Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Sign in the Shop!

I wrote a post last month about how I went to a flea market with Mama and Katie to sell some Upcycled Downriver goodies and hang out with them for the day. While we were there, I saw a really awesome old metal sign that said "WHOA!" I wanted to buy it, but it wasn't for sale. In fact, no one there seemed to know who it belonged to, but a guy said it was a sign for Bargain Barn when it was just a small store in Jasper. Sadly, I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture of it, but when I got home I knew I wanted to make one of my own. So I did!

I tried to make it look as close to the old sign I saw as possible. The sign itself was metal and pretty banged up and even though mine is made of old wood, I still sanded and scraped and banged it up to make it look old-timey. I think it turned out pretty good! I'm thinking of doing more signs like this one!

Friday, March 16, 2012

How We Save Money as Newlyweds!

(This image came from Microsoft Office Word 2007 Clip Art. FYI)

Jared and I have been married for a year now! How exciting!!! We've been paying extra attention to our finances lately, and I thought I'd share a little bit about how our little household runs and how we actually manage to save money in spite of not having a ton of income. Maybe something we do can help you or your family! I'm always up for suggestions on ways to save money! Here's a little background about our income.

I'm in the unusual situation of being a recent college graduate who is NOT looking for a job. Because of my ahem...unusual upbringing, I did not exactly follow a super traditional path. (It's not easy to hold down a traditional teenager part-time job while you're bouncing in the back of an old Coca-Cola van on Mississippi's back-roads on the way to play a show. Substitute a different state--sometimes multiple states--every weekend and that was my childhood. It's currently my adulthood.) I earned a Bachelor's Degree at Kennesaw State University while planning a wedding and playing 250 dates a year. Oh yeah. Jared and I bought a house too.

So, how do I contribute financially to the household? God has blessed me with several job opportunities that I absolutely love. I teach guitar, mandolin, and doghouse bass lessons to some of the most hilarious kids during the week. I earn a small amount of money from being a road musician. I help a wonderful woman named Parrie at her farm twice a week. I get to work with my sister and her boss Jamey Guy ( as a photographer's assistant. I am also a freelance writer for a few different publications, and I can't forget my Upcycled Downriver business! All of these combined lead to a pretty steady flow of income. Plus, I FREAKIN' LOVE MY JOBS.

The view from my "office" at Parrie's farm.

Jared manages a Chick-fil-A in our hometown. He also repairs computers and installs custom car audio builds on the weekends and in his spare time.

We obviously aren't rolling in tons of excess dough, BUT we do manage to keep our heads above water and save some. Here's how we do it!

1. We write down everything we spend and put it in an Excel spreadsheet. It calculates how much we've spent, it projects what we will probably spend based on what we've spent in the past for certain items like gas, groceries, etc. We also write down any money we bring in from our various enterprises, so we know exactly how much money is coming in and going out. I never realized how much money I wasted until we started doing this. If you'd like to see our spreadsheet and convert it for your own use, you can download it  here. Download it as an excel document so you'll have all three sheets and save it to your computer! Easy Peasy! We left some of our information in the document, so it is easily understandable, but we changed the numbers.

2. We don't waste money at the grocery store. Clip coupons, people. It's really easy and there are plenty of resources to help you get started. I love They help you stay organized and it's really simple. They even tell you when everything will be on sale and where to find it! Since Jared and I have started eating primarily fresh foods, I don't coupon quite as much, but I still find it really helpful for things that we need around the house. To save money on actual food, I meal plan like CRAZY. I figure out what we're going to eat for the next couple of weeks and buy ONLY what we will need for those meals.

3. We quit buying useless paper products. I used approximately 2340923283203987984 paper towels in a week. I am a very messy person. However, it grieves me to know that I am bringing that big bundle of paper towels home just to throw them away. Let's say you spend $8.97 for the Walmart brand 6 count paper towels, and your family goes through 2 a month. You are spending $215.28 a year in PAPER TOWELS!!!! AND THEN YOU'RE THROWING THEM IN THE TRASH!!!! Even if it wasn't financially ridiculous, paper towels are a waste. When Jared moved into the house, my lovely mother-n-law gave us a ton of cloth napkins. I, of course, just threw them in a random drawer and ignored them because I didn't know what to do with them. When I started realizing how much I was throwing away and how much money I was tossing carelessly into the trashcan, I dug them out of the drawer, threw them in the washing machine and started using them for everything. Meals, food messes, spills, whatever. I still keep some paper towels around for pet messes but we try to avoid using them whenever possible.

4. I make our own cleaners. You don't have to have a Chemistry degree to make your own cleaners that are awesome and work just as well. I nearly failed Chemistry in high school, and I can make these! Most of what you're paying for in the store is water! We already pay for water, so I see no point in paying for it twice. As of right now, I make our own dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, fabric softener and home deodorizer. They are ridiculously easy and you only need a few ingredients that you can buy at any grocery store. Here are some links to the things I've made so far! I'm planning on expanding that list soon!
Fabric Softener
Laundry Detergent
Dishwasher Detergent
Home Deodorizer

5. Buy used or at the very least, don't pay full price! I love thrift stores. I've been able to find some really awesome (sometimes new with tags!) clothes at Goodwill.  Jared is a CraigsList junkie. With all of the internet at our disposal, there is no reason why you can't find a used (read:affordable) version of what you're looking for. Join Freecycle or a swap site.  If for some reason you can't find a used version, find coupon codes or find someone who can trade with you or make a deal!

6. Learn how to fix things! Jared is a handyman whiz! What he doesn't know how to fix already, he spends time researching on various forums, youtube, google, etc. We do a lot of home improvement projects together. It's fun! Well, most of the time. Jared has built a new porch, a giant deck, a fire pit, and he does most of our car repairs too. If there's a project that is too big or something that Jared doesn't feel comfortable doing, we generally send work to some wonderful people in our church.

7. We don't have TV.  With Netflix and Hulu +, there's not a whole lot of TV that you'll miss out on. Grand total, it's about 15 bucks. That's significantly cheaper than paying for cable or satellite. We have our computer hooked up to our TV, so it's like watching television anyway except we don't have any pesky commercials to watch. It's better than TV.

8. Tithe to your church. If you're a Christian you get to tithe into the Lord's kindgom. You get to support your local church and your pastor. I remember when I was growing up, Mama and Daddy always tithed even when there wasn't enough money to pay all the bills. Daddy studied for his ministerial licensing exam by the light of a Coleman lantern because it came down to paying tithe or paying the light bill. The Lord has always been faithful to provide for my family and for the new family Jared and I have created, so why can't we be faithful with our finances?

Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase:
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Proverbs 3:9-10 KJV

Jared and I are truly blessed, and we hope that y'all are too. Hopefully, this can help someone!