Category Archives: Enough Money

Refocus

My glass carafe broke. This is a poor woman's Keurig.

My glass carafe broke. This is a frugal woman’s Keurig.

Last week, when I ended my workday Friday, I had logged in 48 hours in 4 days work. I was tired and stressed and overwhelmed. Partly because work has been so busy, but also because I haven’t had time to rest and just seem to be getting further behind.

I’ve been spending time with friends, taking my mom (who lives 2 hours away) to the doctor, dealing with the surly teen in the basement, trying to write a novel,  designing my travel trailer, fixing up the house, working to improve my fitness level and trying to keep up with the budget I set to pay for college. Did I mention that I have been feeling stressed and overwhelmed?

This week, I am on vacation to rest and get caught up. (Hmm….do those seem like opposed goals?) But something magical has happened. As I was doing the chores and home improvement projects that needed to get done, I realized that the main reason I’m feeling so stressed is a lack of focus. I’m trying to do too many things….and the perfectionist in me doesn’t like it if I don’t do things to a certain standard.

My most important goal for this year and the next is to pay for college for two students. I don’t make enough money at work to pay for this outright. I have been using my savings, but I can see that it will not get me to the finish line. So, I have given myself the goal of having my house ready to sell for maximum profit by May or June of 2016.

As soon as I set this intention, ideas about how to make it happen began bubbling up in my brain. The financial guru Dave Ramsey calls this kind of focus “gazelle intensity,” describing the energy that a gazelle has in outrunning a predator. Mr. Money Mustache (financial guru and bicycle advocate) calls this focus a “your hair is on fire” emergency. I certainly have been feeling the stress level of being chased by a predator or having my hair on fire. Now I have a plan for a way out.

I’ll take photos for you all as I move through the house projects.

Three Weeks of Frugals

I’ve been really busy working, even overtime. GASP! Which always makes for infrequent posts. Sorry. But I have been keeping track of the frugals along the way to report back to you.

~ the first of the month I turned off my air conditioner and opened the windows. The temperatures have fluctuated from 50’s to 90’s. When it was cold, I put on a sweater. When it was hot, I turned on a fan. I can’t wait to see my next power bill. And I love the fresh air.

~ I have been packing lunches. I seem to go in cycles with this depending on how much energy vs. money I have.

~ One of the band members inexplicably gave us a whole frozen chicken. My son says it’s an “inside joke” of the band mates. Hmmm. OK. Here is the joke on the grill.

Chux on the Barbie! [Did I get that right, Aussie readers?]

Chux on the Barbie! [Did I get that right, Aussie readers?]

~ I took five minutes to discuss my driving patterns ( I drive about 250 miles per week for work) with the gentleman selling me tires. He listened to me and recommended the $510 tires instead of the $680 tires. And they are probably safer for me too.

~ My 12-year-old compost bin is deteriorating. Partly due to age and sun exposure. Partly due to the raccoons and possums pulling the door off to get to the goodies inside.

You can see the door is cracked in several places.

You can see the door is cracked in several places.

A new one, exactly like this one, at Aldi was $40. So, I “borrowed” the black duct tape from my son again and taped that sucker back together.

Good as new (almost.)

Good as new (almost.)

~  I made Senate Bean Soup with about 60 cents worth of Navy beans, some carrots, celery and garlic that were about to go bad and some salt and pepper. So, 8-10 servings of meals from vegetables rescued from the compost, 10 cents of spices and the beans. Dinner and lunches for most of the week for less than a dollar.

~  my oldest son is giving me his old IPhone 5s. In researching carriers who will provide service for this phone, I discovered that I can reduce my monthly phone payment by about $35. I’ll know for sure how much when I sign up for the new plan.

I just love being efficient with my expenditures.

Frugal Things I’ve Done in the Past Week

Since we are talking about money and savings…here are a few things I have done in the past week that are frugal..and one frugal Fail.

The road to failure...not just a path...

The road to failure…not just a path…

~ I completed a complex two-step process that will reduce my health insurance next year by $40/month. Savings $480.

~ By combining two coupons that were shoved through my mail-slot against my will, I enjoyed a ham sandwich and 30 oz. bad-for-me diet soda for $1.62. Savings $3.79.

~ As noted in previous post, fixed my lawn mower for $1.79. Savings? New mower $150. What would the repair have been if done by shop? No clue.

~ Free crossword and Sudoku puzzle in the weekly free paper. I would not have paid for this, so maybe all it saved me from was a nice nap.

~ Cooked dinner at home for my boyfriend. If we had eaten out, likely $25-$40. I was going to grill chicken wings, but they were 17.3/oz (about the same cost for chicken breasts which have no bone waste! So I bought the chicken leg quarters for 7.4/oz. Even with the tail and back bones–still less waste!) Dinner ingredients: $8.50.

~ I routinely use 1/2 of the recommended laundry detergent. I have a hard time estimating how much this saves, since I buy cheap detergent anyway. Maybe $20/year in detergent. But my washer repairman says, since I do this (and leave the washer door open between washes) that I save myself having to buy the “front loader washer cleaner” which may be another $10-$20 per year.

~ Speaking of adding water…when my hair conditioner bottle starts to get low, I add water to the bottle, and just increase the volume of what I put on my head, until the conditioner/water ratio is what the rinse water would be. I dunno, this might save me $5-$10/year.

~ Bought 4 items of a personal care nature that I would have bought anyway….. and got a store reward card for $5, which paid for 1/2 of 3 months of the one prescription medication that I use.

Frugal Fail: I bought the single sheet toilet paper as it was 2 cents less per roll than the 2 ply. I. Hate. The. Single. Ply. It would be worth 5 cents per roll to have the 2 ply. However, as my penance…..I will use up the entire container of single-sheet toilet paper before I buy more.

Fixing the Lawn Mower

An advantage of using simple tools is that they do not have as many parts to break and often they can be repaired by someone who is not mechanically inclined (moi.)

My lawn mower is fourteen years old this summer and with regular oil changes and blade sharpenings, has been working fine. Until last week, when the plastic part that controls where the clippings go broke and fell off. Along with the spring that held the two parts (shoot out and straight down for mulching) on the mower.

At my local hardware store, I found a spring that was the right diameter, and close to the right torque and for $1.79, I thought was worth a try.

The parts: preassembly.

The parts: pre-assembly.

The big “shooter” piece was totally broken and would not stay on, but I never used it anyway. However, without its weight, the flat flap piece that it used to keep in place, lifted up during use, allowing the clippings to shoot out onto the house and my neighbor’s car. So, I added a layer of duct tape.

No cost to me. I pilfered it from son's stash.

No cost to me. I pilfered it from son’s stash.

And it works great. Total cost of repair $1.79 and my time.

Double College Budget

Evaluating the need for every purchase.

Evaluating the need for every purchase.

 

Reader harknessglee asked for information about my budget, being part-time and retirement savings. Here’s my budget, my strategy and how it’s working.

Last year, my income was approximately $50,000 and 11% or $5,500 went into my retirement accounts. I get reimburse for mileage driven for work, which ends up being another $6,000/year I can add to the cash flow. I used to get child support, which stopped when youngest son moved out, and should (in theory) resume, now that he has returned (I have not included that income in these totals.) I ended pulling $14,000 out of savings accounts to pay for tuition for the 2015-2016 school year. The other $10,000 I am paying is coming out of my net income.

I am scheduled to work part-time, three 8 hour shifts. However, the reality of how my employer structures the work load means that I usually work an average of 33-36 hours per week. This is due to how the work is assigned and that there is usually overflow to the work day. Also, sometimes work is offered at a “high bonus” rate if they are short staffed (which happens amazingly often.) I can pick up these extra-pay shifts as they fit in my schedule. Occasionally I will work more than 40 hours/week. This is way better than “full-time” which often is 50-70 hours/week with the overtime being mandatory.

The Monthly Budget

House (principal, interest, insurance and taxes)         $952

Utilities (averaging for the year)                                      $265

Car (maintenance, insurance, fuel)                                 $300

College tuition                                                                     $934

Health Care (deductibles & co-pays)                             $220

Kids (clothes, gifts, music instruments)                       $250

Fawn (clothes, wine, books, gym fee)                            $260

Home maintenance (repair of home, new furniture) $250

Grocery & household (printer ink, cats)                       $500

Some of these costs are fixed, like the house payment. Some are vary with the time of year, like the utilities and Christmas and birthday gifts. These are averages. Obviously, if I get hit with a big dentist bill, I have to reduce elsewhere in the budget and/or take money out of savings.

I know that other people would not favor paying for their kid’s college over their own retirement savings. And other people would put all their extra cash into travel accounts. That is the beauty of knowing your own values/preferences and having the self-discipline to stick with your priorities.

I feel kinship with people who live simply to fund travel, to reduce their carbon footprint, or to retire early. All are worthy goals.

I would love to hear what you are saving your money for.

An Abundance of Abundance

We humans tend to measure things by what is nearby. If my neighbors have homes bigger than mine….then mine must be small. Even if people in this location lived 5-10 humans to a room the size of my living room 100 years ago, or do so to this day, in another country.

My middle son says in high school his personality was label “Smart.” Even though, as he points out, “smart” is not a personality characteristic. Now, he goes to a college where most everybody is smart, an he says you can really see the flavors of personality that can be manifest in smart humans.

What I see in my own life (and those in my immediate surroundings) are people living lives rich and overflowing in abundance…but still focused on some small lack. I give you a few examples from this week. I would love it if you would add your own in the comments.

~ I am buying mostly raw ingredients, few carbs and eating only when I am hungry. I thought this would reduce my waist size as well as my grocery bill. So far only the grocery bill is affected. Still too much food.

~A co-worker, who paid for a vacation with the money from her recycled cans (Yeah! Recycling!) But still laments that there is not enough money. She drinks about 12 sodas per week. I calculate that 32 cans=1 pound = 0.50 cents. A 12 pack of Diet Coke is about $3.00. I figure she would save $2.50 just in money (not to mention time and health benefits) each week to forgo this habit. That’s $130 per year. I do not know how long she saved to pay for her vacation.

aluminum money

aluminum money

~ I recently met a woman (fairly organized) who kept her clothing in 18 gallon plastic tubs. She had them labeled, stacked, in her bedroom. There were twenty such tubs in her bedroom and about that many in the dining room. Some of the boxes had not been opened in a decade.

~Another person, I have known for decades reports that “small spaces make me claustrophobic.” She lives in a dwelling with 4,800 square feet. She mostly occupies two rooms with a footprint of 300 square feet. She assures me that to move to a smaller space would be difficult and traumatic for her.

~Another person, who requires public assistance for food and medications has 3 cats, 2 dogs and a pig in a cage (a pet–not planning on eating it, which would be more rational.) I wonder, does she need to give back?

~ Another person, spends more than $1,000 per month on eating out at restaurants. This person has many anxieties about money. Hmmmmm.

~Another person, has a home in this state. A home in a different state. A mobile home (RV), a boat, a golf cart, four cars for 2 people….one of which does not drive anymore.

All of the above persons are entitled to their different entertainments, their diversions…..up to the moment that they complain to me that they do not have enough time or money or….for what they want to spend their time on. But with all this abundance, or excess…..how do we find balance?

Santa Fe Bean Corn Salad

Healthy & frugal

Healthy & frugal

Make a dressing with the juice of two small or medium limes, 1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil,) 2-3 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of taco dressing. [you can make your own taco seasoning with 2 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cumin, and 1/8 tsp of following: garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt] Let the dressing sit while you combine:

black beans (15 oz. can or 1.5 cups of cooked)

corn kernels (15 oz. can or 1.5 cups cooked)

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (I slice in half the grape tomatoes–but I would use whatever is in season for the best flavor.)

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

After you have mixed the rest of the ingredients, pour the dressing over the salad and stir. Let it marinate for a couple hours (or days) before you serve. This can be served cold or at room temperature.

Weekly Menu/Cost for Single Adult

As requested, here is a weekly menu plan and cost for one person. This project was made easier by the fact I had eaten down the pantry just before going on a week-long trip to meet my granddaughter. Here is the food that was in the house when I returned:

The empty fridge welcomed me home.

That’s chicken breasts thawing on the top shelf.

from the pantry

from the pantry

Then I went shopping and spent $33.62. Here’s what I got:

2015-04-06 14.48.21

Menus:

Monday:   B–oatmeal with Nutella, a banana. L–Turkey and lettuce sandwich on rye, apple. D–(I didn’t feel like cooking) two bags of cheddar fish and yogurt.

Tuesday:   B–oatmeal with Nutella, a banana. L–turkey, avocado and lettuce sandwich, apple. D–salad with grilled chicken on top. Snack–free candy at work.

Wednesday:   B–yogurt, banana, two eggs and toast. L–salad with grilled chicken. D–can of soup, apple. Snack–a latte.

Thursday:   B–oatmeal with Nutella, banana. L–turkey and avocado sandwich, apple. D–ate at restaurant (Mongolian Beef.)

Went back to the grocery store and spent $18.12.

ingredients for lime-chili salmon and southwest bean salad

ingredients for lime-chili salmon and southwest bean salad

Friday:   B–2 eggs, toast and apple. L–can of soup, celery & carrot sticks with bean salsa. D–Lime-chili salmon,  sweet potato mashed.

Saturday:   2 eggs and toast. L–apple, celery & carrot sticks with bean salsa. D–Southwest bean salad (made with black beans, corn, tomatoes, green pepper, lime juice, cilantro and taco seasoning.)

Sunday:   2 eggs and toast, apple. L–salad with salmon on top, a side of mushrooms sautéed in butter. D–Southwest bean salad.

I gave some limes and cilantro to a friend. Still left to eat: 2 salmon fillets, 4 eggs, a cup of tomatoes, 2 cans of soup, 1 and a half jars of Nutella, half a box of oatmeal, 2 cans of coconut milk, a jar of spaghetti sauce, a package of pre-cooked rice and three pieces of bread.

So, about $50 for one person for the week.

 

Saturday Menu

Sometimes the best laid plans…..

Here’s my story: Saturday is a work day for me, so I ate my usual oatmeal and Nutella at work, and had a cup of tea at home. [ .38 ]

I packed a lunch to eat in between seeing patients.

Apple  .34 Egg  .29 Prunes  .21 Tomatoes  .33 Cheese  .60 Crackers  .30

Apple .34
Egg .29
Prunes .21
Tomatoes .33
Cheese .60
Crackers .30

And I was planning on having more bean soup for supper. But, I had only gotten into the cheese and crackers part of the lunch when my brother called me. He and his wife and their two foster sons were travelling from Chicago to St. Louis and their car had broken down about 5 miles from my office. What are the odds? It is 297 miles from Chicago to St. Louis–so the chances of them breaking down on my doorstep are astronomical. Yet here they were. What then occurred was a Laurel & Hardy routine….unpacking all their stuff from their car to mine, getting their car towed, unpacking their stuff at my house, keeping two 8- year-old boys entertained, trying to find a rental car…..finding a relative to drive up from St. Louis, keeping the boys entertained…..so, by the time we had a plan and it was starting to come together, it was 3pm and no one had eaten. My beloved brother insisted on taking us all out to eat while they waited for their ride.

My food costs for the day: $1.28…but you can’t plan for this kind of day.

Friday Menu

Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal .15, 1 tablespoon Nutella .13, tea .10. Total: .38

Lunch: Subway sandwich .96, 5 grape tomatoes .33, 6 prunes .21, yogurt .39

Lunch $1.89.

Lunch $1.89.

Dinner: Another bowl of Thai Chicken

$2.43

$2.43

Total for the day: $5.04