Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ideas to cut expenses, Part 5 camping/sleeping bags, cooking (edited again)

(Red type is the added, edited text)

But, but,....we don't have sleeping bags. Neither did the pioneers and they managed to crossed the continent without them. So here's how to make a bed roll.

Another how to bedroll.

How to roll a bedroll up and tie it.

Since some people might like to invest in sleeping bags, here a site on the purchasing and care of sleeping bags.


Or you can use two pieces of material with an old blanket, quilt, etc between it. Sew up 2 long sides and a short side to make a zipperless sleeping bag. Make it at least a foot longer than the person is tall and at least 5 inches wider than they are around. Instead of sewing, use diaper pins to pin it together. And when I say 2 pieces of material, it can be two pieced pieced together. In BIG chunks. You don't have to get all fussy and make a quilt top out of it. Just sew several large pieces of material together to get the size you want. A lot of us have material laying around from projects we "didn't get to" or handed down to us from others. Old sheets work, The bottom legs from worn out jeans work - though they would be heavy if you had to carry them very far.

Here's another idea on how to wrap up so you're not cold. It's a fire blanket for a fire bed. And here's her other info on how to make that fire bed. It's not a video either. (Word of caution. I wouldn't build a fire bed where there are any tree roots. Tree roots can catch fire and burn long after you're gone. They smolder very well. You don't want to start a forest fire - or one at your house either.)

But we don't have any mess kits or special pots for cooking and I don't want to ruin my good stuff. Remember me mentioning my 28 days in the high Uintas? My sole piece of equipment for cooking was an empty tin can. That had held about 28oz or so of peaches. And for group cooking, we had a lovely #10 can. You know those gallon cans that hold industrial size servings. Wallyworld here has them. You can get ketchup (a veggie in my house. sigh), peaches, fruit cocktail, pineapple pieces, green beans and more. Most of them cost between $2 and $4. Buy one, eat the contents (if your family can't use it all at one setting or before it spoils, portion contents into smaller containers/zip bags and freeze. Or dehydrate and take with you. (Whirl any of the fruits in the blender until smooth. Make a smoothie. Or put the resultant pulp on a dehydrator tray(ies) or cookie sheet(s) and dry it. It makes GREAT fruit leather! (and it's a LOT cheaper and healthier for you.)

You could also dry the veggies and then either take them as is, or put them in a blender and blend to a powder. To use them, Add 1/4 cup of dried veggies to 1/2 cup boiling water and allow to sit for 5-10 mins. Use some tomatoes and powder them, add hot milk to the powder and some seasoning and you have instant "cream of tomato" soup. Oh, yeah, we're camping. So add some powdered milk instead of liquid milk, then add water to the mix. (See what I mean about thinking outside of the box?)

What do you mean you don't have a cook stove? Neither did the pioneers. However, no one had any rules about not starting a fire. So you may, depending on where you live, need to use a stove.
Here's one type you can make.
Here's another.
This site has some great ideas and patterns for stoves, pot stands and other items! Follow his links to the different items.

Different types of fuels for those little camp stoves.

The other thing to use is a BBQ grill and charcoal. Most places you will be going to will have on-site grills. You need to bring charcoal, lighter fluid and matches. Many places have a fire-pit and you would need to obtain firewood and matches. Sometimes camp-sites will sell bundles of wood for a fire. They are expensive. Many of us have access to downed wood - wood that is already on the ground. I don't know of any campground that allows cutting of living trees. They don't make good firewood anyway. Green wood smokes like crazy and doesn't burn very well at all! Also, look up how to start a fire with wood. Boy/Girl Scout handbooks are a good place to begin. Also I'm sure there are sites on the internet to show you how.

Experiment BEFORE you go, so that WHATEVER method of cooking you choose to employ, you can handle the starting and care of it! OPEN FLAMES ARE DANGEROUS! Know what you're doing or have someone show you HOW to use your chosen method. REVIEW fire safety with your children!!! We don't want someone getting hurt or starting a forest fire because of carelessness.
Remember this: if YOU start the fire YOU are responsible for seeing that it is TOTALLY out. You have not only a moral responsibility, but a LEGAL one also. When the scouts camp, they have to put the fire out with copious amounts of water, stirring the fire and then use more water. Only when you can put your hand INTO the ashes and move it around is the fire OUT. There should be NO smoke, NO embers, NO nothing left. And that includes leaving it to go visit off the campsite or overnight. Only in survival situations do you have permission to leave a fire unattended, and even then it needs to be properly banked or put out if possible.

I personally have started many a fire from "put out" fires. Ones left overnight that were "put out". And it wasn't hard. A couple pieces of toilet paper, dryer lint or "punk", a few puffs of breath, a little tinder, some kindling and the fire was going quite well. All nature needs is a few dry leaves, a puff of wind and we have a wild fire. And yes, I know it took you 1/2 a box of matches to get that fire going. Been there, done that. But all it takes is a spark to get a wild fire going. Not fair, but that's life and Murphy's law.



Again, you don't have to BUY stuff to camp. Just use what's on hand. Do a trial camp out in your own back yard. See what you need and what you don't need. Perhaps try it once allowing everyone to go in and out. Tweak your list. Then try it again another night, but don't allow anyone into the house, except for potty usage.

Make a list of what you need for camping out. Your list will be different from mine. Keep your camping gear in backpacks or containers - where you have it all together.

Ok, so where do you now go to camp.
Backyard or rooftop camping is free. Yours, grandparents, friends, near or far.
State parks
National Parks
Some beaches - make sure they're safe places and not drinking/drug hangouts.
Locally known "camping" areas. (Known to the locals, but not to any published guide.
Private camp grounds like KOA (Kamp ground of America).

Definition of terms (And from cheapest to most expensive):
Privative camping- means that there are NO facilities. No bathrooms, no water. Either none whatsoever or none that is very near. That translates you will either walk a mile for bathrooms and water or you will have to bring in your own. Cost: between $5-$15 or so a night.

Car camping- parking is very close or right at the campsite. Convenient with little children. Usually bathrooms are quite close by and water, bbq/fire pits and a picnic table are on the campsite. The last few times we've camped with friends, we've done this and it's been really good that we did. They have small children and neither of them are "campers". When we camped with them, both times it rained very heavily. First time, tornado watches were posted. We packed up in the middle of the night and spend the rest of the night in the cars. The second time it just rained and we stayed put. I've also gone out with a Scouter and his daughter. We were experienced campers and so, even though my kids were young and it snowed, we stayed. We were prepared and could all handle the conditions - which included keeping little ones warm and dry. Cost: between $10 and $25 or so a night.

RV camping-self-explanatory, I think!
The RV is pulled into a spot and plugged into the electrical outlets. There are both temporary sites and sites where you can stay put for weeks/months - for a fee. lol Cost - out of this world. How much does an RV cost? And the gas for it now costs as much as it did. The parking(can you really call towing a house around with you camping?!) space is around $35-$50 a night.

Many camp sites have laundry facilities to go along with the restrooms and showers. Read the website's description of what they have to offer. If you're not sure, ask questions before plunking down a deposit. Also, note the deadlines for a refund. For some of the more popular parks, you have to make reservations in advance to get a spot, so call ahead to see what it's like at the park you wish to visit.

Ideas to Cut Expenses, Part 4 camping/tents

This brings me to the next idea. Camping. (note, the links are almost all videos and not good for dial-up users. They will take a month of Sundays to load.)

Come on, Mama, camping costs a LOT of money for the equipment. NOPE.

Learn to think outside of the box. Pretend the world has come to an end and what's in your house or can be found in nature is all you have to work with. Then involve your family. Most kids are really good at thinking laterally. Especially little ones. I'm serious. Talk to the under 6 set and ask them what they would do. You'll be surprised at the answers they'll give you.

You really, truly, don't need a tent. For true. I've used a tarp - spent 28 days in the high Uinta Mountains with one. Ok, I was taking a "Youth Leadership" class that just happened to be subtitled "Desert/alpine survival", but hey, none of us died due to getting rained on or having to sleep under the tarp. And actually it wasn't really a tarp. It was just a piece of plastic that was about 8'x8'. Yup, just plain old 4-7 mil plastic sheeting. Like what you'd use to cover a large living room window opening - the openings that have two windows side by side. Visquene (sp) is what I had to use. And like the first link shows, we used rocks to hold it down.

This week, I bought a tarp for my Scouter son. Since he camps in all kinds of weather, I got a heavy-duty tarp that had a silver side that reflects heat. That one cost about $20 for an 8x10, tarp - if you get a good tarp from the blue and white home building people. (Which is where I found mine.) Mine is double-sided, brown on one side and silver on the other. The duel sides are really useful. Face the silver side away from you and it will reflect the heat. Face it towards you and it will reflect body heat and campfire heat. There are videos on some of the many ways to set up a tarp for covering. It's mostly done with ropes instead of tent poles. But you can go to your local military surplus store or Army/Navy store and find old poles that went to Army tents. You can buy replacement poles meant for existing tents. You can use dowel rods, show curtain rods, tension rods, old broom/equipment handles, ski poles, or any other straight things to hold the tent up. You can use any sticks you find. Unless you live/camp where there is just NO trees, you can improvise the "tent pole(s)" on site. Lots of choices - ask the kids.

You can also get cheaper tarps and smaller tarps. (The two my son took were both cheap ones from Wallyworld. We have found that the tarps are a lot lighter than a regular tent. My son has a new tent that someone gave him for Christmas last year. He had a winter camp out with the Scouts and I sent him with the 2 older tarps I had. One for a ground cloth and one for the "tent". While the other Scouts had to hike the 10 miles with heavy tents, even with 2 tarps his pack weighed less. And it rained. He was the only one who was dry during the night.

A couple of sites to get you started are:
This one
This one shows a really easy way to set up.
This one shows a tarp similar to the one I got. There are 4 sections to this one. I enjoyed watching them. Since I first started this post I contacted Dave to see if he had a tarp kit that he spoke about posted on his website. He did not, but since I asked about it, he put up a 2 kits. They are complete, but to me, they are a bit expensive. A 7'x7' tarp set is $80 and an 8'x10' is $95.
That's a bit too rich for my blood. I know that Italian blankets are about $35 alone, plus another $15 for the tarp. I have found wool blankets cheaper on the internet and for most of us, we don't need wool blankets to summer camp. For my Scouter son, I'm tempted to invest money on a wool blanket. His troop camps in all weather. For the rest of us looking for frugal camping, the blanket off the bed will work. I'd bring along another blanket "just in case".
This one makes it seem like you have to be afraid to use tarps or be a math expert, but he does have some good safety tips and designs. Not a video, but a PDF file.

Knot tying videos:
Some knots from a Scout troop.
More knots.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ideas to cut expenses, part 3

Sorry folks, after working on this post for about 4 hours, I went to another link and came back to my post having been eaten.
I'm trying to redo/recapture the lost work.

Ok, some more ideas I have on cutting expenses. This set includes some fun, low cost or free vacation ideas.

Sometimes just a change in our schedule can seem like a vacation. Have breakfast for dinner, eat dessert first, get up early and watch the sun rise, stay up late and look at the stars. Go to
spaceweather.com and find star maps for your location. Also get info for when the different satellites and space stations are passing overhead. One night, my kids and I went out and caught the ISS and Endeavor uncoupling. It was so cool! All we have is a pair of binoculars, but they worked very well. They even make looking at the moon fun. You can see it with your naked eyes, but with regular binoculars, it's a great view. There's also comets and the regular planets to be seen.

Pretend you're a tourist and go to all the local places people go to see. I grew up in a tourist town - St. Petersburg, and I can tell you, I saw hardly any of the "local" sights. For whatever reason, we just didn't go and do the sight-seeing that people paid good money to go to St. Pete and see.

We now live in a little tourist town in Northern Georgia. We have gone to some of the local things, but haven't "seen it all". Many of the things that tourists do are free and we have the added benefit of not having a "time-limit" on us. We can go when ever, where ever and not have to worry about checking out of a hotel at a certain time. And we don't have to pay to eat out. We can always take snacks, drinks and meals with us. Just put them in a cooler and away we go. Anywhere within about 100 or so mile radius is an easy day trip. That's about 1 1/2 hrs drive each way. It would cost about 1/2 tank of gas for the whole trip.

Think outside of the box. Write to your local tourist/chamber of commerce, etc for info or just stop in the local office. You can also write to your state board of commerce and ask them for info. There are a lot of historical places, landmarks and places of beauty in each state. Do an internet search of your state or if, like me, you're close to several other states, also look at what they have to offer that is near you. You can also so searches for "National Monuments", State monuments, national and state parks, you local county and your city (or cities nearby). All have free information that you can have fun with. Make a game of it with the rest of the family.

Take the family on a picnic. Many state and National forests have free pavilion areas complete with tables and grills. Some you can reserve, but many are first come, first serve. Get there early and have a fun day. Bring a Frisbee or a ball and play catch, soccer or other sport. Remember to slather on the sunscreen and/or cover yourself and the kids. Sunburn is NOT good for us.

Create a garden. It doesn't have to be large to be of interest to kids. Square foot gardens are easy and fun. I posted on some ideas on how to do this cheaply here.

Go for a walk. Go for a walk in nature is fun, but even if you just take your kids on a walk around town, it will be good exercise and breaks some of that "cabin fever".

Sit with the kids and brainstorm ideas on things they can do. Have someone be a scribe and make a booklet with the ideas in it. Then when the kids act or even say, "I'm bored", you have a ready group of ideas for them to keep themselves busy. (Around my house, "I'm bored" is not an option. Like my mean mother before me, "I'm bored" is an invitation to help with the never-ending chores that need to be done. And since they are usually the culprits in part of the mess, give me any excuse and I'll find something for you to do. lol)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tempers

Most of "my ideas" are things I have learned from other people.

Sometimes the weirdest things can make us sit back and look at what we're doing and see things in a whole new light.

I once found a fortune cookie that said; "Do not lose your temper. No one else wishes to find it."

It knocked me back on my heels! I had never considered that when I "lost" my temper that indeed, someone else DID indeed "find" it.

Up to that point in time, I was a pretty hot-tempered person. That "fortune" caused me to think about what I was doing and How I was acting. It caused me to make a choice to control my temper.

No one "makes us angry". Anger is a feeling and we choose what we feel and what to do when we feel that emotion.

You don't think so? Well think back. Has there ever been a time in you life that you were so happy that nothing could rain on your parade? Perhaps you won something - a contest at school, a scholarship, someone you liked a lot told you they love you. Was there anything much anyone could say or do to burst your bubble? Usually not.

Now think back to another time. A time of loss. Perhaps a loved one died or was diagnosed with a serious illness, was in an accident. Perhaps you tried to accomplish something and failed at that attempt. Was there anything anyone could say or do to "make" you feel better? Probably not.

These are extremes, but that is my point. With the first one, we're so happy that anyone who is trying to be ugly to us, can't. We tend to just let it bounce off of us. We "excuse" them with, "they must be having a bad day." or "They're just feeling jealous." With the second one, we could win a million dollars and it wouldn't "make" us feel happy. Life is just too desperate at that point to really "care" about money or anything else. We are so wrapped up in the emotion of the time, that nothing much can be said or done to us that gets through to "make" us feel happy.

That's what I mean about other people not being able to "make" us feel something. What we feel is tied up with what we THINK.

If someone we don't particularly care for tells us they love us, does is cause euphoria? Uhm, no. (And we do well if we can hide our disdain and treat the person with kindness.) Why? Because we don't care for that person as a prospective mate. It's how we THINK about that person.

What if a stranger on the street blurts out; "That's an ugly outfit." Do we usually let it bother us. Not unless we also THINK it's an ugly outfit. Otherwise, most of us tend to THINK; "Well, that wasn't very nice of them to say that."

We can do the same thing with our anger. When someone says or does something that would normally "make" us angry, look for the reasons that we shouldn't be angry. When someone says or does something nasty instead of thinking "How dare they?", we can replace the thought process with "Perhaps they've had a really bad day." Someone cuts us off in traffic or doesn't let us in: "Perhaps they just didn't see me", instead of "They did that on PURPOSE!!".

It doesn't mean that we never "feel" angry, just that a lot of our anger is generated by negative thoughts of our own, independent of what others around us are doing. If we replace those negative thoughts, we can cut down - greatly, on incidents of "feeling angry".

Sometimes things really are "worth" being angry about. There are times when people do things that aren't right and cause grief in our lives or hurt our family. How do we handle that?

First off, when you mess up, how do you want people to treat you? Sometimes people do things and mean one thing, but we interpret it differently. It hurts our feelings. That's the time to confront the person with a simple; "That hurts my feelings".

I personally had that happen to me. Years ago, I was a missionary in Colombia, South America. I was with a group of missionaries. It was Christmas. We had just finished doing a program with the local people and were talking about what to do for our own Christmas. I got the bright idea of us singing some Christmas carols and exchanging a small gift. One of the others, a male, made a comment about how I always took charge. Well that hurt my feelings. (I'd been told many times that I was bossy.) I wasn't trying to be bossy. So I simply stated to him that his comment hurt my feelings. He was so astonished. And immediately corrected my impression. He wasn't trying to say I was being bossy, but rather that he thought I always had such good ideas.

What would have happened if I had not given him the opportunity to correct MY misunderstanding of what was said? Well, to this day, when I tought of this incident, I would have had hurt feelings. Instead, I can use this as an example of ME misunderstanding someone else and the need to ASK the person involved, when something hurts my feelings, what they meant. (Do NOT ask anyone else! How often has someone else had their own agenda and we've gotten sucked into it?)

So what if he really meant to hurt my feelings? Well, then that would have been HIS problem. I can choose to then think; "Well that wasn't very kind of him.", or "What a JERK." With the first, I keep my dignity with the second, I get angry and resort to name-calling (even if only in my head.) Do I WANT to be angry?

There ARE unkind people in this world. There are downright hateful people out there. There are control-freaks out there. Do we let them control us by "making" us angry?

I have someone who for the last 13 YEARS, has gone out of her way to make trouble for me and my family. There has been no doubt about it. People have gone to DFCS or the school board because of things she's said to them. I've found out because, later they've come to me and apologized and then named HER as the reason they were "so concerned".

Well, first, I've learned to stay away from her and to keep my kids away from her. She is no friend. Second, I've learned to go to people who "are in charge" and tell them the history of what's gone on. I've circumvented many a problem this way. When you are in a small group that has to interact and a new person comes in, it is sometimes helpful to "cover your booty". Talk briefly to that new person. Let them know that there's someone in the group that likes to get OTHER people to cause problems and to please not be influenced by this person. Then give details of what has been done. You don't need to name names. Sooner or later, this person will start stuff and then the new person(s) are forewarned. Then when the person follows their normal pattern, the person has exposed him/herself! All you have done is warn that there is someone who likes to do this. It avoids gossip while forewarning the new person.

I've learned to see the person who does this to me in the light of what a sad case she is. She doesn't control her own life, so she goes around trying to control the lives of others. I've learned to not respond in anger to her, but rather in a neutral way to her. I tried being friends with her and I've tried talking to her. She denies being involved with anything that has happened. It wasn't HER who was at fault. But 6 different people have named her as the instigator in 5 different incidents of trouble for me. And they all did it in passing. No one was trying to "blame" her, only they've all mentioned that they were concerned "after talking to her", but that they shouldn't have done what they did and they regret it. Would I forgive them? (Yes!)

What of people who kill family members? Who cheat on you when they're your spouse? Who cause a divorce by their constant bad behavior?

Yes, that does hurt (I've had to deal with all 3) No, it's not a good idea to pray to God to "get them". lol Though truthfully, I spend the first year after my divorce hoping that something would happen to the ex. (blush) Then one day, I realized that that that really wasn't a good way to be spending my time. I needed to leave him to a just God and to GET OVER IT! To do so, I had to learn to pray for the ability to forgive him. No, he didn't "deserve" it. (He's continued to cheat on the wife he now has.) He still does controlling things. (He STILL has our daughter, even though he was found guilty of contempt in court.) The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what HE does. I need to forgive him and get on with my life. Yes, I've cried an ocean of tears. Yes, he is in the wrong. But for me to survive as a kind, decent individual, I have to forgive HIM. I have to let it go. Otherwise, I can't move on with my life. And I would be full of anger. Anger that would spill over into all my other relationships.

Now that I have children, I am SO glad that I've had years to perfect "keeping" my temper. I would never wish to lash out at my kids in anger. I'm so glad that I had years of keeping my temper in a bad marriage. It helped to keep the fighting down to a minimum. (Though I'm sorry to say, we did fight and I didn't always keep that temper.) I'm so glad that I read that silly fortune cookie and stepped back and thought about how I chose to handle my emotions. Because how I chosen to handle my emotions has determined the kind of life I have lived. And the kind of life I have lived determines the kind of legacy I leave behind.

What kind of legacy will you leave behind? Will it be one of admiration for overcoming the trials of life or one of disdain for wallowing in your troubles? Will you be known for your kindness or for your temper-tantrums? The choices that you make daily determines your legacy. But the nice thing about life is that we can, at any moment, realize our mistakes and take action to correct them. Isn't that grand! We don't have to be perfect, but we can try to fix the things we see in ourselves that aren't up to snuff. And when we're busy fixing ourselves, we don't have a need to fix all the others around us. We can be generous and let them learn on their own timetable - just as we have. And those that we do have stewardship over (primarily, our kids) we can look at in a kind light. We then discipline from love, not anger. Then anger is not passed to the next generation. And to me that's the biggest reason of all to control myself. To give my kids a childhood that they can look back on and know that they were loved. Not one of being mommy's battering object. One that was full of laughter, not temper-tantrums (ok, well at least not from the "adult" in the house. All bets are off for the kid ones. lol)

Let us choose today to live lives of quiet dignity. Free from tantrums and full of laughter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Garden

I'm so excited! A friend and her husband gave me three 3'x3' squares to do a square foot garden. They had them in their front yard, but decided they didn't want them any more, and gave them to me. woohooo!

For the last 5 years, we've had a pathetic "container" garden. Not much grows in them - there's just not that much space. With these three squares, I can plant 27 squares of stuff.

It's gotten too warm for things like sugar snap peas and carrots. We'll put those in in Aug or Sept. It's time here for the summer plants. I already 2 types of tomatoes, one kind in the container and the other awaiting transplanting. I also have some yellow squash, chives, sage, 1 jalapeƱo plant and some mint in the containers.

In my new squares, I will be transplanting the tomatoes I was given. Then my friends are giving me some heirloom seeds. I'll be planting pole beans, bush beans, cucumbers, some pepper plants, zucchini, and butternut squash, I also want one watermelon plant. (All the "crawling" things will be taught to go UP some fencing so I don't go outside my squares.) I'm so excited.

Now I need to do something about some soil. I'm not allowed to dig up the soil here, so I'm going to have to shop around/ask around for some soil. I know that last choice is to go buy some compost, vermiculite and some peat moss and mix it in 1/3 proportions. But I'm trying to same myself some money, not spend it. So I'll check with a friend that has some animals to see if they have any manure that has sat for a while. I'll ask around to see if anyone would give me any soil that they have. Problem is, North Georgia is full of RED CLAY. It's impermeable and not good to grow in. The nice thing is, I have some options.

The other nice thing about these squares are that if I move, I can just move the soil along with the frame - which is bottomless. (I would just scoop the dirt into a container/wheel barrow, and pick up the frame. Move it to my new location and refill it with the soil.)

If anyone has any ideas I've missed on getting some soil, let me know.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ideas to cut expenses, Part 2

One of the biggest budget busters around here were eating out and the kids wanting to rent movies. We've had to learn to make our own stuff, though lately, we've slipped back into some bad habits - courtesy of an income tax return that made us temporarily "wealthier" than we've been in a while. We're having to break that eating out habit again. It only took a couple of times, and we were wanting to eat out all the time. That's WAY too expensive for most of our budgets. So we've had to relearn to tell ourselves no. The movie rental we've solved with the Netflix I mentioned last post.


Which brings me to organization and keeping all the things we juggle up in the air instead of falling down around our heads.

Sometimes we don't "feel like" doing a certain thing. As Pam Young of "Side-tracked Home Executives" calls it, we have a Brat in us. And it's that Brat that causes a lot of problems. The child that gets fed up being "grown up" and wants to play or run away from problems. I've really enjoyed her website http://www.thebratfactor.com

I've also enjoyed her other website: House fairy. I wish she had had it when my kids were younger. She's good at motivating them to clean up their rooms. That has been the biggest problem for me was getting and keeping kids' rooms cleaned. I tried everything from doing it myself, to getting them to help, to trying to make them do it themselves. I've put stuff in boxes in the closet (supposedly out of reach - they'd climb and get it down) to bagging stuff up and putting it in the attic to actually giving stuff away. None of it seemed to do any good. Of course, a carrot is ALWAYS better than a "stick". None of us likes to be forced to do anything. Her ideas are really fun for the kids and gets them eager to go clean. It appeals to their sense of fun.

One of the thing that has helped me get a lot more organized is another website called Flylady.net

Over the years, I've used Pam and Peggy's Book "From Pigpen to Paradise". It was a 3x5 card file system. Sometimes I will still get it out and sort the cards. But I've also found Flylady to be a big help too. Just the get up, get dressed to your shoes and make sure that before you go to bed, you've shined you kitchen sink. You can sign up for daily email reminders of what to do.


All these sites are interrelated. It all started with Pam and Peggy's book, went to Flylady - who they quote and then to learning about and parenting our own inner "brat" to House Fairy (sister to Santa Claus. lol)

Beware of thrift stores and yard sales. It's not a deal if you really don't have the money to spend. I see so many people overspend for junk at thrift stores and yard sales. It seems that "only $2" isn't much, but it adds up quickly. Especially if you go "shopping" often. It may be a "great deal", but is it really in your budget? Do you really "NEED" it, or is it something you're justifying by saying you need it? It seems that kids' clothing and small household appliances are the biggest purchases at these places. Before you bring it in, ask: DO I need it? Do I have a place to STORE it? Will I REALLY use it or will it sit and collect dust, be tossed out later as clutter or end up in my own "yard sale" later? Truth be told, most people don't make money buying stuff to sell at a yard sale "later".

My kids usually have 5-6 pairs of pants and 5-6 shirts, a pair of PJs, 1 or 2 Sunday outfits, a pair of Sunday shoes, a pair of play shoes, flip-flops, and a package of underwear, and one of socks. When they were very young, they'd go through 4 sizes of shoes and clothing a year. When they got to be school-age, it was 2 times a year. Now that they are nearly grown, it's been about 1 size a year. However, this is still pretty much the extent of their wardrobe. They do each have a "grungy" set of clothing and shoes to paint, get greasy or go camping in. And right now, my son only has 4 pairs of decent pants. He's grown too fast and I haven't have the money to buy more. Plus, we're having a hard time finding his size now. We FINALLY found a pair of dress pants that matches his black suit. They were $20 at Walmart, but will last him a year or so of wearing them every Sunday. They had a matching suit jacket, but I'm going to have to wait until the child support comes in to get it for him. (Ex was supposed to have paid in $500 in April and again in May, June, and July; but as yet, none of its been paid. So we'll have to wait and see what happens in the next month or two. I guess Child Support Recovery will catch up with him sooner or later and this time, they'll probably throw him in jail until it's all paid back. Who know?)


Personally, I don't think kids need a closet full of clothing. They don't appreciate it, don't wear most of it, it causes laundry pile ups (many people tend to run out of clothing before anyone does the laundry) or it's left laying on the floor, it's an expensive habit, and leads to clutter. (and I'm the queen of clutter all on my own. I don't NEED any help making more! lol) So don't go crazy at the thrift store/yard sales "saving money". If you've spent $10, you haven't necessarily saved money. Yes, it may have cost someone $100 at the regular store, but YOU have still spent $10. It's only a good buy if it's needed now or in the near future. (or unless you have a LOT of storage space that is well organized so that the clothing you bought "for next year" can be FOUND next year. No matter what a great "deal" it is, if you can't/don't use it or can't find it, it's just wasted money no matter HOW much you "saved". That's NOT "thrifty".

Also, my kids wore hand-me-downs. When he was younger, my son has worn some of his sister's clothing and his sisters have worn some of his. Not anything that was too out of their gender, I didn't want them being made fun of; but some t-shirts, jeans, etc work for either gender when they're little. And my babies all wore the same things, except for Sunday, when I put a dress on the girls and a little suit on the boy. He hasn't been permanently scarred from wearing the occasional pink onsie or sleeper, nor the girls from wearing a blue one. Babies don't much care about color, only that they're comfortable and loved. Besides, it didn't seem to matter WHAT my girls were dressed in, people always commented "what a cute boy". And they would be in PINK RUFFLED shirt with pierced earrings! And once I even had someone say "what a pretty girl" about son, who happened to be dressed in a BLUE shirt and jeans! Now the girls were rather bald until they were about 2 1/2. But the boy had a haircut at 9 months old, just to get the wispy ends off his neck. I've never let him wear his hair long. So go figure. lol

Also, I let people know we would love their outgrown things and we've passed ours on to others.
I have two girls that as they got older, had two completely different body types. Older is 5'2, and 105 lbs, wears a size 2/4. Younger is 5'7 (and still growing), 150 and wears a size 14. It wasn't too many years before youngest was larger than oldest - and you can't pass clothes down that way. So when you're buying stuff for kids, make sure you take into consideration their body-type as well as clothing size. And of course, most of you know that some things look better on one body type than they will on another, so take that into consideration when buying them clothing too.

to be continued.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Ideas to cut expenses, Part 1

Someone wrote me about being a SAHM and that they might have to go back to work, despite having cut back and being out of debt - except for the mortgage.


This is part of what I wrote back to her.


I'm a single, working 2 part-time jobs, mostly at home mom. I homeschool 3 kids. I've been divorced for almost 13 years and have managed to stay home with the kids. I will add that I do have some help in that we live in Public Housing - I have a stand alone house in a fairly nice neighborhood - the mayor and a superior court judge are my neighbors just down the street. Also, we used to get food stamps, but with the oldest 19, they count her income, even though she has control of it and doesn't give it to me. She's still in school and only working part time, but it still counts, so we don't get much help anymore. I do get child support - when he pays it. I have a friend that has an internet business and I do her data entry and shipping. I also go clean our church once a week for 5 hrs. (Disclaimer here: I have sat down, quite a few times and done a budget, plugging in the going pay rate here in my rural county. To have put my kids in day care/school and gone to work would have left me $200 in the hole to just walk out the door. That was just for child care, raising of my rent (it's 1/3 of the family income), and taxes on my income. That figure did not include food (food stamps would have been gone), gas to get to work, car maintainance - we've had old cars and every mile driven put it closer to the grave yard; not to mention any of the other expenses a family has. So I've always had work at home jobs - but babysitting doesn't pay much.)

My number one tip is to STOP spending. That doesn't sound very hard, until people try doing it. We're so used to justifying what we "need" or we think it's "only $20" or we think "I deserve this". But these type thoughts are a real budget breaking thought pattern.


So first thing is what is a "Need". It's something that you can't physically live without. Usually defined as air, water, food and shelter. Since the advent of DFCS, we must also add electricity, RUNNING water - no outhouses, lol and appropriate clothing. (no shorts in Dec, unless you live in the Southern hemisphere or are in Bermuda on vacation. If you could afford THAT, you probably wouldn't be reading this! lol)

To me, with kids that used to get a lot of sinus and ear infections, a phone was also a necessity. I called the Dr. almost weekly. However I didn't need to be making long-distance calls to family and friends. I didn't need call waiting, call forwarding, etc. Those come under the heading of "Luxury". Yes, really!

So redefine the word "need" in your and your children's minds. (and if he needs it, Hubby's too)


The next tip is an old pioneer one: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.
When we "choose" to be frugal and make a game out of it, it doesn't seem like "deprivation". I've always taught my kids that as "poor" as we may seem, we're really quite rich. I was a Missionary in Colombia. Even the "middle" class there are poor compared to me and I make sure my kids know about life there. I've taught them that really we are NOT poor, sometimes we just have a bad cash flow.

My kids have been raised this way, so it's not so traumatic for them. But even so, sometimes they would complain about not having ...... And I would point out to them the fact that for us to have what..... has, I too would have to go to work and what did they want more? Me at home, them in homeschool or to have "stuff". They've always answered me at home - especially since I point out that even with the mom working, a lot of people are in debt for what they buy. Most of mom's salary goes to pay for work/school clothes, day care, transportation and convenience foods/fast foods. Some of the "stuff" tends to be bought out of guilt, oft times unconsciously. After all, who wants to say no to a kid you haven't seen all day. And since she's working, they "deserve" to spend some on "things".

Next is to turn off unnecessary items. Here the cable went to almost $50 a month and I told them to come turn it off. We joined "Netflix" and get a movie sent to us, plus can watch stuff online - all for less than $10 a month. As soon as you return the movie, they send the next one on your list. It takes about 5 days to do a turn around. You can watch all the movies you want to online. I will say that some of the movies aren't available to watch on line, but there's still a bunch that you can watch. (Block Busters has a similar deal where you can just return the DVD to the store and get a new one, but the closest one to us is in Canton, an hour away.)

Also cut off some of the "extras" on the phone. Do you need to have call waiting, call forwarding, caller Id, answering machine, etc? Most of us have cell phones. Even I have one. But mine is a "Tracfone". I only put minutes on it every couple of months and use it to stay in touch with the kids when I'm out, not to talk on. Perhaps when your contract comes due you can scrutinize it for places to cut it. Sometimes with kids, it's better to have a cell plan that lets you add family members to it. My kids had the Tracfones, but they only have a certain amount of minutes. If I try to reach them and they don't have any minutes, they lose the phone! So that helps keep the text messaging down. Or turn off the house phone. (then you usually can't use the internet and don't have 911 calling from the house. So just keep that in mind.) I have basic phone ($13 for the monthly phone, but it's another $15 in TAXES!!! grrr) My long-distance is with an private provider - I just Googled Long-Distance companies and looked at what was available in my area. Since we're not in a metro area, there's not as much available, but still, i only pay about 4 cents a minute. I've not had the phone company's LD service in about 9 years. You can also find unlimited long-distance packages that let kids call friends. Mine have learned to use IM to keep in contact with their friends. It's free. You can also check into things like Skype, and most of the IM programs will let you talk to a friend over the computer. Or pay a fee and go from your computer to their phone. A lot of time, these things are a lot cheaper than the phone company's assigned LD carrier.

Also, I have an answering machine. They are not that expensive and last longer than paying money each month to "rent" from the phone company. Go online and see what Wally world has for machines. Mine lasted for 3 years before we acquired a new one from a rebate program. I spent about $20 for it and it was still going strong when we gave it to a friend. Divide the price of the machine into how many years you think it should last (about 5, unless it's getting some really rough treatment.) Then multiply how much you pay each month to the phone company and see which is cheaper.

We own our own phones and don't pay "maintainance" or "insurance" on our phones. Most of the problems with phones are either in the outside line (phone company's responsibility) or with the phone itself (your responsibility). The "maintainance" or "insurance" only covers from where the line comes into the house until it gets to the phone. So if something goes wrong with the line inside the house, then you are responsible for it. But it doesn't happen very often. Phone line is cheap and easy to install yourself. If anyone needs to know how, email me and I can tell you. Or you can probably do a Google video and find detailed pictures or a video on how to do it.

I also require my kids (19, 16 and 13) to help pay for some of their "extras". If they want to have a car, they have to buy it; and to get a driver's license (not a learner's permit - no ins. needed for that), they have to pay their insurance. Same for Scout camp and EFY. I pay part and they pay part. If they want their own phone line, they have to pay for it. If they want a cell phone, they have to pay the bill - actually, I won't sign anything for a kid to get something with a contract. I can't afford to pay it if they can't. So they had to use the Tracfone until they reach adulthood. Then they can sign any contract they want. If they can't pay it, it's their problem. I don't mean to sound cold, but they need to learn to be responsible financially and me bailing them out wouldn't teach them anything good. Plus, I REALLY don't have it to pay it myself. The two older ones do have checking accounts at 16, that I'm on with them. They both have been very responsible. Of course, my eldest now has her own account, and she's now on MY account. lol


continued tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two jokes and a new post later today

Whoa, have I been busy and delinquent!

I have a couple of cute jokes for you for today. Tomorrow, wow, make it later today, I'll post about some ideas for a new SAHM that I have already written and will expand. It's 2:30 am and I have GOT to go to bed!

A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, 'This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.'

The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, 'Which do you want, son?'

The boy takes the quarters and leaves.

'What did I tell you?' said the barber. 'That kid never learns!'

Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store. 'Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?'

The boy licked his cone and replied, 'Because the day I take the dollar, the game's over!'



MISSING HUSBAND

Rick was in trouble. He forgot his wedding anniversary. His wife was really angry. She told him 'Tomorrow morning, I expect to find a gift in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in less than 6 seconds, AND IT BETTER BE THERE!!'

The next morning Rick got up early and left for work. When his wife woke up she looked out the window and sure enough there was a box gift-wrapped in the middle of the driveway. Confused, the wife put on her robe and ran out to the driveway, and brought the box back in the house.

She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale.

Rick has been missing since Friday. Please pray for him.



And if he's smart and missing on his own, he'd better STAY missing. kwim? lol