Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's Oh So Quiet

I just got back from my semi-frugal minibreak, and I will post pictures soon, but we're currently without power.  It's going to be a sad Food Waste Friday because we got home around 8pm last night and emptied out the fridge into the garbage can.

I'm feeling a bit Dickensian today, and am actually looking forward to reading by candlelight after work and making an evening meal of oatmeal and/or ramen noodles.  Thankfully, we can still use the stove and the water heater is gas powered, so we have that too.  I was frantically texting people on the ride home asking for a place to shower for this morning (and possibly the next few mornings), but that's not necessary!

It was strange to read by flashlight and candle light before bed last night, and even stranger not to have the sound of the air conditioner or fan running while I was sleeping.  Driving back into the city at dusk was odd too because there are pockets of blackout all over the place and some sections of street light are out as well.  Everything just feels very still and strange, but the visible damage for us wasn't too bad.  It's mostly just the power outages and a lot of tree limbs everywhere.  So I'm going to see if there are any more candles to buy, and spend my night cozied up with a book and my cat and maybe a card game or two--frugal times!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Food Waste Friday: Bunzzzz

I'm a little proud of myself today.  Not the kind of robust pride that comes with a no food waste week, but the kind of hey, I've got a little ingenuity pride.  I wandered into the kitchen this morning and saw this:

Out damn spot!
 I knew that we weren't eating the hot dog buns quickly enough, but I did not expect mold already.  Since the mold was only on the top of two buns, I removed those and popped the rest in the freezer.  Then I made this:
1/2 hot dog bun breakfast PB&J!  Yum!
Not only have I started my day with the most important meal, but I avoided some waste!  Huzzah!  Total waste this week: Two hot dog bun tops and a teeny bit of basmati rice.  Not too shabby.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Frugal Birthday Girl

My name is not Sophie, but how cute!
Today is my 32nd birthday, but I tend not to make a big deal of birthdays because now that I'm getting older, they're a bit less sexy than they used to be, and because I hate gift-giving just for the sake of gift-giving rather than for the sake of just wanting to give a gift.

But I know, I'm weird in that.

A friend actually noted last year that I'm the only person she's ever met who consistently gives her gifts on my birthday.

I've just always chafed against anything that seems obligatory rather than genuine.  I don't care for New Year's Eve because it seems like there's too much pressure to have THE BEST NIGHT EVER!  And certainly that's probably not going to happen, and then there's inevitable disappointment.  I tried to have the best night ever for the millenium New Year's Eve.  I purchased tickets for the Millenium House Party in Ottawa Ontario, which featured two of my favorite bands at the time: Our Lady Peace and Moist.  We got the platinum passes (there were gold, silver and platinum), which allowed us all access to every level of the venue plus some extra perks.  We booked flights and got a room at the Day's in of Kanata, ONT.

Our Lady Peace!  Raine Maida's teeth are amazing.

Then when we landed and went through customs, the customs agent said, "The Millenium House Party?  I read that was canceled."

We ignored this obviously ill-informed person and hailed a cab to the hotel.  When we told the cabbie why we were in town, he said, "The Millenium House Party? That's been canceled."  Then he showed us a newspaper that confirmed this.  So I spent my millenium with my bestie at a Day's Inn in the middle of the snowy frozen north.  We were so far out in the suburbs (but close to the venue!) that the cab to get to the hotel cost $40, so we couldn't even afford to go back to Ottawa to go exploring, and the only things within walking distance were a grocery store, an IKEA that was closed for the holiday weekend and a liquor store.  So we drank and watched order-in movies.

It is perhaps because of this that I don't get super worked up about holidays or birthdays.  Or maybe this incident has nothing to do with it.  Put another way, it's not the day that matters, it's the spirit!

In the spirit of celebration and having FOUR WHOLE DAYS OFF in a row, Bf and I are going once again to the great frozen north, this time to New Brunswick, and it should be more temperate this time of year.  So I'll be away for a few days cooling my heels in the Bay of Fundy.  Back soon with pictures and stories of frugal(er) times!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here are my Shoes, Perhaps You'd Like to Walk a Mile in Them?

These aren't actually my shoes, but you probably guessed that
I had a very strange run-in with a patron at work the other day.  Mid-afternoon on a busy Friday, a middle-aged man approached the reference desk and asked me, "Are you one of those librarians with a master's degree?"

This was an odd way to start a conversation, but something other people have asked me in the past, so I just said, "Yes."

"In what?" he demanded.

It was at this point I started to notice that this guy was really, really intense and was wearing a lot more gear than most people who come to the library.  He had on a t-shirt and  Dickie's style work pants, but had about six assorted pens and markers hanging from the neck of the t-shirt, and what also appeared to be a miniature mag-lite--prepared for anything, I guess "I have a masters degree in Library and Information Sciences and a Masters of English," I told him.

He just glared at me, "So that's how you make the big bucks, huh?"

That statement was so preposterous that I actually laughed and said, "No, not that I've found."

This guys stayed in the library for close to four hours and seemed to have it out for me.  He asked for help submitting a resume online, and then started lecturing me about his career (unemployed electrician), politics (hates the GOP), all the licensing fees he has to pay annually to be an electrician, and how long he's been unemployed (three years).

I feel for the guy, and I thought that he just needed to vent, even though, like I already said, he was super intense, swore a lot, and made me a little uncomfortable.  I also agreed with a lot of what he said politically, but as a neutral public servant, I really can't have conversations like that at work, so I mostly just stood there.

Then it started to get personal.

I managed to get away from him briefly, and then he corralled me at the desk and started telling me things like I've never worked as hard as him in my life, I don't even know what hard work is.  He mentioned George W. Bush's appearance on Larry King Live, and was disgusted that I hadn't watched it.  He kept saying things like, "Let me give you a piece of advice, Andria," and "You don't know how hard I've worked."

Granted, I haven't had a lot of jobs that involved manual labor, I have had some, but that doesn't really mean that I've never worked hard.  Can you really say to someone with two masters degrees that they haven't worked hard?  It's not like the universities just gave those to me--I had to make an effort.  It's really apples and oranges as to who works harder--and you can't really quantify it.  It's just interesting to me that of all the people that work at my library, I'm the only one who works three jobs and has no health benefits.  I would also bet that I have the highest amount of student loan debt, and my annual payments on my student loans are significantly higher than this man's licensing fees to remain a master electrician.  In fact, as a master electrician, he will make more money over his lifetime than I ever will as a librarian, even with this three-year unemployment setback.

I don't know what it was about me that he immediately hated, or if he's just an incredibly angry man and I got caught in the crossfire, but it reminded me once again, that we don't know where other people are coming from, and really shouldn't make snap judgements. Regardless of what someone looks like, what they're wearing, what they're driving, you don't know what their life is like. He hurt my feelings, for no reason, and all I was trying to do was help him.

It's interesting too, even though I was raised in an upper middle class household by educated parents, my mother didn't want me to go to college.  She actually wanted me to be a plumber, because they make a lot of money, and in going to a four-year university I defied her.  I defied her again when I went to grad school--twice, which was really hard because she made a lot of comments about how I should just get a job and stop spending money.  So even if this guy was going on the assumption that I was raised in an upper middle class family and that's why I never learned a trade, he's wrong about that too.  My parents would have been ecstatic if I'd gone to a two-year trade school.

So to sum up: I do work hard, I don't make the big bucks (typically working for a non-profit assures meager wages for life, but a lot of job satisfaction--usually), I haven't had anything handed to me, I don't have to apologize because I have no aptitude for electrical or plumbing work and it's really not my job to get yelled at by an intense ignoramus.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Genius or Madness?

House shaped like a pig!!
My Smartypig iPod fund is plumping nicely, and while I was on the site the other day, I started thinking about what else I should be saving for.  Presently, I have a Roth IRA, an emergency savings fund, a travel fund and a running fund (to avoid that OMG it's summer racing season why do I have no money?!?!) situation.  Read this blog if you don't remember.  I have pretty much all of my bases covered, but as it seems like all of my friends are buying property these days, and I may one day get over my fear of boilers and roof replacement, I started thinking I should start a house fund.

Trouble is, though my intentions are golden, I really don't have that much extra money, I just really like having a savings goal.  So I started a "property" fund, to which I am contributing $25/ month.  Is this lunacy?  Is this sensible?  I honestly have no idea when/ if I'll ever be able to buy property, certainly I'll have to get a full-time job first, but I figure it can't hurt to have a little bit of cash on hand, right?

For those who have bought property, is this a good way to go?  Or am I just so desperate to plump a smartypig piggy that I've gone over the edge?  My new little guy is over in the sidebar showing a 0% savings, which makes me feel a bit tragic.  But I've already made $.01 in interest this month!  Take that... the man!  Note: I don't really know if I'm mad at the man, but I must be--we all are, right?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Internet is Magic

  • All hail The Frugal Girl!  This list of five ways to avoid frugal burnout is fab, practical and a good reminder for even the most frugal person out there.
  • This is bunk " Single men have a 32% higher risk of death across their lifetime, and single women have a 23% higher risk. That means that "under the worst-case scenario" single men could die 17 years earlier than married men, and single women could die 15 years earlier."  When I was single, I had more time to exercise and I ate far, far less candy.  I'm so sick of people making it seem like you're incomplete or going to die alone/ early if you're not married.
  • Couponing Etiquette!  Yes!  Don't be a jerk and take ALL of the sale toothpaste.  It's sad that you have to remind people of this.
  • I love zucchini and it's hella cheap this time of year.  I haven't made this recipe yet, but I'm pretty stoked about it.
    Marinated Zucchini Salad

    Fancy wedding treats a friend of mine is having.  OMG

Friday, August 19, 2011

Food Waste Friday: The Pantry Moth Edition

No new picture this time because I don't think I could fit it all in the frame.  We've had pantry moth issues in the past, and despite the heart-felt advice of a pantry moth-hating friend, I just didn't deal with it.  In my defense, this is what we were dealing with:
Yeah.  I originally posted this picture July, 2010
I'd been eating my way through that stash, so it was about half as much as you see there, but we also bought like ten boxes of Rice-a-Roni about six months back because I made some for bf one night and he liked it.  He then panicked that we'd run out, we stocked up, and he never ate it because it's too much work to prepare.  Sigh, I love him, but grrr.

So that happened.

All totaled, in the past month I've thrown away:
  • 10 boxes Rice-a-Roni in a variety of flavors
  • 5 boxes of Pasta Roni
  • 6 cans of Campbell's soup that expired in 2009 and that bf brought with him when we moved into this apartment
  • 4 freaky pre-fab meals that bf's mother bought for him at Ocean State Job Lot that he never expressed an interest in eating, but refused to get rid of for some reason
  • Some cornmeal
  • 1/2 bag of split peas
So that's a lot of food waste, and I would have loved to have donated it to the food pantry instead of just throwing it away, but it was either super expired, or potentially infested.  I feel sick about throwing away all that money, but I certainly wasn't going to eat that food--though I'd been using the noodles from the Pasta Roni for other things and throwing away the powdered flavor packet.  It's a bit cathartic.

The bugmen came on Wednesday and hopefully secured the place against any further infestation, the tainted food is gone, and next time bf wants to buy 10 boxes of Rice-a-Roni, I'll remind him that he hates to prepare it, and that I hate to throw away food.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Think the Insanity Has Stopped...?

I've always found this woman annoying,
while at the same time envying her cheekbones.
I've been hiding from you, my personal finance blog.  I've been hiding my head in the sand of too much online shopping, but I think I've finally come back to earth (just in time to mix metaphors).  I just made a to-do list and it includes:
  1. Bring ModCloth returns to Post Office
  2. Affix label to other return box from Modcloth and ship
  3. Bring Athleta returns to UPS
  4. Bring Old Navy return to Old Navy store.
  5. Go to grocery store and buy eggs
Frankly, I'm sick of returning things, but I also want my money back for the clothes I don't want to keep, so I have to make all these stops.  Turns out that online shopping can be just as exhausting as going to stores!  Plus, I found out that stupid Athleta lets you print out a "free" return label, but then charges you $6 to return things by mail.  Unfair, I say!

Serves me right for thinking my life is active enough to require a skort.  I don't golf, I don't play tennis, I don't need this skort even though it is purple.  I'm a librarian!  It's a sedentary profession!  The $6 is a penalty fee for my own silliness.

Deep cleansing breath.

My work bender is winding to a close, which should give me more free time, which should make me less petulant and which will give me time to root through my closet and come up with outfit combinations for the falltime.  I need to find a healthier way to act out when I feel like I'm working too much.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wearing my Clothes Out

 By "wearing my clothes out" I don't mean wearing my clothes when I leave the house, but rather, wearing them until they fall apart and become rags.  It's not something I've ever actually done before because usually my clothes start to look unattractive after a while, don't fit right, or I'm just sick of looking at them.  I'm proud to say though, that I currently have a pair of jeans that I've owned for about ten years, and that I'm still wearing so often they're getting holes which I have then been mending.

It's all very World War II homefront i.e. re-purposing things, making clothes last, doing without, washing your hair with borax... oh wait. Except not really, because I'm still buying far, far too many pretty dresses like this one.  For some reason though, I am invested in these jeans.  When I wear them, I not only think I look good, but I can admire my own craftsmanship.
Home-done hemming!  Now my pants are the right length!

They look pretty good for being ten years old
To date I have hemmed these jeans, added a hook and eye closure to the zipper area because it would gap and I didn't like that, and repaired holes that are slowly appearing in the crotch-ish area (which I'm not taking a picture of because I tried, and every one looked... odd and somehow provocative).

It's also nice to have a pair of jeans that are actually distressed instead of artfully distressed.  And no one was hurt in the distressing of my jeans.

I read once, and I think Gloria Steinem said this, but I'm not sure, but it was something like "I'm not going to have plastic surgery when I get older because I'm curious what I'll wind up looking like." Well, that's how I feel about these jeans--how far can I go with them?  I imaging one day I'll wake up and say to myself, "The grunge look is long dead, and these jeans have gone from distressed to grungy--cut the cord."  We'll see how long that takes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Internet is Magic

  • I like this post from The Everyday minimalist very much: You don't need to own everything to enjoy it.  As a librarian, clearly this speaks to me, but as someone who is constantly trying to reduce clutter, it's nice to remember that you can borrow more than books!  Just look at this list of tools and other items available to borrow in my town!  Granted, this is not my neighborhood, but I could join for $5 and borrow a rake, lawnmower or gazebo!  $5+ lending fee = much cheaper than buying my own gazebo.  The libraries in my state also lend fishing poles, cake and candy molds, museum passes and a telescope.  Borrowing rules!
  • This seems really strange:  "A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that seeing someone else in an outfit has a strong influence over customers who have a negative body image."  Apparently people have such low self-esteem that they won't buy clothes after seeing them on an attractive person.  Does that make me vain because I see someone wearing something and think I want to wear that!?
  • Librarians both write and read a lot of book reviews--this list speaks to me on several levels.

Reverse Grafitti!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What a Lovely Life

This is not my library, but it's awfully pretty
I think I'm actually jealous of one of the patrons who uses my library.

A bit of background: We hired a new programs librarian a while back.  He's a great guy (Male librarian! Those are rare!), and the programs he's been planning are awesome--interesting, educational but not in a boring way, just all around good stuff.  We have a patron who comes in daily, plays computer games for her allotted four hours, then goes to one of the library programs at 7pm.

The other night, on her way to the program room, she stopped at my desk and asked, "What am I learning about tonight?"

I checked the schedule and told her, "tonight, you're learning about climbing Mt. Everest."

Then she started raving about the previous week's program on beekeeping and how amazing bees are.  All I could think was I want to know about bees too!
Buzz buzz--we are fascinating!
For a while, I actually harbored the dream of being a beekeeper.  But that was only because I had a BA in English, wanted to be a writer, and I saw a job ad offering $30,000/year plus free housing as a beekeeper and that seemed like a good way to actually afford to become a writer.  I didn't apply for that job though, hence the reason I'm a librarian not a beekeeper.

Talking to her got me thinking how rad library programs are, especially the ones we're doing.  It also reminded me that I want to climb Mt. Everest and travel to Antarctica... You can come to the library, and learn interesting stuff from experts for free!  The only problem, in my case, is by the time these programs roll around, I've already been at the library for eight hours, and all I want is to go home.  I have no idea what this woman's life is like outside of the library, but it seems quite enjoyable to play Bejeweled Blitz for four hours, go to an educational program, and then go home (I'm just assuming she goes straight home, but maybe she has something else planned--who knows!).

Maybe I'll start going to other libraries after work, just for a change of atmosphere...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Guest Blog!

I've been a total blogging slacker this week, but lest you think I'm just sitting around eating bon bons, I will direct you to a guest post I did my My Thirty Spot: Getting it All Figured Out.  It's got nothing to do with frugality, but I poached the idea from the lovely Annabelle at Year of Shopping Detox, so it kind of counts.

Be back to your regularly scheduled programming soon!

Friday, August 5, 2011

I Bought the Shoes

Maybe not quite all of them
... I bought all of the shoes

A co-worker at job #1 had a baby in June and my boss was freaking out about her missing work and us being understaffed.  She (boss) asked me if I'd be interested in picking up some extra hours over the summer, and I, being the greedy girl that I am, agreed.  When I agreed, I was doing it mostly to just be agreeable, but admittedly, I was also seeing dollar signs. 

What I failed to realize at the time was that I was already picking up extra hours at job #3 (which rarely gets mentioned here, but does exist), working about the same number of hours at job #2, and I had been looking forward to having a bit of downtime.  Since I've been working so much, I've started to get a bit petulant, and also bored and entitled.  So I've been online shopping to give myself a feeling of control over my circumstances, which really makes no sense when you think about it.  I've squandered the extra money I've earned on things that I don't particularly want, and I've been making daily trips to the UPS Store to return many of the things purchased (thankfully, that's on my way to work).

I'm presently waiting for all of my returns to post back on my credit card, so I can know how much I've actually spent, which is torture to my budgeting sensibilities, but I brought it on myself.

It's funny, because in the past when I was working 50-hour weeks, I never bought anything--not even food sometimes--because  I didn't have time to get to the store.  Now all I have to do is press a button and grab a box that the nice man brings right to my backdoor.  This convenience will destroy me!

As always, the frenzy is passing, and I'm getting back on track--now with a new pair of shoes, and an overpriced red cardigan (but it's really cute and unique!).  Again, I have to remind myself that I can't be too extreme with my budgeting or I snap!  Moderation is key.

Moderation is key.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Charitable Saving

I drink a lot of coconut water.  Even though I'm a runner, I hate sports drinks.  I used to force myself to drink Gatorade, but I can't stand the taste (or the excessive/ alarming colors), so I needed something else to help me hydrate during and after long runs.  Turns out coconut water is not only tastey, but a very good sports drink.  The only problem is that it comes in small, expensive bottles.

In an effort to save both money and packaging, I've started ordering the large cartons from amazon.  It's way cheaper than paying $2/ 14oz bottle, and it creates less waste.  When I was placing an order the other day, I ran into that conundrum where I needed to spend an additional $.06 in order to get free shipping, but there was nothing else I needed or even wanted to buy.  I used to have a list of inexpensive items I could add to orders to get to the minimum amount for free shipping, but that list was empty!  What to do!?!?

I whined about it on facebook, and a helpful friend told me about this:  It's a list of inexpensive items--that you can use to reach the $25 mark and get free shipping!  Genius!  If you look at it, you'll see that it's mostly brackets and other household hardware-type stuff that I certainly don't need, but I did find this:
Fun colors!
Pencil-top erasers aren't anything I need in my life, but we certainly could use them at the library.  So there you go, I save $6 on shipping, and the library gets erasers to lend out to patrons instead of just lending them an eraserless pencil and explaining that that's all we have (seriously, those erasers never last).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

July into August

Josh Hartnett was in a movie called August?
Anyone actually see that?
Anyone seen him in anything lately?
August is upon us.  I've always liked August because it's when my birthday is, and that always translated into free stuff, but August always makes me a little melancholy too.  Summer is winding down, so we all cue the panic of cramming in all that "summery" stuff we planned to do; I fear that I haven't enjoyed wearing sundresses as much as I could have (though honestly, it stays pretty warm here until the end of October, so I can still wear them); and it's back to school--eep!

My July goals were pretty laid-back: Spend/save wisely, use downtime well, and keep on running.  I've done ok with those.  I don't know if you could really say I've been spending wisely, I've been on a bit of a clothes-buying bender lately, but in keeping with my manner of shopping, most of it will be returned.  I've been reading a lot, but haven't been using my downtime as well as I could have--still not working on that novel... As far as the running, that's been just ok too.  We, as well as the rest of North America, were stuck in a heat wave, which meant that I did not go running as often as I should have.  But, according to my running log, I managed to cover 66 miles for the month, which is more than I need on a monthly basis to reach my annual goal.  That's more than the distance from my house to Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott! Though if I ran that all at once, I would be too tired to appreciate the history of her homestead.  Note: this is a much more exciting way to calculate distance.

For August I most need to not get caught up in the whole "It's back to school time, must buy cute new outfits!"  I don't need cute, new outfits.  Even if I was a grad student, I wouldn't need cute new outfits because grad students are notoriously unkempt.

James Franco, famously scruffy grad student

I also need to buy and consume lots of zucchini.  I'm obsessed with zucchini lately, and since it's so hella cheap and good for me, I'm going to just keep on keeping on until I'm sick of it.

My smartypig account is filling up nicely, and I should have the money for my new iPod by October--what shall I start saving for then?  I like these savings goals, it makes me feel very focused and like I'm earning my extravagances.

I still need to reduce the number of non-perishables I stocked up on (read: hoarded) in my post grad school graduation panic.  So I'm going to try to eat at least one item per week, hopefully more.

I also have four whole days off in August, so bf and I are going to take a lovely mini-break.  That's got nothing to do with goals, I'm just excited about it.

What do you all have planned for August?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Moneywise Monday: It May Not be Perfect...

Jack Bauer has adventures--and a bag to go with them
Lately I've been on the hunt for a new adventuring bag.  An adventuring bag is a very important item to have in one's collection and differs from a regular purse in a number of ways.

  1. An adventuring bag is generally larger than a purse.  Since the Adventuring Bag comes into play while one is out on adventures, it must hold all the things that one needs to remain comfortable and avoid spending money i.e. room enough for water, snacks and a cardigan--sometimes knee socks sometimes a sun hat.
  2. An adventuring Bag, while large, should not be cumbersome.  This is tricky, as you can imagine, but it can be done.  It should also squash down easily for storage in cars, under plane seats, and on touristy rides of all types.
  3. A Adventuring Bag must be durable!  No delicate clutches need apply!
  4. An Adventuring bag must have a wide strap.  Since you (like me) probably do most of your adventuring while on vacation, you need to make sure this bag is as comfortable to wear as possible for long periods of time.  Since it will hold more than you carry on the average day, you need a wide strap to distribute the weight and make sure you don't cripple your shoulder.
  5. An Adventuring Bag should have a long enough strap so it can be worn cross-body.  This also helps distribute the weight and makes it much, much more comfortable.
I had an Adventuring Bag that suited me quite well for a number of years, and that I got at Target for about $15.  Sadly, this bag was starting to break down, so I've been on the hunt for a replacement, and I think I found one.

I was snooping through and I found this:
Cute, functional, spacious, cross-body strap AND it has a giraffe on it!  But the price is a bit higher than I would like.  So I started seeing what else was available in this brand, and I found this

Almost exactly the same bag except it has a peacock on it and it's 40% off!  The reason for the deep discount, I'm assuming, is that it only has one two star review which says this: "The bag was perfect! Except it smelled awful. Perhaps it was the leather/vinyl but I couldn't keep it. It smelled just awful. Very unfortunate. Endless was great and took it back ASAP of course!"

I don't love the idea of having a stinky bag, but I figured I might as well try it out.  It does smell, but I'm also not using it right away.  I've had it airing out in the window for a couple days, and the smell is already dissipating. I'm well on my way to having an unscented Adventuring Bag that I love!

How did everyone else do this week?