August 29, 2011

What to Do with Greeting Cards: My DIY Wedding Card Album

What do you do with all the cards you get for your wedding? Up until recently, our cards just sat in the card box we used at our wedding. I suppose you don't have to keep them, but I want to be able to remember those who gave us well wishes for our marriage, especially since some wrote out their own personalized messages.

I had considered getting a couple of these nice greeting card albums but decided against it since we had such a variety of card sizes. One card is too big to fit in a sleeve, and I thought the tall skinny cards would look odd in them. Plus, $48 for the two we would need seemed a little pricey.

I also like how T.K. at My Orderly Chaos cut her cards in half before putting them in her album, saving the inside messages and the nicer fronts.

When I saw this image in an article on Simple Mom about what to do with old cards, I immediately loved the idea. You could put all kinds of keepsakes into an album with just a couple book rings.

This is the album I ended up making:

For the front cover of the album, I created the design in InDesign and included the monogram we used on our invitations. Then I just printed it out on a leftover 6x9 envelope.

I made the front and back covers a little sturdier with a thick piece of cardboard (the backing of a sketchpad) cut in half.

Then I just put the pieces of cardboard in each envelope and sealed it. (Pro tip: If you have self-sealing envelopes, you're supposed to peal the little strip of paper off, not lick it. Not that I would do that or anything.)

I used a two-hole punch to punch all the cards.

I like that you can flip through all the cards and actually feel them, and also that they can be rearranged.

This is one way to make all sides of the card visible. While the backs of most cards are not that interesting, we had one card that was signed on the back since they had written a long message inside. 

One card opens from the top, so I glued it onto a piece of card stock so we could still open it and read it.

I put all of the tiny gift bag cards on their own page by gluing them to a piece of card stock.

The one thing I'm not sure I like is how much the 3" book rings stick out. I wouldn't be able to use shorter rings unless I divide the cards into 2 albums. I might try to find some D-shaped rings or possibly bind it with ribbon. Another disadvantage is that the cards aren't well protected.

Overall, I'm happy with this solution.

What do you do with greeting cards? 

Shared at the Homemaker by Choice blog hop.

August 26, 2011

The Home of My Our Dreams

I used to love watching the design shows on HGTV. I would look at all the beautiful remodels and think about how beautiful my own home would be. I've also collected a lot of images of home decor from design blogs and Pinterest.

It's fun to dream about the perfect bathroom...

Or the ultimate kitchen...

But the thing I didn't realize before I was married? It isn't just up to me what my home looks like. It turns out some men actually have opinions about the way their homes are decorated


A man might hang up a fuzzy stocking poster in the bedroom because he made it in his college graphic design class and he's proud of it. And if his wife asks why it has to be on display in the bedroom, he may respond, "Where else should we put it?"

Or, a husband may wonder why his wife thinks a "random jar" qualifies as a decorative item - a beautiful, antique Ball jar that many women would love to have for all sorts of decorative purposes!

No, this isn't just my home. This is our home. A home where two opinions of what is and isn't beautiful clash and sometimes compromise. A home where a dog thinks tennis balls and stuffed hedgehogs belong in the kitchen. And one day, we'll have kids adding their own personalities and styles.
The year I had an apartment all to myself, I could decorate however I wanted. I could hang up my French posters and display my Ball jar without being questioned. But I'd rather come home to a husband and a dog than a lonely apartment decorated my way. While I may not love all of my husband's things, I love him enough that I can at least tolerate them. 

Home is really all about the people. It's about what you do in the home. Forget the little things you don't like about where you live and just focus on living!


August 23, 2011

10 Small Ways I'm Cutting Costs

Now that we're currently living on just my income, we need to identify areas where we can cut back on our spending. It's a great opportunity to refocus on what necessities really are and how we can save money on those things we do have to buy.

These are a few small actions I've taken (or plan on taking) to help us live on as little as possible. Even if this season of one income is very short, some of these changes will hopefully become permanent and help us reach our financial goals.

1. Not getting my hair cut
This may sound extreme to some, but for me it was an easy decision to make. I've only been getting regular haircuts for the past year, so going without one for a while won't bother me. Of course I'm hoping Nathan will find a new job before I'm due for a haircut anyway.

2. Stepping up my couponing game.
I have no desire to look through recycle bins for coupons, but I need to make better use of the ones I have. I've gotten a little lazy lately and let some good ones expire.

3. Buying cheaper razors
I'm normally not a brand loyal person, but I've been using Schick Quatro razors for years. I decided to switch to two-blade razors that were 75% cheaper. This has turned out to be a painful decision (literally), but I think I can handle it for a while.

4. Only grocery shopping every two weeks
It's too early to know if this change will actually save us money, but I think it will. If nothing else, I'll be spending less time shopping and less money on gas than I was when I shopped once a week.

5. Temporarily stopping HSA contributions
Right now, part of each of my paychecks goes directly into our Health Savings Account. If the unemployment continues for another month or so, I'll stop making that contribution. We already have enough money between out HSA and emergency fund to cover our out of pocket maximum.

6. Only buying 1% milk
For a year I've been buying skim for me and 1% for Nathan. I finally decided that I'm not going to become obese from drinking 1% milk, so I've stopped buying skim. With the two of us sharing one gallon, we're much less likely to waste any because it's gone bad. The extra refrigerator space is a nice bonus too.

7. Severely limited eating out
I know some people seem to think you should never eat out, but it's nice to be able to go out for dinner as a couple or have lunch with coworkers at least a couple times a month. I don't think we'll be able to completely give it up, but we're going to have a very small number in this budget category. Thankfully, I have several unused Groupons we can use for a date.

8. Not buying new makeup
I've run out of both my foundation and mineral veil, so I'm looking very natural right now.

9. Shopping for a lower car and renter's insurance.
We're spending a huge chunk of our income on insurance. The company Nathan chose several years ago had the best rate at the time, but now that he's added another driver, a second car, and renter's insurance to his policy, it's time to look again.

10. Deleting all daily deal e-mails immediately
Groupons are great for saving money on restaurants, entertainment, and even clothing, but when you don't have a budget for these categories, it's brutal looking at all the deals you have to pass up. Heartsy was really rough. It's better to just delete the e-mails before I can read what they're offering.

What small or big changes have you made to save money?

More Top Ten Tuesday from Oh Amanda.
More Frugal Friday on Life as Mom.

August 20, 2011

Welcome, Money Saving Mom Readers!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll enjoy browsing around my blog. You can follow along with my journey with RSS Feed, Facebook, or Twitter.

I also invite you to check out my friend Debra's blog, Sweet Kisses and Dirty Dishes. She currently has a giveaway going on for $25 worth of products from Pampered Chef!

August 19, 2011

Meeting Money Saving Mom

Last night I got to meet one of my favorite bloggers: Crystal Paine, the Money Saving Mom!

Crystal in the light green shirt under the Starbucks sign, me in the blue shirt in front,
other awesome ladies all around whom I will not try to name. (Photo from Money Saving Mom)

Crystal was in town for a conference with a friend, so eight of her local blog readers got together for an informal meet-up. I've been reading Money Saving Mom for about a year now, so this was exciting for me. Thanks mostly to tips I've learned from Crystal's blog, the amount I spend on groceries for Nathan and myself each month is the same as I spent for just me when I was single. And she has over 134,000 Facebook fans, so she's kind of a big deal. Some of the women drove over an hour just to have coffee with her!

After meeting Crystal in person, it's clear that she doesn't think of herself as a big deal. She greeted all of us with a hug and was happy to meet us. She seems to genuinely enjoy helping and educating others, without even the tiniest bit of a know-it-all attitude. 

It was great meeting all these wonderful women and chatting about our frugal adventures. I found out I'm definitely not the only one lamenting that we don't have a Rite-Aid around here to take advantage of their great deals, despite the fact that we have about every other store! I was the only non-mom in the group, so I got to hear what shopping and couponing with kids is like. It was a lot of fun and I wish we'd had more time together.

Have you ever met any of your favorite bloggers/celebrities in person? Who would you most like to meet?

August 16, 2011

Enemy of Decluttering: Sentimental Value

Nathan and I have been doing a lot of decluttering lately. We just don't need all this stuff we've accumulated, so a lot of it needs to go. Purging feels pretty good once you get started. However, some items are difficult to toss. If I've had it for 20 years or I wore it on an important day in my life, discarding it is no easy task. And if my grandma gave it to me, getting rid of it is almost impossible.

Nana gave me a lot of stuff. Clothes. Luggage. Plastic containers. An alarm clock. Dish towels. Jewelry. Lotion. After she died, all of that became almost sacred. These simple objects transformed into a tangible link to someone no longer here. How could I get rid of any of them?

I found a new perspective recently as I was snapping green beans. I'd never bought fresh green beans before, but I had snapped them with Nana years ago. As soon as I started working on them, I immediately thought of her. The smell, the sound, the was like I was there on the back porch again, with Nana there with me in her apron, working away.

These are the true gifts in life - memories that are so simple yet so powerful. I don't need to keep a broken umbrella to remember my grandma. I don't need to keep the shirt I wore when I was baptized to know I was baptized. I don't need to keep all my stuffed animals to remember all the fun I had playing with them. I could lose everything I own and still have those memories. And what new memories are these boxes and drawers of junk creating?

August 11, 2011

Our First Farmers Market Trip

I'd been meaning to check out the local farmers market since it opened a couple months ago, but I had never managed to make it there. I usually don't go grocery shopping until at least 11:00 on Saturdays, and the market is only open until 11:30. 

What finally motivated me to get out of bed and go? Corn. Corn is one of the five vegetables Nathan will eat, and he's very picky about the kind of corn. All my attempts at serving him good corn had failed, and locally grown corn was my last hope. I also wanted to find some tomatoes, green beans, and red potatoes.

Now that we've had our first experience, I can't believe we waited this long to go. I found everything I'd hoped to find and even threw in a beet as well. The corn was really, really good.

I boiled the red potatoes and green beans and served them over pasta, loosely following this recipe. I think my potato to pasta ratio was a little off since the potatoes I used were so big, but it was pretty tasty.

The most amazing find for me was this lovely little thing. I have always hated beets. Or so I thought. It turns out I just hate canned beets.

After 35 minutes at 400 degrees and some olive oil, it's a completely different story. I was shocked. The taste reminded me a little of sweet potato fries, which I love. That beet pretty much changed my life.

I cut the corn from our last cob and tossed it with chopped tomato and avocado. Too bad we don't have any locally grown avocados!
We will definitely be returning to the farmers market. The food might be a little pricey, but if it's 20 times better than the produce you can buy in the grocery store, not to mention chemical free, I think it's worth it.

Do you shop farmers markets?

August 9, 2011

His hands are full too!

When Nathan and I first started dating, several of his friends told me things like "You have your hands full!" or "You don't know what you're getting yourself into!" It was all in fun (I think). What they didn't realize was that dealing with me isn't exactly that easy either. My own quirks and personality flaws have provided him with plenty of challenges.

Here's a recent example of one such challenge. Nathan was at the first day of GenCon, having tons of fun playing games without his wife. He was just about to begin Munchkinsanity, a game which he had very much been looking forward to playing.

Then he got a phone call. 

His wife had walked out the door to take the dog out and locked the door, only to discover that she had forgotten her keys. He didn't know what to do. He didn't want to leave his game, but he knew his wife needed to be the priority and she didn't want to stay outside with the dog for three hours. So he left to return home.

After he had been home for a while, his wife went to get her keys out of her purse but couldn't find them. She checked the other obvious locations in the apartment. Still no luck. Finally, she went outside with the flash light and found her keys next to a bush right outside the door.

She had remembered her keys after all! They had just fallen out of her pocket when she tried to jump away from the attack of the lawn sprinkler! And, being the scatter-brain that his wife is, she had completely forgotten that she had remembered her keys.

No...I really don't think he knew what he was getting himself into either.

August 7, 2011

Guest Posting on Life Blessons

I'm guest posting at Life Blessons as part of a Secrets of a Newlywed series. Carmen is one of my favorite bloggers, so it's an honor to be able to have a post there. If you're a newlywed or yet to be married, you should check out the other posts in the series as well as the rest of her blog.

August 5, 2011

A Simple Living Room Makeover

After a year of living together, we've come up with a lot of ideas of how we could make our space work better for us. Our big project this summer has been trying to better organize and arrange our apartment and, more importantly, get rid of anything we don't need in order to make our lives easier the next time we move. We aren't spending a lot of money or making enough changes to have dramatic before and after photos, but it's still been rewarding to see the improvements.

Before: Our bookshelves were a mess, and our floor was cluttered with hardware and tools that Nathan was using to build a test computer (for Server 2008 and Linux, for those who care).

After: With the bookshelves side by side and the TV moved out of the corner, suddenly we had tons of space! We used one of our end tables as a makeshift desk for the test computer. The TV is now directly in front of our couch.


After: We finally hung up our wedding photo with our signed matte!

Before: I had my books on a couple small shelves on the far back wall behind the couch.

After: The larger shelf moved into the second bedroom to hold some of our less attractive books and binders, and the chair we had in the living room replaced it.

The other bookshelf replaced the end table we're now using as a computer desk.

To make more room on our bookshelves, we filled a box with books we want to sell or give away. We also boxed up some of our books that we want to keep but don't need on our shelves, most of which are kids' books.

And there you have it - a few small changes that have made our living room a much more pleasant place to live.

August 2, 2011

For Richer. For Poorer.

This past weekend, my longtime dream of riding a zip line finally came true! It wasn't a huge one, but it was a good starter zip line. Once we finished our adventure, Nathan broke the news to me that he no longer had a job. He wanted me to have my fun that day, but he couldn't put off telling me any longer.

For richer or poorer.

Those words are spoken in traditional wedding vows for a reason; both are very real possibilities in a marriage. When I made that vow at my own wedding, I started crying as I thought of everything we'd already been through and knew we could make it through anything. Sure enough, when Nathan lost his job after just a few weeks of marriage, we survived the poorer for a time. But then he got this new job, with great pay, and I thought everything would be better. Poorer? That was all behind us! And now, here we are, back to just my income. Although I hope this will once again be such a short period of unemployment that we'll hardly notice it, we have no way of knowing.

Marriage is kind of like a zip lining. Even though I'd looked forward to it for a very long time, I didn't know what it would be like when I jumped off that platform. Sometimes it seems like an easy ride, but sometimes you start spinning out of control. You just have to have faith that the cord holding you up is strong enough that you won't fall into the pond.  It's a crazy ride, but I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else.

I know we'll be okay. Living on my income is certainly possible, just not a lot of fun. I'm so thankful that we fully funded our emergency fund and paid off all consumer debt during our first year of marriage. If you have not yet done both of those things, I would truly encourage you to do so as soon as you possibly can. Although you may think everything is great now that you're richer, you never know when Poorer could come to visit.