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Archive for July, 2006

Pleasant Surprise

July 30th, 2006 at 02:24 pm

Inspired by someoneís post, I organized all my Survey Point information. Looked at all the sites where Iíd have a point balance, or even a dollar balance, and saw what I could redeem now or what I was saving for. Keeping in mind that larger point cash outs are somewhat better value, balanced with the desire to spend the points before anything happened to the sites, I wrote out a spreadsheet. I donít think itís comprehensive yet (I know Iím a member of a lot of survey sites) but itís a good start.

On the way: two $5 target gift cards.
Very close to: $10 into PayPal
Also very close to: a $10 check
Considering: getting $25 GAP or K-Mart certificate. (The GAP GC costs fewer points but has higher priced items in a more limited range). Also maybe Overstock.com or Bath & Body)
Can cash out now but will wait for a $5 balance: $2

So that amounts to $37 as of now, with another $20 close by. Nice.

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.

Why is it that...

July 29th, 2006 at 05:15 pm

It is so hard for me to be slimmer?

I have done great things. Iíve quit smoking, and quit drinking and using. Iíve paid off debt and built savings. Yet I have never, without noxious drug usage, been at a normal weight.

Iím fairly alternative, I donít wear a lot of make up, I wear boyish casual clothing, Iím not looks oriented, and I have a very accepting My Guy. Iím not trying to be a Skinny Minnie. Iím 5Ē3-1/2Ē and Iíd adore being 150. Shoot, 160 would be fine.

My BMI is now 32.6. Being 150 would put it at 26.2. Thatís still overweight!! This means that I have been unsuccessful at getting to my goal which, by the numbers, should be reachable because itís still overweight.

I have been doing okay with my Credible Threat Challenge, but not good. When I am upset or bored I eat in greater quantity than I should. I should be grateful for slow weight loss, let alone not gaining.

I hate that I canít think myself slim. Itís all about increased activity and decreased calories. Healthy foods and portion size. Getting myself moving. All the answers are out there. Itís really not rocket science. Move more, eat less. Eat less, move more.

Iíve got the healthy foods down pretty well; we eat a lot of high nutrient foods, and few empty calorie foods. I donít have portion size down, and I donít have moving down. I get headaches and every cold or flu out there; I know being slimmer would likely help with that-certainly not hurt-but I let it get in my way. Horrible headache? I eat a cheese sandwich to make me feel better. Yeah, I know.

I plan on using August as a new starting point. A time to develop new habits.

My plan:
Use my exercise bike at least 4 times a week.
Walk to work twice a week.
When I am in a bad mood, treat myself to a homemade sugar free popsicle or to homemade fat free popcorn. (I will train myself over time to not treat bad days with food.)
Make my lunches ahead of time to make sure I am getting good portions for snacks and lunch.

Weird but that's okay

July 25th, 2006 at 06:19 pm

I'm in bed. At 6 pm. I slept okay last night but yawned like crazy today. Early night for me. Just exhausted.

Back to Making Gifts

July 24th, 2006 at 04:40 pm

Saturday I passed up garage saling; I wasnít in the mood and didnít want to force myself. The bad part of this is I realize I need to pay attention to my gift buying. I have a bridal shower and wedding gift to give, and today is my friendís sisterís birthday. I need more ďanybodyĒ gifts, like picture frames, and also specific gifts for friends. I did make a large batch of bath salts; Epsom salts, milk, and oatmeal. I colored with a dash food coloring, added a dash of almond oil for silkiness, and cardamom and grapefruit essential oils for a wonderful scent. So with nine bags packaged up I added to the gift stash in a different way.



I have the materials to make labels, and I have a lot of ribbon to make the packages look pretty. For a while at least renewing this hobby will be no cost, because I have an inventory of essential oils, almond and grapeseed oil, glycerin, Epsom salts and miscellaneous other bath craft ingredients. Even if I have to renew my stash some items are very low cost; my bath salts are quite cheap-essential oils are the costliest component. Ground oatmeal and dry milk are pennies.

I Was Down, and Now I'm Up

July 24th, 2006 at 04:38 pm

I donít realize how much I use the internet until itís down. This rarely happens and when it does, itís usually for a couple hours. This time itís been almost 24 hours; shocking and frustrating.

No internet means no regular blog posts and no reading the forums and blogs. No getting quotes from Car Insurance Places. No balancing checkbook online. No seeing if I could open a Roth IRA with Vanguard online. No Posting Items on Freecycle. No re-ordering Netflix queue. Grrr.

It is a beautiful day out. Yesterday I line dried a lot of clothes and will do the same today. We are going to a friendís barbecue; we'll bring some potato salad and some marinated chicken breast; all food from home so there will be no extra expense.

Last few days had some expenses. I spent about $30 for a grocery run at the Canned Foods Outlet, with a couple dollars in toiletries. Our DVD player (the replacement one!) died, so we bought a cheap one at $29.99. Thatís divided by two; and with some rechargeable batteries I have $21.71 in household expenses. My Guy tried to fix the DVD player but he kept taking off layer after layer and screw after screw and getting nowhere. I didnít realize that they could be so cheap. The $30 one may not be fast or great, but it works, and a bonus is that it is so small and simple it can easily be attached to our little TV. The Little TV has no cable, and is sometimes in bedroom, sometimes in kitchen. This way we can watch DVDs in bed when we want; especially good for when we are sick.

A co-worker gave me a bag of clothes she had outgrown. Sheís doing really well on Weight Watchers. I knew that most of the 2X clothes wouldnít fit, because Iím a Misses 14-16 or a Womenís World 1X, but as I suspected quite a few of the tops will work for me. Iím going to list the remainder of the bag on Freecycle.

I got a raise. Except I didnít.

July 21st, 2006 at 08:59 pm

I got my pay stub today, and noticed my net is higher. Turns out that everyone at the agency got a raise/cost of living adjustment scheduled during the last round of contract negotiations. I was a little excited. In September I get a significant raise again. And September is a three paycheck month coming up.

Well, I realized Iím in month five of the challenge. So all this extra money goes to savings and investing. Which is good. And maybe Iíll stick another five bucks in my entertainment budget next month.

Put a Cherry on Your Day

July 17th, 2006 at 07:59 pm

Robexís blog hit the right spot for me tonight. Sheís saving money and treating herself Ė undeprived and more financially secure. ďTonight [my husband] wanted to go to Dairy Queen and get banana splitsÖthat would cost about $24.00Ö. I suggested we go to the grocery storeÖand make them at homeÖWe spent 1/2 the amount and will have ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce left over!Ē Sheís not giving something up!

Yeah, sometimes there are things it may make sense to give up. I've said myself that less frequent treats make treats...treatier. But sometimes, itís nice to realize that we can have our treats at a lower cost. Food is an easy place to do this: some cold cuts for nice ďdeliĒ sandwiches, a couple of classy ingredients to make a plain meal sparkle (chives and sour cream on the spud?), smoked oysters for 99 cents of pampering.

Iím hoping that those of us working at building security, working at paying debt, aiming to avoid unconscious spending, take the time to make some sundaes now and then. Itís so not about doing without.

Fogged In

July 17th, 2006 at 07:25 pm

My flight was cancelled due to fog; be jealous, all my roasting friends. Though I am wiped out-got up at 4:15, left the house at 5, just now sat down at 7-Iím glad I had a productive day.

I belatedly put together a gift for a work friend.


Thirteen homemade magnets with dolphins and kayaks-her interests. Three used books of ďgoodĒ fiction-another interest. The flower "bow" is a little tin of seeds from a garage sale. Itís a gift from many co-workers. Itís a nice thing that this is the third present for our ďunitĒ in two weeks and everyone has been willing to have the gifts be used or homemade. It seems like the sentiment is shared that it really is the thought that counts.

I have not been biking the last few days and thatís thrown me on my Credible Threat Challenge. Not moving backward, but not moving forward. At first it was legit, not biking: bad headache. But it reinforces for me, yet again, how crucial habits are: since I wasnít yet truly in the habit of biking it was easy to drop off. The same with good eating; the quality of food has been fine, but when I am grumpy I use food sometimes, so the quantity has been inappropriate. So today is a day to gain resolve, forgive the wobble, and move on.

$1 spent out on lunch. I had packed nothing due to flying (it used to be easier when driving) so I did not have my snacks and lunch ready. I used an old gift certificate (from Sept. 2005!) for most of the soup, but I used a regular dollar. That puts me pretty close to my entertainment budget for the month, dag nabbit.

Off Again

July 16th, 2006 at 08:21 pm

I'm traveling to Sacramento tomorrow quite early, and will return late Tuesday, so no posts until Wednesday minimum. I may be able to go to my favorite thrift shop; it may compensate for the 102 degree weather.

Cranky and Grateful

July 16th, 2006 at 01:56 pm

I have no real reason to be cranky. We tidied yesterday, the bills are paid (electric hit below a $100-my share $47-wonderful), thereís food in the fridge, but Iím just a little cranky.

So Iím drinking tea (from the Free Box) with too much sugar, and I just had a little too much cheese. These are my vices now-comparitively they are fine.

Iím watching a bad movie on video under my comforter.

Itís so very nice to have a life where I can pout with tea and be warm safe and cozy. Is it possible to be cranky and grateful at the same time? Well, it must be because I experience both plenty often.

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.

Back, in Town, and It Sure Was a Monday

July 10th, 2006 at 06:52 pm

Camping was excellent, Sunday afternoon I felt pleasantly camping drained, and today Monday hit with a vengeance. Cost of camping: $12 for the extra vehicle fee (went with a couple who had a car too). Otherwise the only cost was groceries. I wanted very much to do no cooking, so I agonized over individual servings of applesauce at the outlet store; never has someone thought about spending $1.29 that long. Well, I didnít eat them camping and now I feel funny eating them at lunch at workÖ..like Iím hurting my frugal reputation. Iím a dork.

Household Expenses in a Frugal House

July 10th, 2006 at 06:38 pm

Household
I count anything that is not edible outside of my grocery budget. My ďHousehold BudgetĒ includes long-term things like furniture, as well as short-term like toilet paper. Iím thinking about changing that. Last year I spent $184.89 (I thought I had spent 243, but that was for 14 months.) But the year before I spent a grand, so my more honest long term average is $50 a month.

Paper Products

We donít by paper towels, paper plates, napkins, cups.

I bought paper plates for camping a few years ago; we still have some and use them as a treat rarely.

We use dish towels instead of paper towels. Old washcloths and hand towels become rags.

We use cloth napkins. I got a bunch at the dollar tree in three packs 3 or 4 years ago; 100% cotton, wear well.

We line dry our napkins and dish rags.

If we get takeout, we use cloth napkins and stick the paper napkins in a dispenser I got from the thrift store; the chrome spring loaded kind. We use those napkins as paper towels on really funky messes, or sometimes guests prefer paper to cloth.

I waffled for months before finally deciding that buying double rolls of toilet paper was worth it for us.


Cleaning Supplies
We are not big cleaners; our house is very uncluttered but we donít clean surfaces too much.

We buy ammonia, bleach, dish soap and cleanser. Thatís about it.

I know I could use vinegar and baking soda for some cleaning; I just havenít yet.

We use maybe one cleanser a year, or less. One bottle of ammonia a year, or less. Bleach, maybe 2 bottles a year-I do use in the laundry.

I have spray bottles with diluted bleach and diluted ammonia as spray cleaners.

Oh, I do have some Windex.


Furniture
We donít buy much. We make do with what we have, and add stuff we like over time.

Iím 35; I have the dresser my parents bought as raw wood and finished together when I was around 9. I got it from my dad when I was in my late 20s when he was paring down.

I have an armoire I bought in my late teens, early twenties; it was an irresponsible purchase at the time at $150, but I absolutely love it. One of the shelves is marked ďwoolensĒ-how could I not love it?

I have bookcases Iíve had since my teens.

It took us three trips to the thrift store to evaluate a $25 sofa five years ago. The people at the store found it funny. We could have ďaffordedĒ a new couch but didnít want to buy one.

I did get a slip cover for the sofa; I like it partially because itís washable.

Bought new: two computer chairs, my desk, and the coffee table. I think thatís it. Otherwise they are hand me downs or thrift store or garage sale items.

One of my favorite pieces of furniture is a wooden recycling cupboard; it was $20 at a garage sale, I probably could have gotten it for $15 but I fell head over heals in love and I was too dazed to dicker.

I will add vintage pieces over time as I find good deals. I did buy a vanity in 2004 for that I will own for decades.


Electronics
Our TV is 19Ē.

As high tech as our computer set up is, our TV and stereo is low tech. We use our PCs to play music a lot, instead of our low end portable radio.


Camping Gear
Yes, this could be considered entertainment instead of household.

We bought two cheap Sears sleeping bags and a used four man (fits two comfortably) tent. We are good to go.

My Guy got a picnic basket a while ago; we have it full of plastic cutlery (I wash and save from various sources), pots, salt and pepper, metal cups, essentially anything we need to cook while camping. Makes packing easier.

Other than that, we have the burner that screws onto the propane bottle, and a lantern. If we camped more I might get more gear.


Linens
We have one set of towels we bought maybe five or so years ago at 1.49 each. They are good quality but someone returned them to Ross washed so I was able to get the towels, hand towels and wash cloths cheap.

I think weíve bought sheets maybe once or twice-we only used a bottom sheet and a comforter with a comforter cover (duvet cover). I know Iíve gotten sheets at garage sales, also Ross when I had an employee discount. The fact I canít remember means itís a long time ago.

I have had my super thick down comforter for a long time. It was a hand-me-down but I would have paid for one. I know they can be costly but I adore my heavy down comforter-perfect in winter and summer.

My Guy bought wash clothes at Wal-Mart (I have never been). The washcloths were lousy quality, we were bummed.

Due to the above experience, I am less inclined to buy new towels unless they are high quality; ours are white and I want yellow or blue, but such is life.


Appliances
We are renters, so the fridge and gas stove come with the kitchen.

I donít like dishwashers, to My Guyís chagrin.

I get closer and closer to buying a freezer every minute.

Our washer and dryer are used. Both were bought refurbished. My Guy has fixed the dryer a couple times.

Other than that, it's a coffee maker, a coffee grinder, a vacuum, and that's it.