4 ways frugal living changed my life

10 years ago I was a completely different person. To the outside world I appeared to have it all together. I wore fashionable big ticket clothes, had killer designer handbags and wore expensive and uncomfortable footwear. I was a marketers dream! If it was “in” I had to have it. If it was trendy – I was the first in line to buy it. If it made me “appear” more successful, put together, worthy or important you bet I’d drop cash on it. I was a hostage to consumerist chaos and the more, more, more narrative that marketing and consumerism convinces us should be part of our lives. I lived my life by establishing my worth as a person by what I owned. The major caveat was that I had a dirty little secret. I couldn’t afford that lifestyle, it made me miserable and no matter what I bought it was never enough. The cycle continued and continued until we found ourselves in a ton of consumer credit card debt and facing the harsh reality that we had to make significant lifestyle changes if we wanted to get a grip on our spending and regain control of our finances.

If you’ve been reading here for some time you’ll already know that we managed to pay down that debt by completely transforming our lifestyle. We went from being massive over-spenders to living a frugal lifestyle. We slashed our spending everywhere we could so we could finally get a handle on our poor financial choices. To be perfectly transparent, I don’t think either of us thought we’d actually like living a frugal lifestyle. Way back when, we entered into this thinking that we’d do it for a while to get rid of that debt and then slowly transition back to a more normal consumerist life.

Frugal living has transformed more than just our bank account. Sure, we’ve been able to pay off that debt, buy a home with a 50% down payment and consistently put money away into our savings but beyond that it’s transformed who we are as people. I wont get into the details about Mer’s thoughts on the subject because they are his. But, I can tell you that adopting a frugal lifestyle and adhering to frugality for nearly a decade has transformed my life in ways I never imagined.

Not only have I developed a far greater respect for money but frugality has graced my life with so much positivity and insight that I would have previously taken for granted.

4 ways frugality generates positivity

Crazy hunh? It’s really surreal to think that I’m actually happier having less stuff and spending less money! I’m a firm believer that frugality changes your outlook and regard for everything that surrounds you. I believe wholeheartedly that by severing ties with consumerism one is finally released from negativity, unrealistic social expectations and envy. Maybe I’ll get into that another day but suffice to say that I really and truly believe that frugality sparked significant positive changes in my life.

My emotional health has improved

Nothing sucks more than constantly feeling inadequate. Consumerism has this way of convincing us that if you don’t have the newest car, clothes or gadgets we are somehow failing at life. One of the major consequences of living a hugely consumerist life is feeling inadequate when you can’t keep up. This whole keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle can negatively affect your self worth, confidence and agency if you allow consumerism to manipulate you into thinking that you are only as worthy as how much stuff you have. Sure, there might be people out there who aren’t as easily influenced by these ideas but generally speaking the goal of marketing and consumerism is to get you to buy more, more, more by playing with your emotions.

By severing those ties and not allowing myself to be manipulated by consumerism I’ve had no choice but accept and manage my emotional health. Buying to fulfill a need or to make myself feel better were no longer options and so for the first time ever I had to deal with the emotional side of buying in a more hands on way. Frugality has helped me realize my self-worth is absolutely not dictated by the car I drive, the clothes I wear or the stuff I own. My worth is now established by my core values, beliefs and lifestyle choices.

I’ve become a creative problem solver

Faced with no choice but “deal”  I’ve had to become incredibly creative when solving problems. Pre-frugality I was totally that person who would haul myself to the store to buy anything and everything that would make my life easier. Quite honestly there seems to be a costly solution for just about anything available for purchase.

Tangent -> Mer and I were watching T.V last night and there was a commercial for V.I Poo by Airwick. Did you see it? If not, I’m including it here because it needs to be discussed. I’m still not 100% sure I buy that this is a legit product and not some marketing tactic. Although V.I Poo is for sale on sites like Amazon.com and Well.com. (Note <—- I would never affiliate link that) so maybe there’s a market for this? In any case, this right here folks is proof that there is a solution for all of the world’s “problems” no matter how small. Now, you can even deodorize the toilet bowl before releasing “devil’s donuts”. Essentially, we’re being  poop shamed.

 

So back to the point. I’ve become far more creative and a better problem solver. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to re-purpose, build or create something from what I already had on hand. When you don’t have the option to spend money on things to make your life easier or solve a problem you have at hand it’s pretty amazing how resourceful you will become. I’ve become an expert at scouting out what I need without spending any money at all.

I’m more patient

Confession time. I was a hot headed, impatient, stubborn diva pre-frugality. Why? I was totally overcompensating. I think we all naturally deal with certain levels of insecurity when it comes to our lifestyle choices and professional lives. Consumerism in some respects teaches us that buying stuff helps us deal with those insecurities right?

Consumerism gave me an “out” because I was able to compensate for the areas of my life that made me feel insecure by buying more and more stuff the mass media convinced me a I needed to be more confident, more professional and generally a better human being. By cutting ties with that lifestyle I’ve had to employ frugal tactics to stretch our budget and get us out of a deep financial sink hole. The consequence? I’ve learned to appreciate a lifestyle that is far slower, far less competitive and generally more quiet. Although I might be surrounded by people who live a very consumerist lifestyle (and that’s okay too!) I’ve disassociated myself from it and no longer feel like I’m part of that rat race. I’m now more patient, accepting and if you ask Mer probably more fun to be around 🙂

I enjoy my friends, family and life more

The consequence of all the above is that I’m far more present and by consequence I’m able to enjoy the things that are truly important to me which are my family, friends and the bounties that this life have blessed me with. By living frugally, I’m not consumed with the need to identify by what I wear, own or where I eat. Instead, I’ve had to really get to know myself and acknowledge who I am as a person. These insights are what make being present so much easier. Without frugality I’m sure I’d still be the woman who was uncomfortable in her own skin and who feared being judged.

Interested in reading even more posts about frugality? Have a look at these!

4 ways frugality has changed my life

V.I Poo – Real product or savvy marketing?

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Why buying used isn’t gross

Raise your hand if you’re a little put off by buying, wearing or touching used stuff?

I double pinky swear that I wont judge you for having the ewww factor about used stuff! My goal here isn’t to chastise you for your opinions! If you’re raising your hand way up high I can assure you that you are not alone. Often times, when I tell people that we buy virtually 100% of our stuff used I’m faced with some of the most interesting responses. There are those who question us – I’ve gotten asked more than once if we’ve ever “caught something from buying used”. In other situations I’ve been met with really strong and sometimes harsh opinions about how buying used is gross and that I’m actually neglecting my kiddos needs by doing it.

Buying used gets such a bad rap doesn’t it folks?

There seems to be this assumption that buying used is gross and today I’m hoping to show you that buying used is not only a great way to save you a ton of cash but also a good and responsible choice for the environment because it keeps stuff out of our landfills.

Our frugal family really doesn’t attach a value to things. After hard work and the conscious decision to really separate ourselves from consumerist chaos we’ve gotten to a point where stuff is just stuff and doesn’t shape our views of ourselves, our social standing or our place in our community. A long long time ago the story was a very different one and by living a frugal lifestyle out of necessity we developed a new appreciation or lack thereof for the stuff that surrounded us and really detached ourselves from the want cycle that is so common in consumerist culture. But, we do need stuff – tons of stuff even so when it does come time to spend our money on things we always turn to buying used first.

So, before we get into the whole buying used is gross thing, tell me, when’s the last time you went on vacation? What resort did you stay at? Are you a cruise type of person or more of an all-inclusive type? How were the accommodations? Was the food good? Did you send your kiddo to the on site daycare? I promise there’s a reason that I’m asking you these questions – so, keep a mental inventory of your answers okay?

I’m sure most of you have stayed in a hotel, eaten at a restaurant, sent your kid to daycare and driven in a cab before right? If you’ve done all these things then you’ve absolutely touched, used and been in contact with used stuff! Gross right? Or, is it? When you’re staying at a hotel you are sleeping on a used mattress and used bed linens that we hope have been sanitized correctly. When you’re eating out you are eating off of used plates with used cutlery while sitting in a used chair. And, *shutter* when you send your kids to school or daycare your kiddo is playing with toys and reading books that have been touched by dozens or even hundreds of tiny germy hands.

See where I’m going with this?

The Stigma of Used Stuff

The thing is, there’s a pretty big stigma attached to used stuff- that ewww factor is very much real and in many cases it causes people to fear used goods and completely overlook it as on option when it’s time to fulfill consumerist needs and wants. The ewww factor leads people to believe that used goods are somehow disgusting, dirty, germ-infested and useless items or objects that belong in a landfill instead of in your home or mine.

The used stuff stigma often manifests itself in two very real and overlapping ways folks.

First, there’s the personal fear of buying used because of the perceived threat of being socially inferior or judged in some way. When we first started off on this journey I was absolutely one of those people and was humiliated that I was shopping in a second-hand shop. Left with no choice but live frugally to crush our credit card debt I stuck it out and eventually as I started to appreciate frugal living more and more I became so comfortable with buying used that I’d tell anyone and everyone about my great finds and how much money it saved me compared to making the same purchase on the “new” market. Having said that, the social stigma creates fear – because *gasp* what if someone finds out you’re buying used? What if you’re labeled as one of those people who uses used stuff? Well, here’s a secret – it’s your business and nobody else’s. You don’t have to tell anyone where your awesome shirt, shoes, handbag or belt came from.

Second, there’s this pervasive need to keep up the Joneses right? The neighbor wears designer clothes, has a fancy new car and has expensive home furnishings. The whole notion to buy more, more, more in an effort to keep up with this narrative of what is acceptable has really driven people away from appreciating the used market. What if I told you that buying used can give you access to designer clothes (if that’s your thing), fancy cars (if that’s your priority) or expensive home furnishings (if that’s what you value)? Sadly, many people feel this need to buy new to keep up with what society has created as an acceptable way to acquire goods. Society has trained us that to have “made it” in our world you have to buy new and that buying used somehow makes you inferior, underprivileged and a lesser member of your community.

Cost Analysis & Little Frugal Math

I’m a numbers geek and I’m often calculating exactly how much I saved when I find a used treasure. Some times our used finds are absolutely free because we barter or dumpster dive (which is the best case scenario because free is free right?) but when we do score a used deal I always hit up the internet to calculate exactly how much we saved.

Let’s do a little frugal math, shall we? I hope to show you that the savings when buying used are astronomical.

Here’s a current photo of my back balcony. We’ve created a play area for Margsy because this kiddo loves being outside but sometimes it’s difficult to let her roam the backyard when there’s important adulting things going on. By creating this play space for her we know that not only will she be within view but she’ll also be safe and occupied.

When Mer and I decided we wanted to invest in some outdoor activity toys we both agreed that we’d hit up the used market. Kids toys are so incredibly expensive and when you’re buying any type of toy you’re always taking a risk that your kiddo wont really like it. We got really lucky with this haul because she absolutely loves each of these toys and plays with them on the regular.

Now, let’s calculate what this would have cost me new versus what I spent.

* Source: I sourced the prices on the various toys from both amazon.ca and toysrus.ca. I used the lowest price found between the two vendors.

So there we have it. Had I purchased each of these items brand new from Amazon, Toys R Us or any similar vendor in my area I would have been facing a 681.79$ expense plus applicable taxes. In our province we have a 15% tax rate that by my calculations would elevate the price to a whopping 784.06$. But, by employing some frugality to our purchasing plan we were able to score all those super cool toys for a total of 48.00$ Yup, you read that right 48$! In total we saved 736.06$ by buying used. Holy, you know what right?

How I clean my new used stuff

Generally speaking most used stuff is in pretty great condition. Thrift and second hand shops are pretty picky about what they put on their racks and the worst of the worst usually never makes it out into the store front. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve bought clothes or shoes for us with the tags still on. Think about it for a second, how many times have you donated brand new stuff to a local organization that resells it because it didn’t fit, went out of style or wasn’t useful for you anymore? Yup, I’m the lady who will likely buy that stuff.

With that in mind, we always employ rigorous cleaning methods to make sure that every item we buy is clean and ready for us to use. It’s no different than buying clothes at your local TJ Max or Target. There’s a good chance someone or several people tried it on before you so washing it before wearing is always a good idea right?

When it comes to clothing items, linens or any other cloth type product we always give the items a good soak in a hot water and vinegar bath. We have a handy basin sink installed in our garage and I just put all our goodies in there and disinfect them with vinegar. From there, I add them to our regular laundry that we do roughly twice a week. Once it’s clean and smelling fresh you’d never know that it was bought used in the first place.

For large plastic kiddo toys we haul out our pressure washer which we got from a barter trade a couple years back. First, we rub on a baking soda vinegar paste and scrub off any dirty spots. Once we’ve removed any stains or built on dirt we give it a good rinse and follow up with a soap bath made with equal parts laundry detergent and vinegar. More often than not the toys come out squeaky clean and as good as new!

For dishware and other glass or breakables I usually just give them a good soak in equal parts dish soap and liquid bleach. After a 30 minute soak I rinse them off and pop them into the dishwasher on a clean and sanitize cycle. They always come out looking as good as new.

A couple of things I’ll never buy used

Buying used is such an awesome way to get what you need for literally a tiny fraction of the cost. We’ve taken advantage of used opportunities and bought clothes, shoes, linens, dishware, furniture, baby clothes, toys, garden equipment, pool gear, baby gear, camping gear, winter wear, small appliances to name just a few. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of things but you get the idea that we’re pretty open to buying most things used. But, there are things that we wont buy used because quite honestly it’s not safe. Here is a list of things that you need to be cautious about and a couple of reasons why.

Mattresses/Couches/Upholstered furniture. Unless you know exactly where it’s coming from and that it’s coming from a pest free environment approach with caution. We used to live in an area that was heavily affected by bed bugs and as a result we never bought these items used. If you know where it’s coming from and you are 100% sure that bringing the item into your home wont cause you issues then absolutely go for it.

Crib & Carseats. The thing with these items is that it’s okay to buy them second hand assuming you are 100% sure of the items provenance. With cribs, it’s always wise to check out the model number for any recent recalls (think safety issues, led paint etc). If you know the people it’s coming from and the crib checks out with a little research then it’s absolutely okay to purchase. But, when you’re looking at buying from someone you don’t know and you’re unsure of the age and/or model number then I’d be cautious because cribs can pose serious risks to a baby. The same goes for car seats. I would never ever ever jeopardize my kiddos safety and as a result I would never buy a used car seat unless I knew for absolute sure that the seat had no recalls and is 100% accident free. Safety above all folks.

The rest. Always use common sense. If an item looks truly gross – it probably is. The thing with used stuff is that you can absolutely be picky. If you pass on an item today I’ll bet you any amount of money that you’ll come across something similar soon. Just because you’re opting to buy used doesn’t mean you’re prevented from being a discriminant shopper. If an item doesn’t seem satisfactory to you then simply don’t buy it regardless of its low price. Even when you’re buying used you can opt to buy for quality and durability.

How I approach used shopping

Shopping used is truly no different then buying new. Actually I’ll propose that buying used is actually more fun because you can score some pretty awesome deals and save a ton of money in the process. Who doesn’t like to save a little cash right?

Like I mentioned above, buying used doesn’t trump quality in any way. You can totally buy quality clothing, accessories, furnishings, electronics and everyday essentials on the used market. I approach used shopping like a challenge. I want to ensure that my money is purchasing an item that is in great used condition, shows as little wear as possible and will be durable for years to come. Just because I’m buying used doesn’t mean that I’ll accept lesser quality or condition – I want to use my money wisely so I’m picky and selective about what items I bring home with me. It’s okay to pass on an item no matter how great it might appear if it doesn’t meet my expectations.

Beyond this, I always set a budget about how much I’m comfortable spending. If you remember up above where I told you folks about building a play area for my little one I went into the project with a budget. I knew that I wanted to get as many toys as possible for at most 50$. We planned accordingly and headed out bright and early on a garage sale weekend knowing that we only had 50$ to spend. I also knew that I absolutely wanted a table of some kind, a ride on, a plastic house and a net. We drove around and managed to pick up each of our items by being steadfast about our price. When buying that house I was asked for 50$. I told the guy straight that I had to take it apart to get it home and that it needed a good wash so I was only prepared to spend 20$. He agreed and we took it apart and hauled it home.

A couple of buying used suggestions: go into any shopping situation with a budget and a list of exactly what you want. Negotiate whenever you can and be upfront about your best offer. Be prepared to walk away if you can’t respect your budget or if it’s not exactly what you need. Buying used can also be a trap in that the low cost can convince us to buy buy buy because we’re getting such a great deal. Always shop wisely even if you’re not spending a ton of money.

What buying used is not

  • Buying used is not a reflection of your worth as a person, member of society or social standing. Wearing used clothes and eating off used dishes with pre-loved utensils in no way minimizes your worth as a person. You my friend are not a reflection of your stuff.
  • Buying used does not mean you are poor, underprivileged and/or miserly. Instead, its a reflection of the frugal priorities you’ve set yourself.
  • Buying used is not only for the extremely cheap. Instead, it’s a conscious and well thought out decision for the well being of both your wallet and the environment.
  • Buying used isn’t gross, dirty or disgusting – it’s a sustainable way to get what you need at a fraction of the cost!

Managing the social stigma

Before I wrap up this super long post ( I apologize for that by the way – once I get going I just can’t seem to stop!) I want to address managing the social stigma that comes from buying used. I got into it up at the top of this post but if you’re just skimming I’ll give you a quick recap. Essentially, society has taught us that it’s gross to buy used by manipulating our belief system. They’ve enveloped used goods with an ewww factor that prevents many people from taking advantage of buying on the used market. We’ve been taught that buying used is gross and disgusting and so we’re feeding into consumertist chaos by overpaying and overbuying on the new market. When we walk into a room we don’t generally thumb off the places we bought each piece of our outfit. When we have a dinner party we don’t start the meal by listing off where our dishes, cutlery or tablecloth were bought. Buying used is a personal decision. If you’re into it great – if you want to try it but fear being judged just remember that it’s absolutely your business and nobody elses. Buy used and keep it your little secret if need be!

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Interested in reading even more frugal living posts? Have a look at these:

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The Buyerarchy of needs

After writing Tuesday’s post and really delving into how we save money around here I got to mulling over this grand and somewhat obscure idea of needs. It’s really easy for me to preach frugal mantras like “buy only what you need” or “don’t spend on things you don’t need” or “figure out how to make the distinction between wants and needs”  when in reality following through with this is actually really really really hard to do. What happens when we lose sight of our true needs? Well, Consumerist culture has desensitized us to our true needs and so, the lines between needs and wants seem to be permanently blurred for most of us. Consumerism has done such a great job of severing our relationship with our true needs that more often than not we’re able to convince ourselves that just about any “want” is in fact a real need on some level. Buy more, more, more is basically the way most people live – and guess what? we used to be those people!

How many times have you been in a shop and picked up something that peaks your interest only to proceeded to convince yourself to buy it by thumbing off at least 20 reasons why you absolutely need to purchase it? I’ve done it many, many, many a time myself. The things is, we’ve been conditioned to overlook what our true needs are and buy things because on some emotional level they satisfy something we are looking for in that very moment. I often refer to this as a “want cycle”. I’ve had many many “want cycles” in my lifetime. Pre frugal living I’d have one just about every other month. One time, I remember running to Best Buy because I had to have an Eye-Fi card. The idea was that I took so many photos and uploading them was such a chore and with an Eye-Fi card the photos would miraculously upload themselves whenever in range of the computer. Sure, the Eye-Fi card is pretty cool. It’s efficient, it’s handy and it’s pretty darn useful but, did I truly need it? Absolutely not. Sadly, that Eye-Fi card died a lonely death in a drawer in my office desk only a few short months after buying it. The gratification of fulfilling that “want cycle” sort of fizzled out.

Consumerist culture is super efficient at manipulating us to believe that new cars, new homes, new clothes, new gadgets and just about anything and everything that one could potentially purchase falls into the realm of true needs. We’ve been sensitized to this idea that we need to moisturize our faces with expensive creams, we need to dine on expensive dishes and we need to toast our bottoms while we drive.

In Tuesday’s post I talked a lot about how we save money. If you have a read through that post or one of the other one’s I’ve written about how we manage money in our frugal household you’ll soon come to the conclusion that we basically live by the Buyerarchy of needs.

If you’re interested in reading some of my other posts about how we live frugally these are a great place to start:

The buyerarchy of needs

The Buyerarchy of needs was created by Sarah Lazarovic who used the info graphic that she created above as a reminder to explore other options before jumping in and buying anything. Her thought process, much like my own revolves around getting creative, borrowing, bartering, buying used, reinventing and ultimately buying if these options get exhausted before accomplishing whatever consumerist goal you had set out for yourself.

In having adhered to the basic tenants of the Buyerarchy of needs for nearly 8 years now I can tell you that you can in fact satisfy most of your basic “true needs” without ever having to climb up to the very top of that pyramid. The options to obtain what you need is very much possible with a little creativity or through borrowing or bartering. I’d even go out on a limb to say that if one were to be patient enough they could potentially borrow or barter for every thing they need including  primary needs like food and shelter. Having said that, there’s absolutely market for bartering for even the most basic of needs but given the consumerist culture we live in it would likely be rather difficult to barter for a home or for food on a consistent basis. It’s entirely possible but I imagine rather difficult since bartering has unfortunately not become mainstream form of exchange just yet.

Needs versus wants

So here is where the topic gets a little complicated. How do we differentiate between primary (basic needs) and secondary needs and set them completely from wants.

For everyone primary needs involve things like food and shelter.

For nearly everyone primary needs involve food, shelter and safety.

For a lot of people primary needs are extended to include food, shelter, safety and the secondary need of transportation.

For most people primary needs have become focused on food, shelter, safety, transportation and excess. So, the lines are blurred you see?

Now, I’m not accusing you of being a compulsive shopper or binge purchaser. Instead, I’m pointing out that most of us (myself included until circa 2009) now have the tendency to potentially lump luxuries like clothing, gadgets, electronics, high-end vehicles and travel into our most basic of needs.

How many times have you said “I absolutely need a vacation right now!”? Or, I absolutely have to have a car with A/C and power windows”? These types of wants have now been transformed into basic needs for a large proportion of people.

The ugly truth is that consumerist culture has convinced us through the more, more, more attitude that you need more clothes (more options make life easier night?), we need more gadgets (you must have a juicer, sodastream and VitaMix because they make life more convenient) and we must drive a brand new car with leather interior and heated seats because we’re entitled to them and need them to secure a certain level of happiness.

Consumer culture sells us a dream right? They sell us a narrative of success that most people fall for and buy into which creates a debt spiral that leaves people facing financial distress because they are spending far more than they are making. How many times have you told yourself “I’ll buy now and pay later, no problem” because whatever consumer good you were pining over was so important to have that you were willing to in-debt yourself to get it? This right here is where the problem lies – our basic needs have now branched out to include things that are in fact wants and by consequence the majority of us have indebted ourselves because of this consumerist chaos.

Knowing the difference

Knowing the difference isn’t easy and naturally we’ll all buy something we want instead of need from time to time. If however, we can consciously disassociate our needs from our wants we’re making positive steps in breaking down the dream created by the consumerist narrative. Wanting stuff is okay – it’s when we start to dig ourselves deeper and deeper into debt that we start facing the problem of our wants overthrowing the balance of spending within your means and saving for a rainy day. If you’re constantly adding to your debt spiral it becomes very very difficult to maintain your quality of life because your hard earned cash isn’t actively working for you since your throwing it at your debt pay down.

Knowing the difference and consciously making choices not to create and fall victim to a want cycle is critical. But, how? That’s the hard part right. Mer and I were in a position where we had no choice. We were overspending and needed to really get a grip on our finances so we decided to go at paying down our consumer debt by becoming extremely frugal. Not only did it work (we kicked that 21k in the butt) but we found peace and happiness along the journey. How did we figure out if something we wanted to purchase was a want or need? We do one simple thing.

We never make impulse purchases. If there is something we feel we needed we mull it over for weeks or even months. Our reasoning is that if the item in question still appears necessary or useful to us 2 months down the road then we’ll buy it. This cooling off period allows for a real analysis of the consumer good and whether it’s purely a want or more of a need.

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What do you classify as needs?

What is a recent want that you purchased for yourself?

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Frugal Fridays: dishwashers, dumpster diving & greens

Morning folks and happy Friday Saturday! This post was supposed to go live yesterday morning but Margsy was sick overnight Thursday and we spent the morning snuggling and watching movies. Baby girl got her 18-month vaccines on Thursday afternoon and around 3am Friday morning she spiked a pretty high fever. We dozed off and on but she clearly wasn’t feeling her greatest so I put down the phone and shut down the laptop to give her as much TLC as possible. Here’s hoping that we’ve passed the worst of the side effects!

We’re expecting a ton of rain this weekend which is extra disappointing since Mer is home and can’t enjoy the same gorgeous weather we’ve had having all week. Margsy and I have spent our days lounging outside, playing and getting ourselves wet with our own DIY sprinkler and dips in the pool. Her confidence in the water is really shining through and she gets in that pool like it’s nobodies business. Cold water really doesn’t scare this little girl off. We don’t have a pool heater and on the hottest days we might get up to around 80!

DIY saves you heaps of money

We’ve had to fall back on our frugal tendencies this week when it comes to DIY repairs. We try not to call in service people when things break down and attempt to fix things ourselves if we can. About two weeks ago our dishwasher stopped draining itself properly. After watching a couple of YouTube videos about cleaning the dishwasher I gave it a baking soda and vinegar wash hoping that it would solve the problem. No such luck. Mer then took to YouTube and started to do some research about potential problems that could be causing our issue. He pulled everything out and analyzed and analyzed and compared and compared until he figured it out.

Looks like our drain was clogged which is 100% my fault. I’m terrible at rinsing off dishes which likely led to a buildup of food in the drain. He cleaned it all out, took off a clip that protects the exit hose and before I knew it the dishwasher was back to perfect working order.

Being frugal often means exploring and getting creative when it comes to solving household problems. We could have called in a dishwasher service company but wanted to give it a good go ourselves before resorting to that. We easily saved ourselves a couple of hundred dollars by investing a little time and patience to get the job done ourselves. Mer has also fixed our washing machine, dryer and wall mounted A/C unit in the past! YouTube is an amazing DIY resource when it comes to these types of things. Having said that, if the issue is beyond the scope of our abilities we’ll absolutely call someone in. Why? It can become even more expensive to fix a problem if you damage it further yourself.

Someone else’s trash is your treasure

On one of our morning walks Margsy and I looped the upper limit of our neighborhood. It happened to be trash day and there was a woman throwing out a bunch of very cool toddler toys. We got to talking and I asked her if she would mind if I took them for Margsy to play with. They were clearly in need of a good cleaning but in otherwise great condition. After speaking with her she explained she was thrashing them because her kiddo had outgrown them and she lacked the space to store them. This is a perfect example of why I’ll never buy Margsy any toys that are brand new. At some point we’ll be itching to unload them the same way this family was.

She said “sure” and I loaded up my stroller basket and headed home with the agreement that I’d come back later to pick up the rest. Once all the toys had arrived at our place I got going on disinfecting them. My go-to cleaning solution is a good wash with diluted bleach followed by a vinegar and baking soda rinse to remove stains and built on dirt. After rinsing really really well these toys were as good as new.

Often times, people throw out perfectly good stuff because it’s just the easiest way to get rid of things quickly. The lovely lady who provided us with these new treasures told me straight that she tried to unload them on friends and family but ultimately the easiest way to get them out of the house was to trash them. Well, her trash became my treasure. My kiddo had a blast pushing her cabbage patch doll around in that tiny stroller.

When it comes to curb side treasures though you need to approach with caution. When it comes to dolls, stuffed toys or any other type of toy that can carry bed bugs you need to watch out. Bed Bugs are a huge huge problem in this neck of the woods and as a result we’re extra careful and pass on stuff that could be a breeding ground for them.

Speaking of curb side treasures we’ve managed to pick up planter vases, a lawn chair, gardening equipment and even a plant recently! You simply never know what you’re going to find!

How our garden grows

Here’s our garden last month! A photo snapped after we had first planted our veggies.

Here she is this morning! Everything is growing in beautifully and we’ve already started to enjoy some fresh garden salads. I know I’ve said it before but I will say it again – growing your own vegge in the summer is such a great way to save money on groceries. During the summer months the only produce we buy are fruits and we otherwise sustain ourselves on what we harvest from our patch!

Our beans have finally started to sprout and I’m beyond excited to seem them thriving. We plant both green and broad beans and they are just so incredibly delicious. I love freezing huge batches to stockpile for the winter. Looking forward to sharing some how to posts about how we prepare our veggies for the winter months!

With that, I’m off. I hear a tiny toddler calling for me! So, it’s time to start out our day! Have a wonderful weekend folks!

P.S check back Monday when I announce the winner of the BBQ Scraper Giveaway! Good luck to everyone who entered!

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What I’m loving lately
This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting TTBH.

Morning friends!

How’s your week been so far? It’s been hot, hot, hot in these parts and we’ve been taking full advantage of the glorious weather by enjoying long walks, dips in the pool and running through sprinklers. My kiddo tolerates the cold water far better than I do that’s for sure! She loves it though, so I’ve been putting on my bathing suit and playing water games with her non-stop! She’s exhausted and content by the end of the day so it’s totally worth it!

Also, thank you so so much for all your thoughtful responses on yesterday’s post about finding a daycare for Margsy. I really enjoyed reading each one and will get to responding to each of you throughout the day. We’ve got another daycare interview on Friday and we’re hopeful that it’ll fit the requirements we are looking for! Fingers crossed.

But, for today I wanted to share a couple of things I’m absolutely loving right now!

Playtex Baby Sipsters Spill Proof Sip Cup

After Margsy’s pedi appointment on Monday I decided that it was time to really focus on introducing a sippy cup for good. Margsy was still drinking water from a bottle which I know isn’t ideal at 18 months. I’d tried a bunch of different varieties of cups over the last few months but it seemed that every single one either leaked, tasted and smelled horribly of plastic or was awkwardly shaped for her little hands.

On a random drug store run for diapers this week I had a look at the selection of sippy cups. Guys, is it possible? There are seriously about 40 different varieties to choose from! Once I’d narrowed down which ones I hadn’t tried I decided to go with Playtex Sipsters. I bought one cup and decided to give it a go before investing in more. Well, she loves it and most importantly it does not leak all over the floor, couch or toddler. Anyone elses kid super obsessed with seeing what comes out of a bottle or sippy cup by flipping it upside down and shaking?

DIY Sprinkler for toddlers (& adults 😉 )

Although we’re super fortunate to have a pool which I love getting in there with Margsy isn’t always easy. Since starting her swimming lessons Margsy has become a little resistant to using a float. She’s now used to being held in the pool and as a result wont float around like she did last summer. So, on some days when I feel like she needs more activity I put out the sprinkler and let her run and get wet! She loves it. Mer and I did some research and we’ve built a DIY Sprinkler for baby girl. They are relatively easy to make and super cost effective!

We made a variation of this! Check out this site for a bunch of frugal DIY sprinkler ideas for kids! But, be warned all the neighborhood kids are going to want to play with your super cool sprinkler set up. True story – I’ve had no less than 6 kids in my yard playing with something similar all week.

Coschedule Headline Analyzer

Coshchedule’s Headline Analyzer is amazing. I use it to analyze my blog post titles to hopefully help me rank better with search engines. It’s easy peasy too! You simply put in your chosen title and have the analyzer do its thing. It’ll return a result for you and you’ll see how effective it would be to potential readers! I try to create headlines that rank at least 70. I’ve been playing around with it for quite some time and love that you can see the history of the headline as you make modifications to the key words. Such a useful and awesome tool! Do check it out if you get a chance! Once you’ve signed up, the headline analyzer is totally free to use!

Ombrelle Kids Sunscreen

We take sun protection very very seriously in this house. I know I mentioned it somewhere but at the age of 33 when I was pregnant with Margs I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on my face. I had surgery to remove the affected skin and have since become obsessed with skin care both for myself and my little one. Sunscreens are tricky though! I have oily sensitive skin and break out into rashes and blotchy spots easily. I’ve tried many different types of sunscreen and have actually settled on using Ombrelle for both myself and Margsy. It applies easily, offers great protection and doesn’t irritate our skin. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Lentil Watermelon Salad

I think this photo speaks for itself right? I made this as an experiment a couple of weeks back because we had a ton of watermelon to use up. It sounds like a strange combination of flavors but it works and it’s absolutely delicious! This is absolutely going to be made over and over throughout the summer. Love how fresh it tastes and how easy it is to put together!

What are you loving lately?

P.S there’s still time to enter the BBQ Scraper giveaway offered by Mollen Living!

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Grilling & Chilling: Our favorite frugal summer BBQ meals + a BBQ scraper giveaway
This post is sponsored by BBQ Scraper. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting TTBH.

Morning friends! How was your weekend? We were at a beautiful wedding on Saturday and rather than recovering from our super late night (think 3am) we were up and busy at 8am Sunday morning. After swimming lessons, a trip to the grocery store and a meeting with a potential daycare for Margsy we headed back to the house to get going on preparing some delicious food for our out guests who arrived at around place right around lunch time for a BBQ. I’m exhausted today but it was oh so worth it! Also, stay tuned for an awesome giveaway in honor of both Father’s Day and the beginning of the grilling season at the bottom of this post!

Grilling and chilling is probably our favorite summer activity. Seriously, nothing beats hanging round the fire pit, sipping cold drinks and grilling up a delicious meal with friends and family. When we lived in the apartment this sort of thing was pretty much impossible. Our place was small, we didn’t have a backyard and cramming a bunch of people onto our back balcony really wasn’t ideal. So, when we were buying our first home our priority was having an awesome backyard space that was inviting and would work well for big cookouts and BBQs.

Well, we got just that and we pretty much entertain every other weekend or so throughout the summer. As a frugal family that means that we’re spending a bit more money on grocery which if you’ve been reading for a little while you’ll know that we’re perfectly okay with because spending quality time with friends and family is important to us. Frugal living isn’t about deprivation folks (have a read of this post if you want even more clarification). I know I sound like  a broken record but frugal living gets a bad wrap when it comes to things like this and I’m all about demystifying those fallacies. Basically, if we feel that what we’re spending money on is important to us then we are perfectly okay with it! So, we entertain a ton because we love catching up with friends and family and spending quality time with them!

When it comes to preparing menus for our cookouts we absolutely apply frugal principles (If you’re interested in how we approach grocery shopping have a read of this post) We’ll never deprive our loved ones but we still try to be as conscious and frugal as possible when it comes to shopping for meals. So, today I want to share a few of our favorite BBQ meals that can feed a bunch of people delicious food on a pretty decent budget! They are all super easy to put together too which is a huge bonus!

Enjoy!

Marinated Chicken: We like to keep things super simple in these parts. Our go to marinade is actually no-name  Italian salad dressing. We marinate our chicken for approximately 24 hours in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator and then grill it up on our BBQ. The awesome thing about preparing chicken this way is that you can marinate any type of chicken: chicken legs, breast, thigh and even wings work really really well. The chicken is always incredibly moist and flavorful.

Grilled potato and red onion salad: After scrubbing potatoes clean I chop them into cubes. I then add some raw red onion and toss everything in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Once they’re well coated I transfer the potato and onions to a tin foil envelop and pop them on the grill for approximately 20 minutes. When the potatoes are fork tender I remove them from the foil, allow them to cool off and season with some fresh parsley, balsamic vinegar and garlic.

Grilled veggies: Veggies are so versatile and cook up beautifully on the BBQ. When planning a cookout we usually buy whatever veggies we can find on sale: bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, snap peas, green beans etc. Once they’re washed I toss everything into a bowl and season with a little olive oil. I wrap them in tin foil and pop them on the BBQ. Once they’re cooked and cooled off I season with some greek yogurt, garlic and olive oil – salt and pepper to taste of course. Delicious, cost effective and incredibly healthy.

Grilled fruit salad with Mint: We love grilling up fruits like strawberries, watermelon and pineapple. Making fruit kabobs is an incredibly easy twist to make fruit even more delicious. After I’ve cut the fruit into bite sized pieces I toss them in a little vanilla extract and fresh mint. To prepare I just layer strawberries, melon and pineapple and pop on the grill for a few minutes allowing the fruit to develop char marks and just warm slightly through.

BBQ Scraper giveaway

When Mollen Living the awesome people behind BBQ Scraper reached out to me and offered to host this giveaway to one lucky TTBH reader in honor of Father’s Day and the start of grilling season I jumped on the opportunity because not only is their product eco-friendly but it makes cleaning your BBQ safe and easy .BBQ Scraper is 100% natural, as no chemicals or preservatives are used in the process allowing for a completely natural product!

The BBQ Scraper is awesome because it customizes itself to your grill pattern because of its soft wood which makes cleaning your grill a breeze. Once you use it on a hot grill a few times the wood takes on the shape of your grill and does an incredible job cleaning off all that messy gunk. After many many reports of BBQ brushes with bristles being unsafe Mer and I had actually abandoned our own BBQ brush in lieu of using crumpled up tin foil a few years back. In recent years, we were balling up a piece of tin foil and using long BBQ tongues to help guide the foil over the heated grills which although does the job semi-well, often results in singed arm hairs and skin burns. We tried the BBQ Scraper for the first time this weekend when prepping our grill for our friends and family BBQ and we’re hooked! The edge of BBQ Scraper is angled in such a way that grooves start to form into the scraper from it’s first use, quickly customizing to the user’s BBQ. The more it is used the deeper the grooves form until it perfectly surrounds the grilling surface and is able to perfectly clean the grill surface.

To enter the giveaway

It’s easy peasy.

  • Simply answer the question below to be entered to win a BBQ Scraper of your very own!
  • For extra entries tweet, pin and/or share this post on facebook and then post separate comments with the url to each of your shares in the comments below! Each share is an extra entry!
Like this post? Pin it to Pinterest!

 

Contest closes on Friday June 16th at 11:59 P.M. Winner will have a BBQ scraper shipped to them directly from Mollen Living! Open to U.S & Canada! Good luck!

What are your favorite BBQ recipe?

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Don’t niche yourself into a corner 

Morning folks!

I hope you’re all having a great week so far. The weather in these parts has been pretty crummy but the forecast is calling for a good amount of sun coming up so things are due to improve which is great! Nothing sucks more than being stuck inside with a toddler who has suddenly realized that doors lead to amazing outside places. Needless to say, Margsy is super grumpy and just itching to get outside and play. I’ll often catch her standing at the front window pointing outdoors and saying “go, go, go”. Here’s hoping that sun starts peeking out really really soon.

So enough about my endless complaining about the weather. Today I actually want to talk to ya’ll about blog niches. In the last few weeks I’ve gotten a couple of emails from readers asking about blog niches and how I chose mine and if I have any suggestions to create a “successful” blog. So, to address these questions I’ll break this post in two because ultimately there’s a belief that selecting the correct blog “niche” will somehow lead to blog success and that some niches are inherently more successful than others.

So, to start off let’s look at what a blog niche is roughly defined as per google:

A niche website is a site that focuses on a narrow group of people in a larger market with a common specific interest. While targeting a very specific term that people use on search engines, a niche site offers its visitors helpful and quality content that answers a question or solves a problem

With that in mind we can come to the conclusion that specific topics like beauty, fashion, parenting, travel, food, recipe development, tech and frugal living can be considered examples of “niche” blogs.

Interestingly, if you do a few google searches for things like “how to create a niche blog”, “tips for a successful niche blog” and “niche blog success” most of the posts that you’ll return will give you essentially the same information. They all seem to promote this idea that narrowing down your blog to a specific topic that you’ll focus on exclusively  will brand you correctly and put you in a position to garner the greatest amount of success. Some of these articles even go so far as to tell you to pick a profitable niche regardless of whether the topic interests you or not. In this scenario the focus is on the end result of “success” and not necessarily on the value you bring to blogging.

Let’s be honest folks, if you’re not passionate, knowledgeable and interested in the topic you are writing about you’ll never become successful because that “drive” that is required to blog consistently will eventually fade away. Being consistent and dedicated to blogging is hard work even when you love your topic so going that route is really not the best course of action. If you don’t truly enjoy what you’re writing about then you’ll never have the drive to keep going. So, my advice is to find a niche you are passionate about. Love to write about parenting? Go for it. Love getting creative in the kitchen? Share your recipes! Love to create crafts and do DIY projects? Well, start taking photos and tell the entire world about it! Don’t love technology? Well, don’t write about! It’s really that simple.

3 Reasons why you don’t have to niche yourself into a corner

So now that we’ve gotten into this whole niche blogging thing I wanted to talk a little about why I personally believe that sticking to one niche is unnecessary and that you can become a successful blogger without necessarily limiting yourself to one area of “expertise”. My blog is relatively new and I’m so incredibly grateful to have gained traction and momentum when it comes to building a solid readership and following both here on This Tiny Blue House and on my social media platforms. My blog is somewhat successful because I believe that writing about things that I’m passionate about comes through in my writing (I hope). Now, because I’ve seen a small amount of success in a relatively short amount of blogging time doesn’t really give me any klout but, I’m sharing my opinions because I was asked to. Beyond this it’s up to you fine folks to take my advice for what it’s worth. This is where I stand with regards to blogging and clearly there will be other more or less successful bloggers who wholeheartedly disagree with me and that’s perfectly okay. This is just one opinion about situating yourself within this vast internet space we call the blogosphere.

So enough about that!  Let’s take my blog as example. I blog about a few different things, don’t I? I’ve written about financial stuff, frugal living, high risk pregnancy, parenting, minimalism, food, gardening and even blog tech stuff. I’m all over the place right? Well, all these topics interest me and fall within my interest profile. I truly enjoy writing about all these things and so I somehow manage to weave my posts in and out of these very different topics.

As a result I’m a mom blog, a frugal living blog, a simple living blog, a blog tech blog and miscarriage survivor blog all rolled up into one very messy package. I’m all of these things both offline and online and these are the topics that make me tick. So, I write about them – a lot.

Based on the information I presented to you above, I probably shouldn’t be seeing any success right? I don’t fit neatly into any one niche because I never blog exclusively about frugal living, parenting, simple living or blog tech. Instead, I try and find a balance between writing about all of them since in many ways my interests are fluid and very much overlapping.

In a nutshell and to summarize you shouldn’t niche yourself into a corner because

1] Chances are you are not solely interested in one “niche”. Instead, you’re interests are likely varied, different and overlapping. Use your blog as a way to find an intersection of the many different interest profiles that dominate your life. Not only will you be providing your readers with varied content I bet you’ll have an easier time coming up with fresh content because you’ll have so many awesome categories and interests to pick from.

2] Readers aren’t exclusively interested in one niche either. It’s perfectly okay to have readers who pop in and out to read your frugal living posts but not your parenting posts! You don’t have to appeal to any one specific category of reader at all times. Offering a varied menu allows for different groups of readers to make their way over to your blog and share their ideas which in most cases can offer interesting and fresh perspectives.

3] Niche blogging limits your opportunities as a blogger. Again, totally my opinion but narrowing down your blog and packaging it up to fit into one very specific category really limits your potential. When blogs start to take off and blogging requirements include consistency it’s difficult to draft engaging, original and well thought out content day after day. So, leaving your possibilities open because you enjoy writing about different topics and themes can really help you stay on top of your blogging game. When a blog starts to generate revenue, niche blogging can go one of two ways. Take TTBH for example, when it comes to sponsored posts my varied content has allowed me to connect with a bunch of very cool companies that don’t necessarily fit into the same category. Had I blogged exclusively within one niche then I highly doubt I’d be presented with the same possibilities and variety. Having said that, niche blogging is known for generating a ton of revenue because of the very specific readership that comes with it. Despite this, I’m really of the mindset that it’s better to leave your options open (if that’s your thing) and give yourself as many opportunities as possible.

Like this post? Kindly share it to Pinterest to spread the word!

So tell me, are you a niche blogger? What are your thoughts?

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