Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Women opting out of the workforce

At the time I had my daughter 2 years ago, I read a lot about the frequency of women opting out of the workforce to stay at home and raise their children.

The feeling I got from these articles was that opting out was a bad thing. It caused women to earn less income throughout their lives, potentially jeopardizing their ability to support themselves in later years.

Opting out was also presented as having a negative impact on the business and economic climate as a whole. All those educated, qualified workers were taking their knowledge and going home, refusing to contribute to the greater good.

Finally, opting-out of the workforce supposedly reflects poorly on the next generation of working women. Senior management who'd been burned by moms leaving the workforce might be biased against hiring young women out of fear that they'd leave the company once they got married and had kids.

Fast forward two years, and here I am. A stay-at-home-mom. I opted out. I left a good job at a company I love to stay home with my kids.

Am I having a negative impact on my earning power? Certainly. I still advocate being a responsible saver and planning to support yourself during retirement, but maybe you (I!) don't need to stockpile every single cent possible between now and then.

Am I having a negative impact on the economy? Doubtful. My company will be fine without me, and I'm frugal anyway so it's not like I was spending a lot of unnecessary money because I had a job.

Am I hurting tomorrow's career women? I hope not. I don't want my choices to reflect poorly on anyone else, nor do I want to be held responsible for a company's or hiring manager's sexism.

The reason I opted out and chose to stay home with my family was very simple, when it all came down to decision time. This is what works for my kids. This is what works for my husband. This is what works for me.

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Recycled Scrap Metal Art

One of the benefits of frugal home decor is that you can use items that would otherwise end up in a landfill and make something beautiful out of them!

These pieces of salvaged metal hang over the television console in our family room, helping to turn a simple TV stand into the focal point of the room.

The arches were purchased at our local flea market and were painted white, but the paint has worn off with age and the metal is partly rusted.

We used a wire brush to clean off as much of the rust and debris as possible and then we sprayed both pieces with a sealant.

We also have a salvaged metal star, purchased at a scrap metal shop. Our refinished star is featured in the showcase over at SimpleNest.

Practicing Thrift Copyright 2009

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Here is my plan for this week. Looking forward to lots of great meals and a few ambitious extras (at the bottom).

Feta Quesadillas (will make in skillet rather than oven)

Mac & cheese w/ veggies

Crab Fra Diavolo (will substitute Crab Classic for the shrimp in this recipe. Got a great deal at Super Doubles!)

Mediterranean Quinoa

Chickpea salad
with cornbread

I also plan to make some strawberry freezer preserves this week, using strawberries frozen after our pick-your-own outing. We stocked up on peaches at the Farmer's Market, so I may make Peach Pie Cups (modifying this recipe) if I get ambitious!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Easy home sewing : Toddler Pillow

Having rudimentary sewing skills is such a lifesaver when it comes to frugal living! I am certainly no sewing expert, but knowing the basics of hand sewing and machine sewing often saves me from spending money.

My 2 year old daughter has started bunching up blankets under her head when she goes to sleep, so I think she's ready for a little pillow of her own!

I looked online and found a toddler pillow for $13 with matching cover for $7. Instead of shelling out $20 for that set, I took a spare pillow that we don't use anymore and cut off each end to make 2 smaller pillows.

Using a straight stitch on my sewing machine, I seamed the ends closed and finished them with a zigzag stitch.

Then I took a spare pillow case, cut it in half and seamed up the 2 pieces.

Finished product: 2 toddler pillows with cases: FREE!

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2 Carnivals this week

Take a look at this week's Carnival of the Road to Financial Independence hosted by One Family's blog. My article 4 places NOT to cut the grocery budget is included, because cutting the budget doesn't mean cutting everything!

I was happy to discover Raised Bed Gardening in this carnival, because my husband & I have just started talking about planning our garden next year using raised beds!

I also participated in the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights with my post on TVP, which is consistently one of my most popular posts here at Practicing Thrift.

You may have noticed that I've tried out a fair number of financial & frugal living carnivals over the last few weeks. I was interested to see whether they brought me any new traffic, and they actually haven't!

While that was a bit disappointing, one of the best things about participating in carnivals is that I've found several blogs and posts that I've really enjoyed. So, I'll probably keep participating in them occasionally.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Unique Custom Picture Frames

It's easy to dress up any room in your home by hanging some personal photos or favorite prints. Finding cheap picture frames, on the other hand, is not always so easy!

Here is a unique picture frame that I customized myself, for one-of-a-kind wall decor in our powder room.

I found this frame at our local flea market. Originally, it was covered in several layers of thick black paint, but the frame itself was pretty and the size was just right for an old advertising print that I'd purchased on ebay.

I sanded off the paint down to bare wood using a hand-held power sander. I left sections of the black paint in place to give the frame a distressed look.

Once I was happy with the overall look, I used a small-grit sandpaper to smooth down any rough edges. Then I wiped it down with a damp cloth to pick up and remaining dust, and it was ready to hang!

Frugal home decor works for me! Check out more tips at Works for Me Wednesday!

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New No Sugar Added Granola Recipe

My baking day is nothing compared to what Money Saving Mom makes in a baking day, but I did make a new No Sugar Added Granola recipe!

My previous recipe with molasses is a big hit around my house, but I saw this recipe at Frugal Upstate and wanted to try something similar.

This recipe uses honey for the sweetness and is much lighter than my molasses-flavored granola.

No Sugar Added Honey Granola

1/3C Canola Oil

1/3C Honey

4C Oatmeal (not instant)

3/4 C crushed flake cereal

1/4 C wheat germ

1/2C Dry Milk

3/4 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Vanilla

Mix all dry together in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix wet ingredients then pour over dry and toss well. Add more honey or oil if mixture seems too dry.

Pour granola onto a cookie sheet with sides and bake at 375 for 10 min. Toss, then bake 5 more min.

I'm happy with how this turned out, and it will be great mixed into applesauce or yogurt!

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Shadow Box Ideas

Frugal home decor projects can spruce up your home with just a little creativity.

These shadow boxes were built by my husband to display my small collection of milk glass vases. A collection has much more impact as a display when the items are grouped together. (Yes, this is my whole collection of vases- all 4 of them!)

The shadow boxes are just 4 pieces of wood each, with trim glued to the edges, mitered corners and routed holes on the back, then painted white and hung on 2 screws.
All 4 of these vases were picked up at thrift stores or the flea market.

You could use this idea to display many types of items: glassware or pottery, small salvaged goods like keys or doorknobs, antique toys, holiday decorations, figurines, etc.

Check out your local resale sources for a few similar items that appeal to you, then put them on display!

See more home decor ideas.

Practicing Thrift Copyright 2009

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I did a small $30 shopping trip this week, as I was able to find several recipes for which we already had most of the ingredients. Plus, I wanted to save a bit of money for next week's grocery budget since our store will be doing SUPER DOUBLES!!

Here is the plan for this week:

Pierogis & a frozen veg
Taco Stuffed baked potatoes
Vegetarian Fried Rice
Pasta & Cheese Bake with Veggies

See more great menu plan ideas at ORGJUNKIE

Practicing Thrift Copyright 2009

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Feed Problems?

If you subscribe to my feed, can you let me know whether you are getting my posts?

Feedburner says my subscribers have dropped by more than half in 3 days, so either Feedburner is having a bad glitch or something is wrong with my feed. (It works fine for me in testing via Bloglines & Firefox.)


Practicing Thrift Copyright 2009

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Carnival of Family Life

I found a new carnival this week, the Carnival of Family Life. The Practicing Thrift post Pick Your Own Berries was included.

This is a really fun carnival that is family focused rather than money focused like the other carnivals I've participated in.

Check out this week's Carnival of Family Life at The Expanding Life.

Practicing Thrift Copyright 2009

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Father's Day Gift for Kids to Make

For Father's Day, I have planned an easy and inexpensive homemade gift. Our girls are 2 years old and 3 months old, so I didn't want to attempt anything too elaborate with them!

I was able to find a decent sized rock with some flat surfaces on it in our yard. Before Father's Day, I'll scrub it off and let it dry.

I have 2 colors of finger paint, so we'll let the girls color the rock with one color until it is completely covered. Once that is dry, we'll help them each make a handprint in a contrasting color.

Once both colors are dry, I'll spray the rock with a craft sealant.

My husband can take our lovely paper weight to work and leave it on the desk or bookshelf in his office.

I thought it would be fun for us all to do this craft together, rather than making it ahead of time and just giving it to my husband on Sunday.

We'll have a fun (and messy!) Father's Day making Daddy a memorable yet inexpensive keepsake.

Practicing Thrift Copyright 2009

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review: New Target up&up; Diapers

Target recently changed their store brand health & beauty products to a new label called up&up.

We used Target brand diapers when my first daughter was born 2 years ago and never had any problems. However, my new baby has much messier diapers so we'd stuck with Pampers and Huggies until now.

I decided to go ahead and try the up&up diapers to see how they compare to Huggies and Pampers.

The photo shows a size 2 Pampers on the left and a size 2 up&up on the right.

The up&up diapers definitely have a more papery feel than Huggies or Pampers. The design is cute, just some green and blue circles on both the front and back.

The design might appeal to those who prefer to avoid the ever-present cartoon branding.

I'd like to see a different pattern on the front and back of the diapers to make it easier to tell which way the diaper fits without having to completely unfold it to find the tabs.

The up&up fit was similar to a Huggies, which is a little bulkier than Pampers. We've had no problems with rashes, bumps or any skin reaction and my baby hasn't seemed to notice the change so I assume the comfort is OK for her (she's 3 months old).

She's worn the diapers for 2-3 hours a time and we've had no leakage problems.

At my local Target, the retail prices are:
up&up size 2 Jumbo pack (48 diapers) $6.34= 13c per diaper
Pampers Baby Dry size 2 Jumbo pack (48 diapers) $9.99 = 21c per diaper
Huggies Snug & Dry size 2 Jumbo pack (42 diapers) $9.99= 24c per diaper

The best discounted price I normally get on Pampers & Huggies is 7.99 per pack (8.99 sale + $1 coupon).

Considering the cost savings, we plan to use the up&up diapers for daytime diaper changes and stick with the Pampers for longer naps and nighttime.

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Target diapers work for us! Do store brand diapers work for you?

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Frugal Home Decor

I've been inspired by SimpleNest to start sharing some of my thrifty home projects. As I've posted previously, frugal home decor projects can spruce up your home with just a little creativity.

As a first step, take a look around your local thrift store or flea market for items that appeal to you. Do you see a great piece of furniture or a picture frame with an ugly paint job? An old fitted sheet with great fabric but worn-out elastic?

Stay tuned to this series to see how you can repurpose old stuff into something new, fun, fabulous and frugal for your home!
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Carnival of Personal Finance

Check out this week's Carnival of Personal Finance over at LivingAlmostLarge. There are some great articles featured this week, including my post 5 Tips for Evaluating Job Offers.

As LAL, the Carnival's host, says "Right now I’d have to make the argument that it’s better to be employed at a lower salary than unemployed. Unemployment can and does run out, so why risk it?"

Here are a couple other articles in the carnival that I really liked:

  • DR from Doughroller presents Say Goodbye to Cable and Hello to Free Digital TV!, and says, “With the transition to free over the air digital TV, it’s now easy to get high definition TV and many cable shows without paying for cable. This article is a step by step guide to show you how.”

I'd love to cut or eliminate our cable costs, so I'm going to investigate this.

I’ve asked this question myself as I consider the move to being a stay-at-home-mom.

I hope you enjoy the Carnival and find something useful to you!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Here is our plan for the week. This is our second week on the $50/week envelope plan. So far, I am not finding it restrictive at all.

Menu planning before shopping really makes it easy to stick to the budget. I've found myself skipping over impulse purchases when I know how much cash is in my envelope and how much the shopping trip is totaling in the calculator!

Freezer Gnocchi with Marinara & Rosemary Bread
Stir Fry (carry-over from last week)
Meatballs Subs on homemade bread
Shrimp & Pepper Kabobs
Frozen Pizza & Salad

There was a great deal on Mystic Pizza & Fresh Express salads at Harris Teeter this week. The pizza was on sale 3/$10 plus I had a .75 off coupon which doubled. The Fresh Express salad bags were Buy 1 Get 2 free, plus I had a $1 off coupon. So that meal will total only $2.58!!

See more meal plans at ORGJUNKIE.COM
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

5 Tips for Evaluating Job Offers

How do you fairly evaluate a job opportunity in this new economy?

For most job seekers, the days of signing bonuses and competing job offers are gone. So should you take any job you can get or hold out for what you think you're worth?

I recently asked after a former co-worker who'd been laid off about 4 months ago. I learned that she had several job offers in her target field, but turned them down because she felt the pay was too low.

Now, just a few months later, the job market is tightening further and she's seeing employers become even more selective.

It's a difficult dilemma, as you may not want to accept the first, or even second, offer you receive if you think there are better opportunities. However, it is also time to be very in touch with reality and let go of any wishful thinking.

If you or your spouse are job hunting, here are 5 tips for evaluating whether a position is the right fit.

1. Does the job have benefits?
A smaller than desirable salary shouldn't be a deal-breaker. Look at other benefits as part of the overall compensation. A 401k plan and health insurance might well make up for a lower paycheck.

2. Will the pay cover your essential bills?
Evaluate the offered salary in terms of covering your minimum monthly expenses. Will the salary cover your mortgage, utilities and food?

The job offer might not be ideal in terms of being able to pad your retirement savings or take the yearly vacation you're used to, but give the job careful consideration if the pay is enough to cover those monthly expenses. Remember, those bills would otherwise come out of your emergency fund or go onto a credit card.

3. Are there opportunities for advancement?
A position may pay less than you wish or rank lower on the corporate ladder than your last job. But an entry level job at a stable employer may offer opportunities for advancement in the future. Eventually, the economy is going to rebound and companies will start to grow again. Can you poise yourself for future promotion?

4. Will you learn new skills?
Does the position have possibilities to learn a new skill? Will you get to try a hand at public speaking, or using a new software application? A job that enables you to learn new skills will better position you for the future.

5. Does the corporate culture fit you?
Some companies have a very laid-back feel, others are more formal, and most are in the middle. When you went to your interview, how did the job site or office feel to you? Did the boss and coworkers seem like people you'd enjoy spending your day with? Did the office have a pleasant, upbeat vibe? Even if the job or salary aren't quite what you wanted, you might find yourself very happy at a job if the environment and coworkers are the right fit for you.

Are you worried about the security of your current job? Be proactive and read about preparing for job loss.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Carnival of Pecuniary Delights

My post Preparing for Baby the Thrifty Way is included in the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights this week over at My Journey to Millions.

I really enjoy this carnival because it is open to recent posts and to those that are a bit older, so you'll often find some gems that you missed when they were first published.

I have a close friend who just got married, so maybe I should send her this one: To combine, or not to combine finances? How the married do it.

Thanks to My Journey to Millions for including me in the carnival!
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Festival of Frugality

My post 4 Tips for Thrifty Home Decor is included in this week's Festival of Frugality over at Personal Finance Analyst. Go check it out!

Here are a few of my favorites from this week's Festival:

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4 places NOT to cut the grocery budget

As many folks probably are, our family is working to cut back on our expenses.

Right now, we're trying to cut our weekly grocery budget from around $90 to around $50. By meal planning, using coupons and cutting out impulse purchases I think this should be doable.

Even with our need to cut expenses and our desire to live frugally, there are a few areas of our food spending where I won't be cutting back:

Organic dairy products
For my 2 year old, I buy organic milk, organic yogurt and (when possible) organic cheese. She has dairy in one form or another with nearly every meal. I'm not comfortable with giving her items containing BGH and other hormones so I don't mind spending $5.69 for a gallon of milk. If organic items are not available, I seek out conventional dairy items that are produced without BGH.

Organic bananas
My daughter LOVES bananas. She'd have a banana with every meal if we let her. I know that bananas aren't one of the most at-risk produce items, but I've started buying organic bananas just because she eats so many of them.

Organic meat
We don't eat much meat at our house. When we do give my daughter meat, we prefer it to be of the highest quality we can get. So I get the organic or free-range/hormone free beef and chicken. Since we have this so rarely, it isn't a budget-buster for us.

Local produce
When possible, we shop at the local Farmer's Market. Some items are cheaper than the grocery store and others are more expensive. I'd rather support our local farmers and it just makes more sense to me to buy something grown right here than something that was shipped overseas or across the country.

Are there areas where you don't go for the least expensive choice?
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's supposed to be hot weather this week, so I'm hoping to make it without having to turn on the oven!

Here are my plans:

Shrimp & Grits
Pasta Salad
Stir Fry veggies with Rice
Couscous salad w/ beans, cucumber & tomato

See more great meal ideas at ORGJUNKIE
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Envelope Budgeting for Groceries

In spite of my best efforts to meal plan and use coupons, our grocery budget has been climbing recently. So, we're going back onto an envelope system for groceries.

Our salary schedule is every 2 weeks, so I'll be putting $100 into an envelope after each paycheck gets deposited. That will be my allotment for the whole 2 weeks.

We just had our first payday on the envelope and I did a $50 shopping trip that felt very successful. One thing I noticed in being on the envelope is that I buy less impulse or stockpiling purchases.

For example, toilet paper was on a decent sale but we have enough at home and I didn't have room in the $50 budget for it so I passed it up. We'll see if occurrences like this on the strict budget end up helping or hurting in the long run

Also, see my previous post on some places where I won't be cutting back!

We'll use the same envelope system for our dining out budget and a monthly allowance for my husband and I. At the end of June, we'll see how it went!
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Easy and Frugal Lunch

We picked up some wonderful tomatoes at the Farmer's Market so I've been having one of my favorite lunches.
This couldn't be any easier!

Tomato Sandwich

- Toast 1 slice homemade bread
- Top with Miracle Whip or mayo
- Lightly salt & pepper
- Add 2 thick slices of fresh sliced tomato

Add a side of sliced strawberries, and you're done!
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Update on Frugal Maternity Leave

I posted earlier this year on my plans to have a frugal maternity leave after the birth of my second daughter. Now that my maternity leave is over, let's see how I did on spending during those 12 weeks.

Our average grocery spending prior to my maternity leave was $82 per week. During my maternity leave, our average grocery spending was $92, an 8% increase.

Our average dining out spending prior to my maternity leave was $55 per week. During my maternity leave, our average dining out was $59, a 7% increase.

I'm a bit disappointed with these numbers as I thought the meals I'd banked in the freezer would help us keep our grocery spending down.

My first instinct is to beat myself up that I didn't do better on keeping our spending down because I've been at home for 3 months, using freezer meals, and cooking at home more than ever and should have been able to save us money on food.

On the other hand, I've had a wonderful and low-stress 3 months at home with my new daughter, I've tried lots of new recipes and become more comfortable in the kitchen than ever before.

I think I'll look on the bright side, focus on the positive, and keep giving it my best efforts going forward.

Also, I think its finally time to get back on the grocery envelope system!
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