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 harvested a lot of basil, cherry tomatoes and peppers from the garden.
* I have been thinking a lot. Basically, I don't have a lot of time for the big garden and honestly, the shade keeps it from producing much. Considering we are wanting to relocate within a year or so, I think this is my last year growing a conventional garden. I am debating whether or not to plant garlic (I think I'll try to find someplace that I can plant it that can be easily fixed up when it is time to sell. I think this autumn I'll seed the garden to grass. Next year I'll do some container gardening or perhaps put some greens into the flower beds.
* That being said, I have been reading about microgreens a lot (a lot, a lot. Several books so far) and have gotten excited about it. I ordered from Johnny's a variety of microgreen seeds: sunflower (1 lb, organic), daikon radish (1/4 lb), cutting celery (1 oz), large leaf Italian basil (1 oz), parsley (1 oz), Vates collards (1/4 lb) and Early Wonder beets (1/4 lb). I didn't buy huge quantities of anything because I wanted to make sure this is something I enjoy growing and eating and don't tire of quickly. If I find that I go through these seeds quickly and want more, I will order larger packages.
* I started my first microgreens and it is really exciting! I planted daikon radish and sunflower shoots. I had bought bulk popcorn that I packed into jars and I had just a little bit of popcorn that wouldn't fit into the jars, so I sprouted that. It took just a couple days to germinate. Two days after germination and the radish seedlings will be ready for lunch tomorrow. The sunflowers and corn are growing well. Honestly, seeing those micros pop up so quickly makes me feel like a magician. I haven't felt that as a farmer and gardener in awhile.
* I have heard that some people buy whole mustard seed from the bulk spice section of the grocery store and I plan to explore this option as well. That would eliminate shipping costs and likely be cheaper than buying microgreen seed so it is definitely worth a try.
* The Daikon radish micros are amazing. Starts out nice and peppery with a strong kick at the end. Perfection. The sunflower micros smell like sunflower seeds, taste nutty and have a nice texture.
* At the salvage grocer, I found coriander for $.50/oz and mustard seed $.99/oz. I bought one mustard seed and all of the coriander. I have mustard and cilantro micros in my future!
* At the salvage grocer, I got some Soda Stream syrups for $.99. The same ones were at Meijer for $5!
* I went to our other salvage grocer one day because a detour on the way to work took me right by it. I got some goodies: cereal for $1/box, tortillas for $.50/12 pk, whole-grain flatbread 10/packs for $.50, ginger beer for $2/4 pack, and some whole-grain snacks I like for $.25/little bag (these I use for work lunches/road snacks).
* I went to the farm stand and got lots of yummies: tomatoes (cherry, beefsteak and paste), peppers (banana), kale, carrots (a mix of purple, yellow, white and orange), cauliflower and a watermelon. The next time I went I got peppers, tomatoes and a bunch of kale.
* I bought a tub of spinach artichoke hummus from Kroger on manager's special: $1.69. I have been enjoying open-faced hummus sandwiches with peppers (from my garden), tomatoes (from my garden or gifted), onion (Aldi), green olives (salvage grocer; $1 for a big jar) and lettuce. It is the perfect little meal.
* We made dinner together one day. We made cubed pork steak, cheesy cauliflower, candied carrots and a squash casserole. It was pretty yummy.
* I made nut rolls. I made a smear, added peanuts (I would prefer pecans, but cost is a factor), and then added refrigerated cinnamon roll dough. It isn't healthy or from-scratch, but it is quick and pretty cheap.
* I bought a 2 lb bag of onions at Kroger. They rang up at the wrong price, so they were free.
* We made tacos together one evening: ground beef from Aldi, microgreens (windowsill garden), tomatoes (parents' garden), peppers (parents' garden), onions (free), and sour cream (store brand on sale).
* I got a gift certificate in the mail after I contacted the grocery store about a problem I had.
* We went to my parents house one day to help in apple processing day. We made 18 quarts of apple sauce, enough sliced and frozen apples for 35-50 pies (I didn't get the final tally) and a few gallons of cider. We canned the cider and sauce. The cider was pressed from the cores and peels left over from pie slices. For years, I have tried to change my family's method of sauce making. My dad is a picky eater and would refuse to let us leave peels on. Finally, I brought my food mill and sieve and convinced him to let us make the first batch with the peels and he could decide whether we peeled subsequent batches. He relented. We just chunked the apples into the pot, peels, cores and all. We blended them (we had 3 blenders going), then my sister's boyfriend and I got to work with the sieve and food mill. When dad came over and saw the smoothness of the sauce, he was amazed. He kept going on about how he had never seen such perfect sauce. I delighted in showing him the tiny bits of peel waste pressed out and he realized on his own that there was more peel in the than that, but it was so smooth that it wouldn't affect the quality. I think that was an important moment for him. All of my talk about lessened food waste, nutrient levels in the skin and flesh directly under the skin, reduced labor and flavor improvements by leaving peels on was not enough to convince him to eat applesauce that had gross tough bits in it. Once I was able to show him that he could have it both ways, he was sold. I have been trying to accomplish this for seven years, so this goes to show it is never to late.
* We made a small batch of tomato sauce and froze it for winter.
* I froze some soup for future meals.
* I got to have lunch with my BBF, Daisy, and her incredible child. I always enjoy hanging out with her. We met up at Panera and talked for a couple hours. We were both a little down on ourselves (as I think a lot of women tend to be) for not being "good enough" at the major life changes we have going on. Daisy and I have such a good friendship. We both encouraged each other and talked through some of the mental hurdles we have been facing. We both came away more hopeful. That is exactly what I need and want in a friend and I am so thankful for her. And it isn't just all the deep stuff! We brought presents! I brought her a little terrarium with a plant that looks like brains (bought at the salvage grocer, of all places) and she brought me teenage mutant ninja turtles spoon and fork set! For what more could you ask in a friend? (Trucker also sent a Star Wars travel cup for her hubby and Daisy gave Trucker a gift for a weird little collection he has).
* Trucker and I splurged on a really fun date night. A local theater had a horror movie marathon. We ate a big meal before we left home and brought some of our own snacks (but did buy a large popcorn and sodas to split for $13). We sneaked in a couple of energy shots we got from Aldi (for around $1 each) that we took around 3 AM. We intended to stay the entire event and score free movie tickets and coupons for popcorn, but we punked out at 4:30 AM. The event lasted until 10 or so! Even without the freebies, it was still worthwhile. We got to see three movies in a posh, historic theatre and eat yummy snacks. Plus, the money supported the local art scene, as this theatre is associated with the local art association and hosts a lot of documentaries and independent film.
* We went out for coffee, using our travel mugs. We earned free coffee with our rewards card.
* I went out shopping with my mom and sister to get ready for our other sister's wedding/anniversary party. I didn't spend anything, but helped my mom find deals on items she needed.
* One day when Trucker had to work during the day, I went to work early to see my old coworkers. I brought cookies that I got on sale at the grocery store ($6). It was so fun to get to see them and catch up. After that, I went across the street to my gym and went swimming for an hour. I had forgotten just how much I love swimming. I also relaxed in the hot tub for a bit which felt a little like heaven.
* We went to a park in the suburbs for a fiddle concert. We also got to walk around and look at some beautiful gardens.
* After a recommendation from a friend on an online forum, I am reading Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi's book All Your Worth. It is a great read and has gotten me back into a proper mindset for working towards our goals. They propose a very basic budget: 50% for Must-Haves (expenses you need to survive and would continue to pay if you lost your job), 30% for Wants (items that are not necessary for survival, but make life more enjoyable) and 20% for saving/debt repayment. I ran the numbers and now that I have the new job, it looks pretty good. I've got 14% total going towards 401k (She says to include employer contributions to retirement). I have 3% automatically put into my savings account (a small amount, but I wanted to just get started putting something in and plan to increase the amount now that I know we are making it). So far this month, I've put 4.5% of my pay towards extra debt payments (I consider the minimum payments to be a Must-have and extra payments can come from the savings category). That brings us to 21.5% so far. I pay my mortgage with my next paycheck and have one more before the end of the month and plan to put another large payment onto a debt with that. Note that this is pre-tax income and her plan says to use post-tax income, so I'm feeling pretty good.
* I redeemed some rewards points I had for cash. I got an $8 check that I put onto a credit card.
* I checked my credit score for free on my bank's website. It dropped a little all of a sudden. I did some digging and the only thing I can think is that last June, I paid off one of my credit cards, the oldest one (score date was July 31). I wonder if it isn't being reported as active since I hadn't used it for a year. If it is considered inactive, that dramatically decreases the average age of my accounts as I've had this for well over a decade. I used it to charge a couple of small things and paid it off a week later. We will see if that has any impact. As it is, I'm still in a decent range for qualifying for a mortgage, but want to get it as high as possible for the best rate.
* Trucker got both our cars' oil changed. He said that they tried to charge him almost $100 to change my air filter. He said, "no thank you" but was glad for the reminder. He picked up an air filter for $10, minus a $3 rebate. It was a five minute fix, making his tax-free hourly rate $1116.
* I have gotten in the habit of checked the manager's special racks at Meijer for undergarments. I have found underwear marked down from $6 to $1.50-2.30 and bras for $5 for regular (marked down from $25-30) and $2 for sports bras (marked down from $18). Granted, they don't always have my size, and the sports bras tend to be in colors I wouldn't chose, but for that discount, it is always worth checking.
* I am making lots of extra little payments onto my credit cards. I made a few more payments since the above calculations.
* We composted lots of things.
* I had two tank tops that were stretched out badly, so the straps were constantly falling down. I used them under my work uniform for awhile, but it got annoying. I cut them down into rags and ended up with only the straps being thrown away.
House and Home:
* Trucker replaced two doors in the house that had some dents in them.
* We got a new pot holder on manager's special for $4. When we got home, we threw out the 3 we had that were falling apart. Part of me wanted to save them to recover with new fabric to make new, but honestly, since I have so little time, I knew that it would just be clutter.
* We also bought a set of sheets that were on manager's special for $15 (down from $45) in a color that coordinates well with our other sets. We got rid of a couple old sheets.
* Mom gave me a pretty planter for my birthday coming up.
* Work was cancelled one day due to a supplier issue. We were tickled pink to have an unexpected day/night off together. We miss each other terribly during the work week and the weekends fly by, plus there are family and friend obligations. We made lunch together, cuddled and watched a movie, went out for coffee, got Dairy Queen blizzards during their special buy-one-get-one-for-$.99 deal and walked around town. Then we went home and worked on some house projects together. It was one of the nicest days off I've had in awhile.
* I have a couple of funny random work benefits that I never would have planned, but that will shave a little off the budget. First, we have a laundry service available for our work uniforms that I wasn't eligible to use as a temp. Now, I use it and it reduces our laundry by one load a week (saving on detergent, electricity and water). Also, after work I am disgusting. It's true. Now that I am not in a hurry to get home and see Trucker (he is asleep before I get home), I take a shower at work each evening. It wakes me up so I have a safer time driving home. When I get home, I don't have to worry about waking Trucker up while getting ready for bed and I can just crawl into bed as soon as I get there. Also, it saves me from the water cost of doing 5 showers a week. Sure, water costs aren't the biggest budget expense, but it certainly can't hurt! The Simple Dollar estimates the cost of a load washed/dried clothes at $.97 just in water and energy. Assuming $.25/load for detergent, this will save us $55-60/yr. For showering, this calculator estimated the cost at $.46/shower in water and gas to heat the water. This brings us to around $110/yr. (note: I specifically avoided using websites that were trying to sell washing machines or shower heads. Those figures were several times higher than this which makes sense since they wanted to convince me to drop money on their products.) So, these two little benefits save me $165 or so a year. Certainly not a game-changer, but is enough to make a difference when that money can be thrown towards debt repayment. Quite a ramble this is! This is how my brain works...all the time. haha
* I worked a half hour overtime most days. We will likely begin working some Saturdays within a month or so.
* I talked with two loan officers (the credit union at my job and the bank where we have our current mortgage) and a realtor. If everything goes according to plan, we should be able to start looking for properties in the country in spring. I also talked with my current bank and they said they have no problem with us renting out our current home if we chose. That is an option we would like to do, as we can rent the place out for significantly more than our mortgage (Our house needed some repairs costing around $5k when we bought it that had kept it on the market for a long time, leading to a $20k discount on the house). Does anyone have any thoughts on renting out the previous house? We love the idea of multiple streams of income (If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Robert Allen's book of that title).
* I got my annual physical for free this week. This gives me a significant discount on insurance.
* Second shift is rough. I'm starting to adjust, but it is really frustrating. My low point came when my local theatre called to offer me discounted tickets to the symphony and I had to say "no" because I'll be working every evening that there is a show. I've consoled myself by promising that once I go back to first shift, I'm buying Trucker and I season tickets for one year. I'll likely be on second for 4-8 years, so it would only be a buck or two a week. As strange as it sounds, just that decision has made it easier on me. I realized that the worst part of this new transition was having nothing to look forward to. When I worked first shift, all day I looked forward to coming home and hanging out with Trucker. Now, when I wake up, my darn mental clock starts ticking until I have to leave, and then at work, I have nothing to look forward to other than lying in bed reading alone, as Trucker is already asleep most nights. I went through a pretty rough patch for a bit, but I think that the idea of an outrageous luxury later on is helping. We have always had a bit of spending money earmarked for each of us to spend on things that will make us happy. During the worst of the recession, it was $5 a month. Now it is higher, not outrageous, but enough that Trucker can buy some books he wants and help with crowd funding different art projects. I, on the other hand, almost never spend it and it gets absorbed into the family budget. Trucker gets on me for not feeling I deserve to treat myself. Warren encouraged having a section of the budget dedicated to "wants" that you spend absolutely without guilt. Once I ran the math, it was obvious I can give myself a little something and not harm our financial well-being. If saving $1.75 a week for me to spend at a later date on 12 amazing shows at the symphony keeps me going on the rough, lonely nights, I think it is money well spent.
* My coworker gave me some wonderful tomatoes from her garden.
* Trucker volunteered at the shelter.
* My parents sent me home with apples (Dad teased me that I was welcome to take any apple products that hadn't been processed at all. So basically apples.), tomatoes (they were so over making tomato sauce after last weekend's fiasco of a wheelbarrow heaped full of tomatoes turned into sauce and the sink getting plugged up and having to removed the plumbing all the way back to the main line) and peppers (Dad was overly generous since he doesn't like peppers; I gave some of them back to Mom so she could have them with her eggs).
* I gave my parents some cases of canning jars. I'd gotten them years ago and still haven't learned to can. We are trying to clear out clutter as we intend to move in a year. They have given me canned/jarred items in the past, and while I try to always remember to return them, I know I forget sometimes. This should cover me.
* At the farm stand I got to talk with an old ally from my work in food security. We were both feeling a little down, and ended up spending two hours talking and laughing together in the rain. It was a needed meeting.