Saturday, October 26, 2013

Savings on $22,000 a year?

Something interesting happened this past month! I was able to put more in savings since I STOPPED working than when I WAS working outside the home. I wrote a few posts back about our income dropping $400 a month and all the cutbacks we were needing to make. I realized this morning that I was able to save more this past month than I did when I was working.

I think one reason may be that we are being very careful about what we purchase. We can't fall back on the 'extra' money I was making. Our old thinking was that if we wanted something extra for the house then just buy it BECAUSE there would be more money in a few weeks.  Since I stopped working we have pulled in the reins and are watching every penny we spend. I've had a few sporadic paid jobs this month. I didn't make a lot but I was able to sock that money away in savings.

Secondly, we are working hard to live BELOW our means. We've cut our bills so that we have money left over for savings.  Big expenses are bound to come up in the future and a savings will help keep us out of debt.

I'm encouraged and in awe of God's ability to take little and make it much! We really have so much!


Here are a few things I did to stretch our income this week!

1. I saved an empty Kleenex box and put cloth handkerchiefs in it. It's all set to go as needed.  I went to J.C. Penny a few years ago when our income started to decline and purchased quite a few men's handkerchiefs to use instead of the disposable Kleenex. They can be easily thrown in the washing machine with other whites. I'm always ahead if I can avoid buying disposable items.

2. A friend gave me a bag of gift tissue paper. It was crumbled up so I spent a few minutes ironing it this week on a low setting. This was an old trick my mama used to do. Saving tissue and gift wrapping has been a habit I was taught as a young child.  The older women in my family would gasp if they saw one of us children tearing the wrapping. We were taught to carefully open up the package while saving the wrapping and the tissue inside. Gift bags are popular now and so I save those, too.

3. I tried a new soup this week and it was a hit.

Hot and Sour Soup
6 c. vegetable broth (I used a combo of chicken and beef broth)
2 c. mushrooms (I used fresh)
1 small can bamboo shoots
1 small can water chestnuts
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 tbsp. vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c. green onions or scallions, sliced
2 tbsp. chili oil (I used chili paste)
Bring broth to boil and add all ingredients except
 green onions and chili oil. Simmer at least 
20 minutes. Add onions and simmer 5 more minutes. 
Then stir in chili oil. 
(I can't remember where I found this recipe.
 If you recognize it please let me know so I can give
proper credit.)

4.  Things I didn't throw away this week: 
  • Bill envelopes. I pay through my bank so I saved them for seeds.
  • Plastic grocery bags used for trash cans.
  • Mail ads to put under litter pan for cat. 
  • Paper grocery bags used to dry herbs and seeds.
  • Leaves. I was taking them out of my flower beds and put them in the compost when it dawned on me to leave them where they are to compost. 
5.  I pressure canned 3 pumpkins. I ended up with  7 quarts and  24 pints. I'll use the pumpkin for LC pies and muffins, soup and to use as a dinner side dish with butter, salt and pepper. 

6.  I'm  a week and a few days into the pay period and I only have $70 left of my grocery money. I was out of a lot of items. A friend suggested I make up a 3 week menu to see if I can get by with what I already have. I realized I had 3 weeks of dinner meals. I think I'll be able to stretch the money left if I'm very careful. 

7.   I made Chicken Tortilla soup (minus the tortillas) this week and used a combo of 3 different recipes pulling from items I had on hand in my food pantry. A friend told me once that she keeps different versions of the same recipe for just this reason. You may be out of an item or two in one recipe  but the same recipe may have different ingredients you may have on hand. 

8. I'm watching for nice (but inexpensive) gifts for Christmas. I have been doing this for a few months so I already have quite a few gifts. I put aside a little extra money this month to add to my Christmas savings. I'm still doing some crocheted gifts, too. A friend said she had  been picking up items at the thrift store for Christmas. I wish I could find some good deals at a thrift store but I rarely do.

I wondered how you keep your costs down on gifts? Do you ever buy used items to give as gifts?

*Pictures from ALLPOSTERS.COM 


  1. It sounds like you had a great savings week! I use Swagbucks and Recyclebank to earn Amazon gift cards to buy Christmas and birthday gifts for my children. I was able to get two auto magazines for my sons for stocking stuffers for free through recylebank. I have a gift box where I keep things all year long and an pull them out as needed. We did this just this past weekend. Someone gave me a bracelet that was really too young for me and not my style. My daughter had to go a birthday party and we just went through the gift box and there it was-a perfect gift for a 13 year old girl.

    1. Hi MamaHen! (cute name!)
      I earn about $50 a year on Swagbucks. I'd like to earn more but not sure how to do it. Do you earn more than that? What is Recyclebank? I'll have to check in to that one! I also have a 'gift store' where I put away little gifts I pick up at a good price or crafted items I make. Then I can 'shop' from my own little store first. :-)

    2. I have probably earned about $200 this year so far, but I did not start really pursuing it until April, I believe. I plan on making lots more next year. I homeschool four children so I don't have a lot of time during the day. I get up early in the morning and try to take surveys on Swagbucks which start to really add up. I do what I can on it throughout the day. But it is mostly the early morning hours. I call it my "morning job." Recyclebank is super easy and i only spend maybe 15 minutes total each week on it. Every day you can earn 5 points by reading the daily pledge and every once in a while they will have quizzes or little games to play to earn points. Every once in awhile they offer amazon gift cards as one of their rewards and I try to snag them when I can. Other than that I save up the points for magazine subscriptions to use as gifts. Money Saving Mom usually puts out a post when Recyclebank has something going on.

  2. That tissue paper idea is one I'll be using:) As far as gifts, I find sometimes a favorite treat (candy, fancy soda pop, a nice-ish bottle of wine) can be much appreciated and not too expensive.

    1. Hi Alice!
      You're right! I sent a homemade berry pie with my son in love to pay him for some help! He always says he'd love a pie as a Christmas gift! :-)

  3. Love the post! As usual. :)
    I have re-used all kinds of packaging material, I use it in my etsy shop for things I ship. I have used rummage sale toys for gifts to my kids when they were young and also I would make things. When I was the poorest back when our little ones were truly little I made gifts. For years I continued to make gifts and the cheapest were paper mache items--all you need is 2nd hand paper and cardboard plus some flour and water for a paste slurry.
    There are some gifts I made with that stuff Still in the Christmas decor of our family almost 30 years from when I made them.

    1. Hi Mary!
      Isn't that fun when you see things you made still around in others homes? I see a lot of things in my mother's home that I've made throughout the years.

      You're so gifted that I can imagine you made some lovely paper mache items. Mine would be laughed at! :-)

  4. I love Target's 70% off stuff. I bought my daughter a great pair of gardening gloves for Christmas. I also bought all of my Kleenex for the year at the end of school sales. I washed and ironed my dad's kerchiefs growing thank you :)

    1. Hi Janette!
      How do you know when Target has their 70% off sale? I never see it advertised.

      Who irons? :-)

  5. I am going to email you an idea for making money at home.
    Love and prayers,

  6. Hi, I just found your blog and I love really encourages me to do better with what money we have. Keep it up!!! LOL


    1. Thank you Coleen! I hope you come back for another visit! :-)

  7. Yes, I've bought used. Books, in particular. I've had people that appreciated that I'd sought out an item for them, and I've had a niece that seemed put off by the fact that I gave her a used book. Won't stop me from buying used. I think materialistic youngsters are the perfect recipients, ha ha! Come to think of it, there's some adults that need that lesson as well. I have another toddler niece that I gifted with a used book. It was a copy of a book that I still have on my shelf from when my kids were little ones, one we loved. I hope her parents appreciated it, they never mentioned it one way or another. Point being that I thought about our love for that book and hoped my niece would enjoy it as much as we did.

    I've bought used ornaments a couple of times for our exchange. Really, everybody was none the wiser. Additionally, they've been much more beautiful than a couple of Walmart purchased monstrosities that others had bought, even in duplicate one year.

    I wish more people would consider how this "buy new, buy newer, buy big, buy bigger" kind of thinking is filling up landfills and wrecking havoc on our environments...

    1. Hi Becky!
      Ahh yes! Books! I would cringe if I knew how much I've spent on books over the years. I did 'Paperback Swap' for quite a few years and really enjoyed it! I found a 'new book' the other day at the thrift store. I think it's called Choosing To See by Mary Beth Chapman. I paid $1 and the price tag was over $15 new. I've cut WAY back on my book buying. I've found some really good deals through Kindle, too. I don't have a Kindle but I downloaded Amazon's Kindle on my computer and that way I can read any of the Kindle books! :-)

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  9. You do well every week with your frugal ideas. I'm very happy that you've managed to save more even though you're not working. It builds up you and encourages others at the same time. God is good.

    I too save tissue paper and gift wrap. I also re-use gift bags that I receive or that my family might "discard" at Christmas. I really don't give a lot of gifts these days so the spending isn't that great on wrappings. I buy most everything of this sort at the dollar store or during Boxing Day sales. I dispense with most of the Christmas cards because unless you send them in advance for people to display in their homes, they usually discard them (along with the wrapping paper) immediately once read.

    I have purchased used items for gifts but only if they are in immaculate condition. Mostly I haven't found immaculate looking items in a thrift store. People get put out by getting something used so I'd rather not give anything or perhaps give them something home made (a dish cloth or home made cookies) than give something that is obviously used. I think it sends a signal that we do not care about our receiver. Most people are not into frugal living or environmentally conscious ways of living and I don't think they will appreciate our approach to it. They may change by example but not by force.

    Continued happy frugal living.

    1. Hi Joyful!
      I've never heard of 'Boxing Day'. I've stopped sending a lot of Christmas cards, too. What kind of dishcloths do you make? Are they crocheted or knitted? I'm also looking for some new patterns. I've been making the 'magic potholder' and really like the way it comes out. It's easy, too.

      I need to head over to your blog and see what you are doing these days. I've gotten behind on my visits. :-) Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Boxing Day is British. It is like your black Friday. Canada celebrates Boxing Day(obviously) too. It is on December 26th. I avoid going shopping on that day, it is horrible!!! Some great deals to be had though.

    3. Hi Georgene, I see Theresa has already answered your question. On the day after Christmas many people go shopping. They can save oodles of money on all kinds of stuff if they are willing to put up with crowds and lineups. I mostly avoid going downtown or major shopping places on this day but deals can still be had in many less busy places/stores. In fact, deals can be found between Christmas (not just on Boxing Day) and early January so that is a good time to buy.

      I knit dishcloths in a weave pattern and in an old pattern that is widely known (Grandmother's Favourite)

      There are many, many patterns but I don't bother with most of them. If I had more time I would look up different patterns to make especially for people in their areas of interest just to be different. For now, I make the basics in various colours for small gifts and for my own use.If you google "dishcloth patterns" you will find more than enough patterns from which to choose.

  10. I have indeed given gifts from the thrift store. I only do this if I find something like new or with the tags on. Then, I make sure it is something I know the recipient would really enjoy having in their home. Usually it is either a book, a knick-knack that they collect or a dish that matches a type they love or are looking for. Ironically, you can usually find something that is more durable at the thrift store than new. If a a recipient likes vintage, you can find lovely gifts this way. You just have to spend time knowing the person and scouring the shops.
    We, too, reuse ribbon, some gift wrap and all gift bags. We have an on-going joke in my family that sometimes we all get more excited about a new gift bag in the family than we do what is inside.
    I really enjoy your posts. I am frugal but still can learn from you. You are genuine and real. I don't care to keep up with the Joneses....they are knee deep in debt. I like that you seem to have the same philosophy. I also like very much that you are guided by our Lord and not afraid to express that. Amen!

  11. Hi Linda! I chuckled when I read that your family jokes that they sometimes get more excited about a new gift bag than what is inside! LOL!! Too cute!

    I cringed inside (no one knew the better) the other day at a birthday party when all the tissue paper went directly to the garbage can. Then I had to remind myself not to make it a 'treasure'. It's a fine line and I can put my tootsies over it all too easily if I'm not careful!

    Where would we be without Jesus!?

  12. Georgene, I always enjoy your posts and think you are doing great, a few posts back you asked about ways to earn and I wonder if you have considered adding blogger-google ads to your blog? I have some on my very small blog and I don't earn much- maybe $100 every 12-15 months but it is earning.

  13. My sister collects antique books, so I sometimes give these to her as gifts. She also gives me old linens, teapots, etc.. but we are about the only ones in the family who do this. Money has been tight this year. I found some like new paperback books at thrift shops for our grandson's eigth birthday. I also found him a Star Wars t-shirt at Target for $2.70. I love clearance racks! I also re-use whatever I can whenever I can.

    1. You have found some wonderful deals Rachel! Isn't that wonderful? How fun that your sister and you have something in common. My sister and I love to share craft ideas with each other. Thank you for the encouragement!

  14. Hi Georgene,
    You truley bless my week.I am glad you were able to save this month. One of the energy saving for elec etc. is called Liheap California. It is amazing some of the things they do for you . I can send you a email about it I just do not have your email. This year I am doing some very small gifts. Because we are trying to save like you. One of my gifts is a canning jar with sewing notions inside, you put some fiber fill ontop and material over that for a pin cushion . All the girls and even single guys will get this because they even need to sew on buttons. Another one is mugs or tea cups with coffee or tea samples inside you could also put in
    hot chocolate. I got many free kcups and tea samples this
    year. I just wrap them in celephane or clear plastic bags
    and a ribbon. I also am making earrings from this and that I already had in my jewelry box I take it apart and remake.
    I found the earring wires and pins for a couple of dollars at
    walMart. I got this idea from the prudent homemaker blog last Christmas she did a gift a day that were vary inexspensive and she made lovely things. I also am printing some fancy seed packets from her site to give away seeds from my garden. I am so thankful for you sharing your life.
    Have a really blessed week.
    the prudent homemaker also has some beautiful book
    marks and name plates I plan on including in already
    loved books that I will give for christmas.

    1. Hi Patti!
      Such kind words! I am familiar with Liheap and we were blessed by them this past year! Thank you though for sharing the information. They were great!
      I love your Christmas gift ideas! I think your family will love their gifts. It sounds like you are getting a head start on Christmas. I've tried to do so, too. I don't like being under last minute pressure so I started working on gifts in August. Have a great week! :-)

  15. I have bought items at thrift stores for gifts. Some were brand new and still in the original packaging. I once found a small, silver-plated jewelry box lined in burgundy velvet for just a few dollars.

    Another frugal gift idea that I have used for many occasions is this: Look for a tall, fat pillar candle or a bottle of hand lotion, bubble bath, or body wash at the dollar store. Wrap in tulle or net (very cheap per yard), leaving a few inches at the top so you can gather and secure it with a festive ribbon. Add a small ornament if you want, or a silk flower. I have used white gardenia or vanilla candles, white tulle, and a white or pastel rose, or a sprig of silk ivy, as a token gift for a bride. They come out very pretty.

    A kitchen towel gathered in the center with a rubber band, then embellished with a ribbon is a nice, inexpensive gift also. Finish off with a wooden spoon or other kitchen gadget tucked behind the ribbon. Present in a gift bag.
    Homemade cookies on a thrift store plate that the recipient can keep is often a welcome gift. Vintage plates or platters, one with colors the person likes, or even a Christmas plate are ideas for presentation. The dollar stores have nice glassware and novelty Christmas dishes.

  16. Thank you Joyce. You listed some very nice ideas. I do watch for plates at the thrift stores. I like your idea about wrapping a candle with tulle. That sounds lovely!

  17. Being a Nana some of my grand daughters have asked for family recipes. So I have used my scrapbooking materials and made scrap book pages with recipes and instructions. My son also now lives in an apartment by himself and every other week has his 4 kids. So I will give him some of the recipes too. My daughter wished this year I was there to show her how to can her extra produce. I thought I would do the same thing with pictures and instructions on how to can. I also sew. I can make things from scraps of material, or make a little one a skirt or purse. One year I wrote down recipes and for my daughters and gave them as a Xmas gift. By the way the X is Greek for Christ. Don't want any one offended.

    1. What a wonderful idea that I'm sure your family has loved. I think I've written about the family cookbook I made on my computer and then had a binding put on it at Staples. The family seemed to enjoy it. Your family is blessed to have you!

  18. Hello, just found you. So much looking forward to reading all your posts.


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