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.
* The garden is petering out. I am harvesting a couple cherry tomatoes and the occasional pepper or medium-sized tomato. It is almost time to pull everything out, level out the ground and sow grass seed. I also need to tackle the front garden. There is still some poison ivy in there (This is obviously super-hero strength poison that cannot be killed by any earthly means) so I dread the inevitable rash that will accompany weeding (even with gloves/long clothes/showering immediately after). Then I need to plant some fall bulbs and mulch heavily so springtime landscaping efforts will be minimal.
* Trucker did the autumn pruning.
* I harvested some baby carrots, turnips and a few more peppers.
* We made loaded baked potatoes with a slice of bacon, crumbled, cheese, sour cream, butter, scallions and seasoning. Frugal and amazingly satisfying.
* Trucker bought me a loaf of seeded sourdough rye. It was amazing. I have been enjoying it with fried eggs as my after-work meal/snack. I froze half the loaf because I don't eat a ton of bread anymore.
* I made cheesy pasta with veggies: peppers, onion and garlic.
* I had some ground pastured lamb in the freezer. We used 1/3 lb to make meatballs to serve with pasta. We browned the rest for later use.
* We made gyro bowls with the rest of the lamb. I stopped at the all-night kroger on the way home from work. I found tzatziki for $1.89, garlic hummus for $1.50 (I got two), a cucumber for $1 and a small head of lettuce for $.67. Kroger usually sells all the varieties of lettuce for $1.99/lb. I buy the smaller heads so they don't go bad before we can finish them. I also had parsley and cherry tomatoes from the garden. The gyro bowls were fantastic and filling. We had enough for 6 meals with plenty of ingredients leftover for other meals.
* I found a half rack of ribs at kroger on managers special for $3. They were precooked, just needed reheated. I got them for trucker's dinner while I was at work. He really enjoyed them.
* We got a couple steaks. They were around $7/lb, but we found some packages with BOGO coupons on them, making them cheaper than the cheapest ground beef. We also found a huge package of stuffed clams for $4 (around 1.25/lb), salmon stuffed with crab stuffing ($5/lb, around 1/2 lb), a seasoned pork shoulder (2 lbs at $2.89/lb) and gorgonzola (6 oz for $3.50). We froze the steaks and salmon. We had the clams for lunch one day.
* I cooked the pork in the slow cooker. I strained off the cooking liquid to use as a soup base. We used the pork for tacos and pulled pork sandwiches (with gorgonzola, saurkraut and pickled peppers). I froze some of the pork for later.
* We hard boiled 2 dozen eggs for trucker to eat during the week. We got them for free at Meijer with a coupon.
* I went to a produce giveaway at the end. I got items that would otherwise have been thrown away. I got 3 large red cabbages, 10 lbs potatoes, 5 lbs apples, 3 cantaloupes, 10 ears of corn, 18 sub rolls and 6 dozen small eggs.
* I made caramelized onions in the slow cooker and froze in ice cube trays for winter use.The cooking liquid was frozen for soup making.
* I blanched and froze 6 ears of corn, cut from the cob. I froze 6 sub rolls.
* After our crazy busy weekend, we spent a couple mornings before work just watching movies from the library and eating. The rest was much needed.
* We went to the gallery hop one Saturday. It was amazing. It has been a long time since we were able to make it to one, so I appreciated it all the more.
* We went on a few coffee dates.
* We went to a play that a new friend was acting in. It was a nice evening and so nice to see her again.
* We went with my sister and her boyfriend to the art museum on the free day. We had a good time and great talks. Afterwards we went out to get and used a BOGO coupon. Each couple spent around $20 total for the date.
* Trucker checked out a special film for me from the library. It was a shocking film made by Salvador Dali, my favorite painter.
* We went to a state park that was once a farm operated with rotational pasturing, French drains and other soil-building methods.
* We went to the arboretum for an afternoon.
* I needed some new jeans as my one remaining nice pair is starting to look a little on the tired side. I went to a thrift store and bought three pairs of jeans. Each pair was the half off color tag. I paid $5, $3 and $1.50 for decent brand jeans in good condition. Trucker also got a pair of very nice jeans for $7.50 and a pair of dress slacks for $2.
* I updated our health tracker to earn gift cards and a discount on health insurance through my employer.
* I paid off the credit card with the highest interest rate. It had the smallest balance, but I am still excited to have a minor victory. I also made extra payments on the credit card with the next highest balance.
* Every pay day, I look at my bill calendar and see what bills will come out before I get paid again. I subtract that from the current checking balance. I estimate what we will need to spend on living expenses for the week. I give a little wiggle room, and the rest is transferred to extra credit card payments.
* I continue to have money from my paycheck automatically put into both my savings account and 401k.
* I got signed up for insurance for next year. I signed up for the cheaper plan for a few reasons. First, it is hundreds cheaper in premiums each year and the deductible and max out of pocket is the same. Finally, if I don't spend a lot on health care in a given year, some money rolls over for future years. Any money in the account when I retire goes with me then. I signed up for a health savings account and have a small amount from each paycheck put in. I could get free dental insurance or pay $2.29/wk for better insurance. By getting the better insurance, i I don't have a deductible. That essentially drops the cost to $44/yr and we each get an additional $500 in care for the year. We get free vision, life and disability. I made sure to get a waiver since Trucker doesn't have an offer of health insurance elsewhere. That saves us $1800/yr in premiums. I made appointments for our biometric screenings. That is the last thing we have to do for our wellness discount of $1000/yr. All told, I will pay $780/yr for our health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance. This is by far the best part of this job. There are some aspects of the job that I don't like (primarily the commute and the shift), but the realities of the benefit package outweigh those costs.
* I have a very fun vintage necklace that I adore. One of the beads had a crack in the finish. I knew it would eventually chip off and since it is the most prominent piece, the necklace would then be worthless. I got my mod-podge (left over from other projects) and painted over the bead. It dried clear and will keep the crack from getting worse. It was only a $3 necklace, but I like it.
* While we watched a movie from the library, I mended some of Trucker's clothes. Two shirts needed buttons. One shirt had a spare, but the other didn't. We were able to find a close enough match in my button stash. Two other shirts had small tears that I mended.
* I used saved food containers to give food to people.
House and Home:
* We are eating down the pantry. We are wanting to get it more organized and have it take up less real estate. We will also save a good amount of money by eating from the pantry instead of buying everything.
* I've been working some overtime. Lots more coming.
* We stumbled upon a perfect farm at an absurd price. We set up everything to go see it and confirmed we could afford it, only to find out the next day that the house had gone into contract days previous and the listing hadn't been updated. It was disappointing, but we had planned on looking in spring so we would be in a stronger financial stance going into our second home. I did have a good talk with our REA about what we want and told him if he finds a place that meets our needs at around the same price, we want to go look immediately. It will likely be a year until we find such a place again, but it is exciting to be starting to look.
* We are active on our days off. Lots of active activities, such as walking around an art neighborhood for a couple hours or hitting the parks.
* We are eating lots of produce now. I do food prep when I can so adding produce is easy.
* My mom sends out cards. A lot of cards. She sends thousands of cards a year for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and just because. We joke that she alone keeps their tiny village's post office open. She wants to make sure people feel appreciated and remembered, but it does cost her a lot of money over the year. I know what kinds of cards she likes, so when I'm out thrifting, I look for boxes of cards at a good price. I found 4 boxes this week at about half the price at the dollar store and they were really nice cards.
* My coworker and I exchanged snacks.
* I gave another co-worker some kraut. He has been having some digestive problems, so hopefully that helps.
* I gave a friend half of the items I got at the produce giveaway. We had a great time talking with her and her boyfriend.