A Peaceful December

Saving for our move has made this December a bit different for us. The Husband wrote last weekend about spending less during the holidays and how it’s reduced stress, and I whole-heartedly agree (also in his post, you’ll see an adorable pic of Little Guy with our Christmas tree). Besides the reduced stress, living frugally this holiday season has made Christmas shopping more thoughtful–and thus more enjoyable.

Our gifting budget is smaller than usual, especially for each other (I’m normally ready to spend our entire savings showering The Husband with gifts). Knowing this, we started thinking about gifts really early. We wrote down everyone we would get gifts for and started brainstorming ideas. I followed items on Amazon to await a good deal and checked out used options like Facebook resale groups and Abe Books.

I love giving gifts so I generally just get everything I think someone might enjoy and end up with a heaping heap of disposable novelties. Fun stuff, but with little lasting value. Do you know what it’s like to buy someone a million gifts and still feel it’s not enough? This year, the limited budget and advanced planning forced me to put careful thought into each gift and make sure it was just right. As a result, I feel great about every gift and am so excited to give them. 

I shopped the local baby resale for Little Guy’s gift, an activity cube which is about $60+ new. I lost out to someone quicker several times, but with patience and some haggling I snagged one for $30. It is in like new condition, and Little Guy will never know the difference! I’m bad at hiding so he’s found it several times, but at least I know he likes it! 

With all this forethought, I am actually nearly done with Christmas shopping. I know, I hate me too. Unlike past years, I got there not only early, but also without anxiety and stress. I only went out shopping  twice, and got most everything online. I do not miss my usual last minute shopping frenzy.

The frugalized Christmas shopping experience made the whole process about doing something kind for the people we love, not about consuming. Our focus has been on the people we’re giving to–what they want, what they need, what would put smiles on their faces–not on spending X-amount of dollars, and it has reignited the joy of the season.

(Oh, and another auxiliary benefit of a frugal holiday season? I’m baking ridiculous amounts of homemade cookies! They’re cheaper than holiday-themed Oreos, and baking is a fun Christmas-y activity that doesn’t require going out. Plus firing up the oven warms up the house, which is great since I now keep our thermostat at approximately Siberia° most of the time. WIN-WIN-WIN!)


Adventures in Insourcing: Bread and Haircuts

Inspired by my steep financial goals and my new favorite blog, Frugalwoods, I had some adventures in insourcing this past weekend. I saved almost $80 for the month by doing things I would normally pay others to do for me. Not bad! I will start with the simplest and end with my boldest move – a haircut from my husband!

First up, homemade sandwich bread! Carbs are my favorite food. So, we eat a lot of sandwiches, toast, and garlic bread in this household. I recently started attempting to make sourdough bread, and was hoping to (maybe, someday) nail a recipe and then make it every weekend instead of buying sandwich bread. The trouble is the learning curve for sourdough kept pushing this goal further and further into the future. And even my best intentions of experimenting on the weekends didn’t work out because of the time commitment of feeding, hand-kneading, rising, and baking a sourdough loaf. All the while, I was still spending every week on subpar, storebought bread. Then I had an epiphany–instead of waiting until some vague date in the future when I might, maybe, possibly perfect my sourdough, I could just throw together a loaf in my forgotten bread machine. I found a great, simple (CHEAP) recipe from King Arthur Flour, and it made us a great loaf for about four minutes of effort–two throwing ingredients in the machine, and two slicing the bread. I estimate this change will save me about $10/mo.

Minimal effort sandwich bread

Also in the baking category, I made a giant batch of sourdough English muffins. Around here, we are about as obsessed with breakfast as Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, so English muffins are very near and dear to our hearts. I got the recipe from King Arthur Flour (they really do have superior bread recipes!) and halved it a few weeks ago with great success; the muffins looked and tasted as good–nay, better than–store-bought. This weekend I made the full recipe and turned out 33 homemade English muffins. I put enough in our cupboard for the week, and froze 26. That’s English muffins for a whole month! Estimated savings: $5/mo.

English muffins rising, next to my “frugal rolling pin” (AKA bottle of sweet vermouth)

I used to cut my husband’s hair regularly, but I got pregnant and didn’t want to do anything at all, and then had a baby and didn’t have the time. But, in our new efforts to save, we decided to revive the practice. Dusted off the old clippers, and did a simple long-ish buzz cut. He looks great, we saved about $15, and Little Guy got some entertainment out of the deal.

Now for the big one–my husband cut my hair. Inspired by this post from Frugalwoods, I decided to take a hitherto unimaginable step (unimaginable not because I thought the prospect horrifying, but because I literally could not have imagined the idea on my own). My options up to this point were 1) tolerate my hair being shaped like a house and being a total nightmare to maintain, or 2) pay for my usual $50+ haircut (I always went to an expensive salon because I have curly hair, and the cheaper salons just don’t cut it right, so it was better to spend $50 on a good haircut than $25 on a bad one). Then I discovered this third option, the home haircut. My husband very bravely agreed to try it out. Worst case-scenario is I end up going to the salon afterwards, right? So, we half-read some tutorials, and I showed him what the stylist normally does to do the length and layering, and then we went for it. If my hubby decides to do anything, he does it right; he didn’t grumble or roll his eyes and he wasn’t timid about snipping. We worked together on a little face framing, and did make a little mistake there, but we just rolled with it–smoothed out the choppy, too-short block on the right and cut the left to match. No problem. At the end, he did a length comparison and touched up the crooked areas, and voila! My split ends are gone, I am layered up to avoid the house shape, and we saved about $50. Oh, and I’m completely satisfied with my haircut!

My haircut – totally not house-shaped anymore!

There you have it, $80 of savings in one weekend thanks to a little not-very-hard work, courage, and Googling. In the course of a year, I will usually get two $50 haircuts, and my husband about ten $15 haircuts; that makes $250/year savings on haircuts, plus about $150 a year on the bread and English muffins. That makes this weekend and its efforts worth about $400/year.