Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Few, or 10, Gift Ideas (not that it's all about me)

Not that it's all about me or anything, but here are 10 things or experiences I would love for Christmas or an upcoming birthday. And perhaps this list will prove helpful for the one very near and dear to me. :)

1. In the category of "The-sky-is-the-limit-but-I'm-not-gonna-get-it": a trip to Scotland with my husband, or a trip to PEI. Considering we can't even manage a weekend away, these are "someday" dreams.

2. A new, or nicely used sewing machine. I think I want a basic model Bernina, but yikes! they are expensive. I actually just bought a new machine from Costco but can't decide if I am keeping it. It was a good deal for sure, but I'm torn between a good deal for today and wanting a machine that will last the rest of my life.

3. A winter coat with an attached, fleece-lined, non-pointy hood that is a solid color with a hip-length cut and a non-boxy fit. Even if I can't fully zip it this winter, with my expanding belly, these are top choices in my research so far, though I'm still not sure exactly what I want.

4. A pedicure.

5. A trendy sewing book such as one by Amy Butler or one on sewing aprons.

6. A cheese grater. Perhaps this one by KitchenAid.

7. Grain storage buckets and lids from Pleasant Hill Grain.

8. SmartWool socks.

9. A gift card to one of the following: Hobby Lobby, Panera Bread, Old Chicago, Chipotle, Einstein's, Spicy Pickle, Jason's Deli, Archivers or Pottery Barn.

10. Date nights with my husband which would need to be squeezed into the calendar before mid-February.

Okay, enough about me, I need to move on to tackling that Christmas gift list of things we want to buy for others.

For more 10 on the 10th, visit Life at 7000 Feet.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Good Day of Grocery Shopping

Last night I wrote about a few things we would do if we faced a loss of income and everything came together this morning for a great savings trip to the grocery store. Combining a big savings event, lots of coupons and careful planning, here is what I brought home.
6 big boxes Kleenex
1 pair cleaning gloves
2 multi-packs of kitchen scrubbers
4 scrub sponges
1 bag Halls
2 boxes hot cocoa mix
3 cans chili (food bank)
4 cans evaporated milk
4 bags frozen veggies (we'll cook these on the stovetop, not in the microwave bags)
1 frozen entree
1 bag chocolate chips
6 multi-packs of yogurt/yogurt smoothies
1 gallon organic milk
1 bottle Sunny D smoothie
1 bag pepperoni
1 tub spreadable butter
1 lb. Challenge butter
1 bag Ruffles
1 bottle salad dressing
2 boxes cheese crackers (will go in Chex Mix at Christmas)

All for the grand total of.....$21.30! My receipt says I saved $98.42. I know that is a relative number, though, since I would never have paid that much for the group of groceries. Keep in mind that this is not all we will be eating this week, but will add to our stockpile and be used over the next several weeks. And if you took the photo at face value you'd think we eat a lot of junk. But that is just part of the bargain method of grocery shopping, buying things at their lowest price and then using then over a longer period of time than if you just made a list of what you need for one week and then went out and bought everything off that list. The task of maximizing savings has been greatly lightened by the ad reviews I read each week on SpringsBargains.

It was a good day and I feel like the effort paid off. And I even had all three kids with me and it was a pretty good trip in that regard, too, which is not something I often say in regards to shopping with children.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Where Would We Go From There?

With an uncertain economy surrounding and impacting us all, it certainly wouldn't hurt to give some careful thought to how one might respond if some major negative financial impacts became a family reality. (I was inspired by this post over at Frugal VegCafe.)

If my husband was laid off from his job and we found ourselves without an income, then we would be employing whatever methods we could to stay afloat and keep ourselves fed and the roof over our heads. I often feel that we are doing all we can to make ends meet, but in actuality, there are things I could change to better use the resources we have. In the short term, here is what that might look like. In the longer term matters of vocation, location, and education would certainly be addressed, though those things are beyond the scope of this blog....though my husband and I have talked extensively about possibilities if we felt the Lord leading us in any of those directions. Anyway, for the short term.

1. Stop buying ANYTHING beyond food unless it was an absolute need. Easier said than done, but I'm sure if we were pressed, there would be more motivation to just plain stop spending.

2. Menu plan and play the grocery game like never before. I have eased off of intensive coupon-clipping and grocery hunting this year, but I would be returning to those efforts. The goal would be to have no food go to waste while nourishing our family with the highest quality food we could afford. Only the most basic ingredients (like milk, cheese, eggs, grains, produce) would be purchased unless I get items for free or close to free with coupons. Our spice cupboard holds enough right now to provide variety to basic made-from-scratch foods for a long while. I would also be planting a garden again in the late spring.

3. Freeze that credit card in a block of ice or store it in a secure location off-site so on those tiring and discouraging days we would have the additional deterrent of not having easy access to spend without careful thought and planning. We have never carried a balance and have not used it lots in all the years we have had it, but we know that it is easier to use than if you had cold hard cash in your hand that you have to part with when you purchase something. Note: we have our reasons for continuing to have a credit card and my husband are in agreement about it.

4. Rally all our financial resources, and I don't just mean the bank account. Do we have stuff to sell? Sell it! Do we have points accumulated in consumer loyalty programs (airlines, diaper points, credit card points, etc.) that we could convert to gift cards for stores that sell essentials? Are there coins in the couch or money around the house that should be corralled? Do we have gift cards in our wallets or elsewhere that could be put toward meeting basic family needs? Are there rebates to send in to get money back? All of these things may be small, but would hopefully have a positive net effect on not having as much money leaving our savings fund, or at least slowing the rate at which that happens. And then we would go to a cash-basis system for everything except for our mortgage and monthly bills. We go back and forth between using cash well for most everything and then fall back into using debit more. This would be a time for cash only!

5. Utilize utilities more wisely. Time to get back to line or air-drying. Turn the thermostat down (some more) and put more blankets on the beds and wear sweaters or fleece. Shut off lights. Recaulk windows and doors. Unplug unused appliances big and small. Wash the windows to let more solar heat warm the house in the daytime. Consider if we can cut our phone and internet bills.

6. Halt or at least slow gasoline consumption by making more thorough lists and mapping out errands and outings to be combined.

7. Let the non-essentials and niceties go. For us this would include the YMCA membership (unless they could work with us on a reduced or free membership during the unemployed time), going out to eat even with coupons at cheaper places, and the small personal allowances my husband and I have come to enjoy and potentially even the evenings out alone that I enjoy from time to time. Though I rarely spend much while out, the gas for the outing may be a deciding factor.

8. Accept that this will be a season of limited giving, especially of presents for birthdays and Christmas and exchange homemade gifts or skip them altogether. The priority would be a Christmas or birthday gift to our own children during this time, even though it would be something that was inexpensively purchased or homemade. I can see that this would be one of the most humbling areas for us overall in a no-income situation. Hopefully we could still support those missionaries we have committed to and we would need to prayerfully consider that.

9. Consider whether I could supplement our resources by sewing and selling some items from materials I already have on hand. This could also provide some entertainment value since we would not be spending on entertainment at all during this period. My husband's entertainment comes largely in the form of books from the library which we would certainly continue to utilize. Entertainment currently comes in the form of dining out, though not often, so it is not like we have an "entertainment budget" that could be cut.

10. Count the daily blessings and watch God provide for every real need. Just in typing out some of these tactics that we could put into place I am reminded of how incredibly blessed we are, currently, but also even if a job loss did become a reality for us. He is good. He is faithful. He provides.

Even in putting some of the thoughts I have had about this onto paper I am energized to begin implementing a few of these things now, even though they are not in any way forced, just to be better stewards and work on my own character.

What are a few changes you would make to your lifestyle in the event of income loss?