Sunday, March 19, 2017

Long Time No Blog

Hello! It has been a while.

Part of that was due to multiple things happening in real life….illness, visits, trying to find time for all the elements I fit in around a full time job--family time, running a household, exercise, sleeping enough, reading, friends, knitting, etc.

Part, I must confess, was due to a bit of a poisoned present--though it was never intended that way. UFF Dad upgraded his phone for his birthday, and thus upgraded mine with his old one. This led to the newfound ability to constantly check news feeds on the new "smart" phone, something that I confess quickly became addictive (but also, better photos, which is great).

In realizing how much time I was squandering online looking for the dopamine release of the next story click, I saw that spending lots of time online was also detracting from a focus on my daily life. I would find myself framing everything in terms of frugality for this blog--or thinking about people in other blogs I read during quiet moments.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that--I often think about characters in books I read as well, and I do keep frugality in the back of my brain when making decisions. But it didn't sit well. It felt like the ephemeral internet world was taking precedence in my brain over the people I love in real life, and time in front of screens was using up time that I could be spending practicing yoga, starting a journal, sketching, reading, walking my dog.

So, a few days went by, then a few more….and I realized that I just didn't feel like sitting down and writing about frugal living. I dislike when blogs that I have enjoyed just suddenly stop posting, so…I thought I would compose a farewell post, at least for now.

If there is anyone reading this besides C and S (hugs to you both)...thank you for reading!

Also, I am leaving for a trip to Vietnam with UFF Gram in just a couple of days. I may post some pictures here as a way to share them, so stay tuned for possible travel pics if that is your cup of tea.

Monday, March 6, 2017

UFF Mom Gets Things Done

I know that no weekend would be complete without a thrilling summary of someone else's chore list. However, it may make you feel better about your own…or not?

I love making lists and crossing things off them.

Here is my BEFORE Sunday list, compiled during a gory segment of The Knick:

Here is what UFF Cat thinks of my list (polite disdain):

And HERE is the final list at the end of the day Sunday!

The green checks are where UFF Dad commandeered my chore list while I was off crossing "YOGA" off my list, and came home to find that he had mopped the downstairs and cleaned the bathrooms. The man deserves at least 100 gold stars (he likes gold stars).

I made some delicious chicken soup with rice (cue Carole King in Really Rosie):

I did a pinch-hit grocery shop at our small neighborhood natural food market, and was pleasantly surprised at their all-organic prices:

$36.00 worth of groceries
I finished the day with a run in the hills at dusk with UFF Dog collecting snow on his back. Snow!

Sunday was a busy day, with getting things done and awarding gold stars to UFF Dad.

What did you do?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

UFF Weekend Fun

Frugal Weekend Fun! I know, the weekend isn't over yet, but today is Get Things Done Day (which is why I'm sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee?!)

Yesterday was Frugal Weekend Fun day.

And I realized that the activities I indulged in were pretty much exactly the same activities I listed last week. An exciting life--nope. Enjoyable--yes.

1) I stayed in bed until NOON, while UFF Dad read an Agatha Christie novel out loud, and I frogged (unraveled) an unsatisfactory sweater that I plan to knit into a wrap for my upcoming travels.

2) UFF Dog and I ran in the hills. This time we didn't go to the forest, we stayed on the sidewalks, in order to minimize mud and wear down his toenails, which are overlong.

3) We baked. A delicious chocolate chip banana bread with chocolate icing. Good thing I had hidden the chocolate chips from the Chocolate Chip Monster (UFF Dad) so they were still around!

3) I thought about cleaning, and then thought better of it. This Roz Chast cartoon on our fridge says it all.

4) I cooked--boiled a roast chicken UFF Gram brought over for a few hours to make soup.

5) We watched the first two episodes of The Knick, while I began knitting the wrap for Vietnam. I'm not sure what I think of it yet. The tagline is "Modern Medicine Had to Start Somewhere".  It came highly recommended by a colleague.

6) I read a few short stories in The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Beautiful and haunting.

7) Went to bed by 9:30. It doesn't happen often (especially because I usually get a second wind in the evening), but I love getting to bed early.

And now…let the Day of Getting Things Done commence!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

UFF Frugal Dilemma

Another day, another frugal dilemma.

from miners

This one is particularly relevant to this time of year. Parents of graduating seniors, there sure do seem to be a lot of fees associated with graduation, do there not?

One of those is the obvious expense of purchasing a cap and gown. For students in my town, at my son's public high school, this means buying a single-use item in a bright and unattractive color. Grape.

I should add that as a minimalist-ish mom, and as an individual, this is not the sort of item I can imagine hanging onto sentimentally. UFF Dad, a sentimentalist and packrat historic preservationist to the core, feels differently. He still has his grad school graduation gown, hood, and cap. I rented the gowns I wore for all three of my degrees, and kept only the tassels (neither of us have need for academic regalia).

Given UFF Dad's tendencies, hanging in his office closet is one bright purple high school graduation robe (with cap) in perfect condition, only one size too large for UFF Boy. It was previously worn by his brother, UFF Son, a few years back. Reusing this robe would neatly solve the need to shell out $33.00 for a second bright, shiny, polyester, purple graduation robe that will hang forever in UFF Dad's office closet!

However, as anyone with older siblings (and frugal parents) knows, the younger ones are fated to a childhood and adolescence of hand-me-downs. While this is a good thing for our planet and the family budget, it can be a somewhat sad thing for younger sibs, who may have trouble finding their own sartorial style. UFF Boy is an easygoing and nonassuming sort, and if asked directly his feelings about wearing his older brother's graduation robe would likely say "Oh, it's okay". He might say that even if it really didn't feel okay to him.

I know, it's just a robe. A costume, worn for no more than a few hours and for a few snapshots. But I'm sensitive to not wanting UFF Boy to feel overlooked, since he is not especially likely to assert himself. He once commented to me that he didn't really like blue, but most of his clothes were blue since it was his brother's favorite color (sniff!). On the other hand $33 for a single-use item that we will then have to keep for eternity (I kid you not, UFF Dad has our pregnancy tests tucked away somewhere) is difficult  for me to swallow.

What do you think? What would you do?

Friday, March 3, 2017

UFF Bits & Pieces

Inspired by the incomparable Non-Consumer Advocate's Five Frugal Things series….

This week I:
  • Ran out of deodorant/antiperspirant, but instead of buying more, borrowed my son's Old Spice Sport. It was a little unsettling to smell like men's aftershave at work, but hey! It reminded me of my boys, which is always welcome. 
  • Hosted an inaugural Book Group at my home. One condition for the books we choose will be that they are either available at the library, or in cheap paperbacks. This one was a Book Group in a Box (10 copies, 6 week checkout) at my downtown public library. Next month's book, Into the Beautiful North, is also available from the library. 
  • Served tasty yet frugal snacks at the Book Group: homemade crackers and pesto, cookies, popcorn, olives, peppermint tea, and boxed wine. No one complained.
  • Washed my hair only once. Really. It seems to need it less as I get older, and I just wore a hair clip on Day 6.
  • Made curried red lentils and brown jasmine rice, which UFF Dad and I ate for both lunch and dinner.
  • Didn't wear mascara. This saves both makeup and removal wipe costs. 
What about you?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

February Do the Numbers

February slipped into March before I realized it.
It's time for the monthly spending roundup. 

The excitement is building! Although I've been thinking about starting to use a budgeting and spending tracking program such as Quicken, Mint, or Personal Capital, I'm not currently doing so. This is my own first overview of the numbers for spending on non-routine bills (mortgage, utilities, life insurance and gas not included below).

Here was February's spending: 

$403.00- This included two big shopping trips and several smaller ones. My goal is to stay around $350 for the three of us, but this isn't bad--and not surprising given how under budget we were last month. We'd emptied out freezer and cupboards in January.

Medical Expenses:
$270.00- Copays and medications for four family members

Dental Expenses:
$1180- Wisdom teeth extraction plus fluoride treatment, ouch!

$57-Visa to Vietnam ($16), three yoga classes ($20), fingerprinting at sheriff's office ($15), batteries for the bathroom scale ($5), and trip to the county dump ($11)

$37.00- Two Bota boxes of red wine, chocolates, and pretzels for two gatherings

Eating Out:
$95.00- a wonderful dinner and evening out with a dear friend-a rare treat

Monthly total: $2042.00

I hope to do better in March. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

UFF Experiments: Save Money by Going Grey?

Hello, it's UFF Mom! Let me preface this post by saying that I have been coloring my hair since the tender age of recently-turned-14. This was the dark and techno early 80s, and one box of black hair dye  later, I felt quite the goth. I think it may actually have turned greenish. Which only increased my 14 year old angst, as I languished in my room listening to The Smiths and New Order.

The next foray into color involved a box of platinum hair dye that ended up an odd butterscotch yellow and permanently stained some bath towels dark brown. This particular color did not please me, leading to my first (and so far only) buzz cut at a local beauty school to remove it.

As that slowly grew out, I somehow discovered the boxes, and then bulk jars, of henna at a natural food store, leading to some much more hair-healthy fun: RED, COPPER, STRAWBERRY, SHERRY, BURGUNDY….and interesting mixes and combinations thereof (on meeting my future stepmother for the first time, she whispered to my father, "You didn't mention that she had purple hair!")

Fast forward thirty some years. Incredible as it seems, I have been applying henna to my hair periodically for almost that entire time, still enjoying playing around with blending the colors (leaning more toward the conservative browns or subtle auburns in the last few years). Henna is a natural hair conditioner, leaving it thicker and shinier than before.

It's also a messy process, which involves mixing a green plant-based powder into a paste by combining it with hot water (or coffee or tea) and a little vinegar, and plastering this thick goo all over one's head. Next, it's covered with a plastic bag, then a hat (I gave away my hair dryer a few years ago while minimizing) and left on for several hours until the entire muddy mess is washed off and down the drain. And the bathroom is thoroughly cleaned.

I have grown tired of this ritual, especially the cleaning part. And the price of henna continues to go up--around $15 or more now per application.  I realize that this is quite inexpensive compared to commercial color options, plus it's good for the hair rather than damaging it. Also, UFF Dad professes to miss the earthy smell that lingers for at least a week post-hennaeing ("You smell like dirt!"he says happily). But it's a lot of money to spend every few months for…what?

Slowly, I have let the time between hennas become spaced further and further apart. I find myself admiring women with silver streaks in their hair, a grey halo at their temples, and long manes of white. And yet….I'm not quite ready to make the call that I am done with coloring my hair, forever. Maybe I should color for a few more years, then get another buzz cut to unveil the silver?

If I had a daughter, somehow, I think it would be easier to do--wanting her to see what her mom looks like aging naturally. Though I believe that everyone  should look however they like to express themselves ( like in that internet hashtag #dresslikeawoman--1) be a woman 2) wear whatever you damn well please. There you go!)

If I stop hennaeing completely, I will save somewhere between $50-100 per year, plus saving myself from hours spent mopping up muddy green splatters. On the other hand, will I suddenly look…much older? Not sure if I'm ready for that. But why not? In my quest to optimize an uber-frugal life, every dollar saved and invested brings me closer to financial independence. But then again, it's not all about the money, is it?

If there is anyone reading who has decided to go grey, for frugal or other reasons, I would love to hear from you about this decision.