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Containing my coffee February 27, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Consumerism, Finances, My No Spendy Year.
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Do you know what this might be?


Well, yes it’s a rather used cutting board from Ikea but I mean that black smiley thing. Do you know what that is?

Does this help?Travel Mug

It’s the thread to the lid of my favorite travel mug. The one I take on the train every day. The one that doesn’t leak unless the lid is on wrong and keeps my coffee nice and hot. The one my sister gave me even though she doesn’t drink coffee because she knows how much I like it. That travel mug. With the thread gone, the lid doesn’t seal. I suppose I could still use it but I’d end up with coffee down my shirt every single day. Once is enough to learn that lesson.

My normal morning routine is to make a half pot of coffee, enough for two travel mugs, and then load up this one and my second favorite, the one my daughter brought home for me when she worked a summer in Colorado. I like that one quite a bit but the lid isn’t leak-proof and it doesn’t hold the heat quite as well. I drink the coffee from the number two mug on the way to the train station, then drink from the number one mug on the train. (I first typed “drink number one on the train” and had to go back and edit that line so it didn’t make me giggle.) The coffee in the number one mug is still so hot I can only sip it for the first few minutes.

Now I have a decision to make. Do I buy a new travel mug that doesn’t leak and keeps my coffee steaming hot for a long time, or do I just use what I have? I do have other travel mugs but they aren’t leak-proof.  Also, I think they all have handles and I prefer a travel mug without.

CuppowI also have a few of these great lids that turn a canning jar into a travel mug. I think of them as sippy cups for adults. I used one earlier this week on the day I discovered my favorite mug was broken, but even with the improvised cozy made from my glove the coffee still cooled off too fast. Personally I prefer the Cuppow lids for cold drinks rather than hot but it’s possible I just need better insulation. Maybe I’ll knit up a thick, felted jar cozy this weekend and see if that helps.

At the beginning of the year I said I wasn’t going to buy things that weren’t a real need. Is a leak-proof travel mug a need? As much as I’d like to say yes (so I can buy a new one) I have to say no. I can get along just fine using the mugs I have on hand. If I decide I just can’t live without it, I’ll use my ‘allowance’ and get one in a month or so.



No Spendy Week 5 February 4, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Consumerism, Finances, My No Spendy Year.
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Something happens to me when my checkbook balance gets low — I start wanting to buy stuff. For most of January I was feeling really good about this challenge. I was staying within the rules and seeing a nice little cushion in my bank account. Then I had a week with unexpected expenses, plus bills that had to paid NOW and that cushion vanished. I was back to living paycheck to paycheck and all I could think was “I’d really like a comfortable, overstuffed chair to curl up in and read. Maybe even two — one for the living room and one for my bedroom.”

I’m not about to run out and buy a chair but this hasn’t even been on my radar. I had no idea I wanted a reading chair, much less two. I’m certainly not at a point in my life where I am totally satisfied with what I own and have no desire to add anything new. There are some things I’d like to get someday, both expensive and not so expensive. I also know there isn’t anything that I don’t have that I honestly need. Things I want? Yup, lots of things I want, but nothing I really need.

So why is it, when my bank balance started dipping, that I started making lists of things I want? (To give myself a little credit, I also thought “I wonder how much longer until garage sale season and could I maybe find some nice chairs at a garage sale?”)

I didn’t run out and blow money I don’t have, but I sure wanted to. I really wanted to get carnitas tacos from the local Mexican restaurant and I wanted a dressform and I wanted hot wings and I wanted an Ott light. All of those are things that would add some level of happiness to my life. I love carnitas tacos and crave hot wings. Those two items are the main reason I added Number Nine to my Rules for this year. I also know there is no reason I must indulge in either on a whim. I’m not forbidden from eating either of those, it just needs to fit into my spending plan. I can either make them at home, or go out to eat with friends. (Anyone want to guess what’s going on my grocery list this week?) Someday I will get a dressform but I know that purchase needs to wait.

It is possible however, that I will buy an Ott light this month. Joann Fabrics is having an awesome sale — buy a table lamp and get a floor lamp free. Two lamps for $109.99. Plus, I have a coupon for 15% off my entire purchase, including sale items. I have wanted an Ott light for literally years. As much as I hate to admit it, my eyes are getting older and sometimes close work is a bit challenging. I can use my Free Spending Money so this purchase would fit within my plan, but I’m very on the fence about it. The sale goes through most of this month so I have time to decide.

And I still don’t know why I really want to spend money when I don’t really have any to spend.

January Challenge – Reporting Out February 2, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Groceries, Monthly Challenge, My No Spendy Year, Shopping.

At work, when asked to provide information about project results, or statistics for a time period, it’s called “Reporting Out”. As in “Be prepared to Report Out in our meeting.” Or “Will you gather the monthly stats for such-and-such Client so I can Report Out to the Big Boss.” I don’t know if this is a common term in the corporate world (although I guess it might be) because I only have experience at this corporation. The phrase does fill a need and I’ll use it each month to document how successful (or not) I was with each monthly challenge.

My January Challenge limited my grocery purchases to fresh produce and milk. Everything else needed to come from my freezer and cupboards. I am happy to Report Out that the challenge was successful.

I did not intentionally stock up prior to this challenge but the kids had been home for various Holidays and various lengths of time. I bought more food through December than I would have purchased just for myself. And there were those ‘clearance’ meats I found on my last grocery trip of 2012. I didn’t go to the store that day with the intention of filling my freezer as that would have defeated the purpose of the challenge, but that did end up happening. The only non-produce, non-milk purchases I made this month were either from the clearance baskets at Woodman’s or from my Free Spending Money.

Woodman’s is the biggest grocery store close to me. It’s far enough away that I generally need to make a special trip rather than just pop in but I think that’s a good thing (less impulse shopping that way). Prices are generally good (although I can find some things cheaper elsewhere) and I can find just about everything I need. I like the fact that they are employee owned and they get special bonus points for being open 24 hours. It’s nice that I don’t have to think about closing time for those occasional late night trips. They also have a full sized liquor store attached but mentioning that runs the risk of sounding like a lush.

One thing I love about Woodman’s is their clearance baskets. When you walk in the store there is a line of grocery carts with overstock items, out of season, or close to the sell-by date. Sometimes I can find bags of produce as well. I always cruise through and see if there are any treasures. On my one trip in January there were a few boxes of Gluten Free crackers I had not tried before for only $2.00. Gluten Free anything generally starts at about $4.00 and only goes up so this was a great deal and I bought one box each of two different flavors.

My total for that one trip to Woodman’s was $39.68. It wasn’t all produce and GF crackers — my youngest was with me and I know he picked up something (some Lara Bars if I remember correctly) but I don’t count that. I bought a big bag of grapefruit and another of oranges, some apples, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and celery. I also made another trip to the closer store to get a Serrano pepper. So that’s it for grocery spending in January!

Well, almost… like I mentioned earlier, I did spend some of my Free money. One of my weaknesses is tortilla chips. Preferably On The Border brand or the traditional restaurant kind that taste like they were made from cut up tortillas. I did buy two bags of those this month. And when I bought the pepper, I also bought a block of sharp cheddar cheese. Cheese is the one thing I ran out of this month that I really missed. I still think I was successful (but it’s OK if you think I cheated, I won’t hold that against you.)

I still have quite a bit in my freezer and cupboard. I’m going to make one planned trip to the store after my next payday, and then extend this challenge for another month. I’ll go to the store with a list and if something is not on that list I won’t buy it. The only exception will be if I find something in those clearance baskets or on sale for a great price. No other impulse shopping allowed.

I haven’t yet inventoried my cupboards but I pulled everything out of the freezer yesterday to take stock of what was there. My only freezer is the little one attached to the fridge, but as you can see, there is more than enough to feed one person for at least another month. Depending on what I find in my cupboards, I may need to get a little creative but I certainly won’t starve.

  • Tilapia filets – 2
  • Boneless chicken thighs -8
  • Italian sausage links (chicken) – 4
  • Italian sausage (pork, cooked and crumbled, ready for pizza) – 1 serving
  • Ground turkey – 2 lbs
  • Pizza sauce (enough for one pizza) – 2
  • Spaghetti sauce – 1.5 cups
  • Chicken stock (2 cups) – 2
  • Sofrito (used to make Arroz con Gandules)- 1.5 cups
  • Blueberries – 2 cups
  • Bananas – 4-5 bananas, in chunks
  • Mixed fruit – 1.5 or 2 cups
  • Pumpkin, canned (1 cup) – 2
  • Pumpkin, cooked at home (1.5-2 cups) – 1
  • Cranberries – 1 lb
  • Corn – 1 lb
  • Broccoli – .5 lb
  • Green Beans – .25 lb
  • Pound cake slices (homemade, GF) – 6
  • Cinnamon raisin bread, GF – half loaf
  • Chalupa – 1 serving
  • Hot dogs (Oscar Mayer, packs of 5) – 3

I must have been thinking about this Reporting Out last night before I went to sleep because I dreamed about grocery shopping. I was at Safeway (haven’t been to a Safeway since I moved from California 15 years ago, but yes, it was Safeway and I’m pretty sure it was the one I went to as a child so maybe 40+ years ago… dreams are funny that way) and buying asparagus. I remember thinking I didn’t need to buy as much as I initially grabbed because I would be the only one eating it and that I put some back so it wouldn’t be wasted. The dream went on from there in weird directions as dreams often do and I woke up amused. I rather like the fact that this mindset is becoming so ingrained that it shows up in my dreams.

Look for another Grocery Shopping Challenge Reporting out March Second.

No Spendy Week 4 January 28, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Finances, My No Spendy Year.
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This week brought some unexpected expenses. The weather was exceptionally cold and I was able to work from home Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn’t venture outside from Monday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon when I planned to pop over to the library and pick up a book on hold. The key phrase here is “planned to” as my car wouldn’t start. I posted an urgent plea on Facebook to see if anyone could stop by and give me a jump and a friend’s son came to the rescue. Unfortunately, the battery wouldn’t hold a charge and I ended up buying a new battery on Friday. Since I had the car at the shop, I asked them to take a look at one of my tires. The past few months I’ve been in denial that the tire needed attention. Every three weeks or so I needed to add air to the tire and then pretended that was normal tire behavior. I have a lot of experience with denial.

My financial Achilles Heel (one of them at least) is my children. They don’t ask for money except for true emergencies (and it’s been so long since the last one I can’t even tell you when that might have been) and I don’t think they expect me to get them things. The main problem is my own expectations. I want to be generous and helpful in ways I think parents should — buying groceries, meals out, picking up things they might need or small surprises. My youngest is in his Senior year of High School and unexpected expenses come with the territory. This week there was a registration fee for music school. It’s a great music school, well worth the money, with an added benefit of no monthly fees, but I wasn’t expecting to put out the money this week.

Rent is due out of this paycheck and I paid some bills and that’s pretty much it until next payday. Emergencies and unexpected expenses are simply not allowed for the next few weeks.

I came this close to ordering a stack of books from Amazon, decided I should sleep on it before ordering and came to my senses before clicking the Pay button. I know that moving the books to the “save for later” section is the right thing to do and that buying them does not fit in my no spending plan, but I am very tempted to order them anyway.

January ends this week and I’ve done great with my no groceries challenge. I’m still working through the produce I bought about ten days ago. The only groceries I’ve purchased in January has been that produce (oranges, grapefruit, apples, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots) and a couple of gallons of milk (that were mostly made into yogurt). I’ve started making a list of things I need and will go shopping sometime after February first. I still have a long way to go before having an empty freezer and pantry so after that one shopping trip, I may extend this challenge through February.