No Spend Days

Hello, again my friends! I’ve been offline for a while, but hope to get this railroad back on a paying basis, so to speak.

I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s blogs and folks are doing an event called the “No Spend Days,” where in order to save money, you designate certain days as”No Spend Days.” Each week you try to add an additional day, if possible. Eventually, just like training for a 5k, you take the (flourish of trumpets, please) “No Spend Month Challenge!!!”

So, for this month, I have randomly marked days as NSD and with exception of buying petrol or paying on a bill, no money can be spent. In addition, as an extra challenge, I need to do a money transfer to a “No Touch” savings account.

I saw there is an online bank called Qapital which has no fees, actually pays interest (although not much) and is insured through Wells Fargo. There is no minimum balance to keep and to assist with savings, you can set up “rules” through an app called IFTTT. Some rules are things like, “Whenever a satellite goes by overhead, transfer X amount of dollars to my savings account;” or “Every time President Trump tweets, transfer X amount of dollars to my savings account.” There is, in addition, weekly or monthly auto transfers; a round-up transfer, where when you buy something, it will round up the amount to one you designate, such as the nearest dollar or nearest $3 or whatever; a freestanding transfer where you manually transfer money

So, I started this app, Qapital, in the middle of August. I’ve set several goals to save towards: Christmas gifts; trip to Alaska and Donatello’s College. (I want to send hubby back to school for his Master’s Degree. We refuse to take out student loans, so he’ll be taking one or two classes at a time and paying for it as we go.)

Anyway, the app has been working rather well for me. In less than two months, I’ve siphoned close to $500 into it, by saving a buck here and a buck there.

Back to the No Spend Day.

On certain days, which you designate ahead of time, you vow to not spend anything. Not on coffee. Not on a Dollar-Menu burger. Nada. Zip. Zero.

Instead, you look what you have already in your freezer and pantry and cook dinner from that. This week, I’m on my third NSD and yesterday I remembered that I had class that night, so I wouldn’t be home to make dinner. To keep hubby frim being tempted to grab a fast-food dinner, I found some jars of tomatoes I’d canned the previous summer and some bell peppers languishing in the crisper. In a separate pan, I fried some ground sausage to cut down on the grease going into the sauce, as well as increase the flavour. Most of the grease was dumped into my grease can and left a tablespoon in it for a can of mushrooms and chopped up onion and garlic. Fried those quickly, then dumped it into the pot with the tomatoes. Tossed a frozen hot sausage in the sauce, but I wanted to clear the fridge and stretch the sauce a bit more. Found a quart of cooked rice in the fridge and dumped it in. Now, instead of just one meal for my family of four, we can squeeze two meals out. Hubby texted me to say he made spaghetti and dumped some of the sauce over it. The kiddies went nuts over it and had two bowls.

Give it a try, even just for a month. Designate 10 days as No Spend Days and see how much you can save.

Will you give it a try? Tell us your tips for staying on track!

 

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Gardening to save money

Good morning, my friends! I hope all is well with you. I am looking out the front window at the snow and wondering if spring will ever arrive. I keep looking for a glimpse of the crocuses we have planted, but as of yet…still nothing.

The front of our house faces due west. In the winter, it means the winds and cold hit dead on and in the summer the killer sun beats down on the front brick facade and heats the bedroom and living room to unbearable temperatures, since we had no trees in the front yard. We had a sweet gum tree that produces these pompom balls which give nothing but sprained ankles from walking on them; bruises, when the lawnmower shoots one out at high speed and it nails you and roots that get into the foundation of your home, the sewer system etc. Basically, beyond shade, it doesn’t do much. After it clogged up and collapsed part of our sewer line and cost us a great deal of money, we cut down the tree, ground up the roots and put in a tulip and lily garden, in the front yard. The first summer after the tree was cut down was horrible. The living room, which has two ceiling to floor windows, was turned into an oven. The thermostat would be set for 70 degrees and the living room temp would remain at 90 deg or above, even with lined curtains drawn, until sunset. After two summers, we found native wild cherry tree saplings that a friend was digging up. We took these tiny saplings, which were about two feet tall and planted them in front of the windows. In three years, they grew taller than the front windows and shaded the windows. They are native to Illinois, so the extreme heat of summer, drought and cold winters don’t seem to faze the trees much. In six years, they have reached their full height, of about eighteen feet high. In the summer, the front windows are completely shaded.

Front windows facing due west. In the summer, the sun would turn the living room into an oven.
Front windows facing due west. In the summer, the sun would turn the living room into an oven.
Native cherry trees are on the left side of the picture. They completely shade the porch and front windows.
Native cherry trees are on the left side of the picture. They completely shade the porch and front windows.

So that leaves the bedroom and playroom window exposed. I’ve been trying to think of how to block the sun, yet not have the neighbors whine that it looks trashy. I also want to take advantage of the long hours of sunshine. Therefore, I am putting up some trellises and planting sugar snap peas on them. The trellis will support the bean vines, which will in turn block the sun; look pretty so the code enforcement guy doesn’t get a call, as well as provide food for my family. The sugar snap peas have a very shallow root system, so they won’t interfere with any plants I already have in the area.

I’ve been looking for vegetables that I buy often (either fresh, frozen or canned) which I can grow in my garden. I go through a lot of tomatoes, for sauce, salads, salsa and soup, so that will be a necessity. In the summer, purchasing tomatoes may be cheap at the grocery store, but in the winter, they can be expensive. Peppers of all types are another vegetable we go through a lot of. Those are two plants that I purchase the small one-inch pots of and plant them. Some plants, rather than purchase seeds or the PLANT, I buy the vegetable itself and grow my garden from that. Last year, I grew Romaine lettuce (from the bottom part of the stalk) cabbage (again, from the core) beets (from the tops of the beet plant.) Unfortunately, the intense heat of the summer killed the lettuce and cabbage worms got the cabbage. The beets were doing well, and then disappeared. There are several vegetables that you can grow from the scraps of the ones you already have purchased, just by planting the tops or the cores: lettuce, cabbage, beets, celery, leeks, scallions, bok choy, lemon grass and onions are just some of the vegetables. Many are container-friendly, so you can grow them in the garden as well as a container for winter use.

Pineapple plant growing from the top of a pineapple I ate last summer.
Pineapple plant growing from the top of a pineapple I ate last summer.
Another pineapple top from one we ate last summer.
Another pineapple top from one we ate last summer.

Pineapple are not an item that can be grown outside (unless you live in a tropical area, like Hawai’i) nor do they grow and produce with a year. Most vegetables grown from scraps will produce within that year. Pineapple, though are a labor of love. I won’t see any fruit for another two years, if ever…but they are a pretty plant, even if they don’t produce.

Celery can be grown from the root. Simply take the entire stalk and cut off about the bottom inch. Place the bottom part, root-side down in a shallow dish of water. Use just enough water to cover the roots of the plant and place in a sunny, warm window. Keep enough water in the dish to keep the roots covered and within a few days, roots will form and a few leaf shoots on top. Plant in the soil, leaving the new shoots exposed. Keep the soil moist, but not saturated. In a short time, it will re-generate itself. Cut off the outer stalks as you need them, but leave the plant intact. You can have fresh celery all summer long.

Onions can be grown the same way. Cut off the root end and put it, root-side down, into moist soil. Keep the soil moist, but not saturated and in a warm, sunny window. The onion will grow into a new bulb. Do not let the plant flower, so this way the leaves will put all of it’s energy into giving you a nice, fat bulb. Pull up the onion, cut off the bottom and re-plant. Garlic is also done this way. Plant a clove, root side down. Keep the soil moist; keep a flower from forming and in a month or so, by cutting back the shoots, you will have a nice, juicy bulb of garlic. During the summer, I will plant my garden outside, but in the winter months, when I long for growing plants and fresh veggies, I look no further than the front window.

Once the ground thaws…IF it ever thaws, the trellises with the beans and sugar snap peas will help to block the sun, which in turn will cut down on my air conditioning bill AND cut down on my grocery bill. I am looking at sunflowers, which I understand, can also be used as a trellis for beans, as long as the sunflowers are the mammoth type. By growing our own sunflower seeds, it will cut down on our birdseed bill as well. We already grow a patch of Rudbeckia which feed the goldfinch in the autumn. Every little bit helps, right?

Until next time, my friends, I hope someone has made you smile today. If not, then bring an extra smile to work or school, so you can share it: shake a veteran’s hand; bring a neighbor’s trash cans in, before they blow into the street; stop for the crazy squirrel who attempts to cross the street as you are coming; hold the door for the person behind you; grab a wagon you see moving in the parking lot, before it hits someone’s car; throw your bread crusts out for the birds or squirrels. We all need to help one another on this planet, whether we are tall or small; two legs, four legs or no legs…we live together on this planet, so let’s love one another like a family should.