Monday, October 24, 2016

Why I Love Halloween

I have always loved Halloween. All those years of making costumes for the kids when they were little was so much fun. They were cute little clowns(not like the creepy clowns of today) when they were toddlers. Then they were devils and a myriad of other characters. I sewed on a regular basis back then so their costumes were homemade and adorable. 

When they were 8 or so they had to be creative because I made them make their own costumes with a little bit of my help. By the time they were in middle school, I felt they were too old to go out trick or treating. That is when they started helping me hand out the candy.

Now I get to enjoy seeing what my grandchildren dress up as. My grandson was excited yesterday that Halloween is a week from today. 

I remember all of those Halloween evenings going through the kids candy bags and tossing anything that was open or even looked suspicious. My children were not allowed to eat anything until Mom and Dad checked each and every piece. 

Besides seeing the joy on the faces of the little ones that come trick or treating the best part of Halloween now for me has been going to the after Halloween sales. They used to only be after Halloween but these days it seems that places like Super Walmart reduce their candy on Halloween. I remember going to shop the day after Halloween and being shocked that there was none left. Other stores seem to wait until the next day to reduce it to 50% off and then 75% off. If there is any left after that, you might be able to pick it up at 90% off.

I always pick up as much candy with coupons that I can find reduced that I know we will use during the year. We use all kinds of chocolate, like Hershey bars, M&M's, Milky Ways, Butterfingers, etc. to bake cookies and cookie bars. I also use the Hershey bars to make smores, fudge and chocolate covered pretzels.  I know many people pick up next year's candy and freeze it. We don't usually do that because I need the freezer space for other things and the candy has a long shelf life. I will save out any red or green M&M's to use for Christmas and Valentines candy for the grands. I enjoyed using the red M&M peanut ones to make the kids water bottles( free from LL Bean) for Valentines Day last year. 

I use the M&M's or M&M peanuts for party mixes too.

One year I picked up 90% off Smarties to make Christmas wreaths for all of my family. I just tied the Smarties all together following the directions that Tawra has here for making one with other candies:

Candy Christmas Wreath 

Stores reduce all kinds of leftover Halloween cookies, cakes, cupcakes, etc in their bakery departments. 

Many years I have picked up Pillsbury Halloween cookies for pennies after coupons and froze them to use in the future. Keep an eye out for Halloween cakes mixes on the shelves too.

Let's not forget that decorations and costumes will be greatly reduced after Halloween so that is the best time to buy them for next year. After all of the years I have celebrated Halloween, I have more than plenty now. 

Remember that you can buy pumpkins for cheap right after the holiday too. Many grocery stores will cut the prices to get rid of their oversupply. The same goes for farmers markets and produce stores. A tractor company that I know sells pumpkins every year and then reduces them. It is a great time to buy them and bake them. Roast and salt the seeds for a treat. Divvy up the baked pumpkin into portions sizes for breads, muffins and pies. 

Keep an eye out for the pumpkin decorated baking cups for cupcakes at a reduced price. The same goes for napkins and plates that you can use right through Thanksgiving. I like to have a supply of these on hand for that holiday to use for snacking all day. It is enough work to wash all of the dishes from dinner.

So now that it is a week before Halloween get your game face on and make a list of what you can use at the after Halloween sales. Put a little bit of money out then so that you can save a lot in the future.

If you buy something at the after Halloween sales that I don't have listed her, please leave a comment and share with the rest of us.

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Frugal Upbringing

We can learn from our ancestors how simple and frugal life can be. Allow me to reminisce to my childhood. I grew up in a home owned by my grandfather and grandmother. My great-grandfather built it. He built a lot of the homes in my old neighborhood. My grandfather paid for it in cash to his father. There were no mortgages back then.

It was in the city and was a 2 story home. My grandparents, my mom, my sister and I lived on the 2nd floor. At one time or another, different aunts and uncles and cousins lived on the first floor. Each floor had a small living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, good size pantry and three bedrooms. The closets were small so storage was limited. Each floor had a fireplace but I don't ever remember them being used. They were actually covered up. Upstairs we had a lovely screened in porch where I spent many hours reading. I was an avid reader and I still am. I spent many hours reading Nancy Drew books and Little Women that I borrowed from the library. Downstairs was a nice porch where I spent a lot of time with friends playing Monopoly and Clue. This was one of my favorite things to do and hours upon hours were spent with board games. 

For a few years that I can remember, the house was heated using a coal stove. Every once in a while, the coal man would come and fill up a bin in the basement with coal. The coal had to be shoveled and brought up in a bucket to the stove. My grandmother would be so mad when I would play in the coal bin and come upstairs with my clothes all black. Finally we got a gas heater and the old coal stove sat on a landing between the two floors for as long as I can remember. My cousin and I used to leave notes for each other in the stove. It was our secret and it was such fun. 

The heat was turned down at night and you got warm under the blankets and quilts.

My grandmother did all of our cooking. I don't remember her using recipes. She just seemed to know how to cook. She used to cook our meat till it was very well done because my grandfather didn't want to see any blood coming from it.  My uncle(her son) was a butcher so we had good cuts of meat. However portions were not what they are today. One T-bone steak fed all 5 of us. We ate much healthier back then. My grandmother was a simple cook. Most meals consisted of a small piece of meat, a boiled potato, and a spoonful or two of vegetables. If she cooked a roast on Sundays, we would then have mashed potatoes and gravy with some vegetables. That was my very favorite meal and it still is to this day. Fridays were meatless consisting of tuna fish creamed on toast, crab salad, shrimp salad, a macaroni salad, baked tomatoes with saltines, etc. About once a month or two, my grandfather would bring home fried fish from the local fish store. That was a real treat. What is considered a fish fry in this area where I live now fed all 5 of us.

Once a week my mom would buy a quart bottle of cola and perhaps a bag of chips. She would make a dip to go on the chips consisting of cream cheese, milk and catalina dressing. I still crave and make that dip once a year. That was the snack for us for the week.  

My grandmother would bake the best apple pie, make an applesauce cake with a glaze poured over it that was to die for, and make cakes and cookies. She was a great baker. But desserts were far and few in between. Food was simple back then and mostly made from scratch. When the catalina dressing and other processed foods showed up in markets, it was rare that my grandmother used them. I would walk the 7 blocks each way, when I was older, to go to our small market to get some canned tomatoes, tuna, canned crab meat or shrimp, tomato soup or canned vegetables. But I don't remember her using much more than those once in a while. 

If you made a cake, you used a spoon to make it. We didn't have all of the appliances of today. You had a cookie sheet, a roasting pan, some pots, and a skillet and that is what you used for your meals. There were no toaster ovens, microwaves, electric mixers, etc. You made your coffee or tea in a pot on the stove.

We washed dishes in the sink in hot soapy water and they got dried with a dish towel right away. We used a dishcloth to wash the dishes. There was no dishwasher.

We had a Freihofer bread delivery man who came in a cart pulled by a horse, a vegetable delivery truck, and a milkman who delivered to the house weekly. I loved feeding the horse an apple once in a while. I also remember the man who came in a truck about once a month and would sharpen my grandmother's scissors or knives when they needed it. He was fun to watch.

We were much healthier back then than people are today. I weighed 107 lbs. and was 5 ft. 6 and 1/2 inches tall when I got married. I was also fit from many days of playing tennis and getting other exercise after school and on weekends.

We also walked many blocks to school every day crossing heavily traveled streets using traffic lights. There were no school buses to pick you up and take you to school. I remember many days bundled up in winter clothes to walk about 7 blocks to and from school. My fingers would be frozen sometimes when I reached my destination. That was a lot of exercise we got each day too.

We were always outside making our own fun when the weather permitted. Besides playing board games, we roller skated on the old style skates that had a skate key that tightened your skates to your shoes. We played hopscotch, tag and jumped rope. I remember many a fort in the woods that I helped create from sticks and branches. I loved playing tennis and softball. We ice skated and took our sleds to the nearest hill in the winter and swam in the summer. Most of these things didn't cost much money. When I was about 12, I got my first bike which was used. I loved to bike. The skates were used also. Most children were very fit because of all of the exercise. You always saw kids playing outside. 

Almost all of my clothes were passed down to me from my cousin who was three years older than me. Maybe I would get a new outfit for the first day of school or for Christmas. I was happy to wear those hand me downs. When I was in high school and more clothes conscious, I went to a private school where I wore a uniform everyday.

Christmas was not like the Christmases of today. Gifts were usually clothing that was needed and perhaps a toy, book or board game. Our stockings had fruit and nuts in them. The true meaning of Christmas was celebrated when we attended church. Then we would have a meal at home. I remember special treats at Christmas being stuffed dates, homemade fudge, and ribbon candy. Relatives would visit or we would visit them. It was fun. I would love to go back to the simple, more meaningful way of celebrating Christmas. 

You also did not get a lot of gifts for your birthday. You usually got one thing that you wanted and perhaps a piece of clothing or shoes that you needed. You had a homemade birthday cake or a frosted cake from the Freihofer man. Most birthday parties were at home with relatives. Mom didn't spend any money taking you and your friends out for an elaborate birthday party.
Thanksgiving was spent every year at my aunt and uncle's who lived in a town near us. We had turkey and all of the trimmings. The entire family on our side and on my aunt's side attended. There were so many people for dinner that they set seating up in the basement for all of us to eat. I actually have a tape that was made a few years back of those dinners. My cousin had the tape made from her father's old 8 millimeter films that he would make. I love looking at it once in a while since it brings back such wonderful memories. 

My grandmother was fortunate to have a wringer washing machine. She had no dryer. We had a small back porch upstairs where she stood to hang the wash. There was a clothesline attached to the porch and then to a telephone pole in the backyard where she hung our clothes. Many winter days those clothes could stand up by themselves when you took them off the line because they were frozen. I remember taking the clothes off the line in terrible wind that shook the porch and praying that the porch wouldn't fall down with me on it.

I would do the dusting every week because my grandmother was aging. All we used was a dust rag. No furniture polish. If something was stuck to the furniture we used a little water to get it off. I remember my mom washing the floor once a week. In between, it was swept. Once a week, you used a push sweeper to clean any carpets.

In the kitchen was a sink in a metal cabinet, a huge old black stove, the hot water tank, a refrigerator, the washing machine, an old sewing machine and a table and and chairs. Grandma had a huge walk in pantry that I would love to have today. There were shelves for food, pots and pans, and one at just the right height to make pie doughs and other foods. Built into one wall was a china cabinet for the everyday dishes.

The dining room was only used for company(my grandmother's bridge club) and holiday dinners. It  had a big mahogany table that could seat many people and mahogany chairs. There was also an old mahogany desk, buffet, and china cabinet(for the company dishes). And at one time the coal stove and then the gas stove. 

The living room had a couple of chairs and a sofa. When the first black and white TV's came on the market, my grandparents were able to buy one a few years later. I doubt that they purchased it brand new because they were so expensive. Most likely Grandpa either got it used or a deal on it. That was a real treat. It was back in the day when there were only a few shows a day on the TV. I remember watching a few black and white cartoons and the Howdy Doody show. When I got older, Bonanza was popular. But our TV watching was restricted by both our elders and the fact that there were not many shows on the air. 

My sister and I shared one of the bedrooms which had a bed and a small closet and my mom's dresser in it. My mom had her room which had a bed, closet and dresser. The dresser had my grandmothers clothes in it. My grandparents room had beds and a dressing table in it. Hence that is why none of the dressers were in the rooms that people actually used them. Space was a premium.

In the later years of my childhood, my grandfather bought a used car. He only used it to go to work and to the men's club that he belonged to. My mom got her license and a used car when I was in middle school. She used it to go to work. She worked at the telephone company during the week and the movie theater on the weekends to not only support us but so that she could pay to finish her college education,  pay for our private high school, and so we could spend most of our summers at a lake.

When we went downtown to shop, to see a movie, or to go out to dinner which didn't happen very often, we took the city bus. Fares were reasonable, buses were on time and you didn't have to worry about finding a parking space or paying for it. Gasoline was expensive.

We lived in a neighborhood that had many German and Irish immigrants. I never thought of us as being poor because we never went without. I think that most of the people who lived on our street were all in the same income category. That is one of the reasons that we didn't know that we were lower income. Life was simple and things were sparse. Even though we had lots of furniture, I think it had been accumulated over years of my grandparents married life. It was the same furniture they had when I moved there at 3 years of age with my mom and the same furniture when I moved out when I married at 19. They kept things for years and only replaced them if they broke.

We were only allowed to take a bath once a week and washed with a washcloth the rest of the week. You washed your hair in that bath. My sister and I shared the same bath water. Hot water was costly.

In those days the doctor came to house to treat you if you were sick. We only went to the dentist when we had a toothache because it was too expensive to go. I have paid for that all of my adult life because I didn't have regular check ups as a kid. They were sporadic at best.

The insurance man also came to the house monthly and you paid him the premium for house insurance, car, or life insurance.
My mom worked 52+ hours a week between the telephone company and the movie theater and saved all year long so that we could spend the summers on a lake instead of in the hot city.  One of my fondest memories are the days spent at the lake with so many other kids every year. Mom paid cash for everything those summers.

I remember Mom using credit cards when I was in high school. Prior to that our family did not have credit cards. My grandparents always paid cash for everything whether it be their home or a used car.

My grandmother had an old, old sewing machine and she used to repair our clothes with it. Clothes were repaired and patched back then. You didn't throw them out ever. When they became unwearable, Grandma would cut them up and put them in the rag bag to use for cleaning.  

My grandparents wasted nothing. Leftovers were  always eaten. Every thing was used until it was no longer repairable. They didn't run out and buy something new just because they wanted it. Shopping was for necessities not used as entertainment.

Times were much more frugal and simpler back then. You had less things to care for and to worry about breaking. Doing things in the fresh air was the entertainment. Our houses weren't packed with every toy imaginable. Meals were simple and portioned. They knew how to live frugally. They didn't envy the Joneses or try to keep up with them. They were not a throw away society.

Each and everyone of us could learn a thing or two from our ancestors that would help keep our money in our wallets. My grandmother was my first frugal example and I learned a lot from her.

I had a simple and wonderful childhood filled with love and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

How about you? Did you learn anything frugal from your grandparents or great grandparents? 

PS: My granddaughter loves to write stories. She is always sharing them with us. So I wrote a similar story to this one(leaving out the blood from the meat) for her in word and printed it out and wrapped it in a box for Christmas as one of her gifts. She will love it!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Frugal Things We Have Done This Past Week

These are the things that we have done frugally the past week:

- My son cut some more tree branches for us.

- We had a big salad twice this week for dinner. Hubby makes the best salads. We are now out of lettuce so I will most likely go to Niagara Produce today to get more.

- One night we had homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese on rye bread. Hubby made the soup. So three meatless meals that helped our budget. Hubby is feeling so much better after his illness that he has started cooking 3-4 meals a week and I am loving it.

- I took my grandson to the Dollar Tree and got him a ball, two books , two puzzles, etc. Those items will stay here in the toy closet for when he visits. I bought enough aluminum foil to get me to the $10. minimum to use the 10% off voucher.

- I washed two loads of laundry in the HE's using cold water and minimal detergent. I hung them to dry.

- A medical provider sent us a bill 4 months ago for medical supplies for $12.20. We have 100% coverage of medical supplies with Medicare and our secondary plan. I knew I didn't owe it. After 4 months of telephone calls and a lot of aggravation, the company finally credited my account for the $12.20 informing me I didn't owe it. When you know you are right on a bill, don't pay it and state your case. Eventually they figure it out. It would have been easier on me and my time if I had just paid it. But I am not paying what I don't owe. 

- Finally Time Warner sent me a bill for cable TV, internet and telephone that was accurate. That was a two month struggle.

- I faithfully watered my yellow flower basket and it is still living after 9 days. I have only had to pull out 4 flowers.  I am so enjoying it.

- My birthday balloon started to deflate so I cut the bottom where it was tied to the ribbons off. I saved the deflated balloon and the ribbons to wrap a small birthday package. 

- With the exception of NCIS, NCIS LA, NCIS NOLA, Bull, Hawaii 5-O and Blue Bloods, I have stopped watching TV. Hubby watches sports and some of the news. I have quit watching any news because of the biased media's take on the election. I have made up my mind on who I am voting for. I just want this election over.   I am totally sick of it. However this  choice seems to have lowered our electric bill so I think I will continue only watching these shows on TV for the foreseeable future.

- The meter reader was here the day before yesterday so I went outside and read the meter as soon as he left. I like to verify that the reading is accurate when I get the bill the month that he reads. There have been mistakes in the past. We only used 450 KWH's this past month and cut our natural gas consumption in half(only used 14.4 therms) from the same period last year( used 28.8 therms). Our bill is online today and is $ 95.58. I am very happy with that considering our heat has been on part of the month. It pays to conserve.

- Hubby wanted to go out to dinner last night because it is restaurant week here. We went to one of our favorite places which is Tavern at Windsor Park. Hubby had Fish and Chips. I had Steak and Ale Pie which is my favorite. We each had an appetizer. One was Bavarian Pretzels and one was Philly Steak Roll Ups. And we each had a 9 ounce glass of white zinfandel. Each of our meals including the glass of wine was $20.16. However I had a 20% off coupon that they sent for my birthday which didn't expire until the end of next month. It was good for my meal and Hubby's meal. So we only paid $32.26 plus tax and tip for the two of us. It was a fantastic meal for that price. It was also a ton of food and we brought home 1/2 of all for dinner tonight.

- I only ran the dishwasher every three days. I like it full when I use it. I continue to use vinegar as a rinse and 1/2 tablet to wash.

- I sprayed bug spray around the perimeter inside the garage and the entire foundation. It's that time of year where bugs like to come in for the winter. I have always hated spiders and now we have a new bug that I have never seen before. One got in the house last weekend. It is a stink bug. They are ugly and smell horrid if you step on them. I never want to see one again. UGH! 

- Today the landscape company comes with three guys to do our end of the year weeding, trimming of all bushes, etc. They should be here about three hours. This is the last month( they come monthly) this year that they will be needed. We paid up the entire year a few months ago so we are prepaid. I am happy that we will not have to pay for this again until next spring. The same landscape company should be coming soon to put down the winter fertilizer. We also pay that bill up front in February because they give us 5% off. I am hoping when they send a bill in the spring for the weeding and trimming every month that they will give us a discount also if we pay the entire season up front. 

- My son and grandson will be coming again this Sunday. I have decided to make banana muffins for breakfast and also put out a big fruit salad. During the game I will have a big crock pot full of sausage, chicken and shrimp jambalaya served on rice. My son loves this. I will also send some home to my DIL for her dinner. Everything I need to make these things is already in my stockpile. We should then have enough for a meal or two next week.

So what did you do this week to save money? Share with us by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Did You Manage To Be A Stay At Home Mom?

Most of you know that I was a stay at home Mom until my youngest was in seventh grade and my oldest was a sophomore in high school. That is when I went back to work full time. The year before I did that I worked four hours a day while my sons were in school.

A neighbor who has a newborn asked me how we did it just recently. She is fortunate to be able to be home the first year with her newborn before she has to return to work. Of course, she and her Hubby planned for that by saving her entire net income from the day they found out that she was pregnant.

Before I go into how I did it, I want you to know that  whether you are a stay at home Mom or a working Mom, you can all benefit from hearing what we did. I knew many stay at home Moms and many working Moms, my mother being one. One of my daughter in laws is a stay at home Mom and one is a working Mom. I admire both greatly.

The first thing we did before I became a stay at home Mom was to never spend my working income on everyday expenses. My net earnings went to saving for our first home and into investments. I worked a total of three of the six years before we had children.

From the time we married until I went back to work part time when my sons were in the above mentioned grades, Hubby made under $6500. the first year to a high of $52,000 when my youngest was 11. Yes, I had to go look it up. We have kept  perfect records for years. Some people could look it up on Social Security earnings statements but they don't show the true picture because they only show the earnings that were taxed for social security and medicare. When people reached the earnings limit, they had no tax taken out for these items for the rest of the year. This is still true today. So it is impossible to know what your true gross earnings are unless you keep accurate records. People think that things cost so much more today than they did back in the day. That is not true in most cases when you figure in inflation. Wages have gone up as food, medical,  transportation, housing, etc. have. Believe me when I say that it was just as hard to make ends meet back then as it is today.

We cut every expense that we could that was not important to the way we wanted to live when my first son was born. We used cloth diapers which I washed and hung to dry every other day. I even did this when I had two in diapers. My sons were two years apart and my oldest was very stubborn when it came to potty training. I only bought Pampers for when we traveled or went out for the day. I purchased them as cheaply as possible by going to a discount store. If I used an average of two a week that was a lot because we did not go out very often. I made sure that my babysitters knew how to cloth diaper. I used  cheap washcloths to clean their bottoms. Those got washed with the diapers and were used only for that purpose. They only had diaper rash once or twice and I used an ointment that the Dr. recommended. I don't remember what it was. After the boys were potty trained, I used those diapers to clean with for years.
I nursed both of my children for up to a year. Once the pediatrician said to start them on baby food, I made my own. I either used a blender or mashed and cut food myself. I would make enough for a few weeks at a time and refrigerate some and freeze the rest. I had some purchased baby food that my father-in law kept buying and bringing the first few months they ate food. But I saved that for when we took the boys to visit family or anytime we went out somewhere.

We had so many toys and clothing that were given to us at my baby shower by friends and family  and then again when they were born that we had to hardly buy anything until they were two years old. We also had neighbors and friends who gave us hand me downs. When the boys were 3 - teens, I always purchased on sale or clearance. They didn't have big wardrobes. I purchased what they needed. They outgrew or destroyed their clothes so fast that it would have been crazy to spend a lot for them.

Out pram(baby carriage)was second hand as were the bassinette, crib, and high chair that were all purchased from two neighbors.

We only bought them new toys and books on their birthdays and Christmas. The rest of the year if I saw clothing, books or toys that were dirt cheap at a garage sale, I would buy them there. I had no problem buying a year ahead and packing them away.

We did spend the money to buy them Stride Rite shoes because at that time the pediatricians believed that good shoes were important to the development of their feet. But I always waited until they were on sale. When they were older, they had good sneakers but I didn't buy the top the line expensive brands. Even their jeans were Levi's. When they attended private military school for junior high and high school, I was fortunate that even though their uniforms were expensive, it saved on buying so many everyday clothes. I also was able to buy a lot of their uniforms used at the school's once a year sale.

We did go out about three times a year to either a friend's home or to see a movie. Mostly we entertained at home which was much cheaper than going out. Our friends with kids reciprocated and many times we all just took the babies along.

Mainly if it wasn't a necessity, we didn't buy it. It was much more important to us for me to be home to raise the boys. It was important to us to spend our time with the boys on the weekends and that is why we didn't go out a lot.

We kept tight budgets so that we could invest money each and every month not only for retirement but for college for the boys. They took priority after our everyday major expenses and the expenses for the boys were all covered. We did all of the things that I talk about on this blog to keep our expenses low.

We also did the math on how much income I could make if I worked and then deducted expenses for taxes and other things that would come out of my paycheck each month. We checked out how much daycare would cost us for one and then two babies. We deducted what it would cost us to buy a car for me to get back and forth to work, gas, registration, insurance and car maintenance. We deducted a reasonable amount for take out food for nights that we would both be exhausted. We deducted other expenses like work clothes, nylons, heels, etc. When we got done, it was going to take part of Hubby's salary for me to work which was ridiculous. So we took the stay at home path for that reason and many others.

Bottom line is that it can be done if it really is something you want and you have a spouse who makes an income who can cover the expenses. Is it easy? No. Is it a lot of hard work to keep the expenses low? Yes. Will you be able to keep up with the Joneses? Probably not. But I would not have traded all of those years I was able to stay home with my children for anything.