Hello everyone! I hope you are having a great week so far. Our stay-at-home order here has been extended to the middle of June. I'm unsure how much longer this will go on, but I've noticed that many people here are disregarding orders and still having garage sales, not wearing masks, walking the wrong way at Walmart, etc. Public restrooms and parks are still closed. I have a friend who lives in a upper-story apartment with three boys under four. I can't imagine.
Anyway, now for the thrifty things that happened this week!
1. I borrowed a wheat grinder to make fresh ground flour for the very first time. This has been on my "to do" list for over a decade, so it was a touching moment. I bought rye berries, along with soft and hard wheat berries to use. I made rye flour this time, as I will be using it for sourdough.
2. Borrowed a book (Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon) from my parents.
3. Planted butternut squash and beans. I've planted three varieties of beans this year: Borlotto beans (an Italian pole bean), purple longbeans, and regular green pole beans. They will all be growing on trellises of some sort.
4. Used grass clippings to mulch as many of my raised beds as possible. We just cut the grass for the first time about two weeks ago, and it hasn't stopped growing like crazy! Grass clippings are especially good for mulch because they add nutrients to the soil.
5. Took the sleeves off of one of my fitted T-shirts. I have been doing a decent amount of mending and restyling since my wardrobe has been slowly deteriorating (I only have a few socks left without holes) and the thrift stores haven't been open.
6. I found some small-mouth 2 quart mason jars in the basement, left there by the previous homeowners. They are a beast to clean, even with a jar brush, so I will be using them to store dry beans and other dry goods.
7. Used a gift certificate to buy some high-dollar food items we don't normally get; some expensive cheeses and a large amount of hibiscus flowers.
That's it for this week! What have you been doing lately?
If you want or need to save a lot of money quickly, get rid of an extra car. For folks with a car payment, selling can free up $500.00 or more per month. Of course it takes some fancy logistics and lifestyle adjustments to become accostomed to the single car (or no car) life, but $500.00 per month might be worth it to you.
For several years, our family made it with one main vehicle (plus a motorcycle, which did make things a little easier). The success of this relied heavily on me being a homemaker (i.e. staying at home, for the most part), as well as doing errands on the weekend when we were both going to town or the truck was available for me to use.
Though we never did have a car payment, our transportation costs went up significantly when we purchased a second used car for me to drive. Below are the costs for a seven-year-old Grand Prix.
$8.33 /month registration
$110.00 /month insurance
$0.05 per mile wear & tear (oil change & tires)
$10.00 /month car wash
$2.50 per gallon gas
Driving 25 miles per week: $144.33 per month
Driving 50 miles per week: $179.00 per month
Driving 75 miles per week: $213.00 per month
These were the actual costs for the Grand Prix that we bought. They don't include the purchase cost of the car, which was $4000.
Here's an interesting fact. If I use "my" car twice per week making a 25-mile round trip to town, each trip costs $22.37. That's a high price to pay for running out of flour or mailing a package!
Meet the Smiths: One Car vs. Two
The Smith family drives 2000 miles every month. Both cars get 23 miles per gallon. Father drives his car to work and Mother uses her car to do errands and other odd jobs. Below we demonstrate the difference between driving one car 2000 miles and using two cars to drive 2000 miles.
One car: $2.50/gal. gas x 87 gallons = $220.00. Add $100.00 for wear and tear and $130.00 for fixed monthly costs, and you get a total of $450.00
Two cars: $110.00 for 43.5 gallons of gas, plus $50.00 for wear and tear, plus $130.00 fixed monthly costs equals a total of $290.00 per car. Multiply this by two cars for a total of $580.00.
In addition to the extra $130.00 per month in fixed costs, there are other small costs associated with Mrs. Smith, a stay-at-home mom, having her own car. When she goes grocery shopping on Tuesday morning, she likes to stop at the Salvation Army to see if they have any good bargains. Every week she finds something to add to her stash of crafting supplies. And while she's out, she buys herself a cheeseburger at McDonalds, and also gets the kids a treat off the Dollar Menu, because it's almost lunchtime anyway. On Thursday afternoon she meets with the ladies' bible study at church. Again, she buys herself a treat at the Starbucks because it's her day out and she deserves it. On Saturday morning she remembers that she has a baby shower to go to and didn't get a gift! Whoops! And she's also out of flour, so she makes a trip to Walmart. Then she goes home, wraps the gift, and then off to the baby shower.
Well, the day came when money got tight. Mr. Smith's hours got cut, Baby Smith had to go to the doctor and Junior Smith had to get a cavity filled. Mrs. Smith's car kept breaking down, and because of the money shortage they decided to sell it.
The first week was pretty rough. Mother got groceries on Sunday after church. The kids were whining and hungry. It was a temptation to go to McDonalds but she put her foot down and said no. On Tuesday she missed getting out of the house and shopping at the Salvation Army. But she spent the afternoon sorting out her craft supplies, and actually finished a project that she had forgotten about. Thursday was a dilema. Mother wanted to go to Bible Study, but Father needed the car to go to work. After some thought, they worked out an arrangement. Mother drove Father to work, used the car for Bible Study and then picked Father up at work when he was done. Again on Friday she ran out of flour, but instead of making cookies for Junior's Sunday school class, she made jello squares.
This went on for the entire month. At the end of the month, the Smiths reviewed their budget. They had saved $102.00 in vehicle costs, even with Mother dropping Father off at work once per week. In addition, they had an extra $4000.00 from selling Mother's car. Mother had cleaned out her entire craft room and finished several projects. They spent $20.00 less eating out, and Mother had not spend a dime at the Salvation Army. She kind of enjoyed less clutter, anyway.
Another month went by and they did not find another car for Mother. As the weeks went on, Mother spent less and less time on Craigslist looking at cars. Her craft room had long since been cleaned and was now functional. She had found an old bike in the garage and started taking the kids out on bike rides now and then. They discovered that bicycles are an actual form of transportation and not just for fun! Sometimes Mother would take the kids to the library or get them a treat at the corner store like old times. Junior started picking up cans to recycle, and now had his own little fund to buy treats with. Sometimes on their rides, Mother found a useful medicinal plant and showed it to the kids. Then they would take it home to use for tea.
A year has now gone by. Instead of Father going to a ball game on Saturday and Mother going shopping, they have found new hobbies/dates that they both enjoy, like visiting museums. When Father does go to a game, Mother goes too... and when Mother goes shopping, Father goes with her. Father likes it when his wife shares his interests, and Mother has discovered that Father really knows how to find a bargain. The kids like it when Mom and Dad get along, and they love being a part of all the fun!
And what is this? An extra $1224.00 per year of wiggle room in the transportation budget! Not only that, but there seemed to be even more extra money. Selling the car had caused a trickle-down effect in many other areas. With Father working to bring in money and mother working at home more to save money, the Smiths found that they had more cash than they needed.
Though fictional, this story illustrates some of the challenges and rewards of being a one-car family. It's not for everyone, but downsizing your vehicle fleet can be a great idea in many cases.
Saving With Fuel Efficiency?
A common misconception is that you can save money on gasoline (and therefore, save money overall) if your second car is super fuel efficient. Our primary vehicle was a big gas-guzzling diesel truck. At 16 miles per gallon it cost $5.00 in gas for a 25-mile round trip to town. If I kept my personal trips to a minimum, we got by with just $20.00-$30.00 worth of personal (non-business) miles per month. This was still cheaper than using another car for $145.00 per month. If Hubs had not been hauling big loads for work, we would've driven a much smaller, fuel-efficient car.
During the summer, we used a motorcycle for personal use and "pleasure riding". This was a better deal than a car not because of fuel efficiency (it got around 35 mpg with both of us on it) but because of insurance, which cost $22.00 per month as opposed to $110.00 per month.
The Illusion of "Freedom"
Many homemakers view "their" car as a symbol of freedom, or their way to escape the boredom of stay-at-home motherhood. Part of being a homemaker, and especially a stay-at-home mom, is relinquishing feminist priviledges. You don't get your own job, your own house, your own, schedule, your own money. You are trading all of that in for the rewarding job of being a parent. The basis of feminist thinking is that children are a drain on society, and on mothers in particular, and mothers shouldn't be tied to taking care of their children. That is truly what it all boils down to. When moms think they have "freedom" because they have their own car, I find it laughable. We turn over our freedom the minute we say "I do", and what freedoms we still have are stripped away as children come.
Of course as children and relationships mature we get some of our freedoms back. But I remember being three or four weeks into motherhood and feeling like my life was entirely over. My body was flabby, still sore and bleeding from childbirth. I couldn't run or jump. I wasn't getting more than a few hours of sleep per night. I was doing good to make a meal and put in a load of laundry every day, at the beck and call of my helpless, unthankful infant. The highlight of my life was watching Poldark. I felt like I was just as helpless and pathetic as my baby. It took a year or two to feel like a shadow of the person I used to be. Having a second car will not magically turn you into a childless, single person; the only women who are (in the feminist sense of the word) actually free.
How to Get By With One Car
Here is how Hubs and I got by with one main vehicle.
Wife doesn't work outside the home: If you work part time or don't make a lot of money at your job, half of the earnings are probably being sucked back into your car and/or childcare. Look into working from home in some capacity.
Errands done together: Banking and post office stuff can be done online. We buy our groceries and other supplies on Sunday when we drive into town for church.
Going to club meetings/parties/events: When I was single, I had all sorts of hobby-ish things I would drive to. Band practices, church activities, garden club. When I got married, I quit most of those things unless they could include my family. There is not enough time in the week to split between my regular duties as a mother/homemaker and outside-the-home activities. Now, my hobbies are often things I can do conveniently at home, or out and about with my husband. I know it's culturally unpopular to adapt your life to your family's, but aside from building a better marriage it is actually quite efficient financially. For the rare event that we both needed the vehicle at the same time, we employed the "carpool with other guests" trick, or the "drop off and pick up" technique used by the fictional Smiths.
Don't drive separately: Many spouses drive to church separately every week. Sometimes one person has to be there an hour earlier (or stay an hour later), and the other person doesn't want to wait. It's sometimes convenient to drive separately, but I'd rather entertain myself for an hour than keep a second car just for this purpose.
Driving kids around: It's pretty easy to have an at-home life with kids under age five, especially as an at-home mom. I would always recommend having someone you can call for a car in the case of an emergency. Looking back on my growing-up years in a large family (and thus, several emergency room visits), I don't remember my mother EVER driving to the emergency room alone. She was always holding the injured/sick child while someone else drove. Thankfully my dad was often home when those things happened (it seemed to always be on a Sunday...), and when he wasn't my grandparents lived a mile down the road; a phone call away.
Whether you have a second car or not, always be prepared for emergencies and try to limit those risks as much as possible. For example, learn first aid and CPR. Keep fire extingushers in your house. Keep a close eye on your kids, especially if they are very young. Don't let a non-verbal toddler wander outside alone. Don't leave your baby alone in the bathtub. I know these sound like common-sense things, but you'd be surprised at how lax many parents are in regards to safety. A second car will not neccessarily save your child in a life-threatening situtation. It will be your watchful eye and first-response skills that will make or break it. Unless you live in the deep wilderness of Montana or some other remote place, you'll likely be able to rely on neighbors for help in a true emergency.
Now, for non-emergency transportation needs: you'll have to be creative and flexible when it comes to getting around with kids.
Don't forget about bikes, walking, public transportation or other alternative modes of getting around with children. Nowadays they make all sorts of seats, carts, and tag-along implements for bicycles. A stroller makes walking with toddlers or babies easy, and also allows for a little cargo space. Again, keep safety in mind—I always travel with some pepper spray and stay in safe areas when biking or walking. In our rural area we don't have taxies or a subway system, but we do have a "blue bus" that will pick you up or drop you off somewhere for a very small amount of money.
Have you ever gone without a second car (or any car at all!)? Was it easy or hard?
We've had a great and busy week so far!
1. Harvested asparagus and spinach from the garden. I used grass clippings to mulch many of my raised beds. We also planted bean seeds, milk thistle and pepper plants.
2. Made two decent loaves of sourdough bread. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, so I was verry happy to have success!
3. Spray painted a gray picture frame to a more esthetic black color.
4. Gave my husband a haircut. I know many of us are doing this while we're still in quarantine, but I have been doing this for years. I used a $2.00 set of clippers (found at a garage sale) along with an inexpensive pair of hair cutting scissors from Walmart. This equipment has paid for itself many times over.
There are a lot of Youtube videos that show how to cut your own (or someone else's) hair. I was fortunate enough to know a retired stylist who showed me the basics. For a man's haircut, you generally cut the sides shorter and then blend the top in, which is often longer. This takes some practice if you are working with straight hair. My man has curly hair, which is more forgiving.
Some men look good in a simple buzz cut done entirely with the clippers. I know several dads who cut all of their boys' hair this way. One dad gave all of them a mohawk (which, of course, they loved).
Over the course of a year, DIY haircuts can save quite a bit of money. My husband used to pay $10.00 once or twice a year for a cheap (and ugly) haircut. I figured that I could give him just as ugly of a haircut for free! Now I've had more practice and my DIY haircuts look far better than the ones he used to get at Great Clips. As a bonus, we've saved over $100.00.
5. Put together a family preparedness plan. I got a notebook and worked through FEMA's Are You Ready workbook.
I made a list of projects to work on and another list of things to buy. I also dedicated a page or two to each disaster situation applicable to us; for example, winter storms, thunderstorms, housefires, etc. I pretty much skimmed over the sections on earthquakes and floods, since those are rare in our area. Yesterday I reconsidered those things, however, after hearing about the flooding in Michigan. Entire towns are now underwater because several dams broke. It has been called a "once in every 500 years" event, but things like that can really happen, even today! Several news photos showed people evacuating on foot through knee-deep water. I can't even imagine.
Disaster preparedness seems so overwhelming at first, and it's easy to get antsy knowing all of the bad things that could happen. It will take years for us to have preparedness supplies and plans in place for all of those things. Therefore, I've tried to start with the most likely situations first (like power outages) and then work my way up to things like a massive flood or nuclear bomb. I would love to be prepared for anything that could happen—even something like a volcano eruption, which has never happened where we live, but HAS happened where we travel. Something like a terrorist attack is highly unlikely in our rural town, but those too have happened many times before. I don't want to be a doomsdayer, but I do think it's wise to be prepared for many different situations.
One last thing I've thought much about in the past several weeks is the potential for a more socialist government. Our state is one of the blue ones that has not handled the pandemic very well. There is growing civil unrest on top of economic troubles. As I predicted in my book, there are new shortages popping up as old ones (like toilet paper) seem to be fading. This week it seems like all of our local farms are sold out of beef until the fall. While this is not a big deal for me personally (our freezer is stocked with venison), it feels eerily similar to being in a poorer country. Even something as simple as getting a haircut has become a big deal here. Having DIY skills in that area means it is one less thing to worry about.
Well, I guess this week was a little short on thrifty things and long on wind. But I did spend quite a bit of time thinking about preparedness, so I hope you don't mind the monologue.
Good morning! I didn't have a lot of time to do thrifty things this week, since we did quite a bit of hosting and social things (regardless of the quarantine). We had one overnight guest on Saturday, dinner guests on Sunday (thankfully I didn't have to cook THAT dinner, as it was Mother's Day), more dinner guests on Monday, and tomorrow we are hosting a small baby shower at our home. Regardless, here are a few thrifty tidbits:
1. Harvested spinach, asparagus and rhubarb from the garden.
2. Salvaged several items that the previous owner of our house left here; books, a desk, and some wooden pint and quart-sized fruit boxes.
3. Salvaged several more items to use for my chickens. A 55-gallon drum cut in half (to use for a chick brooder), two chick waterers and two bags of oyster shells. I found the oyster shells just a week or so before we ran out, so that was great.
4. Used some homemade laundry soap that I found when cleaning out the garage.
5. Made sourdough chocolate chip cookies. It turned out to be a wonderful recipe that I will use again.
6. I will be hiding breakables, books and houseplants so they don't get destroyed by visiting children. I don't do this every time we host something, but there will be many small children coming to the baby shower, and some of them I know well enough to warrant caution. I will also be setting out some easily replaced toys and activities, so if it rains everyone will have something constructive to do.
That's it for this week! I hope things are warming up for those of you in colder climates, and I hope you are all staying productive.
Hello everyone! I hope you had a wonderful, thrifty week. Here are some things that I accomplished:
1. Planted mangel beets and chamomile in my garden.
2. Harvested more spinach. We are still working on eating the parsnips that I picked last week.
3. Finished fermenting a ginger bug (to make soda with) and started fermenting a gallon of wine.
4. I washed an old essential oil bottle so I can use it again. This one had a dropper lid rather than the typical "dripping" lid, so I will likely use it for an herbal tincture.
5. I made a list of pantry items to last from June-December. This year I've begun buying things in bulk (and by that I mean enough to last six months, not just "in bigger packages"), and I really like it. Not only does it shorten my weekly shopping list, but it's given me a sense of comfort in a strange season.
The total cost of pantry goods (flour, beans, powdered milk, pasta, etc.) was around $200.00. In order to lessen the hit to our regular budget, I will be buying it little by little over the next six weeks. Since people are still paranoid about others buying "more than they need", I will probably get a few of each item, and possibly stop at multiple stores, rather than buying (as I've planned) 100 cans of tuna at once.
That's about all for this week! What are some frugal things that you have done?
Hi everyone! Here are some thrifty things I did this week:
1. Made a sourdough starter. I have tried making these in the past, but was never diligent enough to follow it through to completion. Basically, this is what you do:
Day 1: Mix 1 cup water with 1 cup flour. Cover with a cheesecloth.
Days 2-5: Discard (i.e. save in a jar for other purposes) half of the starter. Add another cup of flour and another cup of water. Mix together, cover with a cheesecloth.
Days 6-7: Discard and feed two times per day. After the last feeding on day 7, store your starter in the fridge.
2. Made an arrangement for our kitchen table. I used free flowers and greenery from our home: forsythia, willow branches, daffodils and tulips.
3. Line-dried all of our laundry last week. I have two drying racks that I keep indoors (or outside on our covered porch) to air-dry clothes. I figure it costs about $0.50 per load to dry, so I can save a couple of dollars every week by using the drying racks.
4. Made crackers, crepes and pizza crust with discarded sourdough starter. In the past I've only tried (and failed at) making bread loaves with sourdough. This time I'm starting our with easier recipes, and after some practice most have turned out excellent. I'm using recipes from this website. In the midst of a yeast shortage, I've still been able to make plenty of bread products this way.
5. Harvested spinach and parsnips from the garden. Those were both overwintered from last year. The only new produce we have ready is rhubarb, but I haven't picked any yet.
6. Lastly, we were able to acquire about 6 months' worth of venison for our freezer. This will be so helpful if there is a meat shortage in the near future. I canned some of the stew meat to put in our basement food storage, and the rest (3 large roasts and 50+ lbs. of ground meat) we put in the freezer. After counting all costs, we figure that the price was about $0.17 per pound. I also canned some chicken breasts that I bought for $1.60 per pound.
In addition to what I already had in our food storage, I estimate that we have enough canned meat to last one month. I would be more comfortable with a 3-month supply, but we do still have a lot of meat in the freezer.
Hi there! I just wanted to give a quick THANK YOU to everyone who's downloaded my new book. There are two days left in my promotion, and it is already #12 on Kindle's "Personal Money Management Top 100 (Free)".
If you haven't grabbed it already, make sure to do so in the next 24 hours or so!
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With our small family, it's hard to go through a whole bag of oranges without some of them drying out or getting mushy spots. This tip is also helpful if you're trying to minimize trips to the grocery store and reduce waste.
Your oranges will last for two weeks or more if you do this:
1. Put a paper towel in a freezer bag.
2. Set oranges on top of the towel, inside the bag.
3. Close the bag and store in the refrigerator.
I hope this was helpful for you!
Hi everyone! I guess this is as good a time as any to begin writing. For the last few weeks, thoughts have been swirling around in my head, begging to get out. I've tried sitting down a couple of times, trying to put into words a mess of ideas and theories and practical application to all of those abstractions.
So, yeah. My thoughts on the after-effects of the coronavirus literally turned into a book. A small book, but whatever. Way too long to be a blog post. The working title is The Coming Depression; A Preparation Manual for Homemakers.
I love homemaking. I ADORE homemaking. I love all the fun parts—decorating, baking treats, coming up with menus and puttering around in the garden. But homemaking is a serious job.
WE HAVE A JOB TO DO!
I'm convinced that the economic fallout from this recent pandemic is going to hit our families... hard. I'm thinking Great Depression kind of hard. And if it doesn't hit you... it will probably hit someone you know or love.
We need to be ready. We need to be prepared. The book (which is currently in the editing stage) outlines the following topics:
• What your first priorities should be financially
• Insourcing goods and services
• Saving money during a depression
• Starting a cottage industry
• Preparing to help others
I hope this will be an interesting read for many of you.