For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* I talked with my dad and sister about what they want to grow in their garden this year. We go in on our seed orders to save money on seeds and shipping and allow more variety. If I had to buy seeds by myself, I would only be able to grow a few different vegetables because of the cost, and I would have too many seeds of certain things (there are only so many zucchini plants one family should plant). However, since we split our packets, we're only getting half the number of seeds per variety and paying half the cost, so we can try some new things.
* We stopped at a grocery store that we haven't shopped at recently. Since I got a job at a grocery store (albeit a fancier one in a posh neighborhood on the other side of the city), I've had a harder time convincing myself to take the time to go to a different grocery store to shop. I realized that the time benefits do not begin to make up for the price difference. The store I work at only has decent sales occasionally. At this other store...wow! We bought a lot of things and all of them were on manager's special. A good brand of tomato sauce for $1.20 (usually over $3). Organic yogurt quarts for $2 (I haven't had yogurt since I took the new job because I could not justify spending $8 on a quart of yogurt from this place). Cream cheese $1/half pound. Four pounds of chicken quarters for $3.21. Whole grain pasta for $.70/lb. Cottage cheese for $.59/container (usually $1.50; I eat some as is, and use in place of ricotta in lasagna). Loaf of basic store-baked bread, day old, $.59 (huge loaf too!). We found smoked salmon on sale for $2.89/5 oz containers. We bought three. As a special treat, we got Trucker his favorite grocery-store dessert: creme horns. They were $2.50, BOGO. Yes, it's unhealthy. Yes, it's not necessary. However, two or three times a year we do this and it makes him a happy fella. I'm not saying no (because they are delicious!). Also, there was a rebate for up to $15 off a 12 pack of beer with a $30 purchase, so we got a free 12 pack (minus the cost of the stamp). We'll definitely be stopping back here for our regular shopping and stick to just getting the occasional gallon of milk (and sometimes a piece of candy from the candy shop when I want to surprise Trucker) from my job.
* I made a venison meatloaf using a pound from the freezer. I added a medium onion, whole head of garlic, and a handful of dehydrated Hungarian Wax peppers. I served it with some tinned green beans (clearance rack, $.30), homemade stuffing (courtesy of my bread cubes container filled with stale bagels from Trucker's job, plus broth from cooking the pulled pork last week), and mashed butternut squash.
* We had smoked salmon and bagels for dinner one night. We bread sliced 1.5 everything bagels and toasted the pieces. I made a flavored cream cheese with green onions and cress from the indoor garden and very thinly sliced onion ($.11/lb on a good sale at Aldi) and we topped each piece with a tiny bit of salmon. Perfect.
* Dehydrated 10 pounds of cranberries, no added sugar, just sliced in half for even drying. These will be used mainly for flavoring water kefir. I can also use those to make flavored syrup.
* Used our loyalty card at our regular coffee-date spot. We earned a $1 off a drink on a future visit.
* Used the library extensively, as always.
* We went out of town for a sale, but afterwards drove around a new city to sight-see. We had a great time and loved talking while we drove. I packed a lunch of ham sandwiches, pretzels, bananas and travel mugs of coffee so we didn't have to eat out the entire day.
* Trucker lost a button on his coat. Fortunately, we still had the spare. One evening I stitched it on and his coat looks fine again. We bought this coat on an after-season clearance 3 years ago for $30, and it still looks fantastic.
* I used my grocery store fuel points to get $.20/gallon for 15 gallons.
* I bought a second-hand metal mixing bowl for $.99. I'm trying to get eliminate plastics from my kitchen, so I scoop up metal and glass mixing bowls as I find them at a good price.
* Composted a lot of random stuff.
* Trucker cleaned out his shipping supplies closet and used the excess cardboard for lasagna gardening.
* Trucker brought home a bag of goodies-bagels, a couple of scones, and two carrot muffins.
* I got my year end bonus. It wasn't huge since I've only been with the company four months, but it will cover a business class we were wanting to take.
* Got a nice workout shoveling the driveway and sidewalks.
* Since the weather has been so crazy, I've been concentrating on keeping our diet as high-quality as possible. We've been limiting the amount of low-nutrition foods we eat and drink and opt for more nutritious items whenever possible. I've been adding lots of dehydrated veggies to pretty much every meal to amp up the nutritional levels and stretch the meat a little more.
Community/Sharing: (I'm going to start including gifts that Trucker and I give each other, or that we exchange with family and friends because I think that sharing with those you love fosters a tight-knit community. Also, I want to officially demolish the idea that gifts have to be new, expensive or traditional)
* Trucker found a ring on the ground. Fits me perfectly and it is absolutely adorable.
* A friend of ours got Trucker a book at a thrift store for a comedic collection of his. She is so thoughtful.
* My parents are selling us one of their cars. Since my sister just bought a new-to-her car, they have an extra one. It's not perfect, but it is worth what they wanted and is more reliable than the truck. We knew the truck was likely going to go sometime in the next six months to a year, and we weren't sure if a good, cheap vehicle would be available whenever it did. This works out well for us as we can afford it and don't have to worry about the truck dying at an inopportune time. Trucker will use this for commuting to his job 4 miles away, so it should last us a good amount of time. It will be quite sad for Trucker to not drive a truck, however.
* When I went to my parents to test drive the car, I brought the rest of the bag of goodies from Trucker's job: several bagels, a scone and a muffin. My sister and her fiance were going ice fishing that morning, so I made sure to send them each with a snack.