Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Day in the Life Of...(a Date with the Hubby!)

I just love reading about how other people's days look like.  I did a Day in the Life Of... back in late January, but decided to do one showing what a day on the weekend looks like with Todd.

This past Saturday, Todd and I had no other plans than to spend time with one another.  This is how our Saturday, February 23rd looked like.

I would like to preface this post with the fact that Todd and I both ate 1/2 a cantaloupe (or more) each before going to bed.  Needless to say, I was up at 1:30, 3:45 and 5:45 going to the bathroom!  Note to self: If you are going to eat nearly a whole cantaloupe, do it before 5PM!

That being said, this is what our day looked like:

This is the last picture I took for the day because as we were finishing the movie around 8:30, I had my eyes closed and my ears plugged with my fingers so the movie wouldnt scare me, but I ended up falling asleep!  Oops.  Todd told me the end the next morning.

The reason I listed the amounts we spent is to document how much we spend when we go out on a "date" every month or every other month.  We take pride in how little our "dates" cost.  This date cost us $24.91 total for lunch, movie and ice cream!

So, there you have it.  A day in the life of us when hubby doesnt have to work on a weekend, we go on a date, and we relax the rest of the time.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Laundry Detergent (HE Washer Friendly)

Yield: 10 gallons 


  • 1-14.1oz. bar of Zote Soap (the pink stuff found in the laundry isle)
  • Water
  • 1 cup Borax (optional)

Equipment Needed:

  • 5 Gallon Bucket (you can get these free from the local bakery)
  • Stir Stick
  • Cheese Grater
  • Funnel
  • Cup

I forgot to mention: Shake well before pouring.
Zote soap usually sells for less than $2.00/14oz. bar at WalMart or Target; however, it is not available where we live (we looked at 10 different stores within a 50 mile radius of our home).  That being said, I ended up purchasing 6 bars on eBay at $3.12/bar.
Price Breakdown:
What we were using before the homemade detergent:
100 loads at $7.69/jug
Price per load: $0.0769/load
Homemade Detergent:
Zote Soap: $3.12
Borax (I had on hand – I would say I used $0.50 (or less) worth)
Price for 10 gallon batch: $3.62
Price per gallon: $0.362
Number of loads per gallon: Approximately 16
Price per load: $0.023
The real question: Does it work?
I have been using this detergent solely for about a month now.  I have seen absolutely no difference between the detergent we had been using and the homemade detergent.  For 1/3 the price of the store-bought detergent, hubby and I both agree that the homemade is just as good (if not better) than the store-bought detergent. 
My husband has a stinky, labor-intensive job that makes his clothes almost black after a full day of work.  Unlike the homemade detergent I’ve made in the past, this stuff leaves his clothes clean and smelling fresh.  I decided to use the borax in our detergent mainly because of how dirty his clothes get at work.  Hubby recently washed several of his jackets, and before he went outside, he opened up his jacket and told me to “smell.”  It smelled nice and clean – and I love it!  ((Yes, I like when laundry has a scent to it.  When we wash sheets and the comforter, I lay in bed and sniff for a few days before my nose gets used to the scent.))

Do you make your own laundry detergent?
What has been your experience? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Learning to Live on Half our Income

This year, Todd and I are attempting to live on half of our income.  We both make roughly the same amount of income each year, and we had been putting 40% of our combined income toward our savings goals for a couple of months in 2012 with no real pinch in our finances.

Since January 4th, the first paycheck that we received, I have been surprised at how tight the extra 10% feels on our budget.  We are nearly two months into this project of living on half our income and let me tell you, I commend those who live on one income!  Our expenses are extremely low yet we have been feeling the pressure to stay within our goal of living off of 50% of our income this year and next.

I am learning some very valuable lessons while going through this with Todd.

His Spending Habits vs. My Spending Habits
I have known that I am the natural saver in our home; however, I didn’t realize by how much.  If I had control of all the finances, I think we would be doing just fine living on half of our income; however, I would have a very unhappy husband.  J  So really, is it worth it? 

Every Friday when Todd gets paid, we have to set our priorities.  What has to be paid this week and what can wait*?  Do we have any money left over to go out or to buy items in bulk?  I am having a really awful day: maybe we should just go to Subway for dinner so I don’t have to cook.  Is it worth it? (The answer is no, by the way.  I had to suck it up and make dinner because I didn’t want us to have to scrape by for the rest of the week just because I was having a bad day.)

*Please know that we are not behind on any of our bills.   The few recurring expenses that we have are usually paid before the statement is even cut.    

Plan Ahead
There are some expenses coming up just around the corner we have to start saving for.  One of them is the 2 weeks off Todd gets (unpaid) during the plant shutdown each July.  Usually, the employees get sent home from work early several times throughout the month due to lack of work even before the plant shuts down for those two weeks.  If we neglect to plan ahead for this, it could be debilitating to our finances in July and may even make us lose momentum.

Communication is Key
We now keep a very low account balance in our checking account because half of our income is immediately transferred over to pay down the principal of our mortgage.  Because of this, there is not much wiggle room in our budget.  I have to keep Todd up to date at all times so that he knows when he can and cannot take a trip to WalMart or pick up the tab for lunch with his parents. 

The Emergency Fund Gives Me Peace of Mind
For me, the Emergency Fund is my security blanket that even allows us to take on this project of paying off our mortgage in 2 years and living on half of our income. Without it, I’m not sure I would be brave enough to take on such a task. 

We Can Get Through Anything Together
Though this new budget of ours has put a little pressure on our marriage, we know we are working toward a common goal.  If we can accomplish this task of living on half our income, we know that if something where to happen with one of our incomes or if we start a family, we can make it.

We are learning very valuable lessons by taking on this project and I am enjoying it every step of the way thus far.  If you are a one-income household, what advice could you share with us?

DISCLAIMER: I feel it is worth mentioning:  I realize how fortunate we are to be able to bring in two incomes and have the opportunity to attempt to live on one income.  This is a learning experience for us so that one day, we can live off of one income, whether that is his or mine. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Organizing the Bedroom Closet

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal of finally paring down my closet after talking and thinking about it for months.   I had a closet-full of clothes that I didn’t necessarily like and most of the items didn’t fit properly.  I purchase a lot of my shirts from the thrift store and because I have a big bust, most of the shirts do not fit properly. (Our thrift store does not have dressing rooms.)

This is what my closet and armoire looked like January 28th:
In my armoire, I kept a mish-mash of clothing including shirts that didn’t wrinkle (and even some that did!), jeans that I have been holding onto thinking that one day I would fit into them again, shorts I haven’t worn in over a year (because I don’t do shorts), and the bottom two drawers were pajamas I’ve accumulated over the past several years.  It was pure chaos, as you can tell from the picture.

After just 20 minutes of going through my clothes, this is what my armoire looked like:


Do you see that?!?  There are shelves in my armoire! 

The top shelf has a few books and miscellaneous items.  The middle left shelf has my comfy pants (3 pairs of black yoga capri and 1 pair of yoga pants) whereas the middle shelf right has 4 pairs of shorts, capri jeans and 3 pairs of jeans I wear often. I hesitated on purging the shorts.  My reasoning: Todd and I are going on a family trip to Aruba in a month and a half and even though I don’t like wearing shorts, it is warm in Aruba!  At this time, the shorts do not fit, but I am hoping that if I can lose some weight, I will be able to wear shorts on vacation.  If I am not able to, then they will be donated before we leave for vacation at the end of next month.

The bottom shelf is now housing 5 pairs of pants that I wear to work.  I had nothing else to put on this shelf and I am perfectly happy with that! 


In the top drawer that held half of my pajama stash now contains all of my patterned short-sleeved shirts (I wear these alone as well as under cardigans in the winter).  I even found two shirts I used to love (and still do) that got lost in the disarray - they are now part of my weekly rotation of work clothes.  The right side of the top drawer now holds my summer pajamas which consist of two pairs of cotton shorts and a spaghetti-strap cotton nightgown. 


The bottom drawer will hold two pairs of my favorite pajamas (one was in the wash this week and the other on a drying rack to dry at the time of this photo.)

The items in the closet weren’t difficult to sort through.  I decided that if I hadn’t worn it in the past 6 months, I donated it.  This is what was left (and a whole lot of empty hangers). 


I ended up getting rid of 8 - 9 pair of shoes.  Most of them were hand-me-downs or garage sale finds for less than $2.  A couple of them were really pretty shoes but I had to stuff paper in the toes so that they’d fit!  All of the shoes that I wear are now housed in a canvas shoe-rack organizer to the right in my closet with my knee-high boots and high-top sneakers on the floor in front.  The best part of the closet is that I can now fit my laundry basket in it again!

I will admit, I was stressed out thinking about going through my closet.  The project took me less than an hour to complete, and I just love that everything in my armoire and closet are items of clothing that I wear, and wear often.  I have even begun switching up my wardrobe because I know exactly what I’ve got!  It is like I just got done clothes shopping…without having to go to the store! 

As with most things I put off, I don’t know why I waited so long to do this.  It is great being able to get dressed in the morning and choose something that fits without the hassle of trying on more than one outfit.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Investing in Time Together

In January, Todd and I were talking about where we would like to go and what we would like to do in 2013 as we usually do at the start of each year. One thing Todd mentioned wanting to do is go to the ClevelandMuseum of Natural History.  Honestly, I didn’t even know Cleveland had a Museum of Natural History!

I was talking to one of my co-workers about Todd wanting to go to the Natural History Museum and he had mentioned that they had a blue whale exhibit going on until the end of the month.  I immediately went online to see what it was all about.  Low and behold, the exhibit went through January 27th.  We only had a couple more weeks to go if we wanted to see this exhibit.

I mentioned to Todd that there was also a Mayan exhibit coming to the Museum starting February that I wouldn’t mind checking out.  At $12/person plus parking, Todd wanted to look into a yearly membership.

Come to find out, we can get a 1 year membership for the two of us to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for $75.  This includes unlimited visits for the two of us, 4 extra tickets if we wanted to bring guests, and 2 free parking passes.  At this price, if we attend 3 exhibits, the membership pays for itself.  But wait, there’s more.

In front of a true-to-life size whale heart!
It is over 6 ft tall!
As part of the membership, we can get into hundreds of othermuseums around the United States for free!  This got us to thinking.  We are trying to save money this year and stay close to home.  We can travel all over Ohio and to Pennsylvania and see all of these cool museums and science centers for free!  Not only would it be fun, it would be inexpensive (we are within driving distance to many of the locations within Ohio and Pennsylvania), and we are spending time together.

Both Todd and I share the secondary love language (if you haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I highly recommend it!) of quality time.  This means we feel most loved when our love language is met (his is physical touch - mine is acts of service) as well as our secondary love language is being met.  We have also decided that we are investing in a membership to the Cleveland Zoo as well.  This way, we can spend quality time throughout all seasons this year.  I absolutely love animals and by purchasing a yearly pass to the zoo, we would only have to go twice before it pays for itself.  You will most likely find us at the zoo on our 6 year wedding anniversary this year on May 3rd!


Todd and I are complete nerds when it comes to museums and learning.  Even though the budget is tight this year, we are investing in time together:  Just the two of us – exploring the world (OK, Ohio and Pennsylvania…but close enough).  There will probably be some mishaps along the way, but we are going to be making memories together…and I cannot wait! 



What do you do to invest in your marriage?  Do you have a yearly membership with your spouse to the gym, musicals, concerts or museums?  Do you feel they bring you together as a couple?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

Let me just say that I could have re-written this book in its entirety because of the invaluable knowledge it provided.  The author, Peter Walsh, had me pegged from Page 1 in the book titled It’s All Too Much. I believe this book is for anybody who wants to find a way to look at their belongings a little differently and start to get rid of some of their clutter.

I will be the first to admit that we have a lot of stuff in our home.  We go to garage sales and flea markets as well as obtain a lot of stuff from our parents.  Over the past year, I have had the feeling that its just too much.  We really don’t need most of what we have and it is just taking up space (and in turn, our time, energy and resources) in our home. 

I believe that this book is a must-read to anyone who is looking to dig their way out of clutter. 

I will leave you with several quotes that resonated with me most throughout the book:  

  • "Clutter prevents you from enjoying the most precious, intimate moments in life.  Clutter robs you of far more than the space it occupies – it steals your life!”
  • "Does the stuff you own contribute to the lives they were hoping to achieve or is it getting in the way of that vision?"
  • "Go through every room. First, identify what you want from the space.  Then, determine if the contents of the space serves that purpose."
  • "Does this item enhance the life you want to live?"
  • “When you succeed in decluttering it will be because you’ve made good life choices.  And when you’re living by those choices, you’ll experience the joy, the lightness, and the freedom that come with natural order.”
  • "Your home is within your control.  It should be the place where you escape all negative forces in the world.  Your home should be the antidote to stress, not the cause."
  • "Clearing the clutter in your physical space will go a long way toward clearing the clutter in your mind and your relationships."
  • "Clutter stops us from living in the present."
  • "Those things we hoard for an imaginary future do little other than limit our possibilities and stunt our growth."
If any of these quotes resonate with you, I suggest picking up the book from the library and reading through it.  It has me motivated to get rid of the clutter in our life! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Two Ways to Get Enough

Source Credit
I found this picture online and I liked it so much that I printed it out and have it hanging on our refrigerator as a constant reminder.

Though my husband and I are definitely not minimalists by any stretch of the imagination (you should see our home: the joke is that we are maximalists!), I am definitely to a point in my life that I desire less: A lot less.

In the past, we have tried accumulating more and more stuff…and that still didn’t seem like “enough.”  Over the past year, we have desired less and we definitely feel like we have more than enough. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Saving Money: Groceries

I am challenging myself to lower our grocery budget by 25% in 2013.  This wasn’t necessarily a New Years resolution, but a way to save money so we can pay off our mortgage in 24 months.

In the past, I set a budget of anywhere from $200-250/month for groceries depending on how much meat we needed to purchase or if we were having company over.  There are just two of us, and this budget was doable without much hassle.  I like to spice things up when things get comfortable so why not challenge ourselves.

Our new grocery budget for 2013 is $187.50 or $62.50/month less than what we are accustomed to.  I am confident we can live off of this amount of money for our grocery budget without too much of a change in the way we eat.  This is what we have done and are going to continue to do to lower our grocery budget.

Grow a Garden and Preserve its Abundance
It goes without saying that growing your own food is one way to lower the grocery budget.  We have two established gardens which will require no additional expense other than planting seeds and patiently waiting for its provisions.

Starting a garden can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you make it.  In years past, we put a substantial amount of money into creating our garden spaces.  Luckily, it was a one-time investment and we are ready to start planting our garden(s) with no additional expense but a lot of sweat and labor.

We have a water bath canning system as well as a pressure canner (my new toy!) so I will be able to preserve whatever we are not able to eat and put it up in the pantry to eat throughout the rest of the year.   

Decrease Consumption of Processed Foods
Very few items in our home are processed.  We like to make our own meals from scratch and for the most part, stay away from processed foods.      

Limit Grains & Dairy
Todd and I try to eat a Paleo-type diet which is gluten, dairy and sugar-free.  That being said, we seldom purchase flour, rice, pasta, sugar, milk or other dairy products.  We try to keep our way of eating simple so as not to require the more expensive alternatives out there such as almond/coconut milk, almond/coconut flour, agave nectar and other gluten/dairy/sugar-free items.  Our meals include some form of protein and a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Buy Sale Items in Bulk and Preserve
Oh how I love a good sale.  I am known to go a little overboard with sale food items: meat and produce alike.  Now that I have a pressure canner, I can put those great sales on meat to good use by canning the meat for future use or to make our own heat and serve stews and soups.

When we buy from local farms (pick-your-own farms or produce stands), we try to buy enough to last us several months.  There is nothing like opening a jar of strawberry jam in February which was preserved the previous year.

We purchase 3-4 bushels of deer apples a year for $3/bushel (a bushel is approximately 45 lbs) at an orchard near my father’s house.  Deer apples are apples which have fallen to the ground.  Some people have a problem purchasing fallen fruit; however, the majority of the fruit is perfectly fine.  The damaged or bad fruit is fed to the chickens and they love it!  With this fruit, I am able to make applesauce in crock pots and can enough to last us the entire year as well as give some away as gifts.  I also make apple pie in a jar with these apples and it comes out perfect each and every time.  You really cannot beat it for $0.07/lb which is why I will continue to purchase deer apples each fall.

Meatless Meals
Once in a while, we like to eat meatless meals such as 3 bean chili, black bean burgers, loaded baked potatoes or a large salad.  Dried beans (and even canned beans) are very inexpensive to purchase versus meat and they keep our bellies full for an extended period of time. 

Shop Amish Salvage/Thrift Grocery Stores
In Northeast Ohio, we have a lot of Amish.  A few months back, I learned about Amish “dent and salvage” stores which are grocery stores in the heart of Amish country offering dented canned food items at a steep discount or food items coming close to their expiration dates. 

Todd and I try to visit these stores once every quarter.  It is incredible what can be purchased for less than $50.  It is enough to stock up our pantry (and then some) for very little cost. 

Simply put, we drink a lot of water.  When we have company, we try to purchase their beverage of choice: some like tea, others like Pepsi, and when there are kiddos around, we get juice or flavored water.  Fruit juice is a thing of the past for us.  One thing my husband is addicted to is tomato juice, which can be expensive; however, he has learned to make it himself using tomato puree from a can for a fraction of the cost.

As with everything in life, little savings (and expenses) here and there add up.  We do not feel like we are depriving ourselves and we enjoy a good challenge. 

Do you challenge yourself to save money where you can?
What techniques do you use to save money on groceries?   

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Feast

I am not one to watch or even enjoy football.  However, I know that Todd enjoys football.  Todd mentioned a deal from PizzaHut that he wanted to try.

After telling him that I was going to order this Dinner Box for the Super Bowl, Todd decided it wasnt worth it.  So...I was on a mission to try to make a Super Bowl meal that was comparable.

This is what I bought from the grocery store the day before:

DiGiorno Pizza - $5 (on sale),  Chicken Drumticks $2.53,
and potoatoes (about $0.50 worth)

And this is what we ate for the Super Bowl:

We ate well for just a little over $8...and we had leftovers.
I love that my husband WANTS to eat in instead of going out for fast food.