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Monday, 30 September 2013

Being creative - and frugal- with traditional wedding anniversary gifts

Today, gentle readers, marks my seventh wedding anniversary with That Guy. I still like him enough that I would do the whole thing over again, so I am marking this as a win. ;) 

My initial intention was to do a blog post about the gift I made That Guy. We have always gone by the guide for traditional anniversaries and had a lot of fun with it.  This year, seven, is the copper anniversary. So I ordered some copper online back on the 17th with which to make a gift.  Very disappointingly I have still not received my order  so I cannot share my gift with you today. 
But in celebration of our anniversary I thought I would be fun to review the traditional gifts for the first ten years of marriage and some of the ideas I have had to go with them.

Year One - Paper
At first I thought this was going to be hard.  What could I give That Guy, worth giving, that was made from paper? As it turns out though this is one of the easiest years to think of gifts.  Just remember how many things are made of paper.... a card, concert tickets, wine tasting tour cards, movie stubs, even photos are printed on "paper".  Our first anniversary was before the days of DIY entered our home.  That Guy, however, knocked it out of the park by writing me a poem - on paper- and having it framed.  For him, thinking I was very creative, I bought him a plush toy that came with a code with which you could go online and register to name your own star then print off - on paper- the certificate of your registered and named star.  Hilarity ensued when we realized during the name registration process that this was a gift intended for children under the age of 4. 

Year Two - Cotton
By the time our second anniversary rolled around I was eight months pregnant with Walter.  I was only a matter of weeks into exploring the world of DIY.  I found cotton very difficult to gift.  Now I would be much more inclined to sew something with a cotton fabric but I was in no position to do that five years ago.  We settled on buying That Guy new - cotton - clothes. I did not want new clothes since at the time my body was not my own.  Cotton can be a few different things.  Instead of just  buying towels for the house think outside the box of towels.  Go visit a beach or water park and take new towels along.  Go for a couples massage at the spa where you will certainly be draped in cotton towels.  New cotton bed sheets are always nice to get and have as well. 
If I were making a gift today I would likely make him some quick PJ pants, or cute pillowcases for our bed. 

Year Three - Leather
Come our third anniversary I had taken DIY to heart.  That being said I am NOT a leather worker. Two months before our third anniversary we had purchased our first home and it need a lot of work. So for year three I bought That Guy a tool belt.  Other good ideas would be a wallet, leather luggage tag, leather covered notebook, watch, belt or bag. 

Year Four -  Fruit and Flowers
This is pretty straightforward. That Guy bought be some beautiful flowers and I made my own edible fruit arrangement complete with chocolate dipped fruits for That Guy.  Have fun with this.  Since so many weddings happen in the summer yours very likely falls in a prime fruit season.  Hire a photographer and make a day of going out to a Pick- Your-Own farm to pick delicious fresh fruits and get a timeless photo session along the way. 

Year Five - Wood
This is the year That Guy and I pooled our resourced and bought ourselves a fireplace (from with a wood mantle.  I love that fireplace and it gets tons of use but it wasn't DIY at all.  If I had made That Guy a gift I would have made him this DIY pallet coffee table chest, or decorated wood handled hammer or wooden spoons for him. A DIY wooden board game the two of you could play would be a very thoughtful and inexpensive gift as wel. 

Year Six- Iron
Last years gift was a total fail, gentle readers.  What I wanted to do was have a custom branding iron made for That Guy to use when BBQing. I reached out to a local fabricator company who specializes in custom work. After months of back and forth e-mails and phone calls explaining what I needed, how I wanted it to look and nailing down a price I could justify I suddenly stopped hearing back from them.  I imagine much bigger orders from huge companies took precedence over my single item order and I was lost in the shuffle. As understandable as that is I was more than a little disappointed. I had spent so much time trying to work out this branding iron idea that it was only two days before our actual anniversary that I came to terms with the fact that this wasn't going to happen.  Out of desperation I got him a six pack of beer with the word "iron" in the brand name. *shakes head*  That Guy bought me a new iron, which I did need.  But the romance in gift giving was totally missing. 

Year Seven- Copper
That Guy surprised me last night with an early anniversary gift.  He bought me a stunning bracelet set in copper rather than the usual gold or silver. I am one very lucky lady.  The intention for That Guy was a key chain.  Doesn't sound very creative, does it?  I had gone online and ordered five copper key chain blanks. From a friend I had borrowed a number and letter metal stamping set.  I went back online and looked up the exact global co ordinates of where we were married seven years ago.  I was going to stamp those co ordinates into the key chain.  Until I either hear back from the seller or I receive my package That Guy's gift is on hold though. 

Year Eight- Bronze
Wow, NO idea yet what I will do here... Ideas?  Anyone?

Year Nine - Pottery 
Maybe I should look into take a class now, so I will have developed a skill set two years from now good enough to actually gift an item I make from pottery. Anyone want to take a class with me?

Year Ten- Tin
Fortunately tin is inexpensive and easy to find.  I don't know what I will make yet, but I am sure I will think of something. We also plan on renewing our vows on our tenth wedding anniversary. And maybe, finally, take a honeymoon we never had when we were married. But that is a ways in the future still.  

For today, Happy Anniversary That Guy. I love you!

Friday, 27 September 2013

DIY LEGO gift for under $5

DIY LEGO gift for boy birthday- under $5

Today is a short work day for me.  I am closing day care early because we will be headed to visit some friends and celebrate their sons third birthday.  It might sound like closing work early for a childs birthday party is overkill, but it is very important to us that we make time to celebrate in our lives. And who better to celebrate with than good friends and great people?

Yet, that also meant another DIY gift I would have to make.
First I was going to make him a superhero cape complete with mask and cuffs.  Then I went through my fabric stash and found out I did not have enough fabric on hand to complete that project. So I joyously announced to That Guy that I would be making a trip to the fabric store. He was much less joyous about it.  He reminded me that our wedding anniversary (seven years) is on Monday and our entire allotted entertainment and gifts budget for the week was going to celebrate that milestone. Oh yeah. Okay, so scrap that.   Not only could I not go to the fabric store, but I still had to make a gift with only the small change I had in my wallet, so as not to affect our entertainment budget.  $5.43 - still some pennies floating around in my wallet. That was the grand total I could spend on a gift.

Finally I decided on a LEGO themed gift.  Why? Because back in January when I was on a trip to Calgary I had gone into a LEGO store.  Inside the store I saw the cutest little ice cube tray that made little ice LEGO men. Although my frugal heart cried a bit to pay $8.49 for an ice cube tray, I chalked it up to being on vacation and bought it anyways.  So, long story short, I decided on a LEGO themed gift because I had a LEGO themed ice cube tray. (But I also knew that LEGO was too expensive for me to buy him any real building bricks.)

"You're going to make a three year old ICE for his birthday, Rylan?! Really? No wonder DIY gifts have a bad reputation!" (This is what I imagine you, my gentle readers, are thinking.)

No! I made him  LEGO gift pack. LEGO crayons, LEGO colouring book and even LEGO chocolates.

First I used my ice tray to make crayons.  This is such a simple gift but it comes out looking awesome.  First, go through the crayons in your house and pick out all the broken ones.  No one uses the broken crayons anyways so take them and give them new life. I chose to do eight solid coloured crayons but it would be cute to do multi coloured ones too.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Then unwrap your broken crayons and cut them into bits. Place the bits into the cavities of the ice cube tray, then the tray on a cookie sheet.  Put the cookie sheet in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  Once they are done just take them out and let them cool completely. Pop the crayons out of the ice cube tray and you have totally adorable crayon LEGO men. Of course this very same method could be used with any silicon ice cube tray, and IKEA often sells them in adorable shapes.
Cut up your crayons stubs
crayon bits in the ice cube tray cavities

melted crayon fresh from the oven
Next I needed a colouring book for him to use his crayons in.  I certainly wasn't about to buy  one.  So I googled "free LEGO coloring sheet" and found myself at this page. I was pretty happy because I got fully licensed LEGO pages totally for free. I printed out all the sheet s but I certainly did not want to give this little guy a stack of loose pages. I thought briefly of putting all the sheets in a duo tang but that just didn't feel right. Finally I decided I would "bind" the book as best I could.  I broke out some washi tape I had picked up on a recent trip to the dollar store and figured I would tape a colouring book together.  With the colouring side of one sheet down and the colouring side of another sheet up I taped the sheets together trimming the edges. The page that had been "up" was now the page that laid face down as I taped the next sheet. So so it went until I had taped each sheet to the sheet before it and after it.
Using washi tape to "bind" my book

The I printed out a simple LEGO logo in black and white and grabbed a blank piece of printer paper.  Using a similar method of taping I attached the books front and back covers with washi tape almost creating a book spine of sorts.  I was pretty thrilled with my resourcefulness. Up to this point everything had come in at $0.
Making the "spine" with washi tape
Crayons and a colouring book.... it was okay but I kept feeling like it needed something more.   Then I remembered That Guy had a chocolate mold that looked like LEGO bricks.  I  decided I would add a few molded coloured LEGO brick chcoclates to the gift, really drive the theme home.

At the local bulk foods store I was able to buy chocolate melting wafers in an array of colours. Since the bricks in the mold are not big I did not need many wafers at all.  Which is good because they can get expensive.  I got five different colours (we had purple on hand at home from a previous project) for a little under $1 per colour.  I love that at the bulk foods store I only have to buy what I need and I don't have to buy a whole pre packaged amount of wafers. Right on budget!

Once home I melted my wafers and spooned the melted chocolate into the mold.  I lightly but firmly tapped the mold against the tabletop to get out any air bubbles.  Then just let the chocolate cool.  Repeat with each desired colour.  Once cool pop out of the mold. I put them into some on hand boxes and volia!


Monday, 23 September 2013

Cut your home scenting cost by over 90%!

Good morning, gentle readers, and Happy Monday!

As many of you know I run a home daycare. With only my my kids being potty trained it means there are a lot of diapers and diaper changes in my house.  And if we can take a moment to be crude- a lot of poop.
As such sometimes I am in a position where I need to odor fight. There are a slew of options out there from plug ins to sprays to candles. Most people I know choose to go the scented candle route, so that is the one I will focus on here today.

A jar candle from a place like Yankee Candle runs about $27 and burns for roughly 110 hours.  Here is the cost breakdown:
$27 for 110 hours = about 25 cents per hour.  Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Instead I use:
water- 1 cup- on hand
orange peel from one orange- on hand (I save our orange rinds in a resealable container just for this use)
ground cinnamon- 4 tbsp roughly 40 cents
(you could also play with other options of adding nutmeg or cloves to this mixture)

Put all this in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 3-4 minutes. When the microwave is done just open the door for a few minutes and let the yummy scent flood your home!  One stint in the microwave will keep your home smelling delicious for about 2 hours.  Adding a bit more water each time means you can keep reusing the same bowl about ten times before you need to ditch the ingredients and start with a fresh bowl.

So just for fun let's look  at the math breakdown for this approach:  40 cents for 20 hours = 2 cents per hour.

23 cents an hour difference may not sound like a lot now. But consider that you would be paying over ten times as much for a candle.  Over the winter months -when people enjoy scenting their homes the most -90 days, 4 hours per day on average one would be lighting a candle =  $90 worth of candles if only one candle per home is used, vs $7.20 for the more natural approach.  Suddenly a savings of almost $83 does sound significant.

Scent heating this way covers more sq ft of your home than a candle would, there is no flame to worry about, it does not contain possible carcinogens or any of the other possible issues associated with other air fresheners. It smells just as yummy as the candle version but for on tenth the cost.

And I can vouch for this methods ability to eliminate any detectable odor from four poopy diaper... because for some reason all the kids poop at the same time....

Thursday, 19 September 2013

$2 DIY Autumn Wreath

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I went to a big box craft store on the hunt for ribbon for a project she was doing.  While we were there I noticed they had their "Grab Bag" sale on.  This is where you buy an unmarked white kitchen garbage bag stuffed full of things for $2 and hope you get things you can use.  I buy a grab bag pretty much every chance I get because something in there is always worth at least $2 to me.

This time I was very lucky indeed. My bag was crammed with several pairs of summer flip flops (which I can use in future beach themed birthday gifts for children) some silk flowers (to add to my crafting stash) and a bunch of wooden items.  The wooden items included four intricate laser cut wooden frames and eight 18 inch wooden letters.  I am thrilled with the frames and can hardly wait to put them to use on a later project. Out of the letters I took two "B"s (my surname starting with a B and all..) and gave the rest to my friend who said her son would enjoy them.

What to do with two wooden B's.... what to do indeed.... and so they sat for several weeks.  Now as the season is changing and I start getting exciting about autumn it occurred to me that I could use the "B"s as a sort of wreath for our front door.  I thought I would make one an autumn wreath and one a Christmas wreath.  I have, as of yet, only completed the autumn wreath.

Since I bought the entire grab bag of items for $2 and this wreath uses only one of those items I am counting the B as a no cost item.
That Guy bought silk leaves and a decorative holiday spray from the dollar store for $1 each, totaling $2.  
The spray paint, hot glue, and small length of burlap were all on hand items.

To begin That Guy offered to take the B outside and spray paint it for me.  Isn't he sweet? He couldn't decide if he wanted to paint it brown or green...
decisions decisions
 So he painted it green.
 Then he decided what this wreath really needed was a two toned effect. So he added the brown. This colour combination may not be for everyone....
That Guy likes how "rustic" the two toned paint looks....
After waiting a bit for the spray paint to dry I brought it inside to add some leaves.  The addition of leaves provides colour, theme, and a bit of size and presence as well.   Just hot glued the leaves right to the back.  First I glued the smaller leaves (so that when the B is turned right side they will be closest to the front) leaving enough space for larger leaves in between.
smaller leaves
 Then I filled it in with the larger leaves.
This project is so quick!
 Flip over the B and I was already impressed with myself.  Again with hot glue I added the decorative spray to the bottom right edge.  Then with a scrap of burlap I cut a strip and tied it in a bow.  I know, gentle readers, I feel the same way - that is a sad looking bow. I have never been able to make a decent bow - that really is the best I could do.
poor little bow
 Just added a small metal eyelet I found in the basement and hung it on the front door.
Happy Autumn, gentle readers!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A few ideas for a DIY Christmas

I was asked by one of my readers to do a post on some DIY Christmas gift ideas so that people might have an opportunity to complete a few projects before Christmas rolls around.

It may be important to note, gentle readers, that I choose one DIY gift per year.  Thats it.  All our friends and family know they will be getting the same thing.  Choosing the right gift takes a lot of thought because I want to be sure it would be something everyone on our list would enjoy (with the exception of my two young nephews who do get separate DIY gifts).   This saves me having to worry "I know what my mother in law would like, but what on earth do I get my father in law?!".
Its also much more cost effective when making gifts to make one gift 17 times instead of 17 different gifts..

I have lots of ideas for gifts, however I do not have a tutorial ready yet for each one.

Small gifts (for neighbors, civil servants, teachers/coaches, hairdressers or anyone else you want to remember outside of your "gift giving" list)

- "We WHISK you a Merry Kissmas"  Just a kitchen whisk filled with chocolate kisses and wrapped in cellophane, tied with a bow.

- These hot chocolate snowmen are what I plan to give our neighbors this year. Just made with baby food jars
- Mini comfort bags (Here is my $0 no sew large version) are great for mail carriers, garbage collectors or those who work outside in the cold winter months.  They can heat up the comfort bags and slide them into their boots or mittens to stay toasty warm

- Fleece scarf.  Fleece is so great to work with because it doesn't fray.  That means it is no sew when making a scarf.  Honestly once you have bought your fleece from the fabric store just cut it into scarf wide lengths and cut fringe in each end.  Done and done!

- I LOVE this idea of a giving plate loaded with cookies. Will be doing this one for sure!
I love this idea!     “This plate shall have no owner for its journey never ends,  It travels in a circle of our family and friends.  It carries love from home to home for everyone to share,  The food that’s placed upon it was made with love and care.  So please enjoy what’s on the plate,  Then fill it up again,  Then pass along the love it holds to your family and friends.”

Family Gifts (for the majority of my gift list. These gifts would be great for couples or families)

- Gift baskets
    Pick a theme and run with it.  But do not buy all the contents of your baskets or you will end up spending a fortune!  One year a friend of mine and I made bath baskets for everyone.   Using melt and pour soaps and molds we made our own bars of soap. Then we made our own bath salts.  We burned Spa Sounds CDs for everyone and even made soap crayons and sponge balls for families with children.  I added store bought bath puffs and a small candle. 
One year That Guy and I did Sweet Baskets for everyone.  We made our own jam, sweet wine and dry cookie mix, add in a CD of sweet holiday music and you're set!
A friend recently did a Bed and Breakfast gift basket as a bridal shower gift but there is no reason it wouldn't work beautifully for Christmas.  She sewed her own pillowcases (using this blog post as a guide). Then using a Sharpie Paint marker (It has to be the paint markers!) she embellished a few dollar store coffee mugs. Add in either some coffee beans, a jar of marmalade or Belgian waffle mix and you have an adorable gift basket!
The key to a nice gift basket is to pick a theme and work within it.  The key to an affordable gift basket is to make everything you possibly can 

- Mustache Mugs
That Guy and I did a set of four of these last year for everyone.  They were a hit! As added bonuses they were quick to make (once I learned that one must use Sharpie paint markers on mugs, not regular Sharpies) and inexpensive.  We also added in a package of our own specialty coffee blend. 
Here is my tutorial
- Spice Blend with recipe book.  
This is the gift we did for year two of DIY Christmases. I leaned heavily on That Guy's culinary knowledge, but it worked out very well.  After walking in downtown Hamilton one evening we had stumbled onto a shop that provided all different kinds of spices and allowed you to mix your own blends with recipe book guidelines for how to do certain blends. Unfortunately the shop is no longer there but we loved the idea.  That year That Guy made the blend himself and then wrote a small recipe book focused on different ways to use the blend. I used my  creative side to design the book and have it printed.  

- Wooden Board Games
This is what everyone will be getting from us this year. I will buy a piece of wood and have it cut into game board sized pieces.  Using stain and painters tape I will stain a checkerboard pattern into the boards.  I will seal the boards with polyurethane. I have already got found sticks cut by a friend into disks. These disks will be the playing pieces. One one side of half the pieces I will use the same stain. The other half of the pieces I will keep natural. Flip the game pieces over and I will paint (or maybe use a self adhesive vinyl) to create the images for all pieces used in chess.  The game pieces will also get a coat of polyurethane. Now you have a chess and checkers set! 
There are many other wooden board games out there that you too could easily make yourself. 

- Calendars
There are so many fun websites you could use to do this. Of course photos of you and your family friends would be a great idea for each month.  But if you're a little uncomfortable with that (I was) just think outside the box.  Why not landscape photos? Every month take a photo of where you are - this would be stellar if you do a lot of travelling but can be beautiful even with photos from around your city.  Maybe track time through photos.  Take a photo of a tree or flower from the same angle every month and watch it change through the year. Or there are those neat letter photography images out there.  Perhaps think of a word you feel describes each month, then take a photo of that word using the images from letters found in the natural world. Of course a cook book/ recipe calendar would be loved by many too. 

For the Kids

I do like to give the young kids on my list a little something extra.  It is Christmas, after all!

-Felt car play mats
my tutorial
- Dino hoodies
my tutorial
- super hero capes/ dress up sets

- hair clip bouquet

- felt story pouch
 I did this with some classic childrens stories a few years ago.  I went to our local book outlet and bought the books for less than $5.  (I used Very Hungry Caterpillar) Then I traced some of the images from the book. (I traced the caterpillar and all the foods) Using the tracings I cut the images from felt.  Then I made a quick pouch also from felt that would house the book and all the felt images.  Now when the story is read the little boy can take out the felt images and "recreate" the story on the pouch front- or create his own story!

- "screen printed" t-shirts or onesies
my tutorial
- soap crayons and sponge ball

- fort kit
My tutorial
- photo coloring book with crayons
There is software available (we bought it from a vendor booth at a fair) that allows you to turn your photos into colouring book pages.   I think I paid $20 for the software four years ago, and I have got so much use out of it. I make one of these colouring books each year of my daycare children for my daycare children each Christmas. 

- white pillow case with fabric paint lines to look like ruled paper. Add a set of washable markers and they can doodle during story time. 

Hope these ideas can help get your creative juices flowing, gentle readers!


Monday, 9 September 2013

DIY birthday gift for friend - $3

A friend of ours celebrated her 29th birthday this weekend.  At 29 years old one does not really need "gifts" on their birthdays from friends.  That being said, I do like to acknowledge the occasion with a small token.
So this is the $3 gift I made up in under ten minutes for my friend.

I went to Party Max and took  advantage of their 15 pieces of candy for $1 offer. I bought 30 lollipops, coming in at $2. Also while at Party Max I bought the small round bowl with lid because it was only $1.
All necessary supplies

Once home I used some floral foam I had on hand from making this gift a little while ago.
floral foam
After cutting the foam to fit in the bowl I covered it with tissue paper (because I really cannot think of a time when the colour of floral foam would be desirable).  Then I used a skewer to puncture holes through the tissue paper to make it easier for my lollipop sticks to go in.  But after a few I realized this was a needless step. Just push the lollipop sticks in.
no need to pre puncture your tissue paper
Then, because I am a little quirky about my overwhelming desire for colours to be organized into rainbow order, I stuck the lollipop stick into the foam in rainbow colour order.

29 lollipops in place

After putting the lid on I tied the whole thing up with a bow. I printed out a quick tag that says "29 sucks- But its also sweet"

And that was it. I don't think this was a gift she ever would have put on her "wish list" but I think it made her smile to know she was remembered on her birthday.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Sending a little love

Recently it was my mothers birthday. As a small gift I made her up some lovely lace trimmed pillowcases that I think she will love.  Of course I wanted to send something from the kids as well. And since my family lives a distance away we always have to consider the cost of shipping something before its a viable gift option. 
So I thought the kids could send "hugs" to Grandma 

This was a simple five minute activity that both the kids got excited about doing and will certainly brighten my moms day when she gets them. 

I used a roll of on hand butcher paper (I buy it from IKEA for $5.99/ roll and it lasts forever and we get so much great use out of it.) and some of the kids markers. 

I just had the kids lay down on the paper with their arms open as though they are about to hug someone.  Then I just traced around them. Walter added his own details and Audrey had some help from That Guy. 

I don't know whats up with the expression on his face

Audreys finished product
Then Walter wrote "Walter sends you a hug!" and we wrote the same for Audrey on hers. 

Such a simple, quick, easy to ship way to brightens someones day.  Who do you know who could benefit from a hug?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The POWER of Do-It-Yourself

Good morning, gentle readers.  I know many of you right now are struggling to get back into routine with your families and may even be battling a little anxiety (maybe yours, maybe that of your children) about going back to school.  Of course, we home school so this is not a battle I have this morning. To help take your mind off it, this blog post has nothing to do with back to school.

This post is about why I bother to DIY.
Many times when I see an item I think I would like to have, instead of figuring out if our budget could allow me to buy it, I find myself examining the item to see if I could DIY it.
I often get eye rolls when I talk about DIY.  Once I got asked "Why do you have to do everything the hard way? Just buy it!" But I admit it is a comment I continually get from someone I love dearly that gets under my skin most often.  He says to me "It might only cost you $8 to make but you're forgetting to factor in what your time is worth.  What is your time really worth to you, dear?" But he's missing the point. And indeed I think many other people are too.  Those who dismiss DIY in favour of "buying it is just so much easier" or some other self justification.

There are three main reasons I DIY, but before I even start I want to be clear that the first two reasons I list are the minor reasons. The happy undeniable results of DIY. The last reason listed, that is the real truth.

This reason, and this reason alone is why I started DIY to begin with. Rewind six years to when That Guy and I had only been married a year. We had so many great events coming up with our friends and family and those events melted nicely into the Christmas season.  After buying cards, gifts, hostess gifts, shipping ect we quickly found out we were out of money before we were out of events and functions to attend. Enter the very first year of my DIY Christmas.
Where I used to budget a small $40-50 for every person on our Christmas gift list I moved to thinking about gifting to families and couples as a whole, rather than to each person.  That first year our gifts were simple. We gave bottles of wine we had put on at one of those "brew-your-own" establishments, a jar of homemade jam and a jar of pickled carrots. I tied it all up in a bow and added an inexpensive yet pretty Christmas ornament to the package and we were done.  I was floored that I could gift to a whole family for about $12 total rather than $50-200 (depending on how many people were in the family). This is what got me hooked and has kept me motivated. It kept me motivated long enough to keep trying new things to find new ways to stretch our dollars so we didn't have to give up attending great functions.

The cost savings also allowed us to enrich our lives other ways.  Still being DINKs (Double Income No Kids) we were suddenly able to afford to do things we never really thought of. Trips to parks or museums or wine tasting or festivals that we would have figured were out of our budget before.
Significant cost savings also allowed us to save for a down payment on our first home and begin the adoption process. (We had started the adoption process a few months before we found out we were pregnant with Walter.)

I was surprised at how good it felt to not always be giving my money away to large corporations.  Suddenly my eyes were opened.  I did not have to buy boxes of Christmas ornaments because the seasonal section of the big box store had them on display.  I could use the wedding bells place card holders left over from my friends wedding, spray painted gold and tied with a ribbon.  Suddenly I had almost 80 Christmas tree ornaments for mere pennies.
I did not have to be sure I could get to the grocery store before Walters baby food ran out.  I went to the farmers market and bought the fresh fruits and veggies That Guy and I would be eating int he coming week and made Walters bay food from that.
It was also a huge added bonus that I was able to develop personal relationships with the farmers that grew the food.  They knew me personally, but they also knew Walter and that I was turning their produce into baby food for him.  That kind of ownership and accountability goes a long way. As a side note, but in all seriousness, please support your local farmers!

Less and less I found that I was scheduling my non working life around when stores were open so I could buy things.  Instead, if I needed something I could just go home and make it. Even after 9pm when the stores were closed.  Leaving me daylight hours to enjoy my family and friends.

Sounds a little over blown, right? I promise its not.

I am sure I am not the only one, gentle readers, who struggles with self confidence, self image and even self worth.  I have held whispered conversations with dear and cherished friends about these monumental internal struggles and heard in response that they are often fighting the same battles.

On days when I feel like a failure because my body doesnt look like it did seven years ago. Or because I burned cookies. Or because I left the dinner dishes from last night until the morning. Or because I shouted at the children. Or because I spend so much time mentally beating myself up sometimes I hardly notice I'm doing it....  On those days (and I will be honest- those days happen more than they don't) it feels so good to tell myself I CAN.
To get an idea, see an item in a store or online and think "I can make that."
A few I CAN statements a week really help lift me up.  They help me to feel powerful and in control of my own life. They make me feel secure in my place in our family. That even though I don't make much money I am contributing.

Don't get me wrong. There are a ton of things I try that turn out to be total fails. Or things that I just cannot seem to get the hang of ( like knitting for example).  But even if I fail at my attempt I first had to try, which means I first told myself I could. I am totally convinced that telling myself I could do something is responsible for many many more of my successes than talent or skill ever will be.

My I CAN statements help me try again if a project turned out less than I had expected.
My I CAN statements have brought me into a world where I own and operate power tools, and a sewing machine. Both of which I had told myself I wasn't smart enough, or capable enough to use only six short years ago.
My I CAN statements have opened up a world where I use beeswax, essential oils and other such items that I secretly thought were just for extremists a few years ago.
My I CAN statements have me  living a life where I treat bug bites with baking soda paste instead of buying AfterBite for Kids (which is baking soda paste in a tube but a ton more expensive). This life has me using a spoonful of local honey to treat seasonal allergies in our home, rather than medications.  I use simple white vinegar for much of our household cleaning without worrying about our kids ever touching/ drinking it.

In closing, why do I have to do things the "hard" way? What is my time worth?  Its worth joy. Its worth living my life with my head held a little higher and my outlook a little brighter. DIY might not be a total game changer for you. But it might.