Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I am honored that my friend Heather at Simply Save would nominate me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  If you are looking for another great money-saving blog, this gal is the real deal.  Her concept is “living the good life at a cheaper price,” which I love.  I only know her through the blogging world, but I’m pretty sure if I knew her outside of wordpress, we’d be friends.  Also, I strongly support her use of the Oxford comma 🙂

veryinspiringbloggeraward

Here are the rules of the award:

  1. Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  5. Proudly display the logo on your blog and follow the bloggers who nominated you.

Here are seven facts about myself…

  1. My full name is Mariam, but I have gone by Mary my entire life.
  2. I am married to… literally… the hottest guy on the face of the earth.  I would share a photo, but I can’t for fear that all women would envy me 😉
  3. I have one son here with me and two babies in heaven.
  4. I accepted Jesus and was baptized on April 18, 2004.  It has been just over 10 years since I made this decision, and since then my life has been absolutely transformed.  If you ever want to know what I mean by that, don’t hesitate to ask!
  5. I started this blog because I wanted to share with others how we are paying down our (read: my) student debt by making radical lifestyle choices.  I know it’s not for everyone, but my hope is for someone to find a few things that will encourage them along their journey as well.
  6. I have a photographic memory.  Growing up and in college I never studied for tests.  I just memorized what my notes looked like.  Don’t tell my profs.  I don’t want them to revoke my diplomas.
  7. Speaking of which, I have 2 degrees in music (a Bachelors in Church Music and a Masters in Vocal Performance).  I always thought my life after my schooling would heavily involve music, but it turned out God had other plans for me.  I am very thankful to get to stay home with our son, and even though I honestly never thought I would be a stay at home mom, it is clearly where I need to be right now.

Now for the fun part… My nominations (in alphabetical order):

Amber Under Construction is awesome.  Her tagline is “More like Him and less like Me.”  She shares her journey through this life with such authenticity and is definitely one inspiring lady.

Indebted Mom has a fantastic blog with a unique perspective on debt.  We have very similar stories, which I think is cool.  She has also been a great encouragement as I’ve continued my blogging journey, and you need to check her out.

The World of J Patrick Avery is my brother who is a fantastic writer.  He shares excerpts from the novel he is currently writing, flash fiction, streams of consciousness, etc., as well as tons of information about writing and grammar.

The Zero Waste Chef  is super cool.  She strives to live a lifestyle of zero waste (thus, the title, I’m assuming), and has great ideas for utilizing every aspect of food, making things from scratch, and eliminating waste.

Well, that’s not 15 people, but I firmly stand behind these blogs and the causes and concepts they support.  I hope you will check them out and enjoy them as much as I have 🙂

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Summer Saving: Home Made Lemon Sugar Body Scrub

home made lemon sugar body scrub recipeI’ve had five lemons sitting in my fridge for a while now.  Today I decided to actually put them to use!  You all know me…  I like a quick and easy recipe, and that’s just what this is!!  This took me just a few minutes to make and smells good enough to eat!  Which, technically you can do 😉

ingredients

Items needed:

2 cups white sugar

2-3 lemons

2-3 tbsp. coconut oil

jar

microplane zester

1.  Pour 2 cups sugar into a bowl and stir in the juice of 2 lemons (the third isn’t used until the end).   Mix until lemon juice is evenly distributed.

lemon juice

2.  Add coconut oil, 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency.  I used 3 tablespoons.  You can stop here if you like, but I found the coconut smell was too overpowering and wanted a stronger lemon scent and color.

3.   If you choose to do so, add the zest of 3 lemons.  This will add to the delicious lemon-y scent and will give it a natural lemon color, as seen in the photo below.

That’s pretty much it!!  Told you it would be easy:)

 Enjoy!!

lemon scrub

 

Summer Saving: Saving on Water

Saving on water.  Let me just start by saying that the biggest way my family has cut our water bill was by selling our house with the big yard and built-in sprinkler system.  During the summer, since we live in Texas, we would spend anywhere between $150-200 PER MONTH on water, and our grass was still brown.  I believe in watering the ground, but not at that cost.  So yea, tip number 1, to save money on water, sell your house and get a smaller yard.

Just kidding.

I mean, I’m not, but that’s a really unreasonable thing for me to suggest.  I have a few other things that we have done to save on the cost of water during these summer months.

1.  Take timed showers.  Decide what a reasonable amount of time for a shower is for you and your family, set a timer, and stick to it!  I would suggest setting it on your phone (if possible) so you can set a 5-minute warning timer first, and then have the second and final one go off at your cut-off time.  Or you can purchase one of those sand timers that stick to your shower wall and have a visual reminder.

2.  Don’t let the water run while washing dishes.  I started doing this a few months ago when I realized I spent about 20 minutes per day washing dishes (I happen to let them pile up frequently), which means 20 minutes of mostly wasted water per day.  I decided I would start filling the sink with warm, soapy water instead and use that water to rinse off dishes before going in the dishwasher.  I don’t do this for hand-washed dishes though because that’s gross.

3.  Collect rain water for plants, gardens.  I wish I could count on this in Waco.  I don’t think we get enough consistent rain here in Central Texas for me to be able to do this all the time, but for those of you in climates that actually get frequent rains, this is a great way to keep your plants going.

4.  Don’t play in sprinklers.  For those of you with kids, see if your city has a splash pad you can take your kids to play.  I know in Waco, we have five different FREE splash pads around the various parks in town.  I guess it’s technically not saving actual water consumption, but it will definitely help you save on your personal water bill.

Just a few thoughts.  I’m sure lots of you have great ideas for saving on your water bill.  Leave more ideas in the comments!!

Summer Saving: Make Your Own SPF Sunscreen with Coconut Oil

I found this post a while ago, and thought it would be perfect to share for my Summer Saving series.  Health Starts in the Kitchen shares this recipe for homemade all-natural sunscreen with SPF 20 protection.  See her recipe here.

I calculated the cost for this recipe so you can see the savings.

Coconut Oil, 16 oz.                       $8.99

Shea Butter Lotion, 13 oz.         $8.79

Zinc Oxide Powder, 16 oz.         $11.87

When I did the math to figure out the cost per batch, I discovered you will pay $10.17 for an all-natural, chemical free sunscreen!!

The all-natural brand name suncreen that Health in the Kitchen compares this to is Dr. Mercola.  I found an 8 oz. SPF 30 directly from the Mercola website for $18.97.

This homemade recipe yields 16 oz. and is $8 cheaper!   I will definitely be trying this!

*Edit:  Mercola’s sunscreen costs $2.37/oz.  This recipe is $0.64/oz

Summer Saving: Saving on Energy, Part 2

Earlier this week I shared some of the things we do around our house to save on lighting and cooling.  Today is all about saving energy on appliances and electronics.

Let me start by saying that yes, you can save money by purchasing all energy star and HE appliances!   And if you have budgeted to purchase new, energy efficient appliances and other electric items in the house, by all means do so!  It will definitely save you in the long run.  But for those of us who aren’t in that same place, here are some ideas on how to save on appliances and electronics without having to invest anything.

1. Lower the temperature on your water heater.  I have read that for every 10 degrees you turn down your water heater, you will save between $12-30 annually.  While that’s not huge (a dollar per month barely seems worth it), when you do this in addition to lots of other small energy saving changes, it starts to add up!

2. Turn off the heated dry setting on your dishwasher.  I did this a few months ago.  I’m totally not the person who wants to stand at the sink for an extra ten minutes to hand-dry all of my dishes… so when the dishwasher finishes, I just open it and let the dishes air dry.  I know myself and I don’t unload the dishwasher immediately anyway.  So at least this way I have an excuse as to why I’m not unloading it…  or so I tell myself 😉

3.  Use hot water for laundry sparingly.  I do about 5 loads of laundry each week.  One load for my husband’s and my clothes, one load of our son’s clothes, and then usually 2-3 loads of diapers (we use cloth diapers).  The only thing that always gets washed in hot water is the diapers.  With the rest of our laundry, I give it a once over to see if it will work to just use cold water, or if it needs a little temperature boost to help get rid of stains, etc.

4. Don’t preheat the oven.  I have never done this mostly because I always thought it was a wasted step anyway.  For those of you who actually know what you’re doing in the kitchen– if you know why a preheated oven is important, then please tell me.  But until I figure out if it’s actually necessary, I don’t plan on doing it.  Using the oven is already going to heat up your house.  Leaving it on for longer will just give it that much more time to get warm.  At least that is my reasoning.

5.  Shut down the computer and turn off the TV.  We have a habit in our house of leaving the computer on all day (and sometimes all night).  In fact, after I finish this blog post, I’m guessing I will walk away and forget to shut down, even after writing this!  I also like to have something on TV as background noise while I do housework.  These are a waste of energy, obviously, since the electronics are running when no one is using them.  I am still working on this one, but I’m committed to doing it 🙂

That’s all I’ve got for today.

If you have other ideas on how to save on energy during the summer, share in the comments!!

Summer Saving: New Cash Envelope System

For my first post in this series I wanted to share my new cash envelope system. If you are on a budget, I highly recommend you adopt a cash envelope system. I was resistant to it for a long time for two reasons:

1. Our bank is out of town and it’s inconvenient to have to use the ATM every time we need cash.  Also, having to work it out so our cash is in multiples of 20s is kind of a pain.

And

2. I was certain I could demonstrate some amount of restraint with my debit card.

Which was untrue.

I believe we’ve already established that Mary and self-control generally don’t go in the same sentence (read my post about Walmart). Unless you’re saying Mary doesn’t have self-control.  Anyway, recently I have realized the errors of my ways and have fully embraced the cash envelope system.

This system will help you save money this summer for one main reason: if you don’t have the cash to pay for something, you can’t buy it. That simple.

I’ve mentioned before about attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. During that class we learned about the importance of paying cash for everything you can. If you’d like to know more about this, click here.

I originally had a cash envelope system that was literally envelopes with cash in them. I was not a fan of this system because it felt disorganized just having a bunch of envelopes floating around.  Also, I’m a bit haphazard at times and I just knew at some point the envelopes would tear, or get lost, I’d lose track of things, and every thing would come crashing down. So yesterday I revamped my cash envelope system and I am already loving it!

mini-accordion file

I bought this mini-accordion file a couple of years ago for 98¢. I had my own business at the time and was using it to organize my business-related purchases.  Now I keep my driver’s license, check book, our A+ card, coupons, and gift cards in the front, and I labeled the each of tabs with a sharpie marker for each of the cash categories in our budget.

cash envelope system

These categories include:

giving– currently revamping, but as of right now, this is for spontaneous giving, as well as gift giving (birthdays, etc.).

grocery– self-explanatory.

gas– self-explanatory.

household– for items such as cleaning products, toilet paper, batteries, etc. Anything related to the household that is not edible.

pets– for food, occasional treats and toys.

entertainment– for family activities such as eating out, going to the zoo, etc.

miscellaneous– for those times when you just have to buy something that wasn’t in the budget.  AKA our cash version of the emergency fund. It’s only $20.

Josh
Mary
Josiah

The last three are for purchases that we as individuals may need or want. For example, Josiah (our son) may need new socks.  Or I may just want to buy him books or a toy. These categories are our own spending money to use as we like.

In the past, when I’ve budgeted for these cash categories, I’ve used the debit card to pay for them.  Unfortunately, it is wayyyyy too easy to go over budget with a debit card.  “I know the money is there… I’m $2.50 over budget.  I’ll make up for it somewhere else.  No big deal.”

Dave Ramsey says, “While debit cards can’t get you directly into debt, if used carelessly, they can cause you to over-spend. There’s something psychological about spending cash that hurts more than swiping a piece of plastic. If spending cash whenever possible can become a habit, you’ll be less likely to over-spend or buy on impulse.”  Source: daveramsey.com

If you’re not already using a cash envelope system, this may be your first step to saving this summer!!

New Series–Stay Tuned!!

This week I will be starting up a new series.  Still working on a title more awesome than “Summer Saving Series…” because that is not awesome at all actually.

But as the current working title suggests, I will be sharing some things that we have implemented over the years to save during the summer months.  Topics will include saving on utilities, family activities/vacations, personal pampering, gift giving, holiday celebrations and more!  I am super excited to save with you this summer!

I will also be sharing some content from other bloggers as well.  If you have a post you think would be helpful and would like for me to share with my readers, let me know in the comment section!

Series begins on Thursday.  See you then 🙂

 

How I Save BIG at the Grocery Store Without Extreme Couponing

In case you didn’t know this about me, I love grocery shopping.  I am well aware that this is not normal (at least I don’t think it is…), but it’s true!  I especially love HEB.  For those of you that don’t live in Texas and have never been to an HEB, I’m sorry.  When you come to visit Texas, call me, and I will take you.

About my grocery parameters (for lack of a better term):

  • I go to the store twice a month (1st and 15th-ish).
  • I budget $100 per trip.  That equals about $10 per week for my son and $20 per person per week for my husband and me.
  • I only buy brand name items if a high-value coupon is attached.  Other wise it is all store-brand.
  • I never shop without a pre-planned list.
  • I always plan my groceries around store sales and coupons.

I think it’s important to make note that I am not a huge coupon-er.  I will search for coupons here and there, but most of my coupons come from the store itself.  I am not one of those very “enthusiastic” ladies who spends 14 hours clipping coupons, goes to 3 different stores, and then pays 18 cents for $200 of groceries.  I personally don’t want to dedicate the time to doing that and then also end up with 2,000 jars of mustard.

So here’s a quick look into my shopping trip today.

Coupon Deals

Each of these items had a coupon that involved purchasing a single item and getting another free.

The photo above includes my super awesome deals.  I’ll just do a quick run-down (left to right) of what each of these items were:

  • Buy 1lb of bacon ($7.98), get 4-pack of sausage and cheese Kolaches ($2.97) free.
  • Buy Family Size Stouffers meal ($9.67), get Steamable veggies ($1.92), loaf of garlic bread ($1.06), Nestle Tollhouse break & bake cookies ($2.50), and 64 oz Juicy Juice free ($2.38).
  • Buy Sweet Home granola ($4.47), get 32 oz Greek Yogurt free ($3.98).
  • Buy Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese ($7.08… It’s HUGE), get 1 lb of meatballs free ($2.97).
  • Buy 2 tubs of deli meat ($2.98 each), get all-natural cheese  slices ($1.99) free.

Produce

This was all the produce I needed to buy this week.  Our produce lasts us quite a while because we are super healthy like that.  Sale items:

  • 6 oz container of blackberries for 98 cents
  • *1 lb of red pairs for 98 cents
  • 5 lemons for $1

Non-sale items:

  • 1 lb white onion for 88 cents
  • *2 lb bag of carrots for 98 cents
  • *1 lb of green beans for $1.68
  • *1 lb of butternut squash for $1.14
  • *1 lb of bananas for 48 cents

*produce marked with an asterisk are items used to make baby food purees.

Staples

The rest of the items were regularly priced store-brand staples.  We always keep these in our fridge/pantry because we eat it a lot.

  • boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • tortilla chips
  • flour tortillas
  • eggs
  • bread
  • ground sirloin
  • milk
  • cheese
  • pepperoni (we are pizza lovers)
  • granola bars
  • peanut butter
  • cereal
  • toaster pastries
  • coffee (I had a $1 off coupon)

Not pictured:  I couldn’t really fit our contact solution into a category of photos, and didn’t feel like it warranted a photo all on its own.  We buy a store brand 2-pack for $4.94 (brand name is $12 or more for 2; I really don’t know how HEB does that).

So that is my grocery trip for today.  Any guesses as to how much it cost…………….?

Before applying coupons, it was just over $120.  After?

…wait for it….

$99.81

Feeling pretty good about that.

What are some ways you save on groceries?  I am always looking for more money saving ideas!!

 

 

 

Saving Money on Disposable Items

I felt like this would be a good topic to share today, since I just ran out of paper towels from cleaning up dog vomit the last 2 days.  First of all, the dogs are fine.  They caught some kind of bug that really only lasted a few hours for each dog.  But this is exactly the type of occasion that the paper towels are reserved for.  Generally though, I don’t buy paper towels and other disposable items.  My thought is there are certain items made for convenience, and convenience always comes with a price that I am rarely willing to pay…  I say that I am rarely willing to pay that price because I actually have them all sitting in my pantry right now (with the exception of the paper towels I just ran out of).  However, I reserve these items for when convenience is really needed,  and make do with non-disposable items the rest of the time.

The following is a small list of disposable items that we rarely buy:

1. Paper towels–  these are the least convenient for me to replace.  I think it’s so nice to grab one, clean up a mess, and then throw it away.  It has taken me a while to get to the point where my desire to save money was greater than my desire for convenience.  I replaced them with a stash of small rags that I use to clean the counter tops and other surfaces in the house.  We dry our hands on hand towels.  I have a cloth that I use to dry fruits and veggies after they have been washed.  Now, we literally only reserve the paper towels for things like absorbing grease from meat or cleaning up messes that I don’t want to use real towels for (aka regurgitated bodily fluids from the dogs).

2. Foil– foil is super easy to replace.  I mentioned in a previous post that I save all kinds of jars and tupperware.  This is exactly why I do that.  When I have leftovers, I put them into a resealable container, and save the foil for things like taking food over to someone’s house.  I also use foil when I make baby food.  I bake the fruits that I make for my son, and cover  with foil so the juices will stay in the pan, then I use those juices to make the puree.  I will typically re-use that foil for the next batch of baby food, since it doesn’t get dirty anyway.

3. Gallon-sized Ziploc bags–  I don’t necessarily try to find a way to get around using these, I just happen to reuse them.  After I empty one, I just wash it like I would any other dish, let it dry, and put it back in the drawer until I need it again.

Of course, when you don’t buy these things, you are usually committing to doing a little more grunt work… i.e., extra laundry and dish duty.  However, as my family and I work toward becoming debt-free, we have made the decision to not pay for convenience.

What are some ways you save on disposable items?  Share your thoughts below!