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.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

UFF Weekend Frugal Fun

Hello--I hope you had a good weekend!

Here is some of my weekend frugal fun….

UFF Dad had quite a bit of work to do this weekend (one of the perils of being self-employed and working from home), but we managed a few solid hours of reading/knitting time together. We finished another Agatha Christie novel (our fourth?), which was very suspenseful, with double and triple twists at the end. I managed not to read ahead this time. I finished this little sweater vest and hat for a friend's friend's new baby:

gorgeous forest colors

malabrigo superwash merino wool--a dream

Also, UFF Dog and I made it to the forest for a run two runs (15 miles total):

trailhead-into the forest

on the trail-in the forest

I baked a vanilla chocolate-chip cake with chocolate frosting:

UFF Boy ate half in one evening

And visited good friends for a glass of wine and some adorable puppy time:

Puppy M--a force of nature...

The puppy even fell asleep on me:

…until she crashes. 

It's very difficult to worry too much about the state of the world when you have a soft little puppy asleep on your lap.

What did you do this weekend? Please share three things!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Weekly Do the Numbers

Friday to Friday spending….

from vegetarian.lovetoknow.com

Big Winco Grocery Shopping: $137.00

Three pounds of bulk tofu ends from the "Tofu Factory Outlet Store": $3.75+10-cent bag
 (yes! this really exists, and it's a five minute walk from my workplace)

Small grocery shop (2 gallons of milk plus organic carrots, lettuce, apples) and Bota Box of Cabernet Sauvignon for next week's Book Group (yes, so classy): $9.00

(how was it only $9? We used a $10 gift card I received at work plus a $13.00 credit that UFF Dad had collected from returning about a year's worth of recyclable cans and bottles)

Total weekly spending: $146.85 

That's all, folks!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Save Money by Talking to a Pharmacist

from who.int

Hello, UFF Mom here. I won't write long tonight because my arm is sore. Poor me.

Why is it sore, you ask? I'll tell you. It's because I had a typhoid vaccine after work today. The injectable sort.

First I used the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Yellow Book online to look up which vaccines were recommended for my travel destination. I did NOT call the fancy local "Travel Clinic" which would have charged me at least a hundred dollars for a consultation to say the same thing.

Next I called my local Fred Meyer Pharmacy, which carries travel vaccinations, and chatted with a friendly pharmacist to find out if they had it in stock, how much it would cost, if I needed an appointment, etc.

She kindly mentioned that there is both an oral and injectable form of the typhoid vaccine. She usually recommends the oral form because it lasts longer, "unless insurance is an issue". Wait, what?

Turns out the oral form is flagged as a travel vaccine, which insurance companies do not cover. The injectable form somehow escapes this marking, since most routine vaccinations are injectable. She ran a quick test and found that the shot was 100% covered by my health insurance, neatly saving $109.00.

I showed up at the pharmacy at 5:30, met the same friendly pharmacist from the phone, got right back in, and she suffered my questions about her injection technique (darting or non? Quick or slow?) and had it done before I knew she'd started.

Best shot I've had in years. I didn't even feel it, and neither did my budget.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

UFF Experiments

OKAY. Let's talk cloth.

A friend was visiting recently and she carried soft cloth handkerchiefs with her, saying that paper tissue was too abrasive on her nose over time. Today I noticed UFF Grammy digging a decorative cloth hankie out of her pocket as well.

I cloth diapered my children (both of them). I don't use (and never miss) paper towels--only dishtowels or rags. We use cloth napkins here in the UFF household, when we use napkins at all. I even used locally-made cloth menstrual pads back when that was still an issue.

So why am I not using cloth toilet paper? Why does that feel somehow like an invisible line between hip uber-frugal weirdness and icky uber-frugal weirdness?

I have tried it, I confess. Back when we still had a diaper pail hanging out in the garage, and I came across the term "family cloth" somewhere on the internet (a hippie-raised friend said gently, "I like the idea, but…couldn't you call it by some other name?"). My idea at that time was to only use it for pee (urine is sterile), and with the realization that it would be mostly me, lone female in a house of males, to use it. I kept the diaper bucket, and a basket of nice soft cloths, next to the toilet. One person, one use (obviously), and into the bucket.

My children were absolutely flabbergasted that I would ever consider doing such a humiliating thing. And they were never ever going to invite someone over for a play date with that in the bathroom. Plus, the bathroom smelled like pee. So I stopped.

But why? Why are we using processed trees to wipe our nether regions? (although I'm not sure it is truly more environmentally conscious to reuse cloth, with the washing and drying). Why is toilet paper the exception? And does anyone else hate how toilet paper often comes wrapped in many layers of non-recyclable cellophane?

I'm seriously considering giving this a go again. Cloth toilet paper. Why not??

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What does $137.00 Worth of UFF Groceries Look Like?

...I'm so glad you asked.

I have fairly often had the experience of being disappointed at the grocery checkout when comparing my spending total to the amount of food that I'm actually bringing home. Of course, quantity relative to cost depends a lot on your specific purchases--some big items will quickly drive the bill up.

I was happily surprised to have had the opposite reaction after grocery shopping Friday. With the amount of items, the total seemed suspiciously reasonable to me.

This shopping trip was at Winco, an employee-owned discount grocery store. They save money by not having baggers and not accepting credit cards. It feels a little like Costco--large, cavernous, and warehouse-like--but food items are not all sold in large quantities. They have begun carrying some organic items and a few local brands that I like to support. When saving money with groceries, it's important to know where the best prices on your staples can be found. Winco is the place for many, but not all, of our commonly bought food items.

Here's what $137 worth of groceries looked like for the UFFs.

Baking supplies:

Darn it--forgot to include the bulk chocolate chips

Fresh (mostly dairy) items:

Cheddar is essential around here

Fruits & Veggies:

Bananas and salad are organic, the rest not

Canned/packaged items:

Black olives for homemade pizza

The "carb" food group (heavy on whole wheat):

The Annie's is comfort food for our emergency supplies

Bulk items:

Rice, red lentils, split peas, peanuts, walnuts, raisins

Miscellaneous food and beverage items:

Vegetarian burgers, seltzer and tea bags

And finally, the non-food items:

Vitamins and floss--exciting stuff

It looks even more impressive when everything is on the table:

I'm very curious. Dues this look like a lot of food for the price to you, or not? 
How does this compare to food prices where you live?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Frugal Weekend Fun Part II

Oh, it is hard to go back to work after a three-day weekend. I want more time

Here are some other frugal activities from the UFF household:

  • Baking. Saturday evening I made chocolate chip cookies: UFF Dad and I had a few each and they had disappeared by morning. Sunday I made whole-wheat chocolate-chip walnut muffins--woke up Monday to find them gone

UFF Dad made some pizza dough rolls. Anyone else trying to keep a teenage boy fed?

  • Running. I went both Sunday and Monday. I live two miles from a trailhead to our urban greenbelt, and it is spectacular to be able to head to the forest on foot. I took UFF Dog up there Sunday, which led to him becoming a mud ball and requiring a bath on return. Monday we stayed on a flat bark trail to avoid having to repeat the bath process. 13 miles total. 
gear--hydration pack and gels for long runs
  • Reading. I read several chapters of JL Collin's book The Simple Path to Wealth. I feel so far from needing the instructions in the second half of the book, when he talks about what to do once you are financially independent, that it's a little discouraging. I'm still in the early stages, trying to live as simply as possible and invest as much as possible. I'll need to come back to this book in a few years when I'm closer to the goal of saving and investing yearly living expenses x 25, and it doesn't seem so distant. It's full of good advice.

  • Cleaning. Actually, after an argument a mild disagreement about who does more around the house, UFF Dad felt compelled to showcase his impressive housekeeping skills. I am very grateful for a clean downstairs and kitchen floor. It was covered with UFF Dog's mud prints prior. 
Dog prints before washing floor
  • Eating together. We had several nice salads this weekend:

  • Reading and knitting. We finished the Agatha Christie murder mystery And Then There Were None. It was highly suspenseful. Another chapter! More! I made lots of sock progress as UFF Dad read out loud. 

It was a good, full, three days, and the only money spent was at the grocery store (Winco).

Weekend spending total: $137.00

Did you have a long weekend?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

UFF Weekend Fun Part I

Hurray--a long weekend means extra fun. Here was my Saturday frugal fun….

Removed Xmas decorations from the exterior of the house, and about time too. UFF Boy chopped up the poor, dried tree that had been sadly languishing on the patio, and put it in the yard waste recycling for me (actually he chopped, and I gathered).

Also took down the swag beside the front door. Welcome Spring! We're ready for you now!

Tackled the clothing storage problem for the UFF Parents. We had been using a crowded corner of UFF Dad's home office closet for our non-hanging clothing. This was the previous closet situation:

The difficulty in putting things away was a strong deterrent for me to perform a task that I already dislike, which led to a lot of this:

I moved the clothing cubbies and small dresser out to the second floor open space. It's much more open, easier to see things when getting dressed in the morning (to avoid embarrassing moments like the one I had Friday, when I realized at work that my shirt was on inside-out), and a shorter distance to travel before being put away. Every step counts. See at how much better it looks:

UFF Dad and I now each have one drawer of this dresser for socks and undergarments. He felt that since our feet are about the same size, we should combine our sock drawer, but I think he's just trying to wear more of my hand knitted socks ;).

Didn't get pictures of it, but I took one bag of items to the artists' materials recycling center (and didn't buy any yarn), one bag of electronics items to the computer/electronics recycling center, one bag of clothes that didn't fit back to my generous neighbor, and several large pieces of furniture that had been stored in the garage ( a hideous armchair and stool, an old filing cabinet) to a thrift store for donation. It will be a lot easier to get my bike in and out of the garage now.

And finally, to the delight of UFF Boy, I went to the discount grocery store. I forgot my list and probably picked up a few extra items, but did very well for the amount of food purchased.

Pleasantly satisfied, I then stayed up much too late knitting and watching Grantchester Season 2 and reading the novel for my book group, Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber.

What did you do on Saturday?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Weekly Do the Numbers

Here are our weekly spending totals from Friday 2/10/17 to Friday 2/17/17. *

Groceries: $37.96 (we are due for a big, big, BIG grocery shopping this weekend)

Medical expenses: $13.66

Eating out/gifts: $95.50

Yoga classes: $20 (for three sessions)

Miscellaneous: $27.56 (bota box of red wine, chocolates, and pretzels for a gathering)

Grand total: $194.68

* These spending numbers are for categories that I cover from our family budget: groceries, household expenses, gifts, bicycle transportation, medical expenses, college expenses for UFF Son, and miscellaneous. While we also have and pay utility bills, gas and car expenses for our one car, life insurance, and mortgage payments, I am not including those here. 

Tell me about your weekly numbers!

Friday, February 17, 2017

UFF Weekly Roundup

Frugal habits and new ventures this week

Fixed with superglue


  • Went walking on work breaks instead of going to the yarn thrift store: daily. 
  • Morning tooth care: maybe twice? Must get up earlier, or not read the news before work (there are other benefits to not reading the news first thing too, such as a less stressed out day).
  • Oatmeal for breakfast: 7/7 days. So delicious (with cinnamon and blueberries) and so frugal.
  • Tea instead of coffee in the morning: 0 times. It's just not the same.
  • Set up a new checking account with Chase Bank in order to get a $300 incentive. I will have to keep it for 6 months, and had to transfer direct deposit of paychecks from my credit union. This meant spending my entire lunch hour at the bank one day, but it was a well-paid hour. 
  • Signed up for Swagbucks. Sadly, my computer is not up-to-date enough to watch the videos, etc.  that earn big points. I did a few surveys, got a little lost and annoyed, and gave up. Any suggestions? 
  • Plan to try a free yoga class at a new studio tomorrow, led by yoga-teachers-in-training. This could be a great way to get my yoga fix on the weekend. 
  • Fixed my work sandals with superglue. The soles were peeling away from the toes and I kept tripping. It worked. 

This is a three-day weekend for me, and I am so looking forward to a catch-up weekend. My plans include taking care of some unpleasant but loudly nagging tasks (like laundry, and cleaning the pile of papers and receipts that is my desk), taking some things to donate at St. Vincent de Paul (local thrift shop), and working on the taxes. Oh yes, and it's time to do the CSS Profile, a financial aid application akin to the FAFSA but used by private colleges and universities and much, much more detailed.

IN between all that, I plan to fit in some frugal fun: a forest run, a free yoga class, Grantchester Season Two, and of course, knitting! And maybe trying my hand at making the Frugal Girl's English muffin recipe.

Crazy Socks are getting longer!

How about you? What are your plans for frugal weekend fun?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Five things I DID buy this week

Here we go! A pendulum swing after last Thursday's things I didn't spend money on.

This was a different week.

Here are five things I purchased:

1) Dinner out with my good friend. It was an indulgence, but extremely fun. This is a friend that I don't get to see very often, sadly, and we lingered for a long time on Saturday evening, enjoying ourselves over good food and drinks. Part of the reason for frugality is to be able to prioritize experiences and relationships. I hope to take her out again soon.

2) Yoga classes. Oh how I have missed my lovely by-donation Vinyasa yoga studio. (I previously had a Groupon pass that worked out to about $1.50 per class). I went twice with a friend this week and remembered how good yoga makes me feel. It is already a low-cost studio (no receptionist, etc.), so no chance of volunteering for free classes, but I want to support them and the classes certainly support me. Maybe after I've been doing yoga more regularly for a while I'll be able to practice on my own.

3) Cheddar cheese sesame snacks for UFF Boy. He is always starving late at night these days. Although I want to encourage healthier (and more frugal) snacking, I also wanted to get him a little treat. Sesame seeds have healthy fats, right?

4) A fancy coffee drink. Sometimes I think that living frugally makes me a bit like someone emerging from a time warp. When I was an undergraduate in college (I won't tell you how long ago), I could, and often did, buy a 16 oz black coffee for $1.00. A large coffee--good coffee--for a buck. This was before Starbucks. I feel so antiquated now, shaking my head and muttering "$5 for a mocha? Are you kidding me?"

5) Over-the-counter cold medications for UFF Son. Yes, he is a (young) adult and could buy his own. But sometimes, it is nice to help out our adult kids a little bit. UFF Grammy has certainly done this for me and I want to be able to pass this on too. Learning to manage money and expenses is a process.

How about you? What did you spend money on this week? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February 15, 2017 Wednesday Musings

UFF Dog with his last bed

I "outed" my frugal self to two real-life friends this week, and it felt strange.

I tend to downplay my most extreme frugal weirdness in public--certainly at work and with people I don't know well. And actually, even among close friends I don't make a very big deal about it, although tips (such as which cheap red wines are drinkable, where to buy tofu ends by the pound, and self hair-cutting pointers) are exchanged with friends who also live frugal lives by choice or necessity.

Situations in which I often feel awkward are those in which I need to explain why I choose not to do something that others are doing, or that is being discussed. It would be disingenuous to say that I can't spend money on X,Y, or Z--yoga classes, eating out, social gatherings, clothing. I am privileged to be able to afford the necessities of life, and more. If I was not focused on saving--for what jlcollinsnh calls f-you money, but what I prefer to think of as financial security or independence--my daily life certainly could be less financially restrictive.

But I choose to find creative ways to live a rich life with minimal spending, so that I can also choose to spend on those things that support my values and are most important to me. Financial security is certainly one of those things, based in part on raising a family with very little money for many years. At that point, frugality was an absolute necessity and not a choice.

While we were never short on food and always had a home (and lots of books), in the days before the Affordable Care Act, I recall the stress that accompanied purchasing private monthly insurance for my family that did not even cover preventative care such as vaccines and routine physicals for my young kids. I also remember the shame of taking a child with a decayed tooth to the dentist and being asked "Why did you wait so long to bring him in?!"

These days, I choose to prioritize helping my son through college (for now only one), so that he can start off in life without a lot of debt. I also choose to try to save and invest 50% of my income; currently into retirement savings. I didn't start saving until my early 30s, having spent a number of years staying home with my boys and working part-time at interesting, low-paying jobs. We UFF Parents are not getting any younger, and try as UFF Dad might to deny it, most people want to retire eventually. I know I do.

All that to say, I'm lucky to have the choice to live frugally, but it also can lead to some social awkwardness--which is why I usually avoid going into any in-depth conversations around it, lest I be judged (as selfish or miserly) or be perceived as judging others.  However, I felt the need to explain to my dear friend who visited last weekend why I was so hesitant (aka being a party pooper) about some activity suggestions, and so told her about this previously top-secret frugality blog (Hi C!). This was a bit of a cowardly way to share, because I told her about the blog as she was leaving town. Then, I met with my knitting friend S at lunchtime Monday, and felt compelled to spill the beans again…only to discover that she too is a proud frugal weirdo (Hi S!). In fact, I'm pretty sure that neither of us ordered anything at the coffeehouse where we met to knit. Oops.

It feels a little vulnerable. I'm happy with my frugal life and its challenges and rewards, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to broadcast it. Interestingly, I find that having to be frugal is much more socially acceptable than choosing to be frugal.

I'd love to hear from other people about your experiences opening up to friends and family about your frugal life, and their responses. Or your response to frugal weirdo friends. Please share!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14, 2017: Frugal Valentine's Day

The most frugal way to celebrate Valentine's Day is not to celebrate it!

I'm not a big fan of commercial holidays that create expectations individuals feels they must live up to. Also, I think the years of having to purchase or create 30 Valentines cards for each child's class have left me jaded about this holiday. I do remember loving to cut, paste, and draw cards when I was a kid (paper doilies, stickers, and construction paper--bliss!). Our family celebration today consisted of wishing each other a happy day, and sharing a small chocolate cake with UFF Grammy (she brought it over) and a neighbor.

A few coworkers brought treats to share at work as well.

How do you feel about Valentine's Day?

Monday, February 13, 2017

UFF Weekend Fun

It was a wonderful weekend spent with a very dear friend. We enjoyed quite a bit of this:

Estimating that we walked over 15 miles over the weekend through forest and city.

UFF Dog had some much-needed training lessons to remind him of all he'd learned before he came to our home almost seven years ago. Heeling is coming back to him quickly. Next to work on is "stay", "come", and "don't chew your bed". He's on his 4th bed in 12 months.

Beds are delicious.
We also had some meals and drinks out--a rare treat and a special time with my friend. She is an exceptionally thoughtful and generous person, and such a gracious host when I visit her. It was so nice to have a chance to show her my little (fairly frugal) corner of the world….

Also enjoyed some of this

What did you do this weekend?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

UFF Weekly Do the Numbers

Friday to Friday spending: February 3-February 9 

Groceries: $132.00 (the cupboards were bare. They're close to it again. We all like to eat)

Household supplies (TP, dish soap, dog food, ibuprofen, vitamins): $60.00

Prescription medication: $60.00

Travel visa to Vietnam: $16.00

Past medical expenses: $250

Past dental expenses: $1176.00

Grand total: $1694.00 

That was a pretty spendy week. However, all of it was to support meaningful goals.

How was your weekly spending? Please leave a comment below!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Weekly Roundup

UFF Dog on his bed

Today I heard "Mama! We are really out of food! I had to eat PBJs for a snack!" 

Clearly this will not do. Shopping is planned.
Plus a weekend visit from a dear friend, and hiking.

Here's a weekly roundup of some frugal routines I'm working on….

  • Commuting to work: times I did NOT ask UFF Dad for a ride for my one-way commutes: 8/10! Walked and biked this week
  • Nights I walked around the house and turned off all the power strips and electronics I could find before bed: 5/7
  • Days I took lunch to work instead of buying it: 4/5
  • Days I ate free food for lunch at work: 1/5
  • Times I had oatmeal and frozen berries for breakfast: 5/7 (weekends are different)
  • Times I did a full morning dental-care routine: 4/7. I will do better next week
  • Number of baked goods made for UFF snacks: three (oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip almond cake, and cornbread) 
What frugal routines are you working on?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 9, 2017: Five things I didn't buy this week

Leftover bits of yarn make great "crazy socks"
…that I wanted to...
  • Yoga classes. Even at my wonderful by-donation yoga studio
  • A Luci light for a friend without power in her rural homestead
  • A typhoid vaccine (can wait)
  • Red wine. Still holding steady
  • Yarn. Always yarn

How about you? What didn't you buy or pay for this week?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

UFF Experiment: Eating Free Food

Yum--cookies! These ones are "healthy" and homemade

I'm going to follow Mrs. Frugalwoods' lead and embrace my inner Frugal Weirdo. Which meant, this week, experimenting with substituting meals by eating free food. I know this is not a radical idea--I've read about Frugalites who make a habit of lunching on Costco samples, for example--but it's new for me. Usually, things I eat away from home are snacks that are in addition to rather than instead of meals.

However, there has been a a lot of food around work lately. Rather than eat the boring lunch I brought  to work Monday, I left it in the fridge for Tuesday and opted for some party leftovers (chips and hummus, mandarin oranges). My work group was given an award and a little party Monday afternoon, which included  a huge box of cookies: molasses, chocolate chip, chocolate marshmallow, white chocolate…I ate three. These were not small cookies. More like monster cookies. I was not in the mood for dinner.

Not recommended to do this every night, but I made dinner for UFF Dad and UFF Boy (vegetarian chicken burgers with cheese, salads, raw carrots, bananas) and just had a carrot myself (to balance out the cookies). Frugal eating by eating out for free!

Spending today: $0

Anyone else who dines out on free food? When, where, and what?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February 7, 2017

Spending today: $44 (for UFF Son's fluoride treatment at the dentist)

See a trend?

Monday, February 6, 2017

February 6, 2017

UFF PHOOEY: Dentists and Doctors and Bills, Oh MY

Today was pretty painful. We had a $250 bill for past medical copays, only $50 of which was in this year and thus can be reimbursed from the 2018 FSA.

Also got the remaining bill from UFF Boy's wisdom teeth removal on December 30th. $1132, all non-reimbursable because that $2500 2017 FSA was used up a long time ago.

Dental insurance paid a grand total of $225 out of the $2033.00 bill.

We have the money available, but it means draining our short-term cash emergency fund and dipping halfway into the first tuition payment fund.

I am so kicking myself for not postponing the procedure until after January 1st.

Money spent: $1382 on medical expenses. Sigh.

Do you have any Frugal Phooeys to share (and help me feel better?)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017

UFF Takes the Long View: Saving Money by Taking Care of Your Teeth

Without going into the boring details, I will just say that we have, and have had, some dental issues in our family (what family doesn't?!). And dental care, as you know, is very, very expensive.

We are so fortunate to have dental insurance coverage for the UFF members provided through my job. It caps at $1000 per person per year, which sounds like a reasonable amount of money. If a person has two teeth cleanings a year, a dental evaluation, and x-rays, this is sufficient. Add on any more than that, however (orthodontia, wisdom teeth removal, more frequent cleanings, dental procedures of any kind) and that number is exceeded faster than you can say fluoride.

Our next UFF defense against dental bills is a Flex Spending Account. This allows me to set aside money pre-tax (capped at $2,500 yearly) that can be used to reimburse for health expenses. Not only is the money not taxed, but it's less painful to have it already removed from take-home pay. For the past THREE years however, our family of four has exceeded the FSA by upwards of $1000. The culprit is always dental bills.

Which brings me to this: boring old daily maintenance routines are SO worth the time!

Brushing, flossing, and whatever else your dentist recommends are about the least exciting things you do in a day. If you're like me, and rush around in the morning, or want to stay up a little later doing something more fun (knitting!), it's tempting to skip a step or abbreviate the process. But I beg of you, don't: you will pay in the end.

I have a time-consuming dentist-recommended regimen that consists of using a rubber-tip gum massager, flossing, two minutes of brushing with an electric toothbrush, and fluoride applications. Just writing it out is tedious. It's taken me a long time to overcome my laziness and follow this practice nightly, but I'm there now.

As I look back at our dental spending, I see that we've paid over a thousand dollars out of pocket for dental procedures each year just for me, UFF Mom. Yikes. Of course, I'll do what needs to be done to take care of health issues, because it's a foundational priority. But my hope is that some of this can be postponed in the future (or made unnecessary) by upping my self-care.

So…I'm going to harness the power of habit and try to  do this whole cleaning routine in the morning too. Twice a day. Just have to get up a little earlier!

What boring maintenance routines have you used to save money in the long term?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

February 4, 2017

Frugal Weekend Fun-Running a Race!

Really much muddier than you can see here

As I mentioned before, I love to run (actually jog slowly) and the camaraderie of running in races. But entering races can be a fairly expensive hobby. My solution to this dilemma has been to volunteer with a small family-run racing company at events (usually shorter road races, which I don't enjoy as much) where I can earn credits, and then participate myself in their very well-run and not overly commercial races as a runner (usually the mid to longer distance trail races, which I love).

So…today was a day of redeeming race credits! The event was held in a beautiful state park, next to a river, on flat, soft (VERY soft) trails. Runners could choose from a 5 mile, 10 mile, 15 mile, or 30 mile option, with everyone going around the same big loop multiple times (or once). I did the 10 mile distance, to the mild relief of UFF Dad, who I dragged out of bed to go with me (to volunteer and earn…more credits!)

It was great. I know that spending hours in the drizzling rain, jogging in remote areas of a state park in ankle-deep mud while fording streams and dodging piles of horse poop, is not everyone's idea of a perfect Saturday morning…am I right? But it's actually way more fun than that description conveys.  First, there are the runners. Almost to a one, the people I crossed paths with made a point of making eye contact and saying "Great job", "You've got this", "Way to go" as they passed and looped other runners, or at least acknowledged each other's efforts with a smile and wave. There were runners between the ages of 14-69 participating in one of the events (interestingly, more older folks in the longer runs). Second, mud! How often do we get to go play in the mud as adults? I did even more than most, since I hit a tree root and face planted within the first mile. I was completely unhurt, but spent the next mile amusing myself thinking about how much fun it would be to post a picture of my mud-soaked self with the hash tag #dresslikeawoman. It also meant that I really didn't have to bother trying to go around future mud puddles, since the damage was done. Finally, delicious food and drink at the end, while experiencing post-run euphoria (or post-volunteering relief). Both UFF Dad and I had an ample lunch before leaving--a bowl of soup (broccoli cheese and Southwestern tomato corn), bagels, trail mix, chips, fruit, and cookies. We even took home a bottle of local craft beer each, which I plan to save for later.

The rest of the afternoon has been a nice, mellow, home day. I made a big batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to try to make it up to UFF Dad (he is infinitely supportive, but not really into running), did laundry, washed dishes, and hope to spend some couch knitting time (with Grantchester Season 2) once the other weekly home tasks are finished (mopping the floor and cleaning the bathrooms, if you are interested to know). Normally UFF Dad and I split these, but again, he was such a good sport about getting out of bed to go stand in the mud under drizzle for two hours….

Money spent today: $0

What kind of frugal weekend fun did you have today?