2020 in Review

Well, we’re finally to the last day of 2020, and I think many of us are ready for a fresh start. We may or may not get it, but here’s hoping, at least!

Here’s a quick run-down of what I’ve been up to, on my own and with my family:

January: My husband and I, along with several good friends, successfully completed a week-long NRA training intensive to usher in the new year. I became certified as an instructor of the NRA’s Home Firearm Safety, Basics of Pistol Shooting, CCW, and Personal Protection Outside the Home courses. My husband received his next duty assignment, which was not to the state we originally were told it would be – that actually turned out to be good as we were able to “DiTY” our move (do it ourselves). THAT turned out to be a good plan since, oh, pandemic and military stop movement issues that threw a lot of monkey wrenches in the works when it was time to move.

February: We traded in my beloved Ford F-250 on a Subaru Ascent. Then I started voluntarily self-isolating, since my autoimmune disorder puts me in the high risk category with the virus, and put hardly any miles on the car. Still haven’t, really, including driving it halfway across the country. (I’m still not even to the first oil change yet. Wow.) I did get really wild and take it off on some dirt roads a few times. I even drove up a big woggledy hill (until I chickened out halfway and turned around). It TOTALLY still counts as off-roading. Totally. LOL

March: Started packing, anticipating moving mid-April. And the gods laughed… Continue reading

Frugal Accomplishments ~ Week Ending 11 Mar 2018

Happy Monday, everyone! Time for another Frugal Accomplishments update. I have a fairly short list this week, but some of the things brought us a lot of happiness, so I’ll take ’em. 😉 If you’d like to pop by and see Brandy and her other readers for some more encouragement, you can find her post for the week here.

As for me and my house – last week we saved with the following: Continue reading

Frugal Accomplishments ~ Week Ending 11 February 2018

Y’all, I am SO EXCITED to share our frugal accomplishments for last week! I know a lot of them will look a little silly to those who don’t know me personally, but suffice it to say I had a grand time playing around with some new apps and look forward to using them to save. Without further ado, here’s my contribution to Frugal Accomplishments for the week, hosted by the lovely Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker! Before we begin – just a quick note that this post contains affiliate links. They are clearly defined as affiliate links (in bold, even). No pressure – but if you use one, I’ll sure be grateful to you!

  • Used a museum membership to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (this time we walked the opposite of our route from our first trip, so we got to see the animals we didn’t see the first time!)
  • Mailed the documents to my daughter’s father for reimbursement of orthodontia and oral surgery. Hopefully all of that sum will be back by summer time.
  • Checked out books and DVDs at the libraries and used Overdrive to read e-books.
  • Noticed two library books in daughter’s room – I checked the checkout slip and they were due within the next day, so I returned them for her while in town so she wouldn’t get overdue fees.
  • Went to check out a locally owned shop for a baby gift and received a military discount on my purchases.
  • Signed up for Amazon Prime after discussion with husband about possible benefits; he has watched several shows he wanted to see using it and I have made two purchases and received “free” shipping. (Pre-paid is more how I think of it, but either way, it’s useful.)
  • Received coupons from my mom – took what we will use and shared the rest with a friend.
  • Received magazines in the same box – read through them and then passed them on to my friend to enjoy as well.
  • Went to purchase DayQuil at the base store; the generic was $3.49 per box while actual DayQuil was $7.99 a box. I bought two generics instead of one name-brand box and now my flu supplies are stocked up. (I couldn’t order DayQuil or NyQuil through the Walgreens website recently). Paid no tax due to being on base.
  • I’ve been looking for a better First Aid kit bag for my truck after using it recently and having things fall out – my husband got an email from Tactical Tailor for 50% off, but the bag they offered was still over $100. Researching further, I found a bag from Voodoo Tactical (another company I trust) for much less on Amazon – so I was able to use a leftover gift card balance to purchase that bag and a set of EMT shears & pupil light for no out of pocket payment. (One of my two “free” shipping purchases.)
  • Sent my InboxDollars referral code to two friends; downloaded the InboxDollars app and got some “Spin & Win” opportunities since I didn’t qualify for some paid surveys. Earned a nickel on a Spin & Win. Learned to follow the InboxDollars Facebook page to watch for extra earnings codes. [If you are interested in joining InboxDollars and would like to help me earn a bit as well, click here for my affiliate link.]
  • Signed up for Ibotta using a friend’s referral link, which created a $10 bonus offer for me (when I meet a certain minimum); downloaded the app, and started learning how to load my favorite stores and choose offers. True confession: I spent a good couple of hours geeking out on these two apps this weekend! Plus I kept texting my girlfriends about offers and things they might want to look up – I’m sure I drove everyone crazy, but I thought it was really fun! Then I made my first purchase and earned $0.70 cents back – I needed to restock a supplement and there was an Amazon offer on health and beauty items. I probably still look really strange trying to figure out some of these smart phone things (picture the most confused person you know staring at a device and tapping with one finger – they look cooler than me, I bet haha), but I got it figured out – and then I celebrated my seventy cent refund! Plus free shipping – that was the second Prime purchase. (Too bad I didn’t know to sign up for Prime FROM the ibotta app – that would have been a good rebate offer too!) [If you are interested in joining Ibotta and would like to help me earn a bit as well, click here for my affiliate code. You should see a message about a $10 bonus option like I did.]
  • Filed our federal income tax return using the FreeFile option; found out we don’t need to file a state income tax return due to active duty status. We will be receiving a refund, so we agreed again on the plan for the bulk of it (paying a large principal payment on my husband’s car, our only debt) and discussed using the rest to pick up some items on our “want” shopping list.
  • Received 3 free magazine downloads on Kindle Unlimited.
  • Pulled books from my shelves and our homeschool books to take to the local bookshop with my kids’ items – anything the owner is interested in will be store credit, helping her build inventory and helping us offset costs for books and gifts in the future.
  • Filled the car and the truck with $1 off per gallon fuel points.
  • Ate leftovers from dinners as lunches; daughter packed lunches and snacks for school most days and used some of her own babysitting cash for lunch one day.
  • Researched Coupons.com and found out they have an app – I’m going to look into using that instead of printing coupons at home, in order to save on ink.
  • Used drying racks for most loads of laundry; I had a large load for my husband’s and my laundry so I took the heaviest/largest items and put them in the dryer (with wool dryer balls, which help cut drying time) and dried the rest of the load on rack. Normally I’d put the heavy items on our second rack, but I don’t have pins that will fit over the larger diameter rods, and it was too windy to just lay things over them like I usually do. (Needless to say, some larger clamps of some sort are on the “want to buy” list! LOL)
  • Used homemade dishwasher soap in each load of dishes.
  • Charged our phones on the Goal Zero chargers whenever possible.
  • Did NOT attend a convention over the weekend that we had discussed going to. Even with the military discount they offered, we’d have been at $40 for the family to go. We used our museum membership (mentioned above) to have a prepaid outing instead.
  • Read e-books via Kindle Unlimited (still on free trial).
  • Cooked most meals at home from the pantry; made menu plan for this week’s dinners based on what was already on hand. I am specifically using up some canned soup and chili that my husband didn’t care for and told me to donate – I figure if I split them between all four of us and cook them with other items, we won’t mind the flavor as much (and the kids and I haven’t even tried them yet – we might actually like them). Tonight’s plan is chili dogs – I figure with a piece of bread, a hot dog, and some shredded cheese, the little bit of chili actually going on them can’t be all bad. Wish me luck with that plan….. 😉

Frugal Accomplishments ~ Week Ending 4 February 2018

Happy February, everyone! I am pretty excited to have a lengthy list for last week’s Frugal Accomplishments. A lot of them are tiny little things – but as with a to-do list, I love being able to write them down and look back at the list. It makes me feel like I really “DID” something with my days (or our money) on the days that I feel like I didn’t do “enough”. Do you ever feel like that too? Lists sure help fight it. We DO do enough – it’s just hard to remember some days. So here’s to the little things; like actual pennies, the little habits and choices sure add up!

As usual I’m sharing this link over on Brandy’s frugal accomplishments post at The Prudent Homemaker. This is one of my favorite parts of the week!

  • Homemade dishwasher detergent
  • Took my daughter shopping for foundation items – she desperately needed a fitting and some better quality than we had gotten previously in the base store, so we hit a department store. After a fitting and an hour of trying things on, she walked out with 6 new bras and a bottle of delicates wash. The ticket didn’t come up cheap, but hopefully these will last her longer (at almost 17, she shouldn’t have too many more growth spurts to come). The clerk was super helpful and pointed us to clearance items that were 65% off; we found two that fit and received an additional 10% off those. Then we found two that were 40% off. The last one was full price. (Boo!) We also learned that they have a collection box for used bras – a company washes and sanitizes them and provides them to women who need assistance getting clothing for job interviews. We will be taking my daughter’s old size bras and some of mine in for donation.
  • Wrote up my dinner menu plan using items on hand in the pantry/freezer.
  • Daughter rode with friends for church and youth activities.
  • My kids sorted through their books and I began sorting through mine to find titles that might be useful for the owner of the local bookshop – anything she does want will give each of us a bit of store credit. (Particularly exciting to me since she carries items other than books that make great gifts, so I can offset gift-giving costs the rest of the year.)
  • My husband and I discussed signing up for Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited; we’ve been Prime customers before, so I knew we had no free trial waiting, but when I signed up for Kindle Unlimited, I was given a free 30-day trial. Woohoo! I’ve already read a half dozen books for free through the Kindle Unlimited option.
  • Used our Goal Zero panels and vehicle chargers to charge phones. I figure I’m already running the truck to take my daughter to her GED class – it doesn’t use any noticeable extra diesel to plug in the phone for the drive. (I’m chasing that utility rebate from Housing every month! LOL)
  • Borrowed DVDs and books from the library (and made sure to turn them in right away to avoid late fees).
  • Dropped off glass recycling in town while already running errands in the drop site area.
  • Daughter packed lunches and snacks from home and carried a refilled water bottle to classes each day.
  • Researched the price of dog food online before going to get a bag for the pantry; I haven’t checked the prices in a while so I wanted to make sure the feed store still had the lowest price. (They did and I got it while already in the area.)
  • Used CrockPot for cooking dinner three days of the week. I’m finding it works really well for me to not only cook in it, but to reheat the leftovers I have scheduled.
  • Daughter found her “lost” student ID, avoiding a replacement fee. (She just happened to stick it in her binder instead of the usual spot she put it.)
  • Downloaded a free Kindle book.
  • Husband used fuel points to get $1 off per gallon filling his car.
  • I’ve kept a running list of items we need/want to buy (similar to the grocery list I keep going on the fridge) – as we found good deals on certain things, I picked them up.
  • Used drying rack instead of the electric dryer for several loads of laundry.
  • Bought groceries and some personal care items at Target and saved $13.66 using Cartwheel app (which I found out also includes manufacturer coupons – it’s VITAL to scan each item with the barcode reader in the app to check for additional coupons and discounts). The deodorant and body wash we bought were all part of a promotion to get a $5 gift card, plus one item had a manufacturer coupon. I also used a $5 gift card (earned on our last trip) and we saved on the 5% commissary surcharge on the food items (food tax is under 2%).
  • Got spare charger cords for our phones at Staples for $4 on clearance and $10 off a shredder. Our “want to buy” list included the charger cables – we wanted one for each vehicle and one for each of the little solar panels we received for Christmas. Our “NEED” list had the shredder. I chose a shredder that happened to be on sale and had picked up 4 cables at $9.99 each (they were less than the $14.99 buy one, get one half off option) – but I spotted some cables in the clearance area for $4 each. Sold! 🙂
  • Used the rest of a restaurant gift card from my folks to treat the kids to lunch after a very busy Friday morning.
  • Borrowed movies from a friend that the library didn’t have in their holdings.
  • Husband brought me seltzer at Wal-Mart while there getting something else – saving the commissary surcharge (more than 3% difference vs tax).
  • Husband ordered some professional gear for 50% off through a store that is closing.
  • Did NOT make purchases through the variety of sale emails I received – I just deleted them unopened unless the company offered something that is on our “to buy” list.
  • Did NOT go to the food co-op during military discount days as we couldn’t think of anything we truly needed there.
  • We splurged on to-go lunch from a favorite Mexican restaurant; the portions are so big that everyone ate leftovers for dinner that night (which extended my dinner menu plan by a day). The staff were super sweet and included several bags of tortilla chips and containers of salsa without us asking; they are serving as snacks for us now!
  • Used leftovers to stretch two meals. I had some rice and taco filling leftover from a dinner the prior week and popped it into the CrockPot with the rest of the ingredients while making chili – it actually made it some of the best chili I’ve made, so I’ll plan to do that another week. (On purpose then. LOL) Another night I had planned to reheat baked ziti leftovers two nights after making the first dinner, but my family ate a bit more of it than usual. I had some leftover green beans (less than half a can) that I put in the CrockPot, along with opening a full can, and tucked the ziti leftovers next to the beans. It all heated up just fine and I didn’t have to fire up the gas stove – and we filled in with green beans what we would have eaten in pasta servings.
  • Husband used meal card for breakfast and lunch all week of his class.

Frugal Accomplishments ~ Week Ending 28 January 2018

Now that we’re near the end of January, I loosened up a little on my No Spend Month, but not the Pantry Challenge. I did do some shopping this week on non-essentials, but went into the stores with a very specific list and made the most of the budget, and walked away VERY happy with the results. I also knocked several items off my house project list in the process.

As you’ll know if you’ve been following the news, the government shutdown that had us concerned when I last posted was short lived – this time. Hearing that things were bumped until 8 February was helpful, but only slightly. We are happy that there will be a paycheck at the end of January, but now we’re leery about mid-month pay for February. There’s always the chance that another shutdown will occur, so we’ll keep things tightened up until we know more. I’ve budgeted for an extra car payment but we’ll hold it until mid-month, just in case we need cash on hand instead. Same with some other items I want to purchase; they aren’t true needs, just filling in backstock as I’ve pulled the last of certain items to be used. That order will wait until mid-month. We’ll keep eating from the pantry and working those menu plans too. 🙂

Thank you, kind readers, to everyone who took the time to comment here and elsewhere, particularly those who expressed concern and care regarding our worries with the shutdown. That was lovely of you and much appreciated!

Alrighty – all that said, here’s my list of frugal accomplishments for the past week, with thanks to Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker for being a gracious hostess to all who participate in this weekly mashup.

  • Wrote up menu plan for dinners from items already on hand
  • Walked two nights (free exercise)
  • Homemade dishwasher detergent each load
  • Ate oatmeal five mornings (instead of buying fiber shakes)
  • Husband used the last of a can of Mountain House “Breakfast Scramble” that I had open to make lunch for himself and the kids, helping rotate it and preventing purchase of lunch out somewhere
  • Four Overdrive book holds came in
  • Husband learned how to download movies via Overdrive – he’s excited to watch them while working out!
  • Strange as this is going to sound LOL – doing the speed limit saved me money Monday morning! I usually watch my speed, primarily because I know it saves my fuel economy, but also because I don’t want to have to pay a ticket. While driving home Monday, I noticed an SUV coming up on my left REALLY fast – I was doing 55 in a 55mph zone, and they blew past me – then it suddenly slowed down. Within moments, said SUV was pulled over behind me by an unmarked SUV that was behind all of us. Yikes! Obviously I don’t know if the person got ticketed or not, but if there was one to be paid, I’m simply grateful it wasn’t for me. I’m hoping everyone got where they were going safely that day!
  • Watched a free PBS “Two Cents” video with my son about buying used vs. new vehicles
  • Pulled together the paperwork to submit to my daughter’s father for orthodontia reimbursement
  • Messaged the owner of the local bookshop to see what used books she might need/want; we are going through our bookshelves and if I can help stock her shelves while organizing ours, and maybe get a bit of store credit, it’s win-win!
  • Figured up the options for paying off husband’s car early; I have three scenarios, one of which will have it paid off this time next year (apx 3 years early) – we’ll see what happens with the paychecks in the near future though. Another option would have it paid off in 18 months or so, which is still nice and early. No matter which route we choose, we have concrete numbers to look at for the overall goal of early payoff.
  • Used drying racks for laundry
  • Used Sun Oven to bake cookies and eggs again
  • Discussed No Spend Month with a friend and committed to doing one with her in March
  • Looked up the retail prices of some homeschool curriculum I hope to sell, so I can price it competitively
  • Dropped off library books & DVDs while in town to prevent late fees
  • Made homemade all-purpose and window cleaning sprays
  • Received our utility rebate and transferred it to savings
  • Used a gift card my parents left for us to go to lunch; ate leftovers for dinner. (They bought gift cards for this restaurant before their Christmas trip and received 4x fuel points for them, but then left the remaining card here for us – it’s my step-dad’s favorite restaurant, so he splurged here but they don’t have one local to them.)
  • Filled the truck with $1 off fuel points, taking diesel to $1.69 per gallon
  • Replaced the cabinet handles of our TV stand – we got it in 2010 with a deep discount because of a chip on the back corner and a missing door pull; multiple PCS moves later, only one of the pulls is still attached (turned out they were just held in with a slip of metal the size of a paper clip). I picked four different pulls I liked and my family helped narrow it down to two they liked, then I chose the less expensive of those two. Total was $13 and it looks much nicer – and the doors are MUCH easier to open again!
  • Did a makeover of the desk space between our kitchen and dining room. I was getting really tired of/stressed by looking at the cork board of paperwork and the printer from where I sit in the living room and the IKEA catalog was getting mighty tempting! I could also use more counter space next to the stove and sink – so I decided to create a beverage center and tuck away the office supplies. (We use laptops, so the printer just sits there like a bump on a log until someone needs it anyway!) I had most of the items I needed, but wanted a shelf to organize our teas and a better mug rack, and decided to splurge on one large (size, not price) and one small item of decor for the space. I went over the Hobby Lobby website and narrowed down my options and preferences, came up with a budget, and hit the store. Once I could see everything in person, I made my choices. Everything came together quite nicely – I will post some before and after pictures here soon – and everything was 50% off. For $100, I was able to pull in items that will be perfect for any house we move into as we continue to move; all items that will be useful whether used in the same manner or spread out to various parts of a home based on each floor plan and space. And now we don’t have to drive to IKEA for no real reason other than me wanting to unleash my interior decorator side for a while. 😉
  • Went to a vintage book sale hosted by the Friends of the Library. Budget was $100, we only spent $26 ($36 if you count the $10 I gave my daughter as spending money).
  • Husband used his meal card from the class he’s in for breakfast and lunch all week, eliminating those meals at home, as well as the gas to drive home and back to class.