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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saving *is* earning for April

floral centerpiece for kitchen table, using wisteria, salal, big root geranium and ivy
A penny saved is a penny earned.

This spring, it feels like we're hemorrhaging "green". Every time I turn around, there's another repair, or, medical/dental need, or, replacement which has to be paid for. And, oh yeah, we've been spending some money on fun stuff, too (like the trip to SF, and some new French doors and work on our living room). So, to keep me motivated and stay on track with my frugal vigilance, I began a list of all the ways that I was saving money for the month of April.

Even if it has been an expensive season for us, at least it wasn't made worse by neglecting many of my frugal endeavors.

I know that some of you, also, make these lists or keep track of savings for the month, as a way to maintain your frugal motivation. I think they're fun to read. So I thought I'd post mine. Feel free to share yours in the comments.

Here's the bulk of my "saving is earning" for April.

  • kept spending below budget amount for the month
  • went to WinCo again this month and saved several dollars over shopping at other stores for same items
  • drank more tap water and less coffee/tea
  • rationed out the one small can of decaf coffee to get through entire month (decaf is more expensive than regular). Once per week, I scooped 1/4 of the can into the decaf jar, and made this small can last the whole month.
  • shopped at the ethnic store for produce, and found a second ethnic store close to us
  • made vanilla sugar with spent vanilla beans, for use in coffee and tea
  • made rosemary-garlic infused olive oil for dipping bread
  • baked one birthday cake and one birthday pie, both scratch-made, instead of buying a bakery item or using mixes 
  • ate more bean-based meals to conserve the supply of meat in the freezers
  • was able to skip buying whipping cream to add to daughter's milk (woo-hoo! This is great for several reasons!)
  • used up the last 6 pounds of very wrinkled potatoes, as mashed potatoes, enough for 2 dinners and a couple of servings at lunch
  • cooked simple meals from scratch
  • baked all breads, muffins, flour tortillas, and desserts from scratch (including this past Friday, when I didn't want to make tortillas, and knew I could pick up a package for a dollar, but I did make them, anyway, as I knew it would help the bottom line)
  • used my crockpot to make overnight steel cut oats and regular oatmeal for quick breakfasts in the mornings a couple of times per week, used crockpot to have soup ready after church on Sundays, used crockpot to cook beans from dried for easy vegetarian meals
  • made another batch of pie pastry for the freezer (enough for 5 crusts)
  • I was bored with my homemade whole wheat and homemade French bread, so I asked a friend for ideas, and branched out a bit. I made wheat and oat bread a week ago. I picked up rye flour at WinCo earlier this month, and now have also made some rye bread to spice things up in the bread box. I had been seriously tempted to buy some bread at the store. Making some different types of bread, myself, saved a couple of dollars per loaf.
Restaurant dining
  • skipped restaurants for 2 birthdays this month and made dinners at home, using what we had on hand (plus 1 purchased basket of strawberries for my cake)
  • resisted the urge to pick up quick meals or Starbucks for myself when out running errands, and came home to prepare yummy and quick meals, and brewed my own coffee
  • daughter and I split her 1 free bagel at Panera while out running errands together. They split and toasted that bagel for us, plus gave us free butter to spread on it, and free water to drink. We sat by the fire to eat our free snack. We saved my free bagel to take home, wrap in plastic wrap and give to husband as part of his birthday freebies bag
  • enjoyed my free ice cream cone and free dish of frozen yogurt, as birthday freebies, for my lunch on two occasions
  • ate every meal of the month at home or packed from home (with exception to the freebies for the month)
  • bought a few gift cards at Fred Meyer during 2-week 4X fuel rewards promotion. I saved 90 cents a gallon as a result, netting over $9 in savings on gas from those gift card purchases alone
  • kept track of survey opportunities to earn bonus fuel points, 3 times this month (150 points total), saving an extra 15 cents per gallon
  • didn't buy any new clothing/shoes/accessories this month
  • made 1 apron out of an old dress I had
  • cut my own hair for free
  • colored my hair from a box, bought in a 3-pack online, at a discount
  • bought some face and neck cream from Marshall's at a discount
  • made fragranced bath oil with vegetable oil and essential oils, used an old essential oil vial to dispense
  • used $5 off coupon (came in mail as a result of signing up for savings program) to buy vitamin supplement that I would have bought anyway. The sale on this supplement plus the $5 off coupon, rendered it cheaper than the cheapest online source by a couple of dollars
  • bought myself the cheapest, bare-bones prepaid cell phone, for $4.99; I won't activate the phone until I need it, maybe in early June
  • make-up freebies from Sephora (birthday)
  • 4 free bagels, for me, from Panera (April promotion, one daughter had to take her computer into Apple -- under warranty, phew -- a couple of times this month; a couple of those times I picked her up afterwards, with Panera in the same complex, so no extra gas spent to get those bagels)
  • 6 or 7 free bagels from Panera for my daughter -- I lost track of how many she tried there this month
  • scoop of ice cream from Baskin & Robbins (birthday)
  • cup of frozen yogurt from Menchie's (birthday)
  • 2 travel-size containers of shower gel to use in daughters's stockings at Christmas (coupons from Bath & Body Works in mail, no purchase necessary)
  • Friday Freebies at Fred Meyer -- small bag of snack mix, individual bottle flavored water, container of chip dip, gummy worms
  • 2 free chocolates from See's when we went to buy 4 chocolates for a birthday gift
last year's geraniums, overwintered indoors until last week

  • bought 2 gift cards to Home Depot, at Fred Meyer, to take advantage of 4X fuel rewards, then used that HD gift card for purchases for yard work, as needed
  • used some of the surplus electricity budget $$ to buy more LEDs for the house
  • bought primroses on clearance, to plant in garden, will come back year after year
  • moved my geraniums and mums, which I overwintered indoors, out to deck, all survived
  • replanted 2 rosemary bushes, which I dug up in fall, and overwintered indoors
  • moved my lavender cuttings which have rooted (cuttings taken at end of last summer), out to the deck
  • made a bottle of lavender linen spray from lavender oil, rubbing alcohol and water
  • made a bottle of spray starch for ironing, from liquid starch and water in a recycled fine-mist bottle, used this spray starch to refresh my "new" apron
  • found bar soap on clearance at Fred Meyer and made several batches of laundry soap
  • bought year's supply (two 33-lb buckets) of laundry detergent when on sale at Cash & Carry, at almost half-price of buying Dollar Tree's laundry powder
  • I made my own potting soil mix for the planters on the deck and to top-dress the cranberry bed, using composted manure, bagged topsoil and some packaged veggie-tomato fertilizer (about 1 to 2 parts manure to 3 parts bagged top soil, and just a sprinkling of fertilizer). This works for me in large pots and planters on the deck, but is not good for starting seeds. I buy seed-starting soil that is used only in flats of seedlings. My homemade potting soil mix is about half-price the cost of buying potting soil.
  • composted all food and garden waste, moved finished compost to area of the flower garden
  • started seeds for annual flowers for the garden, instead of buying seedlings, saved about $4, "rescued" pansy and viola babies that free-seeded in pots on deck, and moved to new spots to fill other pots
  • started seeds for 2 kinds of thyme for pots, using seeds I had at home
  • made bouquets for the kitchen table, from garden blooms and greenery, once a week
  • transplanted spinach, cabbage, kale, parsley to garden, started from seeds indoors; direct-seeded carrots, radish, beets, chard, peas, spinach, dill, cilantro. When I thinned the radishes and beets, I did so with a screwdriver, to gently remove extra seedlings, and replant in bare places.
  • around the 20th of April, turned the thermostat low enough that it effectively turned the furnace off until fall. On chilly days, we wear fleece and a couple of layers. The house has been around 64-65 degrees F on cool days, and up to about 75 on the warm ones.(had to be turned back on, on April 26th right around 60 degrees F inside, too cold -- oh well)
  • installed 4 new LED bulbs, to replace 2 CFLs and 2 incandescent bulbs
  • used gray water, from rinsing vegetables, to water pots on the deck
  • used rain barrel water for watering the garden
  • kept track of 2 sizable checks due in the mail, and deposited immediately into interest-bearing account
  • finalized all of the paperwork on my end for charitable donation of stock shares to our church, saving us on next year's taxes
  • had 1-hour meeting with financial consultant at our brokerage/investment firm (for free) to educate me on some investment strategies
  • got all of our tax paperwork for husband and self, plus 2 of our kids, done, submitted and on-time, long-hand (skipped the paid, tax software)
  • paid all bills electronically or over the phone, with exception to water bill (uses a service for e-payments, which charges a fee), saving a stamp for the utility bills
  • paid bills in full, saving on auto-insurance and tuition by paying the full amount and skipping monthly payments
  • bought a gift card for step-mom for Mother's Day a few weeks early, to take advantage of 4X fuel rewards
  • bought a bunch of greeting/birthday/wedding cards on clearance at Jo Ann Fabrics, 90% off, then 15% off total purchase with coupon - yielding about 92% off each card
  • bought next year's Easter candy, double-bagged and stored in a trunk in a cool closet in house
  • bought Easter-themed cupcake liners at 70% off, plus a 15% off coupon (after sale and coupon applied, works out to 25% of original price)
  • with an expensive package to mail to a friend, I've been weighing the components to keep below the max weight limit for the lowest possible postal fee. I went online at USPS to find the information on mailing costs, package size and weight limits for each tier of the fees. My goal is to get the most into that package as possible, without having to pay for the next weight limit up, because I went over by a couple of ounces.
  • reused gift wrap and tissue paper, ironing on low setting to smooth out wrinkles before wrapping. Saved ribbons/bows and wrapping still in good condition.
Fun stuff
  • went to beach on a sunny day, parked up the hill in old town, free street parking, instead of paid parking lot at the beach
  • set up the fire ring on patio and enjoyed a fire and roasting marshmallows one warm April evening
  • downloaded lots of free music to my computer via Freegal (through library, 3 free songs per week), then onto my ipod
  • enjoyed walks through neighborhood on pleasant days, bringing my camera to help me really see the beauty around me
  • watched informational and fun videos on youtube
  • read excerpts from books on Amazon, enough to glean some valuable information (this works better with non-fiction than fiction, obviously)
  • writing this list -- yes, I had fun doing this!
Birthday freebies snack bag for husband's birthday present (all packed in a reused Happy Birthday gift bag)
  • Tostitos Dipitizers Spinach and Artichoke dip -- 10 oz (I added 1 sleeve of Ritz-style crackers from Dollar Tree to go with this dip)
  • Black Forest organic gummy worms -- 4 oz
  • Doritos Snack Mix -- 3 oz
  • Tum-E Yummies enhanced water -- 10 oz
  • Panera chocolate chip bagel


  1. Wow! Well done. My biggest money-saving activity was to purchase a new heating element for our oven. I noticed it wasn't preheating correctly a couple of weeks ago, so I did a little research and discovered that the heating element is typically the problem. It was $25 including shipping (hubby did the labor for free). Definitely cheaper than purchasing a new range.

    1. Good job, Kris! I love it when I can get many more years out of an aging appliance! that's hundreds of $$ saved!

  2. Great list, Lili! We bled money this month, too. We had a very large car repair bill and several other unexpected expenses. We saved by eating our own home cooked meals, calling for a free part to repair our still under warranty leaky faucet (I had to live with a bucket under the sink for a week, but much cheaper than a new kitchen faucet) and by having a picnic date night at the park, instead of eating burgers at a fast food place. I was able to pick up a number of needed clothing items for the kids at yard sales for 25 cents each. My big girls helped me prepare my husband's birthday meal and desserts, which saved us more than $100, which is what it would cost to take our family out to eat at a family restaurant. Melissa

    1. Good work, Melissa! You know, if you tally up your list of savings, you probably saved enough to cover that expensive car repair! Skipping the restaurant meal for a birthday dinner is an especially large savings for you and other big families. Even with our family of 5, any place where there's a waitperson who comes to the table, it's going to cost us $100 by the time we tip and pay tax. It's just so hard to eat out on a budget, with a family.

  3. Hi Lili. I have being reading your blog for sometime and I am amazed how well you administrate your household. I think you are terrific. Would you mind sharing which prepaid cell phone you got? Thanks. Patricia

    1. Hi Patricia,
      I bought a tracfone Alcatel onetouch A206G. It's a flip phone. I bought it at Fred Meyer, when they were having a sale. It's regularly $9.99. On sale it was $4.99. They had one other model, a non-flip phone, also at $4.99 that day. I chose this one becuase it has a camera, whereas the other one didn't. Anyways, if you don't have a Fred Meyer in your area, check other stores, online and B & M. Home Depot online has it right now, for $4.97 here's the link:
      If Home Depot has it in a store near you, you can order online and pick up in store for no shipping.

      I won't know how well this one works until I activate it. But I needed the bare bones of a cell phone, so I would have something in an emergency when on the Freeway late at night getting my girls, or so my kids could reach me when I'm out running errands and we're supposed to be maintaining contact while they take their 3 buses home from class and work.

      I hope you find what you need. And thank you for the kind words. I really do appreciate them.
      Have a great rest of your weekend, Patricia!

    2. I bought my Tracfone from ToysRUs a couple of years ago--crazy, right? It's a touch screen model and I got it for $5. They were selling it there as an entry-level phone for kids and had marked them on clearance. It has talk/text and allegedly has internet, but it takes so.darn.long to connect that you burn up all your units of service, so I don't bother with that. My model gives you 3 times the amount of minutes that you purchase (if you buy 20 minutes, you'll get 60, for example). I also have a camera with mine--it's ok, not great, but sometimes has come in handy. I have been fairly happy with Tracfone for basic service. Something to keep in mind--it's cheaper to text than to talk (unless you go text-crazy like a teenager).

      Hope you don't mind my adding in my two cent's worth. I'm definitely not a phone guru, that's for sure!

    3. Hi Kris,
      That's what my daughters and I have talked about -- texting for them to let me know when they're on certain buses, to save on minutes. Mine came with double minutes. That's great yours came with triple. I am hoping I won't need to use too many minutes per month. I don't anticipating giving my number to anyone other than immediate family, so that should help. We still have our landline, which is rolled with internet (but not TV) for a break on price.
      My kids have been pretty happy with their tracfones. My son still has his first phone from when he was a freshman in university (2006). I always told him I'd gladly take his old tracfone when he upgraded. no such luck -- he's happy with his. One daughter, though had her 3 year old tracfone quit on her this past year. So problems do come up with them. And the service has had a few issues over the years. But overall, for a cheapo phone, when you don't really need something with any more bells and whistles, I think these are a great option.

      Thanks for adding your two cents, Kris. It's helpful.

    4. My son still has his first cell phone that is at least 10 years old. He is quite unusual for someone his age because he doesn't have a smart phone. Until now he was the only young adult around that I knew who didn't have a smart phone except his brother and now your son. He says that it serves him well and he doesn't need anything better. In fact, it's his only phone in that he doesn't have a land line in his apartment.

    5. live and learn, if you count my 21 year old daughters, too, one of them doesn't have a smart phone. The other daughter bought her own pre-paid android phone (another tracfone). But as she has to pay for usage beyond just a quick phone call to me to let me know when she's coming home, she's very careful with her usage. It did come in handy when we were in SF, and needed to find a place, without an address, but just a basic idea of where I'd seen something before on another trip.

      My son feels the same way. He just doesn't have a use for a smart phone, right now. Do you know, at work, he doesn't have a landline. All the employees are expected to use their cells for calls in and out from the job. It's just beginning to seem like the norm, to not have a landline. Two of my friends don't have landlines. And one friend who I may pick up some babysitting hours with, told me that I'd need a phone of my own, as they both just use their cell phones for all of their calls.

    6. Thank you Lili for the response about the phone. And thanks to all the readers who added information. I have family who visits me from overseas and I like to give them a cell phone, so i can reach them and vice versa. If i can pay less for it, all the better.I only recent became frugal. I have learned so much from reading your blog. And i love how much joy you show in your posts. Patricia

    7. Hi Patricia,
      It's wonderful that we can all share this kind of information, and help each other out. I learn so much, here, too.
      It sounds like a pre-paid cell phone is really a help for your international visitors. For them to use "roaming" on their own phones would just be cost-prohibitive. That's a wonderful thing to do for them!
      Have a great day, Patricia!

  4. Awesome savings in all domaines of your household budget! I, too, am currently very focused on savings as I prepare for an upcoming move and continue to pay off medical debt. Every bit, no matter how small, collectively does make a difference! Weather was forecasted to be nice Sat (yesterday) with rain today and tomorrow. No worries, I did the bulk of the laundry, drying it outside. Today finds a few clothes racks drying some items, a crock pot "roasting" a marked down chicken I pulled out of the freezer. The heat is on (arthritis acts up when cold/damp as it is today) but it is zoned for the living spaces. I am wearing an older pair of pants, a thrifted top and sweater. Hair was only partially blow dried just enough to take the dampness out(thick hair takes forever!), we continue to eat what is on hand, saving my grocery monies for the move/medical debt. I continue selling what we can't/don't want to take with us to the condo, proceeds hopefully will fully fund the move. Since Jan, I've raised $3230.12-hoping to hit $4000.

    1. Hi Carol,
      I've been watching all of your work in paring down your belongings, bringing in some cash for the move. It's inspiring! I love seeing your photos of a diminishing stock in your pantry. Crazy, right?
      You've raised a lot of cash in just a short time. It's good to know that it can be done. All of us could face a situation where we would need to raise some cash in a short time, for various reasons.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Carol.

  5. What a great list!

    Interesting to read about your cell phone. I still don't have one and I've wondered about geting something like what you got. I don't really need one, though; I'm usually home and the home phone is just fine.

    It was my birthday this month, too. I ended up missing out on my birthday freebies as we had an emergency that took us to the hospital on my birthday (so I understand that expensive expenses situation oh so well this month).

    1. Hi Brandy,
      Thank you.
      I didn't really need a phone until these past two years. I'd been getting by borrowing a phone from one of my kids, when I felt I needed one for a late evening, long drive. But until now, I've also felt the home phone was fine enough, as I am at home so much of the time. And frankly, I don't want a phone ringing while I'm running errands. Too distracting. So this phone will be more of an emergency phone, and a way for my daughters to text me when they're en route to/from classes and work. I think it will be more than enough for my needs. You probably are on the receiving end of this, too -- other people have always been so shocked that I didn't have a cell phone.

      I'm sorry about the emergency happening in your family. The ER is not a cheap place to spend the day! Nor a fun place to spend your birthday. I'm hoping all is well, now. And those birthday freebies will be around next year. Happy belated birthday!

      Have a great rest of your weekend, Brandy!

  6. Wow, I'm exhausted just reading all that you did! Congratulations on a super successful savings month. And I loved houw you put everything into categories, which I'm sure is helpful for others too so we can look to those areas and see how we can save, etc. Your detailed lists and costs are a great help, and provide me with incentives to consider doing something similar. Keep up the great work and THANK YOU!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      Thank you. It looks like a lot, all listed out. However, many of the things I did to save money this past month were fairly quick and easy. And some were just a matter of thinking through something, for about 30 seconds, to decide how best to do something (like with buying gift cards during the 4X fuel reward promotion at Fred Meyer, or seeing that greeting cards were on clearance for 90% off at Jo Ann's one day, and just taking advantage of the moment). I do think it's helpful to read other's posts and lists like this, as I'm always having those "ah ha" moments, seeing a new-to-me idea.

      Keeping it in categories helps to jog my memory, when I'm taking a moment to list things out. Good luck with your own list!

  7. Great list Lili. Would you please share the link to the USPS
    place that list by tiers. I have tried to find something like that but was unable. I am sending my disabled brother some things. He lives in Tucson and lost everything. I was wondering how much it cost for minutes and how much it cost
    for text messages on your trac phone ? my brother has a very basic plan that normally works fine, But we are trying to help him move to a diffrent apartment and have run into some small snags. He is out of voice minutes and we still need to clear up a few things.
    Thank You,

    1. Hi Patti,
      You can go to tracfone's website and see their pricing. They have a variety of options on how to buy minutes plus service time, or service time alone, or minutes alone. one of the tricks we found with my son's and daughters's tracfones was online, when you're loading minutes, often times, at the checkout, at the last minute, they'll offer you the opportunity to buy more minutes at a bit of a discount. So, when we've been loading minutes onto our phones, we buy slightly fewer minutes than we know we really want, and hope to find that extra offer. Text messages, if really short ones, are a fraction of the time you'd spend in talk. If you go to, there's an orange box. In that box it says "add airtime", and then "pay as you go". Click on that. It will take you to a page of purchase options. The lowest minutes, it looks like is 30 minutes/30 days service, for $9.99. If you buy a plan like that and use it for brief texts, your minutes should last longer than if you're using them for talk.
      For USPS, I didn't find a list of tiers, but had to input different info, at different weights to establish where that line was of an increase in postage costs. Here's the page I was working from:
      Its for both flat-rate service and your basic pack your own box service. Good luck to you!

    2. Lili,
      Thank you so much that s really helpful. Have a wonderful Monday.

  8. Wow...what a productive list!! This is truly a money saving list. I am inspired and think I will start listing all my money saving activities as well as what I'm doing now, listing savings on spent money. After all, it isn't saving money if you first have to spend money.


    1. Also, we use Tracfone but I assumed I didn't have texting since I didn't buy their data plans. I have been buying "pay as you go" minutes, just as you described, so maybe I do have text too? I'll look into that and thanks for this discussion.

      Also I may look into buying starter seed soil, and use that instead of potting mix. I thought too that might have been the problem why our seeds are not germinating well. However, over the weekend some seeds are starting to germinate!


    2. Hi YHF,
      check again on your tracfone service. All 3 of my kids have had the ability to text, with basic phones and pay as you go service, no data plans. Quick texts will save you minutes/money, compared to calls.

      The seed-starter soil is finer in texture, so more easily surrounds each seed, holding moisture against the surface area of the seeds. I have better germination in seed-starting soil than when I use regular potting soil.

    3. Yes, so true that quick texts will save minutes, especialy when so often we have to leave a message, and wait for a call back. Big thanks, Lili :)


    4. LOL...lots to learn from this discussion, and I'm taking notes!!


    5. I know I've exceeded my reply allotment today, but can't help admiring how you put together all your freebies and saved it for your husband's birthday!! A serendipitous blessing that really was meant to be. That's quite a haul.

      Have a great day!!


    6. YHF, I thought it looked pretty good in a just-the-right-size bag, too. I'll be saving freebies for Father's Day, too.


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