Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Frugal/Green Things I Do

I made a list of a few things that I do in my everyday life that are frugal and/or green. Then, for my next post, I'll make a list of some things that I do that are NOT frugal and/or green. If you want to join me in this, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I'll post your link in these articles! On to the list!

-I love chocolate pudding. I used to buy those convenient individual serving cups (which aren't recyclable in my neck of the woods). Now I mix up a batch and separate it into little tupperware containers to take to work for lunch. Cheaper and greener!

-My husband and I use our bath towels and hand towels for about a week before throwing them in the wash. We're already clean when we use these items, anyway, and we hang them up so that they are dry on time for their next use. Cheaper and greener!

-We have a programmable thermostat and actually have it programmed. In the winter, we have our thermostat set at 69 degrees when we're home and 63 degrees when we're gone or sleeping. We also set it to hold at 63 when we're on vacation. In the summer, we mostly just leave the air conditioning off (remember, we're in Wisconsin!). We'll only turn it on when it gets really hot and humid, and even then usually only for sleeping comfort. For the most part, the AC doesn't run. Cheaper and greener!

-I use reusable grocery bags. I used to have trouble remembering them, even though they were in plain sight in the backseat of my car. Just a few weeks ago, a friend showed me her awesome ChicoBag. I found a local retailer and picked one up. The ChicoBag fits into a tiny sack and stays in my purse. I still need to remember my other bags when I'm on a big grocery shopping trip, but the ChicoBag works for most of my shopping. This isn't necessarily frugal, but it's definitely green!

What do you do that's frugal or green? Leave a comment or do your own post about it!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Reason to Declutter

A couple of months ago I lamented about having a lack of ambition to declutter my house. Well, I've found something that works really well at giving me some ambition to tackle my house clutter - a rummage sale!

My husband's brother and sister-in-law are planning on selling their home, so they are cleaning house and wanted to have a rummage sale. Since they live out in the country and we live in town, they asked to have the sale at our house. We agreed, of course, and thought of a couple of things that we wanted to sell, as well. Then, a couple of nights before the rummage sale, I decided to clean out my closets of unused clothing and go through a few boxes that hadn't been gone through since I got married and moved in almost a year ago. I couldn't believe how much I found!

The rummage sale was this past Saturday. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law did quite well. Since my husband and I didn't have nearly as much stuff, we only made $45. Still, it was well worth it for the decluttering I accomplished (all of the unsold items were boxed immediately and taken to Goodwill). There's so much room in my closet now!

So, if anyone else out there needs a "push" to get some decluttering done, have a rummage sale!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 5/16/08

This weekend's going to be pretty busy. On Saturday morning, my husband and I are helping a friend move, and my husband's mom is having a rummage sale at our house at the same time! I'm hoping to catch the Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon - go Big Brown! Then, I'm going to be grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon with some friends for an upcoming backpacking trip while my husband and a friend take a little pine tree out of our front yard. Like I said, we'll be busy :)

At any rate, my favorite blog post this week came from Mrs. Micah. She wrote a great post to get her readers thinking about what they would do with a million dollars. Her excellent point was that we should actually start doing those things now with the money we have! Definitely check it out - it's inspiring :)

Lastly, in honor of the upcoming horse race, I'm including a picture of my old girl, Silky. She's a 22-year-old quarter horse whom I've owned since I was 11. Isn't she a beaut?!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Warm Delights and Pine Trees

How's that for a blog post title?! I better explain.

Warm Delights
I got the most awesome "freebie" in the mail yesterday: Betty Crocker Warm Delights minis! Mmmmm, chocolate :) Check it out:

Unfortunately, the offer is no longer available. If you enjoy getting free stuff in the mail, though, my favorite blogs that list freebies are Mommy Gets PAID and My Good Cents. Check them out and maybe you can get free chocolate in the mail, too!

Pine Trees
A guy came to our house today and took out a large pine tree in our backyard. He had to do it by hand since you can't get machinery back there. Pricetag: $275. The other estimate we got was for almost $1000, so we were pretty happy to pay $275.

The money came out of our New Siding/Home Maintenance Fund. It wasn't really a necessary expense, but the tree was oversized for our yard and I really want to plant some lilac bushes back there!

Bonus Material
A friend of mine sent me this really neat article titled All In A Days Work. Definitely a must read! I've always felt that we Americans are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to work/play balance. I thought this article made a good argument for a shorter work week. What do you think? Does anyone have a plan for getting American employers to implement this? Do we all threaten to move to France or Norway? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Got Milk?

Photo by muffet

I posted a couple of weeks ago wondering if I should switch at least partly to powdered milk. I got some great comments and someone said that powdered milk prices vary by region, so I decided to price it at my local store (ok, it was Walmart).

What I found out was that powdered milk is actually more expensive than "real" milk in Wisconsin! I guess it makes sense since I live in the Dairy State, but I was pretty surprised. A gallon of milk here costs $2.79. A box of powdered milk is $6.98 and makes 8 quarts (2 gallons, per my husband!). That means that powdered milk would be $3.49/gallon.

I guess that decides that!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Financial Goals 2008: May Update

I'm afraid my posting is going to be a little erratic this summer. Life's been really busy lately, especially with going on two vacations in three weeks! My husband and I have our weekends booked almost every weekend from now until July. At any rate, I'm definitely going to keep blogging, just at a slower rate through the summer. I hope you'll stick around :)

Anyway, on to the goals update. You can read about my 2008 goals here if you missed it. Here's where we're at as of May 1st:

1. ROTH IRA's. We're pretty well on track with funding our ROTHs. As you can see from the progress bar on the right, we have $2000 out of $8000 contributed. We're funding $250 each month into each ROTH automatically now, and I'll fund extra toward the end of the year.

2. New Car Fund. This one is also on auto-pilot. I just increased the contribution from $125 per paycheck to $150 per paycheck with my recent raise. Now if only the stock market would help us out! We have $1098 added to this account so far this year with a goal of $3900 added by the end of the year.

3. Emergency Fund. We have 36% of our goal completed on this one, so I guess we're a little ahead of schedule! We have increased our balance by $950 so far this year. Our goal is to have an increase of $2600 by year end.

4. New Siding Fund. This one has been interesting. My husband has decided he might want to paint the house instead of putting vinyl siding on. It's still very much up in the air, so I'm still hitting this fund pretty hard with extra money. We have a lot of other home improvement projects we want to do, so if the money doesn't get used for vinyl siding, it will get used for carpeting and bathroom cupboards and paint and a new refrigerator... the list could go on for quite some time! :)
At any rate, we've increased this fund by $2150 with a bare minimum goal of $4000 by the end of the year. Hey! I hadn't realized I was so far ahead of schedule! We've funded over half of our goal and we're only 33% into the year! Awesome :)

How are you doing on your 2008 goals?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 5/2/08

My favorite blog post this week was from That One Caveman and is titled The Key to a Successful Financial Plan: Flexibility. I really liked it because I tend to get frustrated with changes to my financial plans and feel like I have failed. I needed to be reminded that changing your plan is not a failure, it's flexibility!

My story about How NOT to Handle an Inheritance was included in the Carnival of Money Stories this week. Make sure you check out all of the money stories!