27 April 2008

Bush Bucks Madness

For some reason, this tax return/ Bush Bucks/ raise I'm getting has made me insane! I've pretty much lost the ability to restrain myself. It's a little like Survivor, when they win a challenge and they feed them and the people eat so much that they vomit. (two vomit posts in two days?)

I feel like it's found money, even though it's MY money. I went to the grocery store to get berries and bread, and spent 51.00. FIFTY ONE dollars!! For some reason, I feel like I deserve to buy 6 dollar pierogies, I just missed them so bad, and it's orthodox easter and it was all I could think of today...

I'm rambling, I know it. It's like I'm drunk on overspending. The Economides' (love them) have a plan for found money, it's something like 10% fun spending, 20% savings, 70% debt. When my Bush Bucks come, I will stick to that. Seriously. You can hold me to it.

ETA: The clothes I bought at the Gap didn't fit (thank goodness). The bra did, and it's awesome, and I'm happy about that. The rest is going back!

26 April 2008

I think I'm going to vomit

I sort of just blew through a lot of my tax return, and I feel sick about it, and now I have to come on here and publicly admit it, which makes me feel even sicker. Basically, this is what happened.

I spent half of it on new eyeglasses. I can't even wear the ones I have now because the script is so wrong. Even though I acknowledge this is a legitimate expense, I still feel weird about spending over 500 dollars on myself.

I bought a new outfit at the Gap for an important meeting I have on Tuesday. I might return it tomorrow, because I have something to wear... I'm still mulling that one over. I bought a bra, too, so the total was about $100. In my defense, I did use coupons and bought a slightly stained dress because it was marked down 20% (I think it's just dirt).

I spent $50 on the garden, including some fancy tomato plants that I'm probably going to kill. It seemed like a really good idea at the time.

I went over my gas AND grocery budgets for the month of April by about $150 (total).


25 April 2008

Calling a spade a spade

Most people want to be frugal, or at the very least, feel that they got their dollar's worth. Things are getting especially tight now with gas being what it is and even the price of food going up. However, I think it's important to know what the difference between saving money and spending money is when it comes to sales.

Every week, every store puts out a flyer. In it are things that are "on sale." A lot of times, there are some good deals in there. Right now I'm looking at the Stop and Shop flyer for this week, and I see boneless chicken breast on sale for 1.79/lb. That's a good deal, and since you can easily freeze chicken, it's a good chance to stock the freezer. Asparagus is 1.88/lb- that's a good price, and it's in season, so it's probably locally grown and packed with nutrients.

Things start to go downhill from there, though. There are some buy one, get one free deals- okay if you have room in your freezer or you plan on eating 2 English muffins a day for 6 days. Corona is 12.99 for a 12-pack- this might be 1.00 cheaper than it usually is. I'm not excited. Then there is an entire page of produce that is marked "LOW PRICE EVERY DAY" meaning that it's that price EVERY day. So it's not on sale. Why would I buy it, then?

I got a 20% off coupon for Old Navy in the mail. That sounds great, except it's April, so nothing is on sale. 20% off full price is still a lot! In a few weeks, they'll start marking things down to 50% off. I'll get interested then.

You're not saving money if you weren't going to spend it in the first place. This is sometimes hard to swallow, but it's true! Think of it as a 100% off coupon I just sent you in the mail. Now, that's a coupon I want to use.

23 April 2008

Holy shit, restaurants are expensive!

Last night after work I went out for drinks and apps with some friends. This is something I don't typically do because a) it's expensive and b) those damn kids. But, last night was a celebration, and the kids were at their dad's. I had two margaritas and an appetizer, and I spent THIRTY TWO dollars. That's enough to make you barf right there.

Right now I'm eating the lunch I brought from home. It is a whole wheat wrap with turkey, goat cheese, lettuce and tomato, a bag of grapes, and the other half of the Balance Bar I started eating at 11:00. This is how that adds up:

wrap 0.38 (8 for 2.99)
turkey 0.91 (1/2 lb for 3.63)
goat cheese, lettuce and tomato FREE (a friend brought over for dinner)
grapes .74 (1 lb for 4.43)
Balance Bar .56 (on clearance at Target)
TOTAL: 2.59

yeah, restaurants. yikes.

22 April 2008


You know the saying "reduce, reuse, recycle"? There's not much that is more frugal than that! Here's a good way of reducing trash AND reducing what you spend on new things:

My friend Rachel (hi Rachel!) was reading my blog and she said "Don't open your Pedi Egg, I have extra ones." Since she has a baby, I offered to trade her some of my little one's outgrown clothes for the PediEgg, and I returned the one I bought to CVS, and I got 10.51 back, which I spent on 2 bags of organic potting soil for the garden. Cost: $0 and no negative impact on the environment.

Happy Earth Day!

21 April 2008

It's too nice out to blog

I haven't been writing because I've been too busy playing outside. It's been almost (or over) 80 and sunny every day, which is a far cry from any day in the last six months. I did some YOFL stuff, though- I planted 4 vegetables in my garden- broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and lettuce, and I got my tax return and spent some money at the dreaded Target. It was hard not spending a lot of money on fun stuff this weekend with it being so nice out, but I kept it down to the aforementioned clothes and the quilt for my older son's bed that I have been waiting to buy for several months. It was weird, though- my total came to $200.00, and I nearly had a heart attack when I heard the number! It's funny how much has changed- before, I would have spent a lot, but maybe even charged it, and now I paid cash and felt good about my purchases, because I had waited to buy them until it was possible. That is a really great feeling, even better than playing outside all weekend. No- playing outside was better, but being frugal was great, too. :)

17 April 2008


I have this coworker named E (I don't want to write her name in case she's not down with that). She's a wonderful person, but equally as important (to the YOFL) is her natural frugality. She and her husband own two cars- a nice, newer, sensible Honda with no power windows or door locks, and a really old station wagon. She doesn't spend a lot of money on things that she doesn't need, but she is always socializing with friends and going to community events. To me, it seems that her life priorities are centered on happiness, friendship, education, learning- not owning things or being fancy, and she lives in a pretty fancy town, so I can imagine that the temptation is there.

Today she told me that she bought a GPS (on sale, of course). She went on to explain that over the course of two weeks, she kept a log where she marked down any time she would have used the GPS. After two weeks, I guess there were enough hash marks that she and her husband decided to buy the GPS. I thought this was fascinating, because the GPS was about 130 dollars. I feel confident in saying that most people would have just run out on day one and plopped down the 130 dollars to buy the GPS, without even thinking about it, but not E. She took the time to figure out if the purchase was worthwhile, and then waited until she found a good price (and she paid CASH, obviously!)

I should be getting my tax return any day now, and I have the dilemma of trying to figure out what to do with it. Right now I'm thinking that 100.00 of it will go for new clothes for me and the kids, as we need a couple things like shoes. I will use some of it to buy new eyeglasses, since I can't see, and that is important. Another 200 will go into savings, and the rest will go to my credit card. I have thought long and hard about this, and think this is the best solution I've come up with. I think E would be happy with it.

15 April 2008

Garden Progress Report

Here's where I'm at with the garden:

half dug out and ready to rock:

rhubarb is growing:

some dirty knees:

Love it.

I get by with a little help from my friends

One of the unintended outcomes of making such a big deal about the Year of Frugal Living is all of my friends know about it (and read it!). This is really helpful because I don't have to feel uncomfortable when I make plans with friends, since they already know I probably don't want to go out for dinner.

Being frugal is really awesome, because it's smart, it feels good, it's good for the environment, and it's a good example to set for your kids/future generations. Now that I've been doing this for 3 1/2 months (wow, has it been that long?), I can't imagine living the old way. It's like smoking- I used to smoke a lot, and smoke in my house. Now, I can't even imagine that- it's disgusting!

Change is good.

13 April 2008

Frugal shopping spree!!!!

I woke up this morning in the mood to SHOP. However, I obviously have no money, so I had to get a little creative.

I had 13.50 in extra care bucks from CVS, plus Mikey needed a prescription (ear infection) and I had a coupon for a 25$ gc for filled an rx there. So, that gave me 38.50 to spend. I got:

1 Always pads 4.99
2 hula hoops :) 13.98
1 pedi egg 9.99
1 stepping stone for my garden 7.99
1 pair of kids gardening gloves 3.49
1 glucose monitor 14.99

- 14.99 glucose monitor
total: 28.49
minus 25.00 gc
TOTAL $3.49
earned 14.99 ecbs

So then I went to Target and got:

1 loaf bread 2.50
1 bag mini bagels 2.50
1 pkg ocelo sponge (clearance) 1.14
1 bag cat food 3.99
1 spray bottle for plants .99 (I want to mention that these were 3.49 in the garden section and .99 in the spot where they have the travel size things)
1 box mac and cheese 1.27

-1.00 sponge coupon
-3.00 cat food
-5.00 gift card
TOTAL: $3.52

So basically, I shopped for about 2 hours, and got $52.83 worth of stuff for $7.01, including food and house stuff! Awesome!

12 April 2008

I've been working on the gar-den, all the live long day!

It's finally warm and beautiful here in Connecticut, and I've been working hard on getting the garden ready for planting day, which is May 9th (please no rain, please no rain, please no rain). Just about half of it is raked and weeded, and the other half is sort of raked. The path is cleared, the flowers are cleared off, the rhubarb is sprouting leaves, and my seedlings are doing great. And more importantly, I'm really having fun!

Here are my lettuce, mesclun, spinach and nasturtium, from third row to sixth row:

Aren't they cute?

I went to CVS this morning to do the Huggies deal one more time, and as I walked down to the diapers I realized something that has changed in me: I'll never buy a greeting card again. We have been making cards, and it's so fun, and it's free! I can't even imagine buying a card now. It's funny.

10 April 2008

Organic Strawberries are Expensive

As you all know, I've pared my grocery budget down to the barest essentials. The unintended consequence of this is that I have not been eating well at all. I only have enough money for fruit and veggies for my kids, so I haven't really been eating them. I don't drink anything but water or coffee, I don't eat cheese, I try to make free lunches out of oatmeal raisin cookies I found in our office and grapes left over from retirement parties. I feel like crap.

Yesterday I went for a physical, and I am basically healthy. But the doctor said, and I agreed, that I need to eat better. I was talking about this with a friend the other night, and she was suggesting things like drinkable yogurts, which for someone with a morning like mine, are ideal. The problem was, when she said it, I got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach, because I just can't afford to eat well. I spend money on my kids, and I blow money on weird things like signed copies of Little Bear's Bad Day (4.95, thank you David Wenzel!) but I won't buy myself breakfast. I need to stop it.

Tonight I'm going grocery shopping and I'm buying the yogurts. And probably some salad stuff too.

09 April 2008

Oh crap, the eye doctor.

If you're anything like me, you make up a budget and you write everything you spend money on weekly or monthly on it, and forget all about things like doctors visits, oil changes, newspaper subscriptions, and birthday presents. Yesterday I went to the eye doctor (because I'm terribly blind) to get new contacts. Even though I have vision coverage now, it still cost me 105 dollars for the "contact lens fitting" that wasn't covered (I knew about this, it's not something that is routinely covered). Obviously 105 dollars is a lot for me, and seeing how tight things have been, I had to put it on a credit card.

When I read that "America's Cheapest Family" book link (which I still highly recommend) the Economides family (really their name, if that works I might change my name to Jaime Millionarides) recommends that you figure out all those YEARLY expenses, and divide them by 26, and put that money aside each paycheck. They do this on paper, so even though you might have 5000 dollars in your checking account, 1000 might be for oil, another 500 for car taxes, another 1000 for birthday and Christmas gifts, 105 for contact lens fittings, etc., all of which is written down on a sheet of paper for each expense. Post a comment if I'm not explaining this well.

This seems like a big project, but since I have been tracking my spending in Microsoft Money since the beginning of the Year of Frugal Living, at the end of the year I should be able to set up a system like the Economides have. (Jaime Modelides? Rockstarides? I'm sure the Freakonomics guys have something to say about this) Something to think about for YOFL 2!

08 April 2008

It's a good week to stock up on diapers

CVS is running a pretty good sale on baby products. You spend 25, and get back 10 ECBs. The Huggies and Pull-Ups are 8.99, making it 3 for 26.97, minus any coupons you might have, and you get 10 back. So, three packs of diapers for roughly 15.00. There were coupons for both in the 3/16 Smartsource coupon insert. This has been pretty widely posted on Hot Coupon World, I heart CVS, etc. so check those or my blogroll for more info. (I'm feeling lazy today, sorry!!)

07 April 2008

Being Gen X in a Bear Market

I went to therapy on Friday, and we were talking about managing working full time and being a mother. My therapist was saying how my generation (Gen X) didn't get any guidance on how to manage this, because the Baby Boomers didn't know how to do it, so they didn't teach us. We feel like we need to do it all- there's even some widely thrown around Oprah infused quote that says "You can have it all, just not all at once" (or something like that). My therapist thinks that our children's generation won't even have to make this decision- by that point, it will be completely accepted in society that you can't do it all.

I graduated college in 2000, just about four years too late to enjoy the dot com era and the stock market boom of the mid-90's. Unfortunately, 9-11 happened just one year later, and everything changed. We had watched college graduates literally strike it rich with the internet, and expected to (at least somewhat) do the same when it was our turn to get a job. We took on ridiculous student loans, knowing that we'd pay them back with our big fancy jobs. We were wrong.

Today's market is pretty shitty. I get Google blog alerts on Frugal Living, and there are plenty of them. Everyone is paring down to the bare essentials, because everyone is up to their eyeballs in debt, unsure of their job security, and, well, afraid. It feels like it isn't fair.

Right now I'm in a bad situation because I depend on someone who is not dependable. I do this because I was stupid, and I let him take advantage of me and spend my money, leaving me with thousands of dollars of credit card debt. He continues to short me and steal from me, and yet I can't do anything because I need him to support me. I need him, until I pay off our debt.

I didn't really know. I didn't really understand what would happen in a bad market, and I don't think a lot of people my age really understood. Now I get it, but I hope it's not too late.

06 April 2008

Flexibility is the key to not getting discouraged

You know that saying "you gotta roll with the punches"? There is something about managing finances and dealing with debt that makes people sort of feel like they are being punched in the face. Money makes people stressed, depressed, ruins relationships. It evokes an emotional response out of us that is somewhat unreplicated- I know that I often compare money to food, but even food doesn't keep us up at night in a cold sweat.

This week has been a little rough. I'm still recovering from not getting the money I'm owed, and I spent some extra money on diapers and taking my 3 year old out to lunch (gasp, I know, it was his preschool tour day and I wanted to do something special with him. So shoot me.). So, now I'm about $200 behind. I started freaking out, to be honest. I wanted to cry, I wanted to yell at soon to be ex, I wanted to not have to deal with this. Its really hard to not freak out! So what I did was look at my budget spreadsheet, and move some things around. I'll be fine, I'll have to pay less to debt than I'd like, but I'm still okay.

04 April 2008

Frugal Grocery Shopping, Part One

I have a very meager grocery budget- about $50 a week for myself and my two children. I used to spend closer to $100 a week, but part of the YOFL was to try to spend $100 a week on groceries AND gas. However, with the recent increase in gas and grocery prices, I am considering raising my budget to $125.

I have sort of a grocery shopping routine. First I go through the flier for things on sale. For my local store, Stop and Shop, the best deals are usually on the front and back pages. I try to do this on a Thursday, because their sales start on Friday and they send out the following week's flier on Thursday, so I can make sure I don't buy anything that will be going on sale the following day.

Then I go through the flier and mark down any great deals (1.89/lb for chicken, for example). As you start to bargain shop, you get a better sense of what is a good deal. About every 6-8 week, my grocery store will put butter on sale for 1.89-1.99 a lb. Normally it's closer to 4.00, so this is a fantastic deal. I will buy as many as the limit allows, and freeze them. After I take note of the deals, I look for things that are on sale but I also have a coupon for, making them a good deal. I move those coupons to the front pocket of my coupon organizer (it looks sort of like this, but it's see-through) so I don't forget to use them.

Then I sort of plan out meals. I have the tendency to skip meals, so I usually plan less meals than there are days in the week. That way if I don't eat, or if we have a rough night and I just make grilled cheeses, or my dad stops over with a pizza, I don't throw out food. What we do eat every day is fruit. I used to pick whatever fruit I was in the mood for, and buy a couple of each. This inevitably led to rotten fruit, so now I count the number of days until my next trip, and only buy enough for that time. So, if I need 5 days worth of fruit, I'll buy a bunch of 5 bananas, 2 apples, an orange and a plum. I'll use the plum first, since it's not as hardy.

I also go shopping twice a week, because we can't get through a whole week without some produce going bad. I do a long list (regular shopping trip) on Thursday, and what I call the "short list" either on Sunday or Tuesday, because I don't have my kids at those times. I very rarely bring them, because bringing them usually results in spending $5-10 extra, and my kids are pretty good about not asking for things at the store! The short list consists of produce and anything we might desperately need, like milk.

So, that's it for now!

02 April 2008

Oh, right, ebay.

Part of the YOFL was supposed to be selling things on ebay to get spending money. And for a while, it was. I made about $200 selling things for about a month. It was, in all honesty, pretty time consuming. Then, ebay vamped up the fees they charge sellers, and I let it slide. Now I have to decide if I'm going to start doing it again. I kind of don't want to, basically because I spent a lot of time and gasoline taking things to the post office, although I guess you can print your own shipping labels and leave it on your porch. The more I think about it, the less I want to do it.

The good old-fashioned tag sale is sounding better and better.

Quarterly Report, Year of Frugal Living, LLC

In my mind, I'm a financial expert. In my bank account, not so much. But, I wanted to post a quarterly report on my progress.

Credit Cards:
Net decrease (payments minus interest accrued): -$929.29

Loan Payments:
Net decrease-$1772.86

Other debt:
Auto taxes: -$502.23

Total Debt Paid Off:

Not too shabby! That interest, man, it kills you.

01 April 2008

People make a really big deal out of things

I donated blood today. (Donating blood is awesome. Go to www.givelife.org to find a blood drive near you.) Most of the people I told acted as if I was donating an arm or something. This is a familiar reaction to me in many facets of my life. As I have mentioned, my husband and I are no longer together, something that garners a lot of sympathy from my family and friends. Honestly, as much as I know they mean well and they just love me, it's sort of annoying to hear "Gee, I don't know how you do it. It must be so hard." 4000 times a day. It's sort of hard, but it was harder before. Trust me on that one.

I get a similar reaction to my frugal living. I hear a lot of "Oh, you're still doing that?" In the same vein (get it? vein? blood donation? I said I was going to be funnier), telling someone that something they are doing sounds really impossible to you isn't really a great way to help them feel like it's possible. It's sort of like saying to someone who has a disease, "Wow, that must be an awful disease to have. I don't know how you can get out of bed in the morning. I think I'd just roll over and die." Seriously- doesn't that sound awful?

So, yes, I'm still doing the Year of Frugal Living. Yes, it's hard to not have another parent in the house. Yes, donating blood does make me super freaking awesome. Can we talk about something else now?