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Cutting Costs and Saving Money

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I’ve been diligently working at trying to cut some costs around here, with some mixed-results to share.

First, let me share another of my money saving tricks (see more here and here). This one really isn’t a “trick,” but still fun to share.

Remember how I mentioned that one of my friends was gifting me a hand-me-down dehydrator when she upgraded to a newer one? Well, I inherited the new-to-me dehydrator last week and I have been a FRUIT-LEATHER MAKING MACHINE since then!!!

To be fair, right now the prices on strawberries are at their once-a-year low. For the past 3 weeks I’ve been stocking up every time I go to the store. I’ve been able to get pints for as little as 89 cents, and I’ve bought about 2 pints per week the past 3 weeks. Some of them we’ve eaten (lots of smoothies and strawberries as snacks), some of them we’ve frozen for later (my goal is to really stock up now at the all-time low so we have strawberries still on-hand once prices go back up), and some of them we’ve used to make fruit leather!

It couldn’t be easier! You heat up strawberries on the stove-top with a little water (about 1/2 cup water per 4 cups fruit), then mash with a  potato masher (or throw in a food processor or blender), then add sugar to your desired sweetness, a little lemon juice, and that’s it! You can do it with all kinds of fruit, too. So far I’ve done plain strawberries, strawberry-banana, and strawberry-orange-pineapple. Loved them all!

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When it’s done dehydrating, I put the sheets of fruit leather on parchment paper, roll up, and store in the fridge. I did a calculation to see how much it costs to make my own versus buying fruit roll-ups from the store. I haven’t bought fruit roll-ups (ever), but I found a price for buying bulk online.

  • You can buy a 3 pack (10 roll-ups per pack) for 9.25 = .31 cents per roll.
  • I can make 1 sheet (4 roll-ups) out of 1 pint of strawberries ($1 or less) = .25 cents per roll.

Not a huge savings, but it’s 100% natural. It’s probably even more of a savings compared to the fancy fruit leather that’s sold in individual packages at stores nowadays. In all, probably not something we’ll be doing year-round, but its a fun little Spring treat when strawberries are in season and on sale for cheap!

Now, onto cutting costs….

I’ve been looking at every area of our monthly budget to try to cut costs and one thing I had zeroed in on was our phone bill.

I have a success to share – I managed to lower our phone bill (wahoo!), but perhaps not as much as I could have if we’d switched providers.

In the interest of full transparency, I <3 my phone! For real! I had pined over the iphone for years and finally bit the bullet and bought one when they came out with the 5c, since it was so much cheaper than the regular iphone (I switched from TMobile to Sprint in order to get it). So this is still really new to me. I’ve only had my “baby” for about 6 months at this point and I lurve it! I really do!

When talking about trying to reduce my wireless bill (it was a whopping $150/month!!!) many of you suggested that I switch providers. I looked into a couple of different providers – Ting and Republic Wireless, for example – but no one would let me keep my beloved iphone.

So I called Sprint and told them I need my bill to be lowered. The guy let me know we weren’t using nearly as much data as I had believed, and that we could get rid of our unlimited data and downgrade to 1 GB per line and still have data to spare. This was moving to their “Framily” plan that’s being heavily advertised now. And although we didn’t save $100/month, as we might have if we’d switched providers, I did manage to get our bill reduced by approximately $50/month (down to $100 from $150). The new plan didn’t go into effect until the 25th of this month so I won’t see the savings until the next month’s billing cycle ends but every little bit helps!

But….I did mention “mixed results” at the beginning of this post.

So, where have we done *ahem* not so well?

Well, you’ll have to wait for a full budget update from the month (coming next Monday), but I definitely went over my limit in a couple of categories. Nothing too terrible, but still not what I’d hoped. The only thing I can say in my defense, is that the overspending came from one specific category that I had tried to slash by over 30%. Our spending wasn’t outrageous, but it was pretty much in-line with the “old” (pre-slashed) budget. So I’m hoping this was just a growing pain that takes a month or two to figure out and hopefully we can work harder to spend less in future months.

In the meantime, I’m trying to finish the month strong. No spending of any kind until the 1st of May!

 

What have YOU have done lately to cut household costs and/or save money??


Ask the Reader: Frugal Kid’s Birthday Party Ideas

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My younger two share a birthday party every year, and that time is coming up in just a couple of months.  We’ve had combinations of paid party locations: Chuck E Cheese, local inflatables, Paint on Pottery, etc. as well as at home in the back yard type parties over the years.  I am definitely guilty of going overboard, but I have always rationalized and said that since it’s for two kids, it’s okay to spend a little more.

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This year, that is NOT happening.  Both kids have been told we are cutting back and I’ve asked them to start thinking of ideas for their party this year.  Here are the possibilities I’ve come up with:

  1. Homemade pinata – paper mache project we could do as school project for pretty much nothing so the only cost would be to fill it with goodies.
  2. Homemade water slide – big tarp laid down in our slightly sloping front yard with an adult spraying a water hose.
  3. Homemade cup cakes which everyone gets to decorate themselves – saves the cost of a “professional” cake/cupcake, but would require several frosting and some sprinkles
  4. Meet at the local park, invite the friends and just have a big playdate
  5. Invite one friend each to go to Rebounderz or Bounce House or a movie
  6. Buy a small canvas for each friend and having a  painting party in the back yard with snacks (kids weren’t keen on this one at all)

I guess the birthday party is the one part of their lives I have not let go of the “magical” childhood thing and it’s cost me plenty over the years.  I am determined to no only be frugal this time around but even CHEAP!  I have made it clear to both of them that I want to hear their input and desires, but I have to balance that with a very tight budget.  So I’m here asking for your help….

What frugal, yet magical ideas do you have for a child’s birthday party?  Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.


Ashley’s Money-Saving Tricks

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I want to start a series of money-saving tricks that I have started using since kicking off this debt-reduction journey. Hopefully these tricks will help reduce some of our monthly expenses (pssst: revised budget coming this afternoon). Here’s my first money-saving trick:

Homemade Cleaning Spray and Reusable Rags

I have actually been making my own cleaning spray for years. I started because of health/safety (I wanted a 100% natural cleaning solution for cleaning high chair surfaces), but it also had a side-effect of helping out the wallet. Since starting my debt-payoff journey, I also decided to eradicate paper towels from our lives.

To be fair, we still have some paper towels leftover from a Costco run I made in late February, but I have already switched over to reusable rags. If all goes well, hopefully our hoard of paper towels will last the entire year of our credit-card eradication challenge since we will only be using them very sparingly (side note – I also saw a tutorial on making DIY baby wipes out of paper towels for WAY cheaper than store-bought wipes, so that’s an alternative, too). The only thing I’ve noticed so far as a disadvantage of reusable towels is in regard to cleaning mirrors. The rags always leave streaks and little bits of rag “fuzz” behind. Any reader tips on how to avoid this?

Otherwise, I’m really trying to stick to the rags. In our case, the rags required no initial investment. Because we had twins instead of a singleton, we were gifted an obscene amount of burp cloths (which were all IMPERATIVE when the girls were babies). Now that they aren’t needed as burp cloths, they’ve just been sitting in our linen closet taking up space. I have just repurposed these into our cleaning rags. They’re the perfect size and I don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of towels to replace the paper towels. Win-Win!

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Dirty baby table about to get cleaned with a burp cloth and homemade cleaning solution. As you can see, I have reused an old spray bottle (you can tell from the picture it’s pretty old, as the label is peeling off). No up-front costs, only savings!!!

I have a link to my pinterest in my author info in case anyone is interested. I have a board of DIY ideas that I have used, and there are links to several homemade cleaning solutions you can use to save yourself some money, too!

and one more BONUS money-saving trick….

Free Magazine Scam

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the free magazine scams, right? These are when you get a mailing saying you can get a free magazine subscription for “X” months….but then they never remind you to cancel and the subscription auto-renews and CHARGES you!!! Familiar?

Well at the beginning of January I got an offer for FIVE free magazine subscriptions. I have no idea how this happened – I haven’t subscribed to a magazine in YEARS! But the mailing said that depending on the magazine, I could qualify for 6 months up to 1 year for free! Don’t mind if I do!

I went ahead and signed up for a bunch of magazines. Turns out I got 4 for one full year, and 1 for 6 months. All totally FREE!

Here’s the thing……the magazines are banking on you forgetting to call and cancel in time, and then they get to charge you! I am meticulous about keeping a planner (I would never remember all my various deadlines and due-dates otherwise). So I write in my planner the phone number, magazine subscription information, and a big note to CANCEL a month before the free trial ends (just so there’s no confusion or funny business).

But I don’t really care about magazines. I sometimes flip through them while the babies are taking a bath (I sit in the bathroom supervising, but they love to play in the tub so it could be a good 20 minutes or so), but I could do without them and don’t need them or anything.

So what’s my trick????

Almost as soon as I receive them, I take them to our local book resale shop (called Bookmans). It’s important that I take them soon after they arrive because then they are still the “current” issue. I take them to the book store and “trade-in” for store credit! I use the credit to buy books for my babies!!! Voila! Free books!!!

Me?? I’ve always been a library-girl. But my babies are so destructive they are NOT old enough yet to be responsible library-borrowers (they’re not even 2 yet), so we can’t borrow   baby books from the library for fear of a book getting a page torn, a sippy cup spilled on it, etc. But the books at the resale shop are cheap anyway, and once I use my 5 trade-in credits per month, I’m always able to walk away with 1-2 new-to-us books for the girls absolutely FREE!!!

So there you have it! Two new ways you can save some money!

What’s your favorite money-saving “trick”??? 


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