31 January 2009


So, my ex is self employed but subcontracts for his parents' company. They found out what was going on and helped me out, and he's going to pay them back. They are, hands down, the best ex-inlaws in the whole world.

the unintended benefit of having a blog that people read

When I was married and living with my ex, he did plenty of terrible things akin to, and much worse than, what's he's done this month. Back then, I rarely told anyone. I was ashamed and afraid of what people would say, that they wouldn't want to be friends with me anymore or they would try to push me into leaving him when I needed to do it on my own terms. It was incredibly isolating and I pushed away quite a few close friends because of it. Luckily I've been able to make amends with most of them, and I'm so grateful to have them back in my life. I wish I could have all of them back.

Things are much more public now, and that's on purpose. I post about my troubles with him here, and many of the people who read this blog and friends and family. I also comment about it on Facebook, and talk about it in real life. I need to have it out there, so that I don't feel ashamed anymore. It's not my shame to bear, and I need to remind myself of that.

I had a hard time writing the post I wrote yesterday, though. Obviously this has been going on for a few weeks and I haven't really talked about it, at least not to the extent that it was bothering me. I feel that shame again, and I hate him for putting me in this submissive position again. I feel taken advantage of and victimized, and the only thing that takes away that sting for me is to air it publicly. I'm big-mouthed and forward by nature, so it makes sense that this is how I deal, but it still isn't easy. My stomach still flip-flopped when I saw I had comments, because I was afraid of what they might say.

So thank you for reading, and thank you for commenting. Anyone who blogs might think they are blogging for others, but to know that you are supported, that you are not alone, is priceless.

30 January 2009

Houston, we have a (major) problem

My exhusband has stopped paying me child support. He's paid once since the week of Christmas. Once he said he lost his wallet, the next time he "had rent to pay," last week he said he put cash in my mailbox and "it must've been stolen" and now this week he's claiming he'll give it to me tomorrow, which I'll believe when I see.

Sigh. Big deep breath.

I have no idea what to do.

ETA: he's self employed. :(

28 January 2009

my trip

So I just returned from an awesome conference and again, apologies for not posting that I'd be gone! This was the first trip I've taken away from my kids that wasn't a quick overnight, and it was a little hard to be away from them for so long, but they did great and it was really fun to travel again (before kids I was a travel agent!) and it was of course amazing to see a new city, stay in a swanky hotel, eat expensive food and be able to actually drink! So, it was a blast.

In my field, people are really into blogging, and it was fun and funny to hear them talking about blogging and not really be able to say anything. I try to stay anonymous here but plenty of my friends and family know about my blog, so I doubt its as anon as I think. But hey, its still fun, and this blog gets about 50 times as many hits as the one I write for work, so a lot of times I learn things from here that help me there. It's great!

I didn't do much by way of budgeting while I was gone because my food will be reimbursed by my job and there was plenty of free food anyway. It sure felt funny to order a 16 dollar breakfast, though! :)

Back to real life now...

27 January 2009


I forgot to mention that I went away for a conference last Thursday and got back last night. I'm a terrible blogger!

19 January 2009

Maintaining excitement over the long haul

When I started this blog, I didn't really know how it would work out. Would I stick to it? Would I really be able to pay off some debt? Would it be incredibly difficult, or surprisingly easy? There were birthday parties to worry about, Christmas gifts to save for, vacations to hope for and Target to stay away from.

But now, 12 months later, I am still only 1/5th of the way to my goal, and short of marrying a millionaire or winning the lottery, the rate with which I'm paying things off isn't really going to increase. Which, unfortunately, leads me to believe that I won't be debt free for 3-4 more years, and that's not even counting my massive student loan.

This is a sobering and depressing thought.

Realistically, unless I remarry or switch careers, as a single mother and a librarian, I will never be rich. I will probably always struggle to some extent- when the credit cards are gone, the student loans will remain, if I ever do buy a house there will be a mortgage and only one income to pay it, then my children will be old enough for college and there will be that to deal with, and then retirement...

However, I think the point is that this is not what life is about. LIFE IS NOT ABOUT HAVING THINGS. It is not about furnishing your home with Pottery Barn furniture or driving a new car or taking vacations at island resorts. I had lunch with another librarian on Friday and we were talking about our children. Hers were grown, in their mid-thirties. And she said to me, "I love my children, I love the adults that they have become, but if I could just get one hour back with them when they were the age your children are (2 and 4), I'd give anything for that." And I went home, and I got frustrated with them because they weren't brushing their teeth or something equally stupid, and I thought about what she had said, and I stopped feeling frustrated immediately.

I will probably always struggle with financial things, but after all we've been through, I can honestly say that I am already rich.

18 January 2009

Fun money

Thank you for all of the suggestions on what to do with my Christmas money. They were all good suggestions, which means I still don't know what to do! :) Right now I'm thinking that I'll put 100 dollars of it towards some (nice J Crew) work clothes that I bought on sale after Christmas, so that it's sort of towards debt and sort of for fun, and then the rest I'll put aside for either a slipcover for my couch or some garden stuff like plants and poop.

This is a tight week, mainly because ex-h didn't pay me child support for 2 1/2 weeks, but I had enough in savings to get by. I'm obviously ticked off beyond belief, but at least I don't have to be married to him anymore. Obviously he hasn't changed.

16 January 2009

spend or save- wwyd?

My MIL got me a nice vacuum fpr Christmas, but it wasn't really for hard floors and that's all I have, so she returned it and gave me the money- 150 dollars- to get what I want instead.

So now I don't know what to do. I want to spend it on myself, I really do, but I don't even know what I could buy. I'm so much in the "I don't need it" mindset now that everything I can think of (an ipod, a slipcover for my fugly couch, a couple of things from Uncommon Goods I've been lusting after for years, a decent cut and color) all seem frivolous. And even if I did pick one of those things- which one?

And of course I feel like I should put it towards debt. Those Economidies people that I love say that all found money- including gifts- should go 70% towards debt, 20% to savings, and 10% for spending. Or I could just put it all towards debt. Or half. I don't know!!!

What would you do?

14 January 2009

the pantry

First of all, apologies for being MIA, I've been really busy at work and even having some fun here and there!

So, stockpilers are familiar with the pantry- you stock it up with good staples while they are on sale, and then live with the joy and satisfaction of knowing that you could survive a major plague or disaster without even putting a dent in it.

I like to stock up, I wouldn't say I stockpile, but I definitely try to grab a good deal when I see one. It's a really good idea to know what is a good price for the things you buy regularly, so that you can spot a deal. Then, if you have a super busy week like I am having, you can skip the grocery store and eat out of the pantry (and freezer) for the week.

A few tips I have to make this doable:
  • stock up on canned fruit (in juice) and applesauce, so that if you run out of fruit you can still make balanced meals
  • frozen veggies are just as healthy (if not more so) than fresh because they are flash frozen at their peak, when they have the most vitamins
  • buy large things of meat and break them down into servings for your family size and freeze. I like to mix it up a little, too- leave some chicken breasts alone, cut others into tenders and marinate some. If you pour the marinade in and freeze, the meat soaks it up as it defrosts for a great flavor!
  • freeze bread! You can't tell the difference, plus freezers (as opposed to fridges) keep food cold better when they are jam-packed full
  • keep things like bisquick and rice on hand. they are lifesavers!
  • coffee drinkers- have powdered creamer just in case you run out of milk- I used mine this morning!

It works for me! I hope it does for you too!

11 January 2009

back from the soup kitchen

So I did it. And it was pretty much everything I thought it would be- depressing, uplifting, frustrating and motivating. Many of the soup kitchen patrons were like you'd imagine them to be- homeless-looking, weathered and worn. But others seemed like someone you'd see anywhere- a pretty woman in her 40s, a family with a baby and two older daughters, a woman that looked like any grandma. You had to wonder what brought them there, what throws of the dice led to seeking out food on a snowy winter day. And of course, I couldn't help but think that this very well could have been me- I mean, I left an addict husband with two very small children, and if I didn't have family to help me, if I hadn't gotten my job when I did... well, I can see how things could have gone a in a very different direction.

The hardest part for me was the baby, though. She was about 18 months, and super cute, and the mom asked for sugar to make sugar water in her bottle. That was rough to see, and made me want to offer them things, but then I noticed the dad (I'm guessing) had a bluetooth and was on the phone, which was weird and unsettling. It made me think he was a dealer, because of the people I've encountered because of my ex, and that made me even sadder. So then it made me want to steal the baby. Okay, I didn't want to steal the baby, but boy did I want to take her home with me.

I told the woman who coordinates the volunteers to put me on the on-call list, that I'd be there any Sunday they needed an extra set of hands. I hope to go back soon.

Soup Kitchen

I have never specifically stated that I wanted to volunteer and donate more to charity over the course of the Year of Frugal Living, but somehow they have both made their way into the plan. I guess that an unintended result of living on less is the realization of just how lucky you are to have what you do have, and to give to people who do not.

So today I'm going to a local soup kitchen with several of my coworkers to volunteer. It snowed last night, so we're all heading over late, but I'll be there until this afternoon. I'll write about it when I get back, but I'm pretty curious to see what the experience will be like. I mean, will it be depressing? Uplifting? Will one day of service leave me with a sense of well-being, or a sense that one day is nowhere near enough?

We'll see!

10 January 2009

Coupon Links

This is what I've got- share yours if you've got them!

A Full Cup -printables, most notably Target
Coupons Inc.- lists the companies using Bricks coupon generators
Coupons.com - printables
Hot Coupon World
Taylortown Preview- lists all of the coupons that come out in the paper each week, and sells many of them too. If you go to the Master List, use CTRL F to search the whole page
You and Your Family- baby stuff

09 January 2009

stay out of williams sonoma, while you're at it

Not much is happening by way of the Year of Frugal Living. I haven't paid anything because my dumba$$ ex-husband owes me a ton of money, and I have been too busy working and getting snowed in to go anywhere. Except, that is, for today, when I went to the mall with some friends.

Let me just say that the people who create those mall stores know what they're doing. We went into Williams Sonoma and they were COOKING- and it was dinnertime- and it smelled amazing. And although there was nothing I needed, boy was it easy to find something I wanted. I didn't get anything- but it was rough!

So, another store to avoid. Better yet, stay out of the mall all together. It's too painful. :)

I just want to add that a poster commented about using mint.com for budgeting- I really wanted to link to that in my budgeting post but for whatever reason, all I could think of was lime when I tried to remember the name (the librarians that read this will probably understand why!). So check out mint.com. It looks awesome!

07 January 2009

Automatic Savings Accounts

If you haven't set up your emergency savings (I took Dave Ramsey's Baby Step One advice and saved 1000 dollars) then its probably time you should. It's hard to think that instead of paying off debt, you should be putting money in savings, but I really have to say that ever since I took the plunge and saved that money, I have not worried as much about emergencies. For example, right now ex-h owes me money (surprise!) but it's okay, because I have money to cover the bills. Before I would have been freaking out, now I'm just (rightly) pissed.

Most banks offer a savings account that you can link to your checking account, and you can set up transfers from one to the other. I really think that the automatic savings plans are the easiest way to save money- I set mine up to come out the day after I get paid, and that way I don't worry about having the money.

Although my bank does have a savings account, I have been using ING Direct instead, because I earn interest on my savings. Right now the interest is 2.50%, but it was much higher in the past and I'm sure it will be again. Over the last year, I've earned about 18 dollars in interest, almost all of that from when I started keeping the 1000 dollars in the account. The only drawback for ING is that it takes a few days to transfer the money back to your savings account, but I think that helps with not using it for impulse purchases and stupid things.

If you're interested in opening a savings account, they are running a promotion where you get 25 dollars added to your account if you open one with 250 dollars. In addition, if you email me at yearoffrugalliving@gmail.com, I can send you a referral for the 25 dollar promotion and then I'll get 10 dollars from them, too. I have never put ads on here because I didn't want to encourage spending, but I'm happy to encourage saving!

Happy saving!

05 January 2009

Nice little deal on Lean Cuisines

If you have a Stop and Shop near you, you can get Lean Cuisines for a pretty decent price this week. They are 5 for 10$, and you get a free Skinny Cow dessert with the purchase of 5. Then there is this coupon: http://www.everydayeating.com/SpecialOffers/Default.aspx which is for 1.00 off 2, so if you print off 2 (which I haven't tried, I'm at work), then you get 5 Lean Cuisines and one Skinny Cow for 8.00.

I highly recommend the Butternut Squash Ravioli. It is seriously delicious! No joke!

04 January 2009

Start Now

The number one thing that I would recommend for anyone starting out with debt repayment is budgeting. Its the hardest thing to do, and the most time consuming, but ultimately I think it is the thing that makes the biggest difference. You really need to know how much you can devote to debt repayment.

I use Microsoft Money, but you don't have to pay for software to budget. There are plenty of ways to track your spending, from downloading a template for Microsoft Excel, to using a free online program, to only using your debit card for spending and then downloading the transactions. There are books that you can check out of the library (I like America's Cheapest Family, anything by David Bach or Suze Orman, or the Motley Fool) and copy the worksheets.

The point is, even billionaires have budgets. Actually, especially billionaires have budgets. In order to be in control of your finances, you can't be afraid to look at them. You need to be confident about what you can pay off, and proactive about making changes, and in order to do that, you have to know where you stand. So if you do one thing this year, track your spending for a month, look at your statements for the last year, and put together a budget.

Then you can obsessively make debt payoff date predictions like I do! :)

03 January 2009

Museum Day!

Today I'm taking the boys to one of the children's museums in our state. By getting that museum pass as a Christmas gift, I'll get free admission through the Association of Children's Museums' Reciprocal Program. This is a fantastic program because for 100 dollars, your whole family (plus an extra adult) gets free admission to many children's museums, including ones out of state, so you could even use it on vacation!

In my state, Connecticut, you can also get museum passes and discounts through the public library. This is an amazing and fantastic program because it's free (and because I know the people who do it)! If you don't live in Connecticut, call you local library and see if they offer passes as well.

Zoos have reciprocal programs as well, and by getting a membership to your local zoo you can get free admission to many other zoos across the county. Like the children's museums, if you have a membership you also get discounts at the store and on food, and on birthday parties (I think it would be really fun to have an adult birthday party at the zoo, call me crazy).

Obviously the free passes from the library are the most frugal option, but if you can get someone to buy you a museum pass for a gift, or get it for yourself out of your entertainment budget (because I know you all have your budgets all set up for the new year, right?), then it can be great. For my family of three, the pass pays for itself in about 4 visits, if you have 4 people, it will go even faster!

02 January 2009

Some changes around here

I updated the mission and the plan for the new year. I still can't really believe that I made it through the whole year! Remember on January 5th when my coworkers laughed at me and told me I couldn't do it? Yeah, I do. :) This morning on the Today show they said only 30% of people keep their resolutions, and I'm one of them!

I changed my plan to say I want to pay off another 20% of my debt. I'm slightly hesitant to put a specific number on it, because I don't know if it's realistic and I would hate to be disappointed at the end of 09 if I don't make it there. But I also think it's important to have a specific goal in mind... so I don't know. I may change it to 15%, but I really want to push myself to do even better this year. So, as it stands now, I want that debt ticker to read 38.4% on January 1, 2010. I believe in setting the bar high!

01 January 2009

I did it!

It's January 1st, 2009! One year ago today I started this project, hoping that I'd make it for the whole year- and never imagining how amazing a journey it would be! More important than the debt I paid off, more important than the fact that I stuck to it for a whole year is the fact that I have gotten so much support from friends and strangers, and I don't know how I would have done this without you. I really never considered that I would have so many people come and read this blog, and become a part of the journey- and that has become the best part!

Okay, so here's a quick synopsis of all that has happened this year:

  • I paid off 18.4% of my debt.
  • I got divorced.
  • I had a vegetable garden for the first time, something I had always dreamed of.
  • I didn't go overboard on Christmas.
  • I started using more cloth products and cut down on my paper towel usage AND my garbage by a significant amount.
  • I learned how to choose healthy foods over cheap ones, and save money where it didn't impact my health.
  • I wrote 236 posts.
  • I had 14924 visits, and 22520 page views.
  • I never bought 60 dollar jeans.
  • And finally, I broke up with Target. Repeatedly.

So, thank you! And of course, this is not good bye, this is hello to 2009!!