Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saving at the grocery store

We are trying to bring down one of the biggest costs in our household: the grocery bill. I think the only thing higher is our rent.
 We have three teen and preteen boys in the house, and they can eat. We try to choose healthy, and we do eat dairy and meat, which raise the bill. We tend to shop at WINCO, Their prices are good and they are employee owned, which we appreciate. Before we moved here, we frequented the Discount Grocery Outlet, but now the closest one is 30 miles away. Since the inventory is forever changing, it is a hard to store go out of the way for. We also shop at our local food co-op and Safeway. Since we are trying to reduce our cost, I have decided to tweak our model. Yesterday I scoured the websites of 3 different grocery stores. We have 2 IGAs as well as the Safeway, co-op,  and WINCO. There are also 2 WalMarts, but we don't shop at WalMart for ethical and sensory issues. I price checked. I also made a meal plan, or at least a loose one. I came up with about 10-15 different main dishes that we would be interested in eating, so we can pull cheap, easy, quick meals out of our hat.

The list:
Creamed tuna or chicken casserole
Potato and Mushroom Soup
Spaghetti with meat or clam sauce
Pizza (from scratch)
Veggie Omelets
Lentil or split pea soup with bread
Chicken and Dumplings
Corn Chowder
Shepherd's Pie
Egg Foo Young
Meatloaf in Acorn Squash bowls

We went to WINCO with our list and sale prices from other stores. We plan to make a price book so we will know the best price at a glance, but having this list was a big help. It took us a total of 3 hours to go to all these different stores. I hope to get into shopping every two weeks, making the shopping trip more efficient. Our trip to Safeway was especially satisfying. They have their new loyalty program that requires customers to log in and select the sales they want to participate in. These sales are personalized for each customer, somehow. I always forget to sign in and use the program, just like I always forget to keep track of my Rite Aid rewards money. But this time, I logged in and grabbed some bargains. One of them was Lucerne yogurt for $1.57 a quart. We eat a lot of yogurt and usually spend about $2 a quart, so I was happy about this. When we got to the store, we found the red "reduced" sticker on a quart of plain lowfat. The sticker said 50% off the club price. We found a total of 6 plain yogurts with these stickers. Each quart cost 79 cents!  Thanks to the discount club, I was able to get block cheese at$2.25 a pound. We will use our food processor to shred it. I also grabbed a gallon of milk for $2.25. Given the fact that milk prices may soon soar, I am happy to find any deals I can!

Goals to reduce food cost: eat in more, carry snacks in the car to avoid drive thru temptation, create a price book, comparison shop and shop at multiple places to keep costs low, participate in Bountiful Baskets, shop Safeway clearance, reduce waste!, and clean out freezer* so we can use it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Dude is planning to make snowshoes. We found a possible solution, and so went to Ace to buy PVC couplers. While we were standing in line, I noticed there were free calendars, and I grabbed one and discovered I was eligible for a free roll of packing tape with a $10 purchase. Our purchase came to $10.18, and now we have a spare roll of tape.

*I don't remember if I posted about this, but over the summer, we bought a frozen turkey and put it down in the basement freezer. The freezer was on a power strip which was accidentally switched off. The result was obnoxious and smelly, and it all happened at the hottest part of the summer. We tossed the turkey, but there is a bloody stinky mess in the freezer. We plugged it back in and shut it up, in order to deal with it another day. That day has not yet come! The freezer sits in the basement, plugged and empty, waiting for someone to clean and deodorize it. Sad state of affairs.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Changes afoot

I decided to invest in an espresso maker with steam jet. We have one of these:
But I like frothy creamy drinks. So, we went trawling the thrifts and I found one like this: 

I paid $8 for it, which was a little more than I wanted to spend, but this was the  only one I found and I didn't want to embark upon a never ending trek that keeps us going back to thrift shops. I think this one will pay for itself within 4 trips to the coffee shop, if my home brew allows me to be satisfied with a cup of drip at the coffee shop. I also spent 60 cents on a lovely mug with hearts on it. I will bring this with me to the shop and it will help the drip coffee feel a little more special. 

We have been trying to figure out how the Dude can get exercise this winter. In the summer, he bikes and hikes. He works in a restaurant and so moves a lot. But in the winter, it is harder to bike here. His restaurant slows down, so the exercise there tapers off. He suffers from depression, and the long winters are not helpful. We were thinking of buying a membership at my school's fitness center. I automatically pay for a membership, and have been using it often this year. A membership for him would cost about $160 for a semester. We were ready to do it, and then I started brainstorming. We bought a couple of guest passes this week and I noticed that he gravitates towards the bike. He loves loves loves biking. I searched around online a bit and found out that it is relatively easy to build a stand that will turn a bike into a stationary one. We have been interested in trying snowshoeing and a search of the web also unearthed many plans to diy. So, the Dude will get a chance to build (which he loves), and can keep his exercise outdoors, which he also loves. We may have to revisit this if it doesn't work out, but I think this is the current plan.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Let's review

So, the school year got busy, we got lazy, and we fell off the wagon.
One goal was to pay down the credit cards. Thanks to some Christmas splurges and some medical bills, we now have about $4000 in credit card debt, up from $3000 in September. We have a cross state move looming this summer. We need to once again tighten our belts. The nice thing about life is that do-overs and learning from our mistakes are available.
So, what happened? A few things: we never did define needs and luxuries. A few members of the family even forgot about our no-spend pledge. As the semester ground on, it became harder to be excited. The Dude had a hard drive crash and try to go an inexpensive route, which just added additional cost to the later more expensive route. Boys are missing the bus more and more and so needing rides to school. I like meeting friends for coffee, and going out to lunch. Going out is tricky. Socializing often means money.

Computers were a big expense this semester. I had mine die at the beginning of the semester, and had to buy a new one. No way around it. I could use the computer at school, but needing to be home nights with the kids, not terribly convenient. As much as I love my iPad, I cannot do real writing work on it. So, I bought a new computer. Magnus' computer began to run ridiculously slow, due to a lot of programs running at once. He needed more processor speed. Rin needed a new hard drive when his got corrupted. He used an OS running on a flash drive, but not all programs would work and it was an exercise in frustration. I know, I know. We could live without computers, or just have one. However, we are a computer family. We don't have a television or really elaborate gaming systems. We do things mostly on the computer. Magnus reads and absorbs information so quickly that a computer is the only way to keep up with him. He can read a book in about an hour. He reads lots of books, but he likes the internet also. Rin loves computers and programming and wants to spend his life working with them. Luigi loves Minecraft. And now My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Giving them each a computer is okay by me. Magnus is at the point (10th grade) where computer is needed or at least very very helpful for schoolwork. The Dude went to the university surplus shop and picked up a "new" tower running Linux for $100. It came with keyboard, mouse, and monitor. He stripped Magnus' old computer, updated it, and gave it to Luigi. For playing Minecraft, checking email, and watching netflix, it is fine. We bought a new hard drive for cheap ($60) and Rin is good to go. The Dude bought a laptop at the surplus store for $50, but it did not work well (5 minute page loading sort of thing). He ended up buying the $280 Samsung Chromebook. I think mine was $450 with rebates. So, that is somewhere almost $1000 in computer stuff this semester! In addition to the $900 for an iPad and $400 for a tablet in the spring, and I think we need to stop spending money on technology for a while! Hopefully the Dude can sell the laptop he bought and get a little cash back. In some ways I am okay with this, because it is easy to spend $1000-$2000 on a single computer, but when on a tight budget, this is a serious outlay.

We had agreed to go to Leavenworth for Christmas and go we did. We packed snacks but did eat dinner out 3 nights. We also had a blast and since we do not travel to see family over the holidays, this trip is very important to us. We had also given the okay to spend money on Christmas and birthday gifts. Rin's hard drive was his birthday present and we used Amazon points for much of it. Magnus' computer was his birthday present and we have gift cards to use for his Christmas present, so that helped some. But we were also hit with an unexpected vet bill when the little Doodle threw out his back. We were fortunate that he didn't need surgery, just pills and rest. Still, a couple hundred dollars. Also, the 20 year old van need hundreds of dollars in investment.

But then there is the bleed. "Oh, let's stop at Jack in the Box" "Let's go for coffee" The Dude and I, thanks to South Beach Diet, now split entrees, which helps bring the cost down. But still-$10-$20 for lunch adds up. We got weak and visited some thrift shops. Overall, I think we did better than we have in the past, often leaving stores empty handed, but we still violated the no spend contract.

So, where do we go from here? We started as we always do: with the family meeting. We talked about a commitment to retool. We defined luxury and necessity more clearly. We have given ourselves $20 a month to spend on restaurants. We have decided to revisit the grocery bill-which is way out of control. We got some lovely coffee shop gift cards to help the studying fees. I am going to give up the beloved latte for a simple coffee or tea. I am planning to buy an espresso maker so that I can make lattes at home, which will help me stay on track in the shops. We have recommitted to coming up with alternatives to spending. And, most importantly, we have scheduled monthly meetings to track progress and discuss struggles. We have decided to only commit to a month at a time. Hopefully that will help.

The Dude is tackling our budget now, going through and figuring out what the heck we are spending on and how to change our ways. No time like the present to figure out the future!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

weeks 10-13


Starting school got me off blogging for a bit.

It has been a pretty rough month. Usually by the time school starts, we are okay but not great money wise.
This year, we were skidding. The Dude didn't work for a few months at the beginning of the year, I splurged out on an iPad, we had dental costs, and all this added up to a tight summer. We were just about at living on credit cards stage of the game. So, this is the year that my financial aid doesn't go through smoothly! I didn't put my student ID # on the tax form, and didn't find out until Wednesday of the first week. Financial Aid is having a whole host of other issues this year, and I am looking at 5-6 weeks before I will get my check. Even though work started on the 13th, we don't get our first paycheck until the 10th of Sept. Luckily the Dude is making good money and gets cash tips, but it has still been scary.

I was given the option of a $2000 emergency loan, to tide us over.This is good. It costs $10 and will come out of my loan money before my money reaches me. So, we should have been okay. Then my computer died! It was 6 or 7 years old and the screen went nasty. It is back to school time, so we were able to score a pretty good deal, but of course a big chunk of the money is tied up in rebates, which will also reach us in 5-6 weeks. And I still have to send those rebate forms in. Luigi is playing flute this year, and the entire rental for the school year went through, instead of just the first month. $250. And Rin is playing bass clarinet, to the tune of $150 for the first payment. And then there was rent for a month, and the $2000 is gone.Very disappointing how things pile up at once. But we should be okay. However, good that we are learning to spend less.

We have had some expenses. I have started tracking them on my iPad. Rin has gone goth and needed hair dye. There have been some trips to the coffee shop, a Subway sandwich or two, a movie and a drag show. We also paid for parking a couple of days. For weeks 10-13, there has been $60 on unneeded stuff. Not great.

In positive news, we are stocking up on produce at great prices, and getting better at using it up.We are freezing peaches today: 25 pounds for $16!
 The Dude and I have each lost 30 pounds on South Beach. New clothing purchases  may go into the need category soon

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Week 9

On week 9, we finished our time in Glacier and returned home.
I am a bit shame-faced, but the week is over and kind of a blur, so I will declare it a no-spend week :) I know we got back Wednesday night very late and then kind of hung around unpacking and doing nothing for most of the rest of the week.

Week 8

On Monday of week 8, The Dude and I were out running errands for our camping trip. We were hungry and worn out. We broke both our South Beach Diet and our no-spend day. We went to Jack in the Box. We tried to find something SB-y, but we got confused. Bargain won out over health. We bought into the 2 Jumbo Jacks for $3.
We also bought bear spray. It was recommended by my doctor, who had been charged by a bear at Glacier and her bear spray saved her life. Som precautions are worth the expense.

Week 8 was spent mostly in beautiful Glacier National Park.

As I have said before, during vacations, we are going to spend, but we tried hard to mitigate the costs. We went with a friend, so some of the costs were split. We camped, which brought lodging down to about $10 a night. We rented a canoe for an hour instead of going on the cruises. We hiked instead of horseback riding, riding the red buses, or ziplining. Hiking is free.

The Dude got his shoes stolen from in front of the tent one night. They left the socks and had to tramp through areas of campers to get to us. We bought a new pair at Payless. After wearing they turned out to be uncomfortable, which is too bad because they are too worn to return. So that was $20 gone. We had to visit a thrift shop to get Magnus a pair of pants or shorts, since he packed only one pair. I bought an additional warm shirt for $1.50 and the Dude bought another shirt for $1 so that he had a shirt to change into for the tent, one that didn't smell like cooking.  We spent $8 on a hiking guide the day after we got lost and walked a couple extra miles. As usual, food budget was huge. The trip was fun and overall, decently inexpensive for a week away. We took advantage of the beautiful surroundings, the ranger talks, and the night sky viewings. We learned that if you join your local astronomy club, you can often borrow really nice equipment for nothing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week 7

An important rule was tested this week. The Dude needed a new rubber spatula for the camp box, as the one we had disappeared. So he ventured into the local thrift store ALONE!!
He got a spatula, even though we do have one at home that could serve double duty. He also got paracord, which is useful for camping. He also bought pocket knives that he is sure we need, and a set of plastic bowls which he is sure we needed, even though we have 2 sets of plastic bowls.
The 49 cent spatula turned into a $6 purchase. Oh well, at least the validity of the rule was tested pretty cheaply.
We have extra sleeping bags that will keep us warm and so we won't need to buy replacement bags for the two the flew off the rood last week.

Besides that, I don't think we spent anything except a few chef's salads at work, and an iced tea while out and about.

Next week's post will be a wee bit tardy because we are going here:

This week's tally:
Thrift shop $6.
Lunches $8
Iced Tea $3

Total- $17

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Week 6

This will be a short post as I am writing my thesis and have little time to write anything else.
Week 6 went pretty well. We went on a short camping trip. We went to Bannack Days and camped Friday and Saturday nights. Since we were attending an event, our lodging choices were a bit constrained. Usually I try to stay under $10 a night, with $15 a night giving me heart murmurs. But we wanted to get to Bannack early, and so we opted for a local KOA, at a total of $32 for the night. Steep, but at least it was a nice place. This was the view out our tent door

We didn't have sleeping plans for Saturday night until a week ago. I entered a search into Reserve America and discovered that the tipi at Bannack State Park was available. With tax and out of state fees, this came to $45. This was a little uncomfortable, but it was the only place nearby to camp, and it would be fun. The two night still cost less than a night in most hotels.

As usual (for us) food and gas were the most expensive bits. The Dude and I are both doing South Beach Diet, and the food bill keeps going up and up. We also had a very hot and miserable afternoon on Saturday and so opted to go to dinner in town. We went to a Mexican restaurant and split plates, so even with a decent tip, the meal for our family of 5 was only $32. At Bannack, we did splurge out a bit: coffee for The Dude, a split order of 2 pork on a sticks. The boys had allowance money and so purchased their own snacks and sticks. The water from the campground was making me a little ill, so I purchased a bottle of water The rest of the food was grocery store and Dollar store purchased. Besides camping, food and gas, we spent $10 on two state park entrances. The second one was for crystal mining. Luigi spent $5 of his own money to take a horse ride. And I believe that was the extent of our spending. In exchange, we got great memories, cool crystals, beautiful scenery, fantastic experiences, and free Montana T-shirts and sweatshirts :) They were promoting their new app and website

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Week 5

We started Sunday by finishing the yard sale. Very few people stopped by, and it was 97 degrees. Luckily we have a shaded porch. We brought a fan out there and it wasn't bad.

We hauled a van load of donations to the Goodwill trailer. Then we went to buy the things we decided the yard sale money would pay for. Magnus needed a new comforter because his was ripped. He assured me it was still functional, but I wasn't okay with that, plus it was dirty and kind of worn out. Shopko had bedding on sale, so we went there to look. Nice twin comforter in solid colors for $30. We'll take it. We also planned to buy a new toilet brush. We went and looked at the selection. $8.99 for a toilet brush in the holder. I said we already had the holder, The Dude pointed out that it is probably as gross as the brush. Then we saw a solo brush. It was $3.99. We went to grab it, but I said we should check Dollar Tree first. We also needed a new mop head. Ace carries our brand. We paid for our comforter and headed to Dollar Tree. They had toilet brushes in holders! For $1. We then went to Ace and I found that our mophead was $6.99-$7.99, depending on width and amount of scrubbers. I felt resentful about paying so much for such a disposable piece. Especially given that the mop itself costs just twice that. So, back to Dollar Tree we went, and purchased a $1 mop that has $1 refills. I figure if I hate it, I am only out $1 and a little more landfill space. If it works fine, then I just saved myself $6 every month or so. 
We also looked at bath rugs, since ours is not doing well. We saw them from $14 and up to way more. We want to get away from rubber padding because it holds bad smells. We discussed and almost convinced ourselves to go to a thrift shop to check for bath mats. In the end though, we decided to continue with our current solution: use old but nice looking towels which can be thrown in the wash easily and therefore changed often. Problem solved with no money spent.

Our trip to town could have cost $46 or even more if we had gotten the bath mat. Instead, it was $30 for the comforter and $2 at the Dollar Tree.

On Monday, we took the books to a local used book store, and sold a few for a total of $20. We then hauled the rest of it to the thrift shop. Dropping off there was tough because they had some nice things in their donation shed! But we were tough, we dropped off and did not go inside the store at all.

I guess all of that saving had us feeling pretty good, because by mid-week, we started acting like we had access to the Rockefeller bank account! On Wednesday, I went to school unprepared as far as lunch goes. I spent $7.50 on a fast food lunch. Then we took the afternoon off to go swimming in the river. We bought an unplanned cookout dinner and ice, for a total of $17.

We put out an extra can on Wednesday also, so that was another $3.50 out of pocket. On Thursday, we took the rest of the garbage to the dump. We had 4 sturdy, but in-need-of-recovering dining room chairs that we had listed on craigslist for a month. No thrift shop would accept them in that condition. No bites on cl. So we finally gave up and took them to the dump. Wouldn't you know, when we got home, there was a request for the chairs! ugh! Our dump run cost $15.
I had a book that was overdue and lost. I did turn it up, but 2 days after due date, so that is a 50 cent fine.

I decided to buy a new swimsuit. I have had my old one for possibly ten years and it is not fitting very well right now. Shopko was having a big sale, but I about fainted when I saw the original price of the suits were $80! At Shopko, for a small piece of nylon. I went over to Ross where there was better prices but the selection was just about exhausted by this time of year. Living in a small town, our choices are quite limited, especially since there is a certain box store that we do not shop in. I was feeling frustrated and really wanted a new, better fitting suit since I want to start doing laps for exercise. I took a deep breath and entered THE THRIFT SHOP!! All by myself. A little scary, but the first thing I saw was a sign: swimsuits, shorts, and tanks were buy one get one free. I went to look at the suits, and I found a cute one in my size, with tags still on it, for $5. I threw in a pair of shorts to wear over it, and left the store. whew! I left with nothing besides those two (well 3, since the swimsuit is a 2 piece) things.

 The rest of the week was dedicated to thesis writing, so no more money spent.

This week is tricky to total. The dump run, extra can, and household items were expenses. The household items hover the line between necessity and not. We could have lived without them, but they are also items that are pretty normal to replace due to wear and tear. We could have squeezed the extra garbage into our weekly can, but it would have taken a couple of months for it to be gone. Also, the payment for all those things came out of the proceeds from the garage sale. The food for our day off was expensive, but it was food. $17 sounds like a lot all at once, but it is just over $3 per person. It was: hot dogs, buns, chips, cherries, ice, and Little Debbie snack cakes. Pretty normal dinner food. We brought baked beans and drinks from home.

My swimsuit wasn't technically a need either. But my old one doesn't fit well. I could have found a work around with shorts, but I don't have a top that would work like that.

What is a need anyway? When you get down to it: food, shelter, a heat source in winter, health care when ill, and enough clothing to keep you protected and out of jail. We all live beyond that. But just about everything else falls into a grey area. For instance, Netflix. We have the $7 instant streaming only plan. Is that a need? No, of course not. Are we continuing it? Yes. Justification? Our library doesn't have a lot of movies to borrow. Downfall of a small town, although not exclusively because I have lived in other small towns with really kick ass libraries: great movie selections, awesome kids' areas, free passes to local zoos and museums. That is not the case here though. I have found that if I am engrossed in a series and only allow myself to watch it when working out or folding laundry, the house is tidy and I actually go to the gym. My iPad is perfect for taking to the gym, a laptop would be awkward on the elliptical. And I can't do dvds on the iPad. So Netflix stays. But these are things we wrestle with.

So far, we got back $200 at the yard sale and $20 for the books. I have some GRE study guides I am selling online. We have a Coleman cooler from way back when, and some Knex to sell. By some Knex I mean a lot. The boys have been sorting and bagging them so that we can sell them in lots.Update: GRE books only netted $4. They are from the old test, so no one was buying any except one math book. Well, $4 is $4.

The Dude bought 3 lunches at $3 each.
I am really not sure how to tally this week, so I won't. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 4 Amendment!

I forgot! In all the decluttering, we have pulled together a lot of trash. We have recycled or donated everything we could, but there is still junk. Last week we had an extra can's worth of garbage, so that was an additional $3.50 last week.

Our total non-necessity spending was $14.50.

This week we will be going to the dump with more stuff.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week 4-The decluttering week

This week I barely left the house. I went through each room, decluttering, tearing it apart, vacuuming, dusting, creating clean living spaces. Now we are yard saling the spoils.

I have watched a lot of Hoarders and have thought much about the situation of too much stuff. I now see that life is easier and cheaper with less. I think there are two camps in frugality: storing things for someday and not owning much. We have usually fallen into the first category. Usually what happens is we buy something because we think it is cool, then maybe we use it a few times and then it falls by the wayside. When we happen upon it again, we think oh wow, we haven't been using it, but heck we may! The more frustrating scenario is when we find it again, think we don't need it so we send it packing, and then the next week do indeed find a need for it. I think this happens less frequently than when we own more than we need. When I stop to think of how much waste we generate as a society, I feel ill. I tend to feel virtuous because the stuff I acquire is usually secondhand, but if I buy then it is not available for the next person, who may have to go and buy it firsthand. But then again, that other person doesn't always come along. I read a Slate article a while back about what happens to our stuff. This paragraph was particularly engrossing:

In the rag-cut room, two men were silently pushing T-shirts, dresses, and every other manner of apparel into a compressor that works like the back of a garbage truck, squeezing out neat cubes of rejected clothing that weigh a half ton each. The cubes were then lifted and moved via forklift to the middle of the room, where a wall of wrapped and bound half-ton bales towered. I saw tags for Old Navy, Sean Jean, and Diesel peeking out of the bales, as well as slivers of denim, knits in bright maroons and bold stripes, and the smooth sur­faces of Windbreakers. Smashed together like this, stripped of its sym­bolic meaning, stacked up like bulk dog food, I was reminded that clothing is ultimately fiber that comes from resources and results in horrifying volumes of waste. Clothing stores completely separate us from this reality, and a “rag-cut” room brings it home in an instant. The Quincy Street Salvation Army builds a completed wall made of 18 tons, or 36 bales, of unwanted clothing every three days. And this is just a small portion of the cast-offs of one single Salvation Army location in one city in the United States.
We saw a micro-slice of that this week as we piled up bag after bag of unwanted clothing; books; toys; dishes; and other, more random, items for sale and donation.Although we can stem the tide for some of the stuff, staying its ultimate demise, we create our own build up in our homes. The clutter creates a noisy mind and the noisy mind cannot focus on its goals, at least mine can't. Mother Teresa understood the importance of simplicity.
"The more you have, the more you are occupied.
The less you have, the more free you are."
Mother Teresa 
But it seems the humans love of stuff is much older than any readers of this blog! Even in ancient Greece, they struggled with a life too complicated:

"In order to seek one's own direction,
one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life."
Plato (Classical Greek philosopher)
We must clear out our spaces to clear out our minds. So we begin with the tough stuff. Our stuff. These are the boys' rooms at the beginning of the week:

Here we have two boys sharing one room. This has been a tough one. Overall, they try their best to keep it neat, but with too much stuff, there is only so much they can do.

 Rin has dust mite allergies and needs a clean, vacuumed room. We are not able to provide that in these conditions. They also love books:
This is Luigi's room. More space has equaled more clutter!

  Way too much stuff! Mouse paraphernalia from the mouse that passed away months ago. These boys need some attention.

Decluttering is often one step forward, two steps back and this was no exception.  Luigi's room was first. 3 bags: throw away, paper recycling, and give away. The boys have been watching Hoarders with me and they have taken the messages to heart as well. There were no tears and lots of big decisions were made. I didn't push on anything. I left each decision up to them.
The bags are the garbage and giveaway from his room.
 So is the bin. Everything but the chair came out of his room and closet. To be fair, I use the closet and so some of this was my clothing pare down.

After many hours, we got here.

Ah... There is very little in his drawers and baskets, so it will be a breeze for him to keep it clean.

The room is now clean. A bonus: his closet is almost empty. The closet is a funny thing It connects the boys' rooms and is quite long. It has 3 bars and lots of storage space. We still have lots of room to hang clothes, but one big section of it is empty. I was getting the vacuum to vacuum out in there and Luigi said, "Are you putting the vacuum in there?" What a brilliant comment! We don't have a utility closet and are constantly trying to figure out where mops and vacuum go. Now they have a home!

Deep breath, good night's sleep, and off to the big boys' room.

Same deal, 3 bags. This one was harder. There is more furniture and Luigi wanted to help, so there were 4 people in there. I was torn about letting Luigi in, but I told him he could stay as long as there was no judgement towards his brothers. He did well overall. Since his room was now clean, he was feeling quite pious.

This was the pile we pulled out of the boys' closet. We sorted through all of it and put 1/2 back. 

Even though this room had less clutter, it took 14 hours to fully clean! Lots of decisions, pulling beds out, vacuuming, washing walls, hanging pictures, rearranging furniture. But the end product is worth it.
This is their newly organized closet

Ah, and their beds. Magnus' bedspread is falling apart. We will be using some of the yard sale proceeds to purchase a new one.

Magnus' desk

Floor vacuumed, posters up, clean sheets, beds made

Even the action figures can stand upright now.

The dude is going to build platforms to get their beds high enough off the floor that they can vacuum easily under them. We had many talks about the importance of daily and weekly maintenance on their rooms, so that it can stay organized. Hopefully we can all remain diligent and on task with this.

So far our yard sale has netted $200 and we are much much lighter. We are hanging on to a few items to craigslist or ebay (like the 40 lbs of Knex we have!) but the rest will go to the Goodwill truck today and we hope to have hopped off the binge and purge roller coaster for good.

Spending this week.
The Dude had a Jack in the Box combo ($6) and a lunch at work ($5). However, he was also able to bring home banquet leftovers last night, so we all had a delicious steak dinner, with stuffed mushrooms for free.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

week 4-The Purging Continues Finding treasure

Decluttering has its ups and downs.
There have been moments of sadness, tension, and anger as well as moments of laughter and joy.

When we disagree on the usefulness of an item, or the placement of an item, or when we try to negotiate with a child, it can get rough and tempers can flare. Of course, we are also face to face with our own shortcomings and fears in this process.

However, there is the pure bliss at a finished room, or even a partially finished room. There is the astonishment to see how much lighter we are, and the humor found in the "what was I thinking when I picked that up?" moments. Then there is the delight in finding forgotten or misplaced items. Luigi found the other glove he has been searching for. The Dude had bought a thing for the Weber grill, but it got squirreled away and then when it was bonfire time (we make wonderful bonfires in our grill), he was wishing he had bought it, but h couldn't remember if he had or not. Well, it turns out that he had, and I found it still in its original packaging. Note: he purchased it used at Goodwill still in its package. As for me, I love birds and bird feeding. I have been struggling to find nice, functional feeders at Goodwill for a while. I get a lot of those little drip types that leak all over and bring ants and steal my joy. I had finally found the Perky Pet glass feeder at Goodwill for $2 or $3 this spring. A happy find, it is on my deck, it doesn't leak, and I have a hummingbird who visits. But I would like more than one feeder. I have been vexed by this issue for a few weeks. Should I try to make one? I have some beautiful glass ball feeders, but they are the drip type that leak. So, I have been trying to figure out if there is somewhere I can hang them where they wouldn't leak, or something.

Well, Sunday night, we were on phase one cleaning and decluttering of the Lego Room/Skunkworks workpod of Magnus. I was going through and thinning the board games that we never play. I go through phases of buying them because they look fun and what a great way to spend an afternoon and wow, only $2? Family fun for $2? What more could you ask for!? But then we RARELY play games together and so they all sit. Anyway, upon thinning, I came across a box, and what did it contain? The most fabulous hummingbird feeder ever!

Please note, this is a promotional picture ripped from the Web and not my pictures nor my hummingbirds/
It is beautiful, it doesn't leak, and I bought it sometime in the winter from Goodwill for $5. That was a huge splurge for me, but it was so pretty. Now it is hanging on my front porch, my Perky Pet is hanging on my back deck and I can free myself of all of my feeder failures. And still receive the thrill when I see the $70 original listing price on the website. I cannot believe I forgot about this one so completely.

I want to assure my readers that my house is not like level 5 clutter or anything. When I read these posts, I get concerned about myself. We have always been able to have people over, even throw decent sized parties, and get the house quite tidy for visitors. It is just a too much stuff+busy lifestyle bad combination.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The big announcement!

Scroll down to read about week 3, but I decided that this announcement is big enough to warrant its own post.

We have too much stuff and it is dragging us way down. We call ourselves stuff bulimic. We binge and we purge. Thrifting and poverty are a bad combination for us. We go to these shops and see all we can have for just pennies on the dollar, and we know it would be hard for us to buy it new, so we buy. and buy and buy. We get the endorphin rush, but the $20 or $30 adds up, and our house gets more and more full. Neither the Dude nor I like cleaning, so we spend a lot of time shoving piles of stuff around. This has led to 2 momentous decisions:

1. We are on a big declutter tear! Yard sale next weekend

We spent all day yesterday decluttering. All day and into the wee hours. We have finished the kitchen and gotten a pretty good start on the living room. There is still: dining room/office, bedrooms, bathroom, closets, basement. It is sad, when we moved here 2 years ago, we had 2 vehicles and one small uhaul trailer of stuff because we had gone through and pared down like mad. Now we have regained at least as much as we had. And how much money have we spent on that? The problem for us with thrifting is we are never faced with the full cost. If we were going to spend $300 on a new sofa, that would slow us down to think about the purchase. But when it is only $30 at a thrift shop, well, anyone can afford that! And oh, look at these napkins for 25 cents each! And I need a pan like this and it is only $3. And who doesn't need another book? Throw it in the cart. Although we might not need that thing today, we will need it someday. Maybe. Of course, we might not be able to find it.

A few things set me off on a big declutter. I am tired of the house always being a mess. I really like our house. And yet it is constantly in chaos. Dishes are always done, eating area is clear of food debris, for th most part the dining room table is open to sit at, unless there is a project going on. But even the kitchen is cluttered. I took pictures but will post them next week, when I can place them side by side with after shots. The Dude has been losing things and complaining loudly about it. He and I have both been suffering depression and anxiety lately, so it seems like a purge will help lift the spirits. A garage sale will help the bank account. And I am just grossed out by how much we are consuming. I helped a friend move a couple of weeks ago and we were able to pack her whole house in a morning. We are planning to move next year, and I want my move to go as smoothly. So, the purge began. It actually started a few weeks ago, and we have had a basket or two of yard sale stuff sitting in the front room since. The Dude and I started decluttering books, and then stopped to go clear out space in the shed. It was bad. Already filled with lots of give away stuff. An hour or so of rearranging and now we have plenty of room to fill with our discards. The Dude went off to work and I decided to get serious about it. I turned on Hoarders. I wanted to really revel in where it can all end up. I had never watched that show before and I saw that many people start with : dealing with poverty and finding bargains. Uh-oh! Let me assure you, we are not at hoarder level. Everyone has beds cleared off to sleep on, all sitting surfaces in the living room are free, there are clear paths through rooms. But the message hit home nonetheless. The boys and I spent the evening decluttering the kitchen and watching Hoarders and thinking about it all. We are decluttering and it is freeing!

The scary thing though, is it is cyclical for me. Stuff bulimia. I am so happy to purge, but I am also so happy to binge. However, this feeling led me to decision #2:

2. We are going to extend No Spend for a year. 

Everyone person or family is going to define No Spend their own way. We have decided the crux of it for us is to avoid restaurants (especially fast food) and thrift shops. Those are the leaky sieves for us. We will be mindful of all spending of course, and will try not to spend on any non-need item, but those are critical.

My reasoning for this step:
1. We are moving next year. We don't want to accumulate more stuff. We want to b free to move.
2. We are moving next year. We want to have a cushion to move on, which is more likely if we don't spend.
3. We want to break the cycle of spend and purge. I am tired of it, my wallet is tired of it, my house is tired of it. We need to retrain ourselves and perhaps this is the method to do so.
4. I am tired of wasting so much life energy on stuff! Thinking about it, shopping for it, caring for it. This weekend was a beautiful weekend. Instead of taking a bike ride, hike, or even working on my thesis, I cleaned and decluttered. That wouldn't feel so bad if we were clearing out 35 years worth of accumulation, but it is just two years worth! I don't want to do that anymore. I want to live life on my terms. I also really want to travel. To do that, I need to stay unencumbered with stuff and keep the cash flowing. This exercise may set us on the right path to do this.

Things I have learned on my purge:
We have enough soap and shampoo to last about a year.
We finally located the bulk Dr. Bronners we bought months ago.
Hoarders is amazing inspiration, even gets the kids excited to release.
Houses are much nicer when they are clean and airy.
Decluttering is one step forward, two steps back.
decluttering is more fun with family members pitching in.
Really purging a house is exhausting.

Week 3

Week 3 is a bit of a blur.
Sunday we hung about the house. It was nice to have an unplanned day.

Monday I needed to go to campus and I took the boys with me. On campus, they can play Wii games. This is a big deal since we don't have such things at our house. They played Wii for a couple of hours while I got some work done. OK, while I meant to get work done but played online instead! It was cool to see the little dudes interacting with college kids over these games. That evening, the Dude took Luigi to feed and care for horses at a horse rescue farm nearby our house. We were considering signing the boy up for a horse program, but it was $300. This is such a better deal for us: Free, 80 horses, Luigi learns the importance of caring for animals and learns what happens when animals are not cared for or thought out, and the place can really use as many hands as possible. They will be doing this weekly.

Tuesday was a hang about at home and get some work done day. In the evening, the Dude and I went grocery shopping and made a bit of a date of it. Usually, when we go grocery shopping, we throw in a round of thrift shopping, often leaving $100 poorer and with lots more stuff. Not now. We went to a coffee shop. The Dude got an Americano (probably around $3) and I didn't get anything. We walked around a bit and then went shopping. We got 2 snickers and a Mexican Coke and went and sat by the cows and had a snack. One of our favorite cheap dates.

Wednesday, Luigi had his art class at the library the next town north. We dropped Luigi and Rin at the library (Rin had permission to use the computer while he was there) and we went on a walk. I read up on hike potential before we left and we found this beautiful hike along the river. It was a bit difficult to find, but we stopped by the city hall and got a brush truck escort to the spot! Small town living at its finest :) 

 This was the river we hiked along

It was an old railroad track that has been dismantled, but not in all places.

We hiked for about an hour and then got the boys and went on a bike ride. We absolutely stumbled across a fabulous bike trail, complete with sandy beach!

 This is not a bad view.

 The wildflowers were in abundance

 And our (tiny) sandy beach reward!

Thursday we went to an outdoor movie with kids and friends. After the movie, I got tired of the headache I had all day and went to Jack in the Box for a Jumbo Jack combo. It is an almost surefire cure for me, and I was ready for it to be gone!

 Friday I had a nice time at a friend's house, and then came home and had a nice long phone chat with a dear old friend. The Dude got home from work late in the evening and was feeling down, so we took a walk to lift his spirits.

Saturday we spent all day decluttering and gathering things for a yard sale next week.

Things I have learned on my purge:
We have enough soap and shampoo to last about a year.
We finally located the bulk Dr. Bronners we bought months ago.
Hoarders is amazing inspiration, even gets the kids excited to release.
Houses are much nicer when they are clean and airy.
Decluttering is one step forward, two steps back.
decluttering is more fun with family members pitching in.
Really purging a house is exhausting.

Money spent this week:
The Dude's date night coffee: $3
Jack in the Box: $4.50
The Dude's dinners at work: $9

Total: $16.50

Friday, June 22, 2012

Week 2

We are not quite to the end of week 2, but I am avoiding thesis work, so I will update now!

We began the week with Father's Day. Although the boys are not being held to the no-spend challenge with their own money, I am encouraging them to be mindful of the experiment as well.  I suggested they reach into themselves and their own talents to create gifts for their dad. They embraced the idea. Magnus is (still working on it) making a comic. Rin wrote an awesome and funny story. Luigi made this and fixed the Dude's knife sheath. We finished watching Colonial House.

I have been concerned about Luigi keeping busy. Well he worked it out himself this week. Paper crafts! He is currently designing a suit of armor (??) out of fiberglass, but the first step is a card stock mock up.

This project has been going on all week and is only at the beginning. He has found something to keep himself busy!

Wednesday was Luigi's birthday. I did not buy him a present since we had given him a tablet a few months back as an early gift. Scaling back my own expectations of what a birthday should be was a big lesson of the day. I am someone who believes every birthday should be phenomenal! And I have failed as a parent when they are less than that. We aren't into the bday party scene, so birthdays often equal trips to cities or camping or movie marathons. Something over the top. This year I realized it didn't have to be that and the kids are fine. So, no extra gifts. He spent the morning working on his papercraft. In the afternoon, we took him to an art program at a library the next town up. The evening festivities included a cookout, strawberry shortcake, and a bonfire. Luigi hung out around the campfire with his dad. They bent copper, made campfire tea and biscuits, and talked about life. The night ended with camping in the backyard.

We spent many quiet days at home this week. It was a nice change. I am working on my thesis and the boys are working on their projects. Trying to keep them off the computer has been challenging. I punished Rin with the hammock in the back yard, a book, and a glass of lemonade. I am a tough mom. We have moved on to the Colonial House series. It was brought to my attention by Magnus, which made me very happy.

We have a beautiful park near our house and we spent some time there, feeding ducks the crusty ends of our bread and visiting the farm animals that live next door to the park.

 Cute pond, perfect for duck feeding

 He finds friends wherever he goes

We took advantage of free library events and park spaces this week. We had planned to take a bike ride, but needed to do stuff round the house. The Dude hung our screen door, worked on our car topper, and made a small water fountain.

Although we are not including food costs in this experiment, we are trying to bring the overall cost down. Tonight, I made tortillas for the first time ever. Although they were tasty, it took an hour and a half to make enough for dinner! That seems over the top to me! Any advice from the audience? I am also looking for a good vegetarian baked bean recipe.

We are wrestling with the trickier parts of our budget. Does Netflix count as a necessity? The Dude bought batteries and glue sticks and some hardware for the door. Does that count? We are voting that Netflix is a necessity. Our library doesn't have really good selection of borrowing times. We only do the streaming plan. The things the Dude bought seem to be necessary and really framework basic building block type items, so we are not including them in the breakdown.

This week:

Iced Coffee (trying to stave off migraine while out, it failed): $2.50
Slice of pizza (The Dude): $1.25

Total: $3.75

And I will leave you with the free hat Luigi made for the little dog today. Paper cup, rubber band, duct tape. Cute dog.