Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making Every Cent Count

I have a new goal for 2008: that as many purchases as possible will be either:

*on sale
*accompanied by some kind of freebie
*count for some kind of 'reward'

*or all of them put together!

So far, things are going better than I hoped. I found the Ebates site:
http://www.ebates.com/
(put me -- cindybrick@comcast.net -- as your referral, and we both earn bonus $$!)

This site lets you earn money back on purchases, like Home Depot gift cards. (In my case, we would have spent money at Home Depot anyway, so this is a nice little perk.) The rub comes, though, when you want to buy things you shouldn't. Keep yourself under control, and this will be a nice little money-back site!

Another goodie is http://www.cashcrate.com/
You complete surveys, etc., and get money credited for them. This site, you really have to be careful. The surveys are constantly asking for info I don't feel they really need to know -- and I just don't fill out stuff I'm not sure of. Which means you don't always get money credited. But I got $10 back for joining Netflix -- which was a long-planned Christmas present for Husband, anyways -- and racked up about $30 in money back. It may not seem like much to you, but $30 goes a long way in this house toward groceries.

And of course, there is always the cashback earned when you use a credit card with a rewards feature. Discover has paid off for us for several years this way.

A final case in point: Ye Olde Thrift Shop.

We're lucky to live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation: Douglas County, Colorado. Which means that contributions to the local thrift shop tend toward The Best. During past visits, I've found everything from Peruvian llama sweaters (at $4, no less!) to designer dishware. Because I appraise items for the thrift shop, and do some repairs and restoration work on their linens now and then, I am considered a Volunteer. Which means a 25% discount, and any books I want are 10 cents each. (Which is heaven to this person, who can't stop reading everything from cereal boxes to the stuff on people's sweatshirts.)

Our family's best clothing items come from the thrift shop, though we rarely point this out. I have a leather coat with a huge furry collar ($19 on this one) that never fails to get compliments. Daughter Angel bought a leather jacket ($10) that her roommate (wealthy, from CA) begged to borrow over the holidays -- because it was nicer than anything SHE owned!

Anyways, I stopped by the thrift shop a few weeks ago, to replenish my books and see what was new. I snagged a beautiful black lambswool sweater, as well as a cotton skirt/t-shirt combo for the upcoming Brazil trip, a few videos and some Wedgewood Patrician dishware. Went up to pay, and the counter clerk said, "Did you get your gift certificate?" Turns out I had $25 credit for being a volunteer, and DARN!! walked out of there without paying a cent!

Does the thrift shop benefit from my help with appraising and repairing quilts? Of course. Is it hurting me? No, of course not -- I believe in their work in helping people in our area. God knows, with the recession alive and well in Colorado, we need it.

So I can help them -- but they're helping me, too.

See how much you can save on your next purchase! Even if it's a dollar, that sawbuck can fit quite snugly in your piggybank. Take it from someone who's trying to find $2000 extra to pay for our Brazil trip in May -- every dollar counts!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Saving Like Robinson Crusoe

Being a former English lit major does stuff to you. For instance, this article arguing for following the budget -- and actions -- of Daniel Defoe's island castaway, Robinson Crusoe:

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/2007/12/the-economics-of-robinson-crusoe.html

Poor old Robinson was marooned in the 1600s. (Based on a true-life incident, by the way...and his island still exists. Dave knew of it in his Navy days.) The novel was published in 1719. And if Mr. Retirement Extreme had bothered to read the book before he started yammering on about it, we wouldn't have all this stuff about berries! In fact, Crusoe lived mostly on dairy products (goat), limes and other tropical fruit, and goat meat, based on his journal.

There. Whew. I feel much better.

Having said that, the author of the above post does have some good points. And there are some financial lessons we can learn from Mr. C & his buddy, Friday:

*Make do with what you have. Crusoe swam out to the shipwreck and salvaged everything he possibly could, from nails and wood planks to gold and silver coins. (He said he would have traded the latter for a lot of things...not worth much on a deserted island!) Whatever he didn't have, he did without, or --

*Use your inventiveness to come up with a substitute. No cloth? Use goatskins. No thread? Unravel fabric, or devise plant fibers. Or --

*Don't have it? Go without. Needless to say, 'ol Rob did this a LOT.

*Be patient. Crusoe's stockade was made of wood poles pounded into the ground. Stake by stake by stake. It took him months to accomplish anything, but once it was finished, it stayed useful for years. Which brings up another point:

*Take care of what you've got. That car can last for a decade if you change the oil regularly and keep up on maintenance. The house will endure better if you keep things clean and repaired. Crusoe couldn't afford to lose a single one of his innovations.

*Ask a friend to help. Help him back. Crusoe got a lot more accomplished when his man Friday came on the scene. You can spend a lot less if you borrow a friend's equipment (taking good care of it -- see earlier comment) or help...and offer yours in return.

*Be thankful. Robinson's faith in God carried him through some very hard times. We, who have so many more opportunities, people to talk to and love, and places to see, could learn something from his patient example.

By the time of Crusoe's rescue, he was a rich and resourceful man -- and a big improvement, he felt, on the insecure sniveler who'd crawled up on the beach decades earlier. (Now if he'd only gotten the message about slavery, as well...) When he first saw the ship's captain who rescued him, Crusoe said:

Then I took my turn, and embraced him as my deliverer, and we rejoiced together. I told him I looked upon him as a man sent from heaven to deliver me, and that the whole transaction seemed to be a chain of wonders; that such things as these were the testimonies we had of a secret hand of Providence governing the world, and an evidence that the eyes of an infinite Power could search into the remotest corner of the world, and send help to the miserable whenever He pleased.




----------------------

Read Robinson Crusoe here: http://www.uoregon.edu/~rbear/crusoe.html

and find out more about Alexander Selkirk, probably Defoe's inspiration, at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_Crusoe

-----------------------------------------------------

and now I'm off to shovel through the snow in single-degree temps...which I am certain Mr. C. did NOT do. Oh, for a deserted tropical island...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Doing what you gotta do

Yet another storm for us here in Colorado...the wind is roaring around the house, and ice is collecting on the windows. It stopped snowing, though. The dogs huddle together, tails and muzzles completing near-perfect circles.
A quilt is waiting. It's overdue -- I MUST get the repairs done, and the binding finished. It's been a bear...taking dozens of hours more than I'd planned.
Paperwork is piled high. The girlies need us to submit a FAFSA asap for this year. Which means taxes. Yuck yuck yuck. Although the assistants have cleared away some of the paperwork for Brickworks, there's more that I feel better about if I do it myself. And of course, that's waiting, too.
The orders are caught up. Whew. The house is reasonably clean. (A miracle, considering how little it happens around here.) Working on the quilt means I can watch any movie or silly television show I want to. (Which generally translates to Judge Judy -- can't get enough! -- or Whose Line Is It Anyways.)
Wonderful things have been happening about CRAZY QUILTS, which you can see more about here: http://www.cindybrick.com/ The Crafters Choice people have been considering adding it to their lineup -- whoopee!! And the Quilter's Newsletter people just asked if they could excerpt it. Double whoopee!!! I am so grateful. This book has a lot of my heart's-blood in it...it would be very exciting if it did well.

Oh, and one quick mention of a very frugal way to host a dinner party. (I know, because we just did it Sunday, for 12 guests.) In our case, it was for friends who had just gone on a church mission trip to Mexico over Christmas. Mexican food, therefore, was the result. I:

*roasted a holiday-purchased turkey, unstuffed (with cut limes and oranges in the cavity)
*put out a two-cheese mix (tastes better, I think), plus goodies for tacos
*refried beans ( bit of ham cut in, for flavor)
*corn and flour tortillas


*salsa, from a long-used Brick recipe:
*one large can (or glass quart jar) tomatoes -- cut or mashed into smaller pieces
*one small can or 2 finely-chopped green chilis (skip the seeds if you like a milder salsa...sometimes I buy tomatoes with green chilis mixed in)
*one bunch finely-cut cilantro
*3 cloves garlic, minced -- or at least a teaspoon of garlic salt (add more if needed)
*one-half onion...or 5-6 green onions, finely chopped
*3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
*1 teaspoon salt


Mash. Mix. Taste, and adjust salt/garlic/lemon or lime juice. For best results, refrigerate overnight. This is very close to the salsa we've had while vacationing on Mexico's Baja ("Ba-ha") peninsula. Simple...terrific. And every time I taste it, it's like sitting back on the patio, waiting for the owner's little boy to run back from the store with the tortillas for our lunch.
Try a spoonful stirred into canned chicken noodle soup -- heaven. Or spooned up from a pile of tortilla chips. Bliss.

The snow bangs on the window a bit -- sigh. I digress.

Anyways, I set the table nicely --bright cobalt blues, greens, yellows, including floral napkins and lots of candles. Added pitchers of margarita mix (virgin this time) with a splurt of maraschino cherries and juice for color. (Looks like a Tequila Sunset, if you do it this way. Two guests actually had an argument over who was getting the cherries!)
Our friends brought a salad, Mexican rice, some kind of bean dip/chips.
Dessert was three pies -- cherry and apple purchased half-price during the holidays, and a pumpkin pie from a neighbor, given for Christmas and also stashed in the freezer. And a squirt of whipped cream.

And that was it! Cheap, filling. (Leftovers from the turkey, too...yum.) Our guests raved about the food, and listened with interest to the Mexico report. And we got to spend time with people we loved.
But the second everyone left, Dave and I crashed for a nap -- no steam left. (We are STILL not over this flu.)

Well, even if we can't afford to go to Mexico this winter, at least we can listen about it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Weekend's coming...videos are beckoning

...and I still have 'week' stuff to do. But YouTube beckons...

could there ever have been a funnier car commercial for the SuperBowl? Slated toward women? I think not.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIQm6TG5qPE&NR=1

And one for those poor souls who have been waiting for the next Super Bowl, anyways...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uP-TClX9hI&feature=user

On the other hand, who cares -- the Broncos blew their chances bigtime.

Sigh

Thursday, January 10, 2008

January musings

So it's not Christmas anymore, but this list of gifts is just too good not to mention:

http://www.wisebread.com/25-great-gifts-for-5-or-less

My mom has a ton of dried milk powder she keeps trying to palm off on me. The potato soup recipe will be perfect! (I use it for cooking, but don't care what others say -- I can tell when using it for plain drinking! You can't for cooking, though...)

Here's the recipe, if you don't feel like heading to Wisebread. Add some dried carrots, mushrooms or other veggies, if ya got 'em.

14. Potato Soup in a Jar This potato soup is a dried version that lets the recipient create a home-made lunch at a moment’s notice by adding boiling water. You mix all the ingredients (1¾ cups instant mashed potatoes, 1½ cups dry milk, 2 tablespoons instant chicken bouillon, 2 teaspoons dried minced onion, and 1½ teaspoons of Italian seasoning), place in a quart jar (you can buy a canning jar or plastic quart container, or clean out a spaghetti sauce jar); add a bow on the top and a tag that gives instructions: “Bone-warming Potato Soup: Place ½ cup mix in soup bowl and add 1 cup water. Stir until smooth.”

I got the first copy of CRAZY QUILTS in the mail Friday...it was leaning against the door, waiting as we went out to go to small group. I opened the pkg in the car, then found myself crying...it has been so many years, working so hard, on this book. And to have it finally done -- and looking great, in the bargain! Margret Aldrich at Voyageur Press is just top-notch; I am a lucky girl to have had her creative touch on this book. Thanks Margret -- always.
We're also getting lots of pre-orders for it -- do you want to get in on the action, too? CRAZY QUILTS retails for $29.95, not including shipping -- but until Feb. 5, you can get your own copy (signed by yours truly) for $23.95, including shipping. Just write me, or go to:
http://www.cindybrick.com

Dave's home...gotta go.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I get a kick out of 'one frugal girl' on blogspot.com, and start out many a day finding out just what she's up to. Today's post references the 'simple dollar' site, and asks the question"When is being frugal actually stealing?"

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/01/04/when-is-frugality-stealing/

The case in point: Simple Dollar's blogmeister had the effrontery to go into a bookstore and copy elements of a recipe from a cookbook. (Apparently it wasn't the full recipe -- just a few helpful parts.) He wondered -- was that cheating, since he didn't buy the cookbook? Also mentioned: people who ordered (free) water while joining friends at a coffee shop. Or ordered water, then used the shop's WiFi.
I smiled to myself a bit, because one of my uncles is famous for clearing the table when he eats at a restaurant. All the sugar packets, etc. on the table go into his pocket before he leaves, on the premise that he 'paid' for them. Whenever an extra ketchup or sauce packet (I am a sucker for Arby's 'Horsey' sauce, incredible!) goes home, my family starts wondering...am I turning into Uncle S.?
Well, I'm not. And I don't take any more that wouldn't amply cover my sandwich. The book issue hits a bit closer to home -- as a writer, one of my sources of income is royalties from my own book sales. I honestly don't mind a bit of taking notes out of my books. I don't even mind being quoted. (Actually, it's kind of flattering.)

What does tick me off, though, is the innocent who can't believe I'd 'mind' if she photocopied 10-20 pages out of my book, then distribute them to her 20 closest friends. (The same person has no scruples about asking for extras when I hand out freebies during class, or taking 2 or 3 items, when I offer one free.) Does this person believe she's stealing? I'm sure she doesn't. But in my book...she is.

You'll want to read the post mentioned above -- and especially the comments. As of tonight, there are nearly 90. Fascinating. Some of this also brings to mind stories my mom told about living in Norfolk, VA...her then-husband was in the Navy, and rarely left her enough money. She survived by working whatever job she could find, as well as collecting and redeeming pop bottles. Sometimes the only meal she had was a bowl of hot water at the luncheonette, with ketchup, salt and pepper mixed in, for "tomato soup." And this, while she was pregnant with me -- and anybody who's been p.g. knows that most of the time, you are RAVENOUS.
Some of the people who practice this extra frugality wouldn't be able to eat any other way. I remember my mom, if I find myself getting too huffy about this subject.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What can I do in 2008?

This year is going to be different. I can already feel it.

For one thing, a new book's coming out in mid-February...a new reference (and how-to) on Crazy quilts.

For another, our daughters are finally making their own ways...good for you, girlies!

DH's new promotion (training bus drivers) is much more rewarding than his past work. (Tell ya what, bus drivers do NOT get much respect. Think on that the next time your child comes home safely on a stormy, slippery day.)

My crazy Hollander farmer father is slowing down -- and slowly losing his battle with cancer. He works as much as he can, and is still his feisty self...but I need to spend as much with him and Mom as I can. (They live in Michigan. We live in Colorado.)

In late May, Dave and I are headed to Brazil...and nearly two weeks headed along the Amazon river in a boat. Our job will be to bring medical and dental services to tribes along the river...as well as classes and music for the people. (Which means not only music for me, but sewing classes!)

So in some ways, this year will be calmer (I think). In some ways, it won't. My dad isn't just in this picture, but I have a LOT of traveling and writing to do in 2008. Will it be better this year? Worse? Who knows...but it WILL be different.

My goals for this year:

*Finish one book -- and work on another (writing them -- not reading them!)
Do some other writing, as well

*Lose some weight (I am sooo sick of feeling bulgy)

*Get the living room painted! (and windows replaced)

*Spend some regular time in the garden -- no matter what

*Get completely caught up with the restoration jobs

*Learn some Portuguese

*KNOW WHERE THINGS ARE (this would be especially wonderful)

Here's to 2008-- the Year of Difference

Leaves Are Fallin'...And I'm Not Lion

(It really has been windy around here.)