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A Frugal Grocery Week

March 23rd, 2014 at 08:44 pm

Thankfully it's a frugal grocery week.

We're having:
- tuna melts
- mexican eggs and spinach
- pasta with courgettes and goat cheese
- asian meatballs over rice
- italian soup with ground turkey (crockpot) - this will make about 4 meals (we'll put three in the freezer)
- tamales out of the freezer and salad
- and tonight we're going to F's friend's house for kids and adult party (two of her friends have birthdays - both boys - that are just a few days apart, so they often have a celebration together)

Now I just have to work out what we're having on which nights. Soccer has started again, which means that on soccer nights we need to having something easy. (That is the mexican eggs, crockpot things, something from the freezer).
Monday - piano (we get back at about 5:45)
Wednesday - soccer practice (we get back late - like 7:30)
Friday - soccer practice (7:30 again!)

It's a juggling act, isn't it? But it is absolutely a requirement for me to have a nice meal as a family.

The grocery shopping came to $88.41
- dinner ingredients $35
- lunch ingredients $20
- fruit $6
- staples $11
- breakfast staples $13
- dessert items $3

OK, need to go wrap birthday gifts and play a game with F.

Work on the Office and other Stuff

March 11th, 2014 at 06:52 pm

We've worked hard on the new counter in our office kitchen (that is me and my office-mate J). Nearly done. I just need to paint some edges and caulk. Michaels had the paint on sale, just over $1 each. That's a business expense, but I still try to keep my business expenses as low as possible. Which is probably why I'm still in business even though I'm an architect (and many of my colleagues are really struggling).

Other stuff: Discretionary spending is way down. I think it's the act of tracking it that helps. We always tracked every dime we spend, but looking at discretionary spending on a day-by-day basis is a different thing.

More other stuff: We are going to California to visit my parents. We leave on Saturday. Staying with my parents allows us to do things we couldn't afford if we also had to pay for a hotel. And my mother got Disneyland tickets for me and F (D comes back home on Monday, so this will just be a mother-daughter thing). We've been to Disneyland a lot. It's great to be able to spend the day there, and still come home to Grandma and Grandpa at the end of the day. We are also planning on mini-golf and maybe a horse ride (F is a really good rider) in Griffith Park.

Even more other stuff: My mother has asked for me to send her a grocery shopping list. See? This is way better than a hotel!

Can you have too many books?

March 9th, 2014 at 04:44 pm

When we were married, we marveled that we had only one book in common (it was a Douglas Coupland book - I actually despised that book so not sure why I still owned it; I've since gotten rid of my redundant copy).

When D and I moved back to the US, he sent over a partial shipping container; it contained a lot of books! (and some other stuff, but there really were a lot of books).

I don't remember when I stopped buying books and instead borrowed them from the library. D still buys books (and likes to receive them as gifts), and he won't part with books he already owns.

I think you CAN have too many books. Look at our bookshelves - wow! I dust the books every week. And I just did a mega-dust where I took every book off and dusted behind them. And aside from our reference books (one shelf) and photobooks we've had made, we rarely open those books at all. I'd also rather walk by the shelves and see only my favorites - and I do have favorites that I would never part with! (Jasper Fforde, Kate Atkinson, Milagro Beanfield War, One Hundred Years of Solitude).

So I have decided to select one book a week to sell (http://www.amazon.com/gp/seller/sell-your-stuff.html?ld=AZSOATEXTJOINT) or donate to the library.

We used to do PaperbackSwap (which is brilliant if you want another book to come into your life to replace the book you just got rid of. That was my first step to forgoing new books altogether and just visiting the library).

Book no. 1 - Animal Dreams (Barbara Kingsolver). I really loved her book The Bean Trees. I didn't love Animal Dreams, but I bought it and kept it. I am now selling it for $1 over shipping costs. It's not much, but it'd be another snowflake, right?

When I think about the money I wasted buying books I feel slightly ill.

Meal Plan and No Spend Days Last Week

March 8th, 2014 at 09:05 pm

Our meal plan for the week is intended to use up some food that's already in the fridge, since we are leaving next Saturday to visit my parents in California. (Yay! It's going to be about 80 deg. and since it snowed here today, we're pretty excited!).

Potato pancakes and salad
Tilapia with paprika and curry powder and asparagus
Something out of the freezer (probably chicken black bean corn salsa stew)
Grilled cheese with tomato soup
Chicken tacos and guacamole
Pasta with butter and parmesan with peas

We need to have a little food left for D for the following week since he returns on Monday (F and I are staying longer and returning on the train the following Friday). I will be sure to update you on that!

No Spend Days
So this past week I not only kept track of our No Spend Days (discretionary spending), but also kept track of the triggers that caused spending (and the situations where I didn't spend).

Sunday - NSD
what I did to avoid spending: stayed at home in the morning “hanging out” with the family and doing chores, met friends for tennis in the afternoon (free!)

Monday - NSD
what I did to avoid spending: worked hard, brought a Luna bar to avoid sweets craving (peanut cookie flavor - yuck!)

Tuesday - went to the rolfer (I have an appt. every other month)
what I did to avoid discretionary spending: didn’t enter any shops, brought a Luna bar again (this time coconut with chocolate - yuck, again)

Wednesday - gelato $7
spending trigger - promise to F that we'd get a treat. I wasn't going to get a gelato, too, but they had my favorite flavor (honey) - grrr!

Thursday - NSD
what I did to avoid spending - F has an afterschool class, so there was no time to go to a store

Friday - bought lunch at a local supermarket for me and F (goes into grocery budget, but just should have made something at home)
spending trigger - hunger! not having enough time to eat lunch before F’s friend arrived! store is on the way home! Basically I wouldn't have stopped if it was just me, but wanted the treat for F.

Saturday - NSD (just groceries)
what I did to avoid spending - went to the grocery store after eating, so not hungry for "extras" - went to the library to get books for F, stopped by the office, went home to clean house. Too busy for discretionary spending!

Spending Triggers

February 18th, 2014 at 11:41 pm

I had a No Spend Day (personal) today (I did buy something for my business, but that's not discretionary), but I thought a lot about what my spending triggers are.

A lot of you know me by now, and know that I am not a big spender. And you also know that when I do spend money I didn't need to, I feel super guilty. I'm trying to avoid those guilty feelings, and only spend when I actually WANT to and for things that are meaningful to me.

So... what are those spending triggers?
- When I'm in a store (this is the first trigger) I tend to buy things that
- are on sale (another trigger - I really just need to stay out of stores of all kinds) that I don't really need
- Candy or a sweet drink (usually premade iced tea) - I get the sugar craving at about 2, and if I don't have a little square of chocolate or something, I am liable to walk down to the plaza and get a candy bar or a lemonade from the little restaurant which is less than a block from the office.
- My daughter - I end up getting her little treats that she probably doesn't need. It's better if she doesn't come shopping with me. Bear in mind that she never asks for anything; I'm the one who suggests things. This is how I know she really doesn't need anything.

Do you have triggers like this for extra spending? Are there situations you avoid?

Shutterfly Promos

February 17th, 2014 at 12:06 am

When I got our last Shutterfly album (the 2013 photos) I was given a promo code for $20 off our next order (expires March 15). I am still missing 2006 and 2010, but I had the 2006 photos in Shutterfly waiting to do an album; I just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Well.... today I saw a promo code for 40% everything on the site. And there is a free shipping code, too.

So I am madly trying to finish the 2006 album before the 40% off code expires tomorrow evening! Ack!

I almost have all the photos arranged, but I like to include quotes and stories and things. I have to go see what's in my 2006 stuff... F was between 6 months and a year and a half in 2006.... that's when she started talking, so there should be lots to put in!

Weekly Meal Plan

February 16th, 2014 at 02:09 am

This week's meal plan (each meal feeds three of us):
- chicken with asparagus and rice ($5.67)
- zucchini socca ($3.68)
- pasta with turkey bacon/peas/goat cheese ($7.61)
- lemon crumbed fish with broccoli ($9.79)
- tuna melts ($4.62)
- potatoes dauphinoise with a salad ($4.23)

Our weekly grocery spend was $96.50. I'm happy with that. My budget allows for $140 each week, but my goal is less than $100. It doesn't always happen... but when it does, I have $40 for savings!!
- dinner ingredients $30
- lunch prep items $35
- fruits $7
- staples $9 (mayo, oregano, etc.)
- breakfast staples $7
- dessert ingredients $8

2013 Photo Book

February 11th, 2014 at 02:20 am

I've had our 2013 photo book in our Shutterfly cart waiting for a deal (I did the book during Dec. and the first week of January, finished it completely, and just parked it in the cart)... Just got a massive deal, and I'm not sure how it all worked.

I got a $20 off coupon in the mail, also had free shipping (code SHIP30) and it was 20% off photo books. In the end I got more than 50% of my order (I'm not sure how it worked - the number just seemed to get lower and lower).

Anyway, we're right on budget for the photo book (I have a budget category for it), and I can't wait to have 2013 on the shelf!

Another Week, Another Meal Plan

February 8th, 2014 at 09:28 pm

Meal planning this week...

- tonight - over to friends - we're bringing a big salad (about $3)
- tomorrow - we're going x-c skiing and will eat dinner out
- Lemon chicken with broccoli ($7)
- Homemade Shrimp Sushi ($10)
- Risotto with Goat cheese and Sundried Tomatoes and Spinach ($5)
- Pasta with Goat cheese and Courgettes ($5)
- Posole from the freezer and salad ($1)

We spent $94.20 on groceries
- $35 dinner ingredients
- $24 lunch prep items
- $10 fruit
- $13 staples
- $12 breakfast
- $0 dessert ingredients

I was talking with my brother the other night, and he claimed that to eat "good food" the way that he does, he has to spend about $20 per meal minimum to cook for the two of them. I argued that my least expensive meal is about $2.25 (polenta, red sauce and a salad) total for all three of us, and that most of our produce is organic (I use the guidelines re best and worst foods for pesticides). He argued that it's less expensive to eat meat (he's a vegetarian) which I think is untrue; most of our meals are vegetarian precisely because it is less expensive).

He argued that I wasn't eating the kind of food that he and his wife are eating. I think that's probably true. Our food is probably a lot simpler, and we eat in season and on sale. If we use fresh herbs, it's herbs we've grown in our garden (and I do put the cost of the plants/seeds in my grocery budget). Can you tell he really made me angry?

Printer Finally Stopped Working and other Work Stuff

February 4th, 2014 at 02:43 am

I have an office downtown, but after F gets home from school, I work at home (we do our homework together!) so I have a printer here. It's been making this horrible noise for the past few months, but it kept working. I tried to fix it, and located the noise, but the printer is old, and we got it for free with something else.

It finally stopped working yesterday, and so I bought a new printer. Or I should say, my business bought a printer for me to use at home.

It was recommended by Consumer Reports. Apparently it's not an ink-hog. And I can buy third party ink for it inexpensively. The printer was $80. Luckily that's in the work budget.

I set the work budget for this year based on last year's budget and expected income. I have $133 a month for office supplies. I had $0 in supplies for this month. Other supplies in the near future: just bought ink for the printer in the office and cd's. Also will need envelopes in the next few months.

I'm trying to be as frugal at work as I am at home; afterall, the business is a pass-through entity, so it's my money even though it's a corporation.

My business budget is just shy of $6,000 per month. That includes my salary and health insurance reimbursement. I pay quite a bit for business insurance, professional liability insurance and my licenses (I have licenses in two states and an NCARB certificate to maintain).

Rationalization for Stupid Spending

January 30th, 2014 at 11:38 pm

After I picked F up from school today, we went over to Whole Foods to grab a snack. I needed to use up some time because I wanted to return the choreography notes and cd's that I borrowed from a fellow instructor (who wasn't going to be at the gym until 4 to teach her class). She very kindly let me copy her stuff since I am now co-teaching that weightlifting class. She no longer teaches the weightlifting class, but still teaches spinning).

We each bought a little dessert (I was only going to get a drink, and I don't know what happened! I was weak in the presence of chocolate!) and a drink.

Here is the rationalization: I really wanted to get the stuff back to my friend because I've had it a week, and this was one of the only times I could drop it off. I got a lot of music and choreography for free (thereby offsetting the cost of the treat!). I would have had to go home and come back (so we would have used up gasoline).

All of this is a rationalization. In reality, I should have just gotten the treat for F. I didn't really need anything. I didn't even want anything. This is my weird buying impulse - this is why I don't go into stores. It's not like I spent a lot, but it adds up. I usually food shop early in the morning (when I'm not hungry and weak-willed).

Note to future me: you don't even like the chocolate that much after you get it; next time stop by the cheese samples for a FREE salty treat! (I am going to have that tattooed onto my hand or something.

Day off of Work = Some Spending + Guilt

January 20th, 2014 at 06:14 pm

F is off of school today, but D works, so I am taking advantage of my self-employed status to hang out with her.

This morning we have been hanging out a home, and right now she's playing minecraft for a few mins.

I was relieved to get an email from F's piano teacher this morning canceling today's lesson. F hadn't practiced much (we are trying to work out a better system for practicing) and we get a credit toward next month's lessons. That means we pay for only three lessons in Feb. rather than four.

So instead we'll do a few quick errands downtown and then go to the gym. F gets her own bench, and she does the motions with just the bar (1 lb.) or dance or play on the ipad. Usually all three over the course of the class.

Then we're going out to lunch! We're going to a Japanese place for bento boxes (they have a lunch special). D eats lunch out once a week, and I eat lunch out once a month, so I don't feel too guilty about this splurge. OK, I must feel a little guilty or I wouldn't be mentioning it. Whatever is left from our dining budget for the month, I use to pay down the mortgage. But it is, after all, the dining budget. I know everyone has issues around money, and I feel less guilty if I deprive myself, but I am trying to deprive myself less when the budget is not in any danger.

I buy stuff at the grocery store for F and D (crisps, scones for D so that he doesn't go to Starbucks, pickles for F, beer and coffee for D). I end up with the rejects from F's lunch as the sides in my lunch the next day, and I don't drink alcohol or coffee (I gave them up a long time ago when I realized how expensive these things are). This is not a rant against my husband and daughter; it's really about me, and I know that. I don't need as many "treats" but when I do give myself a treat, I have to try to not feel guilty!

Do any of you struggle with the guilt thing?

Winter Sales

January 15th, 2014 at 02:18 am

I bought a bunch of things for F in the winter sales. I spent what seemed like a lot, but it's for next year's stuff, and she'll need it (her snowsuit is too small already, and I bought snowpants for next year, snowboots too small already also). I also got leggings, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, leggings and a couple of warm zip hoodies and fleece jackets in the next size up. All was through LandEnd which has really durable stuff that lasts two seasons for us (F is small). So probably no need to buy anything next year except a few long-sleeved t-shirts and maybe a few more pairs of leggings (hoping that one of her friends will outgrow some, though!).

I am feeling guilty, even though it's in our budget.

No, I didn't get anything for myself. I have already determined that I don't need anything. I don't have a ton of clothes, but pretty sure I have more than I need.

Turbo Tax Refund

January 14th, 2014 at 08:03 pm

It turned out I couldn't use the Turbo Tax I'd pre-bought for my business taxes this year (long story short: they don't make it for a Mac, I'm not going to spend the money to upgrade Parallels just to run this one program). This is not the Turbo Tax for personal taxes (that they DO make for a Mac).

So I called Turbo Tax to stop the auto-renewal.

And guess what? They also offered to refund me the amount I paid since I couldn't use it! I was surprised, partly because I already have the disk so it's not like they can check that I'm really not using it.

I will continue to do my personal taxes on Turbo Tax, and I told the customer service person that I really hope the business software does come out for a Mac in the future; I'll use that, too, when it does.

So, a pleasant surprise, a big refund to my business account. And I found a company that will let me do my business taxes online, so I'm working on those this week (I was afraid that I was going to have to do it by hand!).

Meal Planning and Groceries for the Week

January 11th, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Here's the weekly dinner meal plan:
- Socca (chickpea flour pancake with zucchini)
- Crustless quiche and toast
- Posole (this is New Mexican hominy with green chile and chicken - basically a stew)
- "Bad Breath" pasta - capers, kalamata olives, spinach, yum!
- Cod and leeks with turkey bacon and homemade french fries
- Something from the freezer (probably Fagiole soup) with salad

Total spent $109

Breakdown on the spending:
$50.50 on dinner ingredients
$26 on lunches
$3.50 on fruit
$5.50 on staples
$8 on breakfast
$15.50 on dessert (they were having a special on almond milk ice cream - I can't eat dairy, so I bought four which accounts for $10 of this)


January 9th, 2014 at 06:20 pm

Well, that's it. I've made my one clothing purchase for the year. According to my clothing spreadsheet, this is all I need. No, I don't need another pair of black snowboots. I don't need another red long-sleeved t-shirt. I don't need another long-sleeved t-shirt at all! I have more than enough of everything.

Some of you asked how I came up with the ideal number of each item of clothing for my spreadsheet. It's not very scientific and it's individual. I looked through each item and saw what I wear regularly. I figured I needed 7 long-sleeved t-shirts in the winter since I wear them every day. I rarely have meetings where jeans would be inappropriate, but sometimes I have to interview for a project so I need a nice pair of trousers that aren't jeans. Two or three times a year I need to look nice for social things; I needed one nice winter outfit and one nice summer outfit. Eight or nine pairs of underwear seemed right (we wash our clothes once a week). We are at the pool every day in the summer (we join a local pool) so I need two swimsuits - but I only had one!

Now I have two swimsuits - very exciting! It fit perfectly and Lands End was having a massive sale on swimsuits. I'm lucky they had something left in my size! I wasn't too picky about pattern, just something that won't make me look sickly (no yellow, no light green, no light blue!).

Now I'm going to evaluate F's wardrobe (a harder task since she is growing so fast!)

Swagbucks and Birthday Parties and Tuition Assistance

January 5th, 2014 at 04:49 pm

Just earned a $15 swagbucks amazon voucher. When I end up using it (probably for a birthday gift for F's friend A whose party is next week), I will do a transfer what I spend from the "Gifts - Friends" category to the "Savings" category in Moneywell.

F's class at school is small, and it used to be that every kid was invited to every birthday party. That meant going to parties even if F wasn't good friends with the child, and having to buy 19 gifts during the year!

Luckily that is changing a little bit. Her friend A is only inviting 4 kids (and F is one of them; they're really close). A little boy in the class had his party at the pool yesterday and invited everyone, but F didn't want to go. She's says he's an ok kid, and I like the parents, but they don't play together and don't have much in common, and I felt like she should decide whether or not to go.

We've never had all the kids in the class at F's parties, but that's easier because her birthday is in the Summer. I just think having tons of kids is overwhelming for a child.

In other news I finished filling out tuition assistance forms. D started his job in September, and already had made most of his money for the year from his business (the end of the year was always slow), so it's a little bit misleading. Also instead of paying for his health insurance, they just gave him bonuses for three months, so it looks like his income was higher. I'm not sure we'll get much for next year (this year we got $3250 which was so great!). If we get $1000 I'll be happy.

Weekly Menu Plan

January 4th, 2014 at 08:18 pm

The holidays are over, and I'm pretty glad, because although we met our grocery budget, things were not routine. I ended up eating a lot of strange leftovers to use them up.

The menu for this week:
- chicken tacos with guacamole
- asian meatballs and rice
- tamales from the freezer and salad
- very sweet salmon and broccoli
- tuna melts
- risotto with sundried tomatoes and spinach
- one night out

We spent $113 on groceries this week:
- dinner ingredients $38
- lunch prep ingredients $27 (we brown bag all of our lunches)
- fruits $11
- staples $27 (olive oil, bread, oj)
- breakfast items $7
- dessert ingredients $4

Free Groceries!

December 29th, 2013 at 04:07 pm

I usually shop at two stores for our groceries. I was shopping in the second store, Sprouts, and pretty much done with my shopping and about to pay, when there was a huge pop and all of the lights and cash registers went off. The store was dark, but not too dark to see, and I said to the stockperson who was on my aisle "Can we pay if there's no power to the registers?"

But just then we heard the manager shouting from the front of the store to come to the registers with everything we had in our baskets. I figured maybe they had some alternate system.

There were probably a total of 20 shoppers in the store at the time, and we all headed to the registers. Two Sprouts employees who had been outside collecting carts said that the transformer had "blown up." They said it sounded like a huge pop, and the female employee hit the ground she was so scared, then the transformer started smoking.

Anyway, I got to the front, the guy at the register bagged all my groceries (without scanning them obviously) and then smiled and said "Merry Christmas! Our manager said everything is free!"

Free groceries! I felt bad for the store... but it was a really good PR move (let's say 20 people time maybe $40 each average is not actually that much for the store - they'll probably lose more from spoiled inventory, and maybe their insurance will cover it?).

When I went to my car, I saw the exploded transformer - it was all black. Glad that no one was hurt. And the traffic lights were out up to the next major street.

But, let's return to that very welcome Christmas present - free groceries!

I can't tell you exactly how much the groceries would have cost (about $30) but I will definitely have extra money in our grocery budget left over this month that I can use to pay down the mortgage.

Master Clothing List and Shopping the Sales

December 26th, 2013 at 09:51 pm

I have adopted a new approach to clothing. I am sort of afraid to tell my friends who think that I'm way too obsessive-compulsive and that I rely too much on excel and spreadsheets and stuff. But I'm not afraid to tell you!

Step 1 - I've inventoried my clothes (and F's) including socks and underwear and pajamas (and shoes). Yes, of course this goes into a spreadsheet.

Step 2 - I've figured out the ideal number of each item (short sleeved shirt, long sleeved shirt, trousers)

Step 3 - Replace only as necessary. I've determined that I have PLENTY of clothes. I don't need anything new until something gets super stained or threadbare. But F is still growing, and she needs to have bigger sizes as she gets bigger.

Step 4 - Make a list of what will be needed a year in advance (so if it's winter now, what will likely still fit and be ok next winter, and what will be needed next winter).

Step 5 - Shop the sales! (Everything winter is now on sale or about to be on sale). I just bought F some long sleeved shirts and a sweatshirt half off at Old Navy and got $10 off my next purchase. She will likely be a size 8 for another year, but I bought a few things in the next size up.

And... it's good to know that I don't need anything. So nothing for me until my current clothes shred and fall off! (Actually my standard practice is that clothes that are stained become workout clothes, and clothes that have holes become pajamas - then they shred and fall off and become rags).

Free Stuff - Books and Birds

December 22nd, 2013 at 12:44 am

Last night we were out at a restaurant that has a book exchange. And we saw a book we used to have, but that a borrower (who shall remain nameless) never returned - grrr! Anyway, we have the other 3 in the set, and it's one of our favorite series - the Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. And there it was, free for the taking! (We are going to pop in and replace it with five books we are decluttering out of our house).

And then today, F had a playdate with her friend S who is moving across the country (we are all very sad). Her parents said they still had to bring the birds to a pet store since they can't bring them along (they leave in 6 days). Long story short: we now have two super cute budgies. And a very expensive birdcage, and toys and food and a travel carry case. I hope they're happy here!

A Little Bit of British Christmas in the US

December 18th, 2013 at 02:20 am

I went to Cost Plus today for Christmas crackers (for my English/Irish husband) and thought that there must be a cheaper source. The only thing I can think of is to visit again after Christmas and see if they're on sale for next year. We have Amazon prime, but they were the same price on Amazon and out of stock.

I know some of you are English living in the US or have English spouses - any ideas?

While I was there I picked up an overpriced Quality Street tin. They didn't have the Cadbury, which we all prefer, but I felt like it'd be a nice surprise for him.

When he got home from work he said "It doesn't feel like Christmas somehow..." I guess at work they haven't put up decorations or anything (I share an office with just one other person and I put up window clings from Target and the silly silver tinsel tree I use year after year)! So I got out the Quality Street tin, and he was really happy!

Tomorrow I'm making the mincemeat for our mince pies; I make them by hand (and no, I don't use suet - I use vegetarian shortening).

At Cost Plus I also got a couple of Aero bars (the mint kind - yum!) to put under the tree as an extra surprise.

Spent more than I wanted, but I figure it was a tradeoff since we aren't having an expensive Christmas dinner. And since we don't go back to the UK for Christmas anymore (not since the Great Christmas Fight of 2005 between D and his sister - don't ask!), I figure he needs a little bit of home this time of year.

I miss Christmas there, too, but we are going back in Summer. I wish we were visiting Ireland, too to see the rest of the family (the relatives that no one fights with!), but not this holiday unfortunately.

Nollaig Shona!


December 15th, 2013 at 04:24 pm

We just bought our Christmas-Present-to-Ourselves... some photos from the awesome photographer Mike Stimpson.


Not everyone's cup of tea maybe, but we love him! (And, yes, I bought the one of the stormtrooper knitting!).

The photos themselves were not expensive - only about $6 each for approx 8x10's.

But now we have to think about framing them. We don't live anywhere near an Ikea (closest one is about 7 hours away). My husband says that American Frame is the least expensive option (over the internet).

Do you know of any other options?

Another Frugal Christmas Gift and the School Giving Tree

December 10th, 2013 at 07:40 pm

I always knit something for F for Christmas. I finished this little guy last night. He's made of leftover yarn (one thin, one thick - both are alpaca).

In other news, all of the ornaments on the school Giving Tree (arranged by the Fire Dept.) have been taken! I am so happy - so many more kids needed gifts on Friday that I sent out an email to all of the parents in F's class (I am room mother) and at the end of the day every ornament was taken! (The ornaments are put on the gifts as gift tags so they get matched up with the child).

Shutterfly Photo Books

December 7th, 2013 at 03:49 pm

Over the past few years, I've been trying to catch up on our photo printing. We do a photo book each year (I complete it in early January and wait for a promo to have it printed).

If I see a promo earlier in the year, I print one of the past years I haven't printed yet. I was missing 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Anyway, I received a $10 off coupon in the mail, so I decided to work on 2008. I guess it was a good year for photos (D is a children's photographer), because I ended up with 64 pages! Eeek!

But... they were having a 50% off promo for photo books. And I found a 20% off the entire order coupon. And there was a free shipping code.

In the end, we got the photo book plus our holiday cards (I would probably not send these, but D is insistent - we have a lot of overseas family who we don't see very often) for $54. I think it was about a $70 savings.

I should mention that I have a line item in our budget for this (I put in $10 a month - so $120/year) which will go down once I finish the previous years (now just 2006 and 2010 - yay!!).

There are obviously other companies that do this, but I'm really familiar with shutterfly now.

Do you make photo books? Or print photos and put them in an album? Or print photos and put them in a box? Or just keep them on your computer? Or something else entirely?

The Lumberjack and New PJ Pants

December 6th, 2013 at 10:46 pm

So here is the photo of the lumberjack I promised; I think the Vietnamese place I go to used to be a hardware store or lumber yard or something? Anyway, it's pretty reasonable. My lunch was $7.50. I don't eat out a lot, and I really love Vietnames food.

More lunch-related news: I went home for lunch today. It's so cold here, I felt like eating something warm. Had two fried eggs, and spent the rest of lunch making this pair of pajama bottoms for F. If you look closely the pattern is cute little pigs! F LOVES pigs. So this is one of her xmas gifts!

Frugal Baby Gift

November 12th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

My friend is having a baby any day now - hope she holds off until Friday (which is when the baby shower is). This is an amazing woman who has five kids already (including triplet boys!) and she's NICE. Her daughter and F are in the same class.

Anyway, I bought her a little onesie and when I was given some free yarn by F's piano teacher last week I decided to knit this little cardigan, too.

Cost was just for the buttons...

Target: What I Returned

August 6th, 2013 at 03:58 pm

Another trip to Target - I had to get brown sugar and kleenex. It turns out that Target's kleenex is less expensive for us than other brands because a box lasts longer (90 tissues, one or two a day = 1.5 months). And their in-store brand brown sugar is cheaper than Albertson's.

Anyway, it was tax-free day (we have this once a year and it's only on school supplies) so I wandered over to the school supply section. F doesn't need to buy supplies (her school provides them), but there was a big display of lunchboxes and her lunchbox has been in service for two years. So I got a new lunchbox for her.

When I got home, she wailed that she "loves the old lunchbox!" and "why do I need a new lunchbox?" and you know what, she's right! Lesson in frugality from my daughter. Just because it's a deal doesn't mean you need it!

So I returned the lunchbox.

Trade Discount

June 17th, 2013 at 05:42 pm

Being an architect is not always great. The poor economy has hit our profession hard. I am a non-confrontational person in a confrontational profession. The pay isn't that great.

Here are the two big advantages: cultural credibility (as in: "Oooh! An architect! I wanted to be an architect!") and trade discounts.

Today I finally got around to ordering D's father's day present (a little bit late). We have two non-working bedside reading lights (D even wound his headlamp around one in order to be able to read in bed) that I've been meaning to replace. I signed up for the trade discount and got $45 off each one! They are LEDs which don't run hot (the others burned your hand if you tried to move the lamp) and save energy.

Target: Black Hole of Shopping Doom

June 6th, 2013 at 09:58 pm

The Target weekly ad showed that the toilet paper I like (one roll lasts an average of 9 days in the master bath and about 14 days in F's bath) is on sale massively. But I'm a little afraid to go in there because Target has a magic spell on it that makes you buy more than you intended.

I also need kleenex and unscented wipes.

I'm sure there is something else I also "need." A slippery slope!

Several hours later:
I am back from Target. And I bought only what I went in for: toilet paper, kleenex, unscented wipes. You are probably wondering how I achieved this miracle...

Strategy 1 - I made a list which read: toilet paper, kleenex, wipes, nothing else. This totally did not work. Here are the other things that I was drawn to: cute girls' clothing (shopping for F is my weakness), the dollar bins (oh how I love the dollar bins), stationery section, pyrex glass storage containers (ultimate goal is to replace all of our tupperware with these).

However, Strategy 2 kicked in...

Strategy 2 - I decided to go on my way to a meeting which meant I had ten minutes to get in an out. With my superior knowledge of Target's layout (this is sad, but true), I whooshed past the dollar bins (slight pang in my chest) and the girls' clothing (that would look so cute on F who already has enough clothes for at least two girls and only ever wears capri leggings and a t-shirt). I grabbed the wipes, then did a loop to the tp/kleenex aisle. Then it was like a race to the registers (a lot like Supermarket Sweep - remember that?). I actually fingered a set of round pyrex storage containers, but got back on course, just eyed the stationery aisle in passing, and got in line with only what I meant to buy!

(And made it to my meeting on time).

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