Monthly Archives: November 2013

Savoring the Holiday Season

I can sense the holiday mania revving up, judging by the volume of retailer emails in my inbox.  Express clothing store is open at midnight on Thanksgiving??  Not for me, even with a 50% discount.  The best way I know of to enjoy the season is to make a plan for what needs to be done, what I can spend, and what I am buying at which stores.  Fewer trips saves money and sanity.

Enter… Flylady’s ‘Cruising Through the Holidays Control Journal’ – available free at  Here’s how I use mine.

Print your control journal for free

Print your control journal for free

You can set aside 10-15 minutes a day to bring your holiday plans to life.  Don’t stress yourself out by trying to knock this out in one sitting!

Menu Planning

Menu Planning

Are you hosting a gathering?  This is my menu plan in the works.  I also have notes for what categories of food others can bring.   Will you be needing any items such as disposable plates, paper napkins, or drinks & alcohol that you don’t normally buy?  Today I made a note to ask my husband what drinks he plans to serve, and what supplies will he need to do that.

Make a grocery list

Make a grocery list

Start fleshing out the grocery list on the next page.  Is there anything you rarely use, such as maraschino cherries or worcestershire sauce that may be expired and needs replacing?  My worcestershire sauce was older than my daughter.  Oops!

Gift List

Gift List

A gift list is essential.  For me the gifts that send me out at the last minute are the non-family gifts:  mailman, teacher, garbage man.  Put on the tea kettle, put up your feet, and spend 5 minutes thinking of what gifts you need to have for family and non-family.  Will you be putting out a stocking or a shoe for St Nick on the night of December 5?  That is a week away . . .

The Cruising Through The Holidays packet also has useful pages for those who need to mail packages, or travel to a family gathering.  At the end of the year, save the pages you used for planning until next year.  You will have a record of what you spent on gifts, and what food items you served.  This will help you start to save money towards holiday expenses long before a Black Friday email has graced your inbox!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

Sunday – Looking Ahead

My brain is ricocheting around from one thing to another today.  It’s time to get a notebook out and map out the next few days.  Thursday is Thanksgiving in the USA.  My first goal is to avoid the grocery store for the next three days, as it gets crazy busy!  My meal plan looks like:

Monday – Shrimp, broccoli and twice-baked potatoes

Tuesday – School concert at 3:00 – meal out!  It’s rare to have my husband home from work before 6:00 pm, so we won’t pass up an opportunity to have dinner out as a family at an early hour.

Pumpkin Pie from a *real* pumpkin.

Wednesday – Off work, off school.  Let the pie baking begin!  We will have a simple meal of lasagne from the freezer.

The rest of the week is all about the leftovers, of course!

Other tidbits on my mind include parties at my husband’s office in the coming weeks which require various food items to be brought in.  We started budgeting for the holiday office expenses in early fall, and we will need to draw from that budget category weekly from now until Christmas.  Having a set category for these work entertaining expenses takes the pressure off our weekly budget.  If you haven’t budgeted for this in the past, this year might be a great time to jot down what you spend on work-related holiday gifts, meals out, food to share at work, and clothing if you are unlucky enough to have to buy fancy clothes for parties!

Family fun this weekend included a frozen pizza in front of the TV and the great movie “Elf.”  We hope to watch one Christmas movie as a family every week from now through December.   My daughter and I also baked Christmas cookies, and I hope to bring you a recipe or two in the coming weeks.

Finally, I want to thank Beth over at Country Home and Hearth for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I have been a fan of Beth’s blog for quite a while.  I have been inspired by the steps she has taken to be as healthy as she can be after experiencing a heart attack about 2 years ago.  Also, while Beth has been decluttering I have been doing the same right along with her!  Thanks Beth!


Debt-Free, and the Ripple Effect


Insurance (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

Most of the time I’m just carrying on in my frugal way, meal-planning and clipping some coupons when I can.  Every now and then something pops up that makes me aware of the far-reaching benefits of what we’re doing by living debt-free.

Recently we got a letter from our car/home insurance company (one of the large US insurance companies) saying that the Personal Umbrella insurance was being discontinued.  This is insurance that covers you beyond the limits of your usual insurance coverage and protects your assets should there be a large claim against you.  For example, the mailman trips over the Barbie doll pool party set up on your front steps and he suffers serious injury and can’t work anymore.  We found it odd that they weren’t going to carry this insurance any more.  After all, insurance companies love to sell insurance!!

Well, it turns out that they have a new policy, and the rates in the new product are partially tied to… credit scores!  When my husband talked with our agent he said we were fortunate that the cost of our new coverage was actually going to go down $50.  Of course, other factors also come into play with rates, such as prior insurance claims.   Since paying off all debt, our insurance rates have dropped across the board.

Small “wins” like this give me a little spring in my step, and encouragement to stay the course.

A Frugal Week By Chance, Not Choice

Well, this week is shaping up to be very frugal because we have been home with a sick kid.  I’m feeling grateful that this virus is not visiting us a week from now on the eve of Thanksgiving!

Meals have been pretty simple around the house this week.  Tonight we will have some leftover turkey in gravy from the freezer, potatoes and fresh green beans.  No trip to the grocery store required!

Making a CVS List, and Checking it Twice...

Making a CVS List, and Checking it Twice…

While my daughter lounges on the couch binging on “Geronimo Stilton” books, I have been getting ready for Black Friday at CVS, which actually starts this Sunday.   You can preview the Sunday CVS ad at iheartcvs.  This is one sale I hit every year, and it doesn’t involve camping out overnight or shopping on a holiday.  If you are new to CVS-ing, you will need their Extra Care store loyalty card.  When you use this card, it will give you access to the ExtraCash deals.  For example, starting Sunday when you buy a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese for .99 cents, you get a .99 ExtraCash back coupon on your receipt which you can use at a later date on any products you want, except things like stamps and alcohol. (Um, you have to remember to get back to CVS to use the ExtraCash!)

Deals I particularly like this year include free after ExtraCash:

  • Starbucks Double Shot or Refreshers
  • Advil
  • Theatre Box candy
  • Gum
  • Pantyliners
  • Sparkle Paper Towel
  • GUM toothbrushes
  • Hershey candy bar

There are many more deals to be had.  I have visions of stocking stuffers dancing in my head.  You can also use manufacturer coupons! Let me know if you are a CVS-er too.

Created a Monster!

The last of the Japanese Maple leaves.

The last of the Japanese Maple leaves.

A few posts back you may recall me telling you about sharing the vacation budgeting process with our daughter.  Well… that lesson really took!  We now hear a new refrain around the house “Where did that money come from?  Did it come from the vacation budget?”  Mr. Saver recently took advantage of Target’s promotion to receive a $200 gift card when trading in an old iPad (thanks Simply Save!).  Can you hear it now?  “Did that money come from the vacation budget??!”  No, it did not, but my husband’s mad money budget line is now at zero.

In other news, we are continuing to baby step our way into the holiday season.  This week I washed my Christmas tablecloth, thanks to Flylady’s ‘Cruising Through the Holidays‘ mission.  My goal was to enjoy the month of December instead of stressing out, and Flylady’s daily missions are helping me be ready to do that.  My husband and I met to run through a final list of what we need to buy for whom.  I am stocking up on butter as it comes on sale for Thanksgiving and made 1 batch of cut-out cookies with DD.  Today we had an early Thanksgiving meal at work and that means free leftovers tonight!


Saige – American Girl Movie, One More Time!


The movie An American Girl: Saige Paints the Sky is back for a reprise on television this week.  The movie is set in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Saige loves painting and horses and fights to get art back in her school’s curriculum.  The movie airs this Friday, November 15, at 5:00 pm eastern or 4:00 central time on ABC.

The first time the movie aired the ending was cut short by the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.  Hopefully the second time is the charm!

My favorite AG movie is Molly.  How about you?

Menu Plan Monday – November 4 – Kid’s Choice!

This menu plan may seem a bit redundant to you.  Let me explain…  This week my daughter has testing all week as a result of our state adopting the Common Core of studies.  Basically, these are national education standards that are assessed in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th and 10th grade. She has 5 days of testing next week, and the tests aren’t easy-peasy by any means.  ‘What number is 5/9ths of 45?’ She thought it might be comforting to design her own menu of favorites, so here goes!

Ultra Red Dwarf Japanese Maple

Red Dwarf Japanese Maple

Monday – Shrimp and twice baked potatoes (baked Sunday night during cheap electricity period!)

Tuesday – Jamie Oliver’s Fajitas

Wednesday – Quick meal to go after Girl Scouts

Thursday – Pumpkin Pancakes, again!

Friday – Hot dogs are requested… not sure I am ready for that again, but we do have them on hand and we’ll see how things go!

Have a great start to your week.  If you need more menu planning inspiration, is the place to be!


Baby Stepping to the Holidays

Now that we had our Halloween revelry, I am downshifting straight into Christmas mode.  Our first family celebration is in six weeks.

One way to ease the Christmas budget strain is to spread the expenses around using cash instead of having a credit crunch in December.  So far I have:

  • Flower poinsettia D2

    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Bought one packet of Christmas stamps

  • Made a layout of our Christmas card on the Walgreens website – waiting for a good discount and then I can pounce!
  • Bought a gift card for the mail carrier, and a number of smaller gifts that must remain secret!

I am planning to look for good deals on baking supplies as we near Thanksgiving, and stock up, budget permitting, when I see low prices.  I have been tracking low prices for grocery items in my ValueTracker app.  I would love to squeeze another gift card out of next week’s budget too.

If you could use a little inspiration on dealing with holiday expenses, check out this short but powerful clip from Flylady.  It’s not too late to jump in where you are and “Cruise Through the Holidays“!  Taking baby steps over many weeks helps prevent that frantic feeling when everything needs purchasing on December 22.  P.S. – let me know if you are “Cruising Through the Holidays” too!