Thursday, August 25, 2011

Abundant Celebration on a Meagre Budget

I’m a romantic…a hopeFUL romantic.  So with the approach of our 24th anniversary, I’m getting excited.  We’re both eager to celebrate the occasion.  Unfortunately, we’ve endured a few financial set-backs this year – as many folk have – so an extravagent meal out or a weekend getaway are just not in our budget.  Instead, we’re planning a special in-home celebration.

Both of us enjoy cooking and consider ourselves “foodies.”  In the past, we’ve sought out various fine dining experiences to help us celebrate our special day and it’s a treat we never tire of. This year, as an alternative, we’ve been pouring over cookbooks and online recipes, developing a menu, hoping to create our very own fine dining experience.

For us, it’s not all about the food – the setting and atmosphere add immensely to the whole experience.  So, before we made any other decisions, we decided on a theme.  This not only guided our menu choices, it also provides decorating ideas, and will influence the wine and music selections, all enhancing the mood.

Celebrating on a shoestring doesn’t have to mean fine dining.  There are other activities and pursuits that, with a little creativity can be planned without breaking the budget.  We’ve had a “winter picnic”on Valentine’s Day, “game tournaments” on birthdays and, for one anniversary a few years ago, we made our very own “spa weekend.”  Prior to that, Hubby had no idea just how good a manicure or facial could feel.  Massage is a welcome, loving touch, (especially for two people suffering chronic back pain,) so I created our own massage table, setting the mood with candles, soft music, a water feature, plenty of clean soft towels, and fragrant oils to intoxicate the senses.  It was a supremely relaxing weekend, without the usual high cost associated with a spa visit.

You needn’t be strapped for cash to design your own events.  In fact, at-home festivities are easily as memorable as the elaborate celebrations we’ve enjoyed or traditional gifts we’ve bought.  It’s the uniqueness and (often) intimate setting which really mark these occasions in our recollections.  It’s like creating your own cards – the sentiment behind the gesture feels somehow more heartfelt.

A tight budget might be the inspiration behind creative event-planning, but it needn’t diminish the joy of the occasion.  With a bit of ingenuity, your thoughtfulness and love can be expressed in fun and exciting ways, and evoke enduring memories.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seeing Is Believing

My prescription eye-wear broke this summer presenting us with a sudden, though not entirely unexpected, expense.  Fortunately our budget includes a monthly savings allowance for optometry needs and, since I bought the new eye-wear from a wholesaler, we had the cost covered.  Even so, there was little left for extras.  Lens cleaner was easily dismissed – I haven’t bought that in years. 

The last three cleansers I purchased failed.  Two were opticians’ in-house brands and the other was a commercial brand.  Two left multi-coloured smears, like gasoline-slicks, on the lenses and the other worked but was outrageously expensive.

That’s when I began making my own, though opticians cautioned against using “other” cleaners.  Anything but their brand or specially formulated commercial products “could ruin lenses or their coatings.”  This up-sell worked on me…twice.  But after paying good money for smeared results I realized clean dishwater worked better.

Hubby complains my purse holds “everything but the kitchen sink” so clearly dishwater isn’t always accessible.  ; )  I searched for a more portable formula and found one which used sudsy ammonia.  But, that seemed too harsh a chemical and, ever cautious, I was reluctant to risk the possibility of it pitting the lenses or stripping their coating.  Another recipe used castile soap but I haven’t (yet) found any.  A common recipe uses a high proportion of rubbing alcohol but that makes a toxic solution for a child or pet.  After a little more research, the recipe I created is a simple, mild, and effective one:

  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • 2-3 drops dish soap
  • Mix these ingredients together in a well-cleaned spray bottle.

A spritz of this solution on each lens, then a light polish with a clean, soft cloth and eye-wear glistens.  No harsh chemicals, no streaks, no smears, no gasoline-slick rainbows.  Both the vinegar and dish soap have antiseptic qualities, and the solution has little (if any) toxicity.  It’s also proven to be gentle on lenses and coatings.  Total cost (using wholesale-priced vinegar and dish soap):  less than a penny for 4 ounces of cleaner, approximately a 4-month supply for me.

I admit, after spending several hundred dollars on prescription eye-wear, it’s comparatively small relief to avoid buying lens cleaner.  But, I begrudge spending money on products that don’t work well or are excessively expensive.  This simple recipe not only works, it’s far more economical, and that value increases over the long term by maintaining a necessary investment in optimal condition.