Thursday, October 25, 2018

This Week...Beyond Money Summer Edition

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.

This summer has been insane. Weddings, babies, working with Clarisse, and a 75-hour workweek (including commute) has kept me quite busy. Here is what we have been up to for the last few months.

* We got lots of hot peppers and basil, some carrots and oregano. Not much else. I plan to start up microgreens for the season soon.

Muddy paws = happy pup
* The Kroger near my job has fantastic manager's specials when I get out of work at 2 AM. One frequent find is stir-fry kits with fresh veg mix and sauce packet for $.50-2. We use those a lot for quick and healthy meals. It isn't perfect, but I don't have time for perfection anymore. We serve these with meat from the freezer (cooked and frozen in meal-sized portions) over rice or pasta. Once you add the starch, there isn't enough sauce, so we use the sauce from 2 kits, then save those veggies to add to soup or to saute in butter as a side dish for another meal. One kit, rice and meat is enough for 5 meals.

* Given my work load, I have started prioritizing fun over being strict about frugality or duties. This job is a good thing in the long term, but the first two years will be brutal (I'm 14 months in so I'm getting there). I'm giving myself permission to do "not perfect, but good enough". One consideration is fun. All of the frugal things I enjoy doing happen while I am at work. It got really depressing to only work and do things around the house. Now I let myself spend more than I used to allow because I have to have some kind of pleasure to keep going. It isn't frugal to neglect self-care for 6 more months or so and have to leave a job that will give us incredible security. Also, since we are only going out once a week instead of a few times, even if I spend twice as much, we are coming out ahead.
* We went to the symphony for opening weekend. We got bad seats, so after fees it was only $30 total. They played music from Fantasia as well as music of Strauss, Bach and Wagner. The crowd had young people scattered throughout and I was overcome thinking of how the CSO makes music so accessible to all ages and expertise levels and how future musicians and aficionados were in the crowd that night. Totally worth the $30.
* We also took Clarisse to hear the symphony orchestra at the botanic gardens. They had a free outdoor performance. It was a magical night. She was incredibly happy listening to the music, cuddling with us and smelling the BBQ food truck.
*  We went to an opening reception at a local gallery. I can't go to the gallery hops anymore since I am working Saturdays now, but this was on a Sunday afternoon. It was a lovely, if short, excursion.
* We go out to eat every weekend. I don't have the energy to cook the types of meals I enjoy anymore, so getting a really nice meal once a week satiates the foodie in me to survive another week of stir-fry, pasta and sandwiches. We use a coupon from our Entertainment book and drink water, so even after tip we rarely spend over $25.

Always running
* We have loved hitting the parks with the dog. We try to go out for an hour or two before work at least once and once or twice on the weekends.

House and Home:
* Trucker and my dad have started working on the house. We are insisting on paying Dad for his time as he is semi-retired/started a lawn-care and handy-man service and we are no longer in a position to not be able to pay him. He came over and they redid some plumbing, replaced a door frame and filed down a floor that was scraping on the raised tile flooring. Dad is getting a wage, Trucker is learning new skills and I am getting the house redone without having to hire someone at $200/hr or without spending any of my limited time.

Fur Babies:
* Trucker bought a long-tailed lizard. He has wanted one for a long time, but the cost of setup was prohibitive. He did a lot of research and started checking out yard sales. When we were at the World's Longest Yard Sales, he found a whole setup including tank, rocks, stands, feeder, water bowls and fake plants for $10 (there was a lot of other stuff too). It was the end of the last day so he asked if they would take $5 and they said yes! He had to buy a lamp and bulb ($18 and $7), substrate ($4 for a decent sized bag), crickets and the lizard herself ($7). Side note: I am just reporting what I've picked up and I'm sure I've missed some aspects of lizard keeping. I don't know a lot about reptiles, but he has thoroughly researched everything. Given that I brought in all of our other babies, I wanted him to be able to have a pet of his own. I vetoed a rat or snake, but otherwise wanted him to get whatever he wanted.
* Clarisse is amazing. She has increased in weight from 9 lb 5 oz when we got her to 10 lb 14 oz of solid muscle. She has an endurance in running that one would never guess from such a small dog, especially one without vision. She is healthy and happy.
* We have been going to a monthly poodle party (honorary poodle siblings are allowed) and she has made some good friends. She ran around the entire time with a giant smile on her face. I have never seen her as happy. She likes being around dogs, but until yesterday had no clue about playing with them and just stood around wagging her tail. Yesterday a mini poodle puppy wanted Clarisse to chase her. At first, Clarisse didn't understand her barks and jumps, but then she got it and started chasing! She was terrible at it but was trying! It was so encouraging.
* We bought a bed for Raycat at Menards. After rebate it was $2. It is a cave-like bed with a fuzzy interior and she loves it.
* The cat is starting to like the dog a little. They nap near each other and sometimes Ray will even hop on my lap when I'm holding the dog. She won't lay down with the dog, but I think is testing the waters. Fortunately, Clarisse is chill as can be, so she is proving to Ray that she is safe.

* I work. A lot. 12-13 hr days, 6 days a week (most weeks), including commute. I went through a very difficult time, but am doing better. For the first two years, I don't get very many call-in days, and with my long commute, the chance of issues is high. It is quite stressful. However, the pay is decent now and will be good in a couple years. The benefits are amazing, so it is worth sticking out for the time being. I still hope to retire early, but we will see what life holds.
* Next month I get a 4-day weekend. I can't wait.

* We made paw balm and are in trials now. Once we get feedback, we are going to do a soft launch of our paw and nose balms and then over my holiday shutdown will work on other products to increase our offerings.

* We finally got in to a dentist. It had been far too long since we had had dental care, so some work needs to be done. However, it wasn't as bad as I expected. I paid extra to get the nicer dental insurance through my job. I pay an extra $60/year total for the two of us (Basic plan is free through the job), but it saves us from each having a $25 deductible and gets us $2000 in benefits instead of $1500 each. I maxed out my benefit for the year and Trucker's benefit has already exceeded $1000. So that extra premier has already saved us about $750.

* We participated in a 5k Walk/Run to support a local dog rescue that works with blind and deaf dogs, mainly puppy mill rescues. The event was free with donations. We donated dog food and some types of toys Clarisse didn't dig. When we decided to get her, we bought a ton of stuff, but it turns out she doesn't like squeak toys (she is terrified of them), doesn't like "scented" toys (She would much rather chew on a trachea) and only likes a few stuffed animals. I left the opened toys in the toy chest just in case she changes her mind with time, but the rest went to the rescues. Given that she was one of the lucky ones, we wanted to give back to help other dogs like her find homes like ours.

How was your week?

Always stop to smell the flowers


  1. Hello, missed your blogs. Good to hear from you and yr family again. We have had a very unusual hot and dry summer in the Netherlands. This weekend the weather is turning colder and I hear the rain. Nature will love it.

    1. Thank you! I'm hoping to be able to publish a bit more frequently.

      I enjoy the cooler weather. It is kinda nice to snuggle up with a blanket and hot cocoa. :)

  2. I enjoy your blog and hope you are doing well. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  3. Hi,
    Love your blog. It gives me a lot of good ideas. Have a Happy New Year.

  4. I really like and appreciate your post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  5. I hope you will return to posting on your blog. I re-read your last post and realized how much I miss "hearing" from you.

  6. I miss this blog!


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