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Posted in Gardening

Almost Spring…

And then this happened…

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Patiently waiting for Spring!

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Posted in Pets

Guinea Pig Hay

We have 3 guinea pigs. My daughter wanted to have a pet for as long as I can remember.  I didn’t feel we had enough free time to offer to a dog and I’m allergic to cats so we agreed on a guinea pig.

We borrowed 4 books about guinea pigs from the library and I required my daughter to read them all so she would understand that while, yes, they are cute, they also require some effort. We both read each book, cover to cover. I learned a lot, too, and subsequently felt a little guilty about the care I offered my guinea pigs way back when. They are a social animal and it is recommended that you acquire more than one so they won’t get lonely. So we purchased 2 guinea pigs from the local pet store a few years ago and then we adopted another from a friend who needed to move out of state and couldn’t take the pig with her.

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Everything has been going along just fine with the pigs until recently when I noticed the quality of the hay I was buying just hasn’t been the same as when we got started. It seems like I’m buying a big bag of ‘dust’ lately, the equivalent of which we called ‘shake’ at the horse farm. It’s like buying a bag of potato chips that’s been smashed: still potato chipsimg_3187 but not quite as appetizing and makes a big mess. I end up dumping the unappealing leftover contents of their hay bin every night into the compost bin. I’ve tried every brand of hay the pet store carries and sadly they are all disappointing. I even inspect each bag closely to make sure I’m buying some good stuff but it’s like the machine that bags it puts the big pieces on the outside and stuffs the center with crumbs. Frustrating given the fact that I’m buying a big bag at least every month for between $17 and $20 and pitching over half of it into the compost bin outside.

My mom, the ever helpful happily willing presence in my life, found a website that specializes in good quality hay for small pets. I will be giving the company a try in hopes that my dollars will finally be well spent. I hope the pigs will be happier, too!

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Posted in Work

First Day

First day at the new job went well. Lots of orientation type things and sitting in front of a computer for training videos. It’s a relief to have some education for what I will be doing, the accounting firm provided next to none and I had to Google how to do my job there!

Best of all, I signed up for direct deposit. Everything is computerized everywhere nowadays and coming from the stone ages at the firm this is new and exciting for me.

Looking forward to more of the same today. A complete no-stress situation for now is a treat.

Staying Above the Waterline with part-time pay starts now…

Posted in Penny Pinching

Little Ways

In our city, we have a combined utility bill that includes electric, water, sewer, trash, and recycle. Sewer is completely based on the water usage and the trash/recycle is a fixed amount each month. The only variables are the water and electric.

I’m usually charged the minimum amount for water each month. There’s only 2 of us in this house most of the time, my fiancé is only here once a week or occasionally stays for an entire weekend with or without his daughter along. I can think of only a few times in all these years I paid more than the minimum. This happened during the summer months when we watered our plants, washed the car, or tackled some outdoor cleaning project like scrubbing the siding on the house.

Electric is a different matter. My electric usage/charge is always consistent, only varying based on how much we had to turn the whole house air conditioning on or how much the furnace ran during the winter. I like the hot summers and will only switch the air on when things are unbearable. Humidity makes sleeping impossible so I do turn the air on at night. I dislike being cold and will keep the furnace set at a reasonable temp all winter.

Though I’ve always been conscious of turning off lights, etc.,  I never really thought too much about the electric bill. However, now that I’m very money aware since I quit my full-time job for a part-time job it’s a different situation.

I try to conserve our electric usage as best as I can nowadays by not only turning the lights off when I leave a room but in other ways, too. I will only run the dishwasher or wash a load of laundry if I have a full load. I will dry clothes whenever I can by hanging themimg_3142 outside on the line. Obviously, this is tough to accomplish in the winter months but I take advantage of a sunny day when the temps are above 40 or so.

Here’s a pic of my guinea pig blankets drying recently in the sun instead of running the clothes dryer. I found these ‘piggy bedspreads’ to buy instead of purchasing bedding. I was spending approximately $20 every 3 weeks on bedding for their cages when we first got the pigs 4 years ago so these fleece bedspreads have more than paid for themselves over the years. Expensive up front but well worth the investment.

I make sure to open all of the curtains as soon as I get up in the morning so that I’m not turning on lights. Natural light is better for me anyways. I have an LED nightlight in the bathroom that is motion sensitive so I rarely turn the overhead lights on for simple bathroom tasks. When I boil a pot of water for my coffee (I use a French press) or for a cup of tea, I always turn the burner off well before it hits boiling. Boiling a pot of pasta for a set amount of time, I’ll turn the stove off when there’s still a few minutes to go. I use a broom to sweep the kitchen and sunroom floors instead of running the vacuum. We don’t watch a whole lot of TV here except a couple evenings during the week. When I’m home, I busy myself with housework, yardwork, reading, or I go for a walk to occupy my time.

I’d like to come up with some more ways to cut my electric bill each month, every dollar counts at this point! This should help us stay Above the Waterline

 

 

Posted in Penny Pinching, Staying Healthy

Sunday Meat Shopping

I’ve started buying the meat we eat at one store, a health food store, to keep things simple and healthy. Sticking to my plan to only buy what I’ll need for the upcoming week, I’ll plan out our meals before I get there as close to when they open as possible before they sell out of the good stuff.

Spending a total of $28.24 this trip will provide the main course for 5 meals:

  • 2 sweet Italian sausages
  • 1 lb of ground beef, cottage cheese, and penne pasta for a casserole that will leave leftovers for the next night.
  • 1 strip steak
  • 1 butterfly pork chop

I still have 1 container of stew beef in the freezer from last week’s trip I have to figure out what to do with.

A week’s worth of meat in the freezer for under $30 helps me feel like I’m keeping us Above the Waterline

 

Posted in Penny Pinching, Work

Jeans

I get to wear jeans to my new job! I can’t tell you how excited I am by this! After wearing what I referred to as my ‘monkey-suit’ all these years, I will finally get to wear clothes that I will feel comfortable in all day. And I can wear a long sleeve shirt under my work shirt if I so desire, which I do, because I like to be warm.

I currently own 3 pairs of jeans that are suitable for work. The others are uncomfortable for bending and general moving about, we all have those jeans… I’ll be working 4 days a week for now and I only do laundry when I have a full load. Since it sounds like I’ll be getting them dirty each day I think I should live dangerously and buy another pair.

Old Navy jeans are just about the only jeans that fit me right, both my body and my budget. And they last a long time, too.  Right now they’re having a sale, 50% off jeans – what timing! I picked out a pair to try on in my size. I always try them on. I’ve been burned too many times by online orders of multiple jeans of the same style and same size and they all fit completely different. This pair fit great! I also found a black long sleeve shirt on clearance, joy! I had a coupon code from doing the survey on my last Old Navy receipt that was good for an additional 10% off my entire purchase. All in all my total was $19.13 including tax, I saved a total of $16.97.

I start my new job Tuesday 🙂

 

 

Posted in Penny Pinching, Staying Healthy, Work

Lunch

With my new job I will get a 15 minute lunch break since I’m classified as part-time. No problem! I eat pretty much the same thing every day…

img_3178Meat, cheese, and yogurt. Specifically, 5 slices of meat, 3 slices of cheese, and 1 container of yogurt (or yoghurt as they spell it.) This takes the guess work out of planning my lunch. I no longer stand in front of the refrigerator staring into oblivion like I can’t believe someone didn’t already make me a sandwich and leave it in there for me.

One hunk of meat and one block of cheese will last me all week. This is great for my budget, too! No waste, no forgotten lunchmeat going bad, no more bread going stale. And at a quick glance I can tell if I need to get to the store soon.

I’ve been maintaining this food system for at least 2 years now. I have been packing my lunch for years and years to take to work or if I know I won’t be back home in time to eat on the weekends and such. Only time will tell if the activity level at the new job will require me to eat more since I’ll no longer be driving a desk all day.

So, yah, 15 minutes for lunch, no problem!

Posted in Penny Pinching

Groceries on a Budget

Grocery shopping was never really a concern of mine until recently. I used to stroll the aisles not only picking out what I needed, but what I wanted. Stocking up on items that would sit in my freezer or in my cupboard for weeks or even months. This is going to have to stop! Transitioning from a full-time position to a part-time, less money per hour, position is forcing me to rethink my grocery/cooking strategy.

I’ve always been a coupon clipper, quite aware of how much I spend on groceries each month by tracking my spending in Quicken. I take the time to load my grocery card with e-offers from the grocery store website and make choices based on sale items.

My average cost for a trip to the grocery store has always been around $150 – $200, health food store $40 – $80. I’m used to spending $600-$800 a month on groceries (which includes household items, too, like paper towels, cleaning items, toilet paper, etc.) Now I need to really work on cutting that expense down and only buy what we’re going to consume that week. My goal is to cut my monthly spending in half!

This is my most recent receipt from the grocery store. As you cimg_3167an see I’ve been using coupons and in-store sales to my advantage. Total 12 month savings: $538.48. I have also been diligently completing the survey on each receipt in hopes of supplementing my grocery budget.

The grocery store also offers discounts, called fuelperks!,  on gas for the car. For every $50 I spend on groceries I earn $.10 in fuelperks!. This adds up over time and significantly helps reduce my vehicle expenses.

This trip’s savings totaled $9.39 from a combination of sale items and coupons. Let’s see if next time I can do better.

Staying Above the Waterline with regards to food is going to be challenging…

 

Posted in Gardening

Squirrel Guard

My mom contributed this to my bulb growing efforts:

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I hope this helps keep the squirrels from digging and taking the bulbs. I need some kind of ‘pins’ to hold it in the dirt but it’s ok like this for now. Also, looks my dirt settled in this pot. The others didn’t settle like this, must be the pot without the Styrofoam peanuts and various types of dirt. I’ll add more dirt when I get more. It’s raining a little bit today so I’m rotating the ‘squirrel guard’ among the bigger pots with the pieces of wood.

img_3163-1This pic is a little fuzzy – Run squirrel, run! Seems to be working already… I need to find more of these but the closest thing to it I can find are round bakers’ racks for cooling cookies. They not too expensive on Amazon so I’ll keep an eye on them and see if the price drops on them. This biggest I can find are 8.5″ and they have smaller 6″ ones, too.

I can’t wait to see these bulbs emerge from the dirt! The bulbs that are scattered randomly throughout my yard are up so I hope with a little sun and water these guys will catch up. Some of them already had sprouts when I planted them so I figure if they’ll grow in a bag in the garage they’ll grow in a pot!