We gave new life to a lot of items we had around the house-- turning an old telephone wire into a clothesline; old curtains into cloth napkins; food boxes into drawer organizers to name a few. We also reused things far beyond their "one-time use", like yogurt containers and peanut butter jars that make great holders for buttons, beads and other little stuff. I learned a trick from fellow blogger, Sparx (you can find her blog on my blogroll titled "Notes From Inside My Head") and washed baby wipes to re-use over and over again, and also recycled ice cream buckets to hold the wipes-- both clean and dirty.
I am lucky enough to have a friend that runs a consignment shop and I was able to sell my children's too-small clothing and toys and buy clothing they needed at a fraction of the price. Unless I told you, you'd never know the clothes and shoes they wore were second-hand. The husband and I both scour thrift shops and yard sales for items we can use or sell and we have been able to keep from paying full price for brand new items that would have otherwise broke the bank. We cancelled our satellite TV and my pager and saved nearly $100 a month on those two alone!
We had a garden and, while it wasn't our biggest, it was enough to give us plenty to eat. I canned many jars of jams, applesauce and tomatoes; froze corn, strawberries, pumpkin, and zucchini; dried apples and bananas. I'm grateful that I had the know-how to do so and a husband that knew to keep the kids out of the kitchen while mama was "cannin' up a storm!" and didn't mind eating pizza or sandwiches because I was too tired from canning to cook dinner. Growing our own foods helped save us even more money by not having to buy certain items at the store. 2008 also saw us making more things from scratch and relying less on "ready-made" mixes and discovering the food we are eating from scratch wasn't that hard to make and tasted so much better than the box. The bonus? it was healthier for us, too! We now buy less and less boxed foods and make just about everything from cakes to flavored rices, baby food to soups.
I made and baked all our Christmas presents to family and friends and gave some of those canned jams as gifts as well. We didn't have to buy (not that we could have anyway) any presents and all the gifts were enjoyed by everyone. If we had spent an average of $20 per person for gifts, we would have spent well over $300. By making bird ornaments, monsters and dolls from fabric I already had, jams from food we grew, fudges and cookies from pantry items, I spent less than $35 total on gifts for over 16 people! That's monetary value, the time invested in making those gifts is far more valuable and I cannot calculate the time invested.
Another way we saved money was by chopping and splitting our own wood for heat. We scrimped and saved and managed to buy a log splitter from a friend which has saved us many hours (and our backs!) of splitting wood by axe. We no longer have to buy oil to heat our house and now with a new (to us) chain saw, we can cut down our own trees next year for wood to burn. That log splitter has already paid for itself because the amount of wood we use to heat the house would have cost us over $1000 without it.
2009 will still find us living frugally. Our circumstances haven't changed: my husband is still working the same part-time job and we still have the same mortgage and car payments to make, but we are doing more things to try and improve our circumstances. We are garden-dreaming and planning to plant a larger garden this year with emphasis on more herbs, a variety of vegetables, and potatoes. If money permits, I'm hoping to add apple and cherry trees to our tiny 3-tree orchard and I would also like to get some grapevines set in, too. The same friend we bought our log splitter from has a small tiller for sale and we are now putting aside money to buy that from him.
The cat food and litter we buy changed their packaging. More plastic, but we see the silver lining-- it's very similar to the plastic they use in weed blocking fabric, so we have been saving the bags to use in the garden this Spring. That will save us money and time! Less weed pulling to do, or at least we hope so!
I must add that we have been blessed with generous friends and family, who have been kind enough to help us out here and there. Barefoot from Barefoot in the Garden (also in my blogroll) sent us her daughter's car seat for Baby (Thanks again!). An old co-worker has kept in touch with me through my mom, gives us clothes from his own kids who happen to be a year ahead of my own children, many of them never worn and still with the tags on them. Members of my MIL's church, whom we have never met, bought us several hundred dollars worth of groceries and cash and gifts for Baby. Our own family members have also been extra generous with us, giving us more than usual for birthdays and Christmas gifts and "just because" and for that, we are forever grateful and humbled by all the support we have received. I know we would not have made it this far without their help and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Here's hoping 2009 will be a good year for all of us, and may you be blessed with loving family and friends. Happy New Year, my friends!