Friday, May 3, 2024

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Recap

When it comes to saving money around here, it...well to put it bluntly it just frustrates me.  It seems like every time you save even a TINY bit of money, something happens and poof, the money is gone.  For instance, I have been working my butt off trying to save up enough money to get the gutters replaced on the house, which desperately needs to be done, and was just starting to make some progress toward that goal and suddenly my truck started spewing antifreeze.  Turns out it is leaking from the gasket around the water pump and we are probably going to need a new water pump, but with the way costs have gone up for labor and parts (my husband can't do it himself right now as he's still laid up with his shoulder being jacked up)...all the money I've saved up is going back out the door toward that.  Ugh.  

Then, speaking of my husband's shoulder, my husband has been in pain for over a month now and was trying to use the free medical service available to us through our union.  Turns out they are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine, insisted my husband become an established patient before they'd even do anything about his shoulder that might, you know, help it, and so they put him out a month before they could do a physical and bloodwork.  My husband suffered all that time (I did tell him more than a few times to go see our old doctor and we'd just pay for it, but he was determined, God bless him) and called last week to confirm his appointment ONLY to be told that they had no record of making an appointment for him!!!  Grrrrrrrr!!!!  So, finally, my husband went to our old doctor's office and we resolved to just having to pay for medical care.  He's on a steroid now and is supposed to take a muscle relaxant once the steroid is done and we'll see how it goes.  If it doesn't fix it, it is off to physical therapy for him.  So far, he's still in pain, but a LOT less pain then before, has more range of motion and is hopeful.  Praying for sure.

One bright point to the visit was that he found that with having to take a lunch every day (to save the aforementioned money) and the way we have been watching what we eat, his blood pressure is fine and if it keeps up he'll be able to stay off of blood pressure pills.  Yay for SOME good news anyway!

It's been rough going getting stuff done around the house.  Despite the weather actually being pretty nice (we are looking at chances of rain in the forecast now, but it's been pretty nice weather the last few weeks anyway), we still have snow on the ground, which is rapidly melting (at the time of writing this I THINK we finally might lose the last chunk of snow in our back yard, yay!).  Then, Alvah has been going through a really rough go with his behavior and is in a perpetually bad mood for reasons unknown to us.  I know part of it is his eczema has just exploded the last bit, which it hasn't been this bad in a long while, so I know that is not helping.  And looking back, this time of year is the roughest for him behavior-wise.  I'm not sure if it is the returning daylight, just being fed up with school for the year, or what, but it is rough with him.  

But yeah, despite feeling like I"m in a battle to save money and get stuff done, I have found things I can do around here to hopefully improve our situation a bit.

1.  I painted our landing and downstairs hallway, hung stuff up, rearranged furniture, and made things pretty with no cost out of pocket.

I've been sitting on the paint for this project for quite a while, but kept putting it off because the landing seemed like an impossible obstacle for me to get past without my husband's help and a REALLY long ladder, as the landing's ceiling is about 20 feet up.  I finally got tired of looking at lines of white where our new paint met the old nasty original house paint and tried to think of a way around my husband helping me to get that chore done.  My husband had some paint poles to put a roller one and one of them was a telescoping type, so I grabbed my husband's 8' ladder, the pole, the one roller I had left from painting the rest of the house, the paint I had left and I got to work.  

I determined very quickly that I really couldn't afford to spend money on this project, so I got creative to not have to go and buy materials for it.  I only had a bit of viable painter's tape left (a lot of it was so old it just plain would NOT stick and would bleed through if you weren't careful), and nothing to wrap the railings with in the way of painting paper.  SO, I used paper bags to wrap the top railing and then carefully removed said paper and reused it for the bottom stairway railing as well.  I would paint an area, wait for the paint to dry, CAREFULLY remove the painter's tape and then reuse it somewhere else that I need it (like in small, narrow areas around doorways).  I was able to successfully paint everything I needed to this way.

The roller I had BARELY made it through the entire project.  It was in rough shape when I was done and threw it away, but one roller made it!

For the corners and areas where the roller could not reach, I had to get creative.  I did not have a ladder that was safe enough to get up to the ceiling and get everything done (we have an extension ladder, but there was NO WAY I was going to use that in a stairwell...I want to see my kids grow up), so I came up with an idea.  I scoured the house and finally found some viable rubber bands and used a bunch to secure my paintbrush handle to the telescoping part of the painter's pole.  I made the pole, essentially, into a REALLY long handle for the paint brush.  

It was slow going, I'm not going to lie, as the handle would move despite the rubber bands after a bit and I'd have to pull it down to straighten it again and again, but I DID get it done!  And it looks good!  My husband was dumbfounded that a trick like that worked and turned out looking nice, but it worked.

The only part that I wish had turned out better was around the chandelier on the ceiling.  I tried my hardest to paint around it carefully, but with the extensions I had to work with, I still managed to get paint on the cowling where it met the ceiling.  I did get creative and sprayed some cleaner on a paper towel and attached it to the extension pole with a rubber band (repeat about 18 times to get all the paint) and cleaned it up slowly and carefully as well as I could.  My husband thinks he can reach that part of the ceiling with a scaffold ladder he has and can clean it up when he changes the light bulbs in the chandelier that are burned out, so hopefully he can clean that up.  Here's hoping, as it bugs me that there are still paint streaks on it.

I even took some paint and painted the inside of the front door as it needed a coat of paint badly.  I painted around the windows in the door as well in the hopes that it would help re-seal them a bit (the horrible wind storms we've had in the last three years or so took their toll on the seals around the windows), so we'll see it works next winter.  I think I'm going to save up for some brown paint and start painting the trim around the windows inside the house to see if I can help seal them a bit from the weather until we can afford to replace them (hopefully soon).  

I carefully hung back up the pictures and the children's artwork in the stairwell and downstairs hallway to try and make it look more organized and...well...more put together.  Over the years I just tried to line things up and hung things up where they would work, more than making it look like an organized gallery space.  I WAS going to put up a certain amount of items and rotate them out like a couple of times a year, but I got outvoted by the daughter and husband, so I hung everything up instead.  It is a bit busy for me, but it works a lot better than the old system so I'm okay with it.  And, most importantly, I was able to hang up photos and artwork that had gotten put aside as I didn't have a good place to hang them before.

The finished hallway came out looking nice.  I had to replace the front door mat.  The old one was a carpet sample that the old owners had gotten somewhere and was just...done.  The stains weren't coming out, it was worn down in spots and just looked awful.  I looked around for a while trying to find a mat that would work as the front door has pretty tight clearance to the floor and I wanted to make sure it would open unencumbered, but I finally found one a while back and put it aside to use when I was finished painting the space (no comment on how long ago that was...absolutely no comment).  I am still working on getting it flat as it has sat rolled up in its wrapping all this time, but I am happy that it works perfectly in the space.  

I've actually wanted to find a hallway table for the landing since we moved in over a decade ago, but haven't had any luck finding one at yard sales or used stores, so I was actually contemplating buying one and crying at the price.  However, fate had other ideas.  I have an old antique dresser I refinished in college that we had in our old farmhouse in PA.  I fell in love with the desk topper on the old dresser and was determined to finish it and make it pretty again.  I removed about 20 layers of old paint from said dresser (not kidding) and then the base coats of shelac, but finally got it looking nice.  But, the downside to it is that the dresser is just thrashed.  It was worn out and brittle when I redid it.  I've babied it over the years, but I finally decided to move it into the living room so I could get rid of the big entertainment stand we had housing our DVD player and things (it was just WAY too big for the space).  The first thing that happened a few years ago was the top drawer's bottom fell out of it, but I just put the pieces aside and made it work until my husband could find time to fix it.  Then, a few weeks ago, my son dropped his I-Pad by accident behind the dresser and leaned on it to reach it.  And the poor dresser didn't take it well.  I heard a sickening crack and after getting Alvah settled I checked it out and found that one of the back casters had just plain given up and rolled completely under.  

At that point, I decided the poor thing just needed to retire.  I carefully moved it down onto the landing and decided it would be our new hallway table (the desk it was a part of was actually built by my great grandfather an apprenticeship project he was doing for his adopted father, who was a furniture maker and he made it as a hallway desk, so it was made to go in small spaces).  I shored up the back leg with a block of wood until I can carefully take the wheels off (seems to be the best thing for the poor old girl).  I then moved a 1970's cabinet that I was using as a bedside table that is built like a brick house up into the living room to house all the things the dresser was holding originally (it's even smaller than the dresser and is working just fine) and am just using an old fold up end table we had around the house as my nightstand until I can find something a bit bigger and sturdier (I barely have enough room for my glasses and a few small items on the thing).  I put an old phone we found at a thrift store on the dresser as a prop phone (it is wired backwards compared to our phone lines, so it doesn't work least I think that is what my husband said) and moved a cute frog accent lamp my husband bought for me years ago and put it on the dresser as a prop lamp (it used to be on my desk).  I never really used said lamp as it doesn't really light just tends to sit and look cute, so I thought it would work well as a prop lamp (our landing has 100% no power on it anywhere and nor does our downstairs hallway...drives me crazy, but putting outlets/receptacles on the landing isn't exactly high on the priority list...just makes vacuuming the stairs a real pain).  I then took a fake plant that used to sit on the towel cabinet by the bathroom, as well as the cloth panel I had on it as well, and put it on the dresser to complete the look (I'll show what I did with the towel cabinet another time).  

I think it turned out looking nice and the items on the dresser help to stop the 20+ pound cat in the house from jumping on the dresser and causing more harm.

2.  I cleared our deck in preparation for sanding, filling and resealing.

This is a project that should have been done three years ago, but the weather just has NOT cooperated in allowing us to do it.   Last year I even got enthusiastic that maybe the weather would break and when a really good sale at Sherwin Williams popped up for stains and deck paints, I went and got a five gallon bucket of deck paint to get the job done.  And then the weather didn't break.  With the nice weather we've had the last few weeks, everything was finally able to dry out and I was able to go out and evaluate the deck and front porch.  The front porch was not as bad as I thought it was when it was soaking wet, but the deck...the poor deck.  It is a mess.  We have cracked wood where it got over saturated with water and then dried out, we had moss growing in between the cracks in the deck that I had to go out and meticulously scrape out.  I got so many splinters just because the wood is sending out cries for help.  

Finally, this week, I decided that the chore I kept putting off in the hopes my husband would recover from his messed up shoulder and neck and be able to help me was probably not going happen.  So, I resolved to do it myself.  We had a bunch of blocks from when we had to tear down the old chimney after the earthquake that were still stacked around the deck.  My husband had come up with reasons why they were there and why he was not moving them, but honestly, I think it was because he had to remove WAYYYY too many heavy as heck bricks when he ripped out the old chimney and he was just burned out on lifting heavy objects (understandable).  I knew they could not remain on the deck, however, because if I went through all the effort to sand and seal the deck and then tried to move the blocks around to do the areas where the bricks were, I'd just rip up all the nice new paint I'd gone through the trouble to put down.  The bricks were just too rough and heavy to stay for the good of the deck.  

So, I, taking it slow with respect to my bad back, drug the bricks one at a time to the edge of the deck, slowly rolled them down the stairs and rolled them across the lawn and put them by our shed.  Those suckers were HEAVY, so I would only do a few a day when I had time and I'd try to take a break in between each one even if I was feeling okay just to make sure I rested my back.  I still felt the activity for sure as my back is sore, but I feel like it would have been much worse if I'd tried to do it all at once.

The deck looks so big without the garbage cans and the bricks on it now.  All I got left is the grill, a smoker a friend of my husband's gave him last fall (forgot to take a pic at the time for you guys to see) and a few easily moved items.  I feel pretty good about that.  

Now I just need to take inventory of what we have for sanding equipment and I can get started on stage two of this way overdue project.  Praying the weather is good this summer to get it done before my entire deck just rots away.

3.  Made more breakfast items for my husband.

I found out from my husband that he was out of breakfast bowls in the freezer and was out of pancake wraps, so I took a day last weekend and got those two things done for him.  I still want to make him some biscuit breakfast sandwiches, but haven't had a chance this week.  Alvah has been in kind of rough shape, so he's taken more energy than normal.

4.  My daughter went to prom.

We, of course, had some last minute problems with prom stuff.  Turns out not only does Armina have teeny tiny feet, but trying to find shoes that fit those feet is going to be a challenge.  Ankle boots seem to fit her okay, but regular dress shoes?  Not so much.  I ended up taking the third pair of shoes we'd ordered (kept having to size down), and padding the shoes out to fit her feet so she could walk properly.  I also ended up styling her hair myself as other plans for people do it had fallen through, so I ended up doing about five hair styles on her until we found out that everyone, especially Armina, liked and went with that.  Total cost for prom hair ended up being about 10.00 between the bobby pins and the hair spray, but totally worth it.  Her and her boyfriend had a good time and his mom and me ended up geeking out a bit about how cute they looked (neither one of us went to our proms, so we were happy to see our kids able to go). It went well, overall, thank goodness!

5.  Got the process of using home ground flour in bread down.

It took a bit, but I finally got a good process for making my sourdough bread with home ground flour, to a point.  I am up to using 1/3 home ground flour to 2/3 unbleached all purpose and the bread turns out just as well as if I'd used all unbleached all purpose from the store.  I found that I really needed to weigh the flour to make it work right.  I use 200 grams of home ground flour and add it to 1 cup of sourdough starter and 1 1/2 cups of warm water, mix it really well with a spoon until it's a very wet batter and then let it autolyse (basically let the flour sit and absorb water) for 10 minutes.  Then I add the 400 grams of all purpose flour, the yeast and salt and proceed as normal.  I always end up adding about 1/3 cup more all purpose flour to get the dough to the consistency that I like (it just ends up being too wet to handle kneading) and I do mound up my 2 tsp of yeast so they are more of a heaping tsp of yeast and overall I'm really happy how it turns out.  I actually need to grind more flour this weekend as I ran out in the middle of the week this week, so using up the wheat berries around here continues!

6.  Used up more things around the house that needed to be used.

I am on a mission to use up things in my pantry and freezer that need to be used.  I used up a single layer chocolate cake from the freezer that had been in there since my daughter's birthday and we turned it into dessert for a few nights.  I took some bananas that were left from grocery shopping that were going too dark and used them to make banana cake, which I made home made vanilla buttercream frosting to go on it instead of the cream cheese frosting as I didn't really have the cream cheese to spare.  It turned out awesome and my husband and I really enjoyed eating through it.  Luckily with the fridge being empty before grocery day, the 9x13 pan fit in the fridge perfectly fine until we could eat through it all.  And double bonus, not only did it use up bananas that needed to be used, but also used up the last container of frozen buttermilk from the freezer that kept falling on my foot and was going to get broken eventually.

7.  I cleaned around the house.  A lot.

Now that the weather has been better I've been on a mission to get some Spring cleaning done.  I took down all of the upstairs curtains and washed them before hanging them back up, shampooed the heck out of my son's carpet to get all kinds of gunk out of it (still need to finish laying the carpet in his's on my list for this summer), took things off of shelves and dusted them (not something I do regularly as I'm so busy...just a disclaimer there), and washed the upstairs windows, closets and other things.  

I also started condensing the pantry and satellite areas that have food in them (like moving snacks from the hallway closet to the pantry as well), trying to organize things better and making sure I use everything up.  I don't have the money to buy food in bulk anymore, really, with how inflation has been (and sales are non-existent on food items it seems unless there is a limit of like 2), so I am determined to just be content with downsizing things and making it all work.  I am planning on buying meat in bulk when needed (mainly hamburger) as that is something I can save for and just try do okay in this economy.  My husband and I are revisiting the idea of getting a Costco membership to buy things like bulk flour as they are now offering delivery in our area, but we need to go in and take a look at what is available and prices before we decide to commit to anything.  I am working on getting us down to just stocking staples in bulk around here (flour, sugar, rice, etc) and working on making things from scratch to save money instead of worrying about stocking satellite items (like cake mixes) as I think times are just going to get tighter and I want flexibility in what I am going to make and what I am able to do around here.

8.  A frugal fail combined with no added loss.

Instead of taking a trip and wasting gas, I called our local appliance place and asked them about a refund we were supposed to be eligible for after five years on our extended warranty we had purchased on our oven.  When we bought the extended warranty, we were told that if we didn't use it in five years we could get a full refund on the warranty price.  That was all we were told, so we took the chance we weren't going to use it.  I waited those five years, holding onto my receipt and once the five year mark had passed, I called them and asked about the refund.  I was half expecting it would come in the form of a gift card to the place, which I was okay with as we do buy cooking and baking stuff from there on occasion, but nooooo, not even close it turns out.  If I am found eligible (which not sure what that means from the stuff I was sent), I could get a voucher toward another major appliance or another extended warranty and I would have to use said voucher right away.  I honestly felt ripped off as that is NOTHING like I was told when I signed up.  But, I know now.  No more buying extended warranties.  I'm done with that bit.  They seldom pay off in the end.

Sure that was a frugal fail, but at least I was able to find out the disappointing stuff over the phone and e-mail instead of going into the store, wasting the gas, waiting in line and everything just to find all of that out.  So, at least I can say I didn't compound the loss.

9.  Got done with school for the year.

After a lot of work, my daughter is officially done with her junior year of high school.  She actually finished all of her school books this year, which is a HUGE accomplishment for her as she's never finished her math book before.  I am so proud of her for doing so well at her school work this year (and honestly, proud of myself for not losing my sanity as sometimes you just end up having to drag kids through schoolwork during the school year).

10.  I keep decluttering areas of the house and organizing as I go.  I'm super happy with the results as I'm so tired of feeling like I'm just battling a cluttered mess all the time and it is nice being able to access things I need quickly without having to move 18 things to get there.

11.  Moved some more furniture around.

One of the things I did end up doing was I moved. a really hefty dresser that I was using in my bedroom and switched it out with my old spindle legged dresser I was using in my son's room.  I had moved my old dresser, which I loved dearly, into his room to make it so I could vacuum under his furniture easier to keep mess down, but he was so hard on it that I noticed it had a crack in a back leg.  I moved the dresser back downstairs and moved the sturdy (and heavy...good Lord was it heavy) dresser I was using upstairs for him instead.  It is a bigger dresser, which works for him as he's well over 6' now and needs the extra room for clothes, sturdy, and while I hate moving it to vacuum under it, at least I know it can handle abuse.  He seems happy with it and now I can baby the dresser I love dearly in my room where I can take care of it and it not get abused.

10.  Watched free videos for school content

I wanted to do some fun things for my son's fourth quarter of school when it came to history.  So, I went and looked on YouTube for videos he could watch that would match his curriculum.  I found that both "Wartime Farm" and "The 1940's House" are both on YouTube to watch for free, so we've been working our way through those for the last part of his school year and we've also had a good time watching videos on what is going on in astronomy by checking out NASA videos and others on YouTube as well.  It's been entertaining AND educational.

And there you go folks.  A small synopsis of what I've been up to around here.   


  1. Gosh, you have been SO busy! It is amazing how much a woman can accomplish when she is determined to get stuff done. Your hallway table looks really cute and I am glad your daughter got to get all glammed up for her big night.

  2. I paint the inside of my house too! Yours looks phenomenal. It's amazing how much brighter everything seems when it's done

  3. the painting looks amazing. I'm always shocked at how much you are able to do and how much you are able to save by making so much from scratch. it doesn't seem as if any thing gets wasted.

  4. Your stairway and entry looks great! Good job being creative. I am exhausted just reading all this - goodness you keep busy. I hope your hubby gets to feeling much better. How can the kids be so grown now - PROM? Oh my goodness - time flies.
    You have sure shown what being a good steward is all about.

  5. Wow! I am seriously impressed with all you accomplished. The paint project looks great.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Wow you have been busy! I have a suggestion for you about Costco. My daughters in-laws do not have a membership but every once in a while someone will give them a gift card to Costco. With the gift card you can go in and shop. Even if the gift card is for only $25 you can pick up anything you want and pay for the rest with no membership. So they get a gift card maybe once or twice a year do huge shopping trips and never pay for a membership. You should check to see it it works the same in your area. It could save on membership fees.
    It sounds like your daughter is doing well in school. My daughter is trying to figure out about home schooling a high school freshman. She is not thriving in school. Nancy in WA state.

  7. You have certainly accomplished a lot the last few weeks. Kudos to you. The painting looks really nice. Paint can make such a difference for not too much money. I can't imagine what it's going to take to do your deck. We've never had one, but I know they take a bit of effort to maintain. Your kids are growing up so fast. You definitely go above and beyond trying to do what you can while counting the pennies. I do hope your husbands' shoulder and neck etc. gets much better soon. I have a shoulder issue that can flare up quite easily, sometimes just due to the weather, and it's not fun, so I hope he manages to get his full strength back and without the pain. Ranee (MN)

  8. Wow, wow, wow! I'm in awe of all that you have accomplished....and getting the moss out from in-between the deck boards - I shudder thinking about that with splintering wood - yikes. I can't wait to see how the deck turns out after sanding and staining. You Go Girl!

    Your idea of stocking basics for the kitchen is a good one. This is what factories do - carry inventory in the most commonly used, peeled back raw materials. Plus you are a whizz in the kitchen and making a cake from scratch avoids the preservatives in a cake mix while being cheaper and giving you more flexibility.

    I love that your daughter got to go to Prom! Such a special memory and what a fun bonding time for the two of you to create different hairstyles : )

    Hoping your truck repair is less than you think and that you'll be able to get new gutters before this winter.

  9. I'm starting to get a little concerned about you as it has been well over a month since your last post. I'm telling myself it's summer and you are trying to get as much done as possible since summer in Alaska is different than other areas of the lower 48. I just hope you well and doing good. Ranee

    1. Unfortunately, no, we aren't okay right now.

      I put up a post on Facebook, but blogging is on hold right now. My father-in-law passed away suddenly a few weeks ago and it has been busy with family matters to say the least the last bit. He'd been in declining health for a while, but his final decline was so fast that it took us by surprise. The shock is just starting to wear off for my husband, I think, but yeah...we are all just trying to work our way into a new sense of normalcy around here when it comes to that.

      Then, in the middle of it all, our home owners insurance did a surprise inspection back in March (after 11 years for some reason) and even though we still had snow on the roof and things, they came back and said we needed a new roof, by July, in May, or they were going to drop us. We decided we were done with them since they have done a half hearted job (to say the least) the last 11 years, and we have been scrambling with that.

      And then, just because the way life works, we ended up getting new gutters put in the same week my father-in-law passed away, which led to just one more thing to do and we've been working on getting all the damage done by the gutters being broken for so long fixed before more rain falls (we've had to do it in spurts). I started with the deck and have been doing it by myself with my husband gone pretty much every weekend with everything going on with his dad passing away and then I had to go out the last few days and pick all of the moss off of the edge of the roof and scrape the bits that were trying to grow up the roof itself out of where the old gutters were. I'm feeling it. I think I've gained 20 lbs of muscle so far this summer (wish I was kidding) and I've got plenty of blisters and new callouses. And we still have SO much to do yet.

      So, yeah, to say we are busy doesn't even begin to encompass the craziness we are riding out right now. I'll be back online when I can, but it might be a few months as we just try and get it all done. Our home owners inspection for the new insurance is going to take place anytime in the next couple of days. Prayers would be so much appreciated as the anxiety is eating my lunch right now.

      I'll be back to blogging when I can.

    2. I am so sorry that you are going through all of this and all at one time. I send my condolences to you and your family. You won't believe this, but we are going through the same thing. I have been planning the service for my father who passed away on the 2nd of June, so I know what you are going through. I also have his affairs to get taken care of and have been working on that when I can. And we too, got inspected by our home insurance and we had a shed that was not doing well. We knew there was water damage, and we were planning on either fixing it or replacing it, if we could afford it. We also have until a day in July to get this completed or they have threatened us as well and will drop our coverage. I have used the same company for almost 50 years. I guess loyalty means nothing anymore. So, my brother has been working on fixing the shed. We kind of got the run around on getting the permit and then when we did, the weather has been rain and rain and rain. Along with busy schedules and both my husband and brother work, so it's been a real challenge. I will definitely send prayers your way as I really feel your pain and I do pray it all works out for you. Ranee

  10. I am so sorry to hear about your father in law. I have been checking weekly to see if you were back and finally today I thought about checking the comments. My heart goes out to you and your family. Take all the time you need and we will see you back when you are able. Just take care of yourself and your family!