By Julie Norman
Monday, February 24, 2014
Last summer I began laying out my case for wanting a chest freezer. We had a small garden producing lots of zucchini, tomatoes, etc. There were lots of good clearance deals on meats and things at the grocery store and "well if I had a freezer..." We did some research and found mixed information on whether or not you could keep a chest freezer in a shed. Some said it would cut off when the outside temperatures dropped too low. Others said, well, even if that happens, the outside temps will be well below freezing and nothing in the freezer will spoil or defrost. We've weathered our first winter with our little freezer out in the shed, and it's worked beautifully!
We purchased a 7 cubic foot freezer from a store in town for less than $250. When you think of all the things you can buy in bulk, meals you can cook ahead of time, clearance items you can buy...you really get your money's worth pretty quickly.
We made space in our carport shed and added shelves above the freezer for extra storage.
You can see we keep all kinds of things in the freezer: I buy extra bread when it's on sale (and also supplement with homemade), we buy lots of chicken on clearance, and I buy lots of "second" peaches and either dry and freeze them or just chop them and freeze them for cobblers. If you're cooking a big bag of dried beans, you don't have to worry about any of them going to waste. Label a freezer bag and freeze half of them. They'll reheat and taste just as good as they did the first time!
By Julie Norman
Friday, February 21, 2014
From Brittany: I don't know about you, but I am itching for the weekend. Look at this forecast!!
At this point in the year, above freezing is enough for me! I have lofty goals to get some work done around our rental and to be outside as much as possible. Our landlord gives us discounted rent for things we do around the house and with a new home purchase on the horizon the extra dough is essential!
I could pick about 20 of these that I want to do this weekend but given my 48 hour window, I will just have to stick to a few. We have plenty of beautiful weekends heading our way!
From Julie: If you're looking for something to do with that old pair of crutches, that old door or anything else you have lying around, check out our Home and Building Association (HBA's) Upcycling Board on Pinterest!
By Brittany Dale
Thursday, February 20, 2014
How Stuff Works - 10 Tips for Staying on Budget
I read this today when I was perusing the www for budget tips and tricks. Talk about taking something for granted! While I am the first to recognize the amazing patience of my boyfriend, his willingness and skill to fix things and his ability to make me laugh, I didn't recognize another part of the cooperation that makes my life easier.
My team is the most important tool I have to be a penny pincher. Yesterday, I got an email that said “I went ahead and paid off the credit card, I hope that's ok.”
“Um, ya. That's fan-freaking-tastic.” We had a little extra money from tax returns and while we spent some money on items he needs for search and rescue, put some in savings and paid ahead on our bills, we still had a little bit left over. That email could have said “babe, I was feeling ambitious so I bought a scuba diving kit” or “I went ahead and had my car repainted.” Instead he considered our future and paid off his credit card. While mine stills looms ahead it is one less bill we have to worry about.
I have never shared finances with another person but I can only imagine how excruciatingly difficult it would be to have differing opinions about where the money should be spent. Don't get me wrong, we differ. I tend to be the stock-pile mouse and if I had it my way I wouldn't ever spend a penny while my guy aires on the side of less caution which teaches me to let go and that I just don't need to wear clothes with holes in them. Our differences seem to help us in the dollar bill battle yet our similar goal is what makes it all possible. We both want a stable financial future. We want to have a home and the things we need and our goal of financial security and freedom drives us to work together to get it done.
While this post is a bit on the sappy side, I do believe the biggest influence on a budget can be the very people trying to stick to it. If he was saving money and I was spending it, we would never get out of a hole. I'm grateful for a functional and successful relationship with our monetary influx... and out-flux. This team business can swing to the other extreme as well. If you both work together well by spending gobs of money, the budget will be nonexistent. I have friends who keep their individual finances completely separate and others who utilize outside help to keep their finances in line. Whatever way seems to work best, the hands touching the money decide where it goes. Make sure those hands work together. And make sure you wash them after touching the money, yuck.
Do you have a good team? Are you both on the same page or do you differ in your methods?
By Julie Norman
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Mmm...popcorn. Popcorn is a great snack for midday or evenings. We often eat popcorn while watching "House of Cards" or random Wednesday night sitcoms. But buying a 3-count box of microwave popcorn can get expensive. Most of the time those boxes are $3-$4 dollars. So what's the alternative? Make it yourself! For much less than $4 I can buy a container of white or yellow popcorn kernels. You can find these right over with the microwave popcorn, usually hidden down on a bottom shelf somewhere. AND you get way more than 3 bags of popcorn out of a whole container of kernels!
This is what's left of 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels that I popped in the microwave the other day. I simply put 1/4 cup of kernels in a brown paper bag, folded down the top and set the microwave for 2 minutes. It took a little longer than that, but when it was done I had great, homemade popcorn! You can buy an air popper - probably at Goodwill or the Habitat REstore, use the microwave method or the stove top method. The stove top is my favorite:
Pour a small amount of canola oil in the bottom of a heavy, 4qt pot (I use my soup/pasta pot). Make sure you have a lid for it! You just need about 1 tbsp of oil. Heat the oil over medium heat (4 or 5 on my electric stove) and drop in 3 popcorn kernels. When these pop, add in 1/4 cup of kernels and put the lid on. As soon as the kernels start to pop, shake the pot. Give a shake every 30 seconds or so while it's popping. Keep one hand on the lid! Soon you'll have so much popcorn that it will start pushing the lid off the pot! When the popping slows to once every 2-3 seconds, you can take it off the heat and let it set for a minute or two.
We like to add salt and, if we have it, some grated parmesan cheese to our popcorn. This will easily make 4 servings.
For more information on why you should make popcorn at home, check out this post by the Parsimonious Princess.
By Brittany Dale
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
The battle between renting and buying a home seems like a no brainer to me. Yet, if you asked me if I wanted to buy a house 2 years ago I would have said “heck no”. My circumstances have changed and given our fondness of the valley, the stability of having a committed relationship and the idea of growing roots by establishing equity in a home, we are looking to buy a home rather than continue renting.
There are hundreds of calculators online that help you determine whether renting or buying is right for your wallet. We are new to the home buying process so there are a multitude of learning opportunities for us. Whether or not you can afford the mortgage seems to be just the tip of a very large iceburg. We are qualified to buy a home but there are so many other factors that determine if buying a home versus renting is truly worth it, and not just financially.
I believe financial security is measured in additional factors unrelated to money. This blog is about saving money but for me the motivation to save money is to live with less stress. As I discussed last week, budgeting can be stressful but does having more money make it any less stressful? While the saying is true that money doesn't buy happiness, I believe the ability to purchase things you need without too much effort reduces stress.
If reducing stress is the goal, there are also tests to determine how high your stress level is based on your current life circumstances. Determining how a particular financial decision will affect you can be a tricky task. While the thought of buying a house is exciting, I have started to have stress dreams as the process progresses. Keep in mind, I tend to be high strung and stressed out anyway but change is particularly hard on me, no matter how exciting.
A simple google search is enough material to read for months about the pros and cons of both renting and buying. The disjointed rambling of this post is clear evidence that there may be no right answer for you and your family. Even from a purely financial aspect, the weighing of options is not black and white.
While there are options for a smaller down payment and we qualify for an extremely low interest rate there are other factors that affect our financial future. Weighing all of our options is a tricky game and we are lucky to have a great team of people helping us along the way. The financial commitment and challenges are daunting and exhilarating at the same time.
This is the beginning of our journey to home ownership. Wish us luck!
What do you wish you would have known when you bought your first home?