Tag Archives: holidays

Ronnica’s 101 Tips for Living on Less and Loving it

The idea for this blog is taken directly from Your Money or Your Life. In the updated version, Vicki Robin removed the tips section she had previously and advised writing your own…so I am.

Here are my tips for living on less and loving it:

Attitude
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know how much debt they had to go into to buy that house/car/wardrobe/vacation.
2. Focus on being thankful for what you have instead of what you do not have.
3. Open your eyes to those in other situations than you are (at home and abroad). Much of what we think of as “needs” is culturally influenced.
4. Be more concerned about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
5. Make friends who are like-minded and can inspire and encourage you.
6. Seek advice from those who are better than you in the areas you want to improve.
7. Avoid ads whenever possible.
8. Avoid visiting places where you will be tempted to shop without forethought.
9. When you’re tempted to splurge, remind yourself of your long-term goals.
10. Unfollow Facebook friends whom you are tempted to be envious of.

Groceries/food 
11. Buy fruit when in season and on sale and freeze or can it for later for use throughout the year.
12. Freeze unused yogurt before it goes bad and stick it in smoothies.
13. Freeze unused milk before it goes back and use it for baking.
14. Make your own dressing…better for you, and you make it for your own tastes.
15. Make your own spice mixes (ranch packet, Italian seasoning, chili powder, etc.).
16. Make sweets from scratch. Cheaper, and you’ll eat them less often.
17. Make your own ice, saving in Ziploc bags if you need to take it with you.
18. Make your own pizza crust and freeze it in appropriate-sized dough balls (wrapped in saran wrap placed in a Ziploc bag).
19. Eat more like a vegetarian.
20. Replace ground beef with black beans in your favorite casseroles.
21. Bake a week’s worth of goods in one day.
22. Know where to buy what to get the most value.
23. Freeze any unused bread before it goes bad, then use it to make your own croutons.
24. Save eating out for special occasions…
25. But be sure to tip generously when you do.

Health/beauty
26. Find beauty products that you can use for more than one purpose.
27. Wear less makeup.
28. Wear makeup less.
29. Cut your own hair.
30. Spend less time on your outward beauty and more time on your inward beauty.

Utilities
31. Turn off your electronics when you leave your house. I have my TV, DVD player and modem on a power strip that I can easily flip off when I leave the house.
32. Use a window fan to cool your bedroom instead of A/C.
33. Research the cheapest cell plan that meets your needs (StraightTalk has been great for me).
34. Pay for your cell phone by the year to save money (I pay for 11 months and get the 12th free).
35. Buy a highly-rated phone and keep it for several years.
36. Save waste water (like from unfinished cups or pasta water) and use to water your garden.

Housekeeping
37. Make your own laundry detergent.
38. …and your own dishwasher detergent.
39. Hang up your clothes to dry after washing, even if you have to hang a line inside.
40. Clean your kitchen with vinegar and water.
41. Clean your toilet with vinegar and baking soda.
42. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

Clothes
43. Buy clothes that you are comfortable and you look good in. For me, that’s skirts.
44. Hang up clothes at the end of the day where they can breathe. If they don’t have visible dirt or stink by morning, hang them back in your closet.
45. Simplify your wardrobe so that everything matches just 1 or 2 pairs of shoes.
46. Pare down your underwear down to a week’s worth, and wash by hand between machine washes if needed.
47. When buying new tops, try getting 3/4 length sleeves, as they’re wearable almost year-round.

Garden
drying oregano48. Take advantage of any sunny area to plant a container garden.
49. Starting with easy veggies that are your favorites.
50. Grow your own herbs. Much cheaper and tastier than what you can get at the store.
51. Make friends with people who grow different things in their garden than you do and trade.
52. Companion plant in a way to attract the right kinds of bugs (ex: nasturtium with tomatoes).
53. Invest a little more in non-hybrid seeds, and save the seeds the plants produce for the next year.
54. Add cleaned egg shells to your tomato soil to fight blossom end rot.
55. Fight powdery mildew with watered-down milk.

Transportation
56. Be generous in the space you give between you and the driver in front of you. Saves stress as well as gas/brakes.
57. Turn off your car’s A/C if you are driving under 45 MPH.
58. Use public transportation when traveling to high travel areas (like downtown). Cheaper than parking and less stressful.
59. Instead of buying a car with payments, save each month what you would spend on a car payment and buy your next car with cash.
60. When shopping for a car, shop according to your needs, not what others will think or how the car makes you feel.
61. Buy transit passes through work, which allows you to buy them with pre-tax money.

Shopping
62. Before buying anything, find out if someone has something that you can borrow to meet that need, or if you can repurpose something else.
63. Buy to last: it’s okay to spend a little more in the short term to get something that will last your lifetime.
64. Don’t browse catalogs or websites.
65. Research electronics so you get exactly what meets your needs.
66. Focus on buying items that can meet more than one need.
67. Comparison shop online before hitting up the store.
68. Avoid the mall, unless you have a specific purpose for being there.
69. Use reusable bags. (Store in the car so you don’t forget.)
70. Save your splurging for the library.

Travel
71. Pack your own snacks and entertainment. You’ll spend half as much at a drug store than at the airport for the same items.
72. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.
73. Download ebooks from your library to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
74. If traveling over holidays, research flights on the holidays themselves, as they are usually significantly cheaper.
75. Save regularly for your travel goals, and don’t let less significant trips get in the way of budgeting for the ones you’ve always wanted to take.
76. Pack as few pants/skirts and shoes as is reasonable.

Moving 

77. Before deciding to move, come up with a budget and save up so that you’re not moving a credit card bill, too.
78. Find someone who recently moved and ask them for their boxes when they are finished.
79. Price the various moving options and determine what is the best value for you, money and time-wise.
80. Don’t forget to budget for all the little things you always seem to need when you move to a new place: trashcan, rugs, curtains, etc…
81. But also think through what you can reasonably do without.
82. If moving long distance, consider which possessions it may be reasonable to get rid of and replace when you get to your new home.
83. After you move, don’t visit any local fast food places, so you never get into that habit.

Hobby/Entertainment
colorado trail fall colors84. Find hobbies that costs no money. Mine are reading and hiking.
85. Use the library liberally to get as many as your entertainment selections as bbpossible.
86. Instead of going to the movies, make note of movies you want to see, to watch them on Netflix or borrow from the library later.
87. Exercise for free: outdoors or using frugally-acquired equipment at home.
88. Be a tourist in your own city, seeing (free or cheap!) sights you’ve never seen.
89. Cancel your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions regularly, saving up what you want to see for single 30-day windows, paying just for one month.
90. Use Pandora or Spotify instead of buying your own music.
91. When meeting up with friends, do activities that are free. Eat in together (even if it’s leftovers!) instead of out.

Holidays/Giving
92. Don’t give obligation gifts. Give according to your heart.
93. Buy a pack of blank cards, instead of holiday-specific cards. Write your own message.
94. Be intentional in your giving to charities, researching the organizations that you are giving to.
95. Pare down your holiday decorations to your absolute favorites.
96. Wrap gifts in usable or reusable wrappings (such as a reusable grocery bag in a fun color).

Time Management
97. Order your to-do list from most important to least, then work from the top.
98. Review your life plan regularly so that your to-do list aligns with it.
99. Make shopping lists on your phone (I use Evernote), saving paper and making it harder to leave behind.
100. Run your errands in one day, mapping your route to save gas and time.
101. If something has been on your to-do list for a few weeks, either do it or mark it off undone.

2016 Goals Update

unnamed (12)Time for an update on how my 2016 goals are going!

Make one extra mortgage payment.  This hasn’t happened yet, but we are making great strides with skimming extra money off where we can (like with groceries).

To be honest, though, this goal is the one I am prioritizing last.  The bigger picture goal, of course, is to just pay off the mortgage and be completely debt-free.  Whether that happens via an extra mortgage payment per year, or in one lump sum, we will be thankful regardless.

Journal and devotions daily.  I have learned making this goal a reality really hinges on whether or not I get up early.  Peanut has been dealing with sickness of late, which makes for some irregular nights and challenging days, so I sleep when I can.  I try to give myself grace–if I can’t journal daily, that’s okay…I get up the next day and try again.

I have also begun to count family devotions as my own devotion time.  I appreciate the opportunity to delve into devotions privately, but also treasure the ability to share that time with my family too.

Screen time to four times daily.  I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one.  We don’t have a landline, and as a stay-at-home-mom, my cell phone is my link to the outside world on many days–texting is how I communicate with many people, I call my father daily, taking pictures to send to the kids’ grandparents with my phone technically involves “screen time,” and things like emailing my daughter’s preschool teacher requires time with a screen.  My volunteer position also requires quite a bit of time in front of a screen lately.

Although I may not be able to scale back to four times daily (yet) for an hour a day (yet), it is still my goal.  For now, I keep my phone in one spot rather than carry it with me everywhere, which has actually proven quite helpful in eliminating unnecessary phone checks.

Invite six families to supper.  One down, one scheduled, four to go!  Making great strides with this one.

Posting my goal progress on here keeps me accountable.  How are your personal goals coming along?

2016 Spending Goals

I’m an obsessive budgeter. I know exactly where each dollar should go, planning months ahead.

But until a few months ago, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to where my money actually went. If I went over in a category, I would find money to make up for it in another, which helps to cover up overspending.

So I’ve decided to use the best information I have to reconstruct what I spent in each category each month. In 2015, I spent $19,203.52, not include debt payoff, savings or giving.

Looking over my numbers, I’ve decided to set goals for several categories for 2016 to try to lower my spending from 2015 levels. While I don’t believe my 2015 spending was necessarily too high, I want to fight to keep it in control as I work towards my longer term financial goals.

Important note: I have not changed what I’m budgeting in any category. My budget still reflects what I believe I may spend each month, so will necessarily be higher than the numbers listed below for my goals. Any difference between actual  and budgeted spending will go towards savings (80%) and retirement (20%).

There are a few categories that I will not be setting goals in. This is what I spent in these categories in 2015:

Rent $10,903
Utilities $1,356.98
Insurance $765.34
Gas $750.57
Car (repair/registration) $589.75
Cell phone $548.22

Now for the categories that I am setting goals in:

Groceries
2015 actual: $2,026.04
2016 goal: $1,820

I’m actually pretty happy about this number, as it works out to just under $39 a week. Still, without Diet Dr Pepper and hopefully even less food waste, I should be able to trim it down even more. My goal reflects $35/week.

Ronnica on mountaintop
Views like this make traveling worthwhile.

Travel
2015 actual: $743.35
2016 goal: $1,400

Yes, this goal is going up! This is an estimation of what the trips that I hope to take in 2016 will cost. I already have some of it saved up.

Hobby
2015 actual: $625.93
2016 goal: $260

I spent a lot on outdoor gear this year as I have started to settle into being a Coloradan. I don’t have as many of those types of purchases planned for 2016, though I do hope to go to a few events.

Garden/homesteading fund
2015 actual: $319.60
2016 goal: $75

This is incredibly high, as I settled in to gardening on my balcony, and I don’t like it. I absolutely will not allow myself to spend that much in 2016. I should only need to buy a few seeds and possibly a few starter plants.

Eating Out
2015 actual: $281.98
2016 goal: $200

Though decent, this number can definitely go down since I’ve given up Diet Dr Pepper.

Gifts
2015 actual: $179.61
2016 goal: $120

I like blessing others, but I need to be more creative in how I do so to get this under control.

Clothes
2015 actual: $60.86
2016 goal: $20

I love this! Thanks to some generous Christmas gifts, I don’t think I’ll need to buy anything this year. I am setting a small goal for myself in case I need new tights or finally find the brown or navy skirt that I have been hunting for.

Christmas
2015 actual: $52.29
2016: $50

I’m happy with this number for 2015 as well so I’m only slightly lowering the goal for 2016.

I’m a competitive person, so I’m hoping by setting goals for myself, I’ll be able to spend even less this year!

2016 Goals

unnamed (12)Last year, I discussed my take on resolutions.  It wasn’t anything earth-shattering–the typical annual list of goals; you can see a few listed in the picture to the left.

I didn’t accomplish some of them to the extent that I’d hoped (we only had a few families over, versus the six stated in the resolution, for instance), but others (like the Mama Time-Out) were quite successful.

Since sharing my goals with others holds me accountable, here are a few of my 2016 resolutions.  Not all are directly related to stewardship, but the trend does seem to be in the directions of being more mindful with my time–something that I want to improve upon in the new year.

Make one extra mortgage payment.  This would obviously cut down on what we owe on our home.  Not sure how we will get to this point, so please send me any tips you may have!

Journal and devotions daily.  Next month, I will discuss an experiment on early rising I have undertaken.  I hope to devote more time to journaling and time in quiet reflection during these early morning hours.

Screen time to four times daily.  I find myself heading to my phone to do mindless browsing of social media and websites a ridiculous amount of times each day.  I’d like to limit this to four times a day, for a maximum amount of 1 hour.

Invite six families to supper.  Although we didn’t get this completely accomplished in 2015, it is a goal that is both reasonable and challenging, so I am keeping it for 2016.

What goals do you have for the new year?

Amanda’s Christmas Secret

69681668-3243-45d2-8de0-15cd197bc0dfI have a secret to share with you.

I went into this holiday season without a set budget for Christmas gifts.

So now that the big secret is out, let me explain.

I’m not proud of this tidbit.  Initially, I had a budget lined up (if little else), but that was before the recipient list widened considerably.

Due to many factors, there wound up being seventeen people on our Christmas list this year, and three December birthdays to plan for.  That is a whole lot of dough to spend, particularly if one is an “average” American.  Let’s just say we didn’t have several hundred dollars at our disposal.  (In that respect, I suppose our budget was, “As cheap as possible.”)

I briefly considered going the craft/homemade gift route, but realized I did not have the time necessary to create a thoughtful and creative gift.  Instead I opted to do one of four things for each recipient on our list.

We had family pictures taken and ordered prints. With a coupon coupled with an amazing online sale, this turned out to be a really great idea.  The recipients of this gift (grandparents, etc.) are always appreciative of a personal gift…especially where our kiddos are involved. Bonus:  we got family pictures for ourselves as well, which were long overdue.

We gave a donation.  Using points sites, we were able to give charitable donations in the gift recipient’s honor.  Bonus:  it made us feel like we were contributing to something greater than ourselves.

We gave an experience.  Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like taking someone out to eat at a favorite restaurant.  Bonus:  the restaurant is a favorite of all in attendance!

We gave gift cards and cookies, or traditional gifts.  Although these were among the more expensive gifts on our list, for these recipients, gift cards were preferred gifts, and the cookies added a personal touch, as well as something to “unwrap.” We were able to choose our denomination for the gift cards, which helped keep costs down.

Our kids (and Riley) are the primary recipients of the traditional gifts.  To keep things simple, I adhered to the, “Something you want, something to read, something to wear, and something you need” gift-giving philosophy, so each kiddo is getting just four small gifts from us.  Bonus:  We get to see their little faces light up when they see their gifts. (Although they are very easy to please.  Peanut, for example, would be thrilled with just the wrapping paper.)

Each recipient has either already received their gift, or knows of it, or (as in the case of our kids) can’t read yet, so this post should not spoil anyone’s surprises. But I do want to share one more thing.

We spent around $250 total.

While certainly far below the national average, that is still a lot of money to spend in the span of just a few weeks, and I blame going into it without a Christmas budget.  Note:  there are a couple of gifts under the tree for me from Riley and the kids, and those are not factored into the total…because I have no idea what was spent (though Riley and I are on the same page as far as family finances are concerned, so I doubt it is a huge sum!).

Bonus:  now we know just how important budgeting is.  And this has also served as a great reminder of the true meaning of the season…and reminded me how important simplifying the holidays is.

No Waste Holidays

Thanksgiving tableAbout a year ago I was at a potluck event. Afterwards one of the attendees surveyed the nearly-empty buffet and said, “That was just perfect.”

Up until that point, I mindless followed our cultures belief that more food is better. Shouldn’t we want to have abundance left after we’re done? That sounds foolish now, but I hadn’t even thought to question it until that night. Of course it’s enough that everyone has their fill…what more could we want?

I’m new to the No Food Waste movement. I’m not particularly good at it, either, but I’m better than I was, which I count as a victory. It’s an area where I’m continually working.

One of the times that I think it’s most difficult to think about no food waste is the holidays. Food is such a big part of our traditions.

Being a no-food-waster doesn’t mean that I need to get rid of my traditions. But they, as all other areas of my life, need to be examined in light of my convictions.

If you’re new at it, too, would you consider a few things with me as you plan your holidays this year?

1. Stop serving dishes out of mere tradition. I’m not asking you to stop serving your family’s favorite dishes. But what about the dishes that we serve because we always have, but remain almost entirely untouched at the end of the meal?

Serving fewer dishes also means less work, so it’s a win-win.

2. Reconsider the amount you need of each dish. If you cook a larger turkey than your family and guests need because you save the rest for future meals, awesome. But what about dishes that aren’t as versatile as leftovers?

3. Consider who you can invite to your meal. One way not to have food waste is by sharing your bounty with others. Who do you know that might not receive another invitation? As a single woman who lives away from family, I’m thankful for the various people who have welcomed me to their Thanksgiving table.

Photo by Satya Murthy

Christmas Prep

156362_904223042779_1338120_nI don’t think there has ever been a year where I have waited so long to start planning for Christmas as this one.  (Yes, even a Striving Stewardess procrastinates.)

That is not to say I haven’t determined various aspects of the holidays–the logistics, for example, likely won’t deviate from holidays of the past.  We know where we will be and when.

No, I mean gifts.  Experience-based or not, I have dropped the ball in this arena.  About as far as I have gotten in this is the budget and a few ideas for each person on the list.

I have figured out a common gift for extended family that will serve the four of us as well; now I just need to execute my plan!  The challenge I am running up against is buying for those in my own household:  my husband, two children, and yes, budget permitting, the pets.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas–as noted above, I absolutely do–but the budget is pretty tight this year.  Saving a lot throughout the year was next to impossible for a variety of reasons, so the gift budget is coming in at a pretty small sum; I won’t disclose the amount here (yet), but suffice it to say that it is what most people would spend on one gift for one person…not several gifts for several people.

Stay tuned to see what we wind up doing for gifts.  Experience-based?  Traditional gifts under the tree?  Forgo gifts altogether?  We shall see!

Are you ready for the holiday season?

It’s Earth Day!

It may be flat--but the prairie found in my state still deserves some attention on Earth Day!
It may be flat, but the beautiful prairie found in my state still deserves some attention on Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

I don’t know about you, but despite seeing this holiday on my calendar year after year, I didn’t know much about it.  In doing the research this blog post necessarily required, I learned a great deal–I urge you to check out an in-depth history of this “hippie holiday” here.

Several ways to honor the Earth Day holiday are mentioned at the aforementioned site, including installing solar panels, or organizing a community event–neither of which is in my realm of possibility at the moment.

So what’s this Striving Stewardess going to do to celebrate?

First, I will probably take out the recycling, like I do every Wednesday.  Since the kids like to help, I will likely take the opportunity to impart a bit of environmentalist education–they are, after all, the future of earth care.  Weather permitting, I want us to spend as much time as possible outside, appreciating and learning about the earth we have been entrusted with.  (Bean has recently discovered earthworms, so observing them will likely feature in the festivities!).

If so moved, I may even send off a letter to a political representative, urging more environmental action.

Some food for thought, taken from earthday.org, as you prepare to roll up your own sleeves for Earth Day 2015:

Do something nice for the Earth, have fun, meet new people, and make a difference. But you needn’t wait for April 22! Earth Day is Every Day. To build a better future, we all must commit to protect our environment year-round.

File that under “Truer Words Were Never Spoken”!