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Archive for June, 2013

Not-so-Frugal Playdate

June 30th, 2013 at 12:05 am

Today F went over to a friend's house. D helped her get ready, and for some reason dressed her in new, pristine clothes (rather than dirty playclothes) even though he knows that at that friend's house they always end up playing in the mud.

Of course she came home covered in red mud. I did my best to get the mud out, but it's just ground in. And the shirt is a light-blue (her favorite, sigh).

If she chooses her clothes she has to live with the consequences, but for some reason he chose for her, and admits he just wasn't thinking at all. (He also put her in closed shoes and socks instead of sandals - don't even ask about the socks - totally wrecked and not just stains but shredded from walking wet on concrete and pine needles).

Now I am a firm believer that kids should be able to play in their clothes, but if you KNOW that they are going to play in mud, why not put them in something that is either already stained or has a pattern so you don't see new stains?

Oh well. I got on and got three on sale $5 shirts (including the light blue one that is ruined and is now a shirt she can wear to play in the mud).

Today's Outing and a Visit from the Tooth Fairy

June 29th, 2013 at 01:50 pm

The tooth fairy came last night and F woke me up at 5:50 am to see what she brought! Our tooth fairy always leaves a certificate (that I designed on Pages and print out as needed with the relevant date) and a toy (I keep a stash of little toys because you never know when a tooth is going to fall out).

The plan for today:
- house stuff: vaccuum, clean our bathroom, load of laundry
- take F to her friend's house for a playdate
- while F is at her freind's, go to the fire station I'll be renovating and measure (D said he'd help me)
- pick up F and we'll meet my high school English teacher (who is visiting) at the Teahouse. They have gf pastries, $5 each, and I will ask F share with me; I only want a few small bites (trying to cut down on sugar).

The Teahouse is good in that you order at a counter so you don't have to split the bill. I'm not a fan of splitting the bill. Almost everyone I know is financially better off (this is one of the facts of life when your daughter attends an expensive private school), and we usually just split the bill in half. This almost always means I pay more than if I'd just paid for my portion.

I hate asking if we could separate checks or divide according to what we ordered, but if the disparity is too great, I'll do it. Have you noticed that I'm not very assertive? (I guess I am about some things, but not so much about money; I don't want people to think I'm cheap and I don't like to make a big deal out of things). I think what a lot of people don't realize is that while $20 to them isn't that big of a deal, it is to us and our budget.

Anyway, Teahouse has a counter, so no worries about that today, and F is really looking forward to meeting my 11th grade English teacher!

Swim Lessons

June 26th, 2013 at 10:28 pm

F used to take swim lessons with a man called Mr. Jim, who was very sweet and a great swim teacher. But he belonged to the swim/athletic club in town, so in order to take lessons with Mr. Jim, you first had to pay a guest fee to get into the club. When you combined this with Mr. Jim's lesson fee, it was about $37.50 for half an hour. Oh- and did I mention that the water was so ice cold that he would spend several minutes of the lesson dunking F into the hot tub to warm her up?

It was so cold in the pool that F begged to stop after only a few lessons, and I said ok because I was going broke.

I was determined that she would swim a ton this summer so that she could become a better, safer swimmer. (She can swim underwater and dog paddle but can't tread water or do the crawl). And we've been at the pool a ton! And she still can't tread water or do the crawl.

So today we had our first lesson with Nancy who rents a lane to teach in at the public pool. This pool is still pretty cold (but F wore a hand-me-down wetsuit from a friend who's on swim team - an advantage of being smaller than the other kids is you get hand-me-down wetsuits!). But it's closer to the house. And the lesson - 45 minutes - was $20 including admission to the pool!

And F LOVED it and LOVED Nancy. She can now tread water after just one lesson and is working on the crawl. Nancy said she's really strong and thinks she'll be a great swimmer. At the end of the lesson, F got a prize from Nancy's bag of prizes - a little cuddly toy whale from the dollar store. And I'm confident I can scare up $20 a week.

The Frugality of Knitters

June 26th, 2013 at 01:34 am

The frugality of knitters
- our hobby actually results in something useful (we had a long discussion about this because most of us like nice yarn which isn’t cheap and we knit sweaters which take more yarn than a scarf made out of “eyelash yarn”... still - most hobbies don’t usually culminate in something you’d pay good money for)
- we darn our socks (we actually own darning eggs; some of them are passed down from our grandmothers)
- most of us also know how to sew (at least to mend)
- all of us have gardens with herbs/veggies
- two of us keep bees, one of us makes her own ketchup, we all make our own bread
- two of us make our own lotion bars (and they are much better than the lotion you buy in the store, plus you know what is in them!)
- we share books among ourselves; we mostly all like to read the same things
- when one of us was ill, we all went to her house and cleaned it for her; this is what community is all about!
- we all drive cars that are.. paid for!
- at least two of us get our hair cut at the barber shop ($15)
- we almost never eat out because we “can make it better ourselves!”

Actually the last one is at the heart of the Frugality of Knitters. There is a strong strain of self-sufficiency and being able to make things that most people buy in the store... because “we can make it better ourselves.” (This includes our sweaters and socks of course). The corollary to that sentiment is... “why would I buy that if I can make it myself?” (e.g. pie crust, a simple skirt, salsa, handwarmers, teriyaki sauce, your child’s drawstring snack bag, a pillow cover, bread).

I just found out on this blog that I could be making my own laundry detergent (one of the knitters said she tried it and it didn’t dissolve well in her front loader, but I’m still going to try). What do you make yourself that most people buy in the store?

Vacation Accounting and More Low-Cost Fun!

June 24th, 2013 at 09:07 pm

Our food spending is down this month, which is good, because I'm going to add this month's budget to next month so that we can use it for dining/groceries on our vacation. (Whatever we don't spend on vacation will go into the retirement account).

We always stay in a self-catered apartment because it's easier (and less expensive) to make our own food (especially with my difficult diet!). I usually bring a bag or two of corn pasta in my luggage, and miscellaneous other things so that we can make food at "home." We usually make a nice picnic to take with us when we're out sightseeing. But it's nice to have a little extra money for eating some meals out, and for getting ice cream and other treats.

Tonight we're bringing a blanket and a picnic dinner to Music on the Plaza. The Plaza is downtown (duh), so I can park at my office for free. And the music is free, and the picnic is what we were having for dinner anyway.

The picnic is in lieu of our Monday Knitting Night so we'll be meeting the knitting girls there (and sitting, as one of us suggested, somewhere away from the bandstand so we can hear ourselves talk).

All of us knitters seem to be naturally frugal... I think it's more accurate to say that we are are naturally frugal and therefore we're knitters. We'll probably all be wearing handmade sweaters! (Including F who knits on a loom rather than with sticks... yet).

There is a whole other post just on the extreme frugality of my knitting group. I will discuss this website with them tonight and report back to you!

Weekly Meal Plan and an Awesome Weekend including Minor League Baseball!

June 24th, 2013 at 02:45 am

The meal plan this week:
- chickeny - tacos with guacamole
- bready/cheesy - toasted cheese sandwiches, broccoli
- pasta-ish - sausage pasta with lemon
- potato-y - potato pancakes with applesauce, salad
- fishy - teriyaki salmon over rice, bok choy and yellow pepper
- freezer - no idea what is in that tupperware! we're having it with corn on the cob

We had an amazing (and yet frugal!) weekend:
- Friday we went to the pool, and met friends there which was fun

- Saturday F and I went downtown and had a great time! (we took a photo with the new dragon sculpture that is hanging over an art gallery, then stopped at the cathedral to listen the mariachis that were playing for a wedding, went to our two favorite toy stores, then stopped to get made-from-scratch lemonades). Then we met F's friend in the park and played kids v. adults soccer.

In the other part of the same park, our minor league baseball team were playing so we watched the baseball ($6 each adult, kids free). We brought our picnic dinner from home. It was warm and the moon was huge, and we were so close we could hear the ball hitting the players gloves! I have decided that going all the way into the Big City to pay tons of money to watch a not-even-major league team play where your seats are not that great isn't worth it. If you have a minor league team in your town, you should go!

- Today we cleaned the house (not that fun), went the pool and then went back to the park for a little soccer reunion of F's team from last Fall and Spring.

Things I Never Buy Anymore

June 23rd, 2013 at 04:54 pm

I was thinking this morning while I was cleaning the bathroom that I spend very little on cleaning supplies; I use a wadded up plastic net produce bag and a microfiber cloth. It made me think about other things I never buy anymore (these are, of course, things I used to buy; wish I'd been more frugal back then - I'd have more money in savings).

Pajama bottoms
I make them out of old sheets or fabric using this "pattern":

I buy just the individual song I want on itunes. (These are usually for my spin class and I probably spend $12/year at most). Cuts down on cost and clutter.

I only borrow books from the library.

Scrubbers for pots and for bathroom cleaning
I save the plastic bags from lemons, some potatoes, garlic - wad them up and they do a better job than the ones you buy in the store!

We only use the rechargeable type and have for several years. We don't have a lot of things with batteries anyway. Our charger lights green when the charge is complete so we can pull it out of the wall right away.

We drink water or watered down juice.

Packaged cookies
Since I can't eat gluten, and gf cookies are EXPENSIVE, I just started baking my own. I don't often put cookies/dessert in F's lunch, but when I do, it's home-baked.

Cable TV
We use netflix basic ($8.64 per month) and hulu (free). We don't watch much tv anymore.

I am sure there are more that I can't think of. And I'm sure there's more I could do!

Declutter Calendar

June 22nd, 2013 at 05:27 pm

This week on my yearly declutter/cleaning calendar: declutter F's books and wipe the kitchen appliances.

Instead of decluttering F's books myself, she is now old enough to do this herself. I paid her $5 to go through all of her books and decide which to sell at our upcoming garage sale (and if they don't sell, we'll donate them to the library). This is blatant bribery, but my real goal was that she learn to declutter by herself. And it worked! She also went through old cuddly toys (and we're selling quite a few of those).

I just wiped the appliances, and it only took like 5 minutes. Makes me think I should do this more often! My toaster (the gluten free toaster) was not that bad, but D's gluteny toaster was gross.

Last week's declutter item was to wipe and declutter the pantry shelves. This is taking forever! I am still working on it (about 5 shelves to go). I am being careful about what I keep and setting things aside for the garage sale.

The thing I really want to do (because for some reason it's fun) is balance the checkbook since the statement just came yesterday, but I am using this as a reward for finishing up the pantry! So, I'll see you later... going to do those last few shelves and make some lunch.

(Probably most of us have our weekly and monthly cleaning tasks; do any of you also have a yearly calendar? Do you ever get a little bit behind?)

Motivation and Free Exercise

June 21st, 2013 at 05:56 pm

Today is the day that I run with a friend of mine. I run one day a week (free! I run right out the office door), teach spin one day a week (free, and I get paid!) and do a weightlifting class one day a week (free because I teach at the gym).

As we were running along (running is a relative term - we sort of flail around and huff and puff) she asked me what made me go out and run each week.

I love running with her, but I run even when she can't make it. It's not the long-term health benefit (that is why I want to run, but not what actually gets me out there). As we clomped along the sidewalk, I realized what it was: I made a commitment to do it, so I do it. It's even on my calendar (to prove I made that commitment).

These never-ending commitments are the reasons I do a lot of things, but I guess that's ok. There are worse things to be addicted to than commitments!

My friend says she only runs when I'm able to run with her, and she was pretty certain that her reason for running was her commitment to ME! I am happy she feels that way because I like running with a friend so much more than running alone.

Another friend just mentioned that one of those color runs is coming to a city near us in the autumn... that might be something fun to commit to!

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.

My Dad and My Finances

June 16th, 2013 at 03:03 pm

Since it's Father's Day... I'd like to thank my Dad who is almost entirely responsible for my views on money. Not sure if this is genetic or learned by example or both. (I am not saying this is the right way, but it's my way and my dad's way, too).

- Be your own boss; have your own small business
- Keep it small so you can do what you were meant to do rather than managing employees
- Be conservative in your spending
- Be conservative in your investing
- Stay in the same house forever
- Everything is better when you track it in Excel
- Keep track of every dime you spend in every category
- Spend money on your children's education
- Only buy new clothes when you have to
- It's good to have pets around even though they aren't cheap
- Do your own taxes
- Volunteer, give something back
- You can always talk to your dad about money (or business or anything else!)

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Meal Plan this Week

June 16th, 2013 at 05:24 am

Did my weekly shopping today in order to buy some things for F's birthday party. We did pretty well considering we had to feed some adults tonight as well.

We came out under this year's birthday budget!

I had a $5 coupon from Sprouts as well.

As I was driving around, I turned off the air conditioning in the car (my gas mileage has been lower the past few weeks, and it's probably the AC) - opening the window works just as well a lot of the time.

So the meal plan this week is:
- fishy: hake with curry powder and paprika, coleslaw
- chickeny: general tso's chicken, rice, chinese cabbage
- pasta-y: veggie stirfry with mangetout/carrots/courgettes/mint/cilantro with rice (a Jamie Oliver recipe - ok, this is not pasta, but still - yum)
- eggy: crustless quiche with sundried tomatoes/turkey/goat cheese/broccoli and toast
- bready: socca with courgettes and caramelized red onions
- freezer: something from the freezer with garlic bread

Show me the Money! (and a little sidenote about rain)

June 14th, 2013 at 02:08 am

I teach an exercise class (spinning) every Thursday at lunch time. I get a free gym membership which is great (I go the gym for one other class each week and run on the treadmills there in the winter), and about a year ago the owner of the gym started paying the instructors actual money as well. It's not a lot ($25-45 a month), and it varies based on what he can do, but I really appreciate it. I've been teaching for about ten years, and was never paid anything before.

But here's the thing: the woman at the front desk is super nice, but also a little spacey, and she never remembers to pay me (or the other instructors) regularly. Sometimes I get the envelope at the beginning of the month, and other times she says (spacily) "Ha ha! I've had this sitting in the register all month!" and it's like the 25th or something.

I taught today, and it's mid-month and I haven't seen that envelope yet. Grrr. And I am not grrr-ing at her, I'm grrr-ing at myself for being too shy or awkward to ask!

Anyway, in good news: it just rained, so my veggies/herbs were just watered for free and maybe this will help the firefighters with all the wildfires. And it smells like rain, which, if you live in the southwest, is the best smell in the world. Even my husband, who was imported from a wet climate, agrees.

Birthday Cake - Better be Worth it!

June 12th, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I set aside money each month in a virtual envelope (on Moneywell, my favorite money management program) for F's birthday party. So I have the money for a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake; I usually make the cake myself so I had a little bit of sticker shock! We're having about 10 kids, but some of the adults will eat cake, too, so I got the full sheet for 16-24 people: $42!!

I'll have a lot to do that day, including turning our entire living room into a blanket fort (this is a non-sleepover pajama party), and I couldn't face making an ice cream cake (that is assuming I know how to make an ice cream cake, which I don't). And we have the money set aside for it, so it's not over budget.

I still need to buy: lots of milk, whipped cream and white chocolate chips for the make-your-own hot cocoa bar (already bought cocoa powder, sprinkles, chocolate chips) and order pizza. But we're basically all set.

They'll be painting their own cocoa mugs (got the plain white mugs already), playing telephone and twister, doing a pajama fashion show and eating pizza in the blanket fort.

I have to remind myself that my careful budgeting and planning is why we can splurge and not make the cake myself!

Two Dinners Out plus Extra Scrimping

June 11th, 2013 at 09:07 pm

We usually eat out once a week, but this week we were out both Sunday night (friend's birthday) and Monday (F's birthday).

On Sunday our friends provided the pizza (but I bought a small gluten free one for myself). So we didn't need to feed all three of us - deal!

I had heard that a restaurant downtown has a Monday/Tuesday special where one kid eats free for every adult entree. I suggested the restaurant to F (without mentioning the deal) and since it's one of her favorites, she decided that was where she wanted to go on her birthday. (I'm sly, right?) F and I went with a another mom and her daughter. F and I ate for $10 - another deal!

So, we didn't blow the dining out budget for the week, even though we ate out twice.

The other day, D accused me of being overly-frugal when I mentioned that instead of using a paper towel (those are for EMERGENCIES like cat puke) he should have used one of the cloths that I keep in the kitchen. (I apologized for being so controlling and he apologized for being sensitive; and he even said that he knows that all of my scrimping has allowed us to spend money on the things we WANT to spend it on - or save it - rather than on paper towels).

I was just watching a tv show (my favorite show: Cash and Cari on HGTV) on the internet (we don't have tv or cable and therefore no cable bill).

And I am about to leave to go to the library to pick up a book I reserved (I usually just order them online rather than browsing). This one is for F. I need to figure out what book I want to read next.

OK, enough scrimpiness for today.

Random Sunday Money Stuff

June 9th, 2013 at 05:19 pm

It's Sunday, my day for vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, a load of laundry and dealing with random money stuff.

I put $48 into the 52-week savings challenge. This will go into the IRAs. We are currently putting in $125/month each, and my goal is to eventually be putting in $400/month each. With the 52-week savings challenge we are putting in $182/month. Should be able to get it up to $200/month soon!

I just hung the laundry outside, even though there is a slight smell of the fires in our state. I hate for the sheets to smell like fire, but it's not so bad right now, and I think they'll be ok.