Friday, December 30, 2011

Visit A Park For Family Fun

Today my family spent our morning walking and playing at our favorite nature park, Hammock Park in Dunedin, Florida.  We live in a densely populated county, but we are blessed with quite a few nature parks.  If you are lucky enough to live in the country I hope that you are nature walking everyday.

Nature Trail At Hammock Park

Almost all of our local parks do not charge an entry fee, so we can enjoy ourselves without spending any money.  DH and I got our exercise and DD was happy to play in the woods and on the rustic playground.

One rule we have is to turn off the cell phones so we can concentrate on each other.  Our children (and adults) need to learn that it is not necessary to have social media at our fingertips at all time in order to be happy.  In fact, we are emotionally healthier without it.

God bless,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Birthday Ruminations

Today is my 55th birthday.  It doesn't particularly bother me to be getting older, except for the aches and pains.  I would much rather be 55 than to be reliving the angst and uncertainty of being 25.  When you reach my age you know what you like and don't like without confusion.  Also, you begin to "suffer fools" badly.

I have always wanted to age gracefully.  There is something slightly embarrassing about an older woman wearing the makeup and clothing of a much younger woman.  At this point my grandmother would say something about putting makeup on a pig or some such old saying.

My big goal has always been to be Aunt Bea when I get older.  You remember Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show?  Here's a picture in case you don't.

Aunt Bea reminded me of my grandmothers and great aunts.  She exuded comfort and a satisfaction with her life.  She was kind and did nice things for others.

I also like the way Aunt Bea was beautiful, but you always knew her true age.  She dressed well, with modest dignity.  She took a certain pride in being clean and nicely put together.  I want to just hug her and smell the scent of Cashmere Bouquet.

Sigh.  One of the other things that comes with age is missing the old days and the people that have passed.  Well, "no regrets" is all that I can say about my life so far.

God bless,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gardening Can Be Emotionally Healing

Gardeners have long known that a few hours spent digging in the dirt can improve their moods.  The sun, the focus on natural life, productive work; all of these things make us feel better about ourselves.

But a recent study shows that microorganisms in the soil have the ability to improve our brain chemistry, acting as an antidepressant.  One more reason we should let our kids and ourselves play in the dirt.  Perhaps our super sanitary way of living is harming our mental health.

So, get out the seed catalogs and start planning the garden.  A little dirt therapy is in order this Spring.

God bless,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Wishes From The Frugal Mennonite

My house is clean and the food for tomorrow's family gathering is ready.  I made a batch of marshmallows and will put together a gift basket for my in-laws with hot chocolate mix, marshmallows and cookies.  Tomorrow I will make the deviled eggs and green salad, then wait for my guests.

For the rest of today I get to rest, read and enjoy my family.  This is what a frugal life is about; not exhausting yourself trying to achieve an unrealistic, media fueled, corporate sales produced fantasy.  Instead we should live a comfortable, sparsely material, emotionally healthy and faith filled life.

Happy holidays!

God bless,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Easy Christmas Cookies

Looking at all of the Christmas ads and magazines with highly decorated and varied (read time consuming) cookies a frugal person could get a complex.  Unless you are giving cookies as gifts there is really no reason to make more than two types of cookies.

First of all, give up the idea of beautifully iced (with royal icing) and shaped cookies.  Find a basic sugar cookie recipe and buy two kinds of decorative sprinkles.  When you wake up in the morning lay out your butter and forget about it until later in the day.  Mix up your dough then divide it equally onto two pieces of plastic wrap.  Form into rolls and put into the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, when you have time, slice the dough.  You can just lay it on the pan on parchment paper.  Or you can roll each piece into balls.  Lightly oil (only once) the bottom of a glass, dip in sugar, then use the glass to press down on the dough.  Keep dipping it in sugar between cookies.

Slice Dough

Use Glass Bottom To Shape
Before you bake your cookies press some of the decorative sprinkles into the tops.  Line your pans with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Parchment Paper Prevents Sticking
After baking cool the cookies on a wire rack.  Never box up warm cookies.  You will lose those nice crisp edges.

Change your sugar cookie recipe to a ginger cookie by replacing some of the sugar (about a 1/4 cup) with molasses.  Replace the vanilla with 1 tsp. dried ginger, 1 tsp. grated ginger and 1 tsp. diced candied ginger.

Two lovely cookies baked while you are cleaning house or wrapping presents.  Neither type takes much time or expensive ingredients.  The sprinkles add that festive air.

God bless,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Easy Christmas Menu And Celebration

We are hosting a small family get together on Christmas Eve.  I wanted to have a menu and setup that allowed my husband and I to relax and enjoy our family; not hidden in the kitchen cooking.  I also wanted to have people eat what they want, when they want, in an informal setting.

A small buffet table set up in the area between the dining and living areas will allow us to migrate to where we are most comfortable.  Covered with a red table cloth and a few small, unbreakable decorations the buffet table can be festive and utilitarian.

We don't have a dishwasher and I don't want to spend Christmas Eve washing dirty dishes, so I will be using decorative disposable plates, plastic dinnerware and paper napkins.  Next year I hope to have the time to make fabric napkins from Christmas fabric.

Our menu consists of food meant to be picked at:  Honeybaked ham, potato or macaroni salad, green salad, and deviled eggs (DH's special request).  On the side will be pickles, olives and cookies.  The macaroni salad can be made and the eggs boiled a day in advance

Guests will be able to sit at the dining table to eat (required for the children) or sit in the living room.  Christmas music playing and lots of conversation will make this a fun, not stressful, Christmas gathering.

Entertaining during the holidays doesn't need to take a huge amount of work or money.  Remember, family and friends really just want to be with you and yours.

God bless,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random Thoughts For The Week Before Christmas

Yesterday I was out in the yard rewiring our intrepid and old light up reindeer.  He is well worth the relighting effort; well made out of steel and probably going to last another twenty years or so.  DH was threatening to throw him out if we didn't use him this year (he is heavy to drag out of the attic), which horrified DD and I, so he is now resplendent with twice as many lights as before.

Not Our Deer, But Just Like Him

Another of our outdoor lights went out last night, which is always difficult because who really wants to climb back up on that ladder to replace them?  But who wants to look at a big blank space in the Christmas lights?  The good thing is that this is an excellent time to buy Christmas lights.  They are well picked over, but most stores still have them on sale.

Speaking of sales or rather, the lack thereof, this is not the week to be buying Christmas items.  Stores have marked their prices back up because they know that people who wait until the last minute to shop are desperate.  Wrapping supplies, gifts and candy are at their highest price right now.

The week after Thanksgiving I bought Hallmark gift paper 3 rolls for 99 cents, 3 Scotch wrapping tapes for $1.99 and ribbons 2 bags for 99 cents.  Now they are 1 roll for $1.99, 3 tapes for $2.99 and 1 ribbon for 99 cents.  This is a good time to think about the fabric wrappings or have the kids decorate some craft paper to use for wrapping.

Pillow Pets were marked down to $12.99 two weeks ago, but have been repriced to $19.99 this week.  Men's cologne was $10 off last week, but this week is full price.  And I am not seeing the 99 cent stocking stuffers that were available a week ago.

On line stores just love last minute shoppers.  They get to hit you with hugely inflated shipping prices.  Considering that Priority Mail prices are fairly reasonable and the boxes are free from the Post Office, it is a slap in the face to pay over $15 dollars for "expedited" shipping.

Well, these are the random thought that have been running through my mind the last day or so.  I hope you are hunkering down, baking (with supplies you bought 3 weeks ago) and not doing any last minute shopping.

God bless,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Those Christmas Disasters

Life doesn't stop happening just because it is the holiday season.  Nope, life just keeps moving along dealing us the occasional blow to keep us paying attention.  The best laid plans must be pushed aside to fix an insistent problem.

Today I was feeling pretty sassy.  I had managed to get into see my doctor early and I drove home knowing that I had plenty of time to finish some holiday projects.

When I got home I went into my kitchen to make some granola and noticed a puddle on the floor.  I opened my cabinet under the sink to discover a wet mess.  One of my shut off valves had developed a steady drip; it must have been dripping since Saturday when I fixed a leaky faucet.

So, I began emptying the cabinet and emptying the cabinet and emptying the cabinet.  Some things were thrown away because they were sopping wet.  But I was amazed at the amount of cleaners, polishes, detergents and sponges that I had accumulated in this one cabinet.

I had a decision to make now that my cabinets are drying out and I am waiting to clean my kitchen up:  Should I feel awful and defeated or should I enjoy what remained of my morning.  People will be fine if they go one year without my granola and why should I allow my joy to be diminished by the plumbing.

Bad things happen during the holidays.  Bad things happen for no reason to good people.  It is not what has gone wrong that should form us, but how we react to it.

God bless,

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frugal Christmas Crafts: Hand Made Silhouette Plates

Recently Tipper at Blind Pig and the Acorn showed some striking decorative plates she had painted of crow silhouettes.  I decided to translate this craft to a Christmas craft.

You need two things:  white plates from the thrift store and Martha Stewarts paint.  I like the MS paint because it is only $1.99 and can be painted on many surfaces, including glass and porcelain.

Print Christmas silhouettes off the internet by Googling for Christmas Silhouettes.  Print on card stock, then cut out.

My Favorite Silhouette

Trace the silhouette onto a plate using a sharpie marker.  If you can, use a sharpie that matches your paint color.

Three Simple Templates

Paint the outline of the silhouette, then fill in the center.  With the metallic paints you will probably need several layers.

Let cure for several days.  Then they are ready to decorate your home on plate holders or hangers.  Have fun!

God bless,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Frugal Christmas Trees At Lowes

We had decided that this year we would be unable to mail order our Christmas tree from a northern tree farm.  The costs for both the tree and the shipping would have been $85-90, which is way out of our budget, but we still wanted to have a live tree.

Our idea was to go to a local church that sells trees every year as a fundraiser.  They order one load of trees each year and when they are sold, they close down the lot.  I drive by their lot on the way to DD's school.  On Monday I was surprised to see that they had completely sold out of trees on the first weekend of December.  Oops.

My next idea was to go to Lowe's hardware to see what they had.  They receive new shipments of trees on a regular basis, so I reasoned that the trees would be fresh.  They had two types of fir trees, Douglas and Fraser, from 4' to 7' tall.  We chose a 6' tree, which was fresh, with moist, flexible needles and branches.  We thought that the cost would be similar to the tree lots; probably around $35-40.

Surprise!  Our bill was $21.28!

Now I was going to show you a picture of the tree, but I can't find my camera.  DH and DD are spending the weekend at Disney, so I think they may have packed it.  I also had photos for a Christmas craft, so that post will need to wait until next week.  I will photograph our tree after it is decorated and share it with you.

God bless,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Week As An Elf

I had the pleasure this week to spend three mornings working as a shopping elf at my daughter's school.  Each year the school has a holiday store where the children can shop for family and friends and have the gifts wrapped.  This costs a minimal amount due to some smart elf shopping.  The children enjoy themselves and are proud to have gifts for their family.

Well, this middle aged elf was pooped at the end of each morning.  My respect for elves everywhere and, especially, the school's elves is high.  Thank you.

In the evening the elves search local stores for reasonably priced gifts to restock the store.  I found some wonderful gifts at Walgreens in the cosmetics area.  They have small gift sets, holiday soaps, nail polish and lip gloss on sale.  Some of these are not advertised specials, so ask the cosmetics counter employee to point them out to you.

Unfortunately, men are being short changed when it comes to inexpensive gifts.  It is always hard to fill my DH's stocking and this year is one of the worst.  Keep your eye out for discounted itunes cards where you are given a store gift card for buying the itunes card.  Earbuds are always needing to be replaced.  A small LED flashlight is useful in the car (I keep them around the house in case the electric goes off).  The Flylady has the Hey Tom car duster, which is a great, water free way to keep the inside of the car clean.

Store elves need lots of wrapping paper, tape and bows.  Once again, Walgreens to the rescue.  They have gift sacks eight for 99 cents, a three pack of Scotch tape for $1.99, Hallmark wrapping paper 2 rolls for $1.99, BOGO ribbons for 99 cents and tissue paper for 99 cents.

Good luck on your frugal Christmas shopping.

God bless,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where Are The Holiday Food Deals?

I've notice that for the last few weeks that there is a serious lack of food items on sale that correspond with coupons.  Usually there are several BOGOs with coupons that allow me to renew my food stores.  I don't know if the stores have made this decision just for the holidays or if it is a permanent change (I certainly hope not).

When I went shopping for a half gallon of organic milk I was shocked at the price (over $4.00)!  It seems as though even the basics are becoming difficult to buy.  I stopped buying convenience foods years ago, but now I'm seeing myself compromising on buying the basics I need to make meals.

Walgreens has been the best place for me to find baking goods this holiday season.  I have stocked up on flour, sugar, baking powder and chocolate chips using a combination of their store coupons and manufacturer coupons.  But they have stopped offering these deals as we get closer to the holidays.

I am trying to come up with ways to get around buying the expensive basics.  Perhaps using reconstituted dry milk for baking would be less expensive than buying liquid milk?  I need to start looking at web sites that sell food for storage to see if their products end up being less expensive for every day use.

I have also compromised on the food gifts that I make for the holidays.  Oatmeal was on sale last week, so I will make my world famous granola instead of a large number of cookies or candy.  Packaged in a pretty bag with a nice tag it makes a great gift.  I had the recipe on the blog last Christmas and it was a hit.

If you have any food shopping strategies for this holiday season please share them with us.

God bless,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Publix Gas Card Coupon Deal

In the Publix weekly ad there is a coupon for $10 off of a $50 gas gift card.  You must spend $25 on groceries in order to use the coupon, but with todays prices that's not hard to do.

Any time I can get $50 worth of gas for $40 I am there.  An easy way to save money.

God bless,

A Frugal Christmas: Gift Wrapping With Furoshiki

Last year I shared my home made, Christmas fabric, gift bags with you.  This year I am going even simpler:  Christmas fabric furoshiki.

Furoshiki are Japanese gift wrappings made from a square of fabric.  They were traditionally removed by the giver when presenting the gift to the recipient.  The fabric square was then taken back home to be reused by the gift giver.  This may not work in our western countries, but I am sure that any sewer, green/recycler and quilters would be glad to receive this extra gift of fabric.

There are many ways to fold furoshiki. has a page showing many of the folds.  If you Google furoshiki folding you will find many pages offering instruction.  The two photos above show the most basic fold for square packages.

Joann Fabrics has their cotton Christmas fabrics on sale this time of year.  Try saving yourself from a wasteful pile of wrapping paper that will just end up in the trash by wrapping with furoshiki this year.

God bless,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Frugal Thanksgiving

I wish you all a happy, family filled (whether twenty or two) Thanksgiving.   My brother in law, who is an incredible cook, has invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner.  We are bringing home made cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie with real whipped cream and dear husband's key lime pie.  I plan on taking a nap and thanking God for his kindness (not in that order).

God bless you all,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For Academic Achievement Kids Need Better Parents, Not Better Teachers

Since Reagan was in office the focus this country has had on education has been centered on improving teacher performance.  But the statistics have shown that grading teacher performance by testing students has had little positive impact on student performance.  I have always believed that this is because teaching to the test doesn't allow teachers to use their observation skills to tailor their teaching to reach their students' individual needs.

I have also observed over the years that the involved students that work hard at school and perform at a high level have involved parents.  This means being nosey and not accepting a response of "good" when you ask your children about their school day, helping with school work, being sure assignments are done and making sure your child gets to school on time, well rested and well fed.

Read this article on student performance and think about whether we should start holding parents accountable for their children's school performance and stop bashing the teachers when a child is failing.  I'm not saying that there aren't poor teachers that should be removed from schools, but we must recognize that there are poor parents that should be pushed and taught to support their children.

So, support your teachers by reinforcing their teaching at home.  I am one of those old fashioned parents that punishes my daughter at home if she has been punished at school.  This tells her that school is not a remote part of her life, but an active part of our family life.

God bless,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen: Cranberry Sauce

When I was growing up my mom would serve a sad version of cranberry sauce that retained the shape of the can.  Fresh cranberries weren't available in many of the areas where we lived and in the 1950's - 1960's convenience food was considered fashionable.


Then, fresh cranberries became available and I was served a bitter, raw, ground cranberry hash that was not pleasant at all.  I was beginning to despair until I started hunting through old recipe books and found a recipe for a cranberry sauce that was more like a jam than a relish.

I played with the recipe and came up with a cranberry sauce that my family loves and it is amazingly easy.  It can be canned following the instructions on a jam recipe.  It is frugal because cranberries are BOGO at my grocery store this time of year, so I stock up.  If you don't like canning, fresh cranberries freeze well.

Easy Cranberry Sauce:

1 bag cranberries
1 orange
1 cup white sugar

Place the orange juice and cranberries into a pot.  Heat on low medium, covered until the berries burst.  Add 1 tablespoon, finely grated orange peel and sugar, then lower heat.  Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce reaches a jam consistency.

This sauce nicely complements any rich meal and is great on all kinds of sandwiches, not just turkey.  Once you have made your own cranberry sauce you won't want to eat the canned variety.

God bless,

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Frugal Pantry: Four Legged Pests

The first thing you will notice about this post is the lack of photos. I refuse to sneak around taking photos of pests or their signs. Yuchi!

But a foul reality of maintaing a stocked pantry is fighting off pests and this is the time of the year when our four legged friends are looking to find a nice, warm place to live with lots of available food.

Hopefully, you thought preventatively and have you food stored in tightly sealed metal containers. After the holidays is a good time to look for old Christmas tins at your thrift store. The big popcorn tins are great for storing large quantities.

But, despite your efforts you hear the pitter patter of little rodent feet over head or see signs of mouse droppings inside your house. Welcome to real life. It doesn't matter how clean you are, everyone deals with these creatures occasionally.

The first thing to do is find their entry points. Rodents can compress their bodies to enter the tiniest spaces, so look for small cracks, chewed holes in wood or screens. The big Norway rats can even chew through concrete. Then seal these places with metal. There is a brass or copper mesh that can be mixed with sealant to plug up small spaces. Sheet metal or welded hardware cloth can be used for larger holes. Look in areas where wires or pipes enter the home. Holes are often found behind appliances.

After you've sealed the house up it is time to trap. Good old fashioned snap traps are the best. They are much more effective and human than sticky traps and poison. With poison you can end up going on a frustrating hunt for a smelly dead critter. You can leave snap traps set all the time to catch the problem before you know you have them. If you have pets or small children, use the snap traps that are contained in a secure plastic box. Invest in a box of disposable rubber gloves from the drugstore to use for rodent removal and wash your hands very well.

Place the traps perpendicular to and touching the walls. Make sure the working end is closest to the wall. As for bait try cheese or peanut butter. You want the bait to be hard to remove without tripping the trap.

We sometimes have problems with roof rats when the citrus trees in the neighborhood are bearing ripe fruit. It is important to harvest immediately and not leave ripe fruit laying on the ground. Another problem is pet food that is not picked up after feeding. It can be frustrating because sloppy neighbors can undo all of your efforts.

The battle to protect food stuffs from pests is ages old, and one that we all fight. Paying attention to prevention and reacting at the first sign of a problem will help you avoid an infestation.

God bless,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Frugal Home Remedies: Earache Oil

For many years (hundreds or thousands) warm olive oil has been used to soothe earaches.  In recent years the routine use of antibiotics to cure earaches has been frowned upon.  There are several reasons for this: the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria and studies that have found that earaches generally resolves themselves without medication.

To use olive oil for an earache first you need to warm it gently in a bowl of warm water.  Please be sure that it is comfortably warm, not hot.  Have your patient lay down with the bad ear facing up.  Use an eye dropper to place several drops of the warm oil in the ear.  Now lay a warm compress on the ear area for a few minutes.  Repeat several times a day to soothe discomfort.

If earaches are frequent in your family you may want to buy some dark glass dropper bottles to keep some oil in.  These will be easy to warm quickly when a treatment is needed.

This treatment also works well for anyone that suffers from excess ear wax buildup.  Use in the same manner described above, at night before bed, and the wax will naturally work itself loose.  It may take a week of treatment, but it will work.

God bless,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Frugal Home Remedies: Vicks Vapor Rub As Anti-Fungal

This is one that I just recently read:  a study was done testing different home remedies used to get rid of toe nail fungus.  They found that applying Vicks Vapor Rub to your toe nails several times a day was an effective treatment for fungus and that it worked better than some medicines sold as fungicides.

They recommended wiping the nails with vinegar, drying them, and then applying the Vicks.  I would suggest wearing some socks as the Vicks is very greasy.

It's nice to know that these affordable treatments are available to us and that they are actually very effective.

God bless,

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's On Sale In November?

I have been stocking up on baking goods for the last week.  Walgreens has an excellent sale going on for flour, sugar, shortening and chocolate chips.  I need all of these for my holiday baking, so I bought several of each.  Most of them require the store ad coupon, plus you may find some manufacturers coupons out there.  Check on the True Couponing coupon database.

My local natural food store, Nature's Food Patch, has a great sale for the entire month of November for canned pumpkin, canned sweet potato puree and other baking goods.  Their organic pumpkin puree is less expensive than the Libbys at Publix.  Blind Pig And The Acorn has a great recipe for pumpkin bread on her site today.  I love pumpkin bread; it is one of our Fall favorites.

Do you remember that last year at this time there was a pumpkin shortage?  The prices got very high and it seems to me that they just stayed high rather than going back down to normal.  Of course, I am shocked at all of the prices I see nowdays.

Christmas items are going on sale already.  Using a Walgreens store coupon I bought Hallmark wrapping paper for 99 cents a roll.  Not bad at all and the selection is still good.  I need to get our box of wrapping supplies down and see what else we will need for this year.  I bought our Christmas cards at Hallmark after the first of the year, so we are well stocked on those.

At midnight, just as black Friday is starting (day after Thanksgiving), the Apple store puts one item on sale at a deep discount.  Keep an eye out; it might be that big ticket item you can't normally afford.

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, especially if you are strapped financially.  Remember that the things your family will remember for years are the traditions you celebrate together, not what gifts they received.

God bless,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Frugal Home Remedies: Aspirin Mask for Acne

This is a simple mask for acne that can quickly be made at home using products most of us keep in our kitchen.  You can use it as an allover mask or as a spot treatment for troubled areas.  If you have sensitive skin I would test it on the inside of your elbow before applying it to your face. * If you are allergic to aspirin do not use this mask.*


Some people recommend using up to 7 or 8 aspirin and thickly covering your face with the mask, but I would prefer that you only use as many aspirin as you would ingest orally.  The reason for this is that your skin absorbs some of the aspirin into it's capillaries and, therefore, into your entire circulatory system.

To make the mask put one or two aspirin in the palm of your hand.  Add a few drops of water to completely dissolve the aspirin into a mush, then add a tablespoon of honey.  Mix thoroughly, then apply to your face.  I would only leave it on for five minutes at first.  If you tolerate the mask well, you can increase the amount of time at a later application.

The main ingredient in many over the counter (OTC) acne treatments is salicylic acid.  Aspirin contains salicylic acid's close cousin acetylsalicylic acid and will unclog pores in the same way.  Honey is a natural antibiotic and is soothing to the skin.  Some people like to add yogurt or oil to the mix.

Please be careful when removing this mask to avoid getting any in your eyes.  Acid in eyes equals trouble.  This is mask will also work well to exfoliate dead skin cells to give your skin a fresh, smooth look.  When you apply this mask take a few minutes just for yourself to lay down and rest.  That way you will be rejuvenating more than your skin.

God bless,

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sell Your House The Frugal Way: Price

Of all the areas I have discussed when selling your house price is the most important.  You can have the most inviting, attractive home available in your area, but if the price isn't right it will not sell.  If you feel that you must set a high price because you bought your home prior to 2006, then it is time to contact your lender and discuss a short sale (selling house for less than you owe).

You have already done some preliminary research on comparable home sales in your area.  Now is the time for your realtor to do in depth research for you.  Decide what your bottom line price is, then set your asking price above that.  Give yourself negotiating space.

Ask the realtor how the search engines group home prices.  You may be better pricing your home at $249,000 rather than $250,000 in order to be listed on more search results.

Be flexible when you receive offers.  Some buyers will make stupidly low offers.  Don't take it personally, just counter with a more reasonable price.  There is no bad offer, just offers you won't accept.
I have seen negotiations get stuck on the last $1000.  Are you willing to lose a buyer over such a small amount of money?

Good luck on your home sales journey.

God bless,

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Coupon Fairy Visited Publix Today

This morning I went grocery shopping at Publix.  I was feeling a little down as it was raining and I didn't pull as many coupons as I normally do.  With my small amount of coupons and list in hand I set out.

Well, I was very happy when I finished shopping because a coupon fairy had visited Publix.  A coupon fairy is someone that leaves coupons that they are not going to use by the product.  Some fairies even carry tape to attach the coupons to the product.

Imagine my surprise when four products that I had on my list had a coupon taped to them.  Only one coupon on one package, not peelies on all of the packages.  Yep, sure sign that a fairy had been hard at work.

We all can be coupon fairies.  Just leave a coupon that you know will expire before you can use it attached to or on the shelf next to the product.  You will help someone out and make someone's day a little bit brighter.

Thank you coupon fairy!

God bless,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Visit To John C. Campbell Folk School (JCC)

I recently spent one week in October at the JCC taking a class in tatting (lace making).  When I arrived at the school, which is on 400 acres, I was thrilled with the old buildings they had saved and the beautiful, natural surroundings.

Upon checking in I was given a map to my room, which was located at the end of a long gravel driveway in a historic mill.  I shared the room with another lady, Ann, who ended up being the perfect roommate.  The room was simple, but very comfortable.

The Mill Had Four Rooms

My classes were taught by a lovely lady, Marie Roth, that had been coming to JCC for forty years, first as a student, then as a teacher.  She displayed great patience and was a good teacher.  My class of eight had learned the basics of tatting, reading and understanding patterns and how to develop our own projects by the end of the week.

Fiber Arts Building

Each morning started with an optional walk, then morning song.  Imagine starting each day with a half hour concert by excellent bluegrass musicians and singers.  The food at the cafeteria was country cooking and served family style.

Another Classroom and Housing Building

It was a thrill for this Floridian to get to experience Fall.  The air was crisp and the leaves were changing.  I enjoyed walking on the many paths and trails that go throughout the school grounds.

View From One Of The Paths

Since I love American folk art I was excited to discover Mouse Town.  It is located on the side of the wood drying barn.  Apparently, the abundance of field mice inspired the artists at JCC to build a small town for them.  It has now become a custom for each class to add a piece of art to the town.

A Small Section Of The Town With The Mayor On The Bottom Left

Small Items Left For The Mice To Enjoy

I have every intention of attending other classes at JCC.  It is a vacation to refuel the body and feed the soul.  You can order a catalog from their website.

God Bless,

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bad Coupon Experience At Walmart: Update

The day I had my horrible experience with "the clerk that hates coupons" at my local Walmart, I sent a complaint to the store via the corporate website. I strongly suggest that you formally complain when you encounter rude employees or have a negative shopping experience. Couponers are legitimate customers; the only difference is that the manufacturer is paying the store instead of us.


The assistant manager of the store called me and apologized, then offered me a gift card in the amount of the coupons the clerk refused. I need to go back to the store for canning supplies (Walmart is one of the few stores in my area that has them), so I will accept their offer. Now the store has retained a customer and, hopefully, my future experiences with them will be positive.

God bless,

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sell Your House The Frugal Way: Real Estate Agents

Your house is now light, open/uncluttered and meticulously clean/maintained.  It is time to find the real estate agent that can sell your home and guide you through the inspections and closing.

Some people want to sell their home "By Owner", which may work out if you have unlimited spare time and don't mind people calling you day and night.  If you do want to maintain your sanity I suggest that you hire a reputable real estate agent.

The same way you should get three estimates on home repairs, I suggest that you interview at least three agents from three different companies.  These interviews should take place in the home you are selling.

Before starting the interview process you need to do some prep work.  Go to Zillow and look around your neighborhood at comparable homes that have sold.  Don't look at the asking price, instead focus on their actual selling price.  You should find three comparable homes and their sale prices.  Now you have an idea of what your home may sell for and the price you should ask for your home (based on the successful asking prices of homes that have sold).

When you meet with the real estate agents let them walk through your house, then listen to what they have to say.  Then ask them about their specific strategies to sell your house:  their internet presence, open houses, advertisements, etc.  What asking price do they suggest?  What will they do to ensure the safety of your home and possessions while the home is being shown? How and how often will they give you updates?

If the agent suggests an asking price that is much, much more than the selling price of comparable homes in your area, then a red flag has just gone up.  Some unscrupulous agents will lure in a customer by quoting a high price.  After your home has been listed and not sold for a while, they will then suggest that you lower your price.  This is time and effort wasted for you.

After you find an agent that gives you good answers and that you like personally, do some research on their agency.  The local realtor groups should have sales statistics available.  Most agents will bring this information to the interview, especially if their office has high sales stats.

Once you've chosen the agent it's time to sign the paperwork.  Be honest.  Most states have full disclosure laws, so don't try to hide any problems with the property.  Make sure that the contract can be canceled without penalty and that the agent's commission is reasonable for your area.  Don't agree on a home warranty at this time; that can be part of the negotiations with a potential buyer.

There is so much to say that I could write a novel here.  Just proceed cautiously, use common sense and rely on good research.

God bless,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bad Coupon Experience At Walmart

I seldom shop at Walmart because I keep having bad experiences at my local store.  Today was the worst.

I had quite a few coupons today (17) for about 22 items.  Some of them were money makers, which was going to allow me to apply the overage to items I didn't have coupons for.

When I handed my coupons to the check out clerk (there was no one behind me) she literally put her head down on the counter and groaned.  She then proceeded to try to refuse about 50% of the coupons, even though they clearly applied to the merchandise I had.  After some argument and the intervention of a floor manager she finally accepted all but two of my coupons.  The only reason she didn't take those two was because I forgot to show them to the floor manager.

You can read Walmart's coupon policy for yourself.  The clerk insinuated that I was unethical for using coupons that created overages, but you see that the store's policy clearly says that they accept coupons that make the shopper money.

Stores need to educate their employees when it comes to shoppers using coupons.  If I can't feel comfortable using coupons in your store I just won't shop there.  The end.

God bless,

Our Frugal Halloween Costumes

We decided that our Halloween costumes this year needed to be made very cheaply, preferably using items we already had.  I went to my friend's party this weekend as a tree, Dear Husband was "The Dude" and Dear Daughter was a modified Goth (very modified).

DD's Goth outfit consisted of black t-shirt, black leggings, purple skirt and boots.  As I was putting on her makeup she decided that she didn't like it and declined the black lipstick and mascara.  She has never liked dressing up for Halloween and it shows.  She had loads of fun with her friend, so that is all that  matters.

DH was a hippie dude.  This costume consisted of a tie dyed t-shirt, wig leftover from another Halloween, knit cap and sunglasses.  No money was spent on this one!

AAAGGGG!  Turkey Neck!!!
I went to Michaels Crafts and bought two packages of Fall leaves for 99 cents each and one bird for less than $2.  The leaves were basted onto my brown t-shirt at the neck and sleeves.  I also basted them onto a black headband, then clipped on the bird.  I wore brown pants and shoes.  My expenses were less than $5.

Have fun making your own costumes or have a costume swap with friends each year.  Enjoy and save!

God bless,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Costumes vs. My Mennoniteness

In the past few years my family's only participation in Halloween has been to hand out candy at the front door, tell little kids how cute they are and ask big kids if they aren't a little big for trick or treating.  My daughter had a bad scare when she was trick or treating a few years ago (someone answered the door in a way too gruesome and realistic costume), so she has opted to hide out in a back room when I answered the door.

But this year her best friend and friend's family have invited us all to a party and her to a sleepover this weekend.  Yep, a Halloween party...with costumes.  She wants desperately to go, so we have been wracking our brains to develop costumes that use everyday items in a creative way.

Dear daughter wants to be a Goth.  Great...that really makes me happy...not!  We have settled on her being a modified Goth.  I'll let you know how that works out.

I came up with several ideas:  Flo the insurance lady, hippy, mother earth and finally decided to be a sort of tree.

My Costume.  Isn't It Realistic?

Picture this:  Brown Birkies, brown pants, brown shirt, silk leaves from Michael's applied to neck and head, then green eye shadow on eyes.  Finish off my face using a leaf stencil and green eye shadow to paint on a couple of leaves.  I'll send pictures your way after this weekend.

Don't know what my husband is thinking about being.  Maybe he has an old Post Office uniform lying around.  I wonder if my daughter would consider being a tree sprout.

Many Christians don't participate in Halloween at all and that is a personal choice that each person must make.  As for myself, I prefer to avoid frightening, occult, witch, demon, devil images.  Trees are good.  God made trees.  That's my personal choice.

God bless,