we use most often and think about how bigger is not always better.

We have an additional 750 sq ft than we had in the house in the city.  Now, instead of just one room going unused, we have 4.  Oh, and did I mention how much I dislike cleaning?  This is 750 more sq ft that has to be cleaned every once in a while. J  It costs us more in utilities to heat and cool this home and the upkeep runs poor Todd ragged most of the year.  We have one acre of land and use about a half of it for animals and gardens. 

I do not regret buying this home and I still pray that one day we will hear the pitter patter of little feet running through the halls (no mom, this isn’t an announcement).  I love our little town and how peaceful it is (most of the time) in our little area of the world.  I even dream of starting our own business and using the rest of the land to its full potential.  Until then, I am working to control my mentality that bigger (and more) is better in all aspects of my life…except for when it comes to ice cream.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Too Much Stuff

"Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions." ~Peace Pilgrim (source)
Over the past several months, I have noticed that we have too much. It is not something I just noticed, it is something that has been nagging at me. Really, how much is enough?

I am tired of always trying to find items around the house and our home feeling cluttered. It is impossible to keep the house clean because we have to tear everything apart to find that one do-dad hubby knows he has but cannot find.

Hubby and I have decided to start purging some of our belongings. Do I really need 6 vases when I don’t believe in purchasing fresh flowers? Yes, I can clip flowers from our flower bed and put in the vase for decoration (I rarely ever do this), but I need just one small and one large vase for that. And please don’t ask me why I have 3 sets of hot rollers and use none of them.

We have 3 baker’s racks…in our living room. One is his from his old house, one is mine from my old house, and one is ours that was given to us by my mom when she moved (it’s gorgeous!). They are situated in our living room because we don’t have enough room in our dining room. I think you can tell which one we will be keeping: the one that we both think is gorgeous. I feel like when we have surfaces without clutter, it gives us permission to purchase and fill said surfaces with possessions.

Over the next several months, I will try to post before and after photos of our purging efforts. We could have one major garage sale (or several) this year with all the “stuff” we want to get rid of.

When you look around, are you happy with the amount of possessions you own? Or do you feel like I do, that it’s all too much

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Chickens Are Earning Their Keep

We have been getting a consistent supply of eggs from our 7 hens since the beginning of the year.  A co-worker had put dibs on fresh brown eggs since November of last year.  A price was agreed upon and then we (patiently) waited for the first dozen eggs to become available.

We are finding that the new breeds of hens we have right now are not as consistent at laying eggs as our originals.  Their eggs are also smaller than our original hen’s eggs.  Due to a problem with a hungry red tail hawk this past winter, we lost 3 full-grown chickens in the span of a month; one of them being one of the original red sex link hens who was our best layer.  Let me tell you, our red sex links lay an egg almost every single day and their eggs are huge: we are talking XL or XXL.

In January and February, we sold 5 dozen eggs to my coworker friend as well as another coworker.  The proceeds from the sales are almost enough to purchase another 50 lb. bag of chicken feed.  The best part is: we still have more than half a bag of food for the chickens to (hopefully) last us another month or two.

My goal for this year was to spend no more than $50 on chicken feed by supplementing their diet with mealworms, table scraps, food from the chicken garden and free food we get from friends and family that is expired.  So far this year, we have purchased 1 bag of chicken food for $17.24.  This is about $4 more than what we usually spend on their food, but we needed it and it wasn’t worth driving 30 additional minutes to get it from our usual supply store. 

As mentioned, we still have more than half a bag of food left for the chickens.  Assuming we sell another 5+ dozen eggs in the next month and a half, we will have more money from the sale than the food costs to feed the chickens.  Not only that, we eat our fair share of chicken eggs throughout the week! To me, this is a win-win scenario!

Are your chickens earning their keep?
How many do you have?


Thursday, March 7, 2013


The Friday before last, on my way into work, I was pondering the happenings of my morning before I left for work and felt a huge sense of guilt for most of the day.

It was a Friday that Todd had off of work and I had to go into work.  We woke up at the same time to an adorable dog giving us love and affection and making us laugh.  We got up and got to work de-cluttering our kitchen cabinets that have been accumulating stuff for the past 6 years we’ve owned the house (yes, we are morning people: if it didn’t get done in the morning, it wasn’t getting done!).  I got online for about 10 minutes and then rushed into the shower while Todd made breakfast.  We ate breakfast together, I cleaned kitty litter boxes, checked on mealworms, dried my hair, got dressed and was running around like a mad woman because I had to get out the door to “beat the bus.”  (Side note: If I don’t get out the door at a certain time, it lengthens my commute by 10 minutes because apparently middle-school kids in our town are not able to walk 2 driveways down to get on the bus. *snide remark*) As I was running around, hubby started to get playful.  As he pushed me onto the bed and was giving me kisses, I made the remark, “I don’t have time right now.”  He let me go, I got up and ran around for another minute, gave him a kiss, told him I loved him and ran out the door. 

As I was sitting behind the school bus this particular morning (damn karma), I began to realize how out of whack my priorities were are.  I made time for everything else that morning except my husband!

I began to think about what my priorities really are and I came up with this list (in order of importance).

I don’t write a lot about my faith on this site, but I have faith and I believe that it should be the top priority.  If you were to see what day I am on in my reading of The One Year Bible, you would be able to see that God has not been placed first and foremost in my daily life. This is no one’s fault but my own.

The next priority in my life should be my husband.  It is no secret that my husband and I have had our ups and downs over the past 7 ½ years we’ve been together and this very well may be because I have not put him high enough on my priority list.

Our families are very important to us and I feel like we have done a pretty good job of prioritizing our families in our lives.  Yes, I would like to spend more time with my mom, my father and my nieces, but again, this is my fault for not making time on those weekends that Todd works to go and visit them.

I would be lying if I said  I put Todd over our animals in the past.  It has been a sore topic in our relationship from the very beginning.  When our pot bellied pig, Squiggy, was alive, I would tend to spend more time with him than I did with my own husband.  It sounds awful, and it really was, but that pig was not just an animal to me: He was my baby boy.  I realize now how unhealthy the relationship I had with our pot bellied pig was.  Even now, 2 years after his passing, I miss him so much.

Everything Else
Everything else includes everything that I consider as “me time” and cleanup around the house.  Really, are they are priority?  No.  Nothing is pressing enough that it cant wait.

Lesson to be Learned
I need to keep this list in my mind at all times.  So much of the scenario above could have been avoided by giving up that 10 minutes of computer time and allowing the animals to walk by without me having to pick them up, give them a kiss, and tell them how adorable they are.  I’m not sure if you noticed, but after writing out the whole scene, I realized how truly selfish I am.  I would like to turn that around to become more selfless.

I will be the first to admit that many times, my priorities are all out of order.  But the only one who can fix that is me.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Giveaway: Fruit Pectin

It is almost that time of year when the strawberries are starting to come in and for some of us, the gardens are being prepared for planting!

This year, I am giving away a jar of Ball Fruit Pectin (your choice of low/no-sugar, instant or classic) to 3 winners.

How to Enter:

(Please leave a comment for each entry. Example, please leave two separate comments if you like Sparing-Change on FaceBook AND follow on Twitter.)

  1. Follow Sparing-Change’s blog (if you already follow, please leave a comment below stating so)
  2. “Like” Sparing-Change on FaceBook
  3. Post on your FaceBook Wall about this Giveaway
  4. Follow Sparing-Change on Twitter
  5. Post an entry on Twitter about this Giveaway
  6. Leave a comment below answering the following question: Have you ever canned jelly/jam before?
  7. Leave a comment below answering the following question: What is your favorite jam/jelly?

This giveaway will end on March 10, 2013 at midnight.

The 3 winners will be contacted by email and will also be announced on FaceBook and Twitter.

My favorite (and super-simple) recipe is this Triple Berry Jam recipe.

Good luck!