Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Birthday Boy Room Re-Do

The Professor is going to be having a birthday in the near future, and being a very grown up boy of nearly nine means that he wanted a more grown up room.  So for his birthday, he asked to have his room re-done in a military theme.  I was on board with this because I knew we could do it for a reasonable amount of money and without an insane amount of work.  These are all from my cell phone, so excuse the quality of the photography, but you'll get the idea!

Before:  Light blue walls, a group of star wars posters and a madras quilt bedding from Pottery Barn Kids.  Not a bad look, but definitely not military. 
After:  We painted the walls an army green color, (a compromise from the cammo walls that he wanted...) purchased a new quilt and sham from Pottery Barn Kids (using a bunch of rewards points so really negligible cost to us) and changed out the lamp shades. I also purchased six shelf brackets at $5 apiece from Lowes and two six foot pine boards at $8 each.  I had them cut in half at Lowes and painted them with a free sample of brown paint I had lying around.  Total cost for the shelves, $46, but I also had a half board left over.  (Project to come soon!)  They were then decorated with military themed items that he already owned.
Before:  More green and blue, cool car painting, and an absolute mess.  (To be fair, that probably won't change much!  He is, after all, a boy)

After: New lampshade and really cool artwork.  I got the poster online for about $15 and the frame at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon.  I also got a tin ammo box at HL and filled it with all the small trinkets lying around on his dresser.

 And finally, I took his plain black bulletin board and covered the frame with cammo duct tape!  Super easy and only took me about 5 minutes.

 And there you have it!  While I still have one more military themed project up my sleeve for the near future, this was a quick room re-do that should last him well into his teens.  At least, that's the plan...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Best Laid Plans...

You know how they say you make plans and God laughs?  Boy did he have a good chuckle with me this week!  Most of my goal list items are going well, but the blogging and crafting one took a hit, after all it's hard to craft much when you've sliced your thumb open on a pineapple slicer.  (Hey Pampered Chef?  I promise to pay more attention to your warnings now...)  It's also hard to get anything done when one of your children is throwing up.  (Bug has a bug!  Ha!  I made a funny!)  Hopefully I'll be back on track soon!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Monthly Goals: January

We all make goals, we all make lists.  What I notice is that we don't always tend to stick to those lists.  One of my biggest faults is that I procrastinate.  A lot.  I find however, that writing down my goals seems to help keep me accountable so I've decided that every month I'll make a list of the things that I want to accomplish for the next month.  Then the following month I'll let you know what I accomplished and make a new list.  Some of them may be ongoing, some of them may be short term, but I truly think that if I put them out in blog land it might help me stay on task.  ;)

January's list is going to be a bit shorter since we're already halfway through the month, but I've got to start somewhere!

1.  Clean out Mistress's room and sell/donate anything that she has outgrown or doesn't use anymore.
2.  Figure out an incentive system that helps my kids be nicer to each other.
3.  Make the majority of our food from scratch.  (As we speak my first attempt at homemade burger buns are rising!)
4.  Do one load of laundry every day so that I keep on top of it.  (I was really good at this for a while but got out of the habit during the holidays.  Need to get back to it!)
5.  Get my kids to do more routine chores.
6.  Reduce (even eliminate) food waste!
7.  Have the kitchen cleaned and everything ready for the next day every night before I go to bed.
8.  Blog at least twice a week, one being a project.
9.  Hit 80 followers!  (Threw this one in just for fun!)
10.  Keep track of the cost of anything I put back on the shelf in a store because I was tempted to buy it.    Keep track of the cost of anytime I skip the drive through or takeout and make dinner/lunch at home instead.  Tally it up and transfer the total to savings at the end of the month.

So there you have it, my goals for January.  I'll check back with you in February and let you know how it's going!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My 10 Favorite Money Savers

As is usually the case, January is when we cut back for a few months to make up for the more expensive months of November and December.  I thought I'd share a few of my favorite money savers, maybe you'd like to try some of them out yourself!

1.  Menu Planning  It used to be that I shopped without a list and used as many coupons as possible.  Unfortunately it ended up that I spent MORE that way.  Why?  Because by using the coupons I was buying things that we may or may not have needed and without the list I was forgetting key ingredients needed for a meal.  My husband used to look at me with a dumbfounded look and ask my why I needed to go to the grocery again when I was just there the day before!  Now I sit down and plan out a week's worth of dinners, add any other incidentals that we need for lunches and breakfasts, and shop from there.  I don't clip coupons much anymore (gasp!) because we eat almost entirely natural and organic and there are far fewer coupons for those products.  Before shopping I patrol my favorite coupon sites to see if there is anything that matches up with what I actually need and print the ones that work for me.  Even after switching to natural/organic and ditching the coupons, I actually see major savings by shopping only once a week and using a list!

2.  Home Haircuts  Yes, you read that correctly.  DH cuts the boys' hair about once every 4-6 weeks with a clipper set I got at Target for $30.  Once every 6-8 months we take them in to get it professionally cut and then in between he is responsible for the upkeep.  I trim Mistress's hair for her every few months and I even got REALLY brave a few weeks ago and chopped about eight inches off my own hair.  I went at it with the attitude that the worst that would happen is that I would have to go see a stylist the next day.  It worked though, so I saved myself an easy $50 and can get it cut professionally when I want to go a lot shorter in the future.

3.  Homemade Laundry Detergent  I've been using this for almost eight months now and will never go back!  One cup washing soda, one cup borax, and one bar shredded soap (I use Ivory) mixed well together will last me about 3-4 weeks and costs a fraction of what I used to spend on laundry detergent. I'm now spending about $3 for a batch that lasts me the 3-4 weeks instead of the $10-12 I used to spend on the Tide that lasted me 2-3 weeks.  It works just as well too!

4.  The Library  So this one seems like a no brainer, but it amazes me how many people don't go on a regular basis as adults!  Most people go for their kids, but stop when they've finished the kids section.  I tend to read 2-4 novels a week and I love to check out informational books so the library saves me a ton of money.  Ours even lends some books digitally which is awesome, has an interlibrary loan system to expand the materials you can get, and has great movies if you're willing to wait a little bit for them.

5.  Swagbucks  Over the last year and a half or so I've earned enough swagbucks for over $100 in Amazon gift cards.  I'm not consistent on it or I could earn more, but for a half hearted attempt that's not bad!

6.  Secondhand Merchandise  I am lucky to have a craigslist type site on facebook that is just for our neighborhood.  I can sell the clothes and toys the kids have outgrown easily and get cash to use for other things.  I've also found several things on there that save me tons of cash.  I love designer jeans but balk at spending $180+ a pair on them, but have gotten 2 pairs that retailed for $180 and $200 respectively for $20 and $25.  Still more than Old Navy, but fit much better, better quality, and will last a lot longer.  I've also gotten $1 DVDs and CDs for the kids, $3 kids boots (that retailed for $60) a beautiful used once 10 foot artificial Christmas tree for $30, a $20 floor lamp and $1-2 games, among other things.

7.  Prescription Roulette  We have a couple of allergy prescriptions that we fill every month, and I have no loyalty to any pharmacy.  I switch them around to whomever is giving away free money.  In the last 3 months I've gotten $115 in free groceries at two different stores and know that I can get $105 for sure in the next month and a half with the coupons I already have.  Totally worth switching!

8.  Ask For a Discount  We recently rearranged our living room and found that we wanted a small table in a spot that we hadn't had one before.  I found one I loved at World Market for $100, but didn't want to spend that much.  The next week it went down to $79, and when I called they said they had one left but that it was the floor model.  I asked for an additional discount, and was given another $10 off for some minute scratches that weren't all that visible and would probably have happened in a house with three kids anyway.  I got the table I really wanted for 2/3 what it cost in the first place!  (Plus we had some Christmas money and I make it a rule never to spend gift money on anything boring!)

9.  Plan Your Errands  By planning where you need to go, you save a lot of cash on gas.  If you find yourself constantly running out to get things that you forgot, you're basically throwing money down the drain with extra gas, mileage, wear and tear on your car, and wasted time.  I try to do all my errands in one day, or plan to stop at a place on my way to or from preschool each day.  Plus, if you run extra places you spend extra money on stuff you didn't know you needed.  (If you don't shop, you don't spend money!)  I use around 2 tanks of gas a month with this, and next year when all three kids are in school every day using the bus, I suspect I'll use even less.  Especially with the gorgeous SC weather and walkability of our community, since anywhere in our neighborhood is reachable by foot or bike including the kids' school.  I'm curious next year to see how long I'll be able to go between fill ups!

And last but certainly not least...

10:  Always remember my favorite motto:  Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!

Better Late than Never...

I know I know, this post should have been put up last month but I chose to spend the month with my kiddos doing fun stuff.  I didn't blog, I didn't facebook, I barely even emailed.  It was wonderful!  On the downside, now you're getting a Christmas post in January.  Oh well, is what it is!

We all know that the Professor LOVES anything to do with the military.  We even just redid his room for his birthday in a military theme.  (Post coming soon to a blog near you!)  One day when he was home sick from school he asked for a tree for his room and decided that he wanted to decorate it with, (what else?) a military theme.  Since I had no desire to spend a mint on ornaments, I pulled out a piece of leftover fabric and we got to work cutting out the tanks, patches, and eagles individually.
Then we put them through the laminator...

 ...and cut them out again.  My hand was VERY sore after this project!
Finally we punched holes in all of the new ornaments and threaded them with twine before hanging them on the tree.
And here is the end result!  A cute little patriotic tree topped with an American Flag patch.  The Professor was thrilled with the result and I was thrilled with the cost.  More importantly I was thrilled to spend some rare one on one time with my oldest, even if he had to be home sick from school to do it.