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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas is coming- Ready or Not!



Tomorrow is December 1. Let that sink in a minute, folks. Yep, only 24 days until Christmas according to Christmas Clock. Are you feeling a bit frantic? Last year I wrote a post about this topic called Are You Ready for Christmas? where I explored ideas to pay for Christmas without cutting into one's regular budget.


So, here we are again and I am getting together my Christmas funds. Here is what I have done to earn Christmas money this year.

1. Swagbucks- by using the Swagbucks search engine, watching videos, and taking the daily polls, I have earned enough points to get $45.00 in Amazon e-gift cards. You can do this too. It is easy!  Sign up under my link  and help us both to keep earning Swagbucks.

2. Writing opportunities- I wrote a review of a product recently for THSC Review and earned $100.00 that I earmarked for my Christmas fund. ; )

3. The aluminum cans I have been saving up are about to get smashed and redeemed. I think I have at least $20.00 worth amassed. I am hoping it ends up being more and I will have to update y'all on the total once I get them turned in to the recycling center.

4. I have a big bank full of change that I have collected for at least a year that I am going to put towards Christmas. I will have to report on that total once it is counted.

5. I will be receiving a stipend from my college for providing notes to a person in my English class. I think I will be receiving $50.00.

So, there you have it. Without doing anything too drastic, I will have at least $250.00 for Christmas.

We are very frugal shoppers and that little amount will go a long way. My husband has been doing Listia and has accumulated a lot of points there which we will also be using to purchase Christmas gifts. I also do Listia (click to sign up) and if you join under me, you and I both get credits to use to shop there AND clear out our homes of no longer needed items.

How do you fund your Christmas purchases each year? Let me know in the comments. All respondents will be entered in a drawing for a Pampered Chef Season's Best Fall/Winter 2002 cookbook. I will draw for the winner on December 7 and announce the winner right here on my blog!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Recent Victories in Thrifty Living

I like to encourage and entertain myself by turning necessary activities like bargain shopping into a game. When I do well at my self-imposed game, I feel quite victorious and smart.

Here are some of my recent little victories in the money saving game I enjoy playing:

KOHL'S CASH DEALS

Just a few weeks ago, I declared to my husband that I was badly in need of some new pants. Kohl's was nice enough to send me a postcard good for $10.00 savings on a purchase so off I went to paw through their clearance racks in hopes of scoring something to fill the gap in my wardrobe. Not only did I find a cute pair of petite sized Capri jeans for myself, I also found a gift for someone in my family for Christmas (I cannot reveal what exactly I found because that person sometimes reads this blog).

I ended up spending a total of $5.94 and saving $61.50! I make sure that I go to Kohl's every time I get one of those $10.00 Kohl's cards in the mail. I have gotten all kinds of amazing deals for my family, home, and myself this way. As I write this, I have another $10.00 card in my purse that has to be used by August 31 and since my grandson has a birthday coming up, I may be able to snag him a cool present using nothing more than my time and a bit of cash out of pocket.


Healthy Breakfast for Pennies a Serving

Whenever I shop, I make it a practice to check the clearance items in each department of the grocery store. I stroll through the produce section, meat department, and the miscellaneous clearance rack in the back of the store. Recently I found a dented box of oatmeal with added oat bran marked to just $1.00 from its normal price of $1.69.


My grandson loves oatmeal and we used to buy the pre-made packets of oatmeal. Each box has 10 servings at $1.69 per box. So, 17 cents per serving. Not bad, except he eats two packets each breakfast, so the cost is actually 34 cents per breakfast. I decided to just buy rolled oats and flavor it myself with various ingredients we have on hand. Some days, Liam gets apple brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal (if I have unsweetened applesauce on hand), other days he gets strawberries and cream oatmeal if I have strawberry jam on hand.
I'd say he enjoyed his oatmeal!

The oatmeal I purchased on markdown has 11 servings so it cost 9 cents per bowl of oatmeal.  The cost of the add-ins is negligible because those items were all purchased for other  purposes and the amount added to flavor his oatmeal is fairly small. Creating flavored oatmeal at  home doesn't take much time at all. It is just a moment or two to measure out a spoonful of strawberry jam or to sprinkle cinnamon on the oatmeal before popping it into the microwave.

Once the oatmeal is gone, we may switch to some other breakfast item that I purchased on a clearance or coupon deal. We stay flexible on what we eat so that we are always spending the least we have to spend. When I find a great deal, I buy as much as I can afford to lock in that deal for as long as possible.

 Going Bananas

When I go to the produce section looking for good deals, I always look for a big bag of marked down bananas. The bananas are still fresh enough to eat out of hand for a couple days and I have a lot of uses for them as they ripen. I happened upon a large paper sack of bananas recently weighing about 20 pounds that was marked down to $1.50 for the whole bag! That is 7 cents a pound folks!
 This go-round I made grain-free banana pancakes and dairy-free banana ice cream. The beauty of these recipes is how they can be customized for the consumer. I spent some time cutting up bananas for our "ice cream" and freezing them so they would be ready when the desire for a cold, creamy dessert hit.

My grandson and I are both dairy-free so regular ice cream is out of the question. We love our banana "ice cream" and so do the dairy eaters in our home. Another plus on this tasty treat is that it is friendly to those of us watching our waistlines. And, finally, it is very inexpensive!

The grain-free banana pancakes were amazing. With nothing more than mashed banana, eggs, and some seasonings, I made pancakes! They were tasty, gluten-free, dairy-free, inexpensive, and easy! I encourage you to give them a try! Everyone in the house who tried them, liked them.
Here they are just about ready to flip. 

I have found that being willing to try different foods and recipes is one of the keys to the biggest savings in a grocery budget.


Well, it has been a very busy week. School began for me and my youngest son on Tuesday. I have a bunch of homework and since I want to make A's, I will sign off now and get to studying.

If you decide to try the banana "ice cream" or banana pancakes, please let me know what you think of them.

I will be back soon with more tips, tricks, and encouragement to help you to thrive instead of just survive on a tight budget. And please, share your tips and tricks with me!

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Crazy Life Gets Crazier...on Purpose!

You may remember that my grandson came to live with me on  April 1 of this year. My then 19-month-old grandson. To a home of adults who weren't expecting a little child to be in residence 24/7. We were all a little shell shocked to say the least.
Liam hugs our trees every day
during our evening playtime. 

Talk about a major life changing event for that sweet little boy and all of us, which includes my husband and two young adult sons in their early twenties. The dogs also were taken off guard by this tiny human who thinks that they are little horseys for his riding pleasure.

Here we are just about in mid-August and we all have settled in to a routine that includes locking every door in the house, always having company in the bathroom, and hoping for a good nap time.

Not content to leave things static, I have decided to complicate my life further by going back to college.

Yep, this grandmother (Gigi to be exact) is a college freshman (because my previous college was on semesters and the credits weren't acceptable to my new school). I took the assessment tests and passed all but the math with flying colors! Take that assessment tests!

I will be taking English Composition I and Intro to Speech this semester. I will also be working while going to school because we  have this habit of enjoying food, shelter, and clothing. ; )

I am working on a liberal arts degree, mainly because I am too much of a dilettante to buckle down to just one discipline. I will get to study English, history, French, and art and at the end I will be the proud owner of a Bachelor's Degree!

I am also working on moving my blog at some point to a self-hosted site. As I said, my crazy life is getting crazier on purpose.

I am striving to get back on a blog posting schedule but I am not making any promises. You may have to come see me on Facebook (Holly Williams Urbach) or Pinterest (whollyholly) to keep up with me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Turn Shabby Into Chic

Everyone has heard the saying, "You either have time or money." In the summer, I have more time and way less money due to the fact that one of my big contracts is tied to the school year. But, because I am home more, I get the itch to fix up around the house at a time when I have less money to do so.

I don't let my lack of money stop me though, I just use it as fodder for exercising my creativity. We have a couch that was given to us around seven years ago and though still comfy, it is showing signs of its age. I don't tend to buy furniture as people are always giving me furniture, so when my current acquisitions start to look shabby, I make them last a little longer until something better comes along.

 It seems that the arms of
furniture wear out faster
than other parts, though
I blame my dogs for this
as they stand here to get
a better look out the living
room windows at passers-by.
 

The damage to the back of
the sofa is also due to the
silly dogs who used to stand
on the back of it to look out
when the couch was in front
of the living room windows.
Obviously these damaged parts of the sofa need to be addressed and without any cash outlay. I realized that I had purchased some forest green napkins at my thrift store for 50 cents that could work to cover the arms of the sofa.

I also realized that I had a throw in the cranberry color that I could use to cover the torn center back cushion of the couch.

Prior to covering the problem areas, the whole couch just looked sad and made the whole living room look run-down.

The dog doesn't mind the shabby couch but I sure do!

And now the after-

Not perfect but a whole lot more appealing until something better comes along! How do you manage when you are short on money but need to do some fixing up around the house?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Giving Up Isn't an Option

Mandisa has a song titled "Overcomer". I love this song, especially the chorus.

You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You're not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds You
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer

I have had a lot of challenging circumstances in my life to overcome. My parents divorced and remarried multiple times and not amicably. One sister had a terrible car accident. Financial struggles. My husband had a severe head injury and we didn't know if he would recover, my dad died of cancer , then my mother died of cancer, and on and on and on.

 Events happened in my life that made me feel like giving up...but I just couldn't give up. I wouldn't give up. What is it about some people that tough times make them tougher and others crumble?



I became a Christian in 1988 but even before that I was not one to let troubles stop me in my tracks. So, is it in our DNA? Is it how we are raised? Is it just stubbornness?

Some of it has to be our innate personality. I just took an emotional intelligence quiz to learn more about what makes me tick. My result is below.

How Did You Score?
Your results indicate a high score on emotional intelligence.

What Does Your Score Mean?
People who score high on emotional intelligence tend to be skilled at interpreting, understanding, and acting upon emotions. They are adept at dealing with social or emotional conflicts, expressing their feelings, and dealing with emotional situations. 

It's important to remember that no matter how good your score is, there is always room to improve your emotional intelligence. Consider areas where you are not as strong and think of ways that you can learn and grow. Take stock of your strong points and find ways to continue to develop and apply these skills.

When troubles come my way, I often stop what I am doing and cry but I don't stay there. I take stock of my situation, formulate a plan, pick myself up, and move forward. I try to use my problems to improve myself.

So, what do you think? Why do some people rise above their challenges and others go to pieces?






Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life, Interrupted


Hello! I have been away since April 1 from this blog, from my social life, and barely keeping my head above water because my 19 month-old grandson came to live with us unexpectedly.

Now, I raised five children so I have at least a few child rearing skills up my sleeve. And I had those five children in eight years so I got pretty adept at juggling my time. I haven't lost any of the knowledge I gained...

So, I find it quite interesting that I am not getting much done with Liam living at my house. First, the lack of sleep derailed me because he didn't sleep well when he first came to us. Thankfully, now he often sleeps an entire 8-9 hours at night. This means that I get to sleep at least 6-7 hours uninterrupted which has improved my productivity and clarity of mind immensely!

Rearranging the house to keep Liam safe from harm and from harming our things took a bit of work as did figuring out what he liked to eat, when his nap time should be, how to get him to sleep, and so on. Getting back into the swing of shopping with a small child was also a skill to reincorporate!



Coming up on a month of having him, we are all adjusting well and thriving. We are climbing out of survival mode into a daily routine. When I was raising my children I did not work like I do now. Coordinating child care with my husband for our grandson was another challenge to be resolved.

I had a lot of emotions to work through when my life changed 180 degrees upon the receipt of a phone call. It was April 1 but it was NO April Fool's prank that would be over before the end of the day.

I was angry, disappointed, and mourning the loss of my freedom. Don't get me wrong- I am glad to be in a position to be able to help my grandson and his parents but it is still not at all what I envisioned doing once my children had all reached adulthood.

Thankfully, my grandson will be returning at some point (sooner rather than later we hope)to live with his mother. Until then, hubby and I will continue the juggling act and find some suitable sitters so we can get out together once in a while!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Think Healthy Equals Expensive? Think Again!


It's tax season...no matter how much we wish it wasn't. We are faced with our income or lack thereof in stark black and white and we start thinking about earning more money in the future or how to pay those stinkin' taxes!

I am in the category of thinking about how to increase my earnings and because of that, I live extremely frugally. I am also kind of a health nut unless I eat something sugary and then I become a voracious eating machine, but that is the subject of a different post! Can being frugal and healthy co-exist?

Many folks think that living a healthy life is expensive. They are sure that eating healthy food is pricey. They are sure that they can't get in or stay in shape without a membership at a fancy (meaning costly) gym. With those assumptions, a lot of people just give up or they blow their budget at the grocery store and don't have money for much else.

When I am faced with prevailing thinking such as, "It costs a lot of money to be healthy," I take it as a personal challenge to see if that school of thought is true or not. Let me encourage you that giving up a large portion of your budget to groceries to have quality food is not necessary if you are willing to change your mindset just a bit. Isn't that good news?

What do I mean by changing your mindset? You have to be willing to buy marked down items at the grocery store. These items are marked down because the packaging has been damaged, the item is about to go past its sell-by date (which isn't its expiration date, by the way), or the store is clearing out the item because it wasn't a good seller. Generally, these items will have large orange stickers on them showing the original price and the new, reduced price and the savings is anywhere from 25-80% off of the regular price. I also use coupons and oftentimes I can use a coupon on a marked down item for the maximum savings possible.
This nice California mix made a delicious
addition to our healthy stir-fry. 

I don't know about you, but I would rather get the best and most items I can for the least amount of money and have some funds left to put towards other items I have to buy.

Recently I made a nice pot of vegetarian chili. It made 7 1/2 cups of chili, which was about seven 1-cup servings. I often serve my chili over rice so we don't need huge portions of chili that way. This pot of chili cost me a shade under $2.00 to make and I got two dinners and a lunch out of it. Right now, you are thinking that can't possibly be correct. I can feel your skepticism coming through the computer. I will explain so you can do similar feats of financial alchemy yourself.

My husband, who wasn't frugal when we married but has been a good student, purchased two cans of pinto beans that were marked down because the cans had been dropped and dented. The regular price of these beans is 72 cents per can, but in this instance, one was reduced to 36 cents and the other to 18 cents.
He also bought a bag of black beans that had been torn open and re-closed with tape that had been $3.00 but was reduced to 25 cents. I had some Northern beans in the cabinet from an earlier purchase to add to the mix of beans and I had a can of diced tomatoes. I had purchased some cans of seasoned tomato sauce that was originally intended to make meatloaf the store was clearing out because it hadn't been selling (I am always thinking of multiple ways to use items). Each can was marked to 24 cents and I bought a dozen cans (when you see a great deal, buy as much as you can). I had onions and the seasonings for chili already on hand that I had used for other dishes so the cost of these ingredients had already been paid. The total of all items used in the chili was $1.77! And it was no-meat chili which is healthier.

It may say Dinner Starters for Meatloaf
but the way I think, that is merely a suggestion.
We scour every store where we shop for clearance items or hugely discounted items. Because of this unique acquisition method, I do not make a menu prior to going shopping. Once we get our goodies home, then I proceed to create a menu and see if I will need to buy any additional items. We eat a good variety of foods due to this creative way of procuring groceries.

I carry this way of thinking to just about every budget category as much as possible. Anytime I have to spend money, I see if I can reduce the expense somehow. I pretty much live in hyper-frugal mode. 

 Because I am interested in living a healthy lifestyle, I also am into exercising. Exercise equipment, workout clothes, and gym memberships can really take a big bite of a budget if you allow it. I work out at least three times a week and I can safely say that I haven't spent more than $50.00 in the past two years on anything fitness related.  

I have purchased my gym clothes at the thrift store or found them at retail stores deeply discounted. I received an exercise bike from my brother-in-law for free because he was tired of it and all my free weights were given to me by people who no longer wanted them. My yoga mats were gifts as were many of my exercise videos. Some videos I purchased I found at the dollar store. I also found great exercise programs on my local PBS station. Working out doesn't have to be expensive any more than eating healthy does, especially if you work out at home.

Perhaps you don't need to watch your spending as much as I do. But, what if you did anyway and you saved the difference? What could you do with those saved dollars? Travel? Fund a retirement account? Buy a vacation home?