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 have been harvesting herbs from the indoor garden. So wonderful!
* I regrew scallions in water. They are starting to peter out, but I'm hoping to get another harvest or two.
* I've been absolutely loving the chai concentrate in the morning. Yummy.
* I made tacos a couple nights using leftover pork from the slow cooker, with sauteed onions and peppers, homemade hot sauce and pickled peppers and Aldi brand tortillas.
* I made Colcannon with the last of the potatoes, two big bunches of turnip greens, leeks and 2 slices of crumbled bacon. I served with a pat of butter and some chopped scallions on top. It was absolutely amazing. I didn't realize until hours later that I hadn't thought to add cream, sour cream or milk. I will no longer add that since it didn't need it. This will keep the cost and calorie count low. I think the key was that I didn't drain the water, I boiled it away, so it didn't lose any of its flavor.
* I stopped by the farm stand to see one of my friends. It was the end of the day so she sent me home with everything that was leftover: a bunch of scallions, a bunch of winter carrots, 2 bunches of collards and tons of turnips with greens (turnip greens are by far my favorite greens). We left a donation, but got a fantastic deal (and since it was going to be so cold that night, the items wouldn't have survived).
* I got a couple good deals at Aldi: $.99/fancy cereal, butter for $1.89/lb and ground beef for $3/lb.
* I tried (and failed) to make fudge as a gift for my stepdaughter. I will make it again later another time (She got me into a TV show and there is a joke about fudge, so I thought it would be cute). The fudge never set up and I didn't have time to try again. However, it has turned into a fantastic thing in itself: I can mix with ice cream, use to ice a cookie, etc.
* I made a "dump soup" to use for meals next week. I put some leftover pork in the pork cooking liquid. I added 2 bouillion cubes, some seasoning, a couple handfuls of dehydrated tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra and celery. I let that simmer until the veggies were soft. It was really good.
* We always have a tub of veggies prepped in the frig. These are veggies for snacking or cooking with: carrots, radishes, turnips, celery, etc. Great, healthy snacking and convenience food at its best.
* We went on a couple coffee dates ($3.38 with travel mugs).
* After my interview, I met up with my mom. She needed to go shopping for a Christmas tree and a recliner for my grandpa. We had a really nice time just hanging out and talking. I was reluctant to spend. I bought two things while we were out: a bag of bird seed at a fantastic price (We got some bird feeders and wanted to take care of the little fellows this winter) and a can of holiday icing, marked down (I hate putting icing on baked goods, but Trucker likes it. Every now and then I get a bit for him to use. $1 here and there and a bit of gross sugary fatty-ness isn't going to kill either of us).
* I had orientation at my dad's factory location. He went to work early so we could have breakfast together. I always enjoy that.
* One evening we had planned on going out, but the roads were really icy (cars were wrecked everywhere). Instead, we ordered takeout pizza (picked up on the way home from work, using a coupon code. Points earned towards a free pizza) and watched a movie from the library.
* Trucker got a pool cue. He had been wanting a nice one, as he used to be really into playing. He found one at auction for $4.50 (regularly $50+). He will look for a place that has free pool on slow nights.
* It is so cold that I've been a bit of a baby. The extent of my nature-loving has been watching birds through the window while wrapped in a blanket and sipping something warm.
* I bought some bird seed to take care of the little guys this winter.
* I checked my credit score on my bank's website. They make your score available to check anytime. They pull your credit score periodically and update the website with the most recent score, as well as a timeline to show your score over the years. My score has improved by 100 points this year!
* They also had a little calculator to enter your debts and income to see if you are at a good debt to income ratio. I am not sure whether you were supposed to include the mortgage (considering if I didn't have a mortgage, I'd have to pay rent), but I did. Even so, I was solidly in the middle of the "good" ratio (granted; this does not include the medical debts coming). I was proud of the work we have done in the last year.
* I got my oil changed using a coupon: $15 plus tax and fees.
* I bought two pairs of shoes at the thrift store. One pair (a pair of tan casual sneakers) is lightly worn; the other (a pair of Nike running shoes) doesn't appear to be worn. All shoes were half off that day, so I paid $2.50 and $7.50 respectively. I do have a pair of casual brown and running shoes now, but I have a hard time finding shoes that fit at thrift stores. I try to find shoes before I need them so I have a backup pair. I don't want to hoard, so I try to just have a single backup of each of the types of shoes I need: running/exercise shoes, brown boots, brown casual, brown dress, brown summer, black casual, black dress.
* I found a Carhartt coat at a thrift store. It was marked $10 AS IS, but the tag color was half off. I checked it over and the only issues were: it had a company logo on the front and there were a couple grease stains on the front. However, I just needed a really warm coat for wearing into work at the factory, but since I can often come out dirty, I didn't want to ruin a good coat. Also, I couldn't care less if it has a logo on it, since I am using this for utility not fashion. Can't beat Carhartts for $5!
* Our furnace will need replaced this coming year (if not sooner), so I am trying to be ok with lower temps for now. I am wearing slippers and lots of layers and covering up with a blanket whenever still.
* After I made fudge, I couldn't let all that chocolate left in the pan go to waste. I added milk and whisked thoroughly while heating over low heat. It wasn't strong enough for good hot chocolate, so I added some black cocoa but no more sugar. It was without a doubt the best hot chocolate I've ever had. And really, it was an important waste reduction measure. I had to make hot chocolate.
House and Home:
* I've been paying attention to little details around the house. When I am done with the kettle, there is usually a little water left. I open the lid and spout to let that steam evaporate. I do the same with pots of boiling water, removing the items, but not immediately dumping the water down the drain. My thinking is that this will humidify the air just a tiny bit and it costs nothing to try. I also open the toaster oven door after I remove the last item to let that little bit of warm air out. I turn off the burner a few minutes before I need to since I use cast iron and that retains heat quite well.
* I went to my interview with the factory. It went really well and he is calling me later after my drug test and background check come through. He said he is going to try to get me in at the next round of hiring (in a month), otherwise I'll be in the following round (5-6 weeks from now). He said he will try to give me as advanced notice as possible. I contacted a couple people from my old department and they are going to let management know that I am coming back. One person is friends with the person in charge of hiring for the department, so I'm hoping that I can get back into my old area since I got along with the coworkers and managers and enjoyed the work. That being said, the common theme in all of my jobs is I love all of my coworkers and managers, so even if I go somewhere else, I'm hopeful that it will be a good situation.
* I've been thinking a lot about the job/career situation. I had hoped that something else would come up, but ultimately, I decided that I have to be realistic about what my family needs. I'm too old to keep floating job to job or working jobs that don't pay a living wage. We have both had more health issues and our finances are getting more complicated. My stepdaughter is a big part of this decision. We don't know what the coming years will hold, but we do know that we want to have a stable place for her in our lives. We can't do that well if we are on the ragged edge. It was one thing to be more transient when we knew we were scrappy and if need be could survive on foraged foods and cook outside with salvaged wood. We cannot and will not do that to her. This new job will provide a very solid pay rate (with periodic pay increases, by the end of two years, I'll be making 165% my current pay rate), attendance bonuses that equal $1200/year, 15-16 paid holidays, 1 week paid vacation (after 1 year) and after 2 years, I can get hired on permanently, with the most amazing benefits package I've ever heard of. This will give us the stability we need as we age and to welcome my stepdaughter and help her get a solid start to her adult life when the time comes.
* I had to quit the part time job. There was no heat and I ended up getting hypothermia one day. It was a windchill of -10 and air was blowing in from outside. By the second half of the day, I started taking my clothes off (not as scandalous as it sounds; hat, neck warmer, gloves, etc). One of my coworkers asked me where my gloves had gone and I told her I felt too hot. That's when I realized how absurd that sounded. I remembered talking about hypothermia with a coworker at the farm and she said "You only really have to be afraid once you start feeling hot." I feel really bad about it, but it was taking me 4-6 hours after each shift to be warm enough that I wasn't in pain (I have all the symptoms of Reynaud's, although I haven't been to my doctor to confirm). By that time, it was time to fall asleep. That's no way to live. Trucker was also worried about me and pretty much insisted that I find something else.
* My friend offered me a job at her restaurant. She knows it will be short-term until I start at the factory as is fine with it. Uniform is nice jeans and a polo shirt. I picked up two polos from the thrift: $.90, $1.50. I have a pair of jeans that is nice, but not my style, so I will wear those (since I'm just trying to look nice enough for work, not trying to express my personal style).
* Trucker picked up an additional shift at work. It was a short shift, but it worked out okay. I dropped him off, ran errands in the area and he was done by the time I finished.
* I went through orientation at the factory and am very excited to start. I found out that after a year, we can get health insurance! Overall, it seems that if anything, things have gotten better since I left technically (We will see what it is like once I start, but some of the things I remember the full-time contingent workers complaining about have changed). I am optimistic.
* I got free snacks and coffee during orientation.
* Trucker bought some home security items at auction for pennies on the dollar.
* Trucker signed up for an acting class in February.
* I took the Holmes and Rahe stress test. It was terrifying to see my score. I knew that I had been under a lot of stress, but hadn't realized just how bad it was. I felt like I've been a failure for not being "better" lately, but when I saw how absurdly high I tested, I started giving myself permission to not be perfect. I've been allowing myself to not accomplish "enough", to have more lazy days, to feel sad when I do. I think that this permission from myself to not be perfect is much needed and very helpful.
* It is very cold at work and a couple times I've felt a cold coming on. When I feel icky, I start gargling with salt water several times a day and chewing lots of vitamin C tablets and drinking emergen-c (I got a bunch of these on special for 75% off, so it is a couple pennies per serving). So far so good.
* At orientation, they encouraged us to use both our dominant and non-dominant hand while working so that we wouldn't wear out the dominant hand/elbow/shoulder. My left hand is extremely weak compared to my right hand. I went to a sports store and bought a hand resistance tool to build my left hand. I found that my right hand could easily compress it completely and my left hand struggled to barely move it. I carry it with me and do reps of 20 or so with just my left hand throughout the day. I overwork my right hand as it is, so the left one is the only one that needs the work. I also switched my mouse to my left hand. I'm hoping that by the time I start, it will be somewhat useful.
* I had issues with my limbs/extremities getting too cold while at work at the old job. After the day I got hypothermia, it took a few days before I felt alright.
* We found out that the medical bills from the accident are far more than anticipated, although we won't know for awhile how much. I was quite upset about it for a day. I am still nervous, but determined that we will get through this as we have every other struggle. I have a great partner, and we have survived when things were worse than this ($850 rent while making $1250 a month?).
* Trucker bought me a print from an artist we found on Facebook. She sells prints for $10 apiece. We found one that I absolutely loved and he bought it for me as a just-because gift. I was thrilled with the print and quality of the work. We also loved being able to buy directly from the artist. This is one of the nice things about frugality. You scrimp and pinch pennies when it comes to things that don't support what you believe in (I don't care to spend extra with the horrible electric company we have or to support big oil) or that aren't important to you, and then you have a bit more money to put it where you do believe (for us, local farmers and artists are high on the list, as a lot of our friends are included in those groups). I love having my home filled with a wide variety of artwork. In general, many of my pieces have come from auctions and thrift stores, so I am totally fine with spending some money to support artists trying to make a living with their work.
* When I first left the farm, my friend told me if I needed a job, I could come to her restaurant for as long or short a time as I needed. I was so touched by her offer and am so thankful for having such a good friend. She is definitely saving me over the next month.
* My coworkers from the farm stopped by to give us cookies. It was so thoughtful of them (and they were absolutely delicious).
* Trucker's boss gave me a free backpack that he couldn't sell. I will use it as my BOB.
* Mom gave us each a pair of slippers. They are really warm which is quite welcome this weekend (temps have been in the low single digits with windchills in the -10 range)
How was your week?