Friday, June 20, 2014

Apartment Tour- Living Room and Kitchen

I though y'all might enjoy a little tour of our small apartment.  Today I am sharing the living room and kitchen.  They are wide open to each other so naturally they wanted to share a post.  Things are always changing around here as we are still figuring out what works and what doesn't. 
  What do you think?  Any suggestions for a tiny apartment- think 800 sq feet?
Kitchen Shelves

Wine Rack

Work in Progress Living Room

Side of the Living Room

Kitchen Galley

Hard to hide the Water Heater Closet

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cheaper than the Dollar Menu

People who say they can't afford to cook at home and instead go order off the dollar menu make me mad.  Now I have eaten my fair share of dollar menu meals so no argument there.  My gripe is when people believe that its cheaper to eat there.  Tonight I made a chicken pasta meal and it was delicious!  And each portion was less than a dollar!  My local Randalls has a clearance section that I adore!  The other day I stocked up on these Kraft Recipe Makers.  Normally they are $2.20 for the box (essentially just the sauce).  Since these were on clearance I paid $1.10 each.  The box doesn't include the pasta or meat, but that's okay because I have a stock pile of both!  This is where couponing and stockpiling can be incredibly helpful.  I never pay more than $1 per box of pasta.  I try to keep my meat costs around $1/lb.  

My cost break-down is as follows-
Sauce $1.20
Chicken 2 lbs @ $1.79= $3.58
Pasta $.80
Total $5.58
6 meals = $.93 per meal

Because I shopped sales and clearance I am able to feed my family delicious, inexpensive and wholesome meals.  No dollar menu tonight!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Using what ya got- Updating a Bookshelf

Being in a small apartment means we need to maximize the space we have.  Being on a tight budget means we need to maximize the space while using what we already have (for the most part).  We have this little oak bookshelf which fits perfectly in front of the office door.  It was cute as it was, but I get bored and always feel the need to change things.  So it got a coat of paint and now feels like a whole new piece! 

What do you think? Should I have left it oak? Do you like the painted insides?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Eating In Weekly Update #1

Hubby and I are trying not to eat out this month.  We have fudged that rule a little but as a whole we are eating in.  That means lots of home cooked meals- like this chicken pot pie.
 I would love to hear about family favorite recipes!  Or ideas for semi-easy frugal meals for us to try.  We have basics that we use like taco night, soup night, etc.  If you have a good recipe I would love to try it out!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Apartment Tour- The office farmhouse makeover

Apartments can be tricky to decorate.  Some people don't  bother.  I do!  I want my home to be cozy.  I want it to feel as if we have lived here forever.  Maybe its because we moved so often with the military that I am extremely partial to a well lived in home.  Our apartment is a little 2 bedroom 1 bath space.  Storage is scarce so we get creative.  Our office has no space for a real bookshelf.  I put up shelves all along the ceiling.  Cheap ikea brackets that I painted yellow tie the shelves into the rest of the decor.  We removed the gross apartment blinds and I gave the window a frosted treatment.  The plants and birds LOVE all the light and I love knowing neighbors are not looking in...

So what do you think of my transformation?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thrifty Tuesday- I only do laundry on sunny days

Not everyone has to look at the weather report before throwing a load in the wash, but I do. We didn't bring our washer with us in our move to Texas.  It was old, didn't always run right or even wash the clothes well so we figured we could buy a used one once we got here.  So far, we have been going to the laundrymat just to wash our clothes.  I definitely get odd looks when I go to wash my clothes and don't use the dryers.  I have a hard time paying for a dryer when I can air dry my clothes.  We lucked out that the house we are renting had clothesline poles up.  We just had to furnish the lines and we were up and running.  So I come home from the laundrymat with baskets of wet laundry and immediately hang them on the line.  We have 4 lines as well as 2 expandible racks and 2 octopus sock hangers so we have plenty of dryer space.  Even in an apartment, as long as there is a deck or some sort of outside space, you could find a way to "hang" clothes.  Lots of people think they can't air dry clothes.  I believe you just need to think outside the box.  If you can't have a clothesline up, you can probably use expandible racks.  They fold flat for storage and are not an eyesore like some people think clotheslines are.
  One of the major drawbacks to not having a dryer is convienence.  If I forget to wash a certain item and it is needed that day, we are at a loss.  If it really came down to life or death, we could use the dryer at the laundrymat.  We sold our dryer in 2010 and have not used one since (other than traveling or staying with my parents).  I don't think everyone needs to line dry their clothes if they don't want to.  Its just one way we save some money and I love the smell of air dried clothes!  And I love crispy towels and pants!  Some people will disagree.  I am thankful that Hubby is on board with using the clothesline.  He lovingly installed the lines when we first moved into the rental house.  More than once we have had to run out to grab our clothes before an unexpected rain storm.
  Do you use a clothes line?  Dryer?  A little of both?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Grocery Savings Tips

Our grocery budget it pretty tight so I try and maximize what I can get for the least amount of money.  I have a grocery secret.  Are you ready?... I LOVE the clearance sections!  Randalls, Target, CVS, etc.  What I love even more is being able to use a coupon on an item in the clearance section.  Last week I stopped by Target.  They had advertised a coupon for $10 off a $50 grocery purchase.  Any grocery purchase.  I loaded up my coupon binder and marched in to the store ready for the challenge.  I figured if I could find clearance food items, and use my manufacturers coupon AND get $10 off I would consider it a win!  Using my calculator on my phone, I began adding up my totals as I put items in my cart.  I put over $80 worth of food on the conveyor belt at the register.  After coupons, I only paid $30 out of pocket.  Score!  By stocking up on items I know we will use when they are at their rock bottom prices, I am able to save more money than buying the same items at their normal prices.  Just because an item is on the clearance rack doesn't mean it will expire soon.  Sometimes the packaging in changing, or the promotion is over so the store needs to clear the shelves quick.  I was able to score some granola bars just because they had a holiday package and that holiday was passed.  So, when you are out shopping don't ignore the clearance section!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Go Kill Something and Drag It Home- aka My Lofty Savings Goal

Often in the afternoons I listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio.  He likes to tell people who need to get into gear about paying off debt that they need to "go kill something and drag it home".  Meaning, get out there and do something about your situation!  Now, Hubby and I have no debt (we worked our butts off to become debt free) and refuse to go into debt for any reason.  We don't need to do crazy things to clear our debt anymore, but that is no excuse to not do anything.  Hubby works two jobs (hopefully not for too much longer!) and I am babysitting.  Since we can live off his income only we decided to make my income our savings. 

 We want to save $10,000 in one year.  This might not sound like much to most people, but for us this number is huge!  Hubby really only makes $24000 (take home) and my income is nowhere near half that!  I love crunching numbers and challenging myself.  Not only do we want to save 10k, I want to do it on my own (not really on my own, but you know what I mean).  That said, I need to make $835 a month for 12 months to make the goal. 

How did I do last month?  Lets take a look:
May's Savings- Needed $835
$280- car dealership check (I worked the first two weeks of May)
$70- Babysat 5/18
$30- Babysat 5/20
$40- Babysat 5/21
$280- car dealership check
$80- final car dealership check for 2 days
$80- Babysat 5/30
Total- $860 $25 over goal!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thrifty Tuesday- Canning Chicken Broth

Making your own chicken broth is super easy and practically free!  It makes my frugal heart sing!  This week I cooked up a whole chicken in the crockpot.  Typically whole chickens are the cheapest way to buy meat.  A whole chicken costs $.76 per pound.  Yes the total weight includes the bones so you are not buying only meat.  But I still find it to be more cost effective to buy a whole chicken instead of the more common breasts.  My price-point for meat is $1 per pound.  If I find meat for cheaper than that, I snatch it up.  Occasionally I have to pay more but I really try to stick to $1/lb.  Whole chickens always meet my price point.  Ill buy a few and freeze them in our spare freezer to be cooked up later when we need the meat.
  This week I pulled out one whole chicken and roasted it in the crockpot.  I have a Ninja Crockpot 3-in-1 and love it!  That baby can be used like a normal crockpot and it also has a stovetop function which means I can use it like an extra stove, awesome!  Once my chicken was cooked, I shredded all the meat off the bones and washed the crockpot.  I threw the bones back in the pot, with some chopped up celery (it was all I had in the fridge and I wasn't going to go buy veggies just for this broth).  I covered my bones and celery with water and let it cook slowly.  There's not really a set time for how long you need to cook it.  I just turned the crockpot on low (the 8 hour setting) and let it do it's thing while I did mine.  After cooking, the broth needs to be strained.  I first strain it through a colander to get the big bones out.  Then I strain whats left through a fine sieve (or cheese cloth or whatever you have that only lets the liquid through).  Since there is still little bits of chicken in the broth, I went ahead and pressure canned it to be safe.  All in all I got 3 quarts of chicken broth to put up.  Not bad for some bones that would have been thrown away anyways.  (After making the broth, I definitely threw out the bones!) From my 1 chicken, I ended up with a bunch of meat (we will make tacos, salad with chicken and a chicken casserole with the shredded meat) AND chicken broth!  Can't say I get that much when I buy the equivalent of chicken breasts!
  Making chicken broth is super easy, frugal and I know exactly what goes into it!  Re-using items that would be tossed is yet another method I use to help me stick to my budget.  If you don't have a pressure canner (or a friend with one) you could freeze the broth.  I can it so that the broth is shelf stable and leaves room in my freezer for other items. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

June Budget


As promised, here is June's budget. We are always a month ahead, which makes planning the budget a little easier since there are no surprises. However, last month Hubby missed a couple 12 hour shifts at work so his paycheck was a little lower than normal (ok a lot lower!) If the budget seems a little tight, its because of the check factor. Hubby did put in some over time last week, so July will be a little better.

Our budget process is based off Dave Ramsey's plan and we use cash envelopes as our main source of dividing up the finances. At the beginning of the month, we look at what we made the previous month and use that number for our income. Last month Hubby brought in $2000. I budgeted for the set bills (like bills, rent, etc) that we don't use cash to pay for. All the other categories come out as cash and are put in their respective envelopes. That said, here is our budget breakdown.

Income $2000
- World Vision-$30
 - Giving- $170
 - Rent- $650
 - Electric- $100
 - Metro PCS (Hubbys phone)- $25
 - Sprint (internet)- $40
 - Storage- $60
 - Groceries- $200
 - Gas- $400
 - Auto Insurance- $60
 - Pets- $20
 - Blow (My spending money)- $40
 - Blow (hubby's spending money)- $40

You will notice there is NO entertainment or eating out category this money. Usually we try and incorporate dates into the budget but we are sacrificing this month. We also don't pay health insurance yet as we are still covered under the military for a couple more months. The above budget adds up to $1835. That leaves us with $165 extra. We will hold this money aside in case something comes up. At the end of the month if we haven't needed it, we will transfer it to our savings account. Also, if we have any extra money in a category we can deposit it into our savings account, or use it the next month for extras.

Each month we do a new budget for the next month. There are certain categories that are set, like insurance and rent. The cash categories are more flexible and we can beef them up or tighten the belts depending on the previous month. I always love looking at other people's budgets to see how/what they do with their money. I am sharing our budget in hopes that it will help someone trying to figure out their own budget. I am always open to comments and tips to help with the budget. I will share in a later post what we do with my income from babysitting.