Tag Archives: budget

A Wrinkle Too Far

I didn't take this (and it's not me!) Photo found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliedermansky/2551430534/


In my ongoing attempt to reach goal #1 (more detail), sometimes I cruise around on a variety of frugality blogs, like this one. (Oh, PS, I don’t think of my blog as being a “frugality blog,” it’s just one of the things I write about.)  Recently, I found some frugalista who has stopped washing her face at night and moisturizing to save money. She believes that her face doesn’t get that dirty in the course of the day and that her skin produces enough oil on its own.  I have two words — guh-ross. 

I admit that I am both vain and a little thrifty (I’ll tell you about the wrinkled tomatoes some other time.) I draw the line at cleanliness and maintenance.  Your face doesn’t get that dirty in the course of the day?  Don’t you eat or go outside?  There’s enough flying detritus to goo up any face! I embrace almost any money saving strategy (I would never have thought to cut my dryer sheets in half, for instance) but not at the expense of my future fabulousness.  I want to grow up to be Zoe.  🙂  I’m still going to wash my face twice a day (except when I fall asleep and forget) and slather on moisturizer (luckily the one that works best for me is plain old cold cream.)  I’m already concerned with the furrow.  I need to buy more spackle. (I am not affiliated with Estee Lauder, receive nothing if you click through or buy, but man, this stuff is GOOD!) 

I tried to find the actual link to the wrinkled cheap-o but searching was eating up too much time and I kept getting sucked in to other blogs.  I’ll post it later if I find it. 

Char is eating her first blueberries this morning.  Guess what?  She digs ’em. 


Resolution Update, a little late

Here’s the June-ish update.

  1. Reduce overall monthly expenses by 10%.  We don’t qualify for Making Home Affordable, so now we’re looking at a standard refi.  I should know more this week.    We’re generally doing okay on this, but I’m still trying to tighten up a little more.
  2. Move forward with our adoption. As you know, Daniel is here!  For the next six months, we will have monthly visits with his social worker and our social worker and will likely legalize the adoption next spring.  We are settling in pretty well.  Daniel seems to be getting attached to us, we’re improving at managing three kids at once (luckily, they rarely all need me simultaneously) and Madeline and Daniel behave just as you would expect siblings to– that is, they are best friends one moment, wrestling like baby bears the next and tattling on each other the next (“Daniel took my bucket!  Madeline touched me!”)
  3. Make more things from scratch. I am slacking here.  I bought bread.  Purchased bread does, however, make a much better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It has been sooooo hot in our area that I haven’t had the motivation to turn on the oven.
  4. Landscape. Need more woodchips.  Front yard looks better since the removal of overgrown bushes.  Picture soon.
  5. Reduce our paper towel habit. The greatest evidence of our success is John’s recent statement, “You know, I don’t even miss paper towels.” 

And, dear readers (all 11 of you), we still want to go viral.  Admittedly, this particular post is more for Mr. AFT’s and my benefit, but if you know someone who might appreciate my pith (perhaps another exhausted parent of 3 under 5?), please forward!  Since we’ve pretty well succeeded on #5,  I may have to add a new goal– PUBLISH.



k and the AFTHOTW crew

Resolution Update – Super Duper *Three* Month Edition

Haven’t updated you since early March, so there’s three months worth of progress (or not-progress, as the case may be.)

  1. Reduce overall monthly expenses by 10%.  I’m still doing battle with the mortgage company– which is to say, the new mortgage company (the third one since I started this adventure.)  If you are reading this and have successfully refi’ed with Ocwen or anyone else through the Making Home Affordable program, please let me know your secret!  Gas keeps going up, so that’s getting harder to reduce (I also keep driving more, with more regular sojourns to visit family in the aftermath of my SIL’s death.)  I’m trying *really* hard (at least I think I am), but I think I need a good kick in the butt to save a teeny bit more.
  2. Move forward with our adoption. Separate exciting update to come soon.
  3. Make more things from scratch. Still making all of our bread and yogurt.  Have adding making our own spray cleaner.
  4. Landscape. Big success here!  We gave up on grass in the backyard and now have reasonably neatly maintained wood chips.  There were potted plants for color, but M unpotted them.  She’s so industrious!  We’re looking into heavier shrubs.  We also removed the overgrown bushes in front of the house and Mr. AFTHOTW re-edged the lawn and put matching edging on the bed near the house.  It’s all nicely mulched and awaiting some plantings.  This is more progress than we have had on making the outside of our house look nice in the five years that we have lived here.
  5. Reduce our paper towel habit. Much better.  Jack’s sad demise means no more cleaning up doggy accidents and John is getting into the cloth habit. 

I count this as two clear successes with some other moments worthy of pride.  I’m going to have myself a cookie to celebrate.

Menu Planning Monday – Week of March 8 (five work days– yikes!)

Here’s what we’re having for supper this week.

Monday – John’s going to a talk, so M and I are having scrambled eggs with cheese and ketchup (which we love!)

Tuesday – chicken fajitas, spanish rice (our pastor is coming over for dinner to discuss the baptism and the adoption), chocolate cupcakes if I’m feeling super ambitious

Wednesday – spaghetti and turkey meatballs (Wednesday is, remember, Prince Spaghetti Day, but we’ll be eating Barilla that I buy in bulk at Costco.)

Thursday – chicken pot pie (from freezer stash)

Friday – pizza picnic! (I’m really, really, REALLY going to make the dough this time.)

Saturday – we’ve got family in from out of town for Charlotte’s christening so we’ll all be going out somewhere child friendly and cheap.

Sunday – roast turkey breast with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and all of the Thanksgiving classics (a holdover from last week.)

To follow this plan, I need to go out and buy tortillas for Tuesday and nothing else– which is good, because on the eighth day of the month (i.e. today), I’ve already spent more than half of our food budget. It’s the diapers: I finally had to break down and buy some.

I plan seven suppers every week and inevitably, one night we end up eating something else. This week, I’m guessing Thursday’s plan will end up migrating to next week. Anyone else want to wager?

Resolution Update for March

Two months in to the new year and we’re still more or less on track with our resolutions.  Here’s the blow-by-blow update.

  1. Reduce overall monthly expenses by 10%.  The final grocery total for February was so low that I think I must have made a mistake.  I came in about $97 under the 10% reduction goal.  John thinks it’s because I make so much stuff from scratch.  I think we had a really well-stocked freezer.  As far as the utilities, it’s a mixed bag.  Cable is way down.  Gas is about the same.  Electric is balance-billed.  Water is down a little.  Still looking for more economies there.  Our negligible clothing budget has been more than ample this month as I stocked up on kids’ clothes at a big tag sale– and got some free stuff too!  Free is my favorite price!  Among the freebies is an Ann Taylor skirt for me.  Just have to move the button.
  2. Move forward with our adoption. The social worker who taught our MAPP class will be doing our homestudy.  This is good, because she already knows us.  She is coming over a week from Friday with a preliminary first draft.  However, this is bad because we met a little patootie at an adoption party this past Sunday who we are really interested in/taken with but our worker thinks it is a bad idea.  He is only a year older than Maddie and has  some “digestive issues.”  Our worker said that she knows that we can do it and step up, but she doesn’t want to put us in that position because it would be hard work.  Uh, I never thought this was going to be easy . . .  right now, I’m really torn about how to proceed on this.
  3. Make more things from scratch. Made yogurt last night, made bread tonight.  Back to work tomorrow and that’s when the big test begins.  I’ve been meaning to make chocolate cupcakes for over a week.
  4. Landscape. Eh.  Just let it be spring.
  5. Reduce our paper towel habit. I think this is better.  I’m pretty consistent about using rags instead of disposables (unless I’m cleaning up a doggy accident or cleaning the toilet.) John still loves paper towels.

Tomorrow is my first day back to work.  It was supposed to be today but I had some kind of stomach bug.  Psychosomatic?  Details on the actual first day to follow.  Stay tuned!

Resolution Update

Since I actually do want to make progress on my resolutions this year, revisiting them seems prudent (and I saw another blog on this, so the onus of originality is erased.)  I originally said that I would revisit quarterly, but more frequent check-ins mean a greater likelihood of doing these things.

  1. Reduce overall monthly expenses by 10%. I didn’t do too badly here.  I was concentrating on reducing my grocery bill by 10% this month (which means keeping my monthly outlay to $405, including diapers and dog food.)  The final total for the month of January was $399.76.  However, some of our spending was taken up by a Costco gift card we got for Christmas.  We didn’t buy too much food with it, but we did buy diapers and dog food.  Also, my mom bought diapers while she was here (she enjoys going to our local grocery store– don’t ask me why!)  Next, we attack the utility bills (gas, electric, water, cable.)
  2. Move forward with our adoption.  Progress was okay on this goal.  We finally got in touch with someone at DCF.  We refiled preliminary paperwork (six months ago, when we originally filed, no one mentioned that it was only good for six months.)  We are now waiting to find out who our case worker will be. Not sure why that part is so difficult.
  3. Make more things from scratch. Not bad, not bad at all. In the last week alone, I’ve made bread, cornbread, chocolate cake, pizza and coffee cake. The real trick will be when I return to work (preliminary date is March 3.)
  4. Landscape. It’s winter.  The best I can do is to clear away the dog “gifts” as the snow melts.  And I have done that.
  5. Reduce our paper towel habit. Getting better!  I’ve put out a basket filled with face cloths and rags and a roll of paper towels.

And I think I found high quality, very affordable child care around the corner from school!  The one catch is that the owner speaks about as much English as I speak Spanish.  Right now, I am trying desperately to confirm the girls’ places and make an appointment to fill out paperwork.  I do better in Spanish in person.  Maybe I will just stop in.

Why God Wants Me to Be Frugal

Before I start, I have to confess to great reticence with this title– and the reticence kind of applies to the whole blog.  It seems that whenever we hear about someone who attributes God as part of their decision making process, that person or persons seems a little dump-tastic.  Think about the last time you saw a television interview where the interviewee talked at all about their spiritual beliefs. It tends to be in the context of “God spared my double-wide from destruction in the big twister!” and the individual being interviewed generally looks like he or she just got spit out from the swirling vortex of that twister. Seriously, people, did you not know that you were about to be on television?  Could you not have spared a moment to perhaps comb your hair or tuck in your shirt?  I keep waiting for the interviewee who professes faith and wears Christian Louboutins, lipstick and a decent blow out.  I can get behind that doctrine.

Please note: as research, I just checked out The Faith Network on television.  Women in pastel suits and thick glasses with egregious ash blonde bouffant hair-helmets are featured.  Just as disturbing as the sweatpant and oversized tee shirt ensembles.  This is the collective vision of what it looks like to believe in God.  No wonder I’m reticent.

My renewed frugality coincides with my renewed faith in God.   It seems awfully coincidental for there not to be a link.  Perhaps frugality and faith are both products of difficult circumstances.  If that is true, I would expect both to wane as difficulties ebb or as I get used to the difficulties.  John and I have agreed that even when (if?) our fortunes improve, we are unlikely to go back to our previous ways.  That, of course, remains to be seen, but our intent belies transience.

(BTW, if one of my students used that many SAT words in a single paragraph, I’d tell them to revise because it sounds stilted.)

So I figure either frugality drives faith or faith drives frugality.  I’m choosing the latter.  Because I believe in a higher power and a purpose greater than acquiring stuff, I choose to be frugal.  Frugality means I spend less of my resources, monetary and temporal, on worry and therefore I can spend more (mostly time) on what God (or Whomever) wants me to do.  What G or W wants me to do is a different post. 

I have to add that because of my belief, frugality doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.  John and I look back at our stupid days with relief, not nostalgia.  As in, “wow, that was dumb.  I’m glad we don’t do that anymore.”  I admit that I do miss wantonly ordering takeout but I recognize that the food I make is generally tastier and healthier than takeout, besides being significantly more cost-effective.  I don’t miss random shopping for “stuff.”  I occasionally miss John’s previous car, which I only drove rarely but enjoyed greatly when I did.  I don’t miss staying out until a bar closes and I sure don’t miss hangovers.  I don’t miss a zillion cable channels, since I don’t watch that much TV anyway.

I’m trying to catalog all of the ways our lives have changed because of economics and I’m hard pressed to think of more. Makes me think that we have genuinely changed, rather than a temporary shift.

What I Can Handle

“God doesn’t send me anything I can’t handle, but sometimes I wish He didn’t trust me so much.”  I’ve seen this quote widely attributed to Mother Teresa, which I don’t quite believe because it sounds so secular and I always expect saints to sound more, you know, saintly.  Whoever first said it, I find myself repeating it when I feel overwhelmed- which is often.  I am kind of hard on myself, always have been.  Apparently my second grade teacher first brought this to my parents’ attention and my mother likes to remind me, still, more than 30 years later.

But sometimes I do feel overwhelmed.  I keep going, because there really isn’t another option.  When I have the opportunity to reflect in kind of a detached way, I think maybe I feel overwhelmed with cause.  Here’s a list of all of the stuff on my plate:

  • Newborn daughter
  • Very busy 2.5 year old
  • Husband (who is in graduate school) (My husband is a general great guy and a fantastic, helpful and involved father so this item is in no way an indictment.  He’s also my only blog follower at this point.  Hi HOG! 🙂 )
  • Two dogs
  • A fish
  • A housemate (who I’m not responsible for per se, but it is someone else living in my house)
  • The house (cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, vacuuming, baking– some of this is my preference,so I could make my life a little easier by not baking, but that’s breaking one of my resolutions)
  • My career (I’m on maternity leave now, but normally I teach high school English in a large urban district.  Teaching is an overwhelming job and more so in our particular environment)
  • My professional development (I want to get my PhD at some point)
  • My grandmother who just moved into a retirement complex about 45 minutes from here
  • My sister-in-law who has breast cancer
  • Her husband who has prostate cancer
  • Their son and daughter who understandably are feeling some fear and stress
  • Our upcoming adoption
  • Church and spiritual life
  • Maintaining our church website (we do this as a team, so it’s not all me)
  • My brother who is looking for a job and is very concerned about it
  • Same brother is also trying to adopt a child
  • Trying to maintain my own friendships
  • “Me time” – HA!  No, seriously, I know it’s important, nay vital so that I can support all of these other people and things.  But guess what often gets short shrift?

There’s very little of this that I don’t want (with the obvious exceptions) and in the actual moment of living it, I don’t think about the volume of stuff.  But when I think about it or talk about it, I suppose it is a lot and I have to give myself credit for handling it fairly well. 

I recently had a postpartum “tune up” with a psychiatrist who just does acute and postpartum appointments, not ongoing therapy.  She was really pleasant and competent of course, but as I told her about everything in my life, she kept gasping.  I figure that when the shrink is shocked, maybe it is pretty overwhelming.

Which brings me back to Mother Teresa (or whoever the pundit was.)  I can handle it.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be happening.

In other news. . .

In our quest to reduce monthly expenses by 10%, we just changed our phone plan and saved about $32 a month!  That’s almost half of our monthly home phone expense.

A group of my friends is on a New Year weight loss mission.  We worship Our Lady of the Clenched Ass (OLCA).  I’ve received a flurry of email detailing what everyone is eating and prayers to “Our Lady.”  I love these people!

Today’s recipe at thefrugalgirl– tortellini soup.  http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/  We’ll be having this next week.

Daycare Dilemma

My kidberts are 2.5 years apart.  M will be eligible for a highly coveted K0 spot in September.  If she gets in, that means we will have two kids in day care for a very limited time.  That limited time will still be, as my husband likes to say, a shyster (did I spell that right?)  If we put Maddie in full time daycare in the fall, that’s another 9-10 months of two in day care.  That’s a HUGE chunk of change.

The spectre of daycare, especially for Charlotte, is giving me agita today.  I know, I know, it’s not like it was a big surprise that I was having another child and that I would have to put that child in day care if I was working and that day care costs money.  But now that I’m faced with the reality of it, OMG, it’s going to cost a lot of money!

Add to that the further complication that I don’t quite have a spot nailed down yet.  I’m scheduled to go back to work in eight weeks.  Ahem, need to get on that. . .

Part of me doesn’t want to go back, for a variety of reasons, some of which are not going to be discussed here, lest I get fired for my thoughts.  But part of me is anxious to return to a venue where I have to be dressed by a certain hour and I’m not a one-woman variety show for two kids under 3.  (Instead, I’ll have to deal with 80+ teenagers each day, but at least I’ll be up and dressed when I do it.)

The daycare is killing me though.  If our mortgage refinance ever goes through, day care will be our largest monthly expense.  That’s absurd. I’m trying to trust that the right solution will present itself, but today it feels like the right solution is an atavan.