Friday, January 23, 2015

Christmas Plans 2015 - Already?

Oh heck yeah!

Planning for this year started pretty much the day after Christmas.  I started jotting down ideas and then got that crazy hair to dive into my bag of leftover yarn and powered out two gifts for my darling girls.  That just got me fueled up and excited.

A couple weeks ago I found a clearance sale on gift wrap and was able to restock with four rolls of paper for $2.48!  That made my day.  It's the little things. J

I am planning yet another handmade Christmas and I have more ideas of things to make than I have people to give them too, I'm afraid.  I guess that just means I need more friends.

My girls have already given me their input on things they want to do, eat, bake as well as gifts they want to make.  They've also suggested a few things they might like to receive.

As far at the budget goes, this last one was a tight one at a mere $100.  Nonetheless I was able to pull it off and no one was disappointed with gifts or the things we did to celebrate the holidays.  This year, however, I plan to double it and do a little more for my girls as well as replace our defunct lights that had to be tossed out and buy a new wreath.  At $200 I should be able to do quite a bit.

So yes, I'm a little bit excited about preparing for Christmas once again.  I have way too much in the process but isn't that what it's all about?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

KIS - My Job

My job is not my life.  It is simply the means by which I finance my life.  My job does not define me.  I define the person that I am.

For years that is how I wanted to view myself and my relationship with the working world.  I am pleased as can be to say I am finally there.  In my endeavor to keep things simple I made, what I feel, are some crucial decisions regarding not only what type of job I would have but what type of employee I would be.

I am no longer an overachieving workaholic. 

I currently work in the accounting department for a large corporation.  It feeds my need for structure, organization, detailed work, and all my other anal retentive tendencies.  I thrive in this type of environment.  For the most part, I am left alone to do my job with little to no interruption.  For the first time in a very long time I am not in charge of anything and I do not supervise anyone.  At the end of the day I clock out and go home to my real life.

I have a nice sized cubicle and I am provided with everything I need with which to do the job I am required to do.  I have a comfy chair, a foot rest so my legs don't fall asleep and all the office supplies and state of the art tools my position requires.  Every night the cleaning crew comes by and empties my trash and vacuums my floor.  They even move stuff and get in the corners. J

Employees are provided with life, health, dental and vision insurance and coverage is offered to our family members at a discounted rate.  We accumulate vacation and sick leave.  There are also six paid holidays and we are given an extra day for our birthday.  My employer matches my 401 (k) contributions up to the first 6%, while most companies only match the first 3%.  I receive profit sharing too.

In addition, my employer provides us with a well stocked break room which includes complimentary coffee, tea and hot cocoa service.  There is also a supply of paper plates, plastic utensils, cups, two refrigerators with ice makers and chilled water dispensers, a four slice toaster and a very nice commercial microwave.  All to make us more comfortable.

I hope to retire from this company, God willing, but I also know that plans can change and who knows what my future truly holds.  But for now I'm content with my current working situation and quite happy with how I view myself and my job.  It sure took a load off when I decided to shift my priority from my job to myself and my family.

It took me awhile but I think I finally got smart about what a job truly is and what it means to me.

You may also enjoy reading Keeping Your Resume Fresh.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chinese Chicken Salad

A new favorite around here is this salad.  Super easy, not to mention delicious, and it is great to take to a potluck too.

Chinese Chicken Salad

1 pkg. coleslaw mix
6 radishes. sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 pkg. ramen, noodles only
2 Tbs. cooking oil
1 boneless skinless chicken breast half, diced
Soy sauce, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste

In a medium sauce pan heat oil and sauté chicken until lightly browned and cooked through.  Season with soy sauce and garlic powder.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Combine remaining ingredients in large mixing bowl.  

Toss with chicken and vinaigrette.

I personally like to replace the ramen with a heaping cup of those crispy chow mein noodles.  I prefer the crunch and flavor to the ramen.  I find the ramen to be rather tasteless.  Also good with slice almonds or chopped peauts too. Either way though it is a wonderful salad.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our Main Bathroom Updated

Last month I finished our main bathroom!

I knew I had pretty much a blank slate and a lot to do in here to get it to the point I would be satisfied with it.  Quite simply it had to be pretty.  I gave myself a $150 budget to work with.

I can't tell you how many hours I spent cleaning this bathroom.  There was a thick layer of hairspray imbedded with dirt coating every surface - walls, cabinetry, door, light fixture, thermostat, towel bars, light switch.  That stuff does not come off easily.  I used my Mean Green kitchen cleaner and it took it right off.  The transformation of the light fixture was mind blowing.

Before - gross!
Much better!
The faucet had been caked with cleanser and it had dried like concrete making the knob hard to turn on and off.  For quite awhile I had been trying to soften it and get it scrubbed off but it wasn't cooperating.  I needed to perform surgery.  With both a flat blade and a phillips head screw driver I took it apart and then the work really began.  I ended up using the flat blade to also chisel off the cleanser, an old toothbrush to clean the collected gunk out of the knob and a wooden toothpick to get in the grooves and tight spots.  I also used my Mean Green cleaner which worked amazing.  By the time I was done it looked brand new and it works so much better.  Bonus - I'm not grossed out by it anymore. J

Once I had cleaned the entire bathroom and mopped the floor it was time for the fun stuff.

I replaced the twenty year old brass shower rod with a new chrome one for $19.99 at Fred Meyer.  I went ahead and paid the extra $7.00 to have the fancy finials on each end instead of the plain gray rubber tips.  I think it is really much prettier.

The fabric shower curtain was $29.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond and was exactly what I wanted.  I used a 20% off coupon to save $6.00 making it only $23.99.  The transparent shower liner was on sale for $7.99 and the chrome rings were $9.99 at Fred Meyer.  The navy blue bath mat was on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond for $6.99.

My big splurge was the fancy soap dispenser for $19.99.  I fell in love with it and just had to have it.  After a month of shopping around and not finding one I liked any better I went back and bought it using a $5.00 OFF coupon making it only $14.99.  A price I could definitely live with.

The towels are super thick and soft and the colors pull together with all the colors from the shower curtain.  They were all on sale at Fred Meyer.  Two bath towels for $5.99 each and six hand towels for $3.99 each.  Layering them on the towel bars I think it gives them a much more classy and expensive look.

The two apothecary jars were $2.00 from the dollar store.  I thought they were perfect for holding Q-tips and cotton balls.  The little Chinese sauce dish I already had and the soaps were given to me by a friend.  She brought them back from The Mirage in Las Vegas.  They smell so good.

Total amount spent so far with sales tax $111.22.

I wanted to add artwork to the empty walls.  I've never put anything on the walls in here before but I thought it needed a little something more.  With a dwindling budget I needed to get creative.

I downloaded some vintage perfume ads and printed them off on photo paper I already had.  Then I put them in black frames I bought at the dollar store for $1. each.  I think they turned out perfectly and make all the difference in here.  I have also added a pillar candle and a square candle holder I bought at the dollar store.

Grand total came in at $115.56, well below budget.  Hurraaaaaay!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

I turned two brown speckled bananas into three loaves of banana walnut bread.  I used walnuts my father-in-law gave me from his tree at Christmas.  He had even shelled them.

I showed my oldest daughter how to polish a pair of leather shoes.  Mine!  She did an excellent job.

I watched the first episode of the new season of Downton Abbey on PBS using our Roku.

In the interest of rotating my freezer stock I substituted a small pork roast for the meat loaf I had originally planned for Sunday dinner.  After leftovers for lunches the next day I still had quite a bit of roast left and a dish of rice.  After clearing out the crisper I also had half a bell pepper, two stalks of celery, a handful of carrots and part of a large onion.  I cooked up another cup of rice, cut the roast into cubes and tossed it all together in my wok with some asian seasoning sauce and it turned out great.  What a way to transform a roast and use up some leftovers.

I served it with some asian condiments to garnish with too - Thai chile paste, sweet chile sauce and soy sauce.  Delicious!

On the way home from work I stopped at Walgreens and picked up some sugar free gum on sale for 69¢ a pack to put away for Easter.  I also used a 50¢ OFF and a 25¢ OFF coupon on some dish soap they had on sale for 99¢ each giving me a little jumpstart on next month's non food items.

I received another Customer Appreciation coupon booklet from Fred Meyer in the mail.  I plan to use several of these coupons as I used quite a few this month from the last batch they sent me.  One is for $2 OFF produce and another one is for $3 OFF meat.  I love that they do this!

I crocheted a lot this week.  Using more yarn from my stash I made two more scarf and ear warmer sets.  I think I'm going to work on making some inventory to restock my empty Etsy store either this summer or in the fall.  I have a ton of ideas swirling around in my head of items I would like to make and sell.  I also made myself an ear warmer to go with my coat from a leftover bit of soft gray I had from when I made my big afghan.  Now I have one to keep my ears warm when I'm out in the cold, which I definitely needed.

Saturday morning I scrubbed out my kitchen sinks and then filled them with hot water and bleach to remove stains and extra sanitize them.  I also soaked my drain stoppers, dish drainer and scouring pad in the bleach water as well as a tea stained coffee mug.

I finished up every last bit of a bottle of shower gel I had turned upside down in the shower the previous week.  I still have one upside down bottle of lotion I'm working on too. 

I printed off several more online grocery coupons.

How thrifty were you last week?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dollar Store Shopping

I find dollars stores to be rather handy for the thrifty minded shopper.  I usually visit them about once a month or so to pick up various items.  Not everything they carry is top quality but if you shop carefully you can find some pretty good things for a buck.

Some of the things I shop for routinely include:

Plastic food storage bags, wrap, aluminum foil & waxed paper
Plastic freezer containers
Facial tissues
Storage bins and baskets
Name brand canned cat food, cat toys, pet dishes, etc.
Hair accessories, combs and brushes
Name brand tooth brushes, flossers, toothpaste and mouthwash
Name brand soaps, lotions, deodorant, etc.
Fabric softener, dryer sheets, cleaning supplies, dish soap, etc.
Office supplies
Craft supplies
Picture frames
Candles and candle holders
Gift wrap, bows, ribbon and tissue paper
Greeting cards
Party supplies
Holiday decorations and gift items

Quite often our neighborhood dollar store stocks quite a few grocery items that are not only a great value but also pretty good quality.  The items I usually by are:

Pasta, lasagna noodles & rice
Sweet pickle relish, green olives, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, etc.
Baking powder, marshmallow crème, graham cracker pie crusts, etc.
Spices, extracts, lemon juice & food coloring
Candies, gum, cookies, crackers & snacks
Cheese slices
Ice cream bars

Through trial and error I've figured out what is good to buy and what is not so much.  How about you?  What items to you find to be of the greatest value?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

KIS - Money & Debt

Let's tackle this subject right now and just get it out of the way.  Money is a tough one to talk about and I think debt issues even more so.  I'm sure we can all agree that living within our means and eliminating debt is something we should all aspire to.  It is often easier said than done, however.

I firmly believe it is less about the amount of money you earn and more about what you do with it.  In my experience I find that the people who complain the most about the amount they earn also have the greatest money woes, while those in control of their money are content with their current wages.  No matter how much money a person earns, if one is not in control of their money there will never be enough.

Here are four key principles I have regarding how I handle my money:

Pay my bills on time or early - avoid late fees and penalties.

Have a savings plan - standards savings account, emergency fund, retirement.

Work diligently to eliminate debt - mortgage, loans, credit cards, etc.

Track every penny - earned and spent.

The easiest way to have more money is most often by simply spending less.  Overspending is a compulsive habit that can be overcome.  I like to say that adding to my savings accounts and eliminating debt is my compulsion.

Sometimes we have to sit down and ask ourselves some serious questions:

Do I know how much I spend every month?

Do I know how much debt I truly have?

Do I have a plan for my retirement years?

Do I know what my net worth is?

We have to look at what we do and where we are with regard to our current financial situation.  We can't just guess or assume and it really isn't wise to try and just wing it.  We really need to know, no matter how unpleasant that may be.  But once we know then we can do something.

We also need a plan.

Here are some links to posts I've written on the subject of budgeting and debt elimination:

Have any ideas you want to share?  What has worked for you and what hasn't?