Monday, January 30, 2017

January 30, 3017

It's almost the end of the month…and time for a financial recap.

Today was a plan-ahead day. Wednesday night will be the first meeting of my new book group.  I'm really excited about this...never been in a book group before! It's going to be held right after work, and I want to have snacks and drinks so that people aren't starving and eager to rush home.

On the savory side, I made hardboiled eggs, hummus from scratch (thanks Mrs. Frugalwood!), and will have some carrot sticks, green beans, olives,  and crackers with pesto. On the sweet side, I baked blueberry muffins and an unfortunately flat chocolate cake (I'm hoping that with a little frosting, it can pass as brownies). We have boxed white wine in the fridge and I'll buy a Bota box of red wine tomorrow.

Today I bought…SOAP! Sappo Hill soap ends are sold for 75 cents at several natural grocers around town. They are imperfectly shaped, usually having a hole poked in them (?), but they are excellent quality, smell really nice (my favorites are lavender, oatmeal, almond, and cucumber scents), and are around $2 per soap or more when bought without holes in them at the store. We are almost out of soap, which should never happen, so I purchased six soap ends on my morning walk break.

Money spent today: $4.50

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday to UFF Dad!

The plans for today were minimized by UFF Boy and myself both coming down with whatever upper respiratory bug UFF Dad has been miserable with for the past week.

However, there was chocolate CAKE…

There were two pairs of handknit birthday SOCKS (because he is spoiled that way)….

There was a trip to a local patisserie for chocolate eclairs (making CAKE happen twice)….

And there was cuddling, reading, and a movie on the couch.

And work. Because when asked about 5 possible activities for a birthday day of adventures, UFF Dad replied that he wanted to work, work, work, and work. Check, check, and check.

Money spent today: $11.89

$7.00 for eclairs plus $4.89 for bananas, sparkling water, and orange-pineapple juice.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

January 28, 2017

UFF Saturday Entertainment

We live excited lives around here, the Ultra Frugal Family…(Just kidding! But you knew that already). Seriously, frugal family fun and recreation has been our normal way for quite a while. Being homebodies definitely makes it easier.

Here was our frugal fun for the day:

  • Jogging--for UFF Mom. I love that running is an activity which requires very little in the way of gear. A good pair of shoes and a sturdy running bra if you're a woman are about the only requirements. UFF Dog and I went out for a nice long (9 mile) slow run today while UFF Dad was working at his desk. A bonus was listening to music, which helps me go farther.
  • A reading date, for UFF Dad and Mom. We had talked about a coffee date, with a coffee card he won, but opted instead for a couch date (we are thrilling that way). I made popcorn and chocolate pudding.  I might have added a little glass of whiskey for myself. We are currently reading out loud The Body in the Library, our third Agatha Christie novel. Usually, UFF Dad reads while I knit, but he's still recovering from laryngitis, so we switched it up. This very cozy date resulted in our both falling asleep and taking a mini-nap (any parents reading who know that falling-asleep-while-reading feeling?).
Money spent: $0

Friday, January 27, 2017

January 27, 2017

As soon as I walked into the baby shower, I was sorry for being so grumpy. It was lovely.

I came home with a bag of chips and half the beans, plus a piece of cake for UFF Boy. The knitted baby socks and sweaters were a hit. The parents-to-be were joyous...

The frugal key is planning ahead for social events and experiences, so they can be enjoyed but the budget impact mitigated. I could have purchased the same food items for about $3.00 less  if I had batched them with a trip to the discount grocery store (about a 20 minute drive from my house).

Here's where planning ahead was helpful: I've been squirreling away food items for a month or so to send a birthday care package for UFF Son at college. These included things I know he likes but might not buy for himself, such as honey, pesto, simmer sauces, almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, tea, KIND bars (from races where I volunteer), organic ketchup, and jam…plus the fabulous cookbook Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day by Leanne Brown (the pdf is available for free! And if you buy a book, one is donated to a family in need). I'm not sure how much the items in the package contents added up to, but likely around $70. We mailed this off today in a flat rate box for $18.50. I also sent him a birthday card with a check for $50.

Today's spending: $68.50 on gifts (birthday check + care package shipping)

Tonight's agenda: Knitting on the couch with a movie. It's been a busy week.

How about you? What are your plans? How's your frugal January going?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 26, 2017

Comparison Shopping, Social Pressure, and Baby Socks

First: baby socks!

Part of my knitted care package for a coworker's baby shower.

There was a fundraising campaign around the office to raise money to buy her, through Amazon, a $260 crib that she wanted. I am not comfortable with that on several levels (Why buy new? If buying new, why not buy local? Why in the world $260 for a crib?!), so opted out.

Second: Shopping for said baby shower lunch. I know I sound like (and sort of am) a grinch, but to me the best gatherings are simply about getting together and exchanging good wishes, good food, and shared times. The more contrived they become, the less I want to participate.

A different coworker planned an elaborate party, included a taco bar buffet for 50 provided by our small direct team, fancy decorations, color-themed disposable serving items, etc. The sad part is that she struggles financially and is among the least well compensated by job role, but feels that it is very important that we do this shower in this particular way. I suggested that perhaps we could dial it back--just having cake and punch and presents, or a random potluck, but she was willing to take on all the expense herself to make it work. Which doesn't seem fair or right. So, other team members are stepping up to provide said food items to even out the distribution.

I feel like it is the right thing to do (though I wanted to opt out), but I am grumpy about it.

I asked UFF Dad, who has a more flexible schedule, to pick up 4 cans of refried beans and 2 bags of tortilla chips for my share of the planned taco bar. I asked him to go to BiMart, thinking it would be cheaper than our local fancy-spendy grocery store. He is less aware of comparison shopping, doing less of it himself, and didn't realize that $1.29 is a lot for a can of beans (79 cents at Winco). An extra $2 spent right there!

Spending for today: $8.99 (for baby shower lunch)

What do you think? Should I have opted out of the lunch buffet?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 25, 2017

Nothing brings perspective on the privilege of one's life of voluntary frugality in the service of self-determined goals like an evening spent with people who are homeless, or insecurely housed.

Today is the national "Point in Time Homeless Count". Across the country, extensive efforts are made to count the number of people who are homeless on this particular night (and those who are "staying with a friend" or "couch surfing" or "doubled up" are not included in this count). Some additional information is collected about each individual's gender, race and ethnicity, and veteran status, as well as any long-term disabling conditions that make it difficult to work and/or be housed.

Ideally the information obtained from the count can be used to increase and target funding and services for people experiencing homelessness.

For the second year in a row, I participated in this count at a local, weekly church dinner. It's held in the basement of a Methodist church each Wednesday night, rain or shine (or snow and ice), and has been for several years. The evening began with a prayer, and ended with a warm meal and fellowship and music. Coffee, soup, salad, sandwiches, burritos, and dessert were served, day-old bread and boxes of baby spinach and donated socks and shirts were available for the taking. Attendees included the housed and unhoused, young (several kids) and old, veterans, families, single people, friends. Most of the ten people that I talked to said that they were camping outside in tents. About 60% had some kind of a disabling condition. People participated graciously; only a few chose not to be interviewed (bus passes were offered as a thank-you).

108 people were served dinner tonight--they ran out of food. At the end of the evening, the pastor offered dinner to the surveyors, and then realized that there was no more left. Everything eaten.

Terrible as this sounds, I then went to a local pub with two fellow surveyors (and coworkers) to have a beer and share some pulled-pork fries ($8.50). As I commented on my sense of unease, my colleague suggested that the greater privilege was where we were going next--driving away, to our homes.

And I would add: the choices we have.

Total spent today: $3.58 (pasta sauce) plus $8.50 (eating out) = $12.58

January 24, 2017

Tuesday. A home, work, yoga, home day.
Thinking about the sad day (next week) when my Groupon yoga punch card will end.

Money spent today: $0

Monday, January 23, 2017

January 23, 2017

Back to work today. I'm working on harnessing the power of habit. Specifically, to get out and walk on breaks and on my lunch hour. And to sip green tea throughout the day instead of coffee.

Habits that are working well:

  • Pre-preparing my breakfast oatmeal the evening before. I set out the saucepan with three cups of water, and set the measuring cup of rolled oats beside it, making things easy for my sleepy, pre-caffeinated morning self. 
  • It's also working well packing my lunch the night before in the metal tiffin tin/bento box UFF Dad gave me for Christmas. I put the lentils and rice in the largest compartment, salad in the middle, and some dried fruit or candied ginger in the shallow top tray for dessert. 
  • Trying to walk a mile on one of my two 15-minute breaks. In my town, 12 blocks equals one mile, and I can walk a 15 minute mile when striding. I usually go to the library, which is only a couple of blocks from my workplace, to check out the "Lucky Day" shelf on the other break.
  • Since I'm walking and browsing the library, I stay away from the second hand clothing and craft stores. Less temptation that way.
As a friend noted, decisions are fatiguing, and we have a lot of them to make every day. Making the  the healthy and frugal choice into the default choice, by establishing habits, is setting myself up to make the choice I would ideally want to make. (You know, the one I would choose to make when not tired and wanting to lie on the couch with my knitting, a glass of wine, Grantchester, and a bag of chocolate).

UFF Dad stopped by Trader Joes and spent $15.44 for groceries. Here's what he got:
  • Two 1-lb bags of hulled, roasted, and salted sunflower seeds (one for our emergency food supply stash)
  • One package of large, Tofurky brand vegetarian Italian sausages
  • Two gallons of nonfat milk (at $3.49 each! No more Trader Joe's milk--that's more expensive than my closest, fancy-spendy grocery store)
  • One package of dried cranberries, which seemed oddly small. I realized that while the price hasn't changed, the package has gone from 12 oz to 8 oz! Phooey on you, TJ!
Money spent today: $15.44

How is your Uber Frugal January going? Please share!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 22, 2017

Volunteering is Frugal Fun & Entertainment

I like to run (OK, jog slowly, but I prefer to call it running), I like races, and I like volunteering (once I am out the door and/or at the event). So volunteering as a course marshal for a small local racing company is a great source of frugal fun for me!

I've been volunteering for a little over a year now. I started when I wanted to train for some longer-distance trail running events and realized that entering races could quickly become a non-frugal hobby. When I learned that each volunteer would receive a $20 "race credit" at each event they helped with, I talked UFF Dad into joining me (to double the credits) and we made it a habit. This year, as his business and volunteer work have been more demanding, I've been doing more races on my own (I was awfully glad to have him with me as we shivered by the river at midnight on New Year's Eve), which is not quite as much fun but still enjoyable.

Here is what I love: it is wonderful to be a part of a sport and a community that supports getting outside and exercising together regardless of speed, size, age, gender, or body type. Everyone gets the same encouragement, cheers, health benefits, and feeling of accomplishment. I think this is one of the reasons to enter races--or volunteer at them--being part of this encouraging group.

It's true that just how enjoyable the volunteering is depends a little bit on weather. (At least in the moment; sometimes the worst weather makes the best stories afterward. The second event I dragged UFF Dad to found us standing on the side of a mountain in pouring rain and hail for five hours…it's a wonder he ever agreed to do it again!)

I got lucky today. After a day and night of sideways rain, this was my post:

This is what I did during the pauses, besides chat with walkers and bikers on the path:

And to top it all off, look at all the swag I came home with!

Official Race Crew T-shirts for both UFF Dad and I, a credit for my own next event, some snacks, and a delicious  breakfast burrito from the post-run feed, which I had for lunch.

Money spent today: $0

Does anyone else enjoy volunteering for entertainment?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 21, 2017

Following the example of Mrs. Frugalwoods, I cooked up 2 cups of rice with 2 cups of lentils (and 10 cups of water), added alder-smoked salt, pepper, siracha, chopped and previously frozen beet greens, tomatoes and cilantro, and made a large and delicious pot of savory "stew" to eat through the week for lunches or dinners. It turned out deliciously.

We had vegetarian "chicken burgers" for dinner, along with raw carrots, bananas, and milk. UFF Dad is off volunteering for Habitat for Humanity at our local home show, and I just made a batch of snicker doodles in between episodes of Grantchester (AKA "The Yummy Vicar". Love it!).

Also had a very nice time today walking with my mom and about 7-8,000 other folks.

Money spent: $0

What did you do today?

January 20, 2017

Today was quite a day.

As far as my frugal dilemma went, I had resolved to go along to the pub to knit and socialize, but not order a drink. I know my own all-or-nothing tendencies, and I'm not proud of them. If I have one piece of chocolate, more will follow. If I'm not training for a marathon, why bother with a three mile run? It's something I struggle with and probably will continue to do so (although I hope it gets easier as I grow older and wiser, at least about my own nature). So I didn't want to open the gates of non-essential spending.

As it turned out, the entire point was moot, as my boss declared that she was going to buy her hard-working team a cocktail. I gratefully accepted and left it at that. I also finished my pink hat.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, UFF Dad and UFF Son went to the discount grocery store with my rapidly scribbled list and a request to stay under $100. Grateful to them too, though if my list had been clearer there would have been a couple of items added and a couple removed.

Money spent $96.00- groceries (& a few household items), $11.00 for prescription meds

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 19, 2017

UFF Dad bought a 1-month subscription to the NYTimes Online for 99 cents today, and set it up on both our computers, so we can keep informed of current events…

I have a minor dilemma. Several coworkers, and my boss, are going out to our local LGBTQ pub after work to show their support during this time of political change and enjoy $2 happy-hour drinks. It's "only $2", but every $2 counts! (If you're signed up for Mrs. Frugalwood's Uber Frugal January Challenge, you will know that the topic of today's email was the slippery slope of "It's only $5"). On the other hand, I want to participate in this social bonding occasion with my work team.

Do I:

1) Decline the invitation
2) Attend, but drink only water and not order a drink
3) Attend and spend the $2 (a little more with tip), since the motives (bonding with coworkers, hanging out with friends, supporting a local business) are worthy and support my non FI goals.

What do you think?? If anyone is reading this, I would appreciate your point of view!

Money spent today: 99 cents for 4 weeks of online NYTimes access

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January 18, 2017

The grand total from yesterday was $24.16!! $1.60 of that were treats for UFF Son, but the total is a good illustration of why it makes sense to do your regular shopping at cheaper grocery stores. At my fancy upscale nearby supermarket, the cheapest milk is now up to $2.80, and eggs are $3.79. Equal quality eggs and milk (non-organic, let's specify) are $2.50 and $2.50, respectively, at the discount, bag-it-yourself store we go to every few weeks.

I almost miss my lovely backyard chickens.
Actually, I do miss them. Just not cleaning out their coop weekly….

Today was one of those frazzled days at work. I came home and seriously wanted to collapse on the couch and eat chocolate. UFF Dad is at a meeting and UFF Son in his typical spot, his room. I was uninspired to make dinner and frankly repelled by the pile of dishes in the sink. I had a snack (a banana and granola bar with peanut butter-neither the best nor worst of snacky dinners).

I cajoled myself into just doing One. Little. Thing. Organizing the dishes. Suddenly they didn't appear so daunting, and I washed them. My shoulders felt a little lighter, and I was then capable of tackling turning defrosted freezer veggies into dinner. I sautéed some onions, zucchini, and diced potato with olive oil and soy sauce, and made a pot of rice. Voila. Dinner is done, plus lunch leftovers for tomorrow. Now I can sit on the couch (in a much better frame of mind) and enjoy Grantchester, a Nonconsumer Advocate recommendation!

Money spent today: $15.85 for prescription medication

What about you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January 17, 2017

17/17! Kind of a fun date--an easy one to remember, anyway.

I was sincerely hoping that today would be another no-spend day--and it could have been. However, I'm drawing my own line when we have two inches of milk, no cheddar cheese, one green pepper (and no fruit) to feed UFF Son. Not sure how much the tally will be, but probably around $20 at our spendier, closer grocery store (darn it).

Baking cinnamon muffins for snacking. Very little is easier than muffins. Three minutes of mixing, and I throw them in the oven. I use whole wheat pastry flour, and add powdered milk for extra calcium.

Today is a tired kind of day. I skipped yoga to come home early and enjoy the quiet house while UFF Dad is at a meeting. We have already started our next Agatha Christie novel, and I'm looking forward to reading tonight when he gets home.

Predicted tally today: $20

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 16, 2017

Today I had a visit from a friend thinking about moving to my city. We spent a few hours driving around in her car, looking at different areas and talking about what makes a good neighborhood. I must say that I am exceptionally lucky in my current spot. It's central enough that it's possible to easily get around by bike, and there's a small commercial node just a few blocks away and a larger one about a mile away. It's also possible to get to urban hiking trails on foot within a half hour walk, and be fully in the forest on the edge of town. I like that it's a mixture of housing types and prices, retirees and families with young kids and working people. Most of all, I'm grateful for my neighbors, the ones who have become close friends, the ones I'd like to get to know better, and the one who is like family (and wait! the one who IS family!).

Rather than meeting my out of town friend at a coffee shop, I made coffee and whole-wheat apple spice muffins and we met at my house to plan our outing. She offered to take me out to lunch afterwards, but instead we shared some delicious split pea and ham soup with toast and butter. Frugality maintained and new friendship strengthened.

After she left, I finished knitting a baby sweater as a shower present, then made a hat to match, while UFF Dad read an Agatha Christie Miss Marple mystery out loud. I'm a lucky woman.

However…frugal fail! We were invited over to one of the close friend neighbors for wine in the evening. Since these generous friends host us often, it felt necessary to take some treats. UFF Dad went out and bought a bottle of (inexpensive) wine and some good chocolate to share at our corner natural food store (can you believe we have one of these? Very, very, lucky). I think that was reasonable. However, we ended up drinking their (already opened, better) wine and leaving the bottle we brought with them, which I feel a little guilty about...

Money spent: $9 (wine and chocolate)

How about you??

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January 15, 2017

Thinking today about eating "ALL the things" and then shopping weekly.

Inspired by browsing past Frugalwoods food articles (and sadly, my increasing weight), I have a new plan. After we finish the food in the house we will put it into action.

Breakfast: Oatmeal.

Lunch: Rice, lentils and greens for UFF Dad and I, sandwich and fruit for UFF Son.

Snacks: Fruit for me, Muffins and nuts for UFF Son, ?? for UFF Dad

Dinner: A salad, raw veggies, or veggie soup; a protein, and whole wheat pasta or bread.

Dessert: yogurt (we buy a gallon container of nonfat, locally made plain yogurt and add jam or brown sugar to it)

Tonight: leftover enchilada casserole. Making muffins.

Money spent today: $0

What's your meal plan??

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14, 2017

I'm all fired up!

I stayed up late (way too late) last night reading the archives of The Frugalwoods, and got inspired.

Really inspired.

I didn't think I had a highly specific goal to motivate Uber Frugality, like they did--moving to the woods to hike and raise their baby--and had hesitated to sit down and really think through my frugal goals. When I try to think about my ideal living situation, a big question mark always arises. I do love the woods. I also love living where I can walk everywhere. I've always wanted to travel more, to live in different places, to speak many languages, experience many things. I just don't know, and that can feel paralyzing--it's often easier to motivate all one's energy and forces towards something concrete and highly specific.

Luckily, UFF Dog woke me up early this morning asking to go out, and I wanted to PLAN more than I wanted to go back to sleep. I made a pot of French press coffee (and drank it all, so no going back to sleep now…) and sat down at the kitchen table with my trusty, coffee-stained Home notebook, the one where I make lists of groceries, chores, bills, and goals. I was surprised to find that although I don't know my ideal living situation geographically, I do know my ideal living situation temporally.

I want flexibility and freedom for the pursuit of all kinds of goals. Creative projects, family time, meaningful work, close relationships, exploring nature, social causes, practical skills, intellectual and personal  and spiritual growth. ALL of that. And the constraints of an 8-5, Monday-Friday job (despite its' many benefits and blessings) make that very difficult.

At this point, and in this phase of life (helping one son through college with another heading there soon, UFF Dad working hard at building his self-employed lifelong dream business), I think that striving for savings is concrete enough for me to get excited about embracing my inner Frugal Weirdo and taking my game up a couple of notches. In 5 years, with both boys likely through undergraduate, more will become clear (perhaps). Maybe we will move to France (UFF Dad's native country).  Maybe we will move to the woods (though I think this is not likely). Maybe we will stay right here and I will no longer be employed full-time. Maybe we'll join the Peace Corps. Who knows!

But for now, I want to employ my creativity and channel my future-oriented passion into creating options for ourselves. And to do this, UFF Dad and I need to get on the same page and synchronize our goals. Last night we planned a frugal date today--he won a $10 coffee gift card at his business networking group--so later today we will sit down and hopefully talk about all this, as well as our  rather divergent investing strategies.

My new goal is to save and invest 50% of our combined income--my gross and UFF Dad's net. Of course, I hope this will go up later, but with helping our son in college to the tune of around $11,000 per year, this will already be a stretch.

I know that UFF Dad's current goal is to have an office space (outside of our third bedroom) where he can actually bring clients. It just isn't practical to meet them in coffee shops all over town, as he has to run around a lot, racking up miles and toting things with him. It's also not practical, or professional, to bring them trekking through our (rarely pristine) family home. We've talked about various options, from his renting a solo or shared space, to building a work studio on our largish city lot.

UFF Dad is already quite frugal, and very supportive. I think that together we can do this--and he will be much more on board if we are working as a team to achieve both our goals.

Money spent today: $0

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

TGIF! Friday used to be "Pizza Night" for our family--for years actually, when both boys were at home. It's not a regular occurrence anymore--and isn't planned for tonight. But I may make it for my older son's farewell "Lunner" tomorrow before he heads back to college.

UFF Dad bought cheddar cheese today, so enchilada casserole is on the menu. I noticed that a sizable chunk of it is already gone. Those big kids sure do eat a lot!

Somebody turned the thermostat back up to 68 last night--and I know it wasn't UFF Dad, since he went to bed early with a cold. I took that as a sign that I'd gone as low as I could go. Turned it back to 66…we'll see if it holds!

Money spent today: $6.99 for cheddar cheese.

UFF Dad also just came home with "treats" for everyone--graham crackers, ground beef for me, UFF Mom (the lone omnivore in a family of vegetarians)--and something rattley that sounds like bulk M & Ms. When I asked him for the receipt, he said "Nope--it's my non-frugal gift!"

What do you think? Should I include it in the daily spending?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 12, 2017

Hello! Day 12 of the Uber Frugal Month over here. Almost halfway through the month, and doing pretty well. We're still eating well, relatively warm, clothed, entertained (thank you, library!) getting where we need to go, and enjoying each other's company. No deprivation yet. Though we did run out of cheddar cheese today. For better or for worse (cholesterol), cheddar is a major food group for my boys. Getting more will be priority #1 tomorrow.

My older son is heading back to college on Saturday, which saddens me. It's very nice having him around. Each time he comes home, I'm aware that there may be a time (there *will* be a time) when coming home becomes visiting his folks, because his home is elsewhere. I'm going to miss him a lot. Our food budget will drop dramatically, however (actually just transfer, because this year I 'm sending him $200 per month in grocery money when he's away).

The thermostat is now at 64 degrees. We have a tall, narrow, 1000 square foot home, and the thermostat is monitoring the temperature on the first floor, then heating through gas-fired radiant floor heat using an on-demand hot-water heater. It's efficient, but the heat really doesn't rise above the first floor. The third-floor attic bedroom is pretty darn cold. Last night I went to bed in a wool cap, wool socks, and wool fingerless mitts (all knitted by me)--plus pajamas. Not kidding! It was cold. I fell asleep thinking about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her book The Long Winter, about a 5-month North Dakota winter in which the entire town almost ran out of food and fuel, and feeling ever so slightly wimpish.

Money spent: $175 (for past medical co-pays). Grateful for employer-paid health insurance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 11 2017

And…the uber-frugal month chugs along!

I actually haven't felt much different from usual, except for a few small things.

  • I have not gone to the artists' material recycling center near my work on breaks, where I can always find some nice yarn that is an enormous bargain at a dollar or two. 
  • I have not purchased any red wine or other alcoholic beverages. 
  • I've turned the thermostat down to 65 degrees.
  • I'm making an effort to walk to work and back every day instead of asking for a ride (which was helped a lot by the icy weather, since UFF Dad preferred not to drive).
  • I've been spending more time thinking about areas to save money, but feeling less stressed about it.
Money spent today: $1.69 for Trader Joe's sunflower seeds

Dinner tonight: Rice and black bean burritos with salsa, spinach, olives, cheddar, and sunflower seeds

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January 10 2017


We're doing well with the lowered heat, as long as everyone wears sweaters and doesn't walk around in their underwear (yes, that happens).

Today I was thinking about the role of cravings and the difficulty they create in maintaining a budget. Life is easier when there is no choice, sometimes. But we have the illusory situation of seemingly unlimited choices. The keys to making them easier to resist, for me, are habit, substitution and reorientation.

For example…today I was really craving an afternoon cookie around 3 PM. However, it has been a loooong time since I went out and spent money on a snack while I was at work. Occasionally I will go buy groceries and dip in to them, but only things that are intended to bring home and share. Going out to purchase a cookie for $1 (or more) is simply not an option, when I know I can make equally good ones at home for pennies on the dollar. I have a coworker who often buys snacks, lunch, and hot drinks from nearby cafes…and will say "it's just a couple of dollars". A couple of dollars here and there quickly add up to $10 or $20 a week or more, when it's a daily occurrence. This same coworker recently was overheard saying that she couldn't afford snow tires or chains, and was unable to get to work during the bad weather.

Whether or not snow tires are a necessary purchase in our neck of the woods, how we spend our money is all about building from the small choices. I'm not proud of this, but I ended up raiding another co-worker's chocolate stash (she had been gifted with milk chocolate, and only eats dark). Habit would not allow me to purchase a snack (I look forward to the day when it doesn't allow me to eat mid-afternoon sweets….), and thus I substituted for something else (thank you, my coworker!). It also helped to reorient--remembering how I intensely I feel the desire for financial freedom, and how much I want to avoid the anxiety of being obliged to spend 50 or so hours per week on my work life for the next 20+ years (and, I really like my job!)

Money spent today: Hopefully $5, if UFFDad remembers to buy milk on his way home. We're out!

Update: $6.49-milk

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9 2017

Today I want to talk about home heating. Our house is small, and I really dislike being cold, so I had used the ice storm as an excuse to nudge the thermostat up until it was a toasty 75 degrees…in case we lost power. Well, we didn't, and I have absolutely no justification whatsoever to keep the thermostat at that level. At all. So last night I set it back to a reasonable (but not yet frugal) 68 degrees and put 5 comforters on the bed in our unheated parental attic bedroom.

My goal is to nudge it down, one degree per day, until I go as low as we can stand it. My teenage younger son spends most of his time in his own room, which has a Cadet wall heater, so he will remain comfortable (though capped at 68).

How did I get so far away from my frugal (and environmental) values? Comfort, concern over loss of comfort, and….it's not "my" bill.

What does that mean? UFF Dad and I each have our bills that we pay. Mine include groceries, household expenses, college tuition, and anything health related. (Plus saving). His include the mortgage, gas and car expenses, and utilities.

Back when I paid all the bills, I scrutinized them monthly. I caught many an overcharge on the phone bill, and was always inspired to try to cut our water usage by a kilogallon or drop a few daily watts of electricity use down from the prior month. Since we split the bills off in this way, I had become complacent. UFF Dad pays that one. Enough! Our finances are a shared project for a shared future.

Thermostat tonight: 67 degrees.

Frugal bonus points: Called the local YMCA and asked if they would credit back two weeks from the January membership I purchased my college-aged son, since he has to go back to school on the 15th. They graciously agreed and credited $18.

Money spent: $15.45 (prescription medication)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

January 8 2017

Another iced-in day, making it so easy to stay cozily at home (and not spend any money).

We ate soup, baked potatoes, sandwiches, and oatmeal.

The frugal project of the day was organizing my yarn stash. I can knit for months without buying any!

The socks in that photo are truly uber-frugal, since they were knitted with leftover bits of sock yarn collected over several years of sock knitting. They are on the feet of my younger son, who helped with skein-winding for a while. Also, 90% of the yarn in my stash came from an artists' recycling center.

Money spent: $0

January 7 2017

Woke up to the freezing rain. Decided to make the most of a cozy indoor day and went back to bed. One boy woke me up a little later to alert that it was snowing--a LOT!

The world was white and beautiful.  Quickly dressed in double layers, persuaded UFF Dad to do the same, and took the dog out for a delightful winter wonderland walk. We took pictures, greeted neighbors out sledding and walking, watched the dog prance through it. We made it outside and back just in time before the freezing rain started.

Stayed in for the rest of the day, watching the Xmas tree outside become slowly encased in a layer of ice up to half an inch thick. We enjoyed  Uber Frugal Activities: working on a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of Paris, watching a movie from the library's Lucky Day shelf (my son warned me "For future reference, if you see that a movie has Sacha Baron Cohen in it, you're not going to like it") knitting, reading, and baking. I made chocolate chip zucchini muffins and chocolate chip cookies, both a hit.

Splurged with a hot toddy using whiskey won at a White Elephant Solstice party. I used sugar and lemon juice which we had on hand and did not buy honey and fresh lemons.

Money spent: $0

January 6 2017

Walked to work on icy streets, listening to NPR on my phone during the walk.

Took more veggie-bean soup and mandarins for lunch, with last blueberry muffin. The soup was made with vegetables I prepped and froze in early September. At that time our weekly farm box was delivering  more veggies than we could eat in a week. It was work at the time, but I'm grateful now. Added more potatoes, a dash of chili, and some tomato sauce to soup to change it up.

Went to yoga after work and walked home. UFFDad made pizza from scratch for family dinner.  For entertainment, UFFDad read to me while I knitted a baby shower gift after dinner. Our  incredible local library lets us download books and movies on Hoopla for free.

Money spent: $0

January 5 2017

Today we began to receive some dire weather warnings about a coming ice storm, freezing rain, and possible power outages. Having just gone through this and with already icy streets, I did not want to be without sufficient food in the house that appealed to everyone (maintaining  abundance, not deprivation). Asked UFFDad to please go to the store while I was at work.

I hoped he would make the trek to our discount grocery store, but he exercised caution and went to the upscale store closer to home to stock up. Probably spent an extra $25 or so on exactly the same items, but it made absolute sense in the context of road conditions. I gave him a list of essentials and regular items, and he stuck to it (with the exception of seltzer water for making Italian sodas).

I asked him to buy good coffee (usually my mother picks this up for me at Costco, but we were out). Nobody wants to be stuck at home with UFFMom who has not had her coffee. That would go beyond the realm of deprivation and into the depths of frightening.

I did not ask UFFDad to buy red wine, another item I enjoy. I chose this in the spirit of creativity. After a few weeks of holiday overindulgence,  it's a good challenge to do without a nightly nightcap. I'll buy a bottle later in the month if hosting friends, but I can choose to live without and  be a little healthier.

I put away the new groceries when I got home and used older things to make a good dinner: sautéed tired broccoli with garlic, and brown rice with freezer pesto.

Money spent: $123.41

January 4 2017

Big day--it snowed again! This time a lot (for us--meaning a couple of inches). Dug out the XC skis a neighbor passed on  a few years back and skied the 2.5 miles to work.

Veggies/bean soup and mandarins for lunch again--still tasty.

Used  "Secret Snowflake" gift card from an office event and walked to a local yarn shop at lunch. The card was $10 and there wasn't much at that price. I did NOT take my wallet so that I wouldn't be tempted to spend more. Found some navy blue super wash wool yarn on sale, for knitting gloves (it's cold). It was $8, so they gave me $2 in cash.

This evening, received the warning alarm from college-aged son (home for winter break) that "There's nothing to eat in the house". Received similar alarm from younger son, who has different food criteria.

Abundance threatened. Do not want to enter deprivation mode.

(By the way, there was still *plenty* of actual food in the house--I will never allow UberFrugalFamily to go hungry.)

Discussed Uber Frugal January Challenge with kids and asked  how they felt about trying to get creative with remaining food until Friday. To my surprise, they were on board. Raided canned emergency food supply for refried beans to make bean and cheese quesadillas for dinner.

Made whole wheat blueberry muffins and cornbread from dry goods pantry to appease them.

Money spent: $0

January 3 2017

Back to work. Le sigh.

For lunch, took a Mason jar of the veggie/bean soup. Not the most delicious soup ever, but pretty good and very healthy. The kids will not eat soup (??) so this is strictly for UFFDad and I. Also took the seeded mandarin oranges rejected over the holidays by the kids as being "too hard to eat" (again, ??).

Walked to and from work.

Went to yoga after work, using a punch card purchased through Groupon in November that worked out to about $1.25 per yoga class--if all classes were used within 2 months of activation. Must get full benefit from that purchase!

Money spent: $0

January 2 2017

A Monday, but a day off for me as I'm a government employee/public servant.

Stayed home and had the visit of a friend and both our kids around.

For the friend, brought out lingering holiday treats and opened a bottle of wine that a different friend had left at our house a few weeks back.

Made a big pasta dinner for the kids. Watched a movie. Went for a run. Did some New Year's cleaning and organizing--including organizing the fridge and freezer. Some yucky things were disposed of, some older but still fine things were remembered and brought to the front for prompt consumption, and a general survey of available food in the house was conducted.

I was thinking Hmmm….can I make it until Friday without grocery shopping with creative meals?

Made a giant pot of soup with freezer vegetables from last summer, rice, and beans.

Money spent $4, for a 2017 paper organizer/planner our friend had picked up for me at a clearance sale. I didn't *need it*….however. I hope it will help me keep track of many things over this year. And, before deciding to take this challenge, I asked my friend to get it when she got her own.

Money spent: $4

January 1 2017

January 1, 2017

Stayed home, slept in. It snowed!!! A serious rarity in this past of the Pacific NW.

UFFDadand I volunteered at a midnight 5K race on New Year's Eve, handing out paper water cups to joggers and walkers dressed in all manner of festive garb (including pajamas) and bedecked with glowsticks to be seen on the dark, dark river bike path. Cold, somewhat surreal, mostly fun, and completely frugal New Year's Eve activity. Plus we gathered $40 in race credits toward my next trail run by volunteering.

My personal New Year's Day tradition: yearly IRA contributions (for the upcoming year) invested. Maxed my Roth IRA and UFFDad's traditional IRA in Vanguard index mutual funds. Talked UFSH into making a principal payment on our mortgage, since to say he is leery of investing in the market would be putting it way, way too mildly.

No money spent.

Uber Frugal Challenge: January 2017

Inspired by the marvelous Mrs. Frugalwood's Uber-Frugal January Challenge….

My own family's uber-frugal challenge!

We'll start with January 2017, but I sincerely hope that the realizations, changes, and habits cultivated in this month will continue forward. Indefinitely.

It's also important to me that we walk the steps of this Uber-Frugal Journey in the spirit of abundance and creativity, not deprivation.

There will be more about my own choices and process than the rest of the family here. My family is on board--as long as they feel the abundance. Just so you know, I'm a middle-aged, full-time employed, mom of two (one in high school and one in college), married to a super sweet man who is self-employed and loves it (in an, ahem, volatile field). I'm both the financial engine and financial planner of our family. So here we go!