Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wisconsin State Park Sticker(s)!

In an effort to entertain ourselves, get out an enjoy nature, and keep our bodies strong and healthy, a $25 Wisconsin State Park sticker is coming in handy!  From short family day hikes to the centerpiece of longer vacations to local swimming options, we love Wisconsin State Parks!  Yes, I know there are those of you who use them for camping -- but our frugal little family doesn't camp.  As you can see from the windshield of my Honda; we've been fans for a few years!  How many will we visit in 2015?  Stay tuned as the year unfolds.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Frugal Ways to Entertain Kids While Traveling

One might think at 5 and 3 the kids were too young for the license plate game.  Wrong!  Okay, last year they could not read the plates themselves.  This year our oldest can, and your youngest is striving to keep up.  Using a printed US map from the web and a keen eye for odd license plates, we've had some epic license plate games.  The Hunt of 2014 ended with all but Delaware.  Oh where or where was Delaware.

The Hunt of 2015 (each year begins with our annual Bayfield trek and continues until we hit all 50) is going well, nearly  half the map is filled in.  But the running joke became "we'll need to go to Delaware to ever get that plate!", especially after I spotted a US Virgin Islands plate at the coffee shop after work -- seriously, that one, but no Delaware.

And then, as stepped off a lovely little hiking bath around the corner from our condo in Bayfield, there it was -- a white car with Delaware plates!  Colored in on the map, the hunt will continue for the rest of the states over our upcoming frugal road trips, where we explore the world with little use of technology (we are not purists).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Purge of 2015 Continues

One might think that a week long vacation would suspend our purge efforts.  If so, that prediction would be wrong.   Our annual trek to Bayfield,Wisconsin to celebrate the Summer Solstice and our wedding anniversary allowed us to increase the purged items to 1,283 items.  How so?  I packed up quite a few used children's books we've received over the past few months.  Pulled out here for reading, they were left at the local library for its fundraising sales!  A win for us, a win for the library.

If you are a road to purge the clutter from your life, get creative and do not let something like a little vacation slow your efforts!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Frugal Summer Entertainment Via the Library

Looking for a frugal way to entertain a child (or yourself) this summer?  Look no farther than your library.  Even on vacation libraries provided a wealth of entertainment at little to no cost:

  1. Books (the obvious)
  2. Music
  3. A place to hang out and enjoy the A/C during the dog days of summer
  4. Puppets, games, Legos, coloring books, and an amazing doll house (at least at this library)
  5. Movies and other films
  6. Live performances
Check it out if you haven't.  On-line requests for materials are more and more easily available.  Fees are little to non existent.  Open up your world with little more than a library card.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

$3 Flowers On the Table

Clearance flowers, $3 for the bunch.  A great buy.  Purchased from the very IGA I bought the flowers I held on my wedding day -- priceless.  Adorn your surroundings with something plucked from nature and enjoy the frugal path.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Frugal Parenting: Wet, Sandy, and Loving Nature

Entertaining your child (grandchildren) need not cost a fortune.  Here is my evidence -- for the price of an annual State Park (Wisconsin) admission sticker, our little ones dug, explored, and dreamed this afternoon.  There was no fancy beach umbrella or bag full of buckets and shovels.  Just a few sticks, sun caps, and a child's imagination unleashed.  Nature -- get out, get messy, have fun.  It is great for your budget, your health, and the planet.

Disclaimer -- it is not all bliss on these adventures.  Our youngest suffered a major meltdown when it was time to hike back to the car.  She was sandy, wet, and tired.  We worked through the screams, found some calm in a song I've used since she was a baby, and the storm of emotions passed.  All in all -- a gorgeous day to explore, spend quality time on father's day as well as our ninth wedding anniversary.

Big Bay State Park, Madeline Island, Wisconsin

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Half-Way Mark of 2015 Purge

Here we are, upon the longest day of the year, and our efforts to purge 2,015 items from our home are going well.  Mid-way through the year we are now 1,250 items fewer in our home.  From ebay sales to donations to friend give-aways to free on the curb -- slowly we are chipping away at the clutter. The end of the year at school brought a tidal wave of papers, crayon boxes, and books on in one fell swoop.  What to keep, what to recycle -- that is the question of summer!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Am Not Lucky, I Am Frugal

Last week a financial planner pinged me for a meeting.  Having never met she was interested in getting to know my as an estate planning and probate attorney, hoping one day I might refer her services.  And then her more immediate interest, offering financial planning services to my me and my husband.  Was I free for lunch?

My reply, as it is to any request for coffee or lunch these days was, thank you but I am working a part-time schedule this summer so that I can spend more time with my young children, and those part-time hours are entirely devoted to serving clients.  Coffee would be an option this fall, when school is back in session and I return to my 5 days a week at the office.  In her response she said she would reach out in late August and noted that I was "lucky" to be able to take that time off in the summer.

Lucky?  No, I am not lucky.  I am frugal, and I know my priorities.  Stepping back from longer days at the office means I have more time to be with my kids, especially during the years they still want to hang out with Mama (I know those tween and teen years can be touchy).  But it is also recognizing the benefit my health receives from slowing down.  That frugal pedometer I bought a few months ago reinforces the fact that my job is sedentary, very sedentary.  Hours at the office followed by kid pick-up from school make preparing a healthy home cooked meal harder, and creates the question of when and how can I work in a work out.  My summer hours allow for lazy mornings, decent thought on what to make for meal, and ample time to take long walks with the kids or fit in a solo run.  In my eyes, this move is a necessary for a long and healthful life.  So no, it is not luck that gives me this opportunity, it is a frugal mindset.

There are the small, daily frugal moves, such as reading coupons to maximize their effect on my budget as well as a commitment to cook at home as often as possible.

There the big frugal decisions -- such as not financing purchases such as cars, vacations, appliances, etc.  We may use a credit card at the point of purchase, but it is paid in full each month.  And those cards also pay us cash back at the years end.

And there are the huge frugal decisions.  To have a wedding proceeding rather than a full-blown wedding party.  To skip an engagement ring and opt for simple wedding bands.  Setting up my own legal practice where I am in total control of my calendar. Purchasing an inexpensive home on a busy road (drives the price down and we are always the first to be plowed out in the winter) to self-directly our financial investments to save costs.

Day in and day out our frugal decisions allow me the freedom to say, for the next 12 weeks I am working two afternoons, Fridays, and as needed by appointment.  For that, I am thankful!

Hello Summer 2015!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Frugal Since "I do"

We were both on the "frugal path" before we met, and saying "I do" did not steer us away from our devotion to living below our means.  Its good for your wallet, your health, your planet.....and yes, your marriage IMHO.

We were delighted to be recently interviewed by the Bayfield, Wisconsin Blog on our frugal planned elopement back in 2006.  Read more about the "proceeding" here, and spread the word.  Weddings come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets.

Happy wedding season everyone!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Purge of 2015: An Update

Crisp, clean, open, free -- all words that come to mind when I glance at this image I took back in 2013 during a family trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum.  What this photo projects is what I aim to achieve, on a smaller scale, here in our home.  The motivation behind our efforts to purge 2,015 items in 2015.

Here we are dear reader, once again on a Friday, and ready to report the tally.  As of today we have removed 1,192 items from our home.  Progress continues, but at a much slower pace.  From the open space in closets and drawers, a greater sense of order is slowly taking hold.

When we started down this path I assumed the purge would make cleaning the house easier and put a little extra cash in our pockets from items we sell.  I did not realize its power to stifle my shopping.  Earlier today I received an email alert from Savers announcing a 30% womens' and girls dresses next Monday.  I could use some more dresses, but I do not need more dresses, and darn it -- I want to make progress on the number of items removed from the house.  Shopping would send me in the opposite direction.  Email deleted!

Tips, comments, thoughts on how to keep the purge going are all welcome.  Leave a comment and share!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Up-Gifting: When Up-Cycling Meets Re-Gifting

There is up-cycling (where you take an item and turn it into something else; a glass jelly jar becomes a candle) and there is re-gifting (where you pass along a gift you received, but did not use, to another.  For example, giving a box of lotions with a scent you do not favor to a friend recovering from surgery).  And now I give you up-gifting; one part turning something you have into something else, and one-part giving the final product as a gift.

A violet plant pot had sat on a shelf in our garage for a good two years.  With the Purge of 2015 it was earmarked to be donated to Goodwill.  For some reason it still remained on the shelf.  When the invitation arrived for our daughter to a dear friend's birthday, inspiration hit.  Have our daughter, known for her love of art, paint the pot for her friend, add a violet, and give it as a lasting birthday gift.  Knowing the birthday child's mother well, I know that this would be a treasured item as she detests the cheap, plastic, overly pink toys as much if not more than I do.

I give you the up-gift -- reused, reformed, and given with love (and just a bit of pink).  I challenge you to look around your space. What do you no longer need?  Can you do something with it other than toss it in the trash or recycle bin -- extend its utility, open your mind.  It is great for the wallet, your spirit, and the planet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hello Iris: More From A Frugal Garden

Firmly planted in the growing season here in the Midwest, I find myself once or twice a week pushing our trusty push mower to cut the grass.  Lawns -- they do get me outside and keep me somewhat active by requiring me to mow.  But they suck a lot of energy (physical and water), time and resources -- especially if you want a lush verdant carpet surrounding your home).  In our frugal home we want some lawn, enough for the kids to kick around a ball.  And we have that, in the back yard.  Our front yard, located on a busy road, begs to be turned into something less needy.  And year by year I am working to fulfill the goal.  Having killed off a decent part of grass and removed ugly pine-like bushes, there are some gaping holes to fill in out front.

Annuals are not my go to because, well they only give you one season. I am in search of the perennial, once planted will keep on giving year after year.  And because of that ability, plants are not inexpensive.  But I am fond of certain ones, the purple iris co-shares the top spot on my list with the poppy.  Faint memories of the wall along my great-grandmother's home lined with the lush purple of an iris, scattered with raspberry bushes.  The memory evokes a smile and a feeling of warmth, and oh how I would like beds of irises for our home.

By now you've noted the photo with the box of irises. No, I did not purchase them, but rather rescued from the curb of a neighbor.  Her post on Facebook to our neighborhood page was only minutes old, seen just as I grabbed my keys to head out and pick the kids up from school.  Thrill took hold of my stomach as I turned onto the street listed, and there sat two huge boxes of irises.  I took one, counting my lucky starts that this adored plant would now take up residence in my yard.  Filling in the void, and reminding me with each glance of the beloved great-grandmother I adored, so much so that my daughter is named in her honor.  No expense needed, just a struck of good fortune.  Recognizing this good karma from the curb, I plan to pay it forward by offering up other plants and items from our home and yard that will hopefully put the smile on the face of another frugal person, willing to welcome the cast-offs of others.

That is the story of my iris beds, what's your frugal reader?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Welcome to the Jungle - Comments on a Frugal Garden

Two weekends ago my youngest climbed into bed with me for a snuggle on a lazy, slow-start Sunday.  After sometime she popped up, pulled back the curtain and declared with her four year old voice, "wow, the yard is really green now!  It looks like a jungle out there." And after a brief pause added, "I hope a monkey doesn't move in."

She scampered off down the hall to begin her day while I not only chuckled at her comment, but thought, she's right -- our yard is out of control!  The seed was planted, tame the yard.  Where it festered until this past weekend.

Word of mouth among my neighbors tell us that two families prior to ours lived in our home.  He was a doctor, she had family from Illinois that worked in landscaping.  Over weekends with her family, our backyard was sculpted with a stone path and patio and the addition of hardy perennials and ground cover.  They moved on, someone else moved in, and then in 2010 we moved it.  The garden has taken life into its own hands, hands that threaten to strangle a leg that dares walk across the path.

What they worked hard to plant, nurture and see grow, I now seek to tame.  And that means in part, kill off!  My first move was to create a path to the water faucet.  Mission accomplished using leftover carpet remnant that had been taking up space in the basement, over which is dumped three bags of cypress mulch (cost $12).  And voila, a path and fewer growth in the backyard.

If you have thoughts or suggestions on frugal ways to reclaim our backyard space, please leave a comment!

Putting down the carpet.

Toss down some mulch, and voila - path!

 From the house, my husband opted to play me some gardening music -- 
he has a song for everything - Welcome to the Jungle by Guns and Roses.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Frugal: About To Get Serious!

In our frugal home, Friday has become ice cream day.  Yes, I know that today is officially National Donut Day, but it is Friday in my planner, so it is ice cream for us -- plus, I have a coupon to use. So after collecting both kids from school, we'll celebrate the end of the week with a cone from Chocolate Shoppe (if you are ever in Madison -- this is the place to go for locally delicious goodness!).  This week we will also be celebrating the last full week of school for the kids. While my alarm is still set for 5:35am this coming Monday, the days of school are few and the days reduced.  With the release from school comes a frugal Mama reducing her work schedule.  Working for yourself has many perks, and opting to work 2 afternoons and 1 full day a week so to be able to frolic with kiddos while they still enjoy mom time, is one of those perks.

Chocolate Shoppe has one flavor that stands out in my mind today, it is called This #@*# Just Got Serious!  Fantastically popular I have yet to try the flavor, being a lady of routine and always ordering Door County Cherry, it could be my motto for the summer months here on Frugal Upside.
Summer will mean fewer hours at the office and more time with our children.  Childcare will be in the form of instruction -- two afternoons of swim camp where each will receive a lesson, as well as free play and craft time.  All day Friday will be spent at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center focused on hands-on science.  With the exception of the commute time, the rest of their programming will be devoted to supporting my legal work.  For the first in a long time, we are not paying for surplus and likely unused childcare.  Nope, its the bare minimum.  This also means my income will be down over the summer. Giving me time and motivation to take our frugal life up a notch!

Stay tuned as we work to purge those 2,015 items from our home and stretch the utility of what we purchase -- with the end result being good for our wallet, our budget, and our planet.  To close, I will inform you that we have now rid our home of 1,166 items.  Will we break the 1200 mark next week? Subscribe for email alerts to follow our progress, leave a comment to inspire us, and thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

When A Frugal Home Decides to Purge!

A pictorial of the fraction of the items we have discarded since January 1st.  Our goal?  To rid our home of 2,015 items in 2015.  We are at about the half-way mark.  Tune in this Friday for the weekly update on items moved on to another life!

Why the effort?  A frugal home is an efficient one, and when you are constantly tripping over, moving, or walking around clutter, it is near impossible to be efficient.  It was a vacation that drove this idea to reality -- if we don't need it when we are away, why do we hold on to it?  Yes, there are some items we use once a year, but love.  And then there are the scads of items that slither into our lives that take up space and energy.  This year we'll say good-bye, lighten our load, turn some into cash, and have a home that is (I hope) far easier to clean!  Will we make it to 2,015? The long-hanging fruit are gone, it's time to get serious!

These came with the house.....back in 2010!
Listed for free on Craigslist, gone within an hour.

A desk that simply was not needed, and a perfect space for clutter to build.  
Sold it on Craigslist for $75

Came with the house, sold for $10!

Inherited from my parent's home.  Sold on Ebay -- price escapes my memory.

Yet another relic from prior owner(s)?  Free via Craigslist, gone within a day!

And yet, there is more to be purged.  What will be next?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Back Porch Hair Cuts: Living Frugal in Madison, WI

Skipped the salon,and opted for hair cuts on the back porch at home. Water bottle, scissors, one kid then the other.  Snip, snip to her bangs, then chop, chop away at my his hair.  Taming the bushy hair that appears to grow overnight, just as he does.  In less than 20 minutes both were "freshened up", while the other played in the yard.  No mess to clean up, just brush the chopped hair to the ground where it will continue its organic process, becoming part of the soil.  An ideal frugal move for our home.  Happy to save $30 on the cost of cuts, no schlepping off to the mini-mall, no real stress of transitioning little kids from one activity to another.  Perfect!

Keeping it frugal here this week, how about you?  Are home haircuts the norm or going to far for you my fellow frugal reader?

P.S. the cheesey chive corn bread from yesterday's post received a 3 out of 5 on the taste scale.  Mom and daughter approved, son took one bite and set it aside, and to my surprise, my husband gave it an "ahhh, it's okay I guess".

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Baking with Chives

 It began with a book.  Some work of fiction that showed up in my library holds one day, uncertain when or why I had requested it.  Lost Lake, a charming tale set in the South, on the Georgia Florida border.  Oddly placed was a mute french cook, who throughout kept whipping up batches of chive scones to feed the guests.  And at least in this piece of fiction, the chive scones were a hit with the kids at the lake resort.

Chives -- those are growing in my front yard.  Kids -- I have two growing under my nose, of which I am constantly working to expand their lists of "acceptable" foods.  Bu the scones part gave me pause, never yet have they met a scone they liked.  What to do?  Turn to Betty Crocker of course.

There on page 39 of my well-worn copy is a recipe for cheese and onion corn bread.  Swap chives for onions, and voila, you have an option for this frugal mom.  The final product is cooling on the counter as I type, scheduled to be served alongside turkey burgers with tonight's meal.  Turkey burgers will get them to yell YEAH, hopefully buoying their moods to try a new food at the end of their day.  Will it succeed?  Time will tell.  I am fairly certain my husband will give the cheese-chive corn bread a thumbs up simply based on the smell that came out of the oven.

And so this frugal cook has begun working with chives.  What other suggestions might you have? Until Lost Lake I never thought about adding them to baked goods.  Expand my world, leave a comment, and thanks for reading!

If you want to give this a try before hearing my post-consumption report, here is the recipe:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups corn meal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cheese
  • handful chopped chives.
Mix it well, bake for 28 minutes at 450 degrees.  Check a future post for the verdict!