Friday, July 30, 2010

Frugal Friday - Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

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I posted this article back in January, but had to repost because it's one the of my favorite frugal tips! Making your own natural cleaning products can be one of the easiest steps to create a healthier home and save a ton of cash in the process. Think about all the cleaning products you buy, and if going green is important, these products can cost even more. Usually there's a different cleaner for every task, but if you stock just a few items you'll be able to tackle any job that pops up, and in a natural way!

There are so many books out now offering recipes and concoctions, but I suggest trying several simple recipes to get your feet wet. Below are a few essentials, many you might already have on hand.
  • Baking soda
  • Borax
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Essential oils (lemon, lavender or tea tree)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Liquid castile soap
  • Washing soda
Liquid dish detergent – Ratio of ½ liquid castile soap, ½ water, and 10-15 drops of lemon, lavender or tea tree essential oil.

Dishwasher detergent – 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, 10-20 drops of lemon, lavender or tea tree essential oil. Use 1 tablespoon per load. Click here for photos in the step-by-step process...

Dishwasher rinse – White vinegar. Use this instead of products like Jet Dry and pour into the rinse compartment of your dishwasher.

Laundry detergent – ¼ cup liquid castile soap, 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda. 1 tablespoon does an entire load! If you have a really large load or one that’s extra grungy, use 2 tablespoons.

I’ve found it’s best to blend the liquid castile soap with one of the dry ingredients first, using a fork. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix. A hand pastry blender works really well if you have one. Click here for photos in the step-by-step process...

I prefer not to use essential oils in the laundry detergent because the castile soap has such a beautiful scent all on its own. But feel free to add oils if you like. Just make sure they are clear oils, as those with any color will end up coloring your clothes. Or just add several drops of your favorite oil on a cotton rag and toss it in the dryer with the clothes. Instant dryer sheet!

Fabric Softener – ½ cup of distilled white vinegar. This is the best fabric softener and so easy! Yes, that’s it, just plain ol’ vinegar. Simply add it to the rinse cycle.

Vinegar also gets rid of urine odors – perfect for those who have little ones that wet the bed or pets who aren’t quite housetrained yet. Simply wash the load with ½ cup of vinegar and hot water. Then wash again with the laundry detergent and items come out fresh and clean!

Basic Cleaner – 16 oz of hot water and 1 oz of liquid castile soap. I use this to clean everything and always have some in a spray bottle! It also works as a floor cleaner. I use a steamer mop to clean our floors, but when I don’t want to drag it out, simply spray the Basic Cleaner on the floor and use a towel to wipe it up!

Another Multi-Purpose Cleaner – 16 oz of hot water, 3 tablespoons of vinegar and 10-15 drops of essential oils.

Window Cleaner – 16 oz of water, 2 oz of vinegar, ½ teaspoon of liquid castile soap and 10-15 drops of lemon, lavender or tea tree essential oil.

This also works as a great bathroom cleaner for the toilet, tub & shower since vinegar and tea tree essential oil kill mildew.

Vinegar can also be used on its own as a wonderful window cleaner.

Tub & Tile Scrub - Ratio of ½ water and ½ baking soda. Use a sponge or brush and scrub away! If you feel you need more “power” in the scrub, add a little liquid castile soap.

Bleach Alternative – Hydrogen peroxide makes a great bleach alternative.

Here are a few book recommendations to begin your natural cleaning journey:

In Gratitude,

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Embrace The Sacred In Each Moment

The last few years have taught me many great lessons, but I think the most important, and one I still have to remind myself to embrace, is finding the sacred in each moment. Life is full of unexpected surprises...ones that offer times of sheer joy and unspeakable delight and then others that resemble the turmoil of a full frontal assault. And then we have the mundane...those times when absolutely nothing seems to be happening and our hearts are aching for more. Ah, the ebb and flow of life (:

The neat thing about God is that He's always teaching and there's always something to learn if we're willing to just look. When we search for the beauty in every situation, even in the midst of destruction, it leads to a place of grace. Those times of pain, joy and "nothingness" are then transformed into something higher. We no longer see things as insignificant. Each moment, each person, each experience has worth and it opens our eyes to the plethora of possibilities around us. Instead of viewing life as a collection of things that just happen, we begin to embrace life with honor and treat our experiences as moments of a higher calling. The simple act of watching the sunset can become something powerful in an instant.

So the next time you feel like life is just happening around you, try approaching each day as a sacred encounter. What are the lessons in front of me? Is there anything to be gleaned from washing dishes, walking down a quiet path or watching the kids play in the backyard? What about the sickness that has come back or the job that was lost? Could this perspective possibly make a difference?

What if the power of grace was placed into the middle of those situations? How would things feel? How would the moments surrounding these experiences change? I can't answer those questions for anyone except myself. Looking at life this way has allowed me to let go of the past, the fear and the need to be perfect. It's given me the strength to be bold, the courage to see the beauty of what I have to offer and the freedom to be me. Give it a try and let the sacred transform your days.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Makeover Monday - Final Backsplash Results

It's finally finished!! At least I think it's finished. If you're new to our Kitchen Backsplash Makeover, here are the photos of the "before" as well as the "kitchen in process" pictures. I challenged myself to create a free backsplash using the design inspiration of white subway tiles and came up with the solution of using leftover wooden mini rulers.

The original plan was to have a white glossy finish for the backsplash, but after the paint dried I began wondering if an aged glaze might bring out the texture of the "tiles" more since it seems to lack depth. I'd love to know your thoughts.

At first glance there seems to be a lot of white, but I like a clean bright kitchen especially because there's no natural light. I was surprised at how much it lightened things up (even at night) and love how the outlets fade away. Each one seemed to be installed at a different angle (much like the counters) and they looked pretty bad before. If you rent you can totally understand the lack of craftsmanship that can sometimes come with spaces like this.

The glossy white paint allows the outlet imperfections to be minimized and I'm wondering if a glaze might accentuate the crookedness again....still thinking...

We'll be getting the counters refinished with a dark taupe granite treatment so I might wait until that's done before altering the backsplash.

Our apartment complex is updating the counters in all of the units, thank goodness! I've had a chance to check out several upon completion and they look fabulous! Not as great as real granite, but so much better than the lovely laminate we're sporting now (:

I'll be sure to post the photos of the new counters once they're completed. I'm not sure when that will be, but hopefully within the next couple of months.

Another project being considered is adding crown on top of the cabinets to beef up their presence, as well as molding along the bottom so under-cabinet lighting can be installed. I think I'll let the glossy white backsplash sit and then reconsider glazing once the lighting, molding and counters are done.

So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Frugal Friday

First, I'd like to apologize for the posting glitch on Monday. I had several people email and post comments that the pictures and info weren't showing up. Thank you so much for letting me know! When I'm logged in I can see the post just fine, but apparently no one else can. I've had this happen one or two other times and I'm not quite sure why, but for some reason posting a comment on my own blog does the trick! Now, back to Frugal Friday tips...

Today's tip is about clothes shopping. I know, I know, it's No Spend Month and I'm talking about shopping. Go figure (: Goodwill has become one of my favorite places. Not only are there great finds at great prices, but the money spent there is going to a good cause and helping the community.

Oh! Don't you just love the way they organize the racks by colors!! Why would you pay full price for a perfectly good designer suit when the same suit could be purchased at Goodwill for under $15? Much of the clothing donated to Goodwill has never been worn and many times the tags are still on the garments.

My mother lost a lot of weight and purchased quite a few new pieces from her favorite clothing store only to loose more weight. The new pants and shirts she just purchased no longer fit. Mom didn't want to spend even more money after the first investment, so off to Goodwill she went!

She was able to purchase 1 fitted blazer, 3 pairs of dress pants, 1 pair of jeans, 2 cardigan sets, 4 sweaters and 4 blouses for under $70 and almost all of the items were designer names. She would have easily spent over $500 for the exact same items had she gotten them from the original stores.

Many places have one day set aside for replenishing merchandise. Ask the store manager when they get in new items and visit on those days to get first pick. Set a budget, look for basic key pieces and build a wardrobe that suits your lifestyle. Once you have a good foundation of basics, then add trendy, fashionable items that can be switched out as the styles change and don't forget to spend some of that money you've just saved on great shoes that will last.

I'm no slave to fashion and prefer to choose something comfy over something dressy, but love it when elegance and comfort collide (: Just be yourself. Clothing does no define who you are or determine your worth. They're just clothes for goodness sake! Find something that makes you smile and go with it! When you feel good on the inside, it shines on the outside (:

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Makeover Monday - Backsplash Results

I was really surprised at how quickly this project progressed! The only challenging part was cutting the pieces to fit around the outlets. As you can see they aren't quite straight which meant cuts with slight angles, but the scissors worked just fine to shave away tiny bits of wood.

I looks pretty bad at this point, but just wait. It gets better (: Any gaps around the outlets and "tiles" were filled in with vinyl spackle and I used my hands to rub off any excess.

Ah, the last little bit...I started off using tile adhesive, but it took too much time to apply the right amount to each ruler so I switched over to wood glue. Worked even better!

Some white paint and a wash of glaze is all that's needed. Check back next Monday for the final results!!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Frugal Fridays

I've been wanting to add a backsplash in our kitchen for quite some time now. The paint didn't cut it for me. We have wall outlets on either side of the stove plus a garbage disposal switch and these three unsightly boxes just stand out like a sore thumb against the blue.

I used large white architectural tiles to hide the outlets, two on one side and one on the other, but the one on the left broke after trying to reach the hidden outlet. So the longing for a back splash still persisted (:

A few years back a friend of my mother's was running for county commissioner and had mini wooden rulers printed with his info. Very cute, but one problem...the printer made a spelling error and needed to create an entire new batch. I was happy to save the rulers from the garbage and knew they could be used for day. (Do you see where I'm headed?)

Now, fast forward to the kitchen backsplash dilemma. I love white subway tiles, but as you know this is our No Spend Month so this makeover has to cost a whopping amount of $0. Time to get creative. This was my inspiration...

Since the project has a budget of zero, this is where our lovely free rulers come into play. They have a subway feel...I have tile adhesive left over from tiling the fireplace...extra paint from other projects...voila! Free backsplash! The wooden "tiles" measure 1 inch x 6 inches, they're easy to cut, are the perfect trendy size and resemble the subway tile look I so love.

They can be glued onto the wall with whatever medium makes sense in your situation. I'm using tile adhesive, but wood glue or liquid nails could work just as well. Just make sure you're wall is clean and the bonding agent being used is one that will give good adhesion. We're lucky because our apartment manager doesn't mind decor tweaks and has given permission to make improvements, with her prior consent of course (:

If you're renting and making a permanent change isn't an option, apply the "tiles" to a masonite board and use screws to attach it to the wall. When it's time to move, simply remove the backsplash and fill in the holes. You'll be able to find masonite in the lumber section of any Lowe's or Home Depot and they can cut it to size if you don't have access to power tools.

Here's the layout...

Because the wood "tiles" are only an inch tall it looks more like a basket weave than a subway tile, but anything is better than bare walls and the price is right (: It will give an added texture that's missing and I can't wait to see how it turns out! In another kitchen I think these would look great stained...maybe in different tones and then put together in a random pattern. Using a stain and embracing the wood grain would give a rustic quality to your kitchen. So many options!!

Once the "tiles" are installed, they'll get a few coats of glossy white which will make cleaning much easier. If you're thinking of creating a backsplash using alternative items, check out your local hardware superstore. Lathing strips are very inexpensive ($1.25 - $2.00 in 8 ft lengths compared to $1 white 4 inch square tiles) and many come primed to save you an extra step.

If beadboard is your style, they now have beadboard wall paper! It's about $22 per roll, covers 56 sq ft and no power tools are needed! Just cut to size with scissors and you're good to go! Here's the Home Depot link if you'd like to give it a whirl. I love this idea, but haven't tried it myself. Roeshell gives a great tutorial over at her blog The DIY Showoff. The results are amazing!

This is a pretty simple project, but one that can make a big impact. Be sure to stop by on Makeover Monday to see the results!

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Makeover Mondays

Well, it's the first in our Makeover Monday weekly series and one I can't wait to share! Here are some great "Before and After" photos of my apartment that I hope will inspire you to embrace your spaces and make them your own. When you live in a small home and can't make structural changes, getting creative is essential.

These first two photos are the "Before" shots. A room isn't cozy unless it has a fireplace and when we moved into this particular apartment that favorite feature was I built one! Made from leftover wood, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), architectural pieces from an old headboard and tile from Home Depot, it anchored the rest of the room and provided architecture to a plain "box." The only problem was everything seemed to gravitate to the right side of the room throwing things out of balance.

To the right of the room you'll see windows...actually one window and a french door. To give a unified appearance, they were treated as one large window using sheers to blend the two together. The curtain rod over the windows was made from PVC pipe, wood brackets and finials for the total cost of $9...and that included the wooden drapery rings. If you were to buy these chunky curtain rods in the store, you'd be shelling out at least $40.

Now to the other side of the apartment. Even with my favorite blue on the walls, it still looks bland. The kitchen, living and dining room are all open to each other...I love an open concept, but "small living" can easily feel like "one room living." Dividing the space up visually can make a huge difference and tricks the eye to give the appearance of more square footage.

The sad slipcover on the sofa was the right color, but lacked a tailored quality. The dining room table could seat eight, but the leaf and six chairs made things feel cramped and uninviting.

This is what the apartment looks like now after a few tweaks...please forgive the puppies snuggled on their pillows underneath their cream blankets in front of the's "their spot" and I didn't have the heart to move them to take a photo (:

The fireplace was centered on the wall, a stand for the TV was built so the components could be stored underneath, the fireplace was flanked with bookcases (built with leftover MDF) and baskets from Target were added for storage. You'd be surprised how much stuff those little guys can hold!!

Each bookcase supports 2 windows purchased from Kirkland's that sit edge to edge to mimic a large window. They were originally a horrid burgundy, but for $15 each I couldn't pass them up. Sale+coupon = happy frugal gal (: A couple coats of white spray paint freshened them right up! I also mounted iron elements above the mirrors (purchased from Pier 1 for $8) to top things off and switched out the lampshades.

After my old sofa gave up the ghost, a slipcovered Vintage Vogue Sofa and storage ottoman were purchased from Ballard Designs (on sale, yes!). The ottoman is perfect for storing another set of slipcovers, blankets and extra pup pillow covers. The pedestal table between the club chairs will be replaced with a shorter set of white, square nesting tables once I build them (: They'll offer an expanding surface when more is needed, especially when company comes over.

I built the white bookcase unit several years ago for display space in my shop, but it looks as if it were made for the living room. It holds cherished momentos collected over the years and gives a nice balance to the fireplace on the opposite wall. The 8x11 ft rug was found at a Rooms to Go Outlet for $99, and yes, rugs can be used on top of carpet (: It helps to define the living area and gives a splash of color to otherwise drab, neutral flooring. It's all about the layers (:

(Now, the blue in these photos seems to be much brighter than it actually's more of a soft, Tiffany Box blue) The dining room table was turned, the leaf taken out and 2 chairs removed to give the illusion of more space. The old lanterns were taken down and replaced with 4 mini chandeliers draped in crystals, each in a different style for an eclectic feel. I used $1.50 iron plant hangers purchased from WalMart and spray painted them in silver to match the chandeliers. Looks like they were bought together as a set!

The window in the dining room is actually a barn window I found years ago. Mirror paint was sprayed on the back of each glass pane to give it an antiqued mirror affect and then a design made with liquid lead Gallery Glass was added to create a stained glass look. So easy, yet people are always shocked when I tell them it's not the real thing (:

The architectural piece above the mirror was part of a headboard destroyed in a move. It was the exact size of the window and filled in the spot nicely. I couldn't resist decoupaging on a French olive oil label found in a magazine when I saw it was teal! Simply used the computer to increase the size and printed it out! The rest of the pieces from the headboard were used to frame the opening of the fireplace. Can't let anything go to waste (:

This is our lovely TINY kitchen. It's a galley style, but oh, so small (: That brown thing on the left side of the bar is a column that isn't quite finished yet. It, along with the kitchen backsplash that cost me $0, will be in the upcoming makeover for next Monday. For a better look at the kitchen see the post Adding Space to Your Small Kitchen.

So that's the makeover for this week. Because the apartment is so small, it's hard to take the best photos, but hope you were able to get some ideas for your own spaces. Don't be afraid to go bold! Allow your home to communicate your spirit. Have a favorite color? Add a splash of it on the walls! Afraid it might be too much? Then go neutral and have pops of color in pillows, drapes, wall hangings, rugs or flowers.

Not sure where to start? Flip through some of your favorite design/decor magazines and begin collecting layouts that speak to your soul. You'll begin to see a pattern emerge. The common elements in each space are the things that reflect your true style...the rest will fall into place (:

Be sure to join me next week for another Makeover Monday!

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Frugal Friday

First, note to self...make sure camera battery has enough charge to load photos onto computer (: Due to this lapse in memory I almost missed Frugal Friday!!!

See our beautiful French inspired bicycle planter by the front door? LOVE it...but she's not so cute with the lovely dead plants in her baskets. Normally I would head over to Lowe's or Home Depot for some happy impatiens in hues of red or pink, but our No Spend Month for July is preventing this little trip.

I can't bear to see these baskets empty until after July so here's my solution...pothos cuttings!! I have several around the apartment and they can get mighty leggy. I cut them back every now and then and place them in glasses of water to grow their roots.

Once the roots are around an inch or so I'll replant them in a pot filled with potting mix and move them outside so our little French planter won't be so lonely (: I love pothos plants because I can't kill them and one planter can make many, many more plants without costing a cent.

Here's another favorite...using sheets as curtains. I've seen many who use $10 canvas drop cloths as an inexpensive curtain alternative. Great idea, but sheets can be even less ($3 at WalMart) and have been a favorite of mine for years. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, are already hemmed and have a built-in pocket for the curtain rod. Simply cut open the hem, fold the unfinished edges inside and slide in the rod. Voila! Instant curtain. You can also use drapery rings with clips for an even easier solution.

This is our foyer. As you can see, it just spills out into the rest of the apartment and I wanted to separate the space. The solution? A white shower curtain rod ($6 and no hardware needed - we had one on hand so it was free) and 2 twin sheets (Walmart brand at $3 each - we had several new white sheets already in the linen closet so our cost was $0) and a couple of tie backs made from left over beads and ribbon from another project.  

Our ceilings are 9 ft high and you'll notice the panels weren't quite long enough. They're the perfect length for window curtains, but just missed the length needed to reach the ceiling by a foot. I'll be sewing on (who am I kidding! Iron-on tape will be used) a 1 foot band cut from another sheet and will be covering the seams with ribbon fashioned in a creative way to make it look like it's part of the curtain design. That way there won't be a seam on the back since the curtains are visible on both sides. I'm also thinking of changing the tie backs to something more substantial, but haven't decided on what that might be yet. 

I love using a neutral sheet (white, beige or taupe) and then ironing on a coordinating band of ribbon or patterned fabric on the edges. It brings a custom finish to a very economical idea. The curtain panel above is from Pottery Barn and is on sale right now for $59, with the larger size going up to $89 (on sale!).

Imagine a beige sheet, red ribbon ironed on the edges and clip-on drapery rings. The same look as above, but the cost to make them? $9 and that includes the black drapery clips! Sheets are so versatile and very practical when on a budget. I've even used paint and stencils on them when the desired design couldn't be found on the linen isle. The options really are endless!

I hope these tips were helpful. Check back each Friday for more to come!

In Gratitude,

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Makeover Mondays

I'm a sucker for a good makeover! There's just something so cathartic about taking the old and giving it new life with paint and creativity. The last several months I've been spending a lot of time on projects around the apartment. For a while things were put on hold because of a move possibility, but it looks like this will be home for at least another 6 to 12 months and so the projects are in full swing again (:

This prompted yet another blog idea...Makeover Mondays! I'm so inspired by all of the makeover posts on other blogs and thought it would be a great idea to post my "Before and After" shots as projects are completed along with the how-to's each Monday...mostly to keep me accountable to move forward (:

So be on the lookout for Makeover Monday starting next week and don't forget Frugal Friday tomorrow (:

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Frugal Fridays

This weekend there will be lots of 4th of July celebrating going on and we're blessed to have access to so many frugal, fun things for the holiday! Our complex has a pool so swimming might be involved (: Who wouldn't feel pampered sipping mint tea while lounging by cool waters? We'll also be grilling burgers and then taking in the splendor of the evening fire flowers (fireworks) at the lake down the road. All free, so it fits within our No Spend Month, but packed with enjoyment!!

Our No Spend Month has also inspired a new idea...Frugal Fridays! Each Friday's post will have frugal tips, design ideas, DIY tutorials, organization methods or anything creative that might help save money. This Friday I'll start with something simple to get things going (:

I'm always looking for ways to make things last longer in the kitchen. One thing I've found is that liquid soap does the exact same job when diluted. This includes liquid hand soap and liquid dishwashing soap. If you buy the generic liquid lemon soap for $1, then that dollar will last twice as long!

I prefer natural, organic products and make our dishwashing soap using half water, half organic liquid castile soap with a few drops of lemon essential oil. It's used for both dishes and hand washing since the castile soap is really easy on the hands. I'm able to get the gallon size for $26 (128 oz at $26 = $.20 per ounce ) and our soap pump holds 16 oz. which means that bottle costs $1.60. Not bad for an organic soap!

Do you use steel wool soap pads? Nothing seems to scrub a burned pot or pan better, huh? The only trouble is most of the time they rust before the life of the scrubs runs out, so you're throwing away a large portion of their usage. When you get them home from the store, cut them into halves or thirds (depending on the size of the pad). Not only will this increase the life of the box, but it will sharpen your scissors too!

For more frugal tips, check back each Friday! I'll be adding a Frugal Friday button on the blog which will keep all of the tips in one spot, making it easier to find the tips if you miss a post (:

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

4 Tips on How to Have a "No Spend" Month

The 4th of July...that time when America celebrates its independence. I think many times we don't appreciate this specific holiday enough.

So in honor of appreciating freedom, we've decided to make July the No Spend Month for the year. We've already put this into practice one week a month by designating the last week as No Spend Week, but thought it would be a great idea to take it for an entire month! During this time no funds are spent, with gas and living expenses (rent, electricity, phone, etc) being the only exceptions. Food is covered due to meal planning and keeping a stocked pantry.

Some have asked, how in the world do you not spend anything for a week, much less an entire month? If anything pops up that requires money, well then, it's time to get creative (:

We usually plan ahead for times of celebration and making gifts is preferred. Plus handmade gifts give something from the heart. I'll have to talk more about the Gift Closet on another day...a great concept my Grandmother started that encourages abundant thinking.

Most of our celebrations are decorated with natural elements from outside and items collected over the years. It's so freeing to leave behind those days of running around in a tizzy to buy just the right items to create the perfect dinner party. Now our focus is more about getting together to build relationships and enjoying the company of others instead of trying to impress guests with the linens, plates, decor or food. Don't get me wrong, I love a good party! Entertaining is a passion and a great design is wonderful, but people are more important (:

This has been a great lesson on freeing ourselves from debt and materialism, which allows the gift of embracing life on a much deeper level. It's also helped to cut out impulse buying. I have a hard time with this when approaching any Lowe's, Home Depot or great antique shop (: Creativity goes into overdrive and my mind begins to flood with ideas of new project possibilities!

During our No Spend Month I'll have to lift the ban on food spending since most fresh veggies don't keep for a month, but I'm excited to see how things go. I encourage you to give it a try. Think about it...that's a savings of spending on 4 weeks, plus 11 more if you decide to eliminate spending one week within each month! How much money could you save in almost 4 months? If you'd like to give it a go, here are some tips that have helped with our No Spending times...

1. Keep a stocked pantry and freezer. Making meals ahead and freezing them encourages eating at home instead of a trip through the drive thru. Keeping canned crushed/diced tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, noodles, spices, beef and grain bread on hand eliminates the need for a quick run to the store if unexpected company drops by. They're the perfect staples to throw together a great impromptu dinner party in minutes. Who doesn't love spaghetti (:

2. Buy/make gifts and cards ahead of time. Jot down a list of gifts and cards to be given for the year and keep it with you at all times. When you come across something that's on the list during regular shopping trips, it can be purchased ahead of time instead of waiting to the last minute. My mother had a great idea that works for her. She keeps a birthday card file with a folder for each month. In each folder there is a list of birthdays for that specific month, addresses, stamps and the cards she's collected over the year. Then on the first of the month she pulls the current folder, addresses the cards and sends them out! So simple and ensures no one is forgotten (:

3. Keep extra cards and gifts on hand for any occasion. Having extra simple gifts and cards on hand help to cover for those times when we can't plan. Maybe a new neighbor moves in next door, a friend at work has a death in the family, you're invited to a dinner party but there's no time to get a hostess gift, an unexpected guest shows up for the holidays, your child has a birthday party the next day and the invitation arrived the night before... By having gifts on hand that fit any occasion, you're always prepared when those little surprises pop up. I'll talk more later in another post about starting a Gift Closet.

4. Focus on free entertainment. Instead of spending money on entertainment, get creative and see what's available in your community. Many museums reserve one day a week when admission is free. Rather than going to a restaurant, take a picnic lunch to the park or lake. Cities are always having free festivals, concerts and events, especially in the summer and fall. Peruse the movie section at your local library. Check out your local CSA and get your hands dirty! It's a great learning experience for the kids and makes for an all-over-body workout (: If you don't already have one, borrow a canoe or kayak and head to the river or lake. Many culinary and designs schools offer free classes to the community. Check out your local whole foods store and see what free monthly events and workshops are offered. The options are endless! Just get creative (:

So if you'd like to begin saving money or paying down debt, try the No Spend week or month. You just might be surprised at the amount of money you can save!

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