Frugality Report: March

By on March 31, 2017

I’m not big on sharing full budget reports or anything like that here, but I do like to sum up some ways we’ve been frugal or failed in frugality each month. Perhaps our successes will spark an idea for you or our frugality foibles will encourage you. Hence, I bring you the March Frugality Report!

Less-frugal stuff in March:

A trip to a kids’ museum near Mrs. COD’s hometown wasn’t free. Only five buckaroos a person, though, so we were happy to pay. It brightened up one of two dreary, cold days of spring break!

A fair amount of eating out. Nothing super expensive, but we did spend a bit there. At least we got free babysitting from the grandparents again! 
Frugal Wins this month:

$5 hiking boots for me courtesy of VarageSale! I love them already, and they were barely worn when I got them. 

I ended up not running a race in my hometown that I’d been planning on. My knees were acting up, so I decided to forego the run. A bummer, since a bunch of old friends were running, but since I hadn’t yet signed up, no money was lost! 

Free vanilla soft-serve cones at Dairy Queen! March 20th, I happened to come across an ad for their free ice cream day, so after some park time with the boys, we walked over to DQ. 

I exercised restraint in book-purchasing this month. I’ve managed to hold back on buying a certain book I’ve been itching to get my hands on since before it was released. I was tempted again, but frugality prevailed! Maybe I’ll get lucky if I ask around among friends if I can borrow a copy. Also, I checked out Liturgy of the Ordinary from our local library. Written by Tish Harrison Warren, it’s all about the everyday occurrences that present opportunities for knowing God. Things like losing your keys, sitting in traffic, and making your bed can become spiritual experiences. I love, love, love this book, so much I nearly bought it for myself. It sometimes is a joy to mark up a real book with footnotes and underlining, and I kind of longed for that again.  However, it’s perfectly adequate to check it out again from the good ol’ library! 

No wild St. Patty’s Day frivolity here. I made green cupcakes with the boys that day (although Junior COD tried to talk me into buying some at the store the day before). We waited until two days later to purchase some corned beef at a significant discount. 

Our second job-interview trip included a stop at Mrs. COD’s parents’ house, which meant free lodging and a chance to visit with them. Plus, the college footed the bill for fuel expenses and one night near campus! Junior COD was so anxious to see Grandma again on the return trip that he convinced us to drive back right after the interview. So he saved us another night in a hotel–yay! 

We’d love to hear about your own quest for frugality this month! How have you been saving money (or splurging)?


Frugality Report: February

By on February 28, 2017

Awesome frugality or not, February has been a good time for us. I’m doing more freelance writing, Mr. COD is busy interviewing, we enjoyed a frugal birthday for our two-year-old, and our weather here in IL has been freaking INCREDIBLE. 

Here are some of our frugal highlights for this month!

  • No Valentine’s Day gifts or dinner out. In typical COD fashion, we kept it low-key. I baked my heart cookies the weekend beforehand, which we enjoyed for several days (and had plenty extra to take to church). I did get a kick out of seeing the multitude of guys purchasing flowers, balloons, and candy the night before!
  • I finally went to a children’s resale shop that is literally two blocks from our house. I happened to end up there on a sale day when all clothing was $1! Wahoo! That sale scored us a bunch of stuff for Junior COD, which was great since we’re starting to run out of hand-me-downs as he grows bigger. I found two sets of swim trunks and rash guards, several shirts, a pair of pants, and some really nice sneakers for him, all for $13.50. Only the shoes were “full” price, which was $4. Much better than $15-20 or more, which is not uncommon for kids’ shoes. 
  • I refreshed my pasta-making skills a couple of times, and my technique is improving!
  •     
  • Last week I also took on (for the first time) Mrs. Picky Pincher’s homemade tortilla recipe, which was a big win! It’s a super-duper easy recipe to follow. If you want to check out her new e-book, that’s where I found this recipe (plus a ton more recipes and a detailed four-week meal plan): 
  • Slash Your Grocery Bills In 28 Days: Eat like royalty on a shoestring budget

    Tasty tortillas!

  • Mini COD’s birthday festivities were fun, but also mellow, as we’d hoped! On the actual birthday, we grilled out for lunch on our deck (never thought we’d do that for a February birthday in the Midwest). I made his cake from a boxed mix because I had one in the pantry and just wasn’t in the mood to make it from scratch. His PJ Masks figures became the cake toppers instead of getting wrapped up, and they’re perfect little toys for him. We didn’t have a party, just the four of us at home, a few presents, and cake, and it was just right. Since we’re both homebodies and slightly lazy when it comes to celebrating, and he’s too little to care, it was perfect for us! 

    that’s about as fancy as my decorating gets!

  • A trip to the children’s museum was a big hit one Saturday. It does have an admission fee, but since we squeaked in there before Mini’s second birthday, he got in for free! Woohoo!
  • The nicest weekend weather led us to Madison and the Henry Vilas Zoo, which is totally free! We met Mr. COD’s sister and her family for the day and the boys were ecstatic to hang with their cousins and aunt and uncle. It was so gorgeous out that we ate a lovely picnic by the lake as well. Super frugal fun!  

    not sure what exhibit this was…

  • Our Madison picnic view…an icy lake on a 65° day!


    the view of the zoo from the adjacent park

 

Frugality Fails:

  • Groceries got waaaay out of hand this month, which is a bummer after we kicked some grocery budget butt during Uber Frugal January. We got lazy and got back into old habits like going to the market four days in a row. That’s what happens when we don’t plan meals and shopping! Over $500 in the shortest month of the year = dang it!
  • Along the same lines, we ate out quite a bit. Honestly, though, we’re not sorry. We found an awesome new sitter the boys love, and dating your spouse is important! Once those kiddos are grown up, it’ll be just Mr. COD and me again, so we gotta stay connected. 
  • Too many gifts for Mini COD! We gave him two resale shop board games, which were cheap, but he’s still not ready to play them. He liked the other toys we ended up buying, but a week later, they’re already largely forgotten. Plus (and this is the worst part), Junior COD was definitely watching, so he’s been sharing his birthday wish list for the past week. Whoops. We may have set too high a precedent for him that will make it harder to stay frugal and limited when he turns 4. Plus, that’s not for another three months…sigh…

How about you guys? Any big frugal wins or flops this month? Hey, at least if we failed, it can’t be as big a gaffe as that one on Oscar night…

Me Time That Won’t Cost A Dime

By on January 28, 2017

Me time may sound selfish or impossible for you, but everyone needs a little “me time” once in awhile (or every day). That’s time you set aside to do something purely for YOU! It helps you recharge, contemplate, question, discover. I have to be more deliberate in seeking out this me time since becoming a SAHM; it’s just hard to catch a break from kids.  (more…)


Uber Frugal Month Update

By on January 16, 2017

Since Mr. and Mrs. COD are working on their Uber Frugal Month Challenge, inspired by the Frugalwoods, we thought we’d check in with a little halfway update! See how they’re doing in their quest to be frugal weirdos! 

Mini COD assisting me in the kitchen, pressing the Ninja button (the MOST important job in frugal muffin making) 

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Frugality Report: December

By on December 31, 2016

Ahh, December. Holiday parties, excessive eating, gift-giving…it hardly adds up to the most frugal of months for most of us, amiright? But I know a lot of you out there in Frugal Land are rock stars at this frugal-holiday thing! Let’s take a look at how the COD family fared in their quest for frugality and festivity this month!

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The Frugality-Contentment Connection

By on December 7, 2016

In these days post-Thanksgiving, I’m pondering contentment. Am I truly content with who I am, what I’m doing, and what I have? All too often, I fear the answer is no. The rapid approach of Christmas keeps that train of thought rolling. Even in the midst of holiday shopping and the pursuit of a festive season, I want to cultivate contentment in my own heart as well as my kids’ hearts. 

Joy!

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Frugal Friday: 11 Free Holiday Activities To Do With Kiddos!

By on December 2, 2016

This week’s Frugal Friday comes at the start of December, when we all tend to fill our calendars with a flurry of holiday activities. December, Advent, Christmas, and the holiday season are rife with opportunities for fun! It can become a bit overwhelming. I thought I’d share a few of our favorite frugal holiday fun ideas, specifically those that work for kids (although many are a blast whether you’re with tots or not).  (more…)


Frugality Report: November

By on November 27, 2016

As November wraps up, we bring you a little glance at our money-saving failures and successes for the month. 

Let’s begin with the Flops, the more spendy choices we’ve made this past month. It feels like we’ve been buying a lot; most are items we’ve been procrastinating over and finally bit the bullet.

Frugality Flops

  • Camera. We bought ourselves an early Christmas present! A big gift for Mr. COD and me (that’ll be the only one for us). It wasn’t even a Black Friday bargain. We had been wanting a new, more powerful camera for quite some time, so we sprung for a Nikon D5300. It’s not so fancy you need a photography degree to use it, but it definitely has more bells and whistles than our previous cameras. The photos I’ve captured already in the week since it arrived are about 7,000 times better than those we typically take with our camera phones (duh). My apologies: I haven’t figured out how to upload photos from it yet, so all pics in this post are still from my phone. The camera’s not exactly frugal, and not even a true need, so it falls under the Flop category. However, we both like photography and desire to learn how to take better pictures of our family and travel sights. We figure we will “save” what we would have spent on professional photos once or twice a year, and we’re way too lazy and disorganized to schedule photo shoots with someone else. Plus, we can consider any cash gifts we receive this Christmas as going toward the cost of the camera. 

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Frugal Friday First Edition: Sales, sales, sales!

By on November 4, 2016

Today, we’re kicking off our new series: Frugal Friday! Here, we plan to share various tips and tricks for living more frugally. And of course, we’ll post these on Fridays, for two reasons. Reason #1: So we can dub them Frugal Friday! Alliteration is fun! Reason #2: A more serious reason. Fridays begin the weekend, when many are prone to spending more. We hope these ideas, even if they’re not new to you, may give you an extra boost of motivation in your own frugal journey.

Why Frugality?

Saving money is something most of us probably care about on some level, no matter how we each define frugality. One person’s frugal vacation is tent camping, while another’s is Super 8. One person’s frugal clothes store is Target, while another’s is the local thrift shop. One person’s frugal dinner may be Taco Bell, another’s may be PB and J. Terms such as expensive or cheap are relative to our upbringing, our income, and our current goals. 

We, the CODs, are not the people who always choose the least expensive route for every item we buy. Certain things we like to get in a higher quality so they’ll last longer. Neither are we complete misers. We don’t deprive ourselves of all things comfortable just for deprivation’s sake. 

Mr. COD and I see our lifestyle as a comfortable balance of frugality and luxury. We’re fortunate to have more than enough of everything we need. Nothing, whether financial or otherwise, is permanent, so we approach our lifestyle as an ever-evolving thing. We are so thankful for all that we’ve learned and put into place in the past year, and we know it’s not necessarily because we deserve it. Wisdom in decision-making is always an area of needed improvement.

Merely tossing a few frugal tricks into our routine might not make a huge difference on our overall trajectory, but what can it hurt to try? It all depends on what our personal finance goals are. Getting out of debt? Frugal habits will definitely help get us on our way. Saving for retirement? Yes, frugality has potential there too (two reasons: helping you save more, and helping you require less when retired). Starting a dream business, relocating, adopting a child, paying for college, buying a car/house, and on and on…these are all expensive! These goals are more within reach through frugality. For us, paying off debts + amped-up frugality = me becoming a stay-at-home parent for a year or more. That’s pretty sweet math.

Whatever your financial goals may be, adopting a more frugal, less spendy attitude can work wonders. We determine our own level of frugality based on where we are and what we need/want. What do you want, and what are you willing to sacrifice to get it? 

Advertising, The Bane of Frugality

One particular consumer-centric fact of today that drives me absolutely crazy is the sheer amount of advertising we encounter day in and day out. It can be next to impossible to drown out the nonstop noise of consumerism. 

  • “The clock’s ticking on the season’s lowest prices!” 
  • “Only a few hours left to save 20%!”
  • “Incredible doorbusters only on Saturday morning!”
  • “A deal this great won’t last long!”

Such are the lines marketers feed us day after day, all to get us to buy their crap. You know the drill all too well. They create a perceived need  and an urgent deadline (only for a limited time!) and before we know it, we’ve got cartfuls of junk we didn’t need or even really want.  

The get-this-deal-while-it-lasts mentality is aggravating. Putting a time limit on a discount makes the deal appear ultra-sensational. Oh, the regret that will plague us if we don’t jump in and buy it now! It works all too often.

I think back to when we bought our timeshare, and I ask myself, why on earth didn’t we say, hey, if it’s such a great deal, let’s think it through overnight? (Mr. COD researched cars and dealers for six months before we bought our Pontiac Vibes. Thoughtful spending is usually our default.) Why didn’t one of us have the sense to say, no, this is a huge financial decision, so we shouldn’t be hasty? Because they got us to believe it was an awesome deal for that day only, and they never gave out this many bonus points, and blah blah blah. If we’d waited 24 hours, we definitely wouldn’t have purchased the timeshare. Our sanity would have returned by morning.

So it goes with any type of sales; the seller or marketer creates this false sense of urgency. (I know I’m sounding harsh on marketers, but I get it. No judgement here. It’s your job.) We the consumers need to be more aware of our decision-making process and be smarter with our $$. Mr. COD and I have made plenty of spendy mistakes due to lack of patience. I’d bet you have, too. Split-second decisions involving our money don’t generally turn out well. Signing for a car lease. Buying a home. Even buying a pair of shoes or a book or a smoothie can be bad for us if it happens too often and derails us from reaching our frugal goals. 

The 24-hour rule is a good guideline. You see something you like and want to buy, but instead of forking over the money instantly, wait a day and see if you still want it. That’s what I’m trying nowadays, and I know it’ll help. Other variations might work for you: 3 days, a week, even a month or more, whatever gives you the time to step back a bit. Think it over. Assess your desire and need for the item. Don’t just buy it because it’s “on sale”. 

Much of the time, after a cooling-off period of a day or two, you find you don’t want the item anymore. (I always find this to be true with clothes! My heart longs for a fun new sweater, but once I’ve left the dressing room and stepped away from said sweater, that longing fades into oblivion.) Maybe you still want that concert ticket, that sound system, that new coat, but determine your other financial goals are more valuable than the temporary high of buying.

So, your tip for this weekend is, if you find yourself wanting to buy something that’s really not a need, don’t buy it right then. Even if there’s a big sale and the price will go up tomorrow, make yourself wait 24 hours. Detach yourself emotionally from the item and what pleasure you think it will bring you. Remember another *once-in-a-lifetime sale is bound to appear in a week anyway! 

*Possible exception to following the 24-hour rule if you’re a Cubs fan and need to splurge a bit on some championship gear or celebratory activities! It’s been 108 years; this very well may be truly once in your lifetime! Enjoy it!

What kinds of rules do you have for yourself and your purchases? Is there a certain amount of money you won’t spend without a 24-hour cooling-off period? 


Frugal Flops and High-Fives of October

By on October 30, 2016

Welp, here we are again. Can you believe October is coming to a close already? Fall, by far my favorite season, is slipping away too quickly as usual. I hope you are savoring campfires, toasty apple cider (and cider doughnuts!), pumpkin-carving festivities, and the rich colors of autumn. 

Today, I’m just stopping by to share a few of this month’s successes and slip-ups. Changing our default to make smarter money decisions is not going to happen overnight. It’s an ongoing journey, and we need to acknowledge what we could do better and what we rock at. 

Let’s start with the negative stuff. 

Frugal Flops:

  • Food budget = much higher than I’d like (as in, I stopped keeping track about halfway through because we were already way over!). Finding myself returning to my old default of stocking up on items, not planning ahead, and all that jazz. 
  • We spent a chunk for a weekend getaway to Wisconsin. (Background: Mr. COD was there last month to spend some quality time with his dad and wanted to give me and the boys a tour since he loved it so much.) We paid for gas, two nights in a hotel, and a few meals out, plus the $11 for a state park day pass. We felt it was worth it, since we are serious about moving next year. Even though the odds of Mr. COD’S next job being in that exact location are low, it’s important to be able to visualize what we want from that move and any subsequent moves. This will help keep us excited about it once we’re in the midst of packing, cleaning, purging, painting, job hunting, and all that jazz. Remembering the majesty of Devil’s Lake and its area will help us get through these less-fun aspects of moving.

    Ahh…time at the lake…

    Now for the positives.

    Frugality High-Fives!

    -We got the boys slightly used shoes and pajamas from the thrift store for much less than new ones. For little kids, sizes can change so quickly that it just doesn’t make sense to buy brand-new. 

    -Scored some free leafy greens and herbs from the community garden at the school down the street. My kids won’t touch vegetables other than carrots and French fries, but Liam trotted over to the garden one night when we were playing on the school slides, grabbed some dinosaur kale (like, the darkest green thing on the lot), and stuffed it in his mouth. Proclaimed it “delicious”. (What?! I tried it; it was bitter and far from delicious.)

    Free fresh garden greens!

    -We’re making a lot more of our food at home. We’ve been working on this for a couple of years, but I’m loving the chance to cook more since I’m not working away from home. Although I am hardly spending hours on end in the kitchen, I can find a few minutes here and there throughout the day, which is easier than trying to cook at the end of a work day. I can do a lot of the prep work ahead of time and throw ingredients together when it’s closer to mealtime. (In case you’re wondering, Mr. COD does a lot of the cooking, too. Be jealous, ladies!)

    Homemade Foods We’re Enjoying

    • Bread. Amazing artisan bread from a super easy recipe. Love it! Once my friend the cooking teacher straightened me out on water temperature for the yeast, it’s been smooth sailing. No bread machine required, either. Another one I adore is this sandwich bread recipe.
    • Marinara. My first attempt at homemade and it turned out pretty tasty! I used Giada’s recipe from the Food Network, but it seems super versatile and easy to adjust with additional veggies or spices.
    • Delicata squash pizza boats. Yum! Now if I could only get the munchkins to try it, that’d be a double win.
    • Baked French toast (there are umpteen recipes on Pinterest). My latest kick…a perfect use for slightly stale bread. The above bread recipe makes two loaves, of which we can eat about one and a half before it gets stale (yay, no preservatives!). The remaining half loaf is ideal for cubing and soaking overnight in egg-milk mixture. I’ve made a basic version as well as a pumpkin and apple varieties. Yum! 
    • Beans. Yep, just cooking up a big batch of them and freezing them in smaller serving sizes to use later for tacos and soups.

    -This has been an incredible month to be a SAHM. The weather has been soooo gorgeous, so the boys and I have been able to get outside nearly every day. Half a dozen playgrounds are within walking distance, so we save on gas and I get to run or walk before/after play time. Lots of free, healthy entertainment!

    -Halloween can get crazy expensive, right? Candy and costumes and decorations and parties abound. The COD household is not all that big on the holiday for those aspects; we’re happy eating a few Kit-Kats and watching Shaun of the Dead after the kids are asleep. (And we’re pretty devoted Walking Dead fans, but man, after the season 7 premiere I’m still reeling.) 

    We are keeping Halloween fairly frugal. I purchased one large bag of candy at Aldi for $7.50 to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Some years, I confess, I’ve just left the front light off so nobody would knock on the door. But I think the boys will like passing out treats to the neighborhood kids after we’ve finished our brief rounds outside. 

    We don’t really decorate for Halloween, in equal parts due to laziness, indifference, and frugality. Our front step looks rather forlorn with its lone pumpkin, but I finally carved a face in it today. Score!

    Our costume situation is sweet: Liam, our threenager, gets to sport a dinosaur suit passed down from his cousin. God bless my sister-in-law for preserving and conserving so many clothes for us and our nonexistent (at that time) kids. He wore that thing for probably two weeks straight back in August when we brought it home (yeah, it had to be washed after some 90-degree days). He loves his dinosaur costume! Lucky little Caleb gets to wear a lion costume, the same one his bro wore the past two years. I did buy that one, and it was 15 or 20 bucks at Target, on sale. Three years running, so I’d say we’re getting plenty of mileage out of it! We already took advantage of the library’s Halloween parade, in which kids walked around the shelves in costume, collecting candy and little treats. 

        All in all, October has been pretty great. Frugal slip-ups have the power to cause us headaches, but if we keep a close eye on them, we can acknowledge mistakes and do better next time! Our frugal wins (and yours) should also be recognized because they can encourage us in our next steps. Nothing buoys success like prior successes. 

        What are your recent frugality wins? Tell us in the comments and we’ll give you a virtual high-five!