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When I moved into the new place, I had a bit of fun making some investments in important things like a couch, toilet paper and a silverware caddy. That was about it though. You see (warning: this post is going to be a bit more personal than most), I had a nagging sense that this ‘living by myself’ business was going to be a bit bigger financial commitment and I knew that if I was going to pull it off, I was going to have to get some help with my budget.

I had done budgeting before. The only thing about it was that it never worked. Prior to this August, I gave myself $500 to buy groceries, gas, get my dry cleaning done and do friendly activities in addition to paying my bills. I didn’t really have a hard time sticking to this. Instead, it was those other things, those non-budgeted things, which tripped me up. What was I supposed to do when I had four friends’ birthdays in one month? What happened if I wanted to treat myself to a massage? Oh my gosh! The new Glee CD was coming out! How would I pay for that? The answer was my Visa. All that extra stuff (and there was a bit of it at times) would go on the Visa. Then I’d pay it off and shuffle a measly $20 over to savings and pat myself on the back.

So, now perhaps, you can see why I had that nagging feeling that things needed to get rearranged. To be honest, I knew it was Spirit-led and sought out help at my community group. Thankfully, my friends (and a very fun couple too!) D and A, are amazing budgeters and offered their services since they serve on my church‘s financial coaching ministry team. Their services involved asking me tough questions, crunching lots of numbers, and then coming up with a realistic (ie: BIGGER) budget which I would feel limited by but wasn’t impossible to keep. For me, a big part of committing to this fresh start was saying good bye to plastic cards (even debit!) and taking out cold, hard cash (in moderate amounts each week). To keep things straight (my current budget has ~9 spending categories in addition to rent, tithing and bills), I organize my biweekly spending amounts into little white envelopes. Hence, the title of today’s post has come about.

When I moved to the homestead, I knew I wanted, no needed, to do something to the front yard. I had come across these planters on sale at Safeway (50% off) and had fallen in love with the natural gray stone. I knew they would play a part in making the front of my house more lovely.

I got these wonderfully-sized, beautiful planters for $30!

Unfortunately, my ‘House/Beauty’ envelope had quickly depleted in both August and September due to needing to buy who knows what (now that I think about it) and so I had to wait until October to even start thinking about filling them. Luckily I happened to take a peek at Lowes‘ weekly ad and saw that potting soil was on sale for $2.50. Additionally, mums were on sale too. As such, I set my sight on Lowes with the hope that I would fill those planters up and deck out my front stoop in $10 or less.

Prior to shopping, I had done some research on Better Homes and Gardens to find flowers and plants which were fall and winter proof. I spent a lot of time particularly drooling over their Fall Container Garden Recipes trying to decide how I would spend my remaining $7.50 on beautiful grasses, pansies and kale.

Better Homes and Gardens

I’m sure you’re not surprised to read that my $10 budget bubble was quickly popped as soon as I stepped into Lowe’s greenhouse. It had nothing to do with their offerings. Instead, it had everything to do with the fact that I. just. love. plants. (Despite my trials here and here, I really am a plant lover!)

As I walked through the aisles at Lowes I tried to remember how big the planters were. Surely, they would need three, four, or five plants a piece right?! I walked back and forth between the flowers and the ornamental grasses, mentally rounding up prices. Despite the fact that my mental number kept growing bigger and bigger, I found myself placing more plants in my basket. Finally, I forced myself to the register (at that point, I was pondering buying a tree!) and braced myself for the bad news. When the clerk told me that my loot had only cost $22 and some change, I exhaled the breath I had been holding in my half hour exercise. “Well that’s not too bad…” I said as I dug out some pennies and quickly resolved to put off buying picture frames for another month (although you may remember that a BOGO deal made those a reality too!).

Once home, I set to work keeping in mind the various textures, heights and colors of the picture-perfect containers I had studied oh-so-intensely during the week prior.

The loot from Lowes

I’ve done my best (aka I could be completely wrong) to name the different plants I purchased starting at the upper left and moving clockwise:

Mums (Miniature)

Pansy (for sure!)

Fountain Grass

Flowering Kale

Ornamental Grass (so fun!)

Another Pansy (Theta love!)

Dusty Miller

Sweet Alyssum

Although this most likely seems like a no-brainer process, I did include some pictures showing you my bumbles and successes:

Like all good container projects, I started with my dirt. At first I used my hand shovel to move the dirt from the bag to the containers.

Starting with the larger container, I placed the fountain grass and the flowering kale. Both actually had pretty deep roots so I ended up moving a lot of the dirt I had started with.

As I tried to secure the larger plants (especially the grass) into the container, I ended up pouring the dirt from the small container into the larger one.

Thus creating a huge mess - notice all the dirt that is not in the container?

With a lot of maneuvering, I was able to jimmy in the pansy and the miniature mums. I also ended up using my welcome mat as a knee pad. Oh goodness!

Knowing that the shovel simply wasn't cutting it, I opted to reuse an indoor house plant container as a scooper.

I refilled the smaller container...

... and grunted my way through wedging the remaining plants in. Seriously, there was a lot of gasping and sighing. And then it started to rain.

After a quick sweep of the stoop and wiping down the containers, I took a step back to admire my ~$22 project.

I definitely think it was worth 1/5 of my 'Beauty/House' budget...

Yep, definitely!

So far, my little containers have transitioned to our brisk days and cool evenings rather well! The gardening clerk at Lowes taught me to pinch my dead pansy heads off in order to promote blooming. I have been doing this for the last few weeks and I’m amazed at how many blossoms have continued to spring up. The only two plants which aren’t faring particularly well is the fountain grass (the clerk warned me it would only last one season although it has turned a sweet purple color to match the rest of the container plants!) and the sweet alyssum (all the little purple flowers have fallen away as the temperature has dropped). Regardless, the containers definitely brighten my day as I head outside to walk to work making me continually grateful that I was able to stretch the envelope to check this ‘to-do’ item off my list!

Do you have an on-a-budget project that turned out great? If so, what is it?