Monday, December 5, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 11/21 - 12/4 TWO WEEKS

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.
Again, sorry for the delays in posting. It has been a rough month and my best intentions aren't good enough for what life has required.

I lost my beloved uncle at 57 after a year and a half battle with lung cancer, complicated by emphysema and really bad COPD. He went to the hospital on Tuesday. He frequently went in, got an IV and was home in two days. Not this time. The doctors weren't able to do anything to help, so eventually he was put on CCA. His main concern was not being in pain and having his family with him. His wife, my parents and I spent pretty much 4 days straight at the hospital with him.

I am sad and angry. He was filled with such beautiful stuff. He was one of the few people I know that was universally accepting and loving. When we first got to the hospital on Thanksgiving,  the doctors were all working on him and he was struggling with each breath, but as soon as he saw us, he smiled and waved then asked Trucker all sorts of questions about how he was healing. He was so gentle and kind.

Sure, I rationally know that smoking caused all of this. I know that he tried to quit, but not hard enough or long enough. At the same time, I know that he had an undiagnosed and untreated anxiety disorder. I know that he had had a rough life that was often too hard for someone as sweet as him. I always tell the little quip about how the same boiling water hardens the egg and softens the potato, and he was a perfect potato.

Our family has been through so much in the last several months. We are weary and ready for a reprieve. After the service, the entire family went out to a pizza place nearby. We sat with my dad's cousin and his wife (my dad and uncle were raised with him, so I've always thought of him as an uncle) and my cousin and his girlfriend. My cousin lost his brother last month and at that viewing, we were both weary and didn't think we could handle another loss. We left the evening with promises to get together soon, to make sure it isn't another funeral before we all get together again.

Basically, all of this is to say make the phone call, make the dinner plans, tell everyone what they mean to you even if you don't think you need to and if you smoke, please, for the sake of everyone who loves you, quit. I don't like telling people what to do and generally mind my own business, but cancer is rough. There is no balm that heals watching someone you love struggling to breath and gasping that they can't do this anymore. Use patches, use gum, chew tootsie rolls, take a class, start meditating, start running. Trucker saved up the first month's savings from quitting and used it to buy a super expensive comic he had always wanted. Do whatever it takes. This is also a frugally minded activity that pays well. If you smoke a pack a day at $7, that is $2555 a year. Avoiding COPD saves a ton of money as well as suffering: Advair costs $286/month; Spiriva $286/month, and Combivent (emergency inhaler) costs $243. Lung cancer costs much more. I'm done preaching, and hope not to lose readers over this, but I think it is important.

* I am getting out of the rabbitry. Some strays messed with the doe and she sustained some bad injuries, so I had to put her down. I will rehome the buck as soon as I get the chance. He is adorable and rather personable, so I'm sure he will make someone a better pet than he made livestock. Two lessons learned here: 1). Never scrimp on breeding stock. I paid $10 each for my rabbits, instead of paying the going rate of $35-50+ each for breeding stock. They have been nothing but trouble from the beginning, as evidenced by the fact that a year and I half in, I haven't gotten any babies. Also, I got the buck from a 4-H breeder and he is lovable and seems relatively healthy, if much smaller than I anticipated. The does on the other hand I got from a farmer. They were horrible all along. They were very anxious and tore me up if I tried to hold them. They weren't good breeders, and they both ended up with broken bones. I think a big issue was that kits from this farm are usually slaughtered for meat when they are 6-8 weeks old, so the farmer likely didn't know what they were like when full grown. Lesson 2). Rabbits want to die. I always knew this, but I'd always been lucky with really good stock. Rabbits can kick hard enough to snap their own necks and are not very resilient. I don't think I'll get rabbits ever again.
* I love being able to harvest fresh herbs from the indoor garden. I am getting a good yield off of it compared to growing lettuce and I think the impact on our diet is better.
* I harvested scallions grown from stumps. I used them a few times in cooking and froze some more.

* We made a meat-free stir-fry one evening. I don't call it vegetarian, because I did use bone broth to cook the rice (this makes it more filling, tastier and has much more protein). I stir-fried onion, garlic, turnips, carrots, radishes and tossed in some Swiss Chard.
* We had spaghetti in tomato sauce with onions, garlic and peppers.
* We hit the salvage grocer again. I got 2 boxes of seltzer water (50 cans for $1.99), large cans of Chock full o'nuts coffee ($3.99 each), Kashi and some kiddie sweet cereals ($.50 and $1.50 respectively), chai concentrate ($.79/carton), salad dressing ($.10/bottle) and macadamia nut butter (for $1.49!!!). We were in town anyway to be with family, so it didn't take any extra gas.
* We found some great manager's special deals this week: pistachio milk ($.59/quart), chocolate walnut milk ($.49/quart), tomato sauce ($.29 for a large can) and sloppy joe mix ($.25/can).

Food Preservation:
* I froze some scallions.
* Equally important, I have been using our frozen wares in cooking a lot. It is no point in saving food if you don't use it before you lose it, so getting in the habit of using stored foods on a regular basis is vitally important. In the past, I have been more of the food hoarding type. During the recession, we always had food, but were often on the border of not having enough and of not having the right kinds (let's face it, a month of living on little more than lentils is terrible). After that, I'd always tried to store as much as possible, but had a harder time using it in case I needed it later. Unfortunately, that meant sometimes I lost some food, which is worse than just having saved the money to begin with. The last couple years I've really improved and gotten into good habits. Making a quick meal of spaghetti and jarred tomato sauce? Toss in some frozen peppers and leeks before adding the sauce to the pan. Making tacos? Dump in some dehydrated tomatoes and peppers along with a little water and the seasoning packet. Making soup? Add stock and dump in various food stores until you have it like you want it. It is really convenient once you get in the hang of it.

* David Ramirez was in town. To say he is my favorite singer/songwriter is an understatement. This borders on fanaticism. His music was fundamental in some major growth over the last year and a half. Ever since the pivotal concert in Nashville, Trucker has bought us tickets each time he has come into town. It was a magical night. He sang all of my favorite songs and some new songs from the album to be released in May. It is by far our most expensive date ($30 total for our tickets), but is well worth it. Also, considering that our typical date costs $3.18, our average is still good.
* We went on a couple cheap coffee dates with our travel mugs.

* I got a new credit card with 0% interest for 15 months. It was 3% fee to do a balance transfer. The last credit card we owe on (down from 3 cards) charges a ridiculous 27% interest! So, even with the 3% transfer fee, I'm saving a lot of money. The savings over what we are currently paying in interest each month will be huge. As it is, I have both cards locked in a drawer at home. I do carry one card with a low limit for emergencies, but I haven't used it in 9 months and don't plan to anytime soon. I intend to pay off this credit card before the 15 months are up.
* I plan to work on an article on frugal end-of-life options and funerals. That will cover everything we did to be frugal as we prepared for the memorial service. I'll do this once it doesn't hurt so bad.
* It was not the cheapest week, what with hospital and fast food meals, funeral expenses, and flowers. However, it was better than it could have been. The morning that Trucker stayed home from the hospital, he sent me with a bag of apple chips, granola bars, and little drink packets (hot chocolate, emergen-c, instant cider, tea bags, etc). I brought a container of fresh veggies for snacking. The nurse brought us a tray of juice and snacks every day, so we only had to get breakfast and dinner. For dinner one day, Mom and I walked a mile round trip to a local pizza place, where we got a pizza to feed all 4 of us for $15 (a full meal at the hospital would have cost $7-8 each). We drank free coffee from the waiting area.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted weird things. I have gotten better about throwing paper and cardboard waste in the compost bin. This not only reduces waste but will help have a healthier compost system.
* I used the last bit of a bottle of shampoo as bubble bath, rinsing it out with water and dumping that in. I ADORE bubble baths, but only take them when I'm getting that tiny little bit out of a bottle of shampoo or body wash. Despite how much I love them, I consider them a luxury, so I refuse to buy a plastic bottle filled with liquid to just put down the drain.
* DH stocked up on a new soap, a really fancy kind that was on a great sale. It is a moisturizing soap, and is hard to rinse well. This made for some bad body acne (Which I've never struggled with before). Instead of throwing it away, we are using it as a hand soap. Our hands need the extra moisture.

House and Home:
* Trucker did a lot of work in the house. He got a futon from auction awhile back and got it set up for me so I have a place to read. He also rearranged the living room and organized our bookshelves. He got rid of some books. He also added every single book he owns to his Goodreads "own" list. Now, when he goes shopping, he can check the list and make sure he doesn't buy a duplicate.
* I just found out about a cancer thrift shop that takes items on consignment. If it sells within the first 4 weeks, they split it 50-50. If not, it is theirs to keep. Either way, for items we are going to donate anyway, we may as well try to make a little money, and the proceeds help with cancer research (given my uncle's passing, this is on my mind more). We often do coffee right down the road, so it won't be out of the way.
* I found a really nice storage box that looks like a book. It was $5 at a thrift store.

* I now start working around midnight each night. It is hard, but I'm trying to stay positive. It will not last forever. I am hoping another job option works out, and worse case, after the holidays it will go back to 4 AM shifts.
* I worked 2 days at Trucker's job.
*The doctor gave Trucker the "OK" to go back to work! We are both excited! He gets to get out of the house and I get to be off work a little more. I'm sure his boss is happy to have him back as well. He struggled some and didn't take it as easy as I was hoping he would. However, he does feel better overall being able to move again.

* There was an active shooter event a block away from where we were at the hospital/walking to get food. It happened the day after we left the hospital, but it was definitely food for thought. As we had been walking, I was telling my mom safety tips about situational awareness. Telling her what weird or off things to try to notice as she is in public. While the event didn't happen until after we were gone, it was timely. I do want to get my parents into CRASE training. These events are becoming pretty common and there is no thinking that it can't happen in your community. Don't live in fear, but learn the tactics to survive a scary incident. I have also noticed that since taking my CRASE training, I feel less scared and helpless. I don't know that I would survive an active shooter event, but I am less terrified knowing what things I could do that would help my chances.

* I worked on my Etsy store a bit.

* Trucker got cleared to go back to work. He is healing quite well. He still gets tired sometimes, as would make sense since he wasn't able to do any physical work for a month.
* I will say, this job is giving me guns. I am working 7-9 hour shifts of hard labor, lifting packages up to 150 pounds and walking 7-10 miles a day. I love feeling strong after a hard shift.

* My step-cousins and their kids came up to visit my uncle. They live a couple hours from the hospital. They got stuck in traffic and burned a lot of gas. The kids got hungry so they stopped at a fast food restaurant and each got an item off the dollar menu. Neither of those things were in their planned budget, so they were going to be tight. Mom and I pitched in to give them a little something to help.
* We brought from home some items for my parents and aunt since they didn't go home for 4 days: pants (from our donation box, we had some that no longer fit in a variety of sizes between the two of us), shirts (from the donation box), socks, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes (all from storage; purchased on great sales), deodorant and body spray. This allowed them to freshen up since they didn't go home for 4 days.
* My dad and aunts paid for my uncle's funeral since he didn't have life insurance and his widow had no money for it. I don't have much extra money because of the part time job, so I helped my parents through the process to save money. Mom and I found a beautiful leather journal at a book store to use as a guest book and I bought a nice pen at the grocery store ($30 savings), we bought poinsettia plants at the hardware store instead of the florist ($300 savings), mom used a coupon for BOGO on arrangements ($40 savings), for the arrangement my sisters, Trucker and I gave, I bought a vase at a thrift store ($6 savings) and picked two small bouquets at the grocery store to mix instead of buying a more expensive arrangement ($14 savings over a bouquet at the grocery; much more over a florist). I got pictures from my parents, my uncle's wife and other relatives and put together a slideshow for the service ($400 savings).
* I bought some seltzer water cases at the salvage grocer. My dad only likes one type of seltzer, so I picked out all of the cans of that kind from the boxes and gave it to him.
* I have been filling out surveys more often if I am happy with service. I'm sure it means a lot to people to know that their kindness or hard work was noticed and hopefully their manager sees it.
* I found the nurse we had the first night at the hospital and told her how much her kindness and compassion meant to us. We had had a bad experience when my grandma was in the hospital, so it meant a lot that this nurse talked with us for as long as we needed and explained every little detail we needed about end of life options and the pros and cons of each. She ended up coming back and checking on us.
* My mom and I took my sister out thrifting. She and her husband will move into their house in a couple of weeks and they don't have everything they need. Trucker and I had set a certain amount we were going to spend for their wedding gift and also added what we would have spent for her birthday present. I figured that I could stretch my money really far getting second hand items (she was fine with this) and whatever things we didn't find, she could add to her registry when they have their reception. We got a $90 Pampered Chef baking dish with lid for $11, a really nice 5-piece storage set for $10, vintage metal cheese grater for $.90, utensil storage drawer for $1, glass measuring cup for $.59, a lovely wicker laundry hamper for $8, and many more items (I can't remember them all at this point). My mom got her some great items too such as a teapot set for $7, some mixing bowls and a $179 patio bench for $20! We had a nice time and got her a lot of the items she needed as she and her husband start their life together.

How was your week?

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  1. So sorry to hear of y our loss. My father was a heavy smoker and passed away as a result of COPD. It is very difficult to watch someone you love go through that suffering. I work with many young men and so many are smokers - it breaks my heart and I preach at them from time to time. If it encourages one to quit, well worth it! I'm glad to hear Trucker was released to go back to work, that will do so much for him mentally I'm sure. Love reading all your frugal tips, I learn something each time I read a post. I hope December can bring your family so peace, love and joy.

    1. Thank you, Beth. I'm so glad you like the blog. I love that it challenges me to try new things (otherwise this would get really boring really fast!).

      I did have a talk with each of my sisters this week while the pain was still fresh to remind them that this is why they shouldn't start smoking. Hopefully they take heed.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. Sending you healing thoughts.

  3. So sorry that you are having such rought times. My condolences on the loss of your beloved uncle. I do hope the better times are coming for you and your family. Times like these make you see things in perspective! Make time for each other and live healthy as possible. That message is for me too!


    1. Thank you, Wendy. We are definitely doing our best. :)


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