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Monday, April 22, 2019

Frugal Living ~ Earth Day 2019

Isn't it wonderful how living a frugal life often goes hand in hand with environmental goals?  By making many foods from scratch, you save money and buy less metal and plastic containers!

Here are some of our frugal/environmental habits:

  • Make homemade yogurt 
  • Make homemade iced coffee
  • Use dried beans to make multiple meals, I've written about black beans and pinto's
  • Plant a garden from seeds, not starter plants that come with plastic pots but if you really must buy a starter tomato plant, then at least keep the plastic pot and reuse it for as long as possible
  • Wash and reuse zip lock bags, I can't bring myself to stop buying them completely but I can and will make myself wash and reuse them.
  • Cut out paper plates - sure they are convenient but wouldn't you rather have that money in the stock market gaining compound interest until retirement?  Oh yeah, I've been reading Millennial Money's Financial Freedom book.  Side note - I've even tried buying what are called compostable paper plates but we know from personal experience they take forever to break down and we end up throwing them in the trash which is just very sad.  It's a completely unnecessary cost so we've banned buying paper plates this year.
  • Compost all degradable food wastes, we live in the city with a very small backyard and we are still committed to this habit.  How does this save money?  We don't have to buy dirt for our garden!  My butternut squash are a testament to how big and happy food can be when it's given composted dirt.
  • Shop at Aldi - it will force you to bring your own bags and not use plastic shopping bags just because they are there and convenient.  Aldi is cheaper than Walmart so it's kinda a no brainer in the frugal world.  
I'm not a hard core "no plastic" kind-of-girl, but I do want to do my part in cutting back on our trash contribution to the planet.  I love that it goes hand in hand with our frugal goals.  

Other areas we are looking for savings in both cost and environmental:

I'm psyching myself up for canceling our Prime membership to Amazon $119.  It's set to renew in June or July.  I keep thinking about the cost to the environment to ship often times one item I have to wonder if it's worth it to me to continue.  I also am not sure it's really saving us that much money and we never watch anything on Prime streaming or use the Prime reading options.

We are also considering consolidating our Costco runs to every two months.  We love Costco, but it's a 30 minute trip and we currently go once a month.  Next month we are going to see how it goes to buy for two months.  

In summary, we would like to wish all a Happy Earth Day and Happy Savings Day!  :)

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Homemade ~ Vanilla Chia Avocado Smoothie

Husband and I used to work for Smoothie King in Florida, and a short stint with our friend in Pittsburgh when she owned "The Juice Shop" so we've got some mad smoothie making skills, lol.

This is a green smoothie, without the horror of spirulina - if you like it then just disregard this entire recipe because this is for those who want a green smoothie without puke inducing spirulina.


  • 5 cubes of ice
  • 1/4 avocado ripe enough that you can press a finger gently into it and cut easily with a knife, if it's too hard then wait a few days, hard avocado is never a good thing
  • 1/2 banana - fresh or frozen (although frozen will help make your smoothie colder)
  • 1 Tablespoon Nesquik Vanilla powder - I only specify this brand because other vanilla powders are very expensive, this can be found at CVS (oddly enough not found on Amazon).
  • 1/3 cup Oregon Chai Tea sugar free, I've found this at my local Walmart or homemade Chai
  • 2/3 cup Milk (I use 2% but use whatever milk you prefer)
  • 1 handful of spinach 
Blend until smooth.

I don't taste the spinach and since I'm not big on salads, it gives me a dose of greens.  I have a cheap blender and it manages to blend the spinach so well there are no chunks.  This is a 16oz smoothie.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Downtown House - 1st Spring

We're getting comfortable here, having survived one winter - that makes it sound so dreary doesn't it?  Like as if we had to work hard to survive.  It's not Laura Ingalls Wilder's world, sorry to be so dramatic.  It's just that a new house brings surprises that are not always easy to work through - there were the surprise mice that moved in late fall, the vast number of windows in our bedroom that should have gotten some sort of plastic film to keep the winter at bay, the shockingly high electric bill for lack of any other heat source, and the stupid bugs who just won't take a hint and stop inhabiting our dishwasher (I swear they scoff at our attempts to poison them).  Oh, and the unfinished stairs that continually caused kids to get splinters until we finally finished covering them in carpet.  And the cat, who is 19 years old and no longer wants to use her litter box.

New homes, they bring so many surprises and make old pets a little loopy.  Is it any wonder that it's spring and I already feel like house hunting again - that and the shockingly horrific increase in Maryland taxes.  I know I just need to work harder at making this home more comfortable.  Right now there are no spring flowers in the yard, I guess we didn't get to them in the fall.  We were so caught up with mom's move right after ours, then a trip to Asia that was 17 days long that nothing got done around here for several months.  I complained about lack of curtains for so long that a friend just recently asked if I'd finally managed to cover all seven windows in our master bedroom and closet area.  We did, I had to go to 3 Walmarts and shop online to find enough.  I guess they consistently didn't stock more than 1 or 2 of the same curtain at each store.  So weird.

On a positive note, my amaryllises are blooming and gorgeous as always.  So here are my lovely indoor spring flowers:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Frugal Living - Taxes (Rewrite - after initial freak out)

As a work-from-home consultant, I try to be very conscience of all the factors affecting our tax bill.  I pay quarterly and base those payments on prior years.  I'm careful and meticulous about receipt documentation, charity records, travel mileage, home office costs, etc.  For five years this has worked well for me, some years I owe, then I adjust my quarterly filings to compensate, occasionally I'll get a minor refund and that is the goal - to pay enough into the system that I don't owe anything.

This new tax code worked out okay on the federal side, I got a very minor return, but something happened with Maryland.  They saw the federal government was making big changes so they made their own changes that caused a $1200 increase!  I made a mistake last year and didn't carry over one 1K in tax so we ended up with a bill for 2,227.

I must have missed a memo, news article, something - where was the notification to pay 25% more for the same salary?!?

Thankfully I believe in hyper savings so we are able to pay this bill, but it doesn't help that I left taxes to the last minute, filed on the deadline and had to frantically move money around hoping it would enter my account and leave it without causing further mayhem.

I'm thankful tax season is over but I plan to spend more time each quarter updating my chart of deductibles so that I have less work to do next year when tax season rolls around.

Here is a breakdown of the new tax form as I understand it:

We qualified for the standard 24K deduction, this means we can no longer claim mortgage interest and charitable donations.  Bummer, I liked writing off tithe, Compassion and other miscellaneous charities but I used to spend a lot of time analyzing the donation value of household items and clothing that we donate to the Hope Center and I'm kinda happy I can just drop off and skip the paper work now.

I can still write off office supplies, 50% business meals, vehicle miles, mobile phone, internet, and business travel expenses.  Our IRA's are an adjustment to income and we could start a 401K to drop our tax level further.

I think by next year I might like the new tax code for federal as they did make it simpler and easier to fill out.  The 24K deductible covers our charity and mortgage interest so those are just two less things to deal with, although I wonder how many people will cut back on charitable donations now that it's no longer an easy deductible.

I'm still peeved with Maryland for increasing our taxes 25% but I'll get over it.  Taxes are inevitable - right?

Friday, April 05, 2019

Frugal Living ~ Kid Consignments

I've been selling my kids clothing, baby equipment and used toys at local consignment pop up shops for the past two and a half years at three different sales. 

Kids Closet Hagerstown
Kid Cycle Myersville
It's Nearly New Williamsport

My favorite, It's Nearly New, ended in 2018.  I was very sad about this because I liked the owner very much and enjoyed working with her since I first started consigning in 2016.

My 2nd favorite just finished their 3rd event and I've enjoyed watching them grow.  It's a family affair, the dads set up, grandma helps out with the kids, and two moms share the event.  They are really nice and fun to work with, there are volunteers who help put my stuff out on the floor, and when I come to pick up, everything is consolidated.  This will be my go-to event going forward.

Kids Closet is okay for picking up things I can't find at a smaller sale, but the prices can be higher and quality is not always worth the price.  I've tried consigning with them several times and it's always been a hassle to find my items, no one helps and I don't see enough to make it worth the effort. 

I once read a successful bloggers take that consigning isn't worth her time.  I get it, time is a finite resource and it's not renewable, but I like the community aspect of bringing my kids stuff to an event, talking with other mom's and finding good deals on items.  We've gotten cheap skates for $3.00 that my kids can practice in, a small harp with music sheets, pajamas for $3.00, etc.  I could still get these deals by not consigning, but I enjoy getting some money back for our gently used items.  So even though I'm not making much per hour, sometimes $3.00 per hour, I don't care, I'll keep doing it until I run out of items to sell. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Art - Photoshop Kids About to Fly Away

It was extremely windy at Target on April 1st, so we thought it would be hilarious to take photos of the kids looking like they were about to blow away and post them on Facebook.  Lots of friends liked our post but didn't comment, it took a 6 year old looking over her mom's shoulder to inquire about how we did this, mom asked and 6yr old said we had fooled them good for April fools!  LOL.

Here's the basics on how to edit children about to fly away, without going into detailed steps.

First we take a photo without dad.

Next we take photo of dad holding child up.

Next we crop dad out of the photo and replace the background with the first photo, the straight line of the building makes this very easy to line up.

She looks so relaxed.