Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Wrapping Up A Thrifty December

I ended the month with a car nearly on fumes and $95 left in my checking account, not enough to cover the power bill, but pretty close so I'm not complaining about that.  On the first day of the month I filled up the tank on our car and we were good to go. I was able to make it last all month too.  On payday I took care of our monthly expenses, made my savings deposits and picked up some more groceries.  I also bought items to stuff some stockings!  That was a fun little shopping trip.

We started off the month in pretty good shape, but by the end it wasn't feeling like we had a very thrifty month.  Our kitties had a rough go of it I'm afraid.  Jack ended up at the vet with an upper respiratory infection and a week later we discovered a large lump on Stella.  Fortunately it turned out to be a cyst, not a tumor, but it did require surgery to have it removed.  Two unplanned vet bills in the span of a week!

By the time my second paycheck arrived I was able to pay the mortgage ahead of schedule.  Because it was a short check (80 hours instead of the usual 88) I modestly took care of my savings goals and paid the water bill.  The vet bills went onto my credit card and I was given a substantial discount for paying it all at once.  I also got a couple doctor bills in the mail so I added those expenses to my credit card as well.  I'll be tackling that debt in 2020.  Right now I am just grateful to have the means to pay for these things.

I stayed on budget with my grocery spending and was happily surprised to get a lot of things on sale and with coupons as well as to find a ton of stuff on markdown.  Not only was I able to keep our pantry and freezer stocked, but we gave quite a bit away for a Christmas drive that my daughter's high school held.  That made us feel pretty darn good.

Our Christmas gift spending was pretty much nil this year.  Nonetheless, we still had a pretty fantastic day and exchanged a few inexpensive and useful gifts.  It was more than enough.  There was plenty of good food, cookie baking and we enjoyed our traditional holiday meals thanks to some pretty fantastic sales and digital coupons I downloaded.

Although we had some bumps this month I still think it turned out pretty well all things considered.  Right now everyone in the household is currently healthy and doing well.  You can't ask for more than that.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

We just ended the final full week of 2019!  Hard to believe a new year is upon us already.  Only a couple more days.  My girls have made it through the first half of the school year and are about to start their second half next week.  Unbelievable to me, and to them as well, that this is where we are at the current moment.  We have much to look forward to and that is quite exciting.

It was a pretty spectacular week to end off on.  Sunday morning I was up bright and early to make two batches of fudge and a lovely loaf of fresh bread.  I put together food gifts for friends and my darling daughters made the deliveries.  I stayed home to clean up the kitchen and put things back in order.  I also made a delicious pot of chicken and vegetable soup for supper.

I worked Monday and Tuesday and had the rest of the week off.  On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, I was gifted four tickets to the Idaho Botanical Garden for the Winter Garden Aglow light show.  I was so excited!  When I got home I waited until we sat down to dinner to surprise the girls.  We finished eating and off we went.  It was so pretty and in spite of the 35° temperature we really enjoyed ourselves.

Christmas day was quiet and lazy.  We opened gifts, ate breakfast, played games, took naps, ate some more, watched movies, talked, laughed, giggled and had a really nice day.  I gleaned some bows, boxes, tissue paper and gift bags to go back into gift wrap tote.

Our gift wrap tote is about to be no more, however.  Thursday morning I ordered a hanging gift wrap organizer from Amazon for $15.99.  I'm super excited about it because it looks like it will hold everything including the rolls of wrapping paper and hang on the closet rod.  The tote is bulky and doesn't hold everything so I find myself storing things in multiple places.  My goal to keep like items together is hampered a bit by my current storage system.  I am hoping the new organizer will hold everything.

Jack & Stella had a nice Christmas too

I went to the eye doctor Thursday morning for my annual appointment.  I have the very beginnings of cataracts, no surprise there, but everything else is healthy and not much change in my prescription.  After the eye doctor my daughter talked me into stopping at DSW to shop for shoes.  I love that place and she got a gift card for Christmas and was itching to use it.  While we were there I found a pair of brown suede ankle boots on clearance for $49.98 plus an additional 40% OFF for their big clearance event.  When we checked out we got an additional 15% OFF for signing up for their rewards program and that brought the boots down to $28 with tax.  That was my big Christmas splurge for myself.  When I got home I found they had added a couple rewards club coupons to my bag, one is a $10 OFF a minimum $10 Purchase coupon.  Friday we went back and got some socks with that.  They have nice socks.  My daughter was able to find two beautiful pair of boots for $46 out of pocket after all the discounts and her $25 gift card.  We did really well.  You could easily drop a small fortune in that store, but we didn't!

Clearance gift wrap & tissue paper

Thursday evening the girls and I pulled a whole bunch of old inventory from my optical shop out of the garage.  We organized, categorized and grouped it all together into lots to sell on eBay.  No point in all that stuff still hanging out there taking up valuable real estate and no sense in keeping any of it either.  We hope to make a little bit of cash to offset a few little expenses we have planned next month.  We'll see how that goes.  Mainly, we just want all that stuff gone.

Kitty in a box!

Friday morning I was planning to sleep in but that didn't happen.  I was up long before daylight so I made myself some coffee and sat in the light of a candle and our Christmas tree and enjoyed the early morning hours before sunrise.  Stella kept my lap warm, bless her.  She is healing up quite nicely from her surgery the week before.  We are all relieved to have her whole and healthy once again.  And ornery.  That's how we know she is feeling better.

Clearance gift wrap & tissue paper

At noon we dropped my youngest off at the movie theatre to meet a friend for Frozen 2 and go for yogurt afterward.  While she did that we popped over to Walmart as it is literally across the road from the theater and I picked up four rolls of gift wrap and two packages of tissue paper on clearance for 50% OFF.  I spent less than $4.50 and I'm pretty pleased about that.  We'll have plenty of wrap and tissue paper for the next few years, I'm sure.

Three pair of black stocks (free) plus 2 pair of clearance Christmas socks

Next we stopped by DSW for our planned sock with coupon purchase.  I picked up three pair of dress socks for work, the last clothing item on my 2019 "to buy" list, as well as two pair of Christmas socks on clearance for $1.98 each.  I had tossed a worn pair last year and this year I ended up doing the same with my last pair of Christmas themed socks.  Now I have two new pair and am set in the sock arena for a good long time.

My girls gave me all these wonderful stickers for Christmas

Lastly, I dropped off my eyeglass frames to have new lenses put into them.  I already had the frame and was very happy to find my vision insurance covered the cost of the lenses in full.  No extra expense out of pocket for new glasses this year.  Then it was home to use up leftover wonton wrappers and make potstickers along with some fried rice and leftover green salad for supper.

The maple tree got a much needed trim

Saturday I stayed home and really enjoyed being there.  It was really nice to have no plans for the weekend and only do things around the house as the urge struck.  It was a lovely day outside so I was struck to work outside in the sunshine and fresh air.  With a little assistance from my youngest we pruned the maple tree and I spent a couple hours burning up yard debris in our firepot.  I also burned up the pile of shredding I'd accumulated in the last few months.  The tree looks great, the yard looks better and I no longer have a pile of junk sitting on a shelf in the hall closet waiting to be taken care of.  It felt really good to get all of that accomplished.

The fire pot got a workout

We finished up the last bit of shampoo in a bottle that had been sitting upside down in the shower for a couple of weeks.

I washed out a couple ziploc bags to reuse.

All done and looking good

Some of the 15 Minute Chores I accomplished to keep my home in order:

Laundry Room & Half Bathroom - vacuumed floors, tidied up the laundry room & bathroom.  Daily swish & swipe.

Dining Room - vacuumed floor.

Kitchen -  vacuumed the floor, pulled out the stove to clean underneath, cleaned the exterior of the stove, cleaned the microwave.

Bedrooms & Main Bathroom - vacuumed & dusted.  Cleaned mirror & scrubbed tub. 
Washed bathmat.  Daily swish & swipe.

Other - two large loads of laundry, vacuumed & dusted living room, hallway & entry, tidied the garage.

How was your thrifty week?

Friday, December 27, 2019

My Grocery Budget 2019 - December Update

On budget!  I'm pretty darn happy with my grocery shopping this month.  I made a point to purchase good quality produce, use up leftovers to limit food waste and buy as much as I could on sale instead of paying full price.  Full price items were purchased at stores I knew were lowest in cost.  We ate well, especially at Christmas, and baked lots of yummy treats to share with friends and family.  There was a lot of fun in our kitchen this month.

I found lots of markdown items that really helped me stretch my grocery $$

I was pretty happy about all of these finds

BBQ sauce for a quarter!

I'm always on the hunt for markdown stickers

I found 7 boxes of dryer sheets marked down for 99¢ each.  I'm sure I have enough for myself and my daughter to last until she graduates college.  I also found cotton balls on markdown for 79¢ for a jumbo bag.  Toilet paper was on sale for $3.99 for 12 double rolls so I decided to add one package to my winter stash.  My non food budget is $25 a month and of that I only ended up spending $11.71.

Really good sales and digital coupons helped a lot too!

Our Christmas steaks were only $9.67 after a digital coupon and then the 30% OFF!

I continue to tally my budget and divide it by three people as my oldest still raids the pantry regularly and cooks in her room quite a bit.  Next semester she is forgoing the student meal plan altogether and will be fully responsible to prepare her own meals so I plan to help her with groceries even more in the coming year.  This month I fed a lot of people and we contributed quite a bit to a food drive at my youngest daughter's high school.  Overall I'm really happy that I was able to do all of that and still maintain a fairly full pantry and freezer while staying on budget.

All of these items were loss leaders on sale at two different stores

More loss leader items

Here is the food I bought this month:

$150.07 ÷ 31 days ÷3+ people = $1.61 per person per day!


Update on November:  A math error, pointed out by one of my lovely readers, in my favor!  I'd put the decimal point in the wrong spot making my 78¢ green onions $78!!  Yow!  No wonder I thought I was over budget.  Once I fixed that I was way under.  Much better!

$133.54 ÷ 30 days ÷3 people = $1.48 per person per day!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Our Simple Little Christmas

For a Christmas tree that wasn't supposed to have any gifts under it I think we did pretty well!  Nothing under that tree was very expensive at all and all of the gift wrapping was done using up and recycling things we had leftover from years past.  You'd be pretty hard pressed to prove that was the case, however.

One of my homemade candles

Christmas Eve was quite lovely.  That day the girls drove over to the college and picked up my oldest daughter's roommate.  They brought her home to spend the holiday with us and it really felt like I had an extra daughter under my roof.  It was terrific.  We enjoyed our traditional clam chowder supper with garlic cheddar drop biscuits and a simple green salad.  The entire meal was made from items we already had on hand in our pantry and the salad was made from items my daughter brought home from work.

I was thrilled to be able to surprise all three girls with tickets to the Idaho Botanical Garden for the Winter Garden a Glow exhibit.  The CEO of the company I work for gifted me a set of tickets.  As soon as dinner was done we headed off to see that.  Despite the cold we had a wonderful time and it was amazing.  A great way to walk off our dinner too and see a lot of Christmas lights.  So very pretty.  We loved it!

Christmas Day was filled with more of our traditions.  We opened gifts that morning and made a huge mess in the process!  Then I made cinnamon rolls from a tube (my girls love that!) with scrambled eggs and sausage links for breakfast.  After breakfast I gleaned what I could from the mess on the living room floor and then tidied up the rest.

In the fall I had purchased faux fur throws for my girls on sale at Vanity Fair Outlet for $6.97 a piece.  They are really nice ones to and regularly retailed for $19.99.  I bought two "used" books from Amazon for my youngest and when they arrived I discovered they were both brand new!  My oldest daughter needed new shoes and I was able to find her black leather ankle boots, which she loves, for $19.99 on clearance at Encore Shoe Dept at the mall which is a great outlet store for last season's shoes.  I did have my regular "Santa budget" for stocking stuffers which was mainly dollar tree items and store freebies I'd collected as well as a family game for us all to enjoy.  Santa usually brings a game or a DVD we've been wanting.  I was able to use money I earned from working overtime last month to fund these purchases and kept my spending to just under $73!  We were also able to pull together a few nice gifts and a stocking for my daughter's roommate as well, a lot of which were store freebies and items in my gift box.  My girls each pitched in and contributed some items as well.

Our supper that evening was another Christmas tradition with nice grilled steaks, au jus to dip, Yorkshire pudding, roasted veggies and a fruit salad.  For dessert this year I made homemade chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream.  There was also plenty of other sweets to enjoy that day as well.

This is what makes my Christmas perfect!

We played games, laughed, talked, giggled and enjoyed each other's company.  It was a perfect day and I couldn't have been any happier about it.  How was your Christmas?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

It's Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I do wish you the best Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and hope you will truly enjoy this time and feel blessed.  It really is a magical time and whether you are spending this holiday alone or surrounded by friends and family do make the most of it as best you can.  I'm sure you will.

I know the holidays can be stressful or difficult for some and lonely for others.  But, it is a perfect opportunity to look around and count all the blessings you've been given.  I do find myself feeling exceptionally blessed these days and so very fortunate for all that I have and all that I have to look forward to.  God is good in every way and I feel so happy at this moment.

Enjoy, rejoice, have faith, make merry and carry that forward as we head into a new year very soon.  That is what I plan to do.  Feel free to share your plans for today and tomorrow.  I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

I was shocked and amazed when I woke up on Sunday morning and discovered it was 10:00!  After all the busyness of the previous week had ended my body and my mind must've really needed a rest.  This girl rarely sleeps in.  While normally I would've been a little bummed at wasting precious hours sleeping, this time I was completely fine with it.  I know I needed the extra sleep this time.

I got up feeling pretty darn good so I made my bed and started my day.  After coffee and some blog posting I did a few chores and proceeded to putter around the house.  Sleeping in had completely thrown my off my usual routine.  In fact, I didn't go grocery shopping until after supper.  My oldest went with me and we picked up only items on sale as well as four freebie items we had a coupon or digital coupons for.

Monday was my youngest's only dance team practice day so I only had to head out early and take her to school one time last week.  It was her finals week too leading up to the winter break.  Also that morning my daughter dropped her car off to have her radiator replaced.

Poor little kitty

In the midst of all of that we had to rush our kitty Stella into the vet and that afternoon she had emergency surgery to remove a cyst on her side that had abscessed.  Poor little girl, she was a pretty sick kitty.  We got to bring her home later in the morning on Tuesday.  We made her a homemade cone so she wouldn't pull the drain out of her side while she healed.  Needless to say she wasn't overly impressed by that apparatus.

We gathered up odds and ends of cookies we had around here and I took them in to work on Wednesday.  They were gone in no time.

Both my daughter and I worked long hours last week to earn as much extra money as we could.  With a car repair and a vet bill we need to recoup some of those expenses as much as we can.  She worked to full days for the temp agency and was sent home on her last day with a huge bag of boxed salads.  That was a wonderful surprise.

Our department Christmas party at work was on Friday and I was able to bring some meatballs and couple of those salads thanks to my daughter as well as some homemade dinner rolls I made the night before to contribute to our lunch.  My girls stopped by my office and joined us making it a really nice little party.  Then they were off to work some more Door Dash calls and finish up their Christmas shopping.

I passed out jars of homemade pear butter to my co-workers.  I already have a plan in my head of what I might do for them next year.  I already wrote it down in my 2020 day planner so I don't forget.

It was such a crazy busy week that by 9:30 Friday night we were all in bed and completely exhausted.  It has been a complete zoo at my work with no end in sight, I'm afraid.  We are all ready for a little bit of a break as we coast into Christmas and the New Year.  Believe me!  Fortunately I have the week between Christmas and New Years off so I can decompress and prepare for a good start to 2020.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a train.  Time to listen to my body and give it a break.  I took the day off to rest and just putter.  I worked on my 2020 Day Planner a little bit and binge watched a boatload of Animal Cops episodes on Youtube.  Other than washing dishes I wasn't all that productive.  And that is totally okay.  Rest days are a necessity.

I did find some time during the week and altered two of my work tops by taking in the side seams and shoulders.  They were a little large on me and I had thought about donating them, but I really like both of them and decided to try altering instead.  Worked out perfectly so now I have two better fitting tops in my wardrobe.  And at no cost too!

Marinated chicken with roasted veggies

I cleaned out the crisper drawer and roasted all the leftover veggies I had in there to serve with our Sunday dinner.

The chickens got the kitchen scraps and some of the salads my daughter brought home.  It was actually too much for all of us to eat so I was glad to share with them.  They were pretty happy about it too.

I mixed up more foaming hand soap refill solution for the upstairs bathroom

I washed out three ziploc bags to reuse.  I also washed out some empty cottage cheese and sour cream containers so my daughter can used them to take food home with her after Christmas break.

Some of the 15 Minute Chores I accomplished to keep my home in order:

Laundry Room & Half Bathroom - vacuumed floors, scrubbed the sink.  Daily swish & swipe.

Dining Room - vacuumed floor, cleaned dining room chairs.

Kitchen -  vacuumed & spot mopped the floor, cleaned the walls, scrubbed & bleached the sink, cleaned inside the fridge.

Bedrooms & Main Bathroom - vacuumed & dusted.  Scrubbed sink & tub.  Daily swish & swipe.

Other - one load of laundry, vacuumed & dusted living room, hallway & entry, mopped entry ways, polished wood furniture, washed the front & back doors.  Swept front porch.

How was your thrifty week?

Friday, December 20, 2019

White Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies

This next batch of cookies is my youngest daughter's very favorite.  She loves these!  If you like white chocolate macadamia nut cookies you will probably enjoy these very much too.

White Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies

1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

In a large mixing bowl combine the cake mix, eggs, butter, baking chips and nuts to form a thick sticky dough.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking pan.  Bake 9 to 11 minutes at 375 degrees until the edges just start to brown.  Remove to a cooling rack then store in an airtight container.  Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Quick, easy and once again thrifty, just like the rest of the cake mix cookie recipes.  Needless to say none of these left our house.  My daughter confiscated every one of them, which was perfectly fine.  However, if you are able, these are definitely Christmas tin worthy and would make wonderful gifts.

This recipe makes a pretty fine chocolate chip cookie

Also if you follow this recipe and substitute 1/2 cup of chocolate chips for the white chips and nuts you've got yourself a really tasty chocolate chip cookie.  Or add the nuts too if you like those in your chocolate chip cookies.  Either way you've got a winner.

The white chocolate chip nut, oh my goodness!

I'm so happy to hear in the comments that many of you are trying these recipes and enjoying the series.  This is the final recipe for now.  I'm sure we'll come up with other recipes to try and share in the future though.  I hope you are all having a fun and delicious Christmas cookie season this year.

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