5 Frugal Things

I was working on a post for today on contentment, but I got about four hours of sleep last night and my brain just won’t engage for it tonight.  So instead, here are five frugal things.

  1. I batched errands on Saturday with a trip to the park for F.  We went to the park to enjoy the nice weather Saturday morning and then walked over to Walmart to pick up a few things we needed.  This was a win-win in my book- F and I got some exercise and I spent no extra gas getting to Walmart and back.
  2. I scrounged some random leftovers for dinner tonight, even though it was late and I hadn’t planned well and I REALLY wanted to order wings.  Instead, I used up some fruit and bagels about to go bad. It may not have been the healthiest meal, but it was food.
  3. I returned library books on time to avoid paying a fine and I checked out new books to my tablet.
  4. I spent an hour on Sunday doing meal prep for the week and preparing food for lunch this week.
  5. I wore thrifted clothes all weekend, I ate dinner at home and I didn’t stop at Starbucks (even though I really really wanted to.)

What frugal things have you been up to?

It’s Frugal Friday!

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Source: Pixabay

It’s frugal Friday- my weekly round-up of frugality wins and fails around here!  And oof…this is definitely a week that is more fail than win. Way more fail than win. But…here goes.

Frugality Wins

1. I managed to use up some zucchini before it went bad – I…kind of like zucchini? It’s ok with butter and garlic, grilled? Anyway, my dad had given me a bunch of zucchini from his garden before I left for Chicago last weekend and it very much needed rescuing by the time I got back. So I sliced it and tossed it on the grill.

2. F. and I went to the State Fair for free. My workplace gave me two free tickets plus $30 in food vouchers for the state fair, and since kiddos under 5 get in free, I invited my mom to come with us. She very nicely paid for parking and we enjoyed a large amount of food and wandering around looking at animals.  I think mom ended up chipping in $2 of her own money toward a corn dog, but otherwise we partook in the free fair activities (i.e. petting sheep and pigs) and spent our food vouchers on some very lovely fried junk (mmmmm).

Seriously guys, I think that might be it. I told you it was a bad week.

Frugality Fails

1. I had a LOT of food waste this week. Not being here over the weekend totally killed this. Weekends are my “rescue all the food about to go bad” time and in the absence of that, I came home to a lot of rotting veggies and too-long leftovers. I hate wasting food. I might as well just toss $20 in the garbage and call it good.

2. I didn’t plan any meals. Weeks when I don’t plan any meals always end up being weeks where I eat out more. I’m pretty happy that F. and I only stopped for fast food once this week, but if I’d taken some time to plan something, we wouldn’t have had to.

3. I under-budgeted for the vet. Our dog, Rover (yes, his real name) needed an annual check-up, a whole bunch of vaccines, a not-that-cheap blood test and medication refills. I had budgeted $200 for this visit, but it ended up being close to $283.  Plus, he also needs a teeth cleaning and 1-2 teeth pulled. Which is going to set us back another $300.  Dogs get expensive as they get older!

4. I forgot to cancel my eMeals subscription.  Last year, in a desperate attempt at dinner inspiration, I purchased a year long subscription to eMeals. However, though we tried a bunch of different meal plans, it ended up being more expensive and the food was never quite to our taste. I hadn’t been using the plans and was planning to cancel. However, I forgot to do it before my year renewed, so now I’m stuck with another year of a service I don’t use and a $60 bill I wasn’t anticipating.

5. Starbucks. Always Starbucks. Why oh why is coffee so delicious? Work used to have free coffee and ever since they got rid of it, I’ve been spending a lot more on coffee. I’m not entirely sure what to do about this, since I usually drink a cup in the afternoon and we aren’t allowed to have coffee makers at work. But…I could make smarter choices (like plain coffee, not fancy, sugar-laden lattes).

Anyway, there you have it. Not going to lie, it has NOT been a good week for frugal choices.  But, it’s over and I have another chance next week! And you all do too! How did you guys do?

5 things that are making me happy

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Source: Pixabay

 

Time for some miscellaneous gratitude! (Or, this week has sucked and I could use a little attitude adjustment.)

  1. I get to go to lunch tomorrow, on the company dime, to a restaurant called THE CHEESE BAR (emphasis mine, obviously…).  It’s like my version of paradise- an entire restaurant dedicated to cheese. The obvious plus is that I also don’t have to pay for it! I would probably never go here on my own (certainly not now, with a toddler in tow…) so I’m grateful to get to try it out.
  2. I have exactly one commitment this weekend (and it’s dinner with a really good friend, so not even really a commitment). Between house guests and vacation, my life has been a little crazy lately. Plus, we have guests coming the next two weekends after this one. So I’m looking forward to some quality time with F. and a relaxed, no obligations weekend (why yes, I am a very big introvert. Why do you ask??). I’m thinking pancakes and pajamas are in order at least one morning…
  3. My department at work is having an eclipse viewing party on Monday on the top of the parking garage, complete with food and eclipse viewing glasses.  I am very excited, since I wasn’t actually planning on getting any work done during the eclipse anyway 🙂  I’m sadly not in the path of totality, but I think we’re like…95%? Something close, anyway.
  4. We’re almost to the halfway point of B’s deployment.  I think things are going a little faster for him than they are for us, but I’m happy that we’re starting the downward slide to this deployment being done. Parenting and running a household alone while also trying to maintain a long distance relationship is a unique challenge and one I’m happy to be rid of soon. I’m also grateful that B. has been happy and relatively safe during his time away.
  5. F. has decided that she’s ready to move to a big girl bed- This is not going to make my budget happy, as I hadn’t planned on buying a bed this month, but we’ve been waiting and waiting for her to decide that she’s ready to move from her crib and she finally decided she is! Plus, my brother-in-law will be here later this month so I’ll have someone who can help me set up the new bed and take down the crib (I can do both, but it’s nice to have another set of hands…). Transitions with F. (going to bed awake, potty training, eating, etc.) have always gone better once she decides she wants to (and by better, I mean if she didn’t want to do it, it was.not.happening) so I’m happy that she’s ready to make this transition.
  6. Bonus! B. has been making bracelets for F. while he’s deployed and she told me today that she’s going to give me one because “mommy is my best friend and I love her.”  I’ll be tucking that conversation away for a rainy day for sure 🙂

There we go! In a week of not so great stuff, I still have a lot of things to be grateful for. How about you? What’s making you happy right now?

It’s Frugal…Tuesday?

Hello again! Apologies for the radio silence over here- between having house guests all last week and a quick trip to Chicago over the weekend, I’m just starting to get my feet back under me.

So, since I missed last Friday’s frugal Friday post, I thought I’d do one today that’s vacation inspired from my trip to Chicago!

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Frugal Vacation Wins 

  1. Most of the activities I took part in in Chicago were completely free! One of my good friends and I visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, attended a free outdoor performance by the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, window-shopped the Chicago nightlife, and took a walk around Millennium Park. All very fun. All very free. Be still, my frugal heart!
  2. I walked everywhere- This didn’t exactly end up being free- I had to buy band-aids for an army of blisters, but it was fun to see some parts of Chicago I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Also, walking is not my natural inclination, but said friend prefers walking, so walk we did! I’m down to three band-aids on each foot, so the blisters are healing… I’m also down three pounds from the start of the weekend, so maybe said friend is on to something???
  3. Despite the abundance of expensive food in Chicago, I made more frugal food choices- Although, the ever-present Starbucks fix was of course happening, so…I guess it could have been better? Overall, I spent just under $100 on food for the weekend, which ends up at about $30 a day, which I am content with.
  4. I didn’t check any bags- Since I didn’t fly Southwest* (which was SUCH a poor choice, for so many reasons), I made sure not to bring more clothing than could fit in a carry-on bag. This is always hard, since I rarely know what I’ll be doing in advance of traveling.  But I did it!
  5. I stayed at an older hotel- Since most of my friends were coming to Chicago for an academic conference (alt-ac over here!), I wanted to stay close to the conference hotel. But the conference hotel was very expensive. Using my (erm, Expedia’s) superpowers, I found a hotel that was a two minute walk from the conference hotel, but cost almost $100 less per night. And included free WiFi. Done and done. It was definitely older and lacked the glitz and polish of the conference hotel, but there was a bed and it was clean. I don’t feel the need to pay for glitz and polish when I can pay less for serviceable and clean.

Frugal Vacation Fails

  1. I had to buy a new pair of shoes- I failed to pack appropriate footwear for hiking miles around Chicago (literally, miles. My conservative estimate is that I walked between 10-15 miles this weekend, since the zoo itself was 2 miles away from the hotel). My flimsy little dress flats weren’t going to cut it. Of course, the new shoes also necessitated band-aids, but I pulled through! However, I hunted down a TJ Maxx, so I didn’t end up paying a lot for the shoes, and I like them enough that I’ll definitely keep wearing them.
  2. Airport transportation- I did not do my due diligence ahead of this trip and just assumed that I would be able to easily take public transit from the airport to the hotel. Only, turns out, the L line from O’Hare didn’t actually go anywhere near my downtown hotel! The nearest blue line stop was 2(!) miles away from my hotel. So getting there required train + bus+ walking. Um. No thank you. So I took a cab to and from the airport. If I had planned better, I could (and would have) reserved some type of shuttle, which would have easily been half the price.

What frugal things have you been up to lately?

*For those of you unfamiliar with Southwest, all of their pricing includes two “free” checked bags (i.e., the price is built into their ticket price, but you don’t have to pay extra for it). 

10 baby items you really don’t need. Plus 5 you do!

As part of my quest to remove myself from the baby industrial complex, I spent a lot of time asking friends and family what things I actually needed with a new baby and what things were not as necessary.  So, for all expecting parents out there, here’s my list of what you really don’t need for a baby (but also five things you do need!)

  1. Wipe warmer- Seriously. You don’t need this. It isn’t like a wipe is icy cold when it comes out of the container.
  2. Toys- Babies don’t actually need much in the way of toys.  When F. was a newborn, she spent most of her time either watching the fan or staring at the pictures on the walls.  Once she got a little older, her favorite “toys” were measuring cups, wooden spoons and the strainer.
  3. Video monitor- This might get some push-back, but we’ve never had a video monitor and I’ve never felt the need for one. However, I will say that F. is a very heavy sleeper, so we can open the door to check on her and she won’t wake up.
  4. Pants/shirts/dresses in sizes under 9 months- Buy sleepers. With zippers. Or onesies if you have a summer baby. That’s it. My mom tried to tell me that I didn’t need a lot of clothes for F. and I *ahem* didn’t listen. And then had to make an emergency (and expensive) Walmart run after she was born for sleepers with zippers because dear god, anything else was way too much work. F. wore only sleepers for at least the first six months of her life.
  5. White noise machine- Do you have an old cell phone? Download the white noise baby app, plug the phone in and put it in airplane mode. Voila! White noise, for free, no extra machine required.
  6. Baby towels/washcloths- Babies are perfectly happy being wrapped up in and washed with whatever towels you currently own. No special hooded towels needed!
  7. Baby shoes- Babies don’t need shoes until they really start walking on a regular basis. Since the average age when babies start walking well is 12-14 months, you don’t need ANY shoes the first year.
  8. Baby food blender- If you want to make your own baby food, a regular blender will work absolutely fine. Or, alternatively, steam fruits and veggies until they’re soft and mash them up with a fork. Freeze in ice cube trays or just put it all in the fridge for the week.
  9. Bottle warmer- I might get some push-back on this one too, but it seriously took us about 3 minutes to warm up a bottle in a cup of hot water. However, we also had a small house at the time, and the kitchen was only about 15 steps from the bedroom.
  10. Brand new swing/rocker/bassinet/bouncer- Seriously, find some mom friends if you can and borrow this stuff. Most babies only use each one for a very short period of time, so it’s very easy for family or friends to trade it all back and forth. We borrowed a bassinet from a friend and our swing and bouncer are both currently residing with my sister. We’ll need them again one day, but by that point, she won’t!

5 Things Worth the Money

  1. A travel system- A carrier that clicks into both the car and the stroller is essential. No need to remove a sleeping baby from the carrier- just move the carrier from car to stroller! This is a must-have.
  2. A boppy- If you’re planning on breastfeeding, this magical pillow will keep your arms from dying while you feed. If you’re not, it makes a great place for baby to rest and is also useful for bottle-feeding as well.  These are absolutely worth the money.
  3. Sleepers with zippers- No buttons, no snaps, nothing that requires precision at 3 am. Sleepers with zippers are your new best friend. Onesises with snaps are a distant second.  Everything else is superfluous.
  4. A really ridiculously long phone charger. You’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting around with a baby- you do NOT want your phone to die. Buy the 20 foot charger. You won’t regret it.
  5. Baby carrier- Spend some time trying the different carriers. Moby wrap too complicated? Get a front-pack. Baby like to look around? Get a back-pack.  A good baby carrier is essential for those times when a stroller is too much work or when you need to do laundry and your baby doesn’t want to be put down.

So there you have it. The baby essentials and the baby extras! What did you think was essential? What wasn’t worth the money?

I’m back! Plus, taking on the baby industrial complex.

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A very proud F. holding her new cousin. Be still, my heart!

Sorry for the radio silence! I know I missed Frugal Friday, but I have a very good reason.  My sister and her brand new baby(!) came to visit and I’ve pretty much been spending time with them and neglecting everything else around me (food, house, blog).  BUT, my sister’s visit got me thinking about kids and money (plus it’s back to school month around here as well) so I’m devoting the next couple weeks to talking about how to manage kids and frugality. This week is focused primarily on kid “stuff”: what they need, where to get it, money-saving tricks.  Next week is going to be focused primarily on keeping kids entertained.

But, today I’m going to talk a bit about the baby industrial complex. When B and I first got engaged, about a million years ago (ok, like…10 years ago? Maybe?), my roommates at the time celebrated by gifting me a very large stack of wedding magazines. I’d never planned a wedding before and, frankly, hadn’t given any thought to what type of wedding I’d want to have.  Plus, I lean toward the introverted side of things, so having to entertain a huge group of people sounded horridly exhausting (note: I never got out of this mentality. I tried, multiple times, to convince my husband to elope. Multiple times.) The enormity of the wedding industrial complex was ridiculous (and definitely the topic of a future post). Favors? Dresses? Venues? Entertainment? DJ’s? The amount of money and things one apparently needed to get married was just ridiculous.

But you guys- it was nothing…NOTHING compared to the baby industrial complex. Somewhere along the line, having a child has been turned into an excuse for all-out consumption of all of the things. I was prepared for that. I remembered what the wedding was like. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the implied value statements that went along with the baby industrial complex.  Not only did you need to have the latest and greatest of everything, but if you didn’t, you clearly didn’t want what was best for your baby. I was not prepared for the huge dose of mom guilt that accompanied every single purchase I did or did not make.

Want to make sure your baby is safe and doesn’t die in the middle of the night? Buy this sock that monitors their vitals? Want to make sure your baby never experiences a moment of discomfort? You have to have a wipe warmer. Want your baby to have the most comfortable swinging experience? Buy this swing with 1000 different speed settings. (note…the may not be the actual value props of these products…)

Buy new! Buy the best! Give your baby the best start in life. And what parent doesn’t want to do that? Despite my best intentions (and forehand knowledge!) I almost got swept away by the baby industrial complex. Almost. Until the day I had a breakdown in my office over a baby registry.  A FREAKING BABY REGISTRY.  I was trying to register prior to my shower and I was so overwhelmed by choices and research and recalls that I was legit having a panic attack in my office.

And i thought- enough. Enough. This is stressing me out, stressing my baby out and I. Am. Done.  I took a deep breath, took a step back, and realized that I was spending way too much time equating stuff with love. And care. I was doing exactly what I had been trying to stop doing in every other part of my life. Buying more things wasn’t going to make my baby feel more loved. Hell, B. and I had tried and tried and tried to get pregnant, for years, before F. came along. She was loved beyond measure the moment I got a positive pregnancy test. I didn’t need to prove to her, or anyone, that I loved her more by buying her all of the stuff.

This is where I slammed on the brakes, hard, against the baby industrial complex. Buying more stuff never made me happy- why would owning more stuff automatically make my baby more happy? I closed out my online registry without registering for a single thing. I stopped buying baby magazines, stopped reading baby books and stopped listening to the opinions of other people. B. and I refocused on what we were already doing in every other area of lives- choosing simplicity, choosing function over style and choosing secondhand wherever possible.

And an amazing thing happened- I stopped caring. Not just about the stuff and the buying and the baby industrial complex. I just stopped giving a fuck about what other people expected of me as a mother. I’d already bucked the consumerist complex, it was the work of a minute to buck the rest along with it. I ate deli meat while pregnant, I drank a beer, I ate sushi (multiple times!), I breastfed in public, I switched to formula at six months, I took F. out without a hat on, I vaccinated, I used cloth diapers and I did it all because I wanted to. Because I truly did. not. care. about what anyone else thought I should be doing or buying or thinking. Because I knew in my heart that all F. really needed was a lot of love and affection (along with somewhere to sleep, a carseat and some clothing and food). The rest is just details and personal preference.

Bucking the baby industrial complex was, hands down, the most rewarding experience of my life and the benefits have been long-lasting. F. is happy and loved, and refocusing on what is most important to us has helped B. and I keep this whole parenthood adventure in perspective.

 

A potentially costly mistake averted…

Budgeting and tracking spending means that I’m looking at our budget and bank account on a daily basis (or at least every other day).

Lo and behold, I saw a very large pending deposit on Monday from B.’s civilian employer.

Who he is currently not working for, due to being deployed.

And he hasn’t been working there for a few months.

Turns out, it was a mistake (which of course, we found out after it had already gone through, because they can only discuss it with B.) and we need to pay it all back. It’s not a big deal, because I a) noticed immediately that unexpected money had been deposited into our account and b) was able to pay it back before any of it got spent.

In the pre-budget days, we just spent money and occasionally checked the balance of the bank account.  If that had been the case, I would likely never have noticed the over-payment (or at least not noticed until I had spent a significant portion of it) and it would have been difficult to come up with several thousand dollars to pay it back.

So, while it’s not a direct benefit of budgeting, the heightened financial monitoring and awareness that comes with budgeting saved us from a potential costly mistake later down the road!

Although I’m a little sad that we don’t get to keep the free, unearned money! 😉