17 December 2010


Check out my debt tracker! 50%!!! It's all downhill from here!

Excuse me while I high five myself and run around the house.

28 November 2010

Closing in

As of today, I have paid off 46.8% of my debt- sooo close to my goal of 50% by the end of the year!! This is exciting for a few reasons- it's a big landmark, for sure, and also the sign that easier times are ahead.

Debt payoff is like a roller coaster- you start off slow, building momentum and making small bits of progress. But, thanks to how interest works, the more you pay off, the faster the rate of your success accelerates- so even though it took 3 years to get to the 50% mark, I have good reason to believe that it should take 12-14 months to pay off the remaining 50%. Why? Well, think of it this way- when you start off, you have a lot of debt accumulating a lot of interest. So as you pay it off, less of your money goes toward the principal (the money you owe) and more goes toward the interest you're being charged. But as your principal gets smaller, so does the amount of interest you're being charged, so more of your money goes toward the principle. Because of this, the same dollar amount chips away at larger and larger portions of your debt.

I think this is why it's hard for many people to stay with a debt plan- the initial efforts don't yield much result, which is disheartening and people often give up. But, the longer you stay with it, the easier it gets!

Interestingly, this is the same way savings work for you. The more money you put in savings, the more you have to earn interest on. So when you put 100$ in savings, the first month you may get 6 dollars in interest, assuming a 6% interest rate (I wish!). BUT, the second month, you get interest on 106 dollars, so instead of making another 6 dollars in interest, you get 6% on your 106 dollars, or 6.36. Over time, that compound interest (that's what it's called) makes a big difference!

I love math.

14 November 2010


I have great news. I recently discovered that being lazy can actually equal being frugal! Here's how it goes:

Don't feel like sending out Christmas cards this year?
Don't do it!
$100 (printing, postage) saved.

Don't feel like going out for dinner?
Don't do it!
$40 (dinner plus tip) saved.

Need to go shopping for some new clothes?
Don't bother!
$200 saved.


06 November 2010

Things I didn't buy

In my last post, I listed things that I spent money on outside of the planned budget. Today I thought I'd list the things I have cut out of the budget (successfully) in order to keep the debt payoff moving at the awesome rate it's been lately:
  • haircuts
  • clothes
  • big ticket household items (like rugs, small electronics, organizational stuff, etc)
  • seasonal items like plants for the front porch
  • vacations

Although I could really use all of these things (except the mums), I'm doing my best to use everything I already have until they are basically trash, and putting off vacations and household stuff for the time being. I keep reminding myself that this time next year, I'll be so close to paid off that I can use CASH to pay for the things I need. This is all the motivation I need!

01 November 2010


here's a list of things that got in the way of me following my budget last week:

  • PTO book fair
  • PTO tshirt sale (x2)
  • union dinner
  • donuts for work breakfast party
  • kids' dental appointments
  • one night where everyone was really tired and we just wanted mcdonalds
I know I should budget for these things, but seriously- other than the dental appointments, how regular are any of these things? Is it better to budget $100 a month or whatever for incidentals (which will then give you the feeling that you HAVE $100 to spend on incidentals) or to budget for nothing and then move $100 from debt payoff to spending money if need be?

Psychologically, I know I spend less with the latter scenario. There's something about "planning" to spend extra money that makes me spend it two or three times over!

24 October 2010

how much is enough?

I listened to this very interesting story on NPR today about the proposed tax increase for those who make over 250,000/year (that I would link to if I could find the link). The story was about what it actually means to be a person making $250,000 a year, and how much is "enough" in terms of wealth. This was interesting to me because I've been thinking about this a lot lately- what do I actually need to make in order to be "happy" or "comfortable" or to have enough.

Well, I don't know. As they pointed out in the story, as your income rises, so do your expectations for the things you should have. So while you might get by on a $60,000 salary, if you were to get a giant raise, you might upgrade your car, send your child to a private school, or move to a bigger house, therefore keeping your level of spending/saving money about the same. That explains why no matter how much you make, you never seem to have enough.

So how much IS enough? I don't know. I know I would consider sending my children to private school if money weren't a factor. I know I'd like a newer house that would have a better layout and newer appliances that don't break, or at least the extra money to get them fixed (and maybe I'd like a pool, truth be told... ;). I know I'd like to travel more than I do. I know I'd like to afford haircuts more than yearly. So... yeah. Clearly I have more than enough- things to spend $250,000 a year on. Sigh.

21 October 2010


I made lunch every day this week, avoided buying coffee in the afternoons, and choose healthy options (or very small unhealthy) whenever I had a meeting with free food. The result?

I stayed within my budget and lost 3 lbs.

Really?! It was that easy? I'd be willing to bet its not. I think the hard part is sticking with it.

18 October 2010

Okay, so how do I do that?

The poll has ended and it looks like the slight majority wants me to bring back the YOFL, while the slight minority thinks I should keep things here. I'm inclined to merge the two, keeping the funkier look and subject matter of BV with the url of YOFL.

So, I need to figure out how to do that. Stay tuned.

In other, brown bag news, I'm STARVING.

17 October 2010


So, I kind of blew it. I was primed to make a big credit card payment and I put it off a little too long, and ended up spending some of it on other stuff (mostly going out to eat and doing other stuff). I'm pretty disappointed! So I'm putting myself on a spendcation for the next few weeks. I have some cash from my tag sale and I'm planning on only using that for spending money, and I am going to make my lunch every day that I can this week so I don't spend any money on eating out.

Since I took on the second job, I've been lax about making my own lunch because a) I'm tired and b) I don't have time to go grocery shopping more than once a week so I've been running out of fresh food before the end of the week if I make lunch for anyone but the kids. I'm going to buy some food like tuna that won't go bad so that I can make it last all week.

Eating lunch out, Dunkin Donuts and extras here and there make up the bulk of my money "wasted." Where do you blow the money you'd otherwise save or put towards debt?

11 October 2010


Until I master the art of the redirect, head on over to www.buildingvillages.blogspot.com

Wouldn't it be great if I could merge them? I know, right! Too bad I have no clue how to do that. Le sigh.

Going out or staying home

The more I go out, the more money I spend. I've always been an emotional shopper and there's clearly something inside me that equates having "something nice" with making myself feel better. Since I began this quest, I've definitely tried not to continue this by not going to places like Target when I'm sad.

Sounds like a solution, right? Well, kind of. When I stay home, then I'm home- in my messy, toy-filled, 1950's throwback of a rental that I can't renovate (despite the money, it's not even my house). And while I'm not out shopping, I have the IKEA catalog, the Real Simple magazines, the Land of Nod catalog, HGTV, the internet... and there it is again- the desire to shop. And I don't know about you, but when I try to buy "storage solutions" like I see in magazines, they end up being just another THING in my house that doesn't quite work and I kind of hate and wish I didn't spend my money on. Storage cabinet from IKEA? Great idea! Except now it's crammed with crappy toys I hate and the kids never play with until I try to get rid of them. You get the idea.

So, should I stay or should I go? I wish I could just live in a teepee with a light and some books. Seriously. Except you know it'd be a matter of time before I just wished I had a nice IKEA bookcase to keep them in...

10 October 2010

Beautiful things

Dear Friends,

It's been a while! Things have been insane with a capital-oh-my-god-how-can-I-possibly-keep-this-up. I'm working two jobs now- my regular librarian gig plus I'm teaching a First Year Experience class two nights a week. It's for new freshmen and students returning to school after a long hiatus. I love it. I love having students I know, that I can help and encourage and teach. But I am exhausted, as I'm teaching the two nights I previously had child-free, that I used to catch up and relax and do things. I wouldn't give it up for the world, but I've been laying on the floor staring off into space at the end of each day.

I've been thinking about this blog and the Year of Frugal Living a lot lately, mainly because my debt payoff has really kicked into high gear (thanks to the extra job income and the fact that my ex is paying his support on time, in full every week these days). I'm 41% there and I'm primed to make it to 50% before the year ends. It's like I can finally see the finish line- it's far out there, I can barely make it out, but there it is. After 3 years, there it is. I am so excited.

I've also been thinking a lot about where I go from here. When it ends, when I'm finally recovered from all that has happened, where do I want to be? I just don't know. I know I want to make a difference. I know I want to travel and be happy and be surrounded by beautiful things and wonderful people. But that's about all I know! It's going to be an interesting year. I feel like 2011 has a lot of great stuff in store for us.

So I'm trying to decide (see the poll above)- do I keep posting here? Do I go back to the Year of Frugal Living? I'm still getting tons of visits, despite not posting for months at a time. I'd like to know what you think.

So there we are. Fall, while sad in it's farewell to summer, brings the excitement of new school years and new years to follow. That finish line, despite its distance, is there. And then what?

14 May 2010

Decluttering Day

Clutter is at the root of all evil. (Cleaning evil, at least)

To this end, I invented a holiday- decluttering day. You can even become a fan of it here. It's May 23rd. I'm going to declutter my house, with the goals of 1. cleaning less and 2. having a tag sale (which has been on my resolution list since the original Year of Frugal Living, I think.)

Anyway, if you're not into Facebook, it's on May 23rd, and that day we're going to sort, toss, donate and clean. Get ready!

Also, check out my debt payoff ticker! It's amazing what on-time child support payments will do. :)

05 May 2010

Why moms need breaks

Right around the time of the conference, which was a MAJOR work project that pretty much took over my life for the last 4 months (including why I wasn’t blogging), I started to feel like I was perhaps the world’s worst Mom. I was yelling at the kids, they were being bad and crying all the time, disaster city. So last week I took two days off from work (when I started blogging again) and sent the kids to school. I felt terribly guilty about this for about 2 hours. Then I went to get them, and I was calm, happy, fun, and in response they were calm, happy, fun, and I realized that:


Moms need vacation days.


Only after I was able to get it together enough to calm down and stop making a BIG DEAL out of everything did I realize that my kids were acting out in response to my bad mood. Since then, things have been awesome. They have been so good. In fact, we even took a little after school road trip to Mystic last night, after school, which meant they had to sit in the car for an hour and 20 minutes at 4:30 in the afternoon. I thought they would surely act out, but nope- they were excellent. All it took was a one-woman comedy/entertainment show from me, which I only had the patience and energy to do because I’m not stressed out.


So in conclusion, if you can take day off in some way, shape, or form, DO IT. (And Mother’s Day doesn’t count. That’s a day to be LAZY.)

03 May 2010

The Book Thief

I’ve been reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. If you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil anything but I will say that it’s about a German girl named Liesel and takes place in the late 1930’s/early 1940’s, and is narrated by Death. There are a lot of amazing things about this book and at page 143, I’m so hooked that I went home to read it on my lunch break, but what I was thinking about today was luck. We are SO LUCKY. This little girl can’t read at 10, and when she does learn, she treasures books like gold. But in Nazi Germany, books are hard to come by, and she cherishes them.


When I was 10, I read voraciously. My mother jokes about telling me to “put the book down and go to bed” and it’s true, I read with a flashlight under the covers until I was discovered. I mean, I grew up to be a librarian, so you can see where I’m at with reading. And my own children love to be read to, now my five year old is starting to read on his own, and their rooms are filled (bookcases to the brim, overflow on shelves in the closets) with books. To think of a little girl who can count her books on one hand… it’s amazing how much we have.


Information is access to freedom. Without information, people are relegated to their current state, with no hopes of becoming better educated, better paid, better fed and better housed. Those with access to information can vote intelligently, can make changes, can understand when something is WRONG. That’s why Hitler burned books. People who are deprived of knowledge are less likely to revolt.


So, yeah, you might say I like the book.

30 April 2010

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan

I paid off my car! This is momentous. MOMENTOUS! Not only have I never paid off a car before (something always happened before I could get to that point) BUT I have never really owned anything before. I guess most people my age don’t, it’s not like many people who own a house at 31 actually paid it off, but still, it’s so exciting. Of course now I’m terrified that something will go wrong with it, but that could have happened before and I would have had to pay a car payment PLUS repairs, so it’s still a good thing. Hooray!

27 April 2010

If you're here...

I've resumed posting at www.buildingvillages.blogspot.com . I hope to see you there!


I've read more than once that you're not supposed to apologize for slacking on blogging (but I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! Really!).

Life has taken on a frenetic pace. I had a HUGE work project that consumed all of my time and energy over the last few months, and has finally wrapped last week and all I have to say to that project is GOOD RIDDANCE. It was a prime example of something that sounded really fun, but wasn't so much. Another example of that was taking the boys to see the movie "Oceans" at 5 pm on a rainy day. Fun, right? Well, the kids had fun- running laps around the movie theatre. So yeah, probably not the best idea. Lesson learned.

If you happen to have checked in over the last 3 months, you might have noticed that my debt payoff amount is up to 33%- one third! My ex has been paying his child support regularly and things are temporarily very good. It's a relief, albeit a tenuous one.

I also got a raise at work, so that's great news. I'm hoping to teach a class in the fall (First Year Experience) so if that runs it'll be an extra supplement to help pay things off.

Now that massive PITA project is over, I hope to get back to writing and working diligently on paying things off and finding some balance in my life. I'm all over the place these days, and it's stressful. I hope to get to a better place soon, especially now that regular life should resume.

So, if you're reading this, thanks for sticking with me.

01 January 2010

Welcome 2010!

There is nothing like a new decade to wipe the slate clean. Wrapping the last decade up in a neat bow of 10 years makes it very easy to reflect on life, especially since it's been exactly 10 years since I graduated college and life, as an adult, began.

In the last ten years, I lived in 3 states, dated 3 guys, married one. Had two beautiful baby boys, lived in three places, worked as a travel agent, in a liquor store, as a waitress, a substitute teacher, at the Danbury Mint, was a stay at home mom and then finally a librarian. I got my master's degree. I lost my grandmother and I got divorced. I started a blog and made new friends. I turned 21 and 30 and then 31. Things changed, and changed again. The world changed. I learned to believe in myself.

I can't imagine what the next decade will bring. My boys will go to school, become big boys and then teenagers. My job will change or stay the same or I'll go on to another thing. I'll go back for a second master's or a phd or I won't. I'll pay off my debt and maybe buy a house. Maybe I'll even meet someone, and have another baby. The possibilities...

So I am welcoming 2010 with open arms. I'm excited to move forward with a genuine appreciation for myself and the beauty that can be found in the world.