Saturday, March 27, 2010

This edition of Frugal Friday is brought to you by our fine sponsors Technical Difficulties and Pure Frustration

who ask...Have you thrown your computer out a window today?

I have felt like that for DAYS AND DAYS now. My tiny tip of the day is computer related...sorry about the lack of post yesterday BUT I am trying to be frugal which meant not calling the computer guy. It meant letting the Hubs do whatever he does...which takes for-freakin'-EVER. Patience, patience, patience, right? WRONG! I don't watch a lot of TV and that's fine with me but if I don't get my Facebooking in {is that a new verb?} I go a little crazy. That's my not-really-related-to-anything computer frugality tip of the week. But the real Frugal Friday tip of the week actually does have to do with patience.

Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and it's a relatively short line but it's taking some time because there is a sweet old lady at the front paying with pennies and nickels? And you stand there all tolerant and smiling until she is done, then when she moves on you roll your eyes at the person in front of you as if to silently say "Oh thank we can get on with our rushed, busy day!" The person in front of you doesn't actually have too many items and you think it will roll along swiftly until the person in front of you starts asking the cashier questions and know. This is going to take forever...and a day. Um yeah, that person in front of you is probably me. And I'm not even going to apologize for it. On average, the grocery store makes a 10% mistake on every grocery bill. Whether it be something that is keyed in wrong, misadvertised in the flyer or posted incorrectly on the shelf. 10%. 10%!!! That's $10 on every hundred dollars you spend. Let's be generous and say they don't make quite that many mistakes and call it 5%. On a $100 per week grocery budget that is $20 a month you are just handing the grocery store for no reason. $240 per year. Call it a tip. For good service? Well, I don't know where you shop but my store does not have good service. For me, grocery shopping is a mission. I go in heavily armed and I come out alive every time. Because I am prepared. And one of my weapons is The Scanning Code of Practise. Click on it to learn more {plus the frugal shopper website is pretty good}. In short, this rule protects you from getting overcharged if you are willing to watch for it. They aren't going to help you out here. Ideally, watch the items as they are being scanned so you can catch it right there. No, I am not kidding I actually do this. Now, I am also a realistic Mummy with 2 little boys. So if I don't have my eyes on the scanner {because they are otherwise occupied making sure the boys don't shoplift gum by accident} I pay, bag up my groceries, put the boys back into the cart, pull some snacks out of my purse {remember, I go in heavily armed} and I park beside the Customer Service desk and carefully review my receipt to make sure it jives with the prices I saw when I picked the items up off the shelf. If I see a mistake, I am already where I need to be. Customer Service will take care of it and refund you right away. This saves me money almost every single week. And not little money either. My best purchase-for-free to date has been hair colour. I'm always asked "How much is your time worth? Do you do all of these things every single time?" No of course I don't. You pick and choose what is important to you and your schedule at the time. So the day of the hair colour mission I was at one store that happened to be right across from a drugstore. I knew I could get the hair colour at a different store for $7.99 but didn't have time. So I thought I would pay the extra $3 and make a quick stop at the drugstore. The regular price was $10.99 but was on for $8.99! Right on! It was my only purchase so I went up to the counter where the lady proceeded to ring it in at the regular price. Now this is where I remind you that this is not OK. The item is advertised at a specific price. Don't feel embarrassed about pointing out a mistake and saving yourself a few dollars. Let's say you did this just twice a month at $3 per item. $72 dollars a year back in your pocket. There is the "Oh, it's just $2" thing again. It matters. So when you see a mistake, all you have to do is politely ask "Do you adhere to the Scanning Code of Practise?" If they don't know what you are talking about get a manager. The lady at the drugstore said yes they do, re-rang in my purchase and because it was under $10 I got it for free. FREE! That's a $9.89 saving right there. And that excites me. This post could branch off a hundred different ways, but here is a list of do's when at the store:

~Go heavily armed. If you must take the children make sure they are happy and occupied. I always go right in the morning when the older one is in school and the younger one has just been fed. I often carry snacks in my purse and will have the DS or MP3 player for emergency situations only. If the children are happy, Mummy is happy.

~Try to adjust your budget so you shop once a week. This cuts down on stocking up on unneccessary items and makes it easier to keep track of your purchases. Meal plan and stick to your list. This is a whole post all on it's own...stay tuned!

~Bring your own shopping bags. {I often forget but I am working on it!} at 5 cents per bag the average week's worth of groceries could cost you another 40 or 50 cents. That's around $20 per year in savings just by bringing your own bags. Wow. $20. I have to work harder at this!

~Dump your embarrassment at the door. Pointing out an error isn't embarrassing. It might take a few extra minutes but it's worth it. Remember: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be extra polite and if you are met with hostility, put on your best smile and ask to speak with the manager. If you are met with even more hostility, smile even bigger and ask for the number of his manager. Believe me, it works. And if it saves my family money I am willing to go that extra mile. If I save $5 on my grocery bill a few times a month that is a nice lunch out. Period.

~Frugalness is all about thinking long term and avoiding instant gratification. Yes, I want to get out of the store, yes I want to get home and crack open that toblerone bar, yes I want to make sure I am not ducking daggers on my way out from the people behind me. BUT if you crunch those numbers it's just too much money to pass up. Would you walk up to someone on the street and just hand them $240? If you would, please make sure I am standing right next to you! LOL No, of course nobody would willingly give away $240 for no reason. So stop doing it unknowingly. I've given you the knowledge, now stop the cycle!

~And of course all the regular rules like don't shop hungry, distressed or 5 minutes before the store closes. You are likely to spend far more than what you actually went in for.

Watch for next week's will tie in nicely to the whole grocery store theme. Questions? Any good scores lately? {Never mind Kags!} Post them here and let's help each other out! xox

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Camp Croppin' on my mind

The time between now and Camp Croppin' is going by so very quickly. Last year was a whirlwind...I only had a few layouts to bring but really wanted to enter the competition because all the fees are donated to the Alberta Children's Hospital therapeutic scrapbooking program. Worthy cause, no? I think it's fabulous so I am of course compiling my layouts again this year. This is what I won with last year...a photo of my dear friend Annalisa's children.

As soon as I saw this photo I knew I wanted to do something with it. So...lots of painting and sewing on this. Small details and I love the "whimsy" care of Sheryl. I was stuck half way through the project looking for things that were small enough to add and I had nothing. Like nothing. I thought I would take a brain rest and go drop some stuff off at Sheryl's that I'd been meaning to get to her and dig through her vintage button collection to complete another layout I was working on. Just for a break. And she says "Oh! I forgot! I have a gift for you." She called it a "tiny jar of whimsy" and had all these small bits and bobs in it that were just perfect for the Oath layout. Strange how things work out, isn't it? She had no idea I needed stuff like that. I just asked her for metal buttons. LOL

This year I am really looking forward to travelling with some friends and showing the rest of Canada what Saskatchewan is made of. We seriously have some mad talent in this province. It is going to be an excellent weekend! Are you signed up yet? Check out the Camp Croppin' website for all the details!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Frugal Friday - It's all in the Baby Steps

Who knew Frugal Friday would be such a hit? Thanks peeps! xox And also who knew Frugal Friday would be my only posts this week on a scrapbooking blog? LOL Well, it's been that kind of week my friends. I have been cleaning, cleaning, CLEANING the scrapbooking room so I can get in there and create some art. Camp Croppin' is coming up fast and I want to be prepared. It's going to be a FAB time! So now that you know why I am so negligent in the blogging world we can get on with things.

Today's Frugal Friday is all about Baby Steps. Being frugal, striving to be debt-free and eventually stopping the stress caused by money doesn't happen over night. You can't wish for it, it doesn't just appear, a money fairy doesn't drop it on your head in your sleep. It takes days, months, years to achieve your financial freedom. But mark my words, you will achieve it. So take that first Baby Step:

Gather up every bill in your house. All of them. Even the ones you have hidden in your glove box, the bottom of your bag and tucked away at the back of the bread box. Now sit down with your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/life partner/roommate...or just sit down with yourself. Whoever is affected by this. I can hear the collective gasps happening all around the world. "But Kate, then they will SEE the bills!" Yes, they will. It's time. It's time to air the dirty laundry my friends. But there will be no judgement here. This is your first Baby Step. Don't fight has to be done. You may not be ready for this and that's ok. But you need to start at least thinking about it. Because if you don't know what you owe, how will make a plan to get rid of it, right? So this Frugal Friday is all about getting those bills into one spot. If you want to go buy one of those fancy office boxes from Staples, go for it. They aren't too pricey. If you already have a filing cabinet, great. If it's an old Xerox paper box, that's good too. No excuses, just get them all together and if you get inspired and want to take it one step further, sort them according to what they are. Utilities, credit cards, etc. When you have that done, it's one Baby Step crossed off the list. Now eventually what you want to do is analyze each bill. They need to go into a priority sequence according to which one has the highest interest rate. Pay those first. Higher interest=more money being taken out of your pocket every day. I know some of the Divalicious peeps are sooo very savvy when it comes to the banking world so this part is not for you. But for the babysteppers, this is where you need to get down and dirty and dive into some unknown waters. Talk to a banker about consolidation. That's taking all your debt {or at least some of it} and putting it all together on one loan or line of credit. Often they will give you a MUCH better interest rate than whatever department store credit card you have.

***Frugal Friday Tip of the Week*** STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM DEPARTMENT STORE CREDIT CARDS UNTIL YOU HAVE THINGS UNDER CONTROL. When you have everything settled, then by all means take advantage of all the great sales and deals offered with such cards {I do-but that is an entire post all on it's own}. But until then {re: all debt paid} just avoid the life sucking little pieces of death all together.

Points to ponder:

* Learn about interest rates. What are yours? Can you get a better one? Don't be afraid to pick up the phone! Ask questions, that is what they are there for.

* Late charges add up! Even if you can't make a full payment, never, ever make a late payment. Write your due dates on your calendar. And if you are short, call the company immediately. You get more flies with honey than vinegar and a friendly phone call works wonders in eliminating those late charges.

* Credit cards are not cash. Period. If you don't have the money, don't spend the money. Give them a break and live on cash for a while. You'd be so surprised what you learn about your spending habits.

* The bank machine isn't always "magic". LOL OK, this is a little tidbit from my childhood. We always called it the "Magic Money Machine". Convenient? Oh yes. But those little suckers can kill your budget. Do you actually look at your bank statements? {I do the paperless on-line thing, it's brilliant} If you use a different bank's machine, your fees can run you anywhere from $1 to $5. When we lived up North, there was one machine in like a one hour radius and we were 4 hours from civilization. And our charges were $5. Each time. Ouch. If you went to the machine just 4 times in a month, that's $20 which equals a pretty nice lunch out. "Oh it's just $2." adds up pretty fast. Every penny counts. How often do you visit the magic machine?

* When it comes to your finances there are no stupid questions. What's stupid is to be unaware of things. If you feel uncomfortable or belittled when you are dealing with your banker then it's time to get a new banker. That is allowed. Did you know that some banks actually want your business? They will cover any fees or penalties that occur in the switch from your current bank. All you have to do is ask.

The long and short of it is to be informed, be proactive and get it out in the open. Get together with a few of your close friends and form a support group. Frugality might not seem as glamorous as a five star meal, 3 Starbucks a day, designer clothing and gorgeous sunglasses but it feels amazing. A...MA....ZING. Whatever will you fret about when money is no longer an issue? Worry about what flavour of cupcake you'll be making next. It works for me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Do you know where you hide your money?

I'm not talking about the big mayonnaise jar you have buried in your yard 10 paces from the tree. I'm talking about day to day stuff. Where is your money going? Just a second, I am getting a head of myself here...this is supposed to be a scrapbooking blog. But the other day when I posted my review of that finance article and went on a little rant about budgeting I got a ton of feedback. People actually blogged...about my blog. That never happens! Check out Pam and Jenn. Thanks for the shout out girls!

I honestly thought this was all stuff that every single person knew. We just chose to live differently. But then I thought back to a few years ago when my benefits ran out at work and I was truly an AT HOME MUM. Making nothin'. Spongin' off the Hubs. {Don't freak out ladies...I know that's not how it is we just feel like that at first, right?} So I had to rein in the family finances and I hadn't a clue where to start. So that brings us to today's post. Do you know where you hide your money? No? I can tell you. Go get your garbage can. No really, go get it. I can promise you that this one change {the first one I ever made and have been building on ever since} will alter your budget and is a great jumping off point. So here is the question nobody wants to answer {I don't care who you are}. Are you looking at your garbage can? Ready? Ok, here goes:


I can bet at least a few of you blushed. When I asked myself that question on the first day I thought "I need to start saving my family some money!" I was APPALLED at how much food we threw out every month. So here are a few ideas that might help you out in that area. These are things I do all the time and really, it takes 5 minutes out of your day. So I don't want to hear "I don't have time to do that." Get off Facebook for a few minutes. {I am SO guilty there! LOL}

Common things that hit the trash the day before garbage day:

Carcasses. Whatever it is, I make it into broth. My fave is chicken. You know that rotisserie chicken you had a quick supper with last week and it's been hanging out in the fridge waiting to be thrown out? It still has a bit of meat on it but nobody really wants to pick it off and one sandwich isn't enough to even feed the kids at lunch so why bother? It's worth money. Take your slow cooker out, save the carcass and GO HERE. I guest blogged on my friend's food blog a great while ago. This is what I do with every single carcass that comes into my house. If you want to get really frugal, you can steal them from other people's houses too. I seriously LOVE Christmas and Thanksgiving. "Are you throwing that out? Can I have it? No, I brought my own ziploc bag, thanks." No kidding. My Aunties love me. And if I don't have time to deal with the carcass right then (I really do cook it in the slow cooker for a couple of DAYS as it says in the other post) I just throw the thing in my freezer. I have even been known to put a rotisserie carcass in the freezer still in the plastic store container. Whatever works. Think about how often you use broth. Recipes call for it all the time. I freeze it in 2-3 cup bags in my freezer and always have it on hand. It tastes FAR better than the store bought stuff and is hugely cheaper. You just may have to add a dash more salt but salt is cheap.

Produce. Ok, here is a sticky subject with me. For those who know me personally, I can be a, shall we say? I will often buy a bag of carrots and by accident it gets pushed to the back of the fridge until it's bad. DARN IT! I am trying to avoid that! So first rule of produce is don't buy it if you aren't going to eat it. I know we all have the best of intentions to eat healthy but you know your family best. Are they really going to eat that pretty spinach? The fastest way to kill your grocery budget is to buy stuff you don't eat. Now, if you just haven't gotten around to it and your peppers/carrots/whatever are just going a little south, they are still usable. Whatever is still good can be chopped up for stir fry, or sauteed and blended with the food processor and stirred into pasta sauce or soups. If I have zero time for that it gets blended, bagged and frozen. Again with the freezer. Is she on to something here?

Cupcakes anyone? I love me some tiny bits of frosted heaven. No matter how much weight I lose (or want to lose) I will never give up cupcakes. So what do you do with all the bits of frosting when you are done? I used to rinse it down the drain when I washed my icing bags. No more! I might as well be rinsing quarters down the sink. Now when I am finished, I use those cute little snack ziplocs and save the icing in their individual colours. It's genius because I can either use them again exactly how they are (icing freezes SO well) or if I need a whole bunch of brown or black I just take everything I have, whip it together and then add more colour. So no matter what I am using, especially fillings, everything gets saved and frozen for a future use.

WHO PUT THIS SOUR MILK BACK IN THE FRIDGE?!?!? Oh, we've all done it. Poured ourselves a tall, ice cold, lumpy glass of milk. UGH! We've cut back on our milk a whole bunch so it doesn't happen as much as it used too but from time to time it does still happen and I am actually happy! Many, many muffin and cake recipes call for sour milk. Normally, you just measure your milk and add a touch of vinegar to curdle it. But why not use the real thing? If milk sours in our house I make sure I take the time to whip up a dozen muffins to use it up.

The dreaded leftovers {insert villain music here}. Commit to actually using your leftovers. It's something that does take getting used to but now I make it my own personal challenge to make leftover meals actually taste good! Leftover roast beef? Shred it, melt some cream cheese with it, hollow out some french bread, stuff it in, top with sauteed peppers, wrap the whole thing in foil and bake until heated through. YUM! Tons of my leftover veggies get sauteed, blended and stirred into pasta sauce. You can add a whole lot of leftover veggies to a meat sauce before you even notice a hint of flavour change. Try it out!

But it was SUCH a good deal I couldn't turn it down. Ok folks, I love Costco just as much as you do. But seriously, does your family of 3 really need such a huge block of cheese? Costco is all about the commitment to prepare for the future. I sound like a mortgage broker here. LOL But really, if you buy a huge block of cheese, cut into it and a month later you toss half of it out is that really saving you money? Nope. Same goes for the great meat deals. And the cereal. I could go on and on. Ziploc bags are your friends. Not the cheap Dollarama ones {I use those for school lunches when a plastic container isn't appropriate} I use the real Ziplocs for storing food. Shred a certain amount of your cheese, bag it and freeze it for future use in cooking {tacos anyone?}. Invest in a good solid piece of Tupperware for your cereal so it doesn't go stale as quickly. Got some in the cupboard right now that isn't so savory? Turn it into sticky bars. Recipe is on the side of the Smooth Kraft Peanut Butter jar. I just add whatever I have on hand. The kids love them.

No, I am not one of those people on Hoarders who eats rotted food. I am a normal, reasonable gal. LOL But my journey in the whole world of saving money and making our family thrive on a single income started here. In the garbage can. It was the first change I made and I know you can do it too!

And since this really is a scrapbooking is a layout I did a while ago with one of my favourite children's poems Wynken Blynken and Nod. I have no idea why the title has that weird shadow on it, it's very clear in real life. Lots of textured embossing and my favourite part is the little ship I made with the ribbon flag. Super cute. Have a happy, creative, frugal weekend everyone! I think Friday shall now be referred to as FRUGAL FRIDAY. See you next week!~xox

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Inspired By Saucy {again}

I was peeking at Saucy Sprinkles today and she had a lovely list of gentlemen on there entitled "Saucy's amended celebrity boyfriend list". And although I think Saucy has...well...Saucy-licious taste in the gentlemen, it got me to thinking of what my own list would look like. Because I don't even have a first list...let alone an amended one. Which then led me to think about how the Hubs teases me relentlessly anytime we see a Matthew McConnaughey flick. Because apparently he's my secret celebrity boyfriend. And how can one argue with that? So I am putting this out there for all of blogging land to view because it's a great record of me. At 33. And what's "blowing my skirt up" these days. As the Hubs would say. Here we go, in no particular order but I will save the best for last.

Ty Pennington...because anyone who can build me one of these:

While looking like this: pretty OK in my books. I swoon at the sight of a tool belt. {And a great little tidbit of info is that one of my gym instructors totally looks like him.}

Confession: I am a wolf girl. Vamp tramps beware.

Yes, I remember how old I am. Yes, I remember how old he is. This is probably a great time to explain that I don't really like actors per say. I like the characters they play. I don't find Taylor Lautner particularly attractive. {OK, maybe from the neck down...but I digress} I just really like the whole tough guy-turned-wolf scenario. {And shoulder tattoos are totally sexy} So in my mind, Jacob Black certainly isn't a teenager and let's leave it at that.

I am also a big fan of the Lord of the Rings movies which leads nicely into Viggo Mortenson:
and Orlando Bloom:

Who both normally would never make the list at all but I loooove the characters they play in those movies. Are you sensing a theme of make believe here people?

In real life I do dig the badge. So of course the hard edged Stabler (Christopher Meloni) makes the list. {And just as an aside, his partner on SVU Mariska Hargitay is my hands down favourite small screen actress}
And the whole badge thing wouldn't be complete without a little Johnny Utah aka Keanu Reeves in Point Break. That is a great movie. He is not a good actor. Tight t-shirt. Muscles. Gun. Badge. OK, you can stay.

*Alert* Little known fact about Kate...

I love football movies. I actually don't understand the rules of football, have no idea how the scoring works and wouldn't know good strategy if it hit me in the face but as a good Saskie girl I bleed green {Go Riders!} and I didn't have a hard time watching a sweaty James Van Der Beek toss around the ol' pig skin in Varsity Blues.

Now here we go again with the "I like the characters not the actors" thing. I loved Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall. Oh my word did I love Brad Pitt in Legends of the...ok ok, you get the point. And I also almost fainted dead away when he said "Absolutely" in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. On a whole though, not a huge Pitt fan. But it's my list and I can add any conditions I want.
OK, I saved the weirdest one for next to last here. Timothy Olyphant. Dude, I am not going to knock your acting one little bit but I had a tough, tough time finding a hot picture of you. My apologies to your Mrs. {if you have one} but I just didn't find any of your photos attractive. But your totally skeazy portrayal of drug dealer Todd Gaines in the movie Go tickled my fancy. Nice job.
And now for the only secret celebrity boyfriend any girl needs. A little Matthew McConnaughey a la Sahara.
This is one actor I like in almost everything he does. I don't know what he is like in real life and I don't want to know. This is a make believe list. I love the scruff. I love the hemp necklace. I love the muscles. I love the hair. I love the tan. I love the dimples. Do I really need to go on here? I even liked the gag worthy character he played in Dazed and Confused. You know the guy who keeps getting older but loves the high school girls because they stay the same age? I even liked that guy. He was great in A Time To Kill and along those same lines Amistad. The lawyer life suits him. As does advertising executive, doctor, treasure hunter, yacht salesman, military man and football coach. Because I really loved How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Wedding Planner, Sahara, Failure to Launch, U-571 and We Are Marshall. Did I really just do a whole paragraph on my MM crush? I've told you everything. Who is on your secret celebrity boyfriend list? I really, really want to know. It makes my confessions seem less awkward.
*This list is by no means complete and I absolutely reserve the right to change anything at any time.*

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring has Sprung AGAIN! A Little CS love.

I have a love/hate relationship with secrets. I LOOOVE them because they are exciting and thrilling and I love the anticipation. I HAAAAATE them because I am impatient and I hate the anticipation. LOL So head on over to PRIMA <----- and you can share in the anticipation {and maybe a prize package!} Another thing I have a wiggly time waiting for is publication! No posting until the issue is here it is! Out on stands at a scrapbooking store near you!