Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 4/20 - 4/26

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 repotted all of the tomato plants into larger containers.
* Harvested 3 cups of greens (kale and lettuce from the container garden) and wild flowers (grape hyacinths, violets and garlic mustard flower buds/flowers).
* Harvested green onions from the windowsill garden.

* I got in and out of the grocery store for $12.50 (including a $3 gift for Trucker for our anniversary and his $2 lunch). I got good ice cream ($6/half gallon) on sale for $2.19.
* I made chicken burritos one day. I used some leftover chicken from the freezer, a can of refried beans, some dehydrated peppers and tomatoes, a small can of green enchilada sauce (to rehydrate the veggies) and the last of a jar of roasted peppers. I  had some corn tortillas that we got for $.10 at the salvage grocer but didn't like as a taco-wrapper (they broke open too easily). I cut them into wedges and fried them as the most incredible tortilla chips. In the future, I'll stock up on these when we find them at that price as one package makes the same amount as a regular bag of store-bought chip.
* I hard boiled a dozen eggs to use for snacks and lunches.
* I made a fantastic meat loaf one evening. I used a pound of ground sausage mixed with bread crumbs from bacon cheddar scones from Trucker's job, a whole onion and several heads of garlic (sauteed). I hid a hard boiled egg in the middle. This was enough for two meatloaves. We had one for dinner Sunday night with colcannon and steamed green beans.

* Tuesday was our anniversary, so we decided to head out of town for the day. We went to a city about an hour and a half away. We went to this little castle that was built by one cool-as-heck man in the 1930s-1980s (I've shared some of my favorite photos in this post). Then we went to a large international grocery market, got chinese food and then went thrifting. At one store paperback books were priced at 10% of the cover price. Trucker found a few older ones that he wanted. The price was $.05-.10 each. However, they were also the sale-tag color, so they were $.02-.05. My big score was 19 pieces of Fiestaware. They were in my color and actually the same year as my set. 15 years ago, my parents had given me saucers, coffee mugs, tea pot, salt and pepper shakers and sugar and creamer set. A couple of the saucers, a couple coffee mugs, and the salt and pepper shakers had gotten broken over the years. The 19 pieces I got were 5 large dinner plates, 6 saucers, 6 coffee cups and salt and pepper shakers. This pretty much completed my set for a grand total of $25!
* We had a coffee date at our usual spot. We used our travel mugs and got a discount of $1 off a drink, so our entire date cost $2.18.

* Worked out in the yard as often as possible.

* Line dried our clothes.
* Stayed at home and worked on projects instead of going out some days.
* I bought gas at my job as this is always $.20-40 cheaper than anywhere in the city. I only make the drive 2-3 days a week, so I make sure that before my weekend, I fill up.

Waste Reduction:
* I made stock out of leftover chicken bones and lots of veggie scraps.
* Composted as much as possible.

* Trucker forgot his lunch for work one day. I had to hit the grocery store on the way home from work. I considered driving home (past his job) to grab his lunch and bring it back to him, but it was going to cost me an extra $1.50 in gas. So while I was at the store, I stopped by the deli and bought two pieces of fried chicken for $1 each. It cost me $.50 more than going home for his lunch, but I will save that lunch for another day, so it will roughly even out. Tiny little detail, but a thousand of those end up being huge.
* I packed my lunch each day. I found a lunch box I bought a few years ago for road trips and started using it to carry my lunch.
* Worked the overtime on the two days that I was scheduled. There was no extra production day this week, so I wasn't able to pick up a shift.

* Worked more on the store. We also went out scouting for items.

* Focused on drinking plenty of water, especially as it starts to get warmer.
* Took a few walks around the neighborhood. Also went on a couple runs.
* Made more water kefir and drank it daily.

* I'm still getting used to the new job physically. This week my right arm and hand were shot. I wasn't able to get much grip on anything. As a result, I ended up dropping an antique candy dish I'd been listing on the store and chipped it. It was frustrating. I rested it the rest of the weekend as much as I could.

* Our new washer works great. My parents took back the old washing machine and were planning on scrapping it. Their friend said that his daughter was getting a house and needed a washing machine. He has repaired washing machines in the past, so they gave him this washer to repair. I love it when this all works out! Two households got a washing machine they needed, and an older woman was able to get rid of her old when without having to lift a finger. We're all happy!
* Steve worked til almost midnight the night before our anniversary. He came home with this beautiful bouquet of flowers and a card. :) Made my evening.

How was your week?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 04/13 - 4/19

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 went to Whole Foods to buy dried beans from the bulk foods section. I found a variety of beans that I'd wanted to grow, and they were much cheaper there than through seed catalogs. The beans were $4-6/lb compared to $11-40/lb. Sure, they aren't germination tested, but I figure at those prices, even if they have half the germination rate, I'm ahead. I love growing scarlet runner beans, but they are $40/lb when purchased through a catalog (they come in tiny packages of just a few beans, so you have to buy multiple packets to have enough for a reasonable harvest), but were $6/lb at Whole Foods. If this works, I'll likely never buy bean seeds through a catalog again.
* The flowers are popping up all over. It's so beautiful! And the grape hyacinths, my favorite flower, are naturalizing throughout the yard. Every year I find them farther and farther from the flower beds. I fantasize about one day having an entire yard of them. Hehe.

* I stopped at the "natural foods store" on Wednesday for their double-ad day. The sales ads overlap on Wednesdays. I watch the ads weekly and only go on a Wednesday when both weeks have a fantastic sale. This time I got: a head of red-leaf romaine for $.99, 5 6-oz containers of blackberries for $1 each, and 4 avocados priced at $.50 each.
* We made taco dip to use up some leftovers: rice from stir-fry night, the last of the venison leftover from taco night, the last of a bag of cheese, the last of the sour cream, the last of a package of cream cheese, olives from the pantry, refried beans from the pantry, tomatoes ($.90/lb at Meijer sale), lettuce, salsa ($.90/jar, third of jar used), one avocado. It was fantastic.
* I shopped at Meijer, but kept my spending in check. I bought a couple gifts for Trucker's family, but otherwise spent $25 on our groceries. I got a lot of chocolate because it was $1.20 (marked down from $4-5). I also got some manager's special produce: 3 lbs of green beans for $1.50, 3 lbs summer squash for $1.50, 20 oranges for $2, lemons and limes for $.10 each (I needed some lemons for making dandelion wine...).
* When we grilled out one day, I made bacon-wrapped, stuffed hot dogs again. They are so yummy. I also grilled summer squash and potatoes. I steamed some green beans as a side dish. For dessert, I made apple-pear crisp (to use the last pear that needed to be used up and apples from storage) and a blackberry crisp (using up the last of the blackberries I scored earlier in the week). I used baked goods from Trucker's job as the crumb topping.
* I made apple/pear sauce with some pears that were getting soft and apples from storage.

* We had my parents, grandpa and one of my sisters over for a cookout one day. It rained towards the end (we were sitting inside), but we had a blast.
* One day we walked 3.5 miles round trip to get ice cream cones. It was a fun, cheap date (less than $3) and we enjoyed talking together.
* We went for a couple of coffee dates together. We brought our travel mugs, as usual.

* I ran two days this week and we went for a few walks together on nice days.

* Trucker talked with someone from a rival internet company and was able to get the roughly the same internet speed we already have, but for a third the price! That will save us $52 each month. It would have cost us $5 a month to rent a router, but Trucker ordered one on Amazon. It cost $14.95 and $5 shipping, so after 4 months, it will have paid for itself.
* I earned several dollars doing quick surveys on Swagbucks.

Waste Reduction:
* I saved scraps in the freezer to use for stock.
* I rinsed out a bottle of soap to use as bubble bath.
* Composted all the weird stuff we could.
* I started a jar of vinegar from the apple and pear scraps leftover from making applesauce.

* I'm still enjoying my new job and the exercise I get from it. My coworkers are pretty fun too. I'm pretty happy with my decision to switch jobs.
* I worked over 1.25 hours for a bit of overtime pay. It's mandatory to work overtime if it's scheduled. I'm always happy when we have overtime. Days that I work, I'm gone for 11.5 hours (working time, driving time and extra time before the shift just in case), so staying an extra hour doesn't make that much difference time wise. If I worked every day, I'd likely be frustrated with staying an extra hour, but when it's 2-3 days a week, I don't mind it at all. This is the only part-time job I've ever had where I get paid overtime once I hit 8 hours in a day, not when I hit 40 hours for the week.. Therefore, the last hour of the day, I'm making time and a half.
* I voluntarily came in on Saturday to work. Since I'm part time, it is not mandatory like it is for full-timers. However, I get paid overtime pay the entire day, so it's definitely worthwhile.
* I packed leftovers for my lunch each day.

* I started an online store and got some items listed. I'm starting slow and small, but hope to grow it to help bring in some income.

* I went for my first barefoot run of the year. In the rain. It was perfect. I ran two days this week. I also went for a few walks.
* I packed my lunch instead of eating junk food.

* We sent gifts to Trucker's grandma and aunt for their birthdays. We wrapped them with some pretty tissue paper that we saved from some antiques we bought at an auction (the hosts supplied tissue paper for wrapping everything) and used salvaged packaging materials from things we've received in the mail. We saved over $6 by sending them in our own boxes instead of the boxes supplied by the post office.
* My parents brought the washing machine over one day and Dad helped Trucker set it up. The hose had a leak, but Dad had left us with the hose from the old one. Trucker swapped the out and it works fine. While the washer is a little older and not as heavy duty as our old one (the old one was a commercial washer that was here when we bought the house), it's great. It has been maintained yearly and has lots of settings, including a "hang dry" setting that does an extra spin cycle to get the clothes extra dry. We'll use that setting even if we are using the dryer so that we won't have to set it as long. This was such a wonderful situation and we are so thankful for the family friend that gave us the washer and to my parents for lugging it out here since we don't have a pickup anymore.

How was your week?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Frugal Snacks: Popcorn

Popcorn is definitely one of my favorite snacks, but I never buy the microwaved stuff. It's loaded with questionable ingredients, has a strange taste (at least, it is strange to me now that I've been making my own for a decade), is expensive and there's a ton of packaging for a snack. For these reasons, I make my own. It's ridiculously easy (barely more effort than microwaving, really) and very cheap. I pay $.99/lb and 1 lb will make 27 c of popcorn, so it's $.15/4 cups compared to the very cheapest price of $.33/bag microwaved popcorn/4 cups popped. I buy my popcorn kernels in bulk and bring back my plastic container to reuse over and over, so there's very little packaging waste compared to microwave popcorn. There are two simple ways to pop bulk popcorn without using a microwave (some people make their own microwavable popcorn using a paper bag, but then you're increasing the packaging waste needlessly).

An air popper is fairly straight forward. Just put in your 1/4 c of popcorn kernels, put a bowl in front of the chute and turn it on. Easy. This is also great for making a super-low-fat snack since there is no oil used in popping the popcorn. It's also very frugal considering you can use bulk purchased kernels, no oil, and only a little electricity. The downside to using an air popper is that some kinds have a higher rate of widows (unpopped kernels) and you have to buy the appliance and store it even when not in use. On the other hand, if you want to get into roasting your own coffee, you can always use the popcorn popper making it a dual-use appliance.

You can pop popcorn on the stove top very easily. It uses oil, so it isn't low-fat, but is certainly less fatty than microwaved popcorn. Simply pour just enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan, and heat until it is sizzling. Add a layer of popcorn kernels to the oil and put a lid on it. Shake the pan occasionally to keep the popcorn on the bottom from burning.

Of course, this is just for basic, run-of-the-mill popcorn. There are a lot of fun ways to jazz it up so it never gets boring. Here are some of my favorites.

Kettle corn-After heating the oil (about 1/4 c) til sizzling over medium heat, toss in 3 kernels and wait for them to pop. As soon as they do,  add a thin layer of white sugar (about 1/4 c) to the bottom of the pan then add your popcorn kernels (1/2 c). Shake frequently and dump out the popcorn as soon as it pops to keep it from carmelizing. Add salt to taste. This is a perfect sweet and salty snack and much cheaper than buying it at festivals and fairs.

Caramel corn-This is made the same as kettle corn, but using brown sugar instead of white. Add peanuts right at the end if you'd like.

Buy cheddar cheese powder in bulk for a cheesy popcorn. Just toss in the powder after popping and salt to taste.

Basic savory-Sprinkle with seasoning salt.

Taco popcorn-Use taco seasoning and perhaps some cheddar cheese powder.

Pizza-Add oregano, basil, garlic powder, cheese powder and dehydrated tomato powder.

Cinnamon sugar-1/4 c white sugar + 1 tbsp cinnamon, blended well.

Chili cheese- Mix a little chili powder or cayenne powder into cheddar cheese powder.

Everything-sesame seeds, poppy seeds, salt, garlic powder, onion powder

Maple Bacon-Drizzle with maple syrup and add crumbled bacon. Needs no extra salt.

What are your favorite homemade popcorn recipes?

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Wordless Wednesday Hop

Monday, April 13, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 04/6 - 04/12

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.

* Soaked okra seeds overnight, then planted in a small reused container. They germinated well.
* I planted a gallon container in Little Finger carrots. Not sure if it's the best use of the container, but I was dying to start something else and I've never grown carrots in a container before, so I thought this would be a good experiment. The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardeners had a video on growing carrots in a repurposed soda bottle that ended up providing some smaller, but worthwhile carrots. I love trying new ways to grow veg in a severely limited space. Even though I have a fifth an acre to play with, I know that a lot of people have barely any space, so I'm always looking for a chance to try something new to share with you all.
* Trucker brought home another five gallon bucket of coffee grounds that I spread over a bed. I put the filters into the compost.
* I divided the peace lily we have in our bedroom that was starting to get sad looking. I divided it roughly in half, put half back in the original pot and half in another pot that goes well with the colors in the room.
* I potted all of the San Marzano tomatoes into their own, individual containers. These were all saved from yogurt, sour cream, etc.
* I harvested some parsley from the indoor garden and have it air drying. Trucker and I want to add more, ahem, spice to our culinary life, so he bought lots of seeds for herbs to dry to use year round.
* Mowed the lawn for the first time of the year. Wasn't there just snow everywhere?

* While Trucker was working late one day, I made fried tortilla pizzas for dinner. Oh my. How had I not tried this before? I used corn tortillas that we got for $.10/25 pack at the salvage grocer. I assembled my tomato sauce, dehydrated peppers, two pepperoni slices and some wild greens on each,  and sprinkled with cheese. I fried them in a little old in the cast iron skillet, then put a lid on it for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt. WOW! Quick, easy, frugal and delicious.
* Continued to avoid grocery shopping at the regular grocery store. I needed one item for a meal we were making and drove by a discount grocer that I'd been afraid to check out. I stopped in and while I grabbed the item I needed, I looked at the items I commonly buy (but didn't buy this time). I was impressed. Butter was $2.50/lb (at Kroger, it's never cheaper than $3 and it's usually $4). Cream cheese was $.99 (it's $1.29 at Aldi). Eggs were $1.49 (it's almost never cheaper than $1.89/dozen around here). Maxwell House coffee 30.5 oz cans were $5.99 (we do buy cheap coffee sometimes if we run out before a trip to the salvage grocer where we get nicer coffee for the same price). Most other items were similar to Aldi, but this store is close enough to home that I can walk there with my pull cart and walk home. That means that I will be shopping there most of the summer and getting exercise while I'm at it! I got out with just what I needed for the recipe, but am glad I stopped.
* I made venison tacos on evening (I reserved half of the meat for another meal) cooked in the last of a can of enchilada sauce, with the last of a head of lettuce, onions, cheddar, the last of a tub of sour cream. They were fantastic. I could eat tacos every day. There's a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant I love (Best al pastor tacos ever), but we're trying to avoid eating out. I've found that by having tacos frequently at home, I can resist...because otherwise I'd be there twice a week.
* One day when Trucker had to work, I made a quick meal of steamed/"baked" potatoes (my parents gave us a little reusable bag to microwave them in; they're ready in 7 minutes) and loaded them up: bacon, green onions from the garden, butter, sour cream, cheddar. It was a filling meal and easy for a busy day.
* Grilled bacon pizzas (with leftover bacon) one day. I also sliced a pineapple and tossed in cinnamon sugar. I grilled it until it was caramelized. Oh my.

* I went over to my parent's house to have dinner with them, one of my sisters and my Grandpa.
* My mom, sister and I took a walk down to a pond near them at dusk. We talked and watched the wildlife.
* Trucker and I went for a walk outdoors.
* Coffee dates. Brought our travel mugs for reduced waste and a discount.
* I took Trucker to a free concert at a coffee house. It was a musician I used to go see a decade ago at my small town's coffee house, so it was fun to see him again. We got our drinks and one free refill each, so it was a frugal date.
* I got together with a friend of mine one day. Instead of going out to lunch and coffee, I suggested going yard saling. I brought my coffee from home so I wasn't tempted to buy it out. We went to three yard sales and a church rummage sale. I spent $4.50. At one yard sale, I saw a bunch of kitchen utensils and asked how much he said "$.10 each or $1 for the whole lot, including the crock." Everything was in this pretty little light yellow and green pottery crock that was perfect to use as a planter for my bedroom. I bought the whole lot. I am keeping several of the items, and giving away the rest.

* We went walking at a Metropark two miles from our house. The bluebells are just a day or two away from blooming!
* Spent time out in the yard working on a few nice days.
* Took walks around the neighborhood on nice days.

* I called the Healthcare Exchange about getting insurance. Since I'm no longer offered decent health insurance through my job, we needed to get individual coverage. The only plan offered was a preventative care plan that wouldn't do a thing towards Trucker's asthma medication. We qualified for a subsidy that makes the plan affordable. We got the cheapest plan that gives us what we need. I played with the numbers for a variety of plans. By getting separate dental insurance rather than paying extra for a health insurance plan that had dental included, we saved $4 a month and it provides $500/each extra benefit. All told, it was $40 less than the preventative plan that wouldn't offer much benefit to either of us. I don't want this to turn into a nasty debate about the AHA, but one should always research options to take care of their health.
* Trucker had signed up for a premium Spotify account to avoid commercials, and then he added me. Then he realized that he was paying $360 a year just to avoid hearing some commercials. He cancelled the premium plan so we'll go back to listening to the occasional commercial and save big. We use Spotify to listen to music only and avoid purchasing CDs. We're both enjoying it a lot and are planning on browsing our CD collections to see if there are any CDs that we can part with. There are several bands I loved when I was a teen, but now only really enjoy a song or two from each CD. Maybe I can make a few bucks from the sale, declutter and still get to enjoy the songs I like, filed into a playlist of "Nostalgia".
* It got chilly a couple of nights, but instead of turning on the furnace, we put an extra blanket on the bed.
* Used swagbucks for my searches/researching. Also answered the daily poll and filled out a few surveys. It's not a lot of money, but it just takes up some of my "fooling about on the interwebs" time, so it's better use of time than looking at more cat videos.
* Filed our taxes using an online program. This saves us a lot of money over having it done (it only cost $21) but makes it a much easier process for me to work through than doing it all myself.
* I signed up for a Super Shopper Savings club at a discount grocery. I also filled out the survey at the bottom of my receipt to be entered into a weekly drawing for $100.
* I line dried a load of clothing.

Waste Reduction:
* I reused plastic food containers for starting seedlings. I try to limit the amount of packaging in the food I eat, and usually have a travel mug with me to avoid a coffee cup. However, there are still some times that I'll eat/drink something from a plastic or paper container. When that happens, I try to reuse the container. During the seedling-starting season, these are perfect! I collect an assortment of sour cream tubs, yogurt containers, coffee cups, etc, keeping the lids if they've got them. If I'm starting seeds in the container, I pop the lid on it after planting the seeds to keep them moist, removing the lid (and recycling) once the seeds germinate. These individual planters are free and perfectly sized for a single seedling. After I plant them in the garden, I toss the container into the recycling.
* Composted lots of random things.

* I worked two days this week and worked an hour overtime each day.
* Trucker brought home bagels from his job.

* I put protein bars in each of the cars for emergencies or just in case we forget to pack a lunch for work.

* I started an etsy store and listed a few items.

* I've kept up with stretching out my arms and hands every day. The job can really cause some aches and pains if you don't keep up on stretching, so I'm being proactive about this.
* I've been trying to remember to do some calisthenics each day when I've got a few minutes: waiting for food to cook, bath water to fill up, etc. I'm sure it's not a huge benefit, but every little bit has to help.
* We opened the windows every day we could to air out the house.
* Trucker and I went for a couple walks together. Another day, I had Trucker drop me off at the library on his way to work so I could return some items. I walked the 1.5 miles home. It's a short walk, but it's something. I foraged some wild greens on the way home, and the sunshine was perfect.

* I tried to fix the washing machine and...yeah. I can't figure it out. However, when I went to my parent's house, as I was walking in the door Mom got a text message from a friend of hers asking if anyone she knew needed a washing machine or dryer because they were giving a set away. My parents are bringing it over later this week.
* When I went to my parents house, I brought all of the bagels we had from Trucker's job. I sliced them all. I gave them all to my parents and Grandpa so they could have a little breakfast treat. I can never eat all of the bagels he brings home, and they really love them. My mom sent me home with an apple pie since Trucker was at work and couldn't have dinner with us.
* When my friend and I were yard saling, I gave her several of the utensils that she wanted. I also put aside several for my sister who is planning on moving out for the first time this summer.

* Well, I couldn't fix the washing machine, but that worked itself out.

How was your week?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Avoiding Frugal Burnout

If you're anything like me, the easiest part of saving money is when you first decide to save for a big, important goal. You're all excited about your plans, and so it is easy to cut the expenses to the bone. But as time goes on, you start to lose that clear picture of the goal. You start to focus more on what you are giving up now, and that makes it all too easy to justify outrageous splurges. For example, in saving for a down payment on a house, you feel like it will be forever until you finally get that home, but tonight you could really use a nice meal out. You've been working so hard. Then, feelings of guilt kick in, and you start to concentrate on how you slipped up on your savings goal, and that bums you out, so you get a little sometime to cheer yourself up. Vicious little cycle.

Plan ahead to avoid this. Frugal burnout happens to the best of us, but doesn't have to set you back in saving for your goals.

First, break that big goal down into manageable little goals. Rather than setting a savings goal of $18,000 towards buying a house, break that down. You have $3k in closing cost, then break the down payment amount into smaller chunks. When I was saving for my house, I broke it down into goals closing costs, then closing costs plus 5% of the down payment, then 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%. I drew a simple chart that I would mark each time I made a deposit into my savings account. Every time a goal was met, there was great celebration. I hung the chart up on the refrigerator so we could see it every day and stay excited as we inched closer to the main goal.

No one wants to feel deprived. It's hard to keep focused on some future benefit if you don't enjoy anything now. Rather than trying to do away with all splurges, and then pay for it with unplanned excessive splurges, plan to treat yourself. Enjoy small things on a regular basis. For example, I love good cheese, so every payday (every other week), I allow myself to go to the cheese counter at the grocery store and pick out a small chunk of good (we're talking that $25/lb stuff) cheese. I only spend around $4 each time, so this doesn't derail my savings goals. However, I really enjoy that cheese. I add a tiny bit to my salad or sandwich, or eat a small piece with a cracker. It lasts around a week, and enriches many meals. If by spending that $4 (annual total of $104/yr), I don't need to go out to a nice restaurant once a month at $50 a pop, I save around $500 a year. Plus, I get several special meals each month.

It doesn't even have to be money out of your pocket. Maybe it's just time. Rather than buying yourself something, give yourself permission to spend the entire day in bed reading a great novel. Eat a good dessert. Blow off the housework for one afternoon and go for a hike. Enjoy these moments, and look forward to them. Since they are a regular part of your life, you can enjoy the now while saving for the future.

Look for different ways to save money. If you feel like it's just the same-ol-same-ol, look for ways to switch it up a bit. Read some good books on frugality and find a few new ways to save money just so there's some change in your routine. Maybe try line drying clothes as an excuse to be outside on a warm, breezy day or bake bread from scratch. You'll save a little money, and it's fun.

When most people decide to save money/be more frugal, they make a grave error. They slash the entertainment budget. Sure, entertainment isn't absolutely necessary, and it's usually costly for dinners out, movies, concert tickets, lift tickets, takeout, etc. However, I feel that this is the surest way to frugal burnout. If all you do is sit at home thinking about how much fun you used to have when you were spending money, you'll be miserable. Instead, increase your entertainment carefully. Spend an afternoon googling free or cheap things to do in your area. Maybe there's a concert/play/movie in the park series that you can go to every weekend. Many a coffee house has a free jazz band on Tuesday nights. Maybe a museum is free on Sundays. Start doing these things more often than you used to go out when you were paying. You'll find that your life is more rich and full and you're saving money.

What are your favorite ways to prevent frugal burnout?

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Monday, April 6, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 03/30 - 4/5

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.

Creasy greens and flower buds
* Harvested green onions a few times this week.
* I smoothed out the garden beds a bit and broke up large pieces of partially composted material such as egg shells and corn cobs. I also spread wood ash from the old firepit area to the rest of the beds.
* Trucker brought home two more 5 gallon buckets of coffee grounds. We spread the grounds over the garden beds and put the filters either under the cardboard sheet mulch under cracks to keep weeds from coming through or put them in the compost bin. The soil is already looking better from all the additions. What a great feeling!
* Trucker took down a lot of the treeline to give us more sunlight for the garden. I'm excited! There's a lot more good growing space now.
Garlic mustard
* Planted the first of the outdoor garden: 1 row Red Sails lettuce, 1 row alternating French breakfast radishes and Red-Cored Chantennay carrots, 2 rows Rainbow Swiss Chard, 1 row Little Finger carrots, 3 rows Bull's Blood beets. I planned to plant on the last nice, dry day before several rainy days. I have a problem remembering to water seedlings as often as they need, so this saved me.
* I foraged one day for about 4 cups of mixed wild greens: garlic mustard and dandelion greens, mainly. Another day I harvested an entire tote bag full of creasy greens and wild garlic and onions.

* Saved bits of food, like a couple of sausage links or asparagus, to use in other meals.
* Ate a lot of egg dishes this week since they were so cheap: fried eggs and toast/bread-sliced bagels, scrambled, french toast, hard boiled eggs.
* When we had company over (details below), I made extra of everything so that we could have quick and easy meals on busy days. We had a few sausages, some asparagus and a ton of potato salad left.

* We went out for a couple coffee dates. On one, I used a free coffee I'd earned, so our date cost $1.38. On the next, I earned a free meal on my rewards card.
* Later in the week, we went hiking at a local park. Afterwards, we decided to go out to enjoy our free meal and have a coffee date. We ordered our coffees and wrote/read for awhile. Once we started to get hungry, we ordered the meal and stayed another hour or so after that. We split the meal. He ate the sandwich (steak and cheese) and I ate the salad (greek). It came with a side of bread and we ordered a second side for $.89, so our lunch out was less than $1.
* We had a couple of our friends over for dinner one night. I wanted to keep the spending low as we are still trying to figure out where exactly we are, but I wanted it to be nice. The only things I bought were: 2 lb bananas for $.88, 1 lb asparagus for $1.29, and 2 packs of hot dog buns (we used 1.5) for $.89 each. Everything else was something that needed to be used from the pantry/freezer or I had got at a fantastic bargain. I made stuffed, bacon-wrapped hot dogs. First, I cut a slit down the middle, not all the way through, not all the way to the ends, so it looked like a canoe. Then I stuffed it with cheddar cheese and sauteed onion ($.33/lb from Aldi) and banana pepper (manager's special). I wrapped a slice of raw bacon around each hot dog, and held it in place with a toothpick on each end. We grilled these and served with all the usual condiments. I made potato salad to use up the last of the potatoes ($.20/lb), mayo ($.20/jar from the salvage grocer), mustard (the last of three different bottles), India relish ($.69/bottle from the salvage grocer, about 1/4 container), homemade mock pickles made from leftover brine and dehydrated overgrown cukes from my parent's garden last year (free), green onions from the indoor garden (free), 5 hard boiled eggs ($.99/dozen), some of the onion left over from the hot dogs and the lonely leftover slice of bacon from the hot dogs. It was fantastic. I grilled asparagus tossed in oil with some grill-master's seasoning ($.05/salvage grocer, we've been using the same packet a bit at a time through several meals). For dessert I grilled bananas until they were caramelized, then drizzled with goat's milk caramel ($1/bottle from Kroger manager's special) and a sprinkling of cinnamon. They brought a bottle of port to share. I love getting together with people for dinner at home instead of going out. With the purchase of food and drink, it was about the price of 1 person's dinner (tip and drinks not included) if we'd gone out. We were able to sit and laugh together for longer than would have been appropriate if we were occupying a server's table and all told had a great time.
* For our friends birthday, we gave her a few things: a bouquet of flowers, a jar of homemade apple chips and some antique salt and pepper shakers. She mentioned over dinner one night that she collected them, so Trucker went out looking for some fun sets. He found some adorable bird ones on an antique auction site that she liked. We love giving vintage gifts because it allows us to be more creative and give personalized gifts.

* We went out hiking on a particularly nice day.
* We worked together in the garden and had a small fire with some of the trees Trucker had cut down.
* I went for several walks to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

* I called my insurance agent, told him I'd taken a pay cut and wanted to talk about ways to save money on my insurance. I updated my info, signed up for some programs and was able to knock my bill down $20/month. The phone call took fifteen minutes, and saved $240/year, so my hourly rate was $960. We got discounts for things like: switching from commuting 5 days a week to 2, Trucker  switching locations to the one that was 4 miles from home instead of 15 miles, updating our education level, raising my deductible slightly. I also asked about a discount for taking a defensive driving course, but he said that wasn't available in this state. It never hurts to call and ask. I plan to call other utilities later.
* Took surveys on Swagbucks for money.
* This is technically grocery, but I think it applies here. I struggle with controlling my grocery spending. I try to always get good deals, we try not to waste food, and we keep a full pantry. However, I've realized that no matter how often I go to the regular grocery store, I spend $70. Every time. No exceptions. So this week, I didn't go to the regular grocery store; I only went to Aldi (and spent $23). Not only that, but I decided that next week I will not go to the grocery store either. We have plenty of food stockpiled, but I think we need to eat through some of it. Also, as we make this job transition, I think this will be a good way to save some money.

Waste Reduction:
* I got to the end of a bottle of laundry detergent and no more would come out. I swished water out and dumped it into the washing machine so I got one more use out of it.
* Composted lots of weird stuff as well as yard waste.
* Trucker spread ashes from the fire pit over the garden beds to get worked in.

* Trucker brought home a few bagels and several scones from his job.
* Someone saved the coupon inserts from the Sunday paper for Trucker. We clipped those together while watching a movie.
* Most part-timers at my job only get two weeks of full-time training before switching to two days a week. However, my department requires refining your technique more than other departments, so they allowed me to work an extra full-time week. It was a holiday week, so they weren't operating on Friday, but I got an extra two days' pay. This also put me a little closer to getting a raise since all non-overtime hours count towards my next raise.
* I worked overtime 3 of the 4 days I worked, for a total of 2.5 hours overtime. I figure if I'm working only 2-3 days a week, I'll welcome the overtime.

* I spent a couple of afternoons working on a book.
* Made plans for a couple picking excursions for later this summer. We're currently waiting until we flip some more items before we buy more.
* Continue to research items that we are interested in selling.

* I worked out a lot more this week that I usually have been. I went for several walks, one hike and one 40 minute walk/run.

* One of my coworkers and his wife like to yard sale and I mentioned the World's Longest. They got really excited about it, so I wrote down all of the long-yard sales that cross through our area.

How was your week?

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