Sunday, February 2, 2014

SURVIVED: No Spending Challenge!

 WOW! I can barely believe that the spending challenge is over! My kids are slightly, okay they are honestly VERY relieved. This means Mom won't be asking the questions "Is this a want or a need? Is it budgeted? Can we wait a month/week/a few days for it?"

WAHOO! It's February

Now that February has begun we can rush out and buy, buy, buy right?

Seriously, I did go out & shop shopping! Oh, and after waiting a full month I went to Staples to purchase my planner refill. I admit that I am addicted to my planner & can't survive with out it. Waiting an entire month was killing me! 

 Let me recap how the month went for us here at Honeybee Cottage:

There was less than $20 ($16.20 to be exact) spent in the first half of the month. Which I know isn't a complete win but I thought it was pretty impressive.

Regretfully, the second half of the month did not go as well. DARN it!! 

I hate being a failure! I really challenged myself to not spend a penny beyond our utility bills & grocery shopping, since we had already paid mortgage,medical bills, insurance premiums & purchased gas for the cars . I vowed there would be NO spending the last two weeks of the month. I even went so far as saying that if I ran out of Diet Coke before the month was over that I wouldn't buy any! I can't express to you just how HUGE that is for me.

I am a meal planner... I find that it saves me mentally & it resolves the issue of the kids asking "What's for dinner?" I simply post the meals on the side of the refrigerator as well as inside my planner.  Our monthly grocery budget is $700. I was pretty impressed with myself at the beginning of the month & know that the second half of the month was going to be so much easier. Then my older Girl Scout troop had a camping trip...the girls plan the meals, create the shopping list & I do the shopping. Well, I really wanted to make sure that I stick to eating Paleo so I went & purchased groceries for myself to take with me. Looking back I should have taken a better look at the month's activities so that I could include it in my meal plan. UGH! I purchased steak, chicken, bagged salad, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, apples, cashews, eggs & diet coke. Knowing that I had the meat in the freezer frustrates me even now... see what poor planning did. $62.98 spent.

The first night at camp, since we all arrive at various times requires the girls to bring their own sack dinner. Three girls forgot their sack dinners! Since the meals were carefully planned out & the number of servings per person was taken into consideration there wasn't anything that  I could easily fix them. That meant heading to Subway. $23.35 spent. I will admit that I purchased a Diet Coke here...which is something I NEVER do. Purchasing soda at any type of restaurant is not cost effective! Plus, I had diet coke back at our camp site.

Thankfully, there was no additional spending the last week. 

That meant that I spent $102.53 unnecessarily. It could be argued that since it was all food items making it necessary spending to be added to the grocery budget. To me it was unnecessary & was all due to lack or preparation & planning.

Although, my spending challenge was not a  success I still am proud of the results!

  • I was able to place $220 into the savings account.
  • We also placed $540 in our 401k.
  • We talked openly about our household finances as a family. Evaluating needs vs wants. I think this is critical in raising Money smart kids. What gift could be greater than that?
  • I planned my business trips, personal errands & other driving so that I could cut back on gas usage.
  • I actually consumed less Diet Coke. This was a result of my being afraid of running out & having to go days without any.
  • I began reading more about personal finances.
  • I also began thinking about how our spending, saving, investing decisions were affected not only by our conscious thoughts but our subconscious moods too! This truly was an aHa! moment.
  • When asking my children what they learned this month my daughter actually said "it really didn't affect me." My first reaction was WHAT?!? Then I started to think about it & I am glad that she felt that she didn't have to sacrifice or felt deprived of anything. Because that truly is the point. Living well on Less.

 The challenge also allowed me to talk to my sister, friends & colleagues about budgeting, saving & finances. It seems strange but talking about money is almost "taboo" in our society. Could that be why American households have so much debt? Simply letting people know about my spending freeze opened up the conversation. I did get a few strange looks...especially from sales people but for the most part enjoyed the conversations that it allowed me to have.

We are definitely going to continue to review our finances, evaluate our needs vs. wants & practice spending procrastination. I have agreed to challenge my family again in March so that my friend has a "buddy" and so I can declare success.

In the meantime, I have already purchased new mascara, splurged on ice cream (to celebrate the end of the spending freeze) as well as purchased chips, rootbeer & Skittles for tomorrow's Super Bowl. OH GOODNESS! Better grab the reins.





Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pinterest Love

At this point, pretty much everyone is aware of what Pinterest is. If you're a "pinner" then you definitely aware of its highly addictive qualities. I don't & can't blame you, Pinterest is a great social site that makes it extremely easy to discover new (can't live with out) amazing things you may not otherwise come across.

CONFESSION: I have been distracted at regular intervals by Pinterest.

Here’s some of what I’m loving at the kick back, relax & enjoy.

With Valentine's Day approaching I am looking for easy ways to decorate Honeybee Cottage. Celebrate with my family & fun crafts for my Girl Scout troops.

Let's Celebrate Valentine's Day

Subway art

  I am an organizer by nature. I am always looking for the next best way to organize Honeybee Cottage,  my office, my Girl Scout stuff, kids, schedules & of course myself...

Let's Organize

Errand Station

I am constantly changing, rearranging & moving rooms around here...this can be slightly obsessive (that's a whole other post). Currently, I have decided to completely swap bedrooms around. I know, I know... which leads me

Boys' Bedrooms
Love everything about this room
We have always been about eating healthy...or so I thought. We started eating a Paleo diet about a year ago. That means I am looking for different ways to cook without grains, pastas & dairy.

Paleo Eating
Quick Easy Paleo Recipes
We haven't experienced any of our typical snow this year but I have already begun thinking of how I want my garden to look this year...

Dreaming of Spring & Gardening

Welcome Spring!

I would love for you to follow me!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Home Made Laundry Soap

On my quest to live a healthier, greener life I started making my own laundry soap. I researched & tried several various recipes. This recipe quickly became my favorite since the items are easy to locate at my local grocery store or using my Amazon Prime account. Plus, tt is extremely fast & easy. Believe me if it wasn't I wouldn't continue to do it. I started out making liquid soap but that just was messier (transferring it to bottles & required more planning) so I just began using it all as a powder. Which I love & it looks so pretty in a HUGE Glass cookie jar in my laundry room. 

By my calculations, I am saving over half on my laundry bill by switching! This recipe works out to be about $0.10 to $0.11 per load of laundry. This saves me about $0.15 per load using Tide.
All the ingredients needed

 Here's the laundry soap recipe I use, I apologize for not giving credit where its due:

1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (2.15 kg or 76 oz) found in the detergent aisle

1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg) found in the cooking aisle

1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz (3 lb 7 oz) found in the detergent aisle

3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap, found in the detergent aisle

2 small containers of Oxy Clean or store brand Oxy Clean (try to get about 3.5 lbs total (1.58 kg)) found in the detergent aisle.
(this is optional, I add it into mine because I have pretty athletic kids & pets so the cleaner the better!)

Start out by grating Fels-Naptha soap just like cheese. I use a food processor since hand grating doesn't get it as fine as I like and I have a HE washer. Combine all ingredients in a 5 gallon bucket (I got mine with a lid for free at the local grocery store bakery I just had to clean it really well).

Use 1-2 Tablespoons per load. I have HE front load wash machine.

I also use Purex laundry crystals instead of dryer sheets...doesn't cause softener build up on my towels & still gives me a great scent.

You should be able to find all of these items at your grocery store. Or if you have Amazon Prime you can get all the items there as well.
 If you prefer Liquid soap:
 Grate Fels-Naptha with cheese grater or food processor.
Put grated soap in pan with 2 quarts water & gradually heat, stirring constantly until soap is completely dissolved.
Put 4.5 gallons of really hot tap water in a 5-gallon bucket & stir in 1 cup each of borax & washing soda until completely dissolved.
Pour soap mixture from pan into 5-gallon bucket. Stir well.
Cover & leave overnight. 
Shake or stir until smooth Then pour into gallon jugs or other containers. This does become thick.
Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Challenge check in & the Most Scrumptious Chocolate Cookies...ever!

We are half way through the spending freeze here at Honeybee Cottage.

It has been a challenge but lucky for us we haven't had to "sacrifice" too much!

I knew that our challenge would be Starbuck's, hubby's eating out for lunch & allowing my kids to walk to the neighborhood Mom & Pop store for a treat.

I typically meal plan & buy groceries every two weeks. My youngest daughter, who is fourteen & I normally make a day of grocery shopping & errands.  Starbuck's is always on the list. It was hard to say "NO" but we remained strong & resisted the temptation.

Hubby did go to Carl's Jr for lunch one afternoon. $9 spent. He deemed it necessary since I failed to remind him the challenge was underway & he didn't have a lunch with him. Okay, I will give him that one.

We decided (lucky for me) that Diet Coke was a necessity as long as it was purchased & factored into the  grocery budget. Luckily, I did! Made me slightly stingier with those that I had. I will be honest, I noted each can hubby drank this week!

The kids have been great at making their own tea to drink each day. They have stayed out of the local Mom & Pop until today....

I needed the secret ingredient for my sister-in-laws delicious cookies & luckily I had $12 cash in my wallet.
After a few questions from the kids (is it necessary, should we just skip our baking day or the secret ingredient?) we all agreed that they could each have a can of sweet tea & purchase the secret ingredient. I am not above bribery & this is where this actually falls. $7.20 spent.

That means we have spent $16.20

We will do better in the next coming weeks.

Now for those Scrumptious cookies:

 My sister-in-law introduce these delicious cookies to Honeybee Cottage many years ago so we named them  to reflect that.
Cookies & Tea for ME !

Aunt Amy's Double Chip Cookies:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature (softened)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups crushed  potato chips ( I prefer those with ridges) YES I said Potato chips! This really makes a delicious cookie!
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (we have used semi-sweet or dark it was a combo of both)
  • *optional* chopped nuts (today we used sliced almonds)
Cookie Dough

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  2. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper ( I use Pampered Chef Stoneware cookie sheets)
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugars & butter together until the mixture is smooth. Then beat in the eggs & vanilla.
  4. Mix the flour & baking soda together in a separate bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture until well incorporated.
  5. Fold in the crushed potato chips & chocolate chips.
  6. Drop 1 1/2 tablespoonful of dough onto  baking sheet. Don't crowd these cookies will spread! (I use a Pampered Chef cookie scoop)  
    Pampered Chef Cookie Scoop

    Ready for the oven
  7. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until  slightly golden brown.
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
  9. Transfer cookies to cooling rack and let cool. (or NOT!)

A few actually made it into the cookie jar



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Living well on less

I wrote how I was doing the 31 day challenge spending freeze for the month of January. I am proud to say that we have not spent any money this month, other than our bills...okay its only day eleven but that's truly saying a lot for this family!

I must confess I have a true affinity for handbags, shoes & fashion. I won't lie and say that we don't spend money on frivolous or what some may classify as luxury items. But I do strive to live on our budget without making it feel as if we are "suffering."

I may not have mentioned this in the past, I have five amazing children. Feeding seven of us can be a challenge.

I belong to a lovely group of women who are all taking part of this spending freeze & striving to live well on less. We share our ideas & what we do that helps us keep to our budgets. I was flabbergasted by how much some of these women save on their grocery bills & it made me feel like I am definitely not up to their standards. Many of them coupon, stockpile & prepare once a month meals.

I want to live well. Who doesn't?

Once you mention budget or finances things get shaky. It can be scary that is why I LOVE my group.
I shared how I save in the group & had several comments about how I should write a blog. Funny! I know I don't utilize my blog like I should but never thought that I should write about how I live frugally.
So bare with me as I post just a few of my tips for feeding my "big" family & our  "small zoo" of animals on a budget.

I don't stockpile. I sometimes wish I could but living in a 100+ year old cottage proves challenging since there is little storage.  We eat Paleo so not really anything to stockpile anyway. I do have HUGE fridge/freezer. Commercial grade...takes up what two refrigerators in a typical home would. I buy my meat at a local restaurant supply store. I  cut the meat myself into steaks, chops, etc...but Angus grass fed top sirloin only costs me $3.05 lb as compared to $6-7 at grocery store. I cut it, bag it in cuts, date & freeze what I am not going to use in the first few days. I also buy some of my fruit & veggies there but try to head to the farmers market ( or local stand on Sundays when they have sales).

I belong & shop at Costco. I just compare prices.  Restaurant supply store is much like Costco where you buy in bulk so I plan ALL our meals out for two weeks. We plan on & eat leftovers for lunches or I use them to make a "new" meal so it cuts down on prep time. I do use freezer bags for this.
I make my own meat & veggie stocks for soup. I place in canning jars, seal & freeze.
 I make my own laundry detergent (started this several months ago & really enjoy it....need to figure out the cost per load still).

I do still need to go to the grocery store for some items, where I don't need enough to buy in bulk. Example: I needed some fresh rosemary for a recipe or knew that we won't eat a gallon of olives on the rare occasion we eat them. I have a favorite grocery store that I shop regularly & have for years. I belong to their rewards program & load electronic coupons onto that card. I seldom clip coupons anymore since I quit receiving the newspaper as one of my first "cut backs."

We do not eat/buy grains or dairy (other than eggs) so that saves money. Since we no longer eat processed foods that helped dramatically. I do buy good olive oil & balsamic vinegar to make salad dressings.

I belong to local CO-OP farm supply where I purchase pet food. I buy it middle of the month when it is typically on sale. I also signed up for IAMS reward program when we buy 8 bags of dog & 8 bags cat food we get the 9th bag free. We buy cockatiel bird food by the 25lb bag for the same price as two 10 lb bags of what we would get at the pet store. This lasts 6 months & we store it in airtight containers plus we feed them fresh veggie & fruit scraps.

We use cloth napkins &  bar towels for clean ups.

We do indulge in coffee (I have a keurig, grind our own & use a reusable cup). My biggest issue....Shame on Coke!

I typically  budget Starbucks into my shopping & errand days. I know its an indulgence. I keep it in check especially since it was a daily habit when I was in the office every day.

We are strictly now a cash only family so we no longer have credit cards or car loans. We have been credit debt free for 5 years (other than our house...which we moved to a 15 year mortgage in 2003 & will have it paid off in 4 years which is 11 years ahead of our original 30 year mortgage.

Hope this gives you some ideas...I know I can use some improvement still but figure I am a work in progress.

What are some of your frugal or Living well on Less tips?

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year, New You?

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a happy & safe New Year’s Eve.

Despite our ambition (okay mainly mine not hubby's) of having a New Year's eve party with family & friends we once again opted to stay in the with the kids, having our own celebration.
 In our not-at-all glitzy clothes, we watched  movies & played games, with hugs & kisses all around at midnight  before heading to bed. Which means we woke up bright-eyed & bushy tailed  with out a hint of a hangover so we could watch the Rose Bowl Parade. New Year's day was filled with the parade, football, snacking, laughing & dinner together.
Having a family has definitely changed how we have celebrated New Year's Eve for more years than I wish to say but it has also given us the opportunity to create some traditions here in Honeybee Cottage.

I always get excited for a new year. It means a a fresh start, new promises & new planner!

The symbolic power of January 1st is huge. Research shows more than a third of Americans  will make a New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t know about you, but these days I seldom make New Year's resolutions. Maybe since I find them so hard to keep. I do find that it is the perfect time to look back on all that was accomplished in the past year, giving me the opportunity to be grateful for what I  have no matter how tough the year was.

With that said we are undertaking a   31days of Living Well and spending Zero Challenge. 

As many of you know I love to reuse, re-purpose & reinvent items to decorate my home. I think that for the most part we live frugally. I won't lie & say that I do not love to indulge in my love of clothes, handbags, shoes & yarn. But I have discovered that I love traveling & indulging in experiences with family & friends even more.

I am hoping that this challenge will help us evaluate & reset our spending habits, as well as how we look at money. Helping us define what  "living well" really is...

I  will keep you posted.

Do you make  New Year resolutions?

Wishing you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2014.

A month of NO spending is an awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget, and this challenge is a great way to keep yourself on track.  The rules are pretty simple:  no spending on anything outside of your absolute necessities, and eat from your pantry & freezer as much as possible.