Saturday, December 30, 2017

Miss out

We suffer from a fear of missing out. We are terrified that if we don't check our phones constantly, we will miss out on the next thing. We will miss a trending hashtag, a viral meme or the latest gossip. We do the same thing in life. We buy the latest phone because we don't want to miss out on the new features.  We read magazines that keep us from missing the latest fashion. We plan our days around television showtimes so we don't miss out on what the gang is up to. It costs a lot, both in terms of money and of life energy and time.

I'll let you in on a little secret. We all miss out on things all the time. Every choice for one item or direction means choosing against one or more others. Every time you go to work, you miss out on spending time with your kids, or sleeping in, or taking a day trip, or working on your book, or catching up on chores. Every time you choose not to work overtime, say in favor of date night with your partner, you are missing out on the money that would have brought. That money could have knocked down debt, bought a needed household item or paid for an outing for the kids. Every time you eat according to your diet, you miss out on chocolate cake or ice cream or French fries. You're darned if you do, darned if you don't.

Or are you? Going to work instead of staying home may mean you miss out on sleeping in, but maybe it also means you miss out on homelessness. Sticking to the diet means you lose out on the chance to eat your favorite treat but may add many happy years to your life.

Missing out isn't the worst thing that can happen. Living a life that doesn't align with your values and desires is. Choose your loved ones. Choose your freedom or your security. Choose to live in the moment. Chose to sacrifice for the future you want.
Choose what you miss out on and what  you wouldn't miss for the world. Your life depends on it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 11/25 - 12/17

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 bought three houseplants when we stopped at Meijer for something else. I recently joined a houseplant hobbiest group on FB and they are bad influences. I got an Ingrid Ivy, Dragon's Tongue and angel wing begonia (It was not labelled, but someone from the group IDed for me) for $2.99/each. I am really enjoying this hobby. Given my time constraints these days, it is hard to find time for any pleasurable pastimes. This takes relatively little time each day, but I have a lot of fun with it. Plus, it is a great air purifier!
* The lavender plant appeared to be dying, but when I inspected it today, there were some tiny new shoots. Glad I didn't jump the gun and dump it.
* I put some more pothos clippings in water to root. I want to have more beautiful plants all around the house.
I love this little plant I found in a coffee shop.
I can't wait to find a fun bottle to try it myself.
* I hit the Lowe's clearance rack. Oh. My. Goodness. It is amazing. I got 3 begonias ($1 each), a croton ($1), a dracnea ($3) and a fern ($3). It is so exciting! Trucker got a Venus Fly Trap. It wasn't on clearance, but it was only $5. I think it is a small price to pay to get him on board with my jungle. He isn't into botany like I am, but is very supportive of me. I do so want him to get bitten by the gardening bug so he goes buck-wild with me when we garden at the next place.

* We have relied on quick and easy meals: spaghetti with sausage and tomato sauce, soup from the freezer, deli meat sandwiches, baked potatoes.
* Trucker brought me breakfast in bed one morning. He woke me up with a glass of juice and freshly brewed coffee (He always tries to plan his consumption so a fresh pot is ready when I wake up). Then he brought up his wonderful french toast with eggs and banana. We sat in bed and talked while we enjoyed our feast. He is so kind and thoughtful.
* We made homemade taco hamburger helper. I sauteed onions and peppers (peppers were already chopped in the freezer), then added hamburger (leftover from the freezer). I made a cheese sauce using cheddar cheese powder, chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and the last of a container of chipotle cheddar dip we had leftover. I also added the last of a bag of shredded cheese. I mixed in half a can of refried beans. I mixed all this together with 3/4 lb macaroni. This was incredibly filling with the addition of the beans and lasted for several meals. For those wondering, you couldn't tell there were beans in the mix, except that a small portion was insanely filling.
This piece was done entirely with a palette knife. No brush!
* I pulled a large container of taco soup out of the freezer. It was enough for 4 meals that were quick heat-and-eat affairs. For the last bowl, it wasn't quite enough for a meal, so I added some crumbled tortilla chips from the bottom of the bag.
* We made Trucker's taco dip (In hindsight, it does appear we eat nothing but taco-inspired dishes). We had a layer of refried beans, then sour cream and cream cheese, lettuce, peppers, onions, cheddar cheese and black olives. We had it with tortilla chips while we watched a movie. There were enough leftovers for a few more meals.
* We bought a container of crab dip/spread on manager's special for $1.30. We used that to make several sandwiches. It was very flavorful and satisfying.
This piece we saw at the gallery hop is far
beyond my skill level, but was so inspirational.
* We found a manager's special on ice cream. It was PB&J ice cream in back-to-school packaging, so they were clearing it out. It was $1/half gallon. When I was young, I used to get a scoop of vanilla ice cream, add a huge dollop of peanut butter and a spoonful of jelly for what I considered to be the most decadent dessert ever. I had completely forgotten about that until I tried this ice cream.

* We walked at the mall one day when it was too cold to walk outside.  We had a good time laughing at weird fashion.
* We went to the gallery hop. It was magical as always. We got Thai food beforehand using a Groupon. There was a show of scratchboard pieces. I used to scratchboard years ago. Trucker encouraged me to try again. Later that week I made a couple of simple pieces. Two of them were of horses. My work friend recently got a horse so I gave them to her as a celebratory gift.
* Trucker planned an amazing date for us. We have had a crazy few weeks and hadn't really had much time together to connect. He found a free craft class at the Urban Art Space. We made mobiles. Trucker made a phone. A mobile phone. I adore him. After that, we went out for coffee and reading. We brought travel mugs so our coffee was only $3.50. Trucker said that there was a Greek restaurant near his agent's office and every time he drives by he thinks he needs to take me there. We were right down the road and when I checked my coupon app, we had a BOGO coupon. We got giant gyros and an order of fries to split. By then it was dark, so we went to a local park downtown along the river for their lights show. We got a couple miles walking in and enjoyed the jazz music playing from the speakers. It was an amazing date and all in cost $15.
* I did a little drawing and found that it is not like riding a bicycle. I won't give up though!

* I got my insurance packet for the new year. Now that they updated my completion of our wellness program, the cost is actually lower than I was initially told. We will pay $9.50/week ($494/yr) for all insurance needs (health, life, short and long-term disability, AD&D, vision, dental, etc).
* I noticed that the life insurance policy was pending approval for Trucker. I called and they are supposed to send me the forms to fill out.

House and Home:
* I bought a bed, finally. We have never found a good bed at a good price, so we have just had a mattress and box springs on the floor. I found a local woodworker selling beautiful pallet beds for $170 for a full. It is a little rough, but has potential. I'll need to send it down, apply fungicide (just in case), stain and seal it. It will take some work, but even with the supplies it will cost around $190. They said that the pallets aren't chemically treated, but just in case, I let it off-gas in a well-ventilated part of the house for a couple of weeks with windows and doors open and exhaust fan on whenever possible. I will add a couple layers of polyurethane. I think that should take care of any issues.
* We rearranged our bedroom to accommodate the bed and get a fresh feel.

* My job gave us a pizza party one day to celebrate a quality achievement. We got a slice of pizza, a soda or water and a cookie.
The city looks magical at night when the moon
is full. Even on chilly nights, the gallery hop
never fails to revive my spirits. Thankfully, it
happens every month!
* Another day they had the annual holiday meal. We got turkey and cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed carrots, roll and pecan or pumpkin pie with a soda or water.
* I've been working some overtime.
* Trucker's boss bought them pizza for lunch a couple times.
* Awhile back, I signed up to donate to a local homeless shelter directly through my paycheck during our United Way drive. I was able to select a shelter near where we live. They gave us a punch card for a free drink each month at the cafeteria. I have used that for days that I get to work super early and read in the cafeteria. Each time I do this instead of stopping at a coffee house, I save $1.70.

* Trucker is in another film. This is a local one. He got cast as a cop, but when he got to filming, they also had him put a ski mask on and do a robbery scene. The next day the director called him and said he did amazing and asked if he could come in for a second day of filming. He got to do a few roles and several scenes.

* I got free preventative exams.
* We switched to 90 day refills on our prescriptions to save $80-100/year.
* I had a minor procedure done. I'm in a little pain, but it will be fine in a couple days. I feel very fortunate because after insurance and my employer-sponsored health fund, I didn't have to pay anything out of pocket for a procedure that would have cost over $600 without insurance. After having lived so long without insurance, I am thankful every time I can get quality health care instead of having to struggle through home remedies. While I still certainly aim to stay healthy and use some home remedies, there are certain things that aren't practical or best to diy. For example, I once super glued a finger tip back on. It worked out okay and I have no bad numbness or tingling in it, but would prefer to never have to do that again.

This lovely picture stand
cost a whopping $3!
* I took my sister out thrifting for her wedding. We found about $300 worth of decorative items for $35. We also stopped at our booth and we gave her a few items that hadn't sold (a cake stand, compote and cloche). I was so excited to be able to help her with it. We stopped back at the house and I made soup and grilled sandwiches for a really cheap lunch. I tried to expose her to some sauteed cabbage but she wasn't digging it. It worked out wonderfully for both of us. She was able to save a ton of money while still getting a pretty wedding and it was so reviving to feel needed and like I was valued.
* Daisy offered to let my sister borrow some of the decorations from her wedding. She is so kind and I am very thankful for her.
* We got a new guy in my area. He mentioned that he wanted to catch a ball game, but it was pricey. I ran over to the cabinet where I had left the Entertainment book for coworkers to browse. I showed him a whole page of coupons for sporting events and told him to take whatever he wanted.
* I had a scary doctor's appointment and was really nervous leading up to it. Trucker came with me to the appointment and afterwards, when I tried to turn left to walk back to the car, he turned me right. He said that a donut would make everything better. We went to a local treasure that makes an epic Buckeye donut (yeast donut with chocolate icing and peanut butter). For just $2.50, we had a nice mini-date that made me feel cherished and distracted me a bit. (For the record, all is well, so I can go back to not worrying).
How was your week?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money ???-11/24

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.

Sorry, yet again for late/missing posts. The work schedule has been rough and the DST blues hit me particularly strong this year. I think I've made it through the worst of it.
* We got our first snow. The garden is done for the year.
* I took clippings from my golden pothos plant and rooted them in a vase of water. The house is turning into a jungle, and I like it. We are getting some great health benefits from all the greenery and it definitely helps make me feel more alive while I'm cooped up indoors.
* I dug up a lavender plant from the garden and brought it inside. It was accidentally left in the garden over last winter and not only survived, but thrived. It is huge compared to the potted lavender I remembered to bring in last fall. I put it in a fairly large pot. Hopefully I didn't kill it. It's root system was a lot larger than I expected and I think I ripped up some of it.
* Lavender update: It seems to be doing fine. No new growth, but it hasn't shriveled up and died. I had some shells left from when we bought stuffed clams (I cleaned them really well) and used those to cover the soil to retain moisture. It looks nice.
* I had a couple decent sized heads of red cabbage so for my after-work meal/snack, I have often sauteed them in a little butter and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Easy and delicious.
* We made tacos one night with the last of the $.75/lb ground pork from the freezer.
* We had baked potatoes often.
* We got a ton of eggs. Like, 10 dozen. We gave some away, but then I had a coupon from Meijer for $.35/off a dozen eggs and they were on sale for $.49/dozen. How could I pass up $.14/dozen eggs? That's right. I couldn't. So, we have hard boiled them by the dozen. Trucker eats them while I'm at work. I struggle to get him to make meals for himself, so this is an easy way to make sure he is getting some nutrition while I'm away. We also used several to make goldenrod eggs.
* I made fried cheesy eggs with some gorgonzola.
* I made stock with frozen scraps. It was delicious.
* I used the stock and some leftovers to make a taco soup: ground pork, poblano and jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic. I also added a jar of salsa and a can of creamed corn. Out-of-pocket cost was around $.75 for a dozen meals.

* We went out with my parents a few times. Once, we took them out for pizza at a local pizzeria. Another time we took them out for coffee at Panera (and used our rewards card) and then Dad took us all out for Steak n Shake. We had a coupon in our entertainment book for BOGO entree salads, so that is what Mom and I did.
* Mom and I met up one day before work for lunch. Afterwards, we went shopping for a trip she had coming up. I had a coupon for 10% off at a thrift store where she found a couple pairs of jeans. I didn't buy anything.
* We went to the gallery hop. I do so love the whole affair: the street performers, the art, the bustle. It is the only time of the month that I am glad that I live in the city.
* We went to my family's one evening. My parents are out of town, so we and my siblings (and significant others) had a movie night. Batman Begins and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I brought snacks. I made popcorn (buttered, BBQ and Nacho). I also brought crackers with manager's special cheese (garlic ginseng jack and ranch cheddar and chipotle cheddar spreads). We made mocktails with orange juice and 7up (surprisingly good). It was one of the nicest evenings I can remember. We got to play with their dogs (3-year-old and 6-month-old Goldendoodles).
* I went out with coworkers a couple times after work. It is the closest to socialization I get most of the time, since my free waking hours after from 1-5 AM. I don't drink and just get a cheap appetizer or a lemonade.
* I got to go out with Daisy one afternoon before work. We went out for Panera. It was so wonderful to spend time with her and her adorable little. She gave me a hysterical gag gift.

My coworker spotted this lil friend when we
were going into Roosters. How cool!
* We went out for a walk at the audobon one day before work on a rare warm and dry day. We did another day for a couple hours. It is on the way to work, and is great to get a little outdoors time since I am indoors pretty much all the time I'm not driving these days.

* We completed our wellness checklist to get the maximum discount on insurance.
* I redeemed points to pay down a credit card. I am carefully using the credit card. I make payments every few days to pay off whatever I spent and a little extra. Those points are helping to knock down the balance.
* I get to check my credit score for free through one of my banks. Over the last couple of months I have been working hard to knock down the credit card debt we incurred after the accident. Just in the last two months, I have raised my credit score by 33 points, raising from the fair to the good range. I intend to keep going strong.
* I checked my retirement account and it looks pretty good. Not factoring in my other retirement accounts (at some point I do plan on consolidating them), at my current contributions (I also have it set up for contributions to increase by 1% every January for my entire career and have some good sized raises coming over the next several years), I will have about the same income level as I have now, assuming the market performs average. I do plan to save more, because you never know, but it is nice to see that I'm catching up from my rough years. I had saved a considerable amount for the first several years that I was on my own, but saved nothing during the recession and the few years after.
* I had a certain percentage of my paycheck put into savings and  401k each week.

House and Home:
* Steve got more vent deflectors to keep the warm air from going right against the windows. This definitely makes the house feel warmer at the same thermostat setting.

* We got our biometric screenings done.
* Trucker got a phone call from the dental school. He had an appointment for next week to get some dental work done, but the students are starting to panic because they need their hours in to graduate. Three different students offered to do a quarter of deep gum cleaning for free (He has the other quarter getting done next week). He also gets a few more free visits and cleanings.
* We switched to 90 mail-order prescriptions for our maintenance meds. That reduces our cost from $5/month (plus an up-charge of 10% penalty after 3 refills) to $10/3 months.
* Our coupon book is expiring soon, so I brought it in to share with my coworkers. I noticed a stack of coupons on my boss's desk. Another coworker said that he is taking his little girl out bowling over the weekend with one of the coupons.
How was your week?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This Week Beyond Money 10/2 - 10/22

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.

Food Preservation:
* 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.

Waste Reduction:
* 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.

How was your week?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 9/25 - 10/1

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 few cherry and medium-sized tomatoes and a few Christmas Tree peppers.
* I planted more mustard micros.
* I harvested some micros.

* I made a strawberry apple crisp pie. I used a boxed pie crust (again, bleck) to use it up. The apples were from my parent's trees and the strawberries were just a few left from snacking that needed to be used soon. I made a crumble topping. I didn't add any sugar other than to the topping, so it wasn't overly sweet, but made for nice breakfasts.
* I made a cheesy pasta using up a box of elbow macaroni (store brand on manager's special, $.50/lb), the rest of the cheese and milk (to use up before our trip), two onion halves (I had previously cut into one not realizing I already had a half in the refrigerator), sweet peppers, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes (sauteed) and carrots. We used it for lunches for a couple days.

Food Preservation:
* I froze several medium-sized tomatoes. We were leaving on a weekend trip and they were going to turn before we had a chance to use them. I tossed them, skin and all into the freezer.
* I froze portions of the pasta dish to use later.
* I froze some shishito peppers (sauteed) for later.

* We had a long coffee date one day before work. Trucker had to run errands afterwards and I had to go to work, so when we got hungry we decided to order food there. I had a coupon that if I placed my order online I got $5 off. We ordered online and just walked up to the counter to pick it up. After the coupon and taxes, the meal was $2.75. Not too shabby for a pretty filling meal for two. We used our travel mugs to get a discount on the coffee.

* I loved spending time on the beach. Letting the water crash in around my legs. Climbing rocks. Watching that awesome sunset. I got a cold from getting wet but it was totally worth it.

* Trucker has opened a couple of micro-investment accounts. One he has a small portion invested each week. The other rounds up his purchases to the next dollar and invests that money. He also has a Roth IRA that he has money transferred automatically each month. I ran the numbers and just at those three accounts, he is putting away 10% of his after-tax income. He also saves a variable amount into a savings account. I make more than he does, and he does more around the house than I do (especially important as we are working at getting the house sale-ready). However, between the two of us, we are saving a good percentage of our income and making progress.
* Between debt repayments and savings, including retirement, I saved 30.3% of my after-tax income in September.

* I worked a bit of overtime most days.

* Trucker filmed for a new movie this week. He played a villain and got shot!
* He also had another audition.

* We ate way too much during our weekend trip. Back to the diet now!
* My blood pressure is decent.
* Trucker is running a lot at softball. I am really proud of him.

* One day while organizing we found a paper that was supposed to be sent to the insurance company for our new house insurance policy. I called to let them know what had happened and that I'd be sending it out that day. It was a good thing I called. Apparently, they did an inspection, saw the unused dog kennel out back that I hadn't gotten around to dismantling ("evidence of a dog"). Since my application didn't state we had a dog (since we don't), they didn't know whether the breed was on the restricted breed list or not, so they assumed it was and cancelled my policy (but had never contacted me for clarification and I hadn't gotten the cancellation notice). I explained the situation and am waiting to find out if my policy is going to be reinstated. The woman I talked to said that time was of the essence, but seemed to think that it would be reinstated.

* Two of our dear friends got married this weekend. We took a weekend trip so we could be there. Originally, I was supposed to work the day of the wedding and wouldn't have been able to get there until the reception was wrapping up. Thankfully, work was cancelled the day before. As his gift to them, Trucker was the officiant for the wedding (He got ordained online and paid a $10 fee to be licensed in our state) so he went up the night before for the reception. I got off work at midnight and drove 2.5 hours to the hotel (Used and earned two nights towards a free one). The next day we went to the wedding. It was a brilliant affair. Their friends let them borrow their beach-front house and the neighbors let them set up the dinner tent on their yard. We ate tacos (taco bar) and pizza (they got a pizza truck with mobile wood-fired oven!). The ceremony was beautiful. Trucker did a great job. Afterwards, we stayed for several hours playing Cards Against Humanity, nibbling leftovers, and I ran out into the water and climbed rocks along the water front (despite the fact that it was frigid!). They are two of the most lovely people I know and I was so glad they each found such a perfect person to spend their lives with. I couldn't be happier.
* I wanted to share a sweet thing I witnessed. It was the birthday of one of my coworkers this week. His family is all in Puerto Rico and he is really worried. So one of my other coworkers (the amazing woman who is always taking care of everyone) decided to make it the best birthday she could. She brought in homemade salsa and chips and birthday cake (she had the boss sneakily chat with the guy to find out what kind of cake was his favorite). It meant so much to him. It was beautiful to see her do something to bring some joy to a stressful birthday. There is good in the world.
* That coworker and I brought snacks for each other. I gave her some Israeli snacks that I got at a salvage grocer (Which she liked until her daughter's friend told her the texture reminded her of fried mealworms!) and another day brought her more Korean crackers since she said her grandson adored them. She brought me Rice Krispie Treats the next day. The snacks I bring don't cost a lot, but she feels appreciated and we are building a friendly sharing relationship.
* Her grandson went into the hospital while we were at work one day and she mentioned that her husband had taken him to the hospital in her car. I offered to drive her there after work, but her daughter's boyfriend picked her up.

How was your week?

Monday, September 25, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 9/18 - 9/24

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 wheat grass is growing great! Even though the berries are several years old, they had a strong germination, even growth and grew quickly to a good size to give to Raycat. I'm going to let her nibble them down a bit, then put the container up again and see if I can get a second growth.
* Update: Ray nibbles on the wheat grass, but doesn't go as crazy as she does for other grasses. Then again, this is more a supplement than a major part of her diet, so I think that is ok. I have 25 lbs or so I want to use them up however I can.
* I harvested micros throughout the week. I don't get a huge harvest, but it is lovely to snip fresh microgreens to add flavor, texture and nutrition to whatever we are eating.
* I planted more mustard and cilantro micros using store-bought spices. After another spotty germination, I read that cilantro has really spotty germination and is aided by weighting the trays. I will try that next time I grow cilantro. The mustard germinates fine, albeit with varying growth rates.
* I harvested cherry tomatoes, one large tomato and a couple handfuls of small peppers.

* I stopped off at the farm stand one morning for an eggplant, 4 poblano peppers and a good handful of shishito peppers. It is looking to be nearing the end of shishito season which is heartbreaking.
* I made shakshouka, only I served it with pasta instead of bread because I have a lot of pasta in the pantry needing to be used up and no good bread. I served with pan-seared shishitos.
* I made a strawberry cheesecake pie...thing. It was not my best dish ever, but it was good. I had some pie-mix in the pantry (the add-water type) that I'd gotten at a salvage grocer for a quarter. I need to use them up, but don't enjoy the taste or texture, especially compared to my homemade pie crust. I had just a little time to make something, so I decided to use them up. I filled a single crust with a basic cream cheese filling (8 oz cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/4 c sugar) and sliced strawberries on top. It was good, but that was just because of the cream cheese and strawberries. I had some leftover dough, so I made several pop tarts using some strawberry jam my mom gave me. I didn't try any of them, but Trucker ate them all for breakfast, so I guess he liked them.
* We made brats one day (manager's special).

* We took a crazy day trip for a concert. I know a musician from up north who used to play concerts at my coffee shop hangout when I was a teen. I caught a show about 6 years ago but haven't been able to make it to a show since. My work schedule is aabout to get crazy so i wanted to get to a show this weekend. He was playing a farming festival 3 hours away. We took off as soon as we woke up. We enjoyed the festival. There were demos and samples (where applicable) for apple cider, apple butter, homemade butter, wool spinning and flour grinding. There were calves, goats, sheep, pigs, alpacas, chickens, ducks and rabbits. We enjoyed educational exhibits and a wagon ride. The wagon dropped us off at the campfire where we roasted marshmallows and enjoyed his show. I got to talk with him for a bit on his break. It was amazing to be able to listen to him live. He has a lot of new material since I last saw him. I love his voice and guitar playing and his songwriting is storytelling at its finest. It was totally worth the 6 hour round trip.
* Trucker has been doing more social things in the evenings. Especially since I'm gone so much, I want him to get out more. He went out with his softball league after their double header one day and went out with our discount movie club another night ($1.50 tickets that night).

* I loved getting to explore the farm. Getting to enjoy the sunset during the concert was pretty epic too.

* I went thrifting to try to find a dress to wear to a wedding. I didn't look at anything else because I knew if I did, I would find something. As it was, I didn't end up finding a dress, so I didn't spend a penny.
* I worked on my health and financial challenges through my job to get a discount on insurance and a free gift card.
* I had a portion of my paycheck put into my savings account and 401k with employer match.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted a lot of items.
* A portion of a houseplant got pulled off the main plant. I put the stem in water for a couple weeks and it finally sprouted some roots. I have it in soil now and it looks pretty good.

House and Home:
* I went through my shoes in the closet. I got rid of 15 pairs to donate or toss, depending on condition. I also have two pairs that I think I can fix with a bit of super glue. I'll attempt and if it doesn't hold up the first time I wear them, I'll toss them.
* I set aside a trash bag full of clothes to donate.
* I have started a bag of items to donate to the dog shelter: old sheets, a set of curtains I made from sheets and towels.

* I worked a little overtime each day this week.
* I packed healthy snacks for work. My appetite/digestion is weird since switching shifts, and I can't really handle meals well anymore. It got to be too easy to eat junk or nothing at all. Now I plan ahead to bring things like mixed nuts to nibble on at work.
* I bought prescription safety glasses and new work boots. I was delaying the purchase, but figured that since I spend most of my life at work, it makes sense to be as comfortable as possible. I get reimbursed for most of the cost of each. The glasses will cost around $15 and the boots will cost $30 after reimbursement.
* It looks like my work schedule is about to be crazy for the next several months. I'm a little nervous about how I'll hold up working 6 days a week when I'm gone 12 1/2 hours a day, but I'm going to do my best. Hopefully we continue to put a good amount into savings and towards debt to keep me encouraged.

* I put a blanket and some granola bars into my car just in case.

* Trucker had another audition for a commercial.
* Trucker got another role in a movie. He gets to play a villain!

* I convinced Trucker to try a new barber. He had been going to a chain because they were cheap, but every time it was bad and he was self conscious. I found a barber that was $5 more and got him to try it. It will cost $1 a week, which I think is a fair price to feel confident every day.
* Trucker played softball on his league.

* My sister had a vow renewal ceremony for her 1-year anniversary. She had eloped but decided she wanted a wedding with friends and family after all. Mom and her friends really put on a lovely event. It was a hunting theme (they both hunt and fish a lot) and they used his duck decoys, branches and logs from my dad's wood pile for decoration. A lot of her friends let them borrow decorative items from their outdoorsy-themed homes. Mom bought the food and my sister's MIL cooked it.

Finally, I thought I'd share a quote I found.

"Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” – Anne Herbert

How was your week?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 9/4 - 9/17

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.

* Turns out that all that coriander I bought will not germinate. I'm gonna try again, but it looks like I'll have to find out how to use 10 bags of coriander! Word to the wise: Try a small amount of a grocery-store seed you want to grow into microgreens before investing in a bulk purchase! Fortunately, those ten bags cost $5, so the loss was quite small compared to buying catalog micro seed.
* The mustard germinated nicely. However, I have noticed that half is growing slower than the other half, so I'll have big and small micros in the same cuttings. It wouldn't do if I was growing to sell, but for personal use it is fine. Besides, the cost is about 10% of catalog seed.
* Update: Exactly two cilantro micros sprouted. I will try again, but I think mostly I'll use the coriander as a spice rather than seed.
* I harvested lots of peppers, some cherry tomatoes and a few baby carrots.
* The basil has all succumbed to some sort of wilt or blight. Therefore, there was not basil to freeze for the year, but I did get a goodly amount to use fresh.
* I dropped the container of carrot micros while trying to rotate them. There goes 2 weeks of slow growing. About 1/4 seem like they might survive.
* I planted some old wheat berries. I'm not sure if they will germinate, b.ut it can't hurt to try since I have them. My cat loves to nibble houseplants, but if I have grass available for her, she leaves mine alone. It would be much cheaper to grow my own wheat grass than to buy it at the pet store!

* I made sausage gravy and biscuits.
* We made tacos one night.
* I made a big batch of beef vegetable soup using tomato juice, a manager's special steak and a random assortment of veggies that needed to be used up.
* We had air popped popcorn as a snack frequently.
* I made Colcannon again with collards from the freezer. I added some leftover ground lamb.
* There is an organization that arranges produce giveaways throughout the city. Farmers donate food that is unsalable for whatever reason. I know a lot of the organizers who said that at the end of the day, food leftover is usually thrown away. I stopped by in the last ten minutes of one event. They said that there wasn't as many different items left at that point, but I was okay with that. I got two huge cabbages (cracked), 10 lbs of potatoes (each potato has a bit of damage that keeps it from storing well), 5 lbs of apples (I honestly can't figure out why they were there; they were perfect and delicious), 12 lbs of onions (all of them had either sprouted or the skins had burst, meaning they needed to be used soon) and 4 dozen (!!) small eggs. While ugly produce needs a little more prep work and has to be handled quickly to prevent spoilage, I was excited that the food was diverted from the waste stream.

Food Preservation:
* I made salsa and froze it in small baggies for later use. I used tomatoes (parents' garden), peppers (parents's garden and mine), onions (free from Kroger because of a wrong price), garlic (from my garden) and cilantro (Aldi for $.69). In all, I made around 2 gallons of salsa!
* I froze about 8 lbs of tomatoes whole because I didn't have time to make more salsa and the tomatoes were dead ripe.
* I chopped around 10 lbs of sweet peppers and froze on cookie sheets. Then I bagged them up. Last year this was one of my top 3 favorite preserved items (Other two are caramelized onions frozen in ice cube trays and basil pesto).  It makes it a snap to add veggies to darn near anything. I can add just what I want directly to the pan. This ease of use meant that I added veggies to a lot of quick meals that might otherwise have been lacking in nutrition.

* We went out for coffee, using our travel mugs.
* We went to my company's family festival. They rent out an amusement park and we only had to pay $10 each to get in (and $10 parking). Tickets are usually $54 each with $20 parking, so for $30 we got a $128 value. While we would never spend $128 for one day at an amusement park, It was a fun day. It was my birthday weekend, so we had allotted some money for eating out and such. I'd wanted to take Trucker to a certain Amish restaurant. They had a buffet so we ate there before going to the park. That filled us up so we didn't need to eat for quite awhile. The server even sent me with a free cupcake as a birthday gift. My parents packed a huge picnic, so we ate a light dinner later. My sister made a cake for my birthday. We carried a bottle of water and didn't purchase anything at the park. We had a really fun time. We spent a good amount of time with my parents, two sisters and future-bro-in-law and a good amount of time just the two of us. My sister's boyfriend was a hoot. It was his first time riding roller coasters and he was making jokes and screaming maniacally the whole time. I like him. We also took part in a "treasure hunt" the company put on to tell us about new benefit information. We didn't win any prizes, but got 8 cooling cloths for working out. I'll definitely use those next summer at work. Including the buffet, we spent $60.
* The next day was my birthday gift from Trucker. One of my favorite old-school bands had a show in another city about 2 hours from us. He used a Groupon to get BOGO tickets, so it cost $40 total (Possibly less; he bought the tickets over six months ago and can't remember the exact cost, but know he wouldn't have spent over $40 total). We stopped for BBQ (I am always up for BBQ).  I ordered just a sandwich.He ordered a meal and we split the side and drink. They had free ice cream for dessert. We were able to bring in bottled water to the concert (which we already had on hand) so we didn't have any other costs. Total cost for that day (not including gas): $53.
* All in, my birthday weekend cost $113, plus around $15 in gas. We budget $150 for birthdays (Some from our joint account and some from my birthday checks). I always want a trip of some sort rather than an item. We came in under budget and it was still a lot of fun.
* We went out to see It with Daisy and her hubby. We had BOGO coupons from the summer reading program at the library, so we hooked them up as well. Each pair paid $10.75 for two tickets. Not too bad for a weekend evening showing. It was so fun to hang out with them.
* We went to the art museum for their free Sundays. I have missed the last several gallery hops due to travel or weather and was starting to need some culture. We only went through about half of the museum this time, but plan to go back again soon.

* We went for a couple mile hike at a local metro park.
* We went on a hike at a nature preserve down south.
* There is a city park nearby that has a topiary landscape of George Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte. It was a short excursion, but was fun.

* I put 3% of my paycheck directly into my savings account. Another 6% was taken out for my 401k, with a 100% match and an additional 2% that my company contributes.
* I paid my credit card bill the first day of the cycle, with a little extra beyond the minimum payment. I plan to make more payments throughout the month, but by paying as soon as possible, I minimize the interest paid for the month. While it won't be a game changer, that little bit of interest saved will mean that next month a little more of my payments will go towards the balance, expediting the payoff. I've heard of some people paying their mortgage semi-monthly or weekly, dividing the payment by 2 or 4 to match their pay cycle. That makes it easier to budget and reduces the interest charged. I plan to talk with my credit union about having my car payment taken out of my paycheck instead of once a month from my checking account.
* I spent an hour on my company's health website updating different challenges I am a part of. I earn points to get discounted insurance and can earn gift cards just for being healthy and trying to save money.
* I played around with some calculators on my retirement account website to see about how I am doing. Their assumptions are a little faulty I think, but it looks like I'll be ok.

Waste Reduction:
* We composted a lot of random stuff.

House and Home:
* We needed to touch up the paint in our bedroom but didn't have any paint from the previous owners. I went to Menards and found a color that matched. I only needed a quart and found a decent brand on sale, marked down from $16 to $9. Menards also had their 11% rebate going on through that day (I made a stop on the way to work on Friday so I didn't miss it). I also bought some fall bulbs to plant to make the landscape look decent in case we do sell next year.

* I work a half hour of overtime most days.
* We got sent home early one evening. Given the amount of overtime I worked, it was a wash pay wise, but I got to get home in time to hang out with Trucker for a bit before he went to bed.

* Trucker bought a new-to-us jack to put in my car. The jack that came with it was so small and weird that it was really hard to use. This one was $11 at auction.
* I put a bottle of water and a jacket in my car now that it is getting chillier. Soon I'll need to get my snow gear in there!

* I got back into the habit of hitting the gym before work. I particularly enjoy swimming. I feel so invigorated after swimming some laps, then relaxing in the hot tub for a bit before work.
* Trucker is playing softball on a league at the park.

* One of my coworkers is just the sweetest. She brings in snacks for people. She gave me a lot of delicious tomatoes from her garden. One day we were sharing recipes and she told me about this epic salad she makes and I said it sounded amazing. The next day she brought in a salad kit for me. She had all the veggies, seasonings, croutons, a good mozzarella and a homemade dressing. It was without a doubt the best salad I've ever had. I told her so the next day. Later she told me how much it meant that I told her how good the salad was. I felt like that was so little compared to how kind she has been to me, but it made her feel appreciated. It was a great reminder that it doesn't take a lot to make someone happy.
* I brought her some Filipino snacks I got at the salvage grocer.
* Daisy gave us some cotton candy grapes. Have you tried these? They are the most incredible things. They are as sweet as candy but not as cloying. Daisy, you have ruined me for any other grapes!

How was your week?

Monday, September 4, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 8/14 - 8/27

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.

Food Preservation:
* 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.

Waste Reduction:
* 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.
How was your week?
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