Friday, January 30, 2015

Nine Things You Need To Live A DIY/MYO Life


A lot of people go into the the preparedness/self-sufficiency/homesteading lifestyle thinking they can buy whatever they need and they will be fine. However, that is far from the truth. Very far from the truth.

Much of this lifestyle comes from the fact that most people want the simple life. They want to save money and provide for themselves. That is great! It is exactly why I wanted the simple life. But the "simple life" involves more than saving money and providing for yourself.

The "simple life" involves being able to do for yourself. It involves being a DIY (do it yourself) and MYO (make your own) kind of person.

Folks, being that kind of person isn't easy. I am not always that kind of person. I believe being a DIYer and MYOer takes nine things and/or attributes. Sometimes you don't always have to have these all at the same time, but you need to be able to be working on them all the time.

What do you need to live a DIY/MYO Life? 

1. Attitude

Attitude is a big one. Being positive and optimistic will help you get things done. Having a "can do" attitude will make the projects seem easier when they are not. Taking on new projects will not seem like a chore, but a joy when you have a good attitude.

2. Self-discipline

Self-discipline will help you get the job done. Having self-discipline to improve yourself and your homestead and to get things done will make the DIY/MYO life a lot easier.

3. Self-motivation (Gumption)

Some people call self-motivation "gumption". I do too. Very few people can make do anything. Only you can get your projects started. Only you can get your projects started.

4. Creativity

Oh my, creativity is a big part of the DIY/MYO lifestyle. Sometimes you only have certain items on hand to make something and no money to buy more. Sometimes you need a solution to a problem and have to use what is on hand because the store is closed. Creativity is a talent in my mind which is why I have books and materials on hand to help with my creativity (or lack thereof).

5. Grace

You have to give yourself grace. You will not get everything done in a day. Something will go wrong. Your idea might not work out. Your solution might not work out. Step back, think it over, and start again. Learn to forgive yourself and move on.

6. Skills: Learning and Mastering

For the DIY/MYO life, learning skills is a must. We are not born knowing everything and so we must learn. Learn how to sew. Learn how to garden. Learn how to build fences. Learn how to build anything. Keeping learning and practicing. Eventually you will master those skills.

7. Ambition and/or Laziness

Being ambitious and wanting to do more is an important attribute for this life. Gardening, raising chickens, maintaining beehives, canning food, and more all take ambition. Laziness can also attribute to this life. Sometimes I DIY/MYO because I am too lazy to go to town, to the store, or to the neighbors to get what I need. Laziness can be a great friend or a great enemy - just depends on how to take advantage of it!

8. Materials: Free and Not Free

This DIY/MYO life takes materials to build, to make, and to do. Since I am pretty frugal, I have little desire to buy anything and am willing to take a lot of things for free. I might not need them right now, but put them away for a time when I will need them. I don't throw out much if I think I will have a need for it. I also recognize that I will need to buy materials from time to time. That can be a given.

9. Patience

Patience is necessary for any DIY/MYO life. Patience to understand that not everything will get done overnight. Patience to wait until you have the funds to do the projects you want. Patience when you need to start over again because the chickens died or the garden got washed out.  Patience when you have to fix a fence for the third time. Patience will do more for you than being frustrated.

Does this seem a bit daunting? Don't let it be. You shouldn't be all things all the time. You can do this! Doing things yourself and making things yourself can be the most satisfying feeling in the world!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Sunday Savings on the Homestead Week 3: Turn Down The Thermostat!

Every Sunday I will be posting a Sunday Savings on the Homestead. This posts will concentrate on one money saving thing you and I can do to save money for the week. Some will be easy, some will be be a bit difficult, and all will concentrate on one way to save money for the week. Please join me in trying to live a frugal life in 2015!

We all like to be warm in the winter. Some people like a cooler house and some people like a warmer house. I like a warmer house, but my budget does not like a warmer house. So I try to keep the thermostat set to 66-68 degrees. 


Two weeks ago, however, I caved. It was so cold! My house was freezing so I turned it up to 70 degrees. Being that high took the edge off of the chilly. This week's temperatures are much more mild so...


down goes the thermostat! Back to 68 degrees which is normal for my household. Overnight, I will turn it down to 65 degrees. 

This week's Sunday Savings on the Homestead is to turn down the thermostat by at least two degrees for the week. See if you like it and can handle it. Then try for two weeks or the rest of the winter!

By turning down the thermostat, you will save money on your utility or gas bill which will add more money to your budget! 

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pay Attention To Your Bills!


Something interesting happened to me yesterday. I got my utility bill for last month. The fun thing is that it went down!

Please let me back up and explain a few things. My whole house is electric. My bill will never be under $200 unless I put in solar panels or not live there for a month. For the last four years, I have been on budget billing which was working out for me.

Until October. The utility company decided to raise my budget for the third time in one year. From $361 to $396 to $476 a month. I thought the last raise was ridiculous and I was justifiably irked. I went online and looked at my last two years worth of bills. On my bill, they show the budgeted amount and the actual cost for the month. My bill had only reached $400 once. Last year when it got really, really cold in January/February.

I do budgets for customers where I work so I am familiar with how they are done. I did the math on my utility bill and could not come up with the amount they did of $476 for a month. Again, ridiculous!

So....I went off budget. That is a big scary step for someone who wants to be on a budget. I thought maybe I had been foolish so I gave myself a timeline. Six months which includes winter. I would be off budget for six months to see if that would work.

Has it been working? Yes!

My bill in November - $211.
My bill in December - $379.
My bill in January - $344.

Have I become a light dictator? You bet.
Does the house feel chilly a lot? Yes.
Can we handle it? Yes.

I did the same thing with my land line phone bill. We were not using it and were paying $55-60 a month for it. The phone company was not willing to deal so I got rid of the land line. We all have cell phones and I needed that money back into my budget anyway.

Verizon got downsized too. I dropped my data plan from 4G to 3G. Then from 3G to 2G. My bill went from $110 a month to $90 a month. After I dropped to 2G, I got a text from Verizon on being a loyal customer and offering a free upgrade to 4G for the same price as 2G. So I am back to 4G and only paying $90 a month. Booyah!

My point is? Pay attention to your bills!

These companies provide a service and that is great! I need it or I wouldn't be using it. However, they do not have a right to take more money than what is necessary. This is your money that you worked for and deserve to have some say over how it is being used.

Since you are working hard for your money, working on a budget, and trying to make your money go further, NOW is the time for an audit on your bills. What are you being charged for? Why? Should you be? Should it be that much?

If you are on budget billing with other companies, check their math. Add up the last twelve months of the actual month billing (not the budgeted amount) and divide by twelve. Does your math come close to theirs? If you have anything rented from them, be sure to include that. If your math does not come close to their math, call them for an explanation and an immediate remedy to the situation. My utility company could not explain well enough for me so I dropped the budget billing.

Check your bank statements to make what is withdrawn is the same amount as you are being billed. I have caught discrepancies there too. Call the company who billed you immediately for an explanation. They are only human and make mistakes too.

Your financial future is your hands. That life lesson took me a long time to understand, but now that I do...I take it very seriously. Look closely at all your bills and don't be afraid to question them. This is your money and you have the control over how it is spent!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Mama Kautz

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Preparedness on the Cheap: Learning Your Evacuation Routes


No one wants to think about evacuating their home. I know I would not leave mine until I absolutely had to or was forced to leave. However, in being prepared, we have to think about all possibilities whether we want to or not.

I live in a rural area. I know my evacuation routes by heart. I have them marked on a map that is always in my vehicle. I carry maps of Minnesota and Iowa because those are the two areas I travel the most in. I know the main routes and the alternate routes by heart. I have routes that miss all towns/cities, but can always go into a town if I need to.

While I find this important in rural areas, I find having evacuation routes crucial in urban areas. When I find myself in a town or a city, I look at maps to make sure I know how to get out of town. Main roads are good, but might be clogged with other traffic trying to leave. I look for alternate routes and I also try to make sure I have contacts that live or work in that city for more information on ways to leave the city.

Another thing I do to learn my evacuation routes is to also learn landmarks. I will talk to myself when I am drive and tell myself the landmarks. I try to memorize these landmarks so if I don't have a map or I am not using my vehicle, I can still know where I am going.


Things You Will Need To Learn Your Evacuation Routes

1. Highlighter or Marker, Pen, and Paper
2. City Map
3. County Plat Maps  (If you can get them. Not every state or county has these.)
4. State Map with county paved roads marked on them
5. Atlas with primary and secondary roads marked on them
6. A vehicle in which you can travel your routes.

How To Learn Your Evacuation Routes

1. Decide where you are going. I talk more about this here. Make sure your routes are highlighted.
2. Write down your evacuation routes so you have a separate source in case reading a map is not feasible. Also, you will memorize your routes better by writing down your routes.
3. Take a drive. If you have time and gas money, drive your primary and alternate routes. Start noting your landmarks and where they are at. If you have passengers with you, this would be a good task for a passenger to do. Stop every twenty miles or so if you are by yourself and write down the landmarks.
4. Drive back home. Do the same thing as #3, but in reverse. You might notice different landmarks on your way back home.
5. Once home, type up your evacuation routes as well as a list of landmarks in order of being seen. Also, type your evacuation routes in reverse in case you need them to get home. Put these in every vehicle as well as your bug out bags so you have them handy when you need them.
6. Update these at least once a year. New roads are being added all the time and sometimes your evacuation plans need to change.

I know we have GPS, Google Maps, and other such things nowadays. I don't like using any of those things. You know why? Nothing, and I mean nothing, replaces map-reading knowledge, memorization, and good common sense. Those electrical things can fail, die, run out of battery, or simply not be available when you need them. Do not rely on them.

In the winter, this is a good task to have done in a weekend. Whenever you do it, do it as soon as you can. You never know what you will face today or tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Savings on the Homestead Week 2: Sell Something You Don't Need

Every Sunday I will be posting a Sunday Savings on the Homestead. This posts will concentrate on one money saving thing you and I can do to save money for the week. Some will be easy, some will be be a bit difficult, and all will concentrate on one way to save money for the week. Please join me in trying to live a frugal life in 2015!

I have been a purging fool the last couple of weeks. And it feels good! However, I have trouble with some of this stuff just going to the thrift shop or Goodwill. The stuff we are getting rid of is really nice stuff.

This week's mission is to sell something you don't need anymore. We all have books, clothes, crystal dishware, drinking glasses, etc. that are just collecting dust on shelf or in a closet somewhere. Find one thing you think someone else would love to have and sell it!

Last week I listed a bunch of books on tape I had on Ebay. Why I was still holding on to them, I don't know. We don't have a working tape player anymore! I also got rid on a quarter of the books off of a shelf like this one. I listed those books on Ebay also and was very surprised that everything sold!


Where can you sell it? I list items on:
   * Ebay (will need a seller's account if you don't have one)
   * Craigslist
   * Facebook (my personal page, for sale groups, garage sale groups)
The last two are FREE, saving you money!

What should you do with this money? Pay down a debt, put it in your homestead/prepping project fund, save it for buying gardening items, or just hold on to it until it is needed. 

I understand if you just want to donate the items. In fact, sometimes that is best! However, I know most of us need money to make our goals/projects a reality. Being frugal sometimes means selling something to make money for a project that we don't have room in our normal budget for or to pay down a debt faster.

What will you be selling this week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Friday, January 9, 2015

Making a Budget: No One Wants To, But We Need To!


In the 13 Ways To Save Money In The New Year post, point #13 was to find someone to be an accountability partner for spending and budget making ideas.

Before you can look for an accountability partner, you need to do something first. You need to make a budget.

I know, I know. Making a budget is really, really, really hard. 

I know because I struggle with it too. However, I am determined to make a budget this year, adjust it when necessary, and stick to it. I have to give my money a place to go and I have to keep a tighter eye on where it is going.

Making a budget is not an overnight project. You need to look at the last 2-3 months and determine your expenses (bills, groceries, gas, etc.). How much, where, and frequency of money being spent is all things that need to be noted. How much money you make and frequency of money being paid to you needs to be noted. From these things, make a budget.

You can use a computer program or go low-tech (like me) and use a notebook or a planner. Just so your budget is not in your head, but on paper or saved on a file. Seeing it on paper makes your budget real to you. Keeping it in your head means that your budget is abstract and easily adjusted to what whims can suddenly take place.

Now, will this budget work exactly for the next and every month? Yes and no.

If you have expenses that are the same every month, never vary, and no surprises occur, you will be golden. If you are like me, you will have expenses that change all the time, your kids will surprise you with new needs (thank you to schools), and can change mid-month. You will pull your hair in frustration or find the need to go target shooting.

However, sit back and breathe deeply. Write every month down. Write down what expenses are the same every month. Estimate what you need to until you know the definite amount. You will have to adjust your budget for new things. You might find places you don't spend as much as you thought. You might have places you spend way more than you should. The next few months will be an adjustment period.

Make sure every dollar is accounted for in the budget. Dave Ramsey suggests this and he is right. Even if the dollar is in savings, it is accounted for. If you have a budget surplus, put the surplus in savings so you have that for surprises that may occur down the road. Make categories for clothing, repairs, gifts, etc. and allot money to

Pretty soon, you will have a working budget. I promise.

Having a budget though requires something else from you. Self-discipline and self-control. I can feel some of you cringing already. That is okay. I am too. This is where you may need and should have a budget accountability partner.

What is a budget accountability partner? Someone you can trust to bounce ideas off of, cry on their shoulder when the budget is not responding to your needs/wants, and someone who will help you take a cold, hard look at it.

Make sure your budget accountability partner is someone you trust. A spouse, significant other, parent, family, or really good friend are all good candidates. If you are married and both of you have trouble with the budget, finding a parent, sibling, or really good friend would be good. Some people do find it beneficial to find a professional to help them be accountable and that is fine too. Whatever it takes for you to make your budget work!

I feel this year will be a year that our money will have to go farther and farther yet. Now is the time to take charge of your money, make it go farther, and make it work for you!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Savings on the Homestead Week 1: Clean Out The Food Storage

Every Sunday I will be posting a Sunday Savings on the Homestead. This posts will concentrate on one money saving thing you and I can do to save money for the week. Some will be easy, some will be be a bit difficult, and all will concentrate on one way to save money for the week. Please join me in trying to live a frugal life in 2015!

Now let us all be real here. We all have food in our food storage and pantries that are close to the expiration date or past the expiration date. I am fairly organized in my food storage and I know I do.


Our Sunday Savings mission for the week is grab those foods that are about to expire or have expired, bring them to the kitchen, and use them up in our meals this week. This may mean some creative meals, but that is better than wasting the food!

A note of safety: You are your own best decision maker. The decision to use out-dated, expired food is up to you. If the packaging looks compromised in any way, I would not use it. If you open the packaging and the food does not smell, look, or feel right, don't use it. 

Thanks for reading!
Erica

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