eat! craft! live!

Baking, crafting, mama-ing and taking photos of it all. When I remember.


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No Spend 2019: April-June


Areas where I was successful over the past few months:

  • I paid off my car! My goal was to get it paid off by the end of the summer (before I have to start paying aftercare again) and I did it!
  • Our bills, again, were pretty consistent and reasonable. I expect some of them to go down further for the summer – natural gas, electricity, gas for the car, tolls… No heat, no commute to/from school!
  • I bought a couple new summery dresses and a pair of sandals, because my wardrobe was looking a little scanty recently. Why is this good news? Because I purchased second-hand items – better for the environment, better for my wallet!

Areas where I could have improved:

  • We spent way too much money eating out. It’s one of the few luxuries we have, and I’m loathe to rein it in, but we really do need to cut back. The end of swim lessons will put a stop to eating at the Holy Donut every week, which is sad for my tastebuds but good for my budget.
  • I tipsily bought a handful of new enamel pins. They’re fun! They were on sale! Excuses.

Areas I spent more than expected, but mindfully:

  • I bought a folding stationary bike. I consider it money well spent, since it’s exceedingly hard for me to leave my house, without kids, to work out and I really need to invest in my health!
  • I paid for part of my trip to Rhinebeck in October. Could I not go and just save that money? Sure. Do I really need to get a way once in a while? Absolutely.
  • I spent a small amount of money on embroidery and cross stitch supplies. It’s my “summer craft” – portable, inexpensive, and not woolly! It does wonders for my mental health. Stitching in the hammock is pure joy.

All in all, not too bad. Now that my car is paid off, I’ve upped my retirement contribution and I’ll start saving money while I have it to save, because my financial situation in the fall will be very different, unfortunately!


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No Spend 2019 – March

Well.

Good intentions, AMIRITE?

To be fair, a lot of my spending in March was due to a trip* to Washington, D.C. I took for work and which I’ll mostly be reimbursed for. Also it was tax refund time and while I never go wild when I get an unexpected windfall, I did loosen up the purse strings just a bit last month.

That said… Areas where I was successful:

  • Regular bills – they don’t change much, we’re thrifty with our energy usage.
  • Home & garden maintenance – I purchased some seed starting materials, but that was about it.
  • I also spent way more on my car payment this month, which is the general idea of spending far less in other areas – gotta get that car paid off! Between budgeting and tax refunds, I was able to pay more than 4x the usual car payment…plus the actual car payment. Woo!

And then there were areas I was less successful:

  • Groceries – somehow I ended up spending far more on groceries, despite being out of town for a week?!?
  • Clothing – a series of unfortunate (and fortunate?) events led me to be at Old Navy unexpectedly. *ahem* I went searching for one particular dress I knew was there and in the process picked up a few more items on clearance. So it goes. I also bought new shoes for walking around DC and I’m so glad I did – I walked 10+ miles one day!
  • Eating out – Spent loads in this category last month. Again, due mainly to being out of town…but not entirely.
  • I also picked up a handful of things in DC as souvenirs. A giant pompom (which delights me to no end) and enamel pin from Fibre Space. An enamel pin from the Library of Congress.

There were also some expected, but irregular, expenses, namely:

  • yearly car registration
  • 6-month car insurance policy renewal (I pay in full)
  • dance recital tickets

It wasn’t the greatest month, with regard to the budget, but it wasn’t terrible either! I’ve done some math and I’m hopeful that I will actually be able to meet my goal of paying off my car by the end of the summer. Fingers crossed and belts tightened!

*The trip was to the Digital POWRR Institute and it was amazing. The whole training was fantastic, the weather was perfect, the food was great, the Library of Congress was awe-inspiring, the museums were phenomenal…

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No Spend 2019 – Jan/Feb update

So, now that it’s March, are you wondering how I did with my spending in January and February?

Probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

It wasn’t until a little ways into January that I decided to be intentional about my spending this year, so there were a few purchases that slipped into the beginning of the month that I may not have made otherwise. (Some home stuff, a new [secondhand] dress, skincare products.)

Interestingly, my February spending on home improvement actually went up…by a fair amount. Oops! I bought some under cabinet organizers and a new toilet seat to replace our cracked one. My household bills were about the same – they really only change with the weather and it isn’t warm yet. I spent less on gas & tolls – entirely because of February vacation and not driving my kids to school every day that week. I spent slightly more on groceries and far more on eating out, which I also attribute almost entirely to February vacation. I spent much less on personal care (no new skincare products this month!) and clothing. I did end up buying a pair of leggings because I wear them religiously and my many pairs are starting to become hole-y. (See what I did there?)

It was also my birthday this month and I did choose to spend birthday money on fun* stuff instead of getting ahead financially. All work and no play, y’know… And thus, I now own proper bread proofing baskets, a fancy lame, and some lightweight lidded containers so I no longer have to lug around a heavy glass bowl. My bread today was fabulous, yes.

Screen Shot 2019-03-03 at 5.13.49 PM

Cranberry walnut sourdough. Amazing.

*I am now at an age where fun = bread baking supplies and storage systems. Yup.


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No Spend 2019

I debated whether or not to even post this, but I rather want some accountability, so I’m going to. Even just posting this will help me hold myself accountable.

So hi! My name is Laura and I’m not going to Buy Things* in 2019.

I have a lot of reasons for this. Mainly to do with trying to save money, but also about trying to consume fewer resources.

As a newly-single-income household, I’m going to need to pay even more attention than usual to where my money is going. I’ve always budgeted and I’ve never been a big spender (it’s…uh…never really been an option) but this year I’m really going to say “no” to most everything, spending-wise.

I have two major financial goals for the year:

  1. Pay off the kids’ summer camp before 2020’s summer camp payments come around
  2. Pay off my car (so I can afford to pay my rent come fall)

Summer camp…is expensive y’all. I don’t exactly make it easy on myself, financially, sending my kids to a summer camp they love (that’s more expensive) instead of the cheap one in town (that E hates). I don’t feel guilty about it though – they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. My mom sent me to a fantastic summer camp that I know she couldn’t afford and I loved it and have incredibly fond memories of it to this day.

My car isn’t due to be paid off for another 16 months or so but in order to be able to afford rent on my own, I can’t have a car payment. (Or…some other payment. But the car payment is the only thing that I’m going to reasonably be able to get rid of.) The good news: a lot of y’all have been incredibly generous and I’m all set for rent for the next two months…at which point I will be done paying for aftercare for the school year… So! My goal is to pay off the car while I have no aftercare payments so that once they kick in again in August, that car payment will be gone. The good news: I have a tax refund coming at some point for an as-yet-unknown amount (but probably a lot) and I have a freelance job through at least May, hopefully September. Can I do it? Stay tuned!

Financial reasons aren’t the only reasons though. Lately I’ve been feeling really tired of consumerism. I’m trying to eliminate single-use plastics from my life. I’m trying to purchase mindfully. I’m trying to reduce, reuse, recycle, y’all. It feels cheesy to say so and I know that my own tiny actions aren’t going to save the world, but at least I can do what I’m able to. For instance, recently I ran out of cotton balls, which I use morning and night. I thought, “There has to be some reusable option for these…” and proceeded to buy some washable organic cotton rounds from an Etsy seller, made from scraps. I haven’t used them yet but I’m looking forward to trying them out tonight!

*My exceptions for my No Spend Year are that I’m allowing myself to buy necessities, replace things that break/run out/wear out/whatever, and purchase second-hand items, as needed. For instance, on a trip to Goodwill I found a like-new popover pan, frying pan, and curling iron. They were all things I’d wanted for ages and second-hand cost me under $10 for the lot. And those cotton rounds? I was either going to have to buy more disposable products or I could spend a bit more and have a reusable option for, hopefully, a very long time into the future. I make my own rules, yo.


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homemade laundry detergent

making laundry detergent

This post is selfish. I mean, it's not that I don't want to help you all out by telling you how to make your own laundry detergent for super cheap. But the main reason I'm posting it is because for some strange reason, every time I go to make this, I've forgotten how much of everything goes in it. And when you see what goes into it…well…you'll laugh. How could I forget something so simple?

(Truthfully, I think it's because I tend to confuse it with the homemade dishwasher detergent I used to make – almost the same ingredients but different amounts.)

What you see up there is everything that goes into it – borax, baking soda, washing soda and fels naptha soap. There's a big gallon-sized glass jar back there that I store it in, and my trusty food processor to speed up the process. (Not necessary, but helpful.) You can probably find all of these ingredients at your local grocery store or perhaps Target. They generally live in the laundry aisle, except, obviously, the baking soda, which is in the baking aisle. If you think you don't see them, look again – they tend to be either on the top shelf or the very bottom, sometimes hiding toward the back. Not big money-makers, these.

making laundry detergent

Fels naptha soap! The smell takes some getting used to but I'm accustomed to it now. It's a very hard soap, which is one reason I use my food processor to grate it. You could always use a handheld grater, it'll just take some muscles and a bit of time. I've heard of people using castile soap bars as well, but have never tried it myself.

making laundry detergent

First step – grate the soap. One bar per batch. Not cheese. Don't eat it… Because my food processor is not that large, I then dump the grated soap out into a bowl to hang out for a bit while I mix the rest of the ingredients.

making laundry detergent

See that big lump? That's why I always dump the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple times. I invariably end up with lumps in my raw ingredients, probably because I store them under the kitchen sink and they end up getting damp. So, what's in here? One cup each of borax, baking soda and washing soda. (See? I told you you'd laugh. It's so easy!)

making laundry detergent

After I've pulsed the white powders, I slowly add back in the grated fels naptha soap. It processes the grated soap into a fine powder and distributes everything (relatively) evenly into a pale yellow powder.

making laundry detergent

Voila! Laundry detergent! This jar is currently holding three batches. I usually make multiple batches at the same time, since I've got everything out already. But I do mix them up separately, due to the size of my food processor. To use, I keep a small coffee scoop that has, I believe, a 2 tablespoon capacity, right in the jar with the detergent. For each load I use less than one scoop of detergent. Smaller loads get a little less, but our usual load of laundry is pretty large.

laundry detergent

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 bar fels naptha soap

To make – Grate the soap. Combine the powders, either in a food processor or large bowl. Add in the grated soap and process or stir to combine.

To use – Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons into your laundry, depending on the size of the load and how dirty it is, and wash as usual.

Notes:

Yes, the fels naptha soap has a strong smell. It dissipates slightly once combined with the other ingredients and frankly, I just got used to it.

How long does it take me to make this? I made three batches in under ten minutes. It's super quick.

How long does it last? I generally make multiple batches, so I can't say exactly. Also, it will be highly dependent on how much laundry you do. We do a LOT of laundry and I don't make it more than once every couple months, if I remember correctly…

How much does it cost? The powdered ingredients cost a few dollars each at my local store. I don't believe any one of them costs more than $4 or so, probably less, and they last for a good long while. The fels naptha soap is about $1/bar. A note about the cost of ingredients – in my experience, they will cost much, much less if you can get them locally. When I couldn't find borax in our usual grocery store, I looked online and it was more than twice as much. The fels naptha soap is almost 4 times as expensive if you have to get it online. So how much does a load cost me? Not much. That's about as far as I can narrow it down!

Baking soda? I've seen people say that the baking soda is unnecessary. It might very well be. I figure, as cheap as it is, I might as well add it. It certainly isn't hurting anything!

Whiter whites? Nope, sorry. One thing this homemade detergent does not have is what they call "optical brighteners." These are chemicals added to laundry detergents that don't actual make your clothes cleaner, they just make them look like they are. I have noticed some of our lighter colors tending to look a little dingier than they used to. This doesn't bother me immensely, as most of our clothes are dark anyway.

Happy laundering!


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saving money: travel

train tracks

I admit I don't have a ton advice regarding saving money while traveling, since most travel, even the most basic, is generally out of our financial reach. (Also, traveling with a toddler? Not easy. It can be fun, for sure! But not easy.)

My one big tip for locals (and others?) is to check megabus.com for bus tickets. For my recent jaunt down to Boston (to catch a train to Connecticut) I paid a grand total of $13.50 for my round trip bus tickets when I would normally have spent $36! Same bus service, same everything – just a cheaper price! I must admit I was wary at first…would they treat me like a second-class citizen when I showed up with my megabus confirmation? Would they even let me on the bus? But I needn't have worried. It was just as easy and seamless as having purchased my tickets at the station, from the carrier.

The other recommendation I have is that if you have a baby, travel with them before they cost any money! Generally speaking, this means before they turn two. I took E on a train trip when she was 5 months old and it was great fun. She was still little enough to be highly portable but old enough to sit on her own and not fuss too much. (This will, of course, depend upon your particular baby's mobility and temperament…every baby is different!)

Good luck and have fun!


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saving money: baby

diapers!

Everybody wants the best for their child. Of course. But the best doesn’t have to be the most expensive. Sometime it is, true, but not always or even, dare I say, often. Here I’m going to share just some of the ways we’ve managed to keep costs down with our kiddo(s).

We cloth diaper. You knew I was going to lead with that one, didn’t you? Smartypants. If you are interested in cloth diapering, I did a whole little series on it a while back, so I won’t go into all the details again here. Cloth diapering can, if done frugally, save you a ton of money. (You could, of course, buy all very expensive, beautiful, handmade, coveted-by-all cloth diapers and spend an absolute fortune. But we won’t get into that.) We use mostly prefolds at home, with Thirsties covers. For daycare and others who aren’t as familiar with cloth as we are, we use almost exclusively Fuzzibunz pocket diapers. They’re easy as pie to use and fit our girl just fantastically. We used a few other brands of pockets diapers, but always come back to the Fuzzibunz – they just work best for us! I’ve kept track of every penny we’ve spent on diapering – actual diapers of all kinds, cloth purchased to make diapers, wet bags, pail liners, snappis, everything. (I have not included any of the washing costs, because I wouldn’t really know how to separate that out…but we don’t have a dryer, so the washing costs are minimal.) The grand total (so far) for just over 25 months now of cloth diapering is a bit over $700. I bought used diapers and accessories, made my own diapers, took advantage of sales, seconds and other special offers when I did buy new things and picked up more than a few things off Freecycle. The only downside to cloth diaper expenditures is that they do largely come all at once, near the beginning of baby’s life, or before they’re even born, if you’re a planner like me. One major bonus now is that once baby #2 makes his arrival in July, we will have next to nothing in diapering costs for the rest of the time he’s in diapers! (We may need to replace a few…we’ll see!) Another bonus is that there are a few diapers I already know I’ll be selling, so not only will we not be buying anything (or much) new but we might also be able to make some money! $700 (give or take a bit) to get two kids from birth through potty training? I’ll take it.

We buy used/get hand-me-downs. For an outfit a baby is going to only wear a few times before they outgrow it, why buy brand new? If it’s something you particularly love, go ahead. Splurge. But an entire brand new baby wardrobe? Do people actually do that? We got most, and by most I mean probably upwards of 90%, of our baby clothes/accessories and gear used. Second hand children’s shops can have great deals – we got a $60 playmat for E for $7. I think the only new baby gear we bought was the carseat – and a carseat is not something to mess around with. They expire and there’s no way to know if it was in an accident, so a carseat is one thing that I never recommend buying used. (I’d make an exception for buying one from someone you know really well – close friends or family. You’d probably have known if they were in a car accident, right?) We have second hand nearly everything, and it all works just fine.

We make things. I’m including a lot of “things” here – diapers, clothes, plaything, etc. Yes, I made diapers. Clothes for babies, especially girls (dresses!), can be pretty easy and cheap to make. It’s easy if you pick the right (simple) pattern and it’s cheap because, well, they’re still little and don’t need much fabric to adequately cover them! At some point, probably soon, the cost of store-bought clothes will be less than the cost for me to make my own for E and that will be a sad, sad day indeed. I made several of my own stretchy wraps – for the price of a couple yards of discount jersey fabric, I have 3 lovely wraps that would have cost me an arm and a leg if they were all brand name Mobys or Sleep Wraps. (Bonus: No sewing involved!) There are a variety of other things that can be handmade, depending on what skills you and/or your loved ones have – tag blankies, wooden teethers or rattles, soft blocks and other small games and toys. And related to this…

…tissue boxes make great toys. Have you ever given a kid a nice gift only to have them be much more interested in the wrapping/box/bow? Not only can you make your own toys but you can probably repurpose lots of things in your house for a baby or small child to play with. I keep a canister of the safest kitchen utensils on the lowest shelf in the kitchen for E to play with. Rubber spatulas, wooden spoons and the like. She loves it! (Of course, I invariably end up finding kitchen implements all over the house…) Pots and pans, cardboard boxes, there is no end to a child’s imagination…

We made our own baby food. E is past the age now, but for a while, I would simmer some pears, whir them with the blender and pop them in ice cube trays to freeze every week or so. Making baby food, especially simple fruit and veggie purees, is really, really easy and so much cheaper. Plus, you have the added warm fuzzy of not buying a million little jars and packages that might end up in a landfill.

These are just a few of the ways that fit with our lifestyle to save money with a baby. There are tons more! Do you have a favorite? Share in the comments!