Do Without: The Spending Freeze

What could be more effective to getting your budget on track than a Spending Freeze or No Spend Month? A "Category Spending Freeze" can help change habits.A popular idea for those trying to cut expenses and save money is having a “Spending Freeze” or “No Spend Month.” The general rules include not spending any money, other than for bills, for a month.

Spent too much over the Holidays? Here’s your solution for getting your budget back on track, right?

While initial motivation to do this runs high, people jump off board fast due to the following reasons:

1. Feeling deprived. When you think of ‘doing without,’ the immediate worry is that you will feel deprived or have to struggle to survive. The feeling can be overwhelming. Like the dieter who has put themselves on a very strict diet, the temptation to binge is high. [Read more…]

Animal House? 12 Signs Your Pets are in Charge

Who is in charge at your house, you or your pets? Here are 12 signs that you might not be the one ruling the roost.As I struggled to see the computer screen over my cat — who was happily sitting on my desk and sampling my coffee this morning — I pondered the many ways our pets take over our homes and hearts …

12 Signs Your Pets Rule Your Home

  1. No one acts surprised to see a live chicken in your kitchen anymore.
  2. You have been using something other than your desk chair because it is always occupied by a cat.
  3. Your dog thinks racing each other to the bathroom is a game.
  4. You don’t have a nice coat to wear for meetings anymore because something always happens right when you try to leave (usually involving some type of fur, hay, feathers or poop).
  5. People remember the names of your animals and ask about them when they see you, instead of your kids.

    Embarrassing pet photo. Cat Mugshot.

    Cat Mugshot.

  6. You have scheduled photo shoots of your flock.
  7. You no longer realize that you are really having a one-sided conversation with any animal.
  8. When you eat at someone’s house that doesn’t have animals, you have no idea what to do with food scraps.
  9. It takes more than an hour to get everything ready before you leave the house, and none of that involves hair or makeup.
  10. Your kids now know to ask first if the food you are making is for them or the animals.
  11. Strange sounds during the night no longer scare you.
  12. Animal feces and reproduction have stopped being inappropriate topics for dinner conversation.

[Read more…]

Top 40 Money Saving Tips from Readers

A selection of more than 40 tried and true, practical money saving tips from the frugal readers of Letters from Sunnybrook.I have to brag a little here: I have the best readers on the Internet. Seriously.

This amazing list of money saving tips came straight from readers’ comments here at Letters from Sunnybrook.

As I was perusing the 1900+ comments from last year (ok, so some of that number are my responses), I was impressed by the wealth of frugal living tips and personal stories of saving money that were shared. Some readers even shared entire lists of ideas that have worked for them! 

I’ve tried to pare them down to a list of tips that will be applicable to the most people. I do read and appreciate every single one of the comments you share, so keep ‘em coming!

My Favorite Frugal Tips

From Brenda:
We bought an electric pressure cooker a few months back. We noticed a drop in our electric bill shortly afterwards since I don’t use the oven nearly as much as I used too. And even the cheapest piece of meat turns out fall-off-the-fork tender. [Read more…]

Got Eggs? Make a Frittata

Making a frittata is an easy way to use up eggs and nearly anything else you have on hand. From veggie to meat lover's, this dish is tasty and versatile.It was going to be a Veggie Frittata, but I decided to let my son choose the ingredients. Thus it is a bacon, potato and cheese Frittata.

The beauty of the dish is that you CAN use nearly anything in them: veggies, meat, cheese, last night’s leftovers.

“Skittles?” My son asked.

Ok, maybe not anything.

I’ve been teaching my son simple meals he can make with little or no supervision. He likes cooking with eggs, so this was a perfect learning experience.

The Frittata is similar to the omelet in ingredients, but without the tricky flipping half over part. Also, after cooking on the stove top, the skillet is briefly set in the oven for the final step, giving the dish a lovely golden brown surface.

Here’s what we made, with notes for when to add other kinds of (non-candy) add-ins: [Read more…]

Goal Setting: The Payoff

In order to make Goal Setting plans stick, the payoff has to be good. Positive and negative consequences that matter to you make the plan succeed.

Goal Setting Workshop

Part 3: What’s the Payoff?

Whether you call it Making Resolutions or setting goals, the hardest part is not coming up with them. The big challenge is sticking with your plan throughout the year. No matter how good your intentions, or how detailed the plan, you will continue to fail unless you also have a way to stay on track.

A common frustration in parenting is trying to get a child to do something. We offer a reward or threaten to take something away, only to have them snap, “Well I don’t care. I didn’t want that anyways.”

As adults, we are not much different than that child, when faced with something we don’t want to do. What seemed so important a goal in January seems to fade after a couple months. Eventually it is avoided like a dreaded chore, or simply forgotten.

If these goals really are meaningful to us, how can we ensure that we stay motivated to do the work and make the necessary changes month after month? [Read more…]

Goal Setting: The Action Plan

Goal Setting is most effective when you can make an action plan for carrying them out. How to take ideas and break them down into specific weekly tasks.Goal Setting Workshop

Part 2, The Action Plan


I have a diary from when I was in eighth grade. In it – among the notes about crushes and guinea pigs – I made lists of how to achieve perfection. These were detailed plans encompassing every area of my young life.

Nearly three decades later, I am still trying for self-improvement, but I no longer am so idealistic. This is for two reasons: 1. After so many years of trying, I get it: it is impossible to do everything perfectly. 2. My definition of “being a better me” has changed in that I now value the process as much as the results. Success for me is now about learning and growing, rather than just achieving. I’ve learned more from my failures than what I’ve managed to figure out on the first try.

So, my goals for the year reflect the desire to learn, grow and develop myself. They are also about creating an environment that is conducive to that experience. After many years, I have also learned that in order to really make changes, I have to work steadily, gradually adding on or I will become overwhelmed or burn out. I like to challenge myself, but making the tasks realistic and focusing on a few at a time makes this work. The past three years I have made significant growth in my life through this way of planning. [Read more…]