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Posts tagged ‘saving money’

We Bought a Farm

My mom taught me about seasonal vegetables at a young age. One Thanksgiving, when shopping for the big meal, she decided that $7/lb for tomatoes was just too much for our big family. No kidding! Just one slice for all seven of us would total $8. Ouch… With that dent in the weekly grocery budget, it’s easy to tell what’s in season and what’s out.

In California, though, it’s a lot harder. Farms here can grow lettuce year round, and strawberries started up in February (which my niece, Annabel, enjoyed for the first time). At Whole Foods or the local markets, you can buy kale, corn, zucchini, or any other veggie at any time, because it’s imported from Mexico, Latin America, etc…

I’ve been told and have read that you get the most nutritional bang-for-your-buck if you buy produce that has a chance to ripen on the vine, tree, or stem. Logically, then, a fruit picked green in Mexico, pumped with gas to make it ripen, and transported here isn’t as nutritious as something grown closer and more naturally.

Going to the local farmer’s market would solve this issue, but I work during the times when they are running. Because I want to spend my hard earned cash on things that are healthy, I decided several years ago to join a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture; the community buys into the farm and, therefore, gets a share of the season’s produce. It takes the guessing out of what is seasonal and what’s imported! Around here, it’s also a way to get organic stuff at cheaper prices than the grocery store; plus, it’s often delivered to your neighborhood- so no shopping!!

When I first started, I tried Live Earth Farms. The produce was amazing- but way too bountiful! There was no way that I could keep up with the amount that I was getting each week, and, honestly, there were only so many weeks that I was willing to try to figure out how to cook all the new types of veggies. It was exhausting!

After taking a few years off, I started up again with a less daunting CSA, Eating with the Seasons. In this program, I pick which produce I’d like from what’s in season. For me, that’s been fun, because I can plan meals for the week ahead (because I know what’s coming), try a new item every so often, know how to use the rest, and am assured that what I’m getting is local and seasonal.

The extra options- like corn tortillas, local honey, rice, and preserves- make the CSA an even greater treat. With some CSAs, you have to pay in advance, but a lot of these now let you pay monthly. EWTS even lets you order more items and charges you each month for the extra.

Some weeks, things go bad, but that was one of the reasons I bought a juicer. If I know that I’m not going to eat something before it expires, I just stick it in the juicer and- voila!- a healthy snack.

This has taken some of the pressure off of me to grocery shop, because at least I always have some veggies around. Occasionally, I don’t even go to the grocery store, because I just order tons of vegetables. So I’m eating healthy AND saving money. Even in cold weather climates, there are CSAs at your disposal- not all are year round like ours, but many let you buy a share for produce, meat, milk, eggs, bread, and other amazing goodies.

Are you a part of a CSA? What have you found to be the benefits/drawbacks? If you aren’t a part, why not?

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Reining It In

Chris and I have decided to take control of our finances and tighten the reins a bit.  We live within our means, but that doesn’t equate to stewarding our money well.  This means we don’t have savings, wonder how we’re going to make car repairs when big things come up, can’t splurge on something really fabulous when we’d like, or…  the list goes on.

Though bills get paid and responsibilities are covered, I often end up regretting how I’ve spent my money the previous month.  Instead of looking back and feeling bad, it seems more logical to be a grown up, have some self-control, and kick butt with utilizing what we have!

We spend a horrific amount of money on eating out. In a normal week, we purchase at least these things:
Pho
Burgers
Sushi
Pizza or Sandwich
Coffee
Coffee
Coffee

I don’t get the pizza or sandwiches, and Chris doesn’t get pho all the time, but still…  I buy food or beverages out at least once a day.  That cost adds up really fast!

We are looking at buying our first house (Hooray!  Holy crap!), and we’d really like to get our finances shored up tightly before we add another responsibility to the list.  It will help us to be more financially stable and keep me from being anxious about moolah.

With the market the way it is, we have a few months (at least) before we have to make our first mortgage payment.  In that time, we’re going to try to establish some great new patterns so that we spend less and save more!  You know, to take care of the roof, dishwasher, or whatever repair is inevitable when owning a house.

The first step is to eat out less.  And while this may be the simplest thing we can do, it may actually be the hardest!

So I’m turning to you for advice and support.  I’d love to hear what you do to encourage cooking at home, spending less money on groceries, not wasting the groceries you buy, etc…

Please share.  Because I’m going to need all the help that I can get!

Good Ridance!

I love throwing things away. By throw away, I mean “get it out of my sight.” It could be giving something away, donating, recycling… whatever! If I’ve had it and get to get rid of it, I’m happy!

Here is a small sampling of things that give me pleasure:

  • Clean out the fridge and throw stuff away
  • Discard old clothes from the closet and donate
  • Recycle a shampoo bottle
  • Use up food from the cabinet

If you looked at the photo of my desk last week (click here), you wouldn’t believe me when I told you that I like to throw stuff out. Paper, filing, and Rachel Ray are my nemeses. This week, not only did I defeat some swarmy piles of paper, we reorganized the office and gave 3 lovely pieces of furniture to good homes.

In a moment of clarity on Monday, I realized that, in a few short weeks, we would need to sleep when my pregnant sister-in-law, Rebecca, comes to visit with her baby, Annabel. Our choice? Buy an air mattress or a futon. Since we’d like to be moving soon, though, we balked at the idea of spending money on something that we might not need in our new home. What to do? I turned to trusty old Craigslist and found a free, clean futon. (No, really, it is.) 5 minutes after the first realization, we were set to pick up the solution to our problem later that night when I got off of work.

And then it hit me. Where were we going to put this large piece of furniture? I rushed home, posted the three items in the office that we’ve wanted to get rid of on Craigslist for free, and left for work. Within 30 minutes, all three pieces were promised. Within 4 hours, they were emptied out and gone! A few hours later, our office was a disaster, but it had a new-to-us futon and a finally assembled bookshelf (from that last trip to IKEA). We’d been putting off doing much with the office because we didn’t want to spend money, but in reality, putting several hours of craziness into it made it so much better … and no money was spent! (Plus, we got to build the dog tunnel.) Quite an accomplishment for one day.

Now, that desk piled in papers- GONE! It’s no longer a source of guilt and frustration, because it’s not there any more. Hooray! If you can’t beat it… get rid of it!

We now have a guest room (aka an office with a futon) and less cluttered house. Eventually, I’ll get to the rest of the filing and clean out the closet, but for one week, this is good enough.

The Little Guy

I read today that the average new house in America is down to 2,400 square feet.  Since we are one half the size of the average family, I think it’s appropriate that our house is one half the size of the average house.

Image

Our house, for now. Totally cuter inside!

That realization doesn’t make trips to Costco easier, though.  Organic chicken broth!  Toilet paper!  Pens!  Oh my.  Even though I would love to buy all these things in bulk, there is noooo space in my house.

When we moved into this little bungalow, I had an a epiphany.  If you save money on buying in bulk, you also have to spend extra money paying for the space that those things take up.  So, for now, even though I can’t save money buying in bulk, at least I’m saving money on rent.

While it makes trips to Costco a test of willpower and determination, I’ll take it!  Being thankful about the little things makes life that much sweeter.

House (Beautiful)

I live in a lovely little home.  On the outside, it is kinda ratty, but inside is open and light.  It has a built-in hutch and an actual dining room, and the kitchen holds every necessary appliance (rice cooker, coffee pot, small food processor, large food processor, panini machine, air popcorn maker that makes the worst popcorn ever, and tea kettle).  It is colorful, which is just the way we like it.  The art hung on the wall is soothing and vibrant; our midcentury TV stand/bookshelf is amazing.  If you come on a day that it’s clean and you keep your eyes off the ancient carpet, it looks great!  The 1930’s bungalow suits us well because of its layout and all the sunshine it lets in.

If we could own it, we would!  (We keep trying to convince our landlord to sell it to us, to no avail.)  I had a really fun time decorating when we moved in, even on a limited budget, and this summer cleaned out all the crap from the closets.  It’s been a nice home to entertain in and grow with Chris.

Chris' graduation party- Because it was raining, our plan for dinner under the stars was foiled. Instead, we cleared out some of the furniture, rented some tables and chairs, and had set up for 14 people to eat. It was a great celebration!

I am the problem in this relationship, though.  For the past 6 months, we have been looking for a new place to live.  I’m sure you’ll find out why in future posts, but we have our reasons.

Because of this, I have spent 6 months avoiding making any major furniture purchases, doing meaningful organization, or making it my home.  I honestly believe that as soon as I find a place for everything and have the perfect pieces in each room, we will move into a house that won’t fit what I’ve bought or will not match the new place.  And that would really stink.

I realized today that this is a bad plan.  I looked around at all the little projects that I keep putting off- going through the boxes in the closets, repackaging things, weeding more stuff and donating it, getting a bookshelf for Chris to use next to his desk, buying a bed.  The procrastination just adds to the clutter and disorganization of our lives.

Some of this is due to lack of funding for the remodel- boxes, bins, furniture, and the likes really add up!  I try to find things on Freecycle, Craigslist, or at thrift stores, but those don’t have it all!  I know that the chaos really affects Chris, yet still, we don’t tackle it.  So, even though we’d like to move, I decided that we are worthy of feeling settled in our own home.

Right now, I am trying to find a new job while working full time and don’t have many extra hours in the day…  I’m going to endeavor to make a dent in these projects.  The peace of mind that will come from knowing what we have, where it is, and that everything has a place will certainly be worth it.  Instead of being a source of frustrating or guilt, my house will provide a place for us to thrive.  It will be restful, a comfort, and an escape.

Today, I finally bought the bookshelf for Chris.  Abby and Susan had to help me get over the pain of parting with an extra $70, but in the end, I’m really excited.  He is going to love it!

And in place of apathy, I am taking action.

The Dods in a clean, cute home

TV in 2012

This is why I subscribe to Hulu Plus.

Portlandia is a witty, clever, and light-hearted take on the urban, hipster landscape, and I enjoy it via Netflix (Season 1) and Hulu Plus (clips of Season 2).

We don’t watch TV in the traditional way.  Instead, we have a nice TV (thanks, Mom) hooked up to our Playstation3 (thanks, Davey) and Wii (thanks, us), and we can watch shows and movies via streaming internet or on Blueray from the local video store.  Yep, we still have a video store in our neighborhood!

If we were a little more savvy, we could even use the antenna that we bought last year and get all the basic cable stations for free in HD. We are not those people, though, as I found out on Thanksgiving when I tried to watch the parade.  Obviously, our plan is not perfect.  But, it does allow us to watch TV on our computers and on the iPad when we are on the go and not just sitting in our livingroom.  It is pretty handy all around.

PLUS (and the reason we did it in the first place), it saves us a good chunk of money each month!  A cable and internet package would cost us $80/month.  Netflix, which is nonnegotiable with Chris, adds an extra $8.99  With our concoction, we pay $55.  That’s $34 bucks to use toward other things.  Yeah.

Here’s the breakdown:

Service Cost
Netflix streaming only- available for PS3, Wii, Roku, etc… $8.99
Hulu Plus- available for PS3, Roku $7.99
Comcast Xfinity internet $38.00
Total $54.98
Comcast internet and basic cable subscription $80.00
Netflix $8.99
Total $88.99
Savings $34.01

Are you putting these new technologies to use in your home?  What has worked for you?  Not worked?  As we are trying to cut back further to deal with the impending HSLP, we’d love to try some of your tricks!

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