Falling through the Looking Glass











In this tight economy, people are encountering things they may not have before, such as unequal financial contributions in relationships.

I’m not talking about gender roles here, though such horrible things do influence this, I’m just focusing on the balance between two individuals trying to maintain a relationship when one or both are in economic straights.

The problem is that when money becomes an issue, it brings out all the other issues that wouldn’t have been such a big deal before. Such as one partner going out to a fast food place on their lunch break. Normally that’s not some horrible pressure, but if you’re in financial problems where every penny counts, it’s easy to get frustrated. Most people in financial problems are often working odd or conflicting hours at one or more jobs trying to make it work. Add in sleep deprivation, unbalanced diet, and a stressful environment and you’re in a fix. You’re going to be more edgy than had you not been in that situation. Things that you could probably just blow off previously or not even notice somehow become big deals.

Communication is key. Even if that communication is to say how unhappy you are or how close to breaking you are. It isn’t easy to sit there and bail your partner out continuously at the expense of your own household. And if you have children it becomes even more complicated and heartbreaking.

If you feel like your partner is taking more than you can handle, financially, emotionally, or in any capacity, that doesn’t always mean that the relationship is broken, it just means you need to have an honest talk. Now the results of that talk will tell if your relationship is broken or not. If your partner is hostile, superficial, or unresponsive to your concerns, this is a red flag that should not be taken lightly. If your partner is loving and sympathetic to your concerns, together you can work out a game plan such as they help at your house more even if you two don’t live together in exchange for you contributing a little bit to their phone bill.

A relationship is supposed to be the joining of two independent people working together for a common goal. Sometimes being independent isn’t always practical. But there is no reason why the relationship should become unbalanced because of that.

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{November 25, 2012}   Saving Money: Bedroom Style!

The two most complicated rooms in this series is out of the way: the kitchen and the bathroom. Now we get to the more fun and individualized part of the house, your bedrooms! This is the room that is supposed to be your haven and your zone, so this is the one place where personality and customization should mean the most!

Make a priority list!

Collect pictures and ideas and make a list over what you’d like to have in your room or for your room. Then order them in priority. Energy savings or ways to increase comfort go first. I know you may really want to replace that horrible wallpaper, but getting a more sturdy bed frame that isn’t going to separate as you change positions is more important. Sometimes just making more room in the space by exchanging unfeasible furniture is more important than updating the flooring. Do not base this list on pricing. Needs are worth saving for properly and responsibly.

Look for Solutions in the Nontraditional

My son needed a dresser. So I was looking around at thrift stores and what not for something affordable and I happened across a section of upright standing lockers. It was one large door with several small units across the top and side. It was in disgusting condition. The whole unit was six foot tall and almost four feet wide. She only wanted $20 for it! So I talked her down to $12 and dumped it in the back of my buddies truck. It was pretty dirty, but after a good scrubbing and fresh paint, white on the interior of the shelves and my son picked out the blue for the outside. Total Cost was $25 for a custom unit that has more than ample storage and also doubles as a magnetic board to hang pictures.

Other reuses I’ve done:

Fabric shower curtain as Window treatment

Wire Newspaper stand as shelving

Top Tier (1 shelf with 4 posts) of an adjustable plastic shelf as closet storage

Practical Decoration is Imperative

If it breaks the flow of your room, doesn’t suit your needs, or is more expensive than what you’re willing to pay, it’s not good for you. Decorations should always make your job easier or not effect your task at all. That also means you need to consider the cleaning cost of such decorations. If it will take extra time to dust or polish, then you need to be willing to attend to that.  I prefer a minimal look. I don’t like decorations for the sake of decorations. But that doesn’t mean decorations can’t be practical.

Beautiful and functional things I’ve accomplished:

Stretch mesh fabric or screening in a picture frame and hang your earrings on it.

Hand paint or spray paint boring shelves a new color. There is a paint that will adhere to any surface, metal or wood or plastic!

Use tablecloths or other folds of pretty fabric hung from lines attached to the ceiling as room dividers or makeshift dressing areas. This is really good when sharing a room.

Bed raisers are cheap and easy in making more room under the bed.

Improvements can add value!

Besides the traditional energy improvements such as ceiling fans, insulated windows, and energy sockets, decorative improvements can really pump up the value of such a selling point in a house! Most additions can be formulated really cheap if you’re willing to look at salvage yards and even craigslist.

Crown Molding

Fan Medallions

Cedar-lined closets

Hardwood flooring

Send me your challenges!

Send me a picture of your dream piece of furniture, fixture, or bedroom accessory and I am willing to bet I can help navigate a DIY Knock-off for you. I have experience building houses and furniture as well as one of my degrees being in art. So I am more than willing to help figure out a way to make your functional needs come true in as much quality with as little a price tag as possible! *smiles*

So here’s to you and helping you create the haven that you need!

Shared with Six Sisters’ Stuff, Elizabeth and Co., In the Old Road, Frugally Sustainable



{November 18, 2012}   Saving Money: Kitchen Style!

I find that as I grow older, I enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen more and more. But in order to do this, I have to make the jobs in the kitchen more accessible and comfortable. The kitchen is one of the most expensive rooms in the house so here are a few ways I try and make that expense a little more bearable.

1) If you buy food, you have already bought Tupperware.

  • Butter dishes, cottage cheese containers, spaghetti jars, peanut butter jars, and what not is how I store my foods. Frosting containers are excellent as well. If you have problems discerning what is what, a piece of clear tape with a dry erase marker acts as a reusable label.
  • Empty store-bought juice bottles just need their labels removed and washed out and can be refilled as needed with teas or water.
  • Bread bags or any plastic baggie is reused for food storage. Cereal box bags are saved and cleaned and can be used just like wax paper. Yes, I even reuse my aluminum foil unless it’s had raw meat in it. Bottles are great to make self serve juice boxes or teas (without sugar) that I can grab on the go or throw in my boy’s lunchbox.
  • The only time I have bought specific food storage containers was for my son’s lunchbox. I got him matching Spiderman containers from the Dollar Store. This is mainly because I didn’t want him teased at school. So making a good lunch in cool containers helps compensate for not being able to afford the name brand sneakers or the fancy toys. (He’s only in Kindergarten and this has already started…grr.)
  • Food containers also make good storage containers in general. My empty oatmeal canister is an awesome papertowel/napkin holder. A mini crate that used to hold clementine oranges now holds my recipe cards. I use a giant baggie to cover my knife block to protect against splashes and dust.

2) Why buy name brand?

  • I never buy name brand foods unless I have no other choice. Both Walmart and Kroger’s store brands have healthy knock offs of almost any food out there from whole grain noodles to preserves to juice. When I do buy name brands, like Mrs. Baird’s bread, it isn’t too bad because of the great difference I have saved buying the store brand on everything else.
  • If it’s not in a store brand, it’s amazing how I learned to do without. Spices are big like this. Different thrift or dollar store chains have different spices available, so there is every reason to know where you need to go for certain things. But most of what is restricted to a name brand can be made with a combination of store brand ingredients.

3) No paper in my kitchen!

  • One pack of basic washcloths is enough to handle all the needs of the kitchen from drying hands, mopping up messes, acting as a grease catcher, or a makeshift potholder. The only time I have paper in my kitchen is the paper napkins that I have brought home from the few moments that I actually work out. I have one roll of paper towels I got when I moved into my apartment back in March of 2012. It’s still not empty.

4) Make your own cleaners, and use them!

  • I make my own stuff. I make the citrus/vinegar mix that everyone seems to know. I use a paste of baking soda and lemon juice for more severe things like colored stains or heavier grease. But the key is to clean your kitchen and keep it clean as much as possible. As I am waiting for supper to simmer or cook, I’ll be putting away other dishes or loading the washer again.
  • If you keep your kitchen clean or clean as you go, you’ll not only save time but you’ll save money in wasted food, not having to fight set in stains, or having to fight possible pests that can be attracted like fruit flies or even mice.

5) Make from scratch as much as possible.

  • Not only will you have to keep basic staples that will allow for more variety in your cooking options, you will also save money on your grocery budget. A box of raw noodles has more flexibility in tastes then a box of premixed mac and cheese. You get more bang for your buck twice with not just the multi-tasking, but also with the fact most base staples are cheaper by the serving than a premixed store item.

6) Buy second hand or thrift items for some jobs.

  • The Dollar Tree has awesome utensils for cheap.that work brilliant. Why pay five dollars for one fancy wooden spoon when you can get a pack of 3-5 for a $1 at the local store? Do you really need ceramic mixing bowls or can that butter tub or a metal set at the local flea market be just as effective? Chances are you don’t need that expensive Pampered Chef spatula when there is a dollar version that will do the job. Now are these items nice? Yes. Do they work? Yes. But unless you are a semiprofessional, you probably don’t need a $20 cheese grater.

7) Know when you do need to spend money, lest you keep buying replacements.

  • I may have a whisk that was a dollar but my pots and pans set is a Faberware $80 set. That is cheap for some, but that’s expensive for me. It has all the pieces I need and it was worth it because it has held up far better than the previous aluminum set that fell apart on me.
  • I cannot speak from experience, but my friends say items like blenders or food processors are worth the extra expense if you use those items at least once a week average. If it’s only once a month or less, you can probably go without that extra level. But if it’s something you know you will use, invest in something that can handle the mileage.

8) Be open to creative compensations or adaptations.

  • I don’t have a rolling pin, and I don’t see the sense in buying one when an empty glass jelly jar works far more easily for me. I don’t have a steamer, but I do have a saucepan and a mesh strainer. Pour water in the pan, set it to boil, and put your veggies in the mesh strainer. Works brilliant on fresh or frozen! I don’t need a giant slow cooker when it’s just my son and myself. A simple, $9 gallon model is the perfect size for us. I don’t need a heavy duty drain rack when I have a oven where I can just set my heavy dishes. (Just don’t forget they’re in there before you preheat.) My toaster oven is a more practical tool then just buying a plain toaster.
  • I’m not opposed to buying a real rolling pin or a potato masher. But as it stands, I have other financial priorities that are more important. So if I come across a really good deal on something like that at a yard sale or something, I’ll get it. But it’s not worth worrying about because I have a suitable adaptation already. Something like that is what I will normally ask for on a birthday or Christmas request.

Feel free to leave your suggestions on how you save money in the kitchen below!

Shared with Frugally Sustainable



{November 18, 2012}   Be Practical Before Frugal

I understand that there is a big move for being green, recycling, and reusing. This is a movement I applaud and I try to encourage as much as possible. However, as with any good thing, too much or not applied correctly is sometimes more problematic than doing something the traditional way. But there are ways to work around that. The key elements needed to make a go green plan good for you and good for the environment.

Time

How much time do you have to devote to more frugal life changes. Making things from scratch takes more time. Using homemade cleaners takes more time to scrub or soak in some instances. Even taking the time to line dry clothes takes more time then the extra moments for the dryer. Some frugal activities take more time than others. I do not wash my dishes by hand, but I do line dry my clothes. It is what I have to balance with my schedule and with my capabilities. I am willing to compromise the dishes for the sake that I am willing to recycle, hand-stitch  and make homemade foods and cleaning supplies. I just don’t have time to hand-wash clothes, dishes, make soap, or some other situations.

If you don’t have the time to do some activities, lay out your most profitable frugal movements you can do. Let’s say you may not have time to make bread from scratch. Understandable. Maybe you have time to let things set like most homemade cleaners or use a crock pot for things. Do what is best for your schedule.

Resources

Do you have land for a garden? Do you have the space for a stocked pantry? Can you invest in a bigger freezer? Do you have the start up capital to invest in the materials needed for soap making or buying in bulk?

You have to consider what you do have. I have a sewing machine. I know how to sew. Therefore I can probably do most frugal sewing projects. I also live in a one bedroom apartment without a patio and am not allowed to have things in my window, so my gardening options are very limited.

Since I can’t buy in bulk, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be more careful with my grocery list and do what I can with what resources I have. Just because you can’t go as all out as you wish you can, doesn’t distract from the good you can do with what you have. Relax and enjoy what you can build. It’s amazing what simple steps and habits you can build with limited resources, so when your opportunities improve, you are already built up on a great foundation.

Desire

What are you willing to do? If you don’t want to plunge your own clothes, then why do it? If it’s going to be a hassle, put you in a bad attitude, or be a obligation, then consider that it’s not worth the extra problem. If you hate doing something, you’ll never so what you’re truly capable of. And this is supposed to be about enriching your life, not making it harder.

Being frugal and saving green is a very important thing for the environment and yourself. Just enjoy building better habits and doing the best to your abilities and in a way that caters  to your interests and is always best for you. If you get a plan that suits you and is within your means, you’re not only more likely to stick with it, but you’re more likely to enjoy it as well.

Shared with A Delightful Home, Frugally Sustainable, A Growing Home, Simply Better



et cetera