money, shopping

Thrift Store Finds

Last month I stopped by the thrift store to see if I could find any decent work clothes. I used to find a lot of good work clothes about five years ago, but I was smaller then and wore shorter skirts. I wasn’t too sure what I would find now, but I knew even a few nice tops would help, because I already have some plain black pants I wore at my last school job.

I’m not one to share or enjoy “haul” videos or posts, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say I got a great haul that day!

I got four plain tops that can be mixed and matched with several things I already have. I got two tank tops for layering with stuff I already have. I got a printed top (still work appropriate) and two solid cardigans, because I need to cover some of my ink at work. I got a casual dress, a long skirt, and a knee-length skirt I will most likely wear with colored tights or leggings I already own. Everything I got mixes and matches together and with stuff I already own, except the dress which stands alone.

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BONUS: I got this dress at the thrift store back in 2013 and wore it a lot with a yellow tank underneath. That tank expired in 2015, so this dress semi-retired even though I love it. I wore a white tank under it sometimes but it looked like bra straps and I didn’t like it. I found a pale yellow tee at the thrift store once and wore it, but the yellows were off and it bugged me even though they were complementary. One of the tops I found this thrift visit was the PERFECT yellow! I am so excited and have already gotten compliments on how well the yellows match. Plus, the yellow shirt looks cute with the new skirt I bought.

I also got six frames of various sizes that I put photographs in to hang on a gallery wall, which looks great! I’ve been wanting to spice up this wall forever so I was glad to find cheap but quality frames at the thrift store instead of having to spend more for lower quality to buy new at a store like Michaels. Plus getting them at the thrift store made it a one stop shop!

Twelve articles of clothing and six frames cost me $40. Some shirts were a dollar or two, while the dress was closer to seven, and the sweaters about four. Still, everything was cheaper than buying new, plus better for the environment than buying new!

I know I technically could have done without some of these clothes, but I like having options for work. I never would have been comfortable buying myself this much new – t-shirts alone could be $8! But now the stuff I have can last me year-round with layering, so I don’t see having to buy anything new for awhile (knock on wood).

home life, money, natural living, shopping

July Financials

I realized that every month I would itemize my spending, then post here saying “I also had a big expense of ____, but that is an annual thing so I didn’t include it.” This month is no exception. It seems like my big bills are staggered, thankfully, but there is almost one every month. House insurance twice, county taxes, car insurance twice, city taxes, etc etc.

I also realized that I am very conscious of how I spend my money. As long as I keep my fast food consumption in check, I do fine each month. And in July, I only ate out once – ordering pizza one night when I was too exhausted to do anything else.

This month I invested money in eco-friendly products for home and work. I will talk about them after I have tried them out and can thoughtfully review them. I am hoping these purchases will save money in the long run and of course make much less waste.

As a result of all my money-thinking, I am going to stop my monthly recaps. I will still hold myself accountable and occasionally address spending in my weekly round ups, but I would like to stop focusing so heavily on money on the blog and in real life, and turn my focus now to creating less waste.

money

Getting Gas

Gassing up my car used to be a huge to-do. I worked just 12 miles from home, but when you add in traffic and dropping my son at his school, the journey took about 45 minutes. I got gas almost every week, but sometimes I pushed it to two weeks. Working from home means I get gas once a month, which is such an amazing perk! My son’s new school is only 3 miles away, and all of our errands are pretty local. Sometimes we drive out to the suburbs to visit friends and family, but that’s rare (wow, I sound like the biggest hermit…). A bonus is that we have two restaurants and a small grocery store within walking distance, and my parents also live close enough to walk, so we get exercise when we visit or pick up a few items from the store. And, of course, save on gas!

This isn’t a sponsored post, but it will sound like it. (Sponsor me!) Kroger fuel points have been a huge help in saving gas money. We buy all our groceries at Kroger, save the random items we pick up at the nearby store as needed. I spend about $300 on food at Kroger every month, and that comes to be 30 cents off a gallon of gas when I fill up!

Receipts often have a code at the bottom, and you can complete a short survey to get 50 extra fuel points. DO THIS! It is worth it. It’s short, mostly multiple choice, and pays off! You can do one survey every 7 days, so that helps me plan my grocery visits – I don’t want to go too often just because it adds up (and I hate grocery shopping…), so at least 7 days apart is a great goal for me.

During the summer, you get double fuel points at Kroger if you shop on the weekends. I’ve started going on Sunday mornings, when people are at church or sleeping in, and I can get in and out quickly with those double fuel points.

There are some gas stations that will give you a discount if you come inside and pay in cash. I am going to sound like the laziest person ever, but… I don’t do that. I treat gas stations like a drive thru – I stop at the pump and stay at the pump! That’s why I stick with Kroger gas – I know the discount is already on my card.

Other stations take Kroger cards too, so that’s worth checking in to – one of those might be closer to your home or work so it’s efficient to get to. My Kroger station is close enough, and I try to fill up after I get groceries, since I’m already there.

There are apps to scout great gas prices too, but my phone is basic and doesn’t have enough memory for stuff like that. There are also websites you can use online, and sometimes it’s worth a long drive to get cheap gas! If you use gas for your lawn mower, you can fill up your gas can at the same time and keep that discount going! My parents used to save up for a huge Kroger discount, then take both cars and fill one up after the other! So you can see I came by this “saving” mentality honestly!

home life, money

Living Without A/C: Part 2

I left off with everyone wondering: Did she turn on the air conditioning? Did she turn on the A/C?

I heard you.

And yes, I’ve turned it on by now. Remember I was suffering at 78 degrees on May 2nd, at 10pm? I thought nights were supposed to be cooler, but… that doesn’t happen so much around here. Keeping my bedroom window open worked for 2 nights, but I just couldn’t cool down.

One night in early May I was in bed, staring up at my ceiling, willing myself to cool down… and I spotted that switch on my ceiling fan. I remember learning that you could flip the switch to use fans in winter to keep the warm air circulating, but I didn’t remember doing it.

Google to the rescue! Ceiling fans should turn counter-clockwise to cool the room, and clockwise to keep it warm. I had to stop my bedroom fan and start it again to see which way the blades were spinning.

Clockwise!

I turned it off again, waited until it stopped spinning (crucial step), and flipped the switch. Once the dust started flying off the blades (shame my housekeeping skills!), I vaguely remembered switching it for winter – because dust flew off then, too.

I tiptoed into my sleeping son’s warm oven of a room, staring up at his ceiling fan. Counter-clockwise, but it was so warm I stopped it, flipped the switch, and gave it a shot. Not much difference, but I put it back the way it was. I’m pretty sure it was on the cool setting.

My two new ceiling fans were off since the house was hunkered down for sleep, but I started them up – one was going counter-clockwise, but the other had to be changed.

The fan in the back room is the heartiest I’ve ever seen – it keeps that room as cool as the inside of a refrigerator. I knew it was spinning correctly.

The house got a lot cooler after that. It was too warm to keep windows open, but the fans alone kept the house at 76 or 77 degrees every day. Sometimes, in the mornings, it was downright cool. Not too shabby.

On May 7th, my son and I visited my parents’ house. As we approached, I could tell the windows were shut tight. I knew what that meant – their A/C was on!

Sure enough, they had turned it on before the extra-warm weekend hit. I mistakenly thought their goal had always (since my childhood) been to make it until June 1st, but Mom told me it was May 1st, with the crazy heat we get. Both parents seemed impressed we hadn’t turned our air on yet.

As soon as we got home, I turned on the fans. It was pretty warm. I glanced at the thermostat. 78. Did I want to live like this? Nahhh. Besides, I had beat out my parents, and they acknowledged my sacrifice (shhh – let me have this!). So I turned on the air on the evening of May 7th. Quite far from my original (misguided) June 1st deadline, but the house sure is comfortable now.

My new heating and cooling system is efficient and cut down my utility bills. Plus the ceiling fans still help – they keep the house cool enough that I don’t need the A/C on very high. Right now it’s at 77 and I’m at my desk with a fan swirling above me, and the breeze is a little cool!

I haven’t looked into how much it costs to run a ceiling fan (or multiple ceiling fans), or how much it costs compared to running the A/C. So we’ll check out that utility bill at the end of the month and report back.

home life, money, natural living

Living Without Air Conditioning

I’m not.

Living without air conditioning, that is. So I guess this title is clickbait, sorry!

I tried to live without air conditioning. My yard gets nice sun and my windows let in a nice amount of natural light, but overall my house stays pretty cool. I had a new heating and cooling system put in about two years ago – a major investment, but worth it because there has been a noticeable drop in my utility bills, while my house still stays at an enjoyable temperature.

This spring I had two ceiling fans added into the house. The 2 bedrooms and back playroom already had fans with light fixtures. The living room didn’t have anything – we used two wall mounted lamps and a floor lamp in the corner for meager light. My “office” had a chandelier, because it was technically a dining room. Slight digression for the glorious Mitch Hedberg:

I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don’t you? “F*(% you, real estate lady! This bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom’s got a lot of people sitting around watching TV. This bedroom’s over in that guy’s house! Sir, you have one of my bedrooms, are you aware? Don’t decorate it!”

I hated the chandelier, and wanted to get a cool light fixture to spruce up my office, but then I figured since I was switching out the fixture already, why not get a practical fan?

So I did. I bought the most basic white builder’s fan for my office, and a slightly more stylish white fan for the living room. The living room didn’t have anything on the ceiling other than that lovely popcorn finish, so I had to hire electricians. They went up in the attic and drilled and cut and wired and did their thing very quickly and efficiently, and switched out my office chandelier, and voila! I had a fan in every room but the kitchen.

Having ceiling fans everywhere, and a window in every room that could open, made me think I could live without air conditioning until June 1st. That was my goal. Think of the low, low utility bill! Think of how empowered I would feel, beating the system, living life au natural!

Cue getting ready for bed, slightly sweaty, looking at the thermostat – 78 degrees! Oh my god, I’m not going to last! What day is it? It was May 2nd. I kept thinking I wasn’t going to make it…

 

fun, home life, money, shopping

Tax Refund!

Before we even did our taxes, my husband asked what I wanted to spend our tax refund on. He wanted a new grill, and probably some other things. I, of course, wanted to put it into savings. And probably still will. But it made me daydream about…

An upgraded camera body

A macro lens

A home studio setup

New books to read

A trip to somewhere relax

A camping trip

New tattoos

A fancy, delicious dinner out

A fun evening bowling, snacking, drinking, eating

 

Did you get a tax refund this year?

home life, hygiene, money, natural living

Changing Your Focus

I previously wrote about Finding Your Focus, mentioning that right now my family was focused on money. It’s tax season, we’re taking a good hard look at our financials, so it just makes sense.

I feel all over the place right now as I find my footing with my new work-from-home life, and that is definitely reflected in this blog. Because right now, I feel like our focus should be finding the products that are best for our family.

We recently switched from Crest or Colgate toothpastes (whatever was cheapest in a 2 pack) to Tom’s of Maine. Now we love our Tom’s toothpaste, so I’m keeping track of how long one tube lasts us – me, my husband, and the 8 year old use the adult mint toothpaste. My 3 year old uses the kids’ fruit-flavored toothpaste and loves it, but of course it will last longer with just him using it.

The point is, we all love this toothpaste now, so it will be worth the expense, even if it’s not as cheap as another brand’s 2 pack. So we’re not saving green by buying this, but we’re using a natural product which is healthier for our family, and Tom’s offers recycling options for something that isn’t usually recyclable. That’s worth it to me, because I’d rather use a sensible product and dispose of it properly instead of buy something cheap, use it, and throw it in the landfill.

We are taking our time while we look at other products we use, trying to make good choices for what we use often. I’ll have to get into our kitchen and food situation another time, since it is always a work in progress. But switching toothpaste is a good start, and I have already switched to Tom’s of Maine deodorant. We drink Equal Exchange coffee because it is fair trade. My friend Victoria has some great information and resources about fair trade products, which we’ll also explore later. For us, it’s definitely worth finding quality, environmentally-friendly products and maybe spending a little more money, but getting more out of your investment in the long run.

How do you feel about spending more for something natural, fair trade, or made locally?