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Viewing the '$20 Challenge' Category

Month Five Minimum Wage Challenge Totals

August 1st, 2006 at 07:51 pm

July was an easy month, which I am very grateful for considering I had car insurance due. Budgeting for it each month paid off in the end. Iíve really gotten used to spending so little on a consistent basis.

*ďBankedĒ Total only includes positive numbers: unspent money in each category in prior months.

** Budget includes $1073 income less $89.36 ďoverspentĒ in categories in June

*** August's budget is $1073 income less the $38 overspent (auto insurance) in July

I had no extra income this month: Iím overdue on a recycling trip. My only Challenge income was $1073 (CA Minimum Wage less FICA and SDI). If youíre a new visitor looking for further details on how I arrived at the $1073, and what budgeting methods I use, see prior month summaries.

Eagle eyes will notice Iíve boosted savings to $40 from $39, and also added significantly to my big purchase/emergency fund. Iím expecting a freezer to eat a lot of this money in August or September; it will be nice to make a needed big purchase on The Challenge but I will need to really ramp up my savings to compensate.

My spent of $1073 is $519 less than my average per month last year. (I know have some banked, but it will be spent on non-monthly budgeted purchases.) Adding back in the $40 I put into "savings" under the challenge, I saved an additional $559 for the $20 challenge. This makes for $2791 in savings in five months for my $20 Challenge.

Breaking Frugal Rules

July 30th, 2006 at 11:51 am

Frugal things I do not do:

Iíve never once made bread. Iím intimidated by yeast. It was a big deal when I started making muffins a couple of years ago.

I have not used a single coupon in the last five years. I buy mostly generics and store brands and bulk foods. Iím not unhappy with my $100 a month for groceries, though I know it could be less (witness Boefixpa working on the less than $50 a month.)

I do not own a freezer. I came very close a couple years ago, but was thwarted three times in a row.

I donít clean with baking soda or vinegar. Or lemon juice or Borax. On the flip side, Iíd guess I donít spend more than $10 to $15 a year on cleaning products, excluding dish and laundry detergent.

I just started a price book a couple of weeks ago, and havenĎt used it yet.

I donít garden. My Guy is doing some container gardening this year, but I have to admit itís all him. We might get some veggies out of it, but nothing to be real proud of, and he would get all the credit anyway.

Why do I share these things with you and my future self? Not so much for you to try to sell me on the above, although thatís fine. Iím perfectly willing to be convinced that the above activities will bring dollars and joy to my life.

With coupons and the freezer, Iíve already convinced myself. I have looked at Flashís posts and articles, and I have decided to try couponing for a little bit to see if it works with my lifestyle. I donít doubt it can save me money; my worry is that the time it would take me would not be as fun for me as other money saving hobbies. I am planning on buying a freezer this summer, still staying within the rules of The Challenge.

Another reason to post this, though, is so that beginner tightwads can see that a frugal life can be lived while breaking frugal rules. How? Because there are no Frugal Rules! Iíve been saving quite a bit of money for a long time now, without using the above strategies. Of course I use lots of other strategies. I live simply. I go to garage sales and thrift stores. I cook from scratch a lot. Being frugal does means employing at least some activities or habits.

But itís a big umbrella! I say again, there are no Frugal Rules. To join the frugal crowd means reducing spending in areas where you can get the same value for less, so that you have money for other areas. That is a very personal decision. You can be a perfectly confident Frugal Tightwad even if you donít wash Ziploc bags, or hang laundry to dry. Me, I travel: itís important to me, and I spend over $1000 a year on it, but I certainly understand if another person would find that $1000 better spent on Christmas or children (neither of which falls anywhere on my priority list).

Frugality can fit everyone.

Garage Sale Haul

July 15th, 2006 at 02:26 pm

A whopping $3.30 today.

Four small Christmas Gifts (Ornaments)

A popsicle mold, plus enough ďhandlesĒ for my other mold

4 packets of bath salts

An Index card Holder with Alpha tabs

A bunch of clothes pins

A small ďtravelĒ roll of TP for the glove compartment

A cute burlap bag, filled with
A ton of teabags, various types, plus sugar/salt/pepper packets, and

A bunch of creamer/spoon/napkin packs, perfect for camping

Nothing great, but good. The teabags themselves made it worth it-the tea and other food items were in Free Box.

I also got some Free Food from a friend who was cleaning out her cupboards. One nice thing about being known as frugal is that people know I might be willing to take these types of items. Itís funny; Iím grateful for these hand-me-downs, but I also think that sometimes when I get these items, the people giving them feel good about Recycling. It works for everyone.

Iím making a Clean the Fridge soup. Not as creative as some of my others, but some hand-me-down rice and barley, some almost wilting vegetables, and some hand-me-down green olives that I have been chipping away at for months, it feels like. Iíve got all these saved and frozen and wrapped and rescued foods, and it feels a little crowded. So any soup that empties 4 or more cottage cheese tubs is a winner.

Donít Upgrade

July 12th, 2006 at 06:04 pm

Imagine that your income was going to be cut by $100 a month permanently. What would you cut out or reduce? How about doing it now? You probably thought of things that werenít as important to youÖ.if you love dining out, you might have thought of cutting cable; if you love your TV, you may have thought about cutting out going out to eat. What if you gave up what wasnít super important, and were then able to pay down debt, or build an emergency fund, or fund something really important to you, like a ďrealĒ vacation? Would you be willing to give up the things that you donít need, donít love?

Iím watching the Oprah Debt Diet show, and sheís reinforcing for me a principle that I have been working at articulating. Donít Upgrade. I could lose my job today and take a minimum wage job and be okay, today. That is such a freeing feeling. It doesnít feel deprived or degrading, it feels very freeing.

In all areas, we were very slow to increase spending when we went from broke to doing well. Getting Netflix, at $19.29 ($9.65 each) was a huge decision for us. We have the very basic $9.95 cable; that too was a huge decision for us (somewhat forced by a class of mine having televised segments.) People making half of what we do have ďfullĒ $50 cable.

In so many areas we have either not increased spending, or increased it by so little, that we donít have much to lose. Weíve learned what is important to us, and spend little in areas that arenít important to us.

I have a job I like. I eat a good diet, including lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. My house has plenty of furniture, and we have a wonderful comforter on a great bed. I have a lot of books, and a few magazine subscriptions. We have money to spend on leisure activities that are important to us. I have a great computer and a high speed connection. I have a car with 35,000 miles on it and no payments.

If our spending followed our income, if we had upgraded, and spent more, weíd have so much weíd have to give up. Faced with a downturn, we might have had to give up fancy coffee, full cable, Department Store shopping, convenience foods, fancy paper or cleaning products, new clothes, cruises, timeshares, jewelry, steak, a housecleaner.

By living low, Iíve actually created a better quality of life for myself than I might have if I had upgraded my spending without giving a lot of thought to it.

One Third of the Way!

July 2nd, 2006 at 02:40 pm

Hereís my Month Four Summary on my (Modified) Minimum Wage Challenge. Iím doing well, and can even see buying a freezer later in the summer. My spent of $1073 is $519 less than my average per month last year. (I know have some banked, but it will be spent on non-monthly budgeted purchases.) Adding back in the $39 I put into "savings" under the challenge, I saved an additional $558 for the $20 challenge. This makes for $2232 in savings in four months for my $20 Challenge.

1) My ďsavingsĒ fund has $156 in it; $39 a month for 4 months. My newly started combination emergency fund/large purchase fund has hit a whopping $21.20; what I added to it in June was triple what I added in May, so there is progress there. It shows a balance of zero because itís not in my main ďaccountĒ in my budgeting spreadsheet.
2) My total to spend is less than $1073 (plus $1 extra income) to account for any overspending in any categories from last month. See prior posts or the YouNeedABudget site for more details.
3) $395 is the sum of the positive numbers; thatís the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses.
4) The $983.64 comes from $1073 less the overspending in 3 categories in June, $89.36.

My income for the month included my regular $1073 CA Minimum Wage (see prior posts for details) plus $1 dollar from a survey; no recycling or books sold on half.com this month.

The miscellaneous this month is my half of the Costco membership. Weíve weighed the benefits, and for us membership is worth it; partially because of the significantly cheaper gas at Costco, partially on some computer related items. Iíve also now found that I can get significant cheese savings at Costco, now that Iíve started an official Price Book.

My medical expenses have calmed down and I have been spending less by habit; it takes less and less effort. My grocery average is now down to $93. Iím now using a Price Book, cooking more from scratch, and doing a lot of garage saling and thrift store shopping. Iím also going out much less, and enjoying it more when I do.

Freak Soup

June 29th, 2006 at 06:49 pm

My discovery of blender soups has led me down strange paths. I bought a ten pound bag of carrots because the price was right. I knew I could not eat them all as carrot sticks, so I steamed some for blender soup. When we grilled last Sunday I realized we were at the bottom of the ketchup and mustard containers (we bought more). So I took some water and put it in the ketchup and mustard bottles, shookíem up, and poured into the blender along with some dry milk powder and carrots, blended, and made Mustard Ketchup Carrot Soup.

I tasted it and Iím almost giddyÖÖit tastes great. Iíd serve it to guests as Cream of Carrot soup, though.

LRJohnson's Dirty Laundry

June 27th, 2006 at 08:09 pm

That's a misleading title for an entry that really should be called:
Laundry: Washing and Hanging

I think my method of handling laundry is fairly easy and fairly cheap.


ēI donít automatically toss clothes Iíve worn in the hamper. I certainly donít re-wear stinky or soiled clothing, but often Iím able to wear a shirt or pair of pants more than once.

ēI take off my work clothes as soon as I come home, most times. At first it was just because I liked being in my jammies, but then I realized that it was enabling me to get another wearing between washings.

ēSleep clothes especially can take a few wearings. I even re-wear my "sleep socks," since they havenít been walked around in.

ēI only wash full loads, without over-packing my washer.

ēI used to wash once a week. Now that Iím doing almost all hang drying, I find it better to wash more frequently, so that I have enough room on my line and rack for all the clothes.

ēSince I wash more frequently, I can get by on fewer clothes. I seem to be wearing the underwear at the front of the drawer and not getting to the ones in the back, due to frequent laundry.

ēI use to use the cheapest of the cheap powder. I then got a huge bottle of liquid as part of a product survey, and I kind of liked it. (Donít voluntarily upgradeÖ.you can become discontented with what used to be satisfactory.) Iím now back to my cheapie cheap powder, but I do have a bottle of the cheapest liquid if I feel like splurging. (What a splurge, huh?)

ēThe cheapest powder is actually not hard on my clothes, because I use a half measure. Our clothes arenít heavily soiled: we work in offices. In all my time using less detergent, Iíve been perfectly happy with the results.

ēWhen I use the liquid, I drop the cup in the washer so all the soap is used up.

ēI do sometimes use bleach on my whites, maybe once a month.

ēI never use liquid fabric softener.

ēA couple years ago, the hot water stopped feeding into the washer. It probably wouldnít take too much effort to fix it, but weíve been happy with just washing in cold. Cold wash, cold rinse on everything. If I fixed it, I might use warm on towels. I donít have any kids or immuno-suppressed people in the house, so Iím not worried about germs the way other people might need to be. Colors never bleed, either.

ēI use the short cycle almost always. Again, mostly light wear on the clothes, and Iíve been happy with the results.

ēIf I want to soak clothes, I leave the lid of the washer up and my washer stops part way though. I get to soak without using the soak cycle.

ēDoing the short wash and cold all the time, Iíve found that I donít need to sort laundry. I can wash a blouse with undies with a white towel with a pair of jeans. Itís a madhouse.

ēIíve just moved to line drying all the time, instead of just during the summer.

ēI re-spin clothes in the washer to get extra water out.

ēFor some shirts, work slacks, and blouses, I do use the dryer. This way I donít need to iron. I know I could hang them then use the dryer the last few minutes, but Iím okay drying one load a week.

ēIf I have to choose what to line dry as far as space or time limitations, I always line dry the big heavy items: jeans, towels.

ēI use a half dryer sheet sometimes when I think of it. The last cheapo off brand box we bought has lasted over a year. Sometimes I reuse them. Our clothes smell fine and donít cling without them, so I guess I could give them up. But hey, sometimes I like to live it up. With a dryer sheet.

Line drying
ēIíve been pleasantly surprised at how cool it can be outside and clothes can still dry. Iíve heard over 60 degrees is outdoor drying weather.

ēIíve been pleasantly surprised that clothes can dry in the house overnight.

ēHanging in the house for me means pinning even jeans to a hanger, so that everything is on a hanger, then finding places to hang the hangers. I could get an indoor clothesline; I haven't ruled it out, I'm just not unhappy with the status quo. Shorter items can go on door knobs. I found more things I could put a hanger on than I expected.

ēThe first time I hung clothes it took a while. I can now do it quickly. I worked at being patient with myself.

ēI bought 2 packs of clothes pins at the dollar store years ago, and they are still going strong. I also love them for other uses (closing food bags, etc.)

ēI use a small wooden folding drying rack that I bought at a garage sale years ago; I canít remember the price. This is what I use for socks, undies, dishtowels, and napkins. Line drying has made my underwear last longer-no fried elastic.

ēOutside I have a retractable line: on one side of the house permanently mounted, and can be pulled out and attached to a hook on the opposite side of the yard. Weíll take it with us if we move.

ēI hang t-shirts and knit shirts and nightgowns on hangers; this gives me more room. If I didnít have space considerations, I might hang them by pins upside down (under the arms seems to dry faster that way).

ēI donít mind stiff clothes. If I did, or had guests using the towels, I might throw them in the dryer for a minute to soften.

ēLine dried clothes smell fabulous.

Whew. Iíve mentioned my unmentionables.

I know there are other methods and strategies. This was not meant to be a comprehensive list. This is just what I do, a gal who has a decent income but who has chosen to live on CA Minimum Wage for a year. A lot of things I had already been doing. On The Challenge I have become much more consistent and paid much more attention.

Goal: Less Boring

June 26th, 2006 at 09:01 pm

Iím closing in on the end of Month Four of my (Modified) Minimum Wage Challenge, success in sight. June has been much easier than April and May, actually; Iím very comfortable with my new spending habits. I am more at peace with my money than ever before. Four months will be one third of the year Iím planning to be on the Challenge, which is also my $20 Challenge.

My trouble is that Iím spending very little, but not necessarily explaining how I am spending a little less than $1073 a month and still having a full rich life. I wouldnít be doing this otherwise; frankly my income would accommodate willy-nilly spending, and my belt-tightening is purely by choice.

Iím working on writing down my strategies specifically; thanks to Tightwad Kitty for the idea. Iíve got ideas for breaking down particular areas, such as food, entertainment, and the like, as well as general themes, such as ďBuying Less Means Clutter FreeĒ and ďLowered (Not Low) Expectations Mean Met Expectations.Ē

Not only do I not want to have a boring blog, I want to have a record for five, ten, thirty years from now to keep me grounded and have a base to build on. If I get in the company of spendthrifts Iíll need to remind myself how good it felt to be in control of my spending and be able to put a lot in savings while still feeling undeprived.

(Iím still going traveling in September. As stated pre-Challenge and pre-ticket purchase, the one thing I donít want to pass up is opportunities for world travel. So this is the one area I will spend outside the Challenge. We got a deal to London round trip for $450, so we are flying to Europe. Most of our time will be in Croatia and Serbia, with a little time in London. My friend and I did some planning yesterday, and I am getting pretty excited. I will be tracking all trip expenses, because another thing I do want to convey is that world travel can be done with moderate spending. As yet, the $450 is my only expense. Iíve had no luck searching for recent used Croatian guide books, so my next expense will be a new guide book. Iíll live.)

Pretty Darn Dinner

June 18th, 2006 at 08:43 pm

Here is a picture of my pretty little dinner.

Arenít the shells nice? I use regular tortillas, in my new little molds, $1 at a garage sale. If someone was interested, Iíd recommend maybe just folding an aluminum pie pan into the right shape, or snagging a pot pie pan from a spendthrift bud. Bake at 375 after spraying with cooking spray. Or you could go old school and oil it.

Iím still using canned refried beans. I know I should be making my own from dried beans-Iím getting there. The shredded cheddar/jack was a nickel a pound less than the block; unusual, and good, since I have better luck freezing shredded than block cheese. Iím not interested in making my own tortillas yet, but someday I may.

My Guy set it up so I can download pictures from his digital camera to my computer. Itís a bit too exciting-watch out!

Freezer: Yea or Nay?

June 18th, 2006 at 12:55 pm

Iíve been thinking about buying a freezer for many years. Often with a big purchase I contemplate for a really long time, so that when I buy it Iím sure.

About a year and a half ago, I finally committed to the purchase. After three farcical attempts to buy it at Costco (Iíd call, theyíd have one, Iíd drive there, it was sold five minutes ago, etc.) I gave up. The message seemed to be "it is not the right time."

Now Iím having pangs again. Costco has a 7 cubic foot, dishwasher size, for $199.99. I donít know what the energy usage is. Sears has a 5 cubic foot for $169.99. The energy usage, on a scale of 166 to 245, is 242, which is disheartening.

We have really old wiring in the house; some might be original-we see the actual cloth wires on the outside of the wall. We havenít had big problems, but we have had minor problems, and My Guy has a valid concern that a freezer could strain the wiring.

I periodically see chest freezers for free on Freecycle, but they are older. I know that Amy Dacyczyn isnít the final word on everything, but freezers were one of the few new purchases she recommended, due to the significant increases in energy efficiency in newer models. I know I want a smaller one, so many of the free ones might be too big.

We arenít big meat eaters, so we wouldnít use a freezer for that much. I would use it for plums from our tree, because they all get ripe at once and I canít process that many for canning all at once. Iíd use it for thrift store bread. I want to make two serving dinners in big batches-lasagna, chili, stew, casseroles. Iíd use it for blackberries. (Lay on cookie sheet, freeze, then put in bags, to avoid clumps. That way you can have a handful at a time.)

Iíd put in par-baked pizza dough-Iím intimidated by baking, and if I could make 4 or 5 pizza bases at one time Iíd be more inclined to learn. Iíd freeze large batches of grains, like oatmeal and flour, for 24 hours to prevent bugginess.

I think that five cubit feet would be fine for me. I would be using my Minimum Wage Savings to buy this, so it would come out of my $39 a month, for $156 so far, and the rest Iíd have to just take out of other categories-I just canít see cheating on The Challenge.

My Guy suggests waiting until later in the summer, when I actually have fruit to put in it. Heís not really for the idea; he thinks it would take up too much space and strain the wiring, though heís not anywhere close to invoking a veto.

(We use the ďvetoĒ to judge how strongly someone thinks about something. ďDo you want to go on a grocery run?Ē ďNot reallyĒ means you could be talked into it. ďVetoĒ means end of discussion. We try not to overuse it; itís a really nice way of conveying firmness in the refusal without being argumentative.)

Iím thinking of watching Freecycle for a couple months, then taking a chance with a Sears or Costco freezer at the end of the summer. I am concerned about getting an old one, but maybe Amy Dís advice is outdated-a 1992 freezer may have been light years better for electric usage than a 1986, but a 2002 freezer might be as good as a 2006 freezer. Iím gonna call some local places to see if they have used, refurbished freezers. I looked at Targetís site, and the options were more expensive than Costco and Sears. I donít have a Home Depot or other building store, or any other department stores that I think would have freezers.

I welcome any opinions, from the grocery aspect to the electric usage to the old wiring to the cubic feet part. Also any other uses that freezers have that I didnít mention, and any other plusses or minuses on brands, etc.

Only Waited Ten Years or So

June 17th, 2006 at 09:48 pm

With my little bit of energy I organized today. Iíd never actually done a price book, despite my love of Amy Dacyczyn. I decided after a Costco visit that it was time-I knew from the prices that I keep in my head that the prices on a couple items were great, but other items were not good deals, to say the least. Itís time to give my memory a break, and let other items besides prices find room in my head. I feel good about my grocery expenditures-average of $103 over the last 17 months-but it will be nice be able to stock up confidently when I see a truly great deal.

I did already have a lot of prices in my head, and was able to make more entries in my spreadsheet Price Book than I thought. I have a Rule of Thumb column, for standard cutoffs that I use all the time at all stores (pasta 50 cents a pound or less, etc.). I have columns for the four other stores I shop at regularly, plus a column for ďotherĒ stores. Instead of one page per item, I did a list of items, so I will have two landscape pages total to start. By using just 2 grocery receipts and whatís in my head Iíve got a good head start. Itís surprising how many prices Iíve memorized, and then I just had to peek at the container to check the total weight.

I also put together a list of what I have in my Presents Stash. I have 16 person-specific gifts, and nine miscellaneous gifts that could go to anyone, and are good hostess gifts, or even ďitís been a bad week-feel betterĒ gifts. Making the list also helped me figure out where holes are, so I can look that much more carefully at garage sales and thrift stores for certain people.

Iím going to bed early tonight. Still not up to par, and just a whole lot of nothing on TV.

Just in Bed

June 16th, 2006 at 07:22 pm

The lack of posts mean nothing except a bad cold. Still on the Challenge, Month Four. The gas & electric bill is down even more. No spending other than the monthly utilities.

Other Saving Advice people have serious health issues, mine is just a cold that makes me sweat in bed so my poor bed smells. I get cold outside the covers then sweat in the covers. Grrr.

Iím cranky but nothing sleep and patience wonít fix.

No, Thank You.

June 13th, 2006 at 07:08 pm

I went to Costco today, and it was a little overwhelming. I was so very grateful for The Challenge. There was so much stuff, and so much unnecessary stuff, it kind of stunned me. Huge cans of nuts, and sweets, and tasty gooey fatty rich stuff. There was some granola at $8.69 for a bag the same size as my homemade batch. Even if I bought a handful of dried cranberries and pecans, mine would cost less than $2. Bread at a "deal" for $2.50 a loaf! A lot of items I wouldnít have bought regardless, but on other items, I was glad to be able to say, "No, not on The Challenge."

It reminded me of when Iím invited out, and I donít really want to go, and I say ďI canít stay up that lateĒ, which is true, but Iím glad I have the excuse, Iím not upset about it. Declining a purchase due to The Challenge isnít a burden, itís freeing.

I also saw a large number of...large people. Iím overweight, Iím not trying to ding anyone, it was just that the excess was a tonic for my system, and made me less interested in the foods.

I think I might actually do a price book. Iíve been a Huge Amy D fan, fanatic, for years, and I donít have one. (Usually just levels in my head: tuna never more then 50 cents a can, pasta 50 cents a pound, canned veggies 3/$1). But there were some items, a very few, that were better prices, and Iíd like to be able to track that. I was able to get good cheddar for $1.85, where Iíve been fighting to get $2.25 cheese elsewhere, and in fact I got grated real cheddar for $1.78 a pound.

So in this place of mighty mounds of massive muchness, I bought: cheese, tortillas, spinach, carrots, and eggs.

My Guy used the new tortilla molds, and I ate a very pretty, very tasty tortilla shell bowl filled with beans and spinach, with some cheese and non-fat sour cream and salsa. The shell was great, and itís baked so itís low fat. And it really was pretty; not something I usually notice about my food, but pleasant.

A Good Monday is Definitely a Win

June 12th, 2006 at 08:05 pm

Iím re-reading Tightwad Gazette, for the zillionth time. Every time Iím energized, and every time I take away a new idea. This time, Iím planning on making more gift items, food and craft, for birthdays and Christmas. If I get really together, I could do a weekend a month on craft things. Shhhhh...donít ell the people Iím trying to convince Iím lazy. I am lazy, but I find making bath salts and other gifts fun. Some people might not believe me.)

Making food items would be practice for Christmas and used for birthdays. Also, for those who have been generous with hand me down items. (Can the term hand me downs be used for non-clothes items?!?) Two ideas to start-the homemade toffee, four ingredients, and candied orange and grapefruit peels: uses ďwasteĒ and syrup can be used for waffles and pancakes. I know that when I have a large stash of jam, I like bringing jars to people for various reasons: they quit smoking, a birthday; theyíve had a rotten week, they helped me out at work. Itíd be nice to vary the little treats.

I walked to work today, and walked back, with a stop at the post office and a thrift store. I rode my free recumbent bike, and ate well. I have avoided ďbadĒ TV. So much clean living. I love reading the forms and blogs; I really feel like I have found a frugal home. I am surprised at how fond of or connected to people I can be, when Iíve never met them.

Spending: The thrift store had a whole lotta nothing going on, but I did give my P.O. $1.21-three regular stamps and a couple two centers to use with old 37 cent stamps.

Upcoming spending: the Oyster Festival is next Saturday, and I love oysters, cooked and raw. I also want to go camping in the next few weekends; we have the gear and would use regular groceries, but extra gas and site fees would be expenses. Otherwise, I see no expenses in my near future that arenít them same old utility bills, groceries, etc.

Inspired by Ray

June 11th, 2006 at 07:17 pm

Thrifty Ray bought a blender. As I commented on her blog that I like to make breakfast shakes, I also mentioned that Iíd been meaning to try and make pureed soups. So I stood up and made one, using some steamed broccoli I had the other night. Reconstituted dry powdered milk, broccoli, a tiny but of bouillon, and about a tablespoon of ranch-type dressing (left over bottle-I put a dash of water in it, swished, and poured it in the blender). I then blended, nuked, and had really good soup.

Usually I like my own concoctions, and sometimes Iím the only one that eats them. But this soup passed the My Guy test! So now I have a new simple recipe. I think Iíll play with variety-cauliflower, carrots, pumpkin puree. Try some spices. I love being able to control the ingredients-sometimes low-fat foods have a lot of gunk in them. Iíd be willing to serve this to guests, itís that good. I can also use the idea to make ďcream ofĒ soups used in casseroles and other recipes-I can make it thicker to have the condensed version.

I love finding a new little trick. This one, homemade soup in minutes from left over veggies, is definitely a keeper.

Muffins, Popsicles, and Granola

June 11th, 2006 at 03:01 pm

Using the recumbent exercise bike is becoming a habit. I think once it hits a month itíll be pretty routine. Also, watching less TV is becoming a habit. Iím using the time on the bike as my time to watch ďbadĒ TV without guilt. Otherwise, Iím watching mostly TV I deem decent, or even better, listening to more music.

Today repetition paid off; I was able top bust out a double batch of muffins and a batch of granola in minutes. Plus I made my first batch of homemade popsicles in my new ten-cent mold.

I used the big bag of quick oats I got from Freecycle, as part of the grain in the muffins, and for the granola. I took a cheapo can of papaya, drained part of the juice for popsicles, and blended the rest into a puree for the muffins. I put some of the puree back in the popsicles for texture and color. I used some homemade bread crumbs for the muffins too; we make them more quickly than we use them. I also use soy flour instead of eggs, and substitute apple sauce for half the fat. Since itís the second time I made the granola, I altered the recipe to make it cheaper, and lower-calorie. (I canít necessarily say healthier; Iím trying use up some corn syrup, which ainít the best, and I also used some Splenda, which some might object to.) The oven was used for both the muffins and the granola, and now I have snacks and breakfast galore.

The first time I made muffins it took a while. Now itís so familiar, and I can use what I have on hand.

Itís Amy Dacyczynís basic recipe, Tightwad Gazette II, page 164.
* 2 to 2-1/2 cups flour/grain (substitute oats, cornmeal, bran, etc. for part of the flour)
* Up to ľ cup fat (Oil, lard, butter, etc. Applesauce can be substituted for part-or all if you donít mind dryer muffins.)
* 1 cup milk (reconstituted dry powdered, or regular, or soy, or some juice)
* 1 egg (can substitute 1 heaping tablespoon soy flour and one tablespoon water)
* Up to Ĺ cup sweetener (sugar, corn syrup, brown sugar, Splenda, honey)
* 2 teaspoons Baking powder
* Ĺ teaspoons Salt
* Up to 1-1/2 cup additions (moist or dry. Raisins, shredded zucchini, mashed banana, sunflower seeds; the choices are endless)

Preheat to oven to 350. Bake 20 minutes at 350 in lightly greased muffin tins.

Homemade breadcrumbs: put bread bags with unused heels or broken pieces of bread in the freezer. Next time the oven is used, put all the miscellaneous pieces in a metal container in the oven after using it; let the left over heat dry the bread out. Put these pieces in a tub in the cupboard (I use a one gallon mayonnaise tub). When the tub is full get out the Universal grinder, and grind all the pieces. Store in an airtight container. Use as a topping on casseroles with butter or margarine; used as a breading for oven-fried fish; sneak into muffins. I only dry the bread every few months, and I grind the crumbs maybe once or twice a year, when Iím in a rare kitchen putter mood.

Forgot it was payday

June 10th, 2006 at 04:50 pm

Friday was payday. I hadn't known. I've been spending so little it wasn't a concern. It was a glorious feeling. I could see some wo-workers were a little surpised.

I transferred some money in to my ING account to celebrate. In fact, more than the paycheck was. The Challenge? It's Money in the bank, Baby!

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

June 10th, 2006 at 04:42 pm

Todayís Garage sale Haul:

Five smaller gifts $2.00

Manual chopper .10

Popsicle molds .10

Potholder (silicon) .25

Crazy light bulb .25

5 CDs 10.00

Colander .25

Tortilla shell molds 1.00

Raspberry Bar .50

Thatís $2 gifts, $11.95 household, and 50 cents entertainment.

The CDs were the big expense; otherwise it would have come under $5. However, I feel like a good used CD, in a case with inserts, is not a bad deal at $2 each (they were 2.50 each, 5 for $10). I got The Best of Eric Clapton, Tori Amos- Little Earthquakes, Rolling Stones-Stripped, Neil Young-Harvest, and Patsy Clineís Greatest Hits.

I tried to find a picture of the light bulb online and was unsuccessful searching for novelty bulbs. Itís an incandescent, regular bulb shape. But it has silicone ďspikesĒ on it, in a pattern, in three different colors. A little odd, but it spoke to me. Itís not exactly my style, but we have a bare bulb fixture in the laundry room so I put it in there.

The five smaller gifts include a nice bunch of candles for one of the women who periodically brings me gorgeous cardigans. My gifts stash, or either person specific or good general gifts, is growing nicely.

For the household items, My Guy was really excited by the Tortilla mold set; I figured heíd be which was why I was willing to spend a dollar. It came with instructions, and we hope to bake some molds soon. I love the idea of the tortilla shell for a salad being low-fat baked instead of fried. The chopper also excited him, as he plans to use it for onions. The colander is a nice sleek metal thing which will replace the battered melted plastic one we had. Iíd kept my eye out for months for one at a low enough price.

If you ever hold a garage sale, consider hanging the clothes. Iíll bet you sell at least three times as much. At a few places, since I donít need any clothes except fancier work stuff, Iíd take one look at a piled high table and pass. It was even worse when the stuff was piled on sheets or tarps on the ground. Maybe there were excellent items in those piles, but I wasnít up to looking, whereas Iíll always flip through any hung clothing.

The popsicle molds excited me; not sure how soon Iíll play with it yet. I have lots of ideas re: gelatin, yogurt, jams, iced tea, juice, canned fruit, canned fruit juices, etc.

I had a bunch of clothes that I took in to be exchanged. These were bought pre-Challenge, so I wasnít sure how to handle the money aspect of it. I could have gotten cash back but I certainly wouldnít have counted it as income. I exchanged for 3 items, and spent less than I exchanged for. (I used the rest of the credit to pants for My Guy for which heíll reimburse me). I got two $10.99 dresses and a $12.99 skirt. I wasnít going to count these an expense on The Challenge because I didnít put any money out, and if I didnít have exchange credit thereís no way I would have ever bought them. If anyone has an issue with this, I can reconsider posting it as an expense. I have some work events coming up that are going to require that I bump it up a tad; I know that to some an $11.99 dress is cheap, but to me it seemed quite high end.

I forgot to conclude the Clear Lake story (driving down to help my dadís wife with a piece of property a couple weeks ago). As far as gas (3 hour drive), D paid to fill up my tank, and I almost worried about it, except for two reasons. First, My Guy and I went down there to perform manual labor to help her. Second, sometimes when I feel generous and give someone something or treat them, it can be a small frustration when they say ďoh no, you shouldnít,Ē or act embarrassed, when I truly want to be generous. So I figured that itís good to learn to graciously receive if you want to give a lot. On that note I also accepted when she took us out to eat, at a nice little Mexican restaurant with very reasonable prices. As an extra bonus, I got a little travel kit that she wasnít using-a facial scrub, cleanser, lotions, etc. It was awfully nice seeing D, and I was a little jealous of My Guy who went later in the week to get some more done.

A Title is Elusive When the Post Rambles

June 5th, 2006 at 07:42 pm

My Guy had a job fall in his lap; what a good day. Itís part time, so he can still be kind of a bum, which he defines as ďbeing incredibly involved in his own pursuits.Ē The job is for a non-profit, small and local, so heíll feel god about working there. A bonus is that itís decent money, so the part time will pay full bills. (He spends like I do, which is nice.) He wasnít even looking for work, which makes it all the better.

I used a huge chunk of this monthís entertainment budget and treated him to a big celebratory burrito, and even got him a SoBe drink he loves-it surely does takes a mighty celebration for me to pay for a beverage at a take out place. With my little burrito, I spent $13 out of entertainment, and I feel good about the expense.

My water aerobics buddy wants to take a ďsemesterĒ off too, so thatís good. I biked five miles today on the recumbent, and may do some more. Iím fitting in to some stuff I couldnít before, so another good thing. Saving on the workout budget will help with the medical bills Iím still working on.

Thereís nothing on TV tonight, and Iím glad. Iíll take a bath and blog and bike and putter. The end of the season has come at an excellent time for me, right when I wanted to cut out some bad TV. That will leave me with 6 regular shows next fall in primetime, many of which I tape (an hour becomes 40 minutes!). I do still watch some syndicated sitcoms and news and Oprah from 5 to 8. Since I have no kids, and my commute is 3 minutes, and my house is pretty clutter free, and Iíve admitted Iím lazy, this should come as no huge shock.

I figure if Iím cleaning house, hanging laundry, biking, washing dishes, etc., I shouldnít feel too guilty about watching. I would like to move more towards music though. When I was younger, boy I had no time for TV, it was music music music.

The coffee is pre-made for tomorrow and the smoothie is in the blender just waiting to be blended for breakfast. Nice.

Spending Less results in More Treats

June 3rd, 2006 at 01:56 pm

When I was little, weíd get to pick one item each time we went to the grocery store. The item was usually on the cheaper side; maybe grapes, or a can of smoked oysters. I still sometimes treat myself to one item. Itís usually no more than three dollars, and is still usually fruit or smoked oysters. The idea that shopping always involved a treat probably wasnít the best lesson; however learning that treats can be little is something that I still benefit from.

I have a case of popsicles in the freezer that I got for a dime apiece in the winter. They are the fancy all fruit kind, very tasty. They are a treat. Itís not the cost that makes them a treat; itís that they are a sweet and that I have no more than one every couple of weeks.

If I live simply, and without too many frills, little things can feel like such treats. The less I spend the more bang I get for my treat buck. I spent ten times more dining out in two months, January and February, than I have spent in the last three months. I am enjoying the recent meals out so much more.

Cheap(er) treats (the more infrequent, the better):
Sticking a load of laundry in the dryer instead of hanging it.
ďBlowingĒ $5 in a thrift store or at a garage sale.
Having one can of soda.
Getting a burrito from the local place (less than $5)
Making a day a no chores day, even if I have to do a little more the night before.
ďBlowingĒ three dollars at the dollar store.
Sharing a fancy $2 can of soup and not cooking.
Having a fancy three dollar coffee or smoothie from a store
Getting a couple items off the dollar or value menu at a fast food place.
Pulling out the dusty paper plates to avoid dishes.

Iím not talking about having these be treats because I canít afford more. Heck, I could do all these things at least once a week if I wanted to. But why would I want to start taking something for granted, when I can really appreciate it as a luxury?

Treat items can be things that were previously taken for granted. Iím working my way off of club soda and seltzer, and am drinking tap water. Bubbles are now a treat. (Originally when I quit drinking years ago, I gave myself permission to spend as much as I wanted on non-alcoholic beverages. Now I'm trying to get over being spoiled.) If I got a mocha every day, it wouldnít be a treat, but since I always make my coffee at home, a store-bought cup once every six months can be pretty special. Forget the ski trips, the Nordstrom trip, the daily Starbucks trip, the luxury car Ė Iím easy, give me a popsicle.

Iíve Lived at Minimum Wage for Three Months

May 31st, 2006 at 03:16 pm

When I decided to take on the minimum wage challenge, I didnít realize both how little and how much it would affect my life.

I apologize for this image being sideways; it was the only way I could make the print big enough to read, without fiddling a bunch more, which I can not do due to major head pounding.

For new folks, a reminder of how Iím determining income: California minimum wage of $6.75 at 40 hours a week at 4.33 weeks a month is $1169, less 7.65% FICA ($90), one-half percent SDI ($6). Iím assuming no federal or state tax liability, due to low income; that may be an erroneous assumption. $1169 Ė $96 = $1073. If I sell a book on half.com or recycle, Iím allowing that income. It doesnít add up to much, my extra income is averaging $8.31 a month.

Iíve put $117 in ďsavings,Ē and Iíve started an emergency/big purchase fund that has a whopping $5.88. I have $278.82 ďbankedĒ for non-monthly expenditures; for example, I have budgeted $51 a month for car insurance, which I pay semi-annually.
The areas I thought would be more difficult were eating out, entertainment, and gifts. The area that has actually been the most difficult is medical.

Iím using the YNAB budgeting system to track my expenses for this challenge; the spreadsheet cost me $19.95, so Iím considering this my $20 dollar challenge. My spent of $1073 is $519 less than my average per month last year. (I know I have some banked, but it will be spent on non-monthly budgeted purchases.) Adding back in the $39 I put into "savings" under the challenge, I saved an additional $558 for the $20 challenge. This makes for $1674 in savings in three months for my $20 Challenge.

It Pays to Help. Or Be Patient. Or Be Lazy.

May 29th, 2006 at 12:15 pm

My Guy has been thinking for many months now about getting an exercise bicycle, or a trainer to put a bicycle in, or a recumbent bicycle. We read Consumer Reports, and we price shopped a couple of times. It turns out that recumbents are expensive, and trainers are more expensive than we would have thought. (If itís just something you hook a bike to, shouldnít it be much, much cheaper than an exercise bicycle?) Recumbent exercise bicycles are great, but evidently one needs to spend more to get a quality one- more so than with regular exercise bikes. So we had just kept pondering. We are often that way with big purchases, whether shared or individual. That way when we do finally take the plunge, we are pretty comfortable, and itís definitely not an impulse buy.

We went down to Clearlake this weekend to help out My Folks with their little piece of property. Do some landscaping, learn how to start gas and water, etc., for when we caretake, and spend some time getting to see D before she and my dad take off for other continents. I was the labor; My Guy actually has a background in this type of stuff, so he and D were the Planners. Well, there was a shed of stuff that was gonna get hauled away, and I figured we should really de-clutter and take advantage. I looked in another shed, and there was exercise equipment.

As we dragged a bike to the Garbage shed, I realized it was a recumbent, in great shape. D wouldnít be using it for at least a couple years, if ever. We loaded it into the car, and brought it home. This model seems to be going for $599. (D bought it at a Garage Sale, not sure how much, but definitely not even close to $599.)

My Guy went 6 miles this morning. We are happy with our find. I plan to "earn" TV by biking when watching.

Auto-Pilot Your Way to Frugalville

May 26th, 2006 at 06:14 pm

Iím on auto-pilot, thatís what it is. I couldnít exactly come up with right term of why Iíve been doing fine on my (Modified) Minimum Wage Challenge, without lots of effort, but Priceplus nailed it. Iíve often noticed that heís a man of fewer but more pertinent words, and heís done it again.

I do not have to work at living frugal now; Iím on auto-pilot. Iíve kept my old good habits going, that enabled me to even think about doing this, and my newer habits (eating out much less) are starting to sink in.

It makes me think of Jeffreyís post on collecting 101 Painless ways to save. How many of us do frugal things that feel very easy to us, and we canít see why anyone would think bulk purchased cooked from scratch plain oatmeal would be Painful? We think hanging clothes is just another same old. Others of us may have been shocked at the idea of cutting things out, or buying things used, or making things from scratch. Well, itís not so much a matter or hard or easy, or painful or painless.

If you have never hung laundry, and have always had clothes come out of the dryer, hanging clothes takes getting used to. Maybe you need a rack or a line. Maybe you currently wash 6 loads at once and canít hang it all. You might not have cloths pins, not know that clothes dry in the house or on mild days, not like the look of the hanging clothes, be put off at the stiffness.

Over time, you get into a groove. You know how much will fit on the drying space you have. You learn that hanging clothes on hangers can help you fit more on the line. You get used to stiff socks, and you put your work shirts in the dryer for five minutes when they are almost dry to avoid stiffness and ironing. You find a good place for the rack, and you realize that clothes pins can have lots of other uses as well. It used to take more time, but now you hang them lickety-split, maybe while watching the tube or listening to the radio. You get to be on auto-pilot.

Itís the same task: hanging laundry. But it went from hard to easy, painful to painless. There are skills out there that I didnít have, and when I worked to get them it was a learning curve, but now they are easy. And other ideas, Iím intimidated by, but can tackle one at a time.

It really goes along with my idea of habits being the key (my second favorite post, from April 7).

Take on one thing at a time, fine tune it to your lifestyle (go generic and store brand for almost everything but decide you must have Campbellís chicken noodle soup), do it over and over, and youíll be on auto-pilot.

Nothing Exciting: Just Not Spending

May 25th, 2006 at 08:28 pm

Iím just bopping along in frugal land, racking up the no spend days without effort. I pack lunches, my needs are met, what do I need to spend on? Thatís a good thing, because May was not the best on medical expenses, and June promises some other hits, such as water aerobics, and July in car insurance.

Iíd like to finish May off with maybe a grocery run and thatís it. I think I might have another gas hit to drive 3 hours round trip to Clear Lake, but thatís to see family, and My Guy and I will have a fine time. Heís planning on packing lunches for the drive; so nice to not have to convert someone.

A lot of the free clothes I got are working out very well. Iíve gotten some compliments, and I keep blurting ďIt was free!Ē The nice thing is that a lot of people have responded ďThatís the best-free clothesĒ or ďI love getting hand-me-down from my sisterĒ (mom, etcetera.) Nice to know that my co-workers not only arenít snobby, but think free hand me downs are darned cool. Iím talking up Freecycle a lot.

There's a bill in California that might bump the minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.75. Boy, I'd be rich that that extra $150 plus.

Frugality Mini-Festival

May 23rd, 2006 at 05:36 pm

I Picked up the Freecycle peanut butter; three 18 ounce jars. Since My Guy can take out 64 ounces in a week, no fooling, these will not go to waste. I also got a bag of quick cooking oats, and a liter of tonic water. Iím so excited by Freecycle I put in for fluorescent light bulbs with small threads. I hoping they fit in our chandelier fixture in the living room.

The homemade granola I made is really good, so thatís good news. I ate pinto beans for lunch, along with fruit, and tortillas and beans for dinner. Frugal, healthy, and, bonus time, tasty.

For the weekend I might be driving to meet with one of my folks. My folks are going to be traveling the world come 2007, and we might be somewhat caretaking a small piece of property with a trailer about three hours away. It could be that in a way, it will be like a free vacation house. However no details are worked out; we just know weíll be very happy to see her and have the nice drive this weekend.

Tonight is bath night (as it so often is). I put in a good days work so will sleep the sleep of the just.

Mighty Fine day in Frugal Land

May 22nd, 2006 at 09:59 pm

I picked up my bag of Freecycle clothes. I hit the jackpot; hereís my haul:

Five tops, three dressy scarves, two purses, two pairs of pants, two sweaters, two pairs of sweatpants/sleep pants, one winter scarf, one skirt, one pair jeans, one dress jacket.

Some items Iím not sure Iíll wear, because they are not my usual, but Iím looking to explore a little bit, and this exploration doesnít have a price tag. I may choose to give away some of these items, and thatís fine.

I also have eight items for the ďsee if it fits in September; if not tossĒ hamper. The items I chose not to keep at all fit perfectly in a duffel bag I chose not to keep. I was trying on clothes for a full hour, and it was all free, all of it. That beats garage saling, though I was enjoying my quarter blouse today. I got a compliment on it from the director of the agency, and I blurted ďit was twenty five cents!Ē I could learn to tone my frugality enthusiasm down, I suppose, to look like less of a goober, but I get such a kick out of it. I think Iíd rather be a goober than embarrassed about my frugality.

I also got another call back from a Freecycle person that I had thought didnít get my e-mail; three tubs of peanut butter may be in my future.

We used a gift certificate that we had for the town the clothes were in, to make the 10 mile drive even less of a gas hit. It was okay, but I canít see paying actual money for what we got. Itís nice to know that when I do go out to eat, I get more of a bang for a 6.95 Mexican dish than a 12.95 plate with soup and salad deal. I also again realized that portions are too darned large. We could have probably split an entrťe and an appetizer; but since it was a gift certificate I donít regret it too much. My Guy is picking up the tip since the certificate was mine, so no expense, a point in the mealís favor.

As if my day didnít ring enough frugal bells, one of my frugal buddies at work dropped off a vintage Pyrex refrigerator container, a half pint jam jar, and I note asking me if I want more jam jars.

These two women (Iím not sure which it was this time) have brought me beautiful cardigans over the last couple of years. I particular like menís golf sweaters.

I do my best to keep these women in plum jam, but I may need to ramp up my contributions-I so appreciate their gifts. (I tried direct repayment and didnít get anywhere.) These two women are so elegantly well-dressed, it thrills me to know that much of the clothing they wear is from thrift shops and garage sales. Neither of them carries any extra weight, so everything they do wear, no matter what the cut or style, looks beautiful.

Oh, and yet more frugal good news. I have a garage saling date for Saturday, and I made a big pot of beans so I have seven lunches in the freezer. Oh happy day.

Hike, Clothes, Gas, Bath.

May 21st, 2006 at 07:38 pm

I hiked quite a bit today; it was a very nice time with good friends, and a needed workout along with needed nature time. I live in an exquisitely beautiful area of the country, and each time I drive home I realize that I donít take enough advantage of that. We hiked uphill through the redwoods, to a meadow with wild flowers and oak trees, and got a beautiful view. I had sweat on my brow from hiking uphill. We stopped at the brewery afterwards, but one of the many benefits of no longer drinking is that I was quite happy with ice water only, so it was easy to be free. We sat on the back patio and enjoyed more sun. And then Iím the perfect permanent designated driver.

Iíve arranged my first successful Freecycle pick up. A woman listed a bag of clothes, sizes 12, 14 and 16, some ďslouchyĒ, some ďdressy,Ē all ďin good shape.Ē Iím picking it up tomorrow after water aerobics. I figure even one acceptable piece will be worth the gas money, and more will be gravy. Iím hoping that someone either has gained or lost a bit of weight and that these are nice clothes that just donít fit anymore. Iím a 16/14, working to a 12, so this is perfect. I hope the pickup goes well; the concept of Freecycle, an exchange of goods that benefits both parties with no cost, is very frugal, and ecologically sound as well. Iíd be thrilled if three items work well for me, especially for work. I lack items that are slightly dressier for work, so this is a need, not a want; something I thought of before asking to pick up a bag of stuff. If the items don't work, I have a collection of thrift store donations ready to go.

Very good day; only expenditure is a full tank of gas. The gas is less noticeable than the medical as far as budget hits, but I did groan for a minute or two.

The bath water is running; a luxury that I'm not sure I could ever give up.

Small Measures versus the Bad Mole

May 20th, 2006 at 09:59 pm

Except for regular bills, nothing much happening on the money front. And we don't have that many regular bills: rent, Netflix, cable, phone, and PG&E. So spending has been low. I was in Sacramento with a car, and I thought about making a Trader Joe's run, and I didn't need anything, so I passed. Then I thought about going to Big Lots just to check it out, but passed again. I don't have any needs right now. I even passed on the super cool Deseret Thrift Store, thinking if I hit it every two months it will be more exciting.

This is all good, because I have another medical bill for that "bad" mole - over a hundred dollars. This thing is going to end up costing me around $250 by the time I get all the bills from the various people who cut off, carried, or looked at the funky thing. I am determined to stay on the challenge, and not get derailed. I have to remember that the healthcare I am getting is better than many receive, and what I pay for it is not comparatively high at all.

Somehow against that new $100 making granola and adding herbs to the vegetable garden seem low impact. However, since I do love granola in my yogurt, and since even the bulk cheap stuff isn't really cheap, the granola is a good move. Now that I know a basic recipe works, I can explore less sweet, less fatty options as well.

Well, now that I ponder it, the granola and herbs this weekend arenít small measures. Anything that I do or learn to aid in healthy eating or long-term frugality is another tool to add to my tool belt. All my little tricks and skills can come together to keep me on the Challenge despite medical mishaps. That means being frugal has given me control and a sense of security-things that I value.

Tomorrow I go hiking with friends. Shared gas money will be the only expense, as I am packing a lunch.

A little gardening

May 19th, 2006 at 02:59 pm

Weíre doing a little gardening this year. Here on the northern coast of California, itís not the best gardening area for some items, but we though it might be nice to try. Tomatoes (the littler ones seem to do better), lettuce, cucumbers, and squash. In black pots, container gardening. It was a mini-investment: with the dirt it was $34. Weíll be able to use the dirt next year, especially since we have compost. I am hoping that we get at least $34 dollars of produce this year. That wonít be too hard, with the price of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers what it is. I do have to admit that My Guy has done all of it so far, while I was out of town. I told him Iíd pay half into it, so I canít yelp about the dirt cost.

The gas and electric bill was down again, to $122.48. Our changes are making a difference. Big headache today, but if it calms down, some garage saling.

Minimum Wage Challenge Mid Month Update

May 14th, 2006 at 04:26 pm

I got the medical bills I was expecting; the lab and pathological review bills for my ďbadĒ mole removal. A mighty hit: $126.94 total. In fact, for the $75.15 bill, I sent two checks-one for $35.15 is dated June 1, so Iíve already spent some June money!

Itís funny to me that I've been hit in areas that I have less control over, and that in other areas where I do have more control, such as entertainment or groceries, I've been okay. Iíve had less trouble than I expected curbing my temptations. (Aside from that ridiculous $17.93 purchase of 4 cups that sure taught me a lesson.)

For details of why the beginning budget does not start at $1073, or why the balance is greater that the budget less spent, see prior budget update posts. Essentially, itís lower than $1073 to compensate for any category I overspent last month, and the balance is larger for money Iíve banked. For example, I budget car insurance every month but pay it twice a year.

If worse comes to worse, I do have the $39 in savings for each month, $117, for emergencies, but I really would rather not touch it. As it is Iím only saving three and a half percent of my net income.

If anyone ever has any questions about what the expenditures were in detail, Iíd be happy to explain any of them. The oddballs I can think of right off the bat: ďMisc.Ē In April I subscribed to Kiplingerís Personal Finance Magazine, to learn some investing basics, and that $3.59 didnít seem to exactly fit in to household or entertainment. And in May, I mailed something for $9.84, but it wasnít exactly a gift, so I called that miscellaneous.

I thought April was a tough month, but I think May might even be tougher. Since my car has been fixed up, and my health seems to be going well, Iím really hoping that June and July donít have those hits, where more than 25% of my budget gets spent in the categories of health and auto service.

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