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Monday, December 16, 2013

How to Make a Budget

If you have question about money, feel free to ask. I'll feature it on Money Question Monday.

Some people don't want to have a budget because they think it would take away their freedom to spend. But if you are married and having money disagreements about how much he spent/she spent on video games/clothes, I think you will find a budget to be totally freeing. If you have both agreed on an amount for your personal spending money ahead of time, and especially if it is in cash with the envelope system, you will feel a freedom to spend all of that cash, without reprisal, at whatever store you choose.

My accordion-style envelope system. We haven't spent all of our money yet!
In order to set up a budget spread sheet, you can go here, and look for monthly budget, "click here to start". Or you can create your own spread sheet.

If you can, set up your utilities where they will charge you the same amount each month by taking the average of what you use, spread over a year. They call it the "budget plan" where I live. It's just more convenient if you know that you are always going to pay the same amount.

Gather up all of your bills, and a few months of bank statements (or credit card statements, if you use those awful things).

I'm going to write this with the premise that you want to cut back on your spending in order to pay off debt, save up to buy something big, start putting money away for retirement, or start saving for your kid's college. Maybe you're already doing all that and you don't need to cut back on anything.

Put your family's monthly income at the top of your spreadsheet.

If you believe in tithing, (and I do) put in 10% of your pretax paycheck to your church first.  

Fill in all of your monthly bills second. This will include things like a house payment, car payment, electric, gas, water, cell phone, internet, TV, insurance payments, gym membership, student loan minimum payments, credit card minimum payments, and other loan minimum payments.

Can you cut back on any of those bills? Have you shopped around to get the cheapest internet? Can you cut back on your tv bill by using netflix streaming at $10 a month, or even free tv with the antenna? Do you have the cheapest cell phone that is practical for you? Have you shopped your insurance? Could you take up jogging instead of paying a gym membership? If you are renting, could you find a cheaper place?

Next, assuming you aren't using a cash system, look through your statements to see how much you are spending on gas, and figure out an average for each month. Budget a little more than the average for gas. This is an area that is hard to plan exactly, and I want you to have a little wiggle room, since you are not exactly going to stop driving to work or other places if you go over your gas budget.

Look your statements again to see how much you usually spend in restaurants. When you total up this number, you might just possibly be shocked. Is that how much money you want to spend on something that doesn't last? Food is much cheaper at the grocery store. Talk to your spouse about how much you want to eat out, and what a good number for that is. This is a good one for your cash envelopes.

Figure out how much you are spending on groceries. A good number to start with is $150 per person, per month. It might be more for you if you're single, or less if you have tiny children who won't even eat the small amount of food you give them. This is also a good one to use cash envelopes for.

A difficult one to figure out is personal spending money. This is what you would use to buy yourself a coffee, some shoes, crafting supplies, video games, music, clothes, a doodad for the mantle, or perhaps a saxophone that you found at a yard sale. My husband often uses his personal money for us when we run out of restaurant money. I guess he doesn't have too much that he wants to buy. I, on the other hand, almost always have a purchase in mind that is just waiting for ATM day. What do your husbands like to buy? 

You and your husband do not even have to have the same amount of personal money, if that is what you agree that you both want to spend. Maybe he wants to save up for a four wheeler. He can put most of his personal money in a savings account instead of in cash. Figure out how much you have been spending. Most people will be able to cut this number back. When you are on a budget, you will learn to be more careful with what you buy. You will remember to check and make sure those jeans don't have the kind of pockets that you hate. You won't buy those shoes unless they are the most comfortable shoes possible. You will check online reviews to make sure you aren't buying something of low quality. You will only buy things that you really love. 

When you don't buy things very often, each purchase becomes more special, more enjoyable, and more of a treat. When you limit your shopping, I think you will enjoy it a lot more.

Add into your budget money for buying birthday gifts, maybe some home improvement money, date night/babysitting money, clothes money for the kids. Maybe you have some pets you need to budget some money for, or medication, or hair cuts. Look through your accounts and see if there is anything you need to budget for.

How much money is left over? Put that toward Dave Ramsey's baby steps:

 1. $1,000 to start an emergency fund.
2. Pay off all debt except your house, starting with the smallest one.
3. Save up 3 to 6 months of expenses in saving.
4. Start saving 15% for retirement.
5. Start saving for kid's college fund.
6. Pay off your house early.
7. Build wealth and give.

If you want to save up money for a car, vacation, or house down-payment, you could probably start that after baby step 2. If you have student loans that will take years to pay off and your car is on its last legs, you might need to start saving for that before all of your debt is paid off. But is your car really on its last legs? Cars are made a lot better than they used to be. If you are still paying off debt, your car will probably make it to 200,000 miles. Or more. If your car is ten years old, don't worry, it's still a baby. When you are doing really well, you will have enough money that you will no longer have to drive a car with 200,000 miles on it. In my financial counseling, I have found that cars are the number one thing that hold people back from doing well. Don't let car envy get the best of you. Be strong, my friend.

Happy Budgeting.

Friday, December 13, 2013

How to Sew Buttons with a Sewing Machine

I'm still sewing a few ornaments.

I don't enjoy sewing buttons. It seems so tedious. It's hard find the hole when your needle is on the back side. I think it's much easier to use your sewing machine.

You don't have to take the foot off of your sewing machine. I took it off so you could see the pictures better.

Don't use the foot pedal. You need to hand-position each stitch over the hole of the button and turn the knob so you can control the speed of each stitch. You don't even have to turn on your sewing machine.

Tie a knot twice with the two pieces of thread that will be sticking out the front.

And tie a knot on the back side.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cable Pattern Ear Warmer Pattern and Picture Cable Tutorial

I made this ear warmer last year. I'm pretty sure I made up the pattern, but I can't quite remember. It is not actually unique, so it doesn't really matter.

If you haven't tried a cable pattern before, it is much simpler than it looks. At least, I had thought it would be very complicated.

Why is that ear warmer in the Christmas tree? It must want you to make one as a Christmas present. After all, you do have a drawer full of yarn, and this project is perfect for a smallish bit of leftover yarn.

I love the tiny bits of blue in this yarn.

A much more adorable model has volunteered, but he "doesn't want to smile." Perhaps because ear warmers are for girls?

"I want to smile! I want to smile!"

You're going to need a dooflobby.

Dooflobby. I'm sure this little tool has a real name. And yet, I don't feel motivated to look it up.

But you can make your own with a paperclip.

Ear Warmer Pattern:

Use mediumish yarn and mediumish needles. It doesn't matter too much, because you can use your own head to measure how long it should be.

Cast on 24 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 3, purl 3, knit 3, purl 6, knit 3, purl 3, knit 3.
Row 2: Knit 6, purl 3, knit 6, purl 3, knit 6.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until the 8th row.
Row 8: (The right side should be facing you).Knit 6, purl 3,
(Follow the pictures for the instructions to the rest of row 8).

Slip your dooflobby onto the next three stitches.

Keep the three stitches on the dooflobby and pull it off your needle.

Ignore the dooflobby like I ignore the laundry and knit the next three stitches.

Slip the dooflobby with the three stitches back onto the left needle.

Pull the dooflobby off, leaving the three stitches on the needle. Knit 3, purl 3, knit 6 to finish row 8.

It will look like this, except that I have finished more than eight rows.

Repeat the 8 rows until the ear warmer is long enough to go around your head without being too tight or too loose. Bind it off and either sew or crochet the ends together.

Have you done a cable pattern before?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thoughts on Gift-Wrapping From a Professional Wrapper

That one Christmas season at JCPenney entitles me with the right to claim my status as a professional gift-wrapper, and all the rights and privileges therein. There was one girl that I was working with who couldn't find a parking spot one day because of all the mall traffic, so she just never came back. She probably doesn't have any rights or privileges.

Since I want you to save money and also have a less cluttered house, I have a purchase to recommend to you. First, you need to use up all the Christmas wrapping paper that you have in your house. Then you need to go to Sam's with your mom, because she has a membership, and buy one giant roll of wrapping paper that you will wrap everything in for years. This is 375 square feet of wrapping paper. The first roll I pulled up at Walmart was 12.5 square feet. Regular wrapping paper=14 cents a square foot. Sam's wrapping paper=2 cents a square foot.

It is reversible, so you have two coordinating designs, which I think looks nice under the tree. And it's sturdy. 

Now you only have one roll of wrapping paper! Hurray for less clutter! Hurray for that you didn't have to waste packaging.

Does anyone know where I can find birthday paper as wonderful as this?

My second idea, is not really my idea. I read this in Better Homes and Gardens a few years back. Make gift tags out of your Christmas cards. Pick a pretty part of the card that is blank on the backside, cut out a rectangle, and snip the corners if you want. Then hole-punch it. 

You don't mind if I don't go back and flip this picture in the right direction, right?
Write your tos and froms on the back. Tie it on with a ribbon.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Ornaments, A Great Chance To Use Up Some Extra Fabric.

A few weeks ago, I went to Lowe's, and I was inspired by their cute little ornaments. So I have finally gotten around to making my own!

Since ornaments are small, you might have some scraps of fabric that you can use. In fact, if you have been sewing for any length of time, I know that you have scraps that you can use. A whole drawer full. I had that green fabric left over from when I tried to make quilted pot holders. It seemed to conduct more heat than it insulted. So I gave that up. It didn't even look cute. It was a disaster all the way around. But I'm sure I learned something from that experience.

I have so much scrap material that I'm going to use it as stuffing. I can't think of anything else to use it for, so it's a great way to recycle. You don't actually need to cut your stuffing into such small pieces. Large pieces turned out to be much easier. As you are cutting your shapes, go ahead and add your new scraps to the stuffing pile.

Can you believe I bought this red, striped fabric without realizing that I would make candy canes out of it? Cut a candy cane shape, leaving 1/4"-1/2" for the seam. I cut mine about 8 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches wide, but after I sewed it and stuffed it, it is 6 1/2 inches tall and 2 1/4 inches wide. 

Place right sides together and pin a ribbon loop upside down at the top. When you turn it inside out, the loop will be facing up the correct way.

Leave a couple of inches unsewn so you can turn it inside out and stuff it.

 I found that a knitting needle was helpful to get the ornaments turned fully inside out and useful with the candy cane to push the stuffing in.

Sew up the edge by hand.

Below is a failed Christmas tree. This shape didn't work very well for stuffing. I put a tree trunk on there using a brown fabric, but it only complicated things. If those two things hadn't been a problem, it would be a problem that I forgot to put a ribbon at the top, and I forgot to leave a hole to flip it inside out. Another lesson learned.

This is a much better shape. It is 6 inches tall and 5 1/2 inches wide. That shrinks to 4 1/2 by 4 3/4 when sewn and stuffed.

I used a different fabric on the front and the back, which causes extreme cuteness.

Cut a slit into the corners so it doesn't pucker in the armpits when you turn it inside out.

The first ornament takes a while, but the subsequent ones go faster. By the time I did the fourth tree, I did the sewing machine part in under two minutes. I timed it. Ha!

Of course the sewing machine part is the easiest part.

Be careful that you don't poke a hole with the knitting needle when you use it to make the tree limbs stick out.

Be sure to press your stuffing into the tree limbs so they don't flop around like so.

See the scrap fabric I stuffed in there?

I have special knot-tying technique that I invented. Though I'm sure I'm not the only one to use it. It's hard to see in the picture, but pull some excess thread back through the needle so that when you make your next stitch, you will have a lot of thread sticking out where you would normally want it pulled all the way through.

Now you have thread on both sides, and you just tie a knot like the first part of tying your shoe, without the bow. Knot it three or four times to be thorough.

Did I explain that well?

Then you can add some beaded garland.

I just tied knots on the corners, not after every single bead.

Or you can add some jingle bell ornaments. Or maybe some button ornaments. But you would want to sew those on before you did everything else. Or leave it blank. That's cute too.

Are you making any gifts this year?