Monthly Archives: December 2008

Find a Penny..

     You should have guessed by now that I’m the kind of person who picks up every penny I see on the ground. And from the last post, you should know that I accept any and all things people are getting rid of. If I can’t use it, I find someone who can or donate it to goodwill where the donation keeps on giving.

     The other day I’d found a dime on the floor while running to the office during my planning period. I held it up to the Janitor (a fellow frugalist) and he said, Big deal! I pick up all kinds of money all day long in these hallways.  Kids are notorious for not paying attention to what falls out of their pockets.

     I don’t know what he does with his change, but mine gets added to my own money and plowed back into my classroom. Last week, for instance, I bought the strategy-based computer game called “Age of Empires” for use in my classroom (more about that later….); and bought fortune cookies for our discussion of Confucianism and Ancient China.

     What got me thinking of “found coins” was this wonderful blog post by the nonconsumeradvocate. I’ve read it before and it makes me smile each time.

     Along these lines, I have a teacher friend with a large family. Because she is one of seven siblings herself, she knows the value of a dollar! As soon as her children were the age to play sports, I asked if she would like some athletic equipment and shoes my kids had grown out of. “Boy, would I!” came her enthusiastic response. That expanded to passing down clothing and it has had the unexpected benefit of my reliving many enjoyable memories with my own children when I see them wearing a certain dress (worn to a special occasion while carrying a blankie and sucking a thumb) or outfit (worn to a family trip to the mountains where we rode horses up and down nearly vertical terrain in the mud—yikes!)

     Since it’s my blog, I’m allowed to ramble and tell stories here. This same lady is also a teacher. Her own children complain that they have no TV. I should explain: they do not choose to pay for cable or satellite TV and we live in a rural, mountainous area with zero TV reception. As a result, her kids, who I teach, complain that their mother only allows them to watch math videos. I know she is previewing them for her classes and she is a great multitasker. It makes me smile to think of what’s going on. I should mention, however, that her kids are VERY well-read, artistic and are scarey-smart! Since she teaches MY children, I get to hear about these math videos twice.:)

     So, to review: look for pennies and free things—they add up and turn into things you never imagined.

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Filed under cheap, classroom, education, frugal living, Frugality, penny pinching, personal finance, saving, teacher, teaching

Pantry and Freezer Challenge

     After Christmas, I try to eat out of the freezer and pantry so we have very little grocery expense.  It makes it easy to pay off credit cards that we used to buy holiday gifts.  We keep a budget and do all our shopping with credit cards that we pay off each month so we incur no interest expense. (see previous post about “loan” being our f-word).

     Another reason to do this is to make room for filling the freezer and pantry again with homegrown items.  It ensures that we are not wasting food by throwing away items that are past their due.

   Some of the things we have eaten this week include sesame chicken noodles made with frozen whole wheat noodles, one large frozen grilled chicken breast and a splash of peanut sauce.  I’ll try to post my frugal version of this recipe later. Since I live in outer Podunk, I have to make due with terribly mundane grocery products so I will post a recipe for this using what I can get locally.

Sesame Chicken Noodles

   I save the last couple of tablespoons of peanut butter in the jar for making this dish. I almost always have cooked noodles and chicken on hand in the freezer for quick meals.  To the jar of peanut butter I add 1/4 cup of soy sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, a little hot sauce (I like Tiger Brand) and a little water. I microwave this on defrost (so the plastic doesn’t melt and just enough for the peanut butter to unstick to the sides of the jar) and shake the jar like mad. Pour this over the leftover noodles, add diced, cooked chicken. If you have planted onion tops in the garden, go looking for them now and add them to your dish! Wa La!

     I’ve been enjoying some free roasted herb turnips from the garden. I peel and cook the turnips they aren’t hard anymore, then toss with a little olive oil, paprika, salt pepper, garlic powder and basil and roast under the broiler until they are a little browned. Yum!

     Since I noticed that there are several packages of veggies that were at the back of the freezer from year’s past I cooked them up in a stir fry. To the frozen broccoli and greenbeans, I added sliced onions and carrots leftover steak.  I mix up homemade teriyaki sauce and keep it in the fridge so I can quickly make stir fry anytime I want.  I’ll try to post that later…

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Filed under budget, cheap, cooking, debt, frugal living, Frugality, gardening, onions, penny pinching, Recipes, tightwad

Debt Snowball

     Related to my last post “Be Your Own Bank,” is Dave Ramsey’s  concept of “ debt snowballing.”  The idea is to pay off a small debt balance, then roll that money that would be going to that debt to the next largest debt.  In our case, we went after the highest interest debt we had and continued from there…

This way of living has had tremendous benefits.  From Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette, I learned to apply savings to areas that would create greater savings.  This is deliberate living that requires you to be financially self-aware at all times.

     I guess this last concept is more like a “savings snowball.” In the past, I started by having a yardsale that gave me the money to spend on garden tools and seeds. The money saved by growing our own food (we included the cost of gas and wear and tear on our vehicles to to to the grocery store) was then invested in canning equipment and dehydrators.

     Each year at this time, we make a list of what we are going to put our savings into.  Some of what we will do this year are invest in more chicks (for eggs and meat). While feed has increased, we have started freeranging our hens and realized some savings there.  Even though we pay for feed, we get a lot of garden vegetables from the compost made from the deep litter we use in the coop (for another post–we compost all paper products, junk mail, etc…) But I digress….

     I’d really like to take some snowball savings and invest in some miniature milk goats that I could use for (at least) cheese and maybe milk and yogurt.  So far, I haven’t convinced anyone else that this is a good idea. I’ll let you know….

     Every year, we take some of our savings and invest in more edible landscaping. By retirement, we should have enough fruit and nut trees and bushes to support ourselves without needing to use a grocery store.  In my mind, the ability to feed yourself is insurance. It’s one thing to be poor, it’s entirely another to be poor and hungry. No one need be hungry, even in the city (but more on that in later post…)

     In the meantime, I’d love to hear some of the reader’s lists for what to invest their savings snowball in to help them save MORE money….

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Be Your Own Bank

     Anyone can see that a 700 billion dollar bailout of the banking industry has to have some effect on our schools and pocketbooks.  It will be difficult to pay for these budget deficits with taxes alone—especially if you expect that there will be some loss of jobs due to the economy going south (you figure, there HAS to be some effect there.) I predict that one of the first places that budgets will be cut will be the education system.

     It’s much easier to weather the coming storm if you are in a good financial position. I agree with both Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman about having a couple months pay saved (in a safe bank?)in case of emergency.

     In our case, it has allowed us to be our own bank. If a car needs immediate repair, we are able to pay for it without putting it on the credit card (what we consider to be a loan).


     “Loan” is the f-word in our vocabulary. We avoid paying interest like the plague. While we now have a smallish house loan, we are paying extra each month so as to avoid thousands in interest. I’d rather have that money to invest in things that will improve my quality of living.

 

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2008 Edublog Awards: What Jewels Will Be Found?

     I really enjoy reading blogs of other teachers. There is never enough time to watch our fellow teachers hone their craft. Even the brief time in the lunchroom (and I do mean brief, once you deal with Bobby who lost his lunch money or Shakira who is checking out early) is only spent with the five or so teachers who have the same lunch time as you do.

 

     That is why I am looking forward to seeing the list of best educator blogs after they are published.  I hope someday to be on this list, but that is just a goal at this point.

 

     I must read educator blogs at home with a cup of coffee because our school district’s firewall screens out blogs. That’s unfortunate, because I get SO many excellent ideas for my own classroom from these fine teachers.

 

     I’m going to make it a point to steer some of my readers to the best ideas I’m seeing in other blogs. I’ll try to do a roundup of good posts I read.

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Typing Content: Or Killing Two Birds With One Stone

     At the beginning of the year, several elementary teachers I know take their students to the computer lab to type their spelling list.  This accomplishes two things at the same time (maybe more). First, they learn their spelling words. Next, they learn to type and become familiar with the keyboard.

 

     They begin to learn Microsoft Word by highlighting their list and numbering. They learn how to insert a word they forgot. This is a natural way to begin word processing which will later be used for typing reports. In our area, the majority of students do not own computers at home and there is little time in the day to teach typing.

 

I like it.

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Grading Writing Papers or Will They Even Read Our Comments?

writing-document

We do a lot of writing in my classes. At this level, we are hammering how to organize their essays: topic sentence, detail sentences (or paragraphs) and conclusion sentences (or paragraphs).

 

It’s not enough to TELL them that they must do those things, you must show that their grade is related to whether or not they have met those goals.

 

Here’s the rub: it’s hardly worth my time to seriously mark up the final version. If they haven’t followed the lesson, haven’t taken my “walking around the room” advice, haven’t followed the mark-ups on the edited version, why spend the time to rehash?  They just aren’t going to do it!

 

I have to agree with the following from the Prone to Laughter blog :”A current grading technique (and I don’t know why it took me years to come up with this) is to underline everything important. The thesis, a key piece of analysis, a topic sentence that clearly states the heart of the paragraph. The advantage here is that it creates a strong impression that I’ve read and commented upon the paper, without actually requiring much effort from me. Though I don’t know why I scribble on final essays anyhow. Circling typos is also useful for this.”

 

It takes a lot of time to grade writing, but good teachers give a lot of writing work and grade it anyway! My inspiration this year has been the honors English teacher of my own children who goes above and beyond in her teaching of writing.

 

When I’m ready to give up, I think of her. I really should mention this to her, but I’ll wait until they no longer have her as a teacher so it doesn’t look like I’m brown-nosing.

 

Here’s the bottom line (putting on teacher hat for wrap-up here): before they turn in the paper, I have the student underline their topic sentence, conclusion sentence. That saves me some effort and time on my part to go hunting for these things. I can quickly scan whether they have mentioned what the body of their essay will cover.  In addition, it holds them accountable for what they were told to do.

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