Thursday, December 12, 2013

ThredUp Check In

It's weird to see my clothes on the internet
I heard back from ThredUp about the items I sent to them, and I've already sold something!  I was a bit lazy when I sent my items and I didn't total up how much I sent to them.  So I know that they didn't take some things, but I'm not sure how many.  I do remember sending in a really nice pair of Banana Republic pants that are too high-waisted for my taste, so it's a shame they didn't take those.  But, it doesn't really matter because I would have just eventually given them to a thrift store anyway, and now ThredUp can just do it for me.

They took a total of six items I sent in-- One blazer, one button down shirt, two skirts, one pair of pants and a dress.

Unfortunately, I was a little underwhelmed at the total amount I'll be getting when the stuff sells (and it will!).  Those six items will next me a cool $10.40. Since I never sell to consignment stores, I have no idea if that's a good or bad deal, but it's $10.40 for my travel fund that I would previously not have had.  Plus, my closet looks better.

So far, the items that has sold is a super adorable skirt I got at Banana Republic that was always just a scootch too short.  I don't know if when I bought it that was the only size they had, or if I was just feeling really thin that day, but I'm pretty sure I've only work it twice--at most.  I hope it makes someone else very happy.  Other items includes a skirt that's just too short, a too short dress (seriously, you'd think I have super long legs or something, which is not the case), a blazer that just isn't me and a too large pair of pants.

What's interesting to me is to see the markup on the items and my payout for them.  For instance, the skirt that sold was listed by them at $18.99 with me getting $6.30 (my best-priced item).  Other items are selling for around $10, and my take-home pay is around $.90.  Again, I have no idea if that's standard for consignment, but it seems a wee bit low...  Oh well.

Anyone else tried ThredUp?  What do you think?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Check In and Cheap Week

Nope, none of this yet
I'm doing relatively well on my plan for November.  My plans were:
  1. Sticking with eating from the pantry.   
  2. No extras. 
  3. Cut back on drinking. 
  4. Cut back on eating out.  
  5. Cheap student theatre instead of professional. 
  6. Start scheming.  
  7. Hibernate

1. I've been buying more groceries, but I'm still working on cleaning out the freezer.  I'm down to a mere three boxes of veggie burgers and one bag of frozen veg.  Next, I'm going to turn my attention to the dried goods a.k.a split peas, lentils etc., but I did use up some barley and dry soup mix in November.

2. I did not do the Mews 5k nor the Thanksgiving Pie run, but I did add back DailyBurn to my hulu+ account.  It's only $10 a month though, and when it's damn cold out, I don't want to go for a run.

3. I have cut back on drinking.

4. In the month of November, I only ate out twice, but did also order in pizza a couple times.  Still, a vast improvement.

5. I went to professional theatre, but it was free with a friend who writes theatre reviews!  I also went to a student production of Streetcar Named Desire.  Tickets were a mere $7, and the show was actually really good. We also bought tickets to The Book of Mormon, but had a gift certificate for those.

6. I've been scheming a little.  I sent in some clothes to ThredUp, but I still haven't gotten a quote from them.  I'm trying to keep the heat turned down low and use a space heater in the room I'm actually in rather than heat the whole apartment.

7. Over Thanksgiving, I had five days off, and I spent most of that time reading, watching tv, running and going to yoga.  I feel fantastic and it was cheap!

December should be more of the same, but actually started off a bit expensive already.  I paid car insurance, but I had money in savings for it.  I'll have to pay quarterly car tax soon, but I have savings for it.  I bought a plane ticket, but I have money in my travel fund for that.  I'm going to the second annual Yelp Merry Marketplace tomorrow, but I don't really need anything so hopefully I can buy cool stuff if I see it, and then fill up on free food and drink.  Wednesday night there's a concert I want to go to, but it's only $25 (a bit pricey, but it will be worth it).  After that, the only things on my agenda are yoga, running and reading--all free! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's One of Those Posts!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I think that Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite holidays, now that I no longer work in retail.  I like that it's a holiday devoted to gratitude and gluttony.  Even though I personally don't eat turkey, I still find it very easy to fill up on delicious sides.  And last year, a local pizza shop served up a thanksgiving pizza with stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey and a side of gravy (for dipping).  I tried it (without turkey); it was interesting...  I'm glad I had it, but I don't think I'll get it again this year.

In grand tradition, I'm going to list of a few things I am thankful for, and please add yours in the comments!

  1. I am thankful for my job.  Not only do I love it, but it pays me a living wage, has retirement matching and offers affordable health insurance.
  2. I am thankful for my car.  I actually kind of hate my car because it has a bunch of random quirks that are just annoying, but it also has over 100,000 miles on it and still runs just fine.  I intend to drive it until it just won't drive any more. I'm lucky to have a car that runs well and I don't take that for granted.
  3. I am thankful for my health.  I have no major health issues, and despite the fact that I seem to have wintertime perma-sniffles, I'm doing just fine.  Your health can change in an instant, so I am going to appreciate what I've got.
  4. I am thankful for my friends--both in person and virtual.  I have met so many people over the years who I'm still friends with.  I love being able to know people from all over the world and I love keeping up with people easily.  Which leads me to...
  5. I am thankful for social media.  See above.  I have lived in so many different places and had so many different jobs that I've met hundreds of people who I actually care about, but whom I would never call on the phone.  I love that I can keep up with their lives with relative ease on facebook or other social media outlets.  I also love that facebook allows you to develop friendships more slowly.  I'm a rather reserved person until I know someone, so it's much easier for me to seem interesting (and have things to talk about) when I'm not put on the spot.
  6. I am thankful for my boyfriend and my kitteh.  Ah, the men in my life, they are good.  Wee Watson and I have been together 12 years (since he was about five months old) and he has been my best cat friend and faithful mascot.  BF and I just had our five year anniversary, which is bonkers because I still don't feel like running away.

    I promise he's not actually morbidly obese--it's the angle
What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's a Rant: The Follow Up

I am very, very pleased to report that I seem to have found a solution to the birth control dilemma.  After speaking with a nurse a while back, I made an emergency appointment to see a doctor other than my doctor (mine wasn't available).  Thankfully, I had a comp day at work from working Columbus Day because I'm not eligible to take vacation days yet.

When I spoke to the nurse, she said that there was a program to provide birth control to woman whose insurance doesn't cover it, but I was pretty skeptical about qualifying for it because on paper I make a good living and would never be considered low income. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be an issue.

Apparently there's a federal program called Title X, which is the National Family Planning Program.  Though this program has existed for 40 years, I'd never heard of it before.  Thankfully, Nuvaring is covered under Title X, so now all I have to do is have a nurse visit once every three months and I'll get my birth control from them for free!  This is such a huge relief, I can't even tell you.  Thankfully, I have Wednesday mornings off, so I won't need to use sick or personal time for these visits.

I suspect that I might have been able to get insurance to cover it since I have been diagnosed with menorrhagia, but since my doctor is fully booked for the next three months, and the claim would have to be sent to insurance, who knows how long it would take to get that all sorted out.

Either way, I am so glad this program exists.  I'm feeling pretty relieved, though still paranoid that something else is going to come up.  Also, I kept thinking through out this whole debacle how lucky I am to have a car.  My doctor's office (she moved about six months ago) is a very nice facility, but it's a 30 minute drive from my house and the nearest bus stop from there is 2.5 miles away on roads that often don't have sidewalks.  When I went to pick up my first Title X birth control, they only had one ring in stock, so I have to make another trip out there in a couple weeks to get more.  I'm certainly not complaining, but it seems like if you don't have insurance, you either have to spend a lot of time or a lot of money trying to not have a baby.

Still, I'm grateful this program exists, and I'm happy to be able to tell other people about it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cheapskatery in Extreme--The Do Nots

As I said in my previous post, there are a lot of gems of information in Extreme Cheapskates, but there are also a lot of rather insane things that these people do that just make it not worth it to save a few dollars.  Most of the most extreme people were incredibly obsessed with saving money on electricity and water.  This makes sense, obviously, and anecdotally, I realized that if I keep my laptop unplugged overnight (just my laptop), I save about $10/month on my electric bill--and it's better for the laptop's battery.  However, I do not unplug EVERYTHING in my house the second I stop using it, I occasionally leave lights on in a room that I'm not in and I have some non-CFL lightbulbs.

This all comes back to the whole frugal vs. cheap debate, in particular the question of how much work you have to do to save $.50.  in the case of one woman on the show, she showers at the gym.  She says that she would be there anyway, and like saving money on her home water bill by doing it that way.  This makes sense.  Then she shows her pee jar and says that the only time she flushes her home toilet is when she's moved her bowels.  The rest of the time, she pees in a jar and adds it to her compost pile.

Showering at the gym = worth it
Peeing in jars = not worth it

The number one rule of frugality (or cheapskatery), as far as I see it is: Don't be a dick.
  • Don't fill up on samples and never buy anything.
  • Don't refill your ketchup bottles from ketchup packets that you've gotten from restaurants where you haven't purchased anything.
  • Don't serve houseguests food you found in the trash.
  • Don't exploit other people just so you can avoid spending money.
Once thing that was more interesting to me than watching people reuse paper towels and dental floss, was learning how some of these people started down the road to extreme cheapskatery.  One woman on the show was married at 19 and divorced at 22 with a baby and no money.  Another woman was a victim of the dot com bubble bursting.  She doesn't say how long she was unemployed, but I'm still reeling from about six weeks of unemployment a couple years ago, so I kind of see where she's coming from.

When you've been vulnerable like that, you will do anything to not feel that way again.  It probably seems like you can never have enough money, and it's very easy to just embrace bizarre behaviors to save a few cents.  Plus, I admit, I really hate buying toilet paper too (but I still do it).  Watching this show and reading this article on 7 Things No One Tells you About Being Homeless, really made me realize--or re-realize, I guess, how important it is to plan ahead and have emergency savings.  You don't have to be an extreme cheapskate to save money, you just need to be aware of your spending and be able to control it.  Everyone has fixed expenses, but everyone also had discretionary expenses too.

For me:
Eating most of my meals at home and packing my lunch for work (and taking home leftovers when the option is presented to me even if I get some odd looks) = worth it
Dumpster diving for food = not worth it

Friday, November 22, 2013

Maybe I'm Over It?

I used to run about four half marathons a year, plus usually one 10k, one 5k, and the grog and dog jog .  At the start of every race season, I'd feverishly register really early to get the best price. Then the first race would come around in early May, and I'd spend every subsequent weekend either running a race or training for one.  Don't get me wrong, I love running, but I'm really starting to wonder if I really want to bother registering for and running all these races.

Prices for half marathons range from $45-$100.  Even if I was getting the best price, I'd spend at least $300 on registration fees in a single year.  Sure you get a swag bag, a medal and a t-shirt, but I never really did anything with any of that stuff (I donate my medals and usually the shirts), and now I'm starting to wonder if I'm just over it.

I still love running, but it seems silly to spend so much money on something I can do for free.  I don't really need to motivation of a big race to get me out and moving, and honestly, I have no idea how to train properly and usually just run what I feel like running.  Usually on Thanksgiving, I run the Pie Run in the morning, which is a 5 mile race that benefits the Newport food bank.  A bunch of friends also do it, and it's usually really fun (and it's a much cheaper race than most).  This year I opted out, and a friend suggested that we just meet up at a park, map a route and run for free.  We're even still collecting non-perishable food items for donation, we're just saving ourselves $25 apiece.

Another gripe I have with a lot of the longer races is the fact that you don't know what the race registration fee is actually for.  In the case of the Pie Run, they tell you it's for the food bank.  In the case of the Rock and Roll race series (which is the most expensive half marathon ever), the money seems to directly benefit the Competitor Group, which is a private, for-profit group that seems to do nothing more than put on overpriced races where most of the work that people see is done by volunteers.

I still do like the challenge of training for a race and trying to beat my previous time, but I just don't feel like paying $60 for the privilege.  The past two years, I was able to bundle three races together and pay $100 for the bunch, which was a great deal, but this year, they jacked the price up to $160.  I know there's an expense involved with putting on a race of a certain size. You have to get permits, block off streets, pay police, but I also feel like there's just a lot of greed involved and it doesn't sit well with me.

So this year I think I'll skip the Cox Rhode Races for the first time in four years, even though they do have charities listed on their website.  Instead I'll do the Jamestown bridge race, which I've done every year since it started (a friend knows the race organizer personally and knows that she gives a lot of money to charity), and the Newport 10-miler to benefit the Fort Adams Trust: "A portion of proceeds from this event will benefit the Fort Adams Trust, a 501 (C) (3) non-profit with a mission to protect and promote the historic places and public spaces at the gateway to Narragansett Bay and Newport. This includes directing and supporting the stabilization, restoration, maintenance and operation of Fort Adams as a public historic site."

I can feel good about that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Newer Scheme: ThredUp

I don't think I've ever taken clothes to a consignment store.  I used to go to Plato's Closet every now and then, which is a kind of consignment store for teens.  I would bring in a whole pile of stuff, the 16-year-old staffers would paw through it, and then they'd reject most of it and shame me a little bit.  Usually, I'd walk out with maybe $5, but I figured that it was worth it because I would have just donated that stuff to the thrift store for nothing otherwise.

As far as real consignment stores,  they kind of baffle me.  I've shopped at them, but it seems that in selling things to them, there are a lot of rules.  You have to sell things by season, and you have to do it way before that season arrives.  Most of the places around here, you have to make an appointment to have them look at your stuff.  Also, I don't buy a lot of super high end stuff, so it seems like they'd just reject me and waste both our time.

Because of this, I have had a pile of very nice clothing in my closet that I just can't bear to give to the thrift store.  Most of it is stuff I bought for work that either doesn't fit me well, or I didn't end up liking after a while.  Every now and them, I'd dig a piece out and try it on, but either the skirt was too short or the pants too high-waisted--something was just off for me.  So they'd go back into the closet.

So I was incredibly excited with I read about a new online consignment company: ThredUp.  They only take clothing in perfect condition--which makes sense, but you can send them things for free (no shipping costs), any season, and then you can either get cash for what sells, or store credit to buy replacement clothes.

Once I requested a bag from them and started shopping my closet, I realized that I actually had a lot of clothes that I just never wear.  I used their brand finder to see what they accept, de-linted a couple items, dumped the lot of them in the bag they sent me (took about three days to get it), and took that down to the FedEx drop box a few blocks away.  After about a week, I got this email from them:
Thanks for returning your polka dot Clean Out bag! 
We're excited to add your practically new clothes to the thredUP Shop.
We carefully inspect each item to ensure it meets our high quality standards. This usually takes about 3-5 business days, but because we're experiencing higher-than-expected bag volume we do not expect to process your bag until on or around Monday, December 9th. We sincerely apologize for the delay.
Once we've inspected each item, we'll send you an email letting you know how many items we're able to resell and the total amount you've earned for each.

While you're waiting, browse our high quality, brand name threds at up to 80% off retail prices! As an added thank you for sending in clothing that we can sell to other families, here's a 20% off coupon good for any purchase made within 24 hours: 

So it seems that they're a little backed up right now, but I have no problem waiting.  So far, the process has been pretty painless and I'm pretty thrilled to reclaim some hangers and shelf space in my closet.  I'll keep you posted when I hear back from them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cheapskatery in Extreme

I am loving the fact that all these trashy reality shows from TLC are now streaming on Netflix.  So, I may be a bit late to the party on this one, but I watched Extreme Cheapskates for the first time this weekend and found it... interesting.  When BF and I found it in the Netflix suggestions, he was immediately terrified and made me promise that I wouldn't just do everything that they do on the show.  I promised, and I really mean it.  This show is obviously the most extreme people out there, so they things they do to save a buck are often a bit obsessive and strange, but there are also some good takeaways that anyone could do without being seen as crazy.

Waste Less
This is rule number one for frugality.  Use less of the stuff you have and it will last longer.  Do you need to use quite so much shampoo?  Do you need a whole paper towel, or would a half one or a rag get the job done?  This is obviously something that can go incredibly awry as evidenced by the people who have stopped using toilet paper, or the woman who pees in a bottle to avoid flushes (just let it mellow, lady), but it's also a good thing to just keep in the back of your mind.  I used to have a big problem with using way too much toothpaste.  Apparently I took all the commercials I had seen as a youth to heart, and assumed that you needed to fill the whole brush.  This left me buying toothpaste all the time, and with a sink full of toothpaste globules that were sticky and gross.  Now I use significantly less, buy less toothpaste and I have a cleaner sink.  Toothpaste is pretty cheap, sure, but if someone offered to give you $5 a year, you'd take it right?

Ask for a Discount
This is something I'm terrible at, but I try to get better at.  Frequently when you ask for a discount, you actually get one.  Either way, you don't really lose anything by asking, and you might save a little money.  Similarly, if you can, try to get something for free.  If you need something, ask on Freecycle.  If no one responds, move on to plan B, but you never know what people are looking to get rid of.  Remember my beautiful bike:
Completely free!  I just had to pay to pimp it out, which was not that expensive, and I asked for the tune-up for xmas, so that part didn't cost me anything.

Don't be Beholden to Expiration Dates
Many of the people on this show go dumpster diving, which is something I would probably never do, but the reason that people can manage to find decent food that way is because people throw away perfectly good food all the time.  Grocery stores throw out perfectly good packaged food just because the use by date has passed and so do people just because they get paranoid about eating something that's 'expired'.  I have a tub of yogurt that expired in early October, but I didn't open it until mid October.  It's perfectly good.  I pay attention to smells and sights, and I've never gotten sick.

Learn How to Cook
Learn how to cook, and learn how to cook with cheap ingredients.  Peasant food is becoming sexy again, and honestly, there are a lot of ingredients out there that I never cooked with because they just sounded unappealing.  After actually trying some of this stuff, however, I found that I liked it, or could figure out a way to like it.  I don't advocate making yourself miserable by eating super cheap food that you don't like, but with a little creativity, you can absolutely cook on the cheap.

Stop Thinking Things Need to be Perfect
One thing I really liked on this show was the fact that one of the women admitted very readily that her house was pretty ugly.  She got a good deal on it, it has a lot of positives, but it's not the nicest house in the world.  It still keeps her warm and dry, and she owns it free and clear.  I'd rather have a slightly ugly house than a ridiculous mortgage payment that I couldn't afford.  As long as your place is clean, functional and not falling apart, that's all you really need.

This show has also taught me some things not to do.  Obviously, it's extreme and some of the people profiled seem a bit mentally ill.  You can go crazy with frugality, and that's no better a place to be than being extreme with spending.  But that's another post.

Friday, November 8, 2013

It's a Rant

I would like to preface this rant by saying that not only am I incredibly lucky to have my job, but I am also lucky in that I have my dream job.  I love what I do; I genuinely like my co-workers; my boss is awesome and though there will always be little annoyances, my situation is really good and I could see myself staying here for many years.

There is one big issue, however, that makes me want to scream.

I now work for a Catholic institution.  Since religion is not a part of my life, and I grew up in a part of the country with very few Catholics, that makes work a little strange at times.  You go to a meeting and there's a dying Jesus decoration on the wall which disturbs me, but no one else seems to notice.  At new faculty orientation, there was a prayer before we tucked into our lunch of wraps and chips and students keep asking me for different versions of the bible, which is really hard to look up in the library catalog.  These are all quirks and interesting things to observe--it's like visiting Canada, where things are slightly different, but you still speak the language.

The big issue is that since I now work for Catholics, insurance will not cover my birth control.  They would cover it if I had a medical condition like a bleeding disorder, but for 'its intended purpose' no dice.  This seemingly small thing has so far caused me to spend at least an hour on the phone with the pharmacist and my doctor's office, and now I have to come in for an emergency appointment to discuss how we're going to deal with this situation.

See, I'm in the unique predicament where the only birth control that works for me has no generic.  Every other type that I've tried has had horrible side effects, and I'm not willing to take three months of horrible mood swings or physical discomfort to road test any different types. That means that to pay out of pocket for the one I use each month is $103.  A good friend of mine pays $6 a month, to give you a little perspective.  I could get a slight discount, perhaps, if I went to Planned Parenthood, but then I would have to have another exam, and pay for that, plus I'm only supposed to have an exam every five years.  Oh, and I don't want to have another one, cause I just had one.  Every time I need to refill my birth control prescription, it seems like I have to show my vagina to at least three people and waste hours of my time.

It's infuriating and humiliating.

Birth control is not hard drugs.  It would be impossible for me to abuse Nuvaring and get any kind of euphoria or extra non-fertility.  I've been in a monogamous relationship for five years and I don't want to have a baby--that's it. My partner ALSO doesn't want me to have a baby.  Being on birth control also has a lot of other perks that help me be better at my job like lighter periods, skipping periods which makes me take fewer sick days. Because of the ability to skip periods my moods are better, I have more energy, I'm not distracted by how much pain I'm in or by trying not to pass out.  It's really a win/win for everyone.

But it's not seen that way.

So I assumed that since this institution is anti birth control that means that they are pro-baby.  Not so, apparently.  The maternity leave policy is just as horrible as the not paying for birth control policy.  Sure, they'll hold you job for you, but unless you use vacation and sick time, you're not getting paid.  And if you have a difficult pregnancy and need extra time off, you better have savings.

I just don't get it.  Are people just not supposed to be having sex at all?  It does the college no good if all the female employees are out on medical leave all the time. It doesn't help families if people live in constant fear of pregnancy and don't want to have sex because of it.   I just don't understand who is in favor of this.  One of the doctors who is credited with inventing the birth control pill, Dr. John Rock, was a devout Roman Catholic who believed that the ability for married couples to control unwanted pregnancy and keep women healthy was god's will--so they could take care of the children they wanted.

I thought that this would be a small issue when I started my job, but it seems to be taking over my life, my budget and my free time.  I estimate that over the last five years, I have spent at least 40 hours of my life and way too much money sorting out birth control issues.  Going to Planned Parenthood or the doctor's office, taking unpaid time off work, waiting around, having far too many unnecessary exams and then getting lectured by medical professionals who seem to think that I want to have all these exams.  I just need the prescription, people!  You won't give me a prescription unless I take my pants off!  But this is how it works when you either don't have insurance, or have insurance which arbitrarily decides not to cover something that you need to live the life you want.

It's completely backwards and it pisses me off.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let Me Embrace My Flaws As Well As My Strengths

In my mind, the whole point of this blog is coming clean--to myself and my internet friends.  Know thyself, etc.  This is something that is key when it comes to managing your money.  You can't hide bills and pretend they don't exist; you can't ignore debt any more than you can ignore income.  You have to know what's going on, even when what's going on sucks (looking at my plans for November...).

I feel that this is important in all parts of life--not just finance.  You should know who you are, what you like, what your priorities are and what you look like.  This is where Stacey and Clinton come into this post (I miss them so much!).  I have watched What Not to Wear since it premiered in the US.  Prior to that, I watched the UK version.  I love both shows and what I love best about them is that the first thing they do with any participant on the show is try to get them to actually see themselves.  They try to show them who they are, what they actually look like rather than how they see themselves.  If you're going to get clothes that fit and that enhance your figure triumphs while hiding your figure flaws, you have to know what both of those are.  In my mind, that's perfectly tied in with personal finance because you need to both look good and feel confident to do your job well and to find merit in yourself.  It's not the whole package, but it's a big part of it.

This is why I get very annoyed with people who try to take that away from me.

No one can dispute the amount of money I owe the federal government--it's on paper, black and white. But plenty of people think they can dispute what I look like.  As women, we're trained from a very early age to focus on our flaws.
And that's a huge problem.  Of course the flip side of the problem is when people overcompensate by being overly complimentary.  It's just as bad when other people don't allow you to be honest.

If I'm being honest about myself physically, I would say that I have a very long torso, long arms, a reasonably flat stomach, slightly crooked shoulders, very thick thighs and no ass at all.  My thighs are like tree trunks and they pack on muscle quickly and easily.  One time, in grad school, I went to the gym, worked out on the stair climber for an hour, showered and tried to put on the same clothes I had arrived in only to find that my jeans were now too small.  Because of this, I tend to wear more skirts and dresses because it's really hard to buy pants that fit both in the waist and the thighs.  I cannot wear skinny jeans or pencil skirts without looking stupid and/or being incredibly uncomfortable.

I know this about my body.  I'm not asking people to tell me I don't have large thighs because I do.  It's a fact, like my debt to income ratio.  I also like plenty of things about myself--physical and otherwise, but I'm not going to get into how great I am right now.

And yet, I posted something a while back on facebook about briefly forgetting that I do not look good in pencil skirts, and I got hammered by a friend of mine for acting like I had low self-esteem.  Friends occasionally suggest I try on skinny jeans and then disregard me when I say that I can't wear them.  "Don't say that!" or "Sure you can!" Would you say that to Beyonce'?

Beyonce' has thick thighs--FACT
It took me a long time to stop hating the way my body is put together.  I've let a lot of people other the years give me opinions that were just wrong or that did me no favors. Ultimately, I realized that while I may not love everything about the way my body looks, I love what it can do.  I've run 15 half marathons; I have tremendous stamina; I have no major health problems; I have no major disfigurements and I am perfectly happy wearing boot cut jeans and adorable dresses & skirts.

Likewise, don't ask me to hide my head in the sand about my financial situation.  It sucks, but it could be and has been worse.  Don't tell me to wear skinny jeans because everyone else is, I'd rather look good in my clothes than try to be trendy.  Don't tell me that I can afford a European vacation if I've looked at my budget and told you that I can't.

Please, let's let others be honest about who they are and be more honest ourselves.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eat All The Food: Week Six

Went for a lovely fall run after work and then tucked into a delicious dinner of veggie burger with a side of roasted butternut squash.  I fear that I may not make much progress on the pantry in the coming weeks because all I want to eat is squash!  I'll do my best though.

I scored some more free grapes at my mandatory anti-harassment workshop at work.  I now know not to harass!  For dinner, I made a lavosh pizza with oven roasted butternut squash, cheese and seasonings. I had a similar pizza at a fancy restaurant a while back and though I didn't really like it there, the one I made was aces!

Oven roasted butternut squash, feta and arugula

Late night at work, so I made myself another lavosh squash pizza for lunch.

This was a good 'getting rid of little things' meal.  I had a little pizza sauce left from last Friday, a little pizza cheese, a few mushrooms and one English muffin.  So dinner was an English muffin pizza with the last of the butternut squash and some frozen veg.  My deep freeze is nearly empty!  It's unreal!

Veggie burger and frozen veg-- Birdseye asparagus, gold and white corn and baby carrots.  Once upon a time, I apparently thought that that was my most favorite frozen veg variety.  I swear, I bought like six of those before I realized that the corn wreaks havoc on my tummy when I go running.  Stupid corn!  One bag left...

Got up far too early and caught the train to Boston for the Red Sox victory parade!
That guy!
So, it was a very long, very crowded but very fun day and I did not eat any food from the pantry.
Very crowded
I spent Sunday grazing--as I tend to do.  I had some ramen noodles, a cucumber (split with bf, I'm not greedy), a pb&j, yogurt (which had a use by date of August 27--still tasted fine) and leftover Halloween candy.  Yeah, a really balanced eating day.  I also crockpotted some barley to freeze since it takes forever to cook.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What Am I Doing Wrong?

October was a somewhat expensive month for me.  I had to buy that box spring and pay for delivery--$300+; I got a haircut and started paying for yoga and a gym membership for the first time in a long time--$120; I upped my internet (may downgrade it again though)--$70 (what!?!?!!?), I went out to eat more than usual and treated myself to an overpriced new wallet (that will last for years!), and I bought more gas than before because I work farther from home, etc.  Even with all that though, I got my paycheck, subtracted next month's rent and regular expenses, and didn't have enough left to even cover two of my three credit cards--nevermind putting money into savings.

I know I'm still paying for the clothes buying binge I went on when I got this new job, but I really forgot how much having a constant balance on your credit card just SUCKS.  I was really looking forward to socking away more money each month into savings.  My emergency fund is half what I would like it to be, and even though I'm contributing to my retirement account at work, I still want to max out my Roth IRA as soon as I can.

So, for the month of November, things may get a bit extreme:

  1. Sticking with eating from the pantry.  I still have lots of food and November is a huge free food month so I am not likely to starve.
  2. No extras.  No more clothes, no more shoes, no doing the Mews 5k or the Thanksgiving Pie run.  As much as I love those races, the registration fees total $60 and I can run outside for free (sorry friends).
  3. Cut back on drinking. This is both for my wallet and my waistline (seriously, everything they say about turning 30 is true.  My body is completely betraying me and it's not fair).
  4. Cut back on eating out.  I don't feel like I ate out that much in October, but my budget says I did.
  5. Cheap student theatre instead of professional.  For the first time ever, I actually paid for tickets at the local professional theatre.  It was a great show, but man!  It was pricey! 
  6. Start scheming.  I used to have other sources of paltry income, but they seem to have dried up lately.  Blog income (which was never good) is all but gone; I've sold everything I intended to sell on; I don't secret shop anymore... I need some new schemes (suggestions welcome).  I also need to look into ushering, which I mentioned before and then forgot about.
  7. Hibernate.  It's starting to get cold out, and frankly, I love hunkering down with a book, blanket and cat.  Hibernating is cost-effective and lovely.  Also, I should really blog more and work on that damn novel (free!).
It should (hopefully) only take one month to get me back on track.  I do still have one more shift at job #3 coming, so that's some extra money coming in.  Hopefully with the paycheck I get at the end of November, I can completely wipe out my credit card balances, and then start saving again at the end of December.  It sucks that it will take me so long to get back to a balanced budget, but I also knew I shouldn't have bought two new pairs of shoes and so many pretty dresses/sweaters.  I don't regret stocking up on fleece lined tights, however, that was just smart.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monthly Pay Budget

I remember once hearing a friend tell me that she only got paid once a month and feeling incredibly sorry for her.  That must have been some kind of life foreshadowing because now I am squarely in that boat is it is so hard!  It makes no sense that it's this difficult because I'm still getting paid--more than before, but somehow I started off with a deficit and I'm having a hard time catching up.

I've also had an expensive couple months.  I decided to treat myself to some new work clothes and shoes.  I also had to buy a box spring for my bed and pay for delivery.  Though, in the case of the box spring, I realized after the fact that there is a mattress store a block away from my house.  I could have just bought it there and carried it home.  But, that mattress store looks like a mob front, so I've always been mildly scared of it.

What I can't decide is if I feel broke because my credit card balance is higher than I would like it to be, or because I spent/saved/reallocated my entire paycheck in one day and there's nothing else coming in until tomorrow.  Honestly, maybe what I really miss is playing around with my money--parceling it out into different accounts, etc.  I'm not sure, and it's still early days (I've only gotten two paychecks), but I feel like I'm holding my breath.

Anyone out there get paid monthly and know how do deal with it?  Any suggestions welcome.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Eat All The Food: Week Five

Has it really been five weeks already?  I really am making progress, but I'm still shocked how much food I still have left.  As I mentioned before, I still have 16 veggie burgers left.  I also have several more bags of frozen vegetables and frozen pasta/veg things.  I have five cans of tomato paste (suggestions welcome-- I think I bought it because sometimes I make chili, but that's not really good enough).

This was an interesting week in that I found/acquired a lot of free food.  That's pretty much the best thing ever even if it doesn't help me clean out the pantry.

Nice big salad along with some Birdseye wild rice and Trader Joe's soycuttash.  Yes, I felt a little weird eating a salad with a side of vegetables, but it was still tasty!

The rest of the soycuttash and with rice and another veggie burger.

Ramen noodles with an egg on them.  I had an off-campus meeting in the late afternoon and scored a whole bunch of free leftovers as well as going out to dinner (with a groupon) and scoring some more mediocre leftovers there.  I don't know if I'll actually eat those.... we'll see.

Half a leftover sandwich from last night with leftover salad from my meeting.  They were both pretty soggy but still good.  The sandwich, I should mention, was a deep fried grilled cheese.  It was the only vegetarian sandwich on the menu at the restaurant we went to, and it was... odd.  I think they deep fried it to justify it costing $8?  Either way, it was really too much sandwich for me, and I'm glad it's gone (avoid deep fried sandwiches in the future, self).  Went to a play with a friend after work, so dinner was half a popcorn and then cheese and crackers leftover from Wednesday's meeting.  Gouda!  So good!

Pizza Friday with BF--a semi-regular tradition.

Had to work at job #3, so lunch was the standard soup and half sandwich. There was some kind of event going on early in the day and I managed to score a free apple cider donut and some fruit--not too shabby.  Dinner was salad and a veggie burger.

English muffin for breakfast; out for lunch, and dinner was snacks provided by book club friends (I hosted).  Now I had leftover chips and salsa!

Purchases: 1 Cucumber

Used up: Soycuttash that I've had for at least a year, two veggie burgers.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Free Fit Fun

A while back, I bought BF at fitbit flex.  Fitbit flex is a pedometer type device that you wear on your wrist. I got it for him because I had read a bunch of reviews saying that it was waterproof.  He used to swim and always wondered how effective a workout it was, and so I thought this little gadget would help.  Turns out, it's actually water resistant, not water proof, so he ended up wearing it for a while and then giving it to me.

It's kind of ugly, but I also kind of like it.  It records all my steps for the day, alerts me when I've hit my daily goal (10,000), and I can enter in everything I eat. It's kind of funny though that the calorie tracker only seems to have data for fast and junk foods.  When I try to add fresh produce, it takes forever, but that's a minor complaint.
Since starting my now job, thanks to the fitbit, I have become incredibly aware of how my activity level has gone down.  When I was working at the public library, I was up and down stairs and getting up frequently to help people locate books, etc.  Even though it wasn't a large building, I still always got to 10,000 steps easily before the end of the work day.  Now, I'm lucky if I get 2,000, and that's really only if I park kind of far away.

Pair that with the fact that I've been worn out from the stress of starting a new job and the fact that I'm still adjusting to my new works schedule, and I am losing fitness at a rapid pace.

So, I made a resolution to do more exploring.

Usually, on my lunch break, I sit and read.  Usually, at the end of an hour of doing that, I am starting to nod off.  Plus, as I said before, the staff room at my new job is just awful.  So, I've been going for walks and I totally love it!  I always feel a little self-conscious walking by myself, but I'm starting to get used to that.

When I worked a shift at job #2 a couple weeks ago, I discovered that there is a gorgeous new bike path right behind the library.  And there is a scenic pond.  And the foliage was kick ass.  I came back from my break feeling rejuvenated, relaxed and slightly sunburned.  Considering the fact that I've worked at that library for nearly five years and had no idea there was a pond behind it, I felt like a bit of a failure as someone who likes to be called curious.

When I picked up a shift at job #3, I did the same thing.  I've heard that there are cross country trails somewhere, so I consulted a map.  I am not very good with maps, so I decided that I would try to head in the general direction of the trails, but also not be so focused as to not see the other potentially interesting things around me.  And you know what?  I realized that I've worked at that job for nearly four years and have rarely left the library except to go to two other buildings.  I found out where all the dorms are!
I found this dumpster full of old mattresses!
I found this quiet, tree-lined lane!

I also found that I was wandering pretty close to where the cross country trails are, so when I have another shift at that library in two weeks, I'll actually find them right away.

Free adventures + exercise = good stuff.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Eat All The Food: Week Four

Monday was Columbus Day, but since I work at an academic library, we were open and I agreed to work 2-10pm (brownie points for the new girl!).  For lunch I had a veggie burger (down to just four boxes now--16 patties), and sweet potato fries that I forgot I had.  They were at the bottom of the freezer, but were surprisingly not freezer burned.  And they were delicious.  Dinner was sandwich and yogurt.

I'm a little proud of Tuesday's dinner.  I had a pack of Trader Joes lentils in the fridge that had been there for a very long time, and I was determined to eat them.  I took a piece of the lavosh I bought last week, cut it in half, warmed up the lentils and made a lentil lavosh burrito with the blue cheese crumbles and a fried egg on top.  It was freaking delicious and loaded with protein.  Plus, the lentils weren't even expired yet!  They must have a long use-by date.

Late night at work so I had a veggie burger for lunch and the last of the sweet potato fries.

Oven roasted tomatoes with pasta T'was delicious!  You know how sometimes tomatoes just aren't good?  Well, oven roasting them (like with any vegetable) makes them awesome.  I had a couple boxes of pasta chilling out in my cupboard from forever ago, so I added the tomatoes to that with some parmesan.

Out to dinner for more fish and chips.  I just can't help it.

Tuna melt for lunch and toad in a hole with baked beans for dinner.

Out for brunch, and another toad in a hole for dinner.  Crockpotted a soup to bring to work for the week.

I made a slightly larger grocery trip this week.  Yogurt was on sale, so I stocked up (I eat it every day at work).  I also got salad. cucumber, tomatoes, butternut squash, eggs, half and half and some ramen noodles.  I realize that ramen noodles are not fresh produce, but I can add some of the frozen veg to them!  I also want to have a couple convenience foods around because I'm trying to increase my exercise.  If I work out and then go to yoga, I'm going to come home starving--it's just nice to have a carby backup.  Plus, not really breaking the bank buying ramen.

Used up: Sweet Potato fries, lentils, blue cheese crumbles, 1 can baked beans, 1 can (of 3) of tomatoes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eat All the Food: Week Three


Had a bit of leftover pizza and then went out for a free Yelp elite event which included stuffed mushrooms, calamari, pizza and drinks.  No complaints.

Had the last of the leftover pizza with a side salad.  I am currently working on paring down the number of salad dressings I have starting with my least favorite: Wishbone guacamole ranch.  It is not good, don't buy it.  Thankfully, it's not terrible, so I can make myself eat it rather than just throwing it away.

Late night at work so lunch consisted of a giant salad (I just only want to eat salad these days).  I used up the last of the tempeh and more of that lame guacamole ranch.

Made a run to Trader Joes--but I only spent $30!  I don't think I've ever spent that little in that store before.  I also discovered that Trader Joes now carries lavosh, aka Armenian flatbread.  I bought a package and went home to make flatbread pizzas! Made a home made pizza with fresh sliced tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and some leafy greens.  There's a pizza that this nearby restaurant/movie theatre makes that has those toppings, and I think about it frequently.  Since it's more economical to make that at home while watching Netflix than it is to go there and pay money for the pizza, movie and tip, I decided to see if I could replicate it, and it was delicious.

Made another flatbread pizza using up the last of my pizza cheese and the fresh tomatoes, which were starting to get a bit soft (I like them super ripe though).

Had a shift at job #2, so brought my usual sandwich and yogurt for lunch. Dinner was mall food at the food court before going to see Gravity in 3-D.  Man, that was intense.  My shoulders are a bit sore from clenching.  At one point my heart was pounding and I was sweating a bit.  Highly recommend!!

Giant salad for lunch and then dinner was provided for me in the form of hot dogs and beer at the annual Grog and Dog Jog.  What that is, is a relay race where you run 1.25 miles and then have to eat a hot dog and chug a beer before the next person on your team can run.  Then if you hang around after the race is over, you can eat more hotdogs and drink more beer.  It's a grand time.

Lavosh flatbread from Trader Joes, 2 chocolate bars, apple cider, pizza sauce, pesto, pizza dough--I think that's it.  So far this month I've spent ~$40 on groceries and the month is half over.  That's pretty good.

The last of the guacamole ranch.  It was down to a few ounces, and I just couldn't bring myself to eat it.  I feel very good about this decision.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Eat All The Food: Week Two

We're onto week two of me eating from the pantry!  So far, it's coming along nicely, but I am having to start getting creative.

My first foray into weird eating. I had leftover re-fried beans from last week, but no more tortillas.  So, what to do?  Well, I microwaved the beans in a bowl, added shredded cheese and black olives and had myself a burrito bowl.  It felt a little weird to eat a bowl of re-fried beans, but you know what?  Re-fried beans are really delicious.  I also ate another half bag of some frozen veg--this time Birdseye asparagus, corn and baby carrots, which I have at least two more bags of lurking around the freezer.  Yummy!

Ate up the rest of the asparagus corn and baby carrots from yesterday along with a Trader Joe's veggie burger and some oven roasted butternut squash.  I roasted half the squash, and made the other half into soup to bring to work.

Late night at work so lunch at home consisted of a box of Annie's Shells and White Cheddar and a can of French cut green beans that I've probably had for a year.  It just passed it's best by date at the end of September!  Guess what, tasted just fine.

Met a friend out after work.

Big ole salad with tempeh and a hard boiled egg.  Pro tip!  Adding protein to your salad makes it eat like a meal.  Bet you've never heard that one before. I have a tendency to buy a lot of tempeh at a time and then lose interest in it, so tonight I used up the last packet (it's kind of a packet, I guess) in my fridge!  Victory!  Also had two dinner rolls cause I love bread.  Since I had neither the patience nor the talent to bake bread, I buy the Pepperidge farm frozen rolls.  Ten minutes in the toaster over--yum.

Speaking of fridge, it's starting to look pretty bare:
But the real issue is the fridge door:
The fridge door is always jam packed, and I am doing my best to whittle it down.  So far, I'm down one jar of jam and one container of mayo--now I'm working on the Pumpkin and Fig Butter I bought at Trader Joes last fall.  I may just throw out the fig butter, but who knows.

Breakfast/Lunch English Muffin with Trader Joe's Pumpkin butter and cream cheese that is over a month past its use by date, but has no visible mold.  I believe in mold more than arbitrary dates, and it tasted fine. 
Crockpotted a Black bean soup with the last of the frozen, diced butternut squash to bring to work this week for lunches.
Out for fish and chips dinner, which is necessary when the weather turns to fall.

English Muffin with cream cheese and pumpkin butter for breakfast.  Out of cream cheese! Was too lazy to do any cooking, so BF and I ordered pizza--no regrets.

Purchases: Two tomatoes,  one cucumber, Blue cheese crumbles.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Budgeting For Broke

Today's post is a guest post by my good buddy Joel.  He and his wife have spent nearly their entire relationship struggling with un-and-under employment.  They are now both employed full-time and trying to crawl out of the financial hole created by lack of work.  They just started a blog called Bacon & Ice Cream, which I highly recommend.

So Becky and I are now finally crawling out of the pit of unemployment and survival-mode finances. Over the past couple years, I’ve learned one thing – that making a budget does not work if you don’t make enough to cover your basic bills. No amount of money saving tips making your own household cleaners, canning your own food, or getting clothes at consignment stores will help if just the rent and student loans are more than one of you makes in a month.

When I was first unemployed, I called a place that wife had worked with once to get out of credit card debt. It worked well for her and I was hoping for some good advice.

What he said was “yeah, you don’t make enough for us to help you. Stop paying your credit card bills, quit paying the mortgage on the house you don’t live in, put your student loans on hold, and get used to lots of phone calls.”

I thank Jebus that we live in an age of caller ID, or at the very least area code ID, so I could determine which calls were creditors and which were potential employers during the job search. (BTW, this was with the cheapest cell phone available, no fancy smart phones.) By the end of my job search, I was ignoring about 18 calls a day.

But now we are both bringing in some steady and predictable paychecks.

And now that we can actually pay bills on time, and start paying off past debts, we need a system.

One reason I hate typical monthly budgets is they don’t work for paycheck to paycheck and week to week survivors like us. It’s fine and dandy to know that you have so much income and so much in expenses in a month, but not knowing how they actually flow in and out is a problem. We might have enough for the month, but not at the right time when it is needed before a bill is overdue. It’s so easy to forget to leave aside enough for the phone bill or internet or whatnot.

To combat this I printed out some calendars and started filling the Fridays with our income and putting bills on the days they are due then keeping a running tally of how much we will have in our checking on each day if we stick to the budget. The benefit is I know that we have 140 bucks between now and next Friday for anything that is not a bill or outside the $200 we budget for gas and food per week. That’s helpful.

The problem was if there was any change to a bill or something comes up that needs attention (like out of contact cleaner or something) I had to go in and erase and re-add everything on the calendar. Math. Ugh.

I couldn’t be the only one with a need like this. And under that assumption, I figured someone must have created a template. I did not find an answer from Microsoft templates. I did not find one at the credit fixing agency I work with. But I did some searching and found this site:

There’s a demo video on the site about how it works, and so far it’s working just as advertised. I can even update it from my phone, like last night when I got a blizzard at DQ – I updated the calendar while waiting for my order. Boom. Done.

I can put in one time bills, recurring expenses, and categorize them appropriately so I can say to Becky what we have extra for the week, and look ahead to see where we will be at in a few months on regular checks and all of the sudden we can breathe again.  And we can check it from any computer so I don’t have to say “We’ll see when we get home and look at the calendar.”

Quick anecdote to show the power of this handy tool.

My car’s brakes started dying, and it’s not worth fixing at this point. We are making due with one car between us. When we went to see about getting a used car for $5,000, we were told we couldn’t get a loan for that because of our horrible credit history during unemployment, but they would be happy to set us up with a $20,000 car loan to pay off over several years. This boggles the mind, but I took the problem back to the budget calendar, and it turns out we can sock away $5,000 by April for a car to own free and clear, and we’ll still have some left over for savings.

Anyway, I just wanted to write this as a possible tip for trying to navigate the craziness of bills and income while living on a tight week-by-week budget. It isn’t a panacea – I don’t see it working well if your income is unreliable or variable. But it is a helpful tool in many cases.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Eat All The Food: Week One

Top half of pantry
So far, so good.  I am eating down the stores of food I have in my apartment and trying to save a bit of cash on groceries.  We're early enough in this experiment that I haven't had to eat anything super weird, but I'm sure that's coming soon.  Note: I'm only including the food I eat at home since my work lunch consists usually of a combination of soup, sandwich and yogurt.

Pan-fried polenta topped with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.  Accompanied by a side salad topped with Trader Joes Pear Champagne Vinagrette, and the last of the Almond Accents.

The last of the polenta, pan-fried, diced and served with Trader Joes Country Potatoes with Haricot Verts and Wild Mushrooms, and a big ole arugula salad.

Bottom of pantry
Wednesdays I work 2-10pm, so I had lunch at home. I ate the last of some Trader Joes Falafel along with the rest of Tuesday's Country Potatoes.  I also planned to oven roast a couple bags of brussels sprouts I found at the bottom of the freezer, but when I opened the bags, they were weirdly slimy, so I threw them out.  Instead, I oven roasted a bag of broccoli florets I also found down there.  I swear, the chest freezer is a black hole.

I realized that instead of eating a sandwich for lunch, I could make myself a wrap!  People do that all the time, and I had a bag of tortillas languishing in the freezer from god knows when, so I wrapped up my sandwich in one of them.  Brilliant!  For dinner, I had a quesedilla, using up two more of the tortillas, the re-fried beans that have been hanging out in the cupboard forever, the last of a jar of salsa, some shredded cheese from an already opened bag and half a can of black olives.  It was delicious, and I was pretty proud of myself.

Another wrap for lunch, and I am out of tortillas!  Butternut squash soup along with roasted broccoli and couscous for dinner.

Out of town.

Purchases: butternut squash, salad, 1 cucumber.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Eat/Use it Up

Inspired by Elizabeth over at Adventures in Life, Love and Librarianship's quest to Eat All the Food!
I am embarking on a similar quest.  Before I moved into my apartment, back in June, I managed to do a pretty good job eating up as much of the food I already had before moving.  Sure, I wound up with some weird meals and ate English muffins every day for about two weeks, but I also had to move a lot less stuff.

Trouble is, I still have a lot of food and I've been doing pretty well with eating it up, but I could be doing better.  Since I get paid monthly at my new job, I still haven't gotten a full paycheck, and somehow I've managed to spend a lot on groceries this month.

Added to the fact that I have a lot of food hordes is the fact that I have a lot of stuff hordes.  I still just have a lot of items stockpiled from way back when--mostly bathroom stuff. I realized the other day that I have about six hotel soaps, four bottles of lotion and more stuff under the sink than I think I can deal with right now.  I made a trip to Target the other day with the intention of buying body wash, but then realized that I could actually just use up that damn hotel soap instead.  Yes, I realize soap is soap, but I always think of bar soap just for hands--no longer!

Presently, in my kitchen, I have a bunch of snacks in my snack drawer that I like, but don't love.  I brought them to work instead.  Since I sometimes get snacky midday, I'm much more inclined to reach for something I've already paid for rather than going to the cafe down the hall.  So I now have a stash of Bevita Breakfast Biscuits (I bought them with a coupon, and they're good, but I just never want to eat them); 100 calorie packs of microwave popcorn (I always burn them in my microwave at home, or want more popcorn than that); and Larabars (again, totally tasty, but more of an on-the-go snack than a couch snack).  I also have a bunch of split peas and various grains and soup mixes that are perfect for this time of year.  I have a glut of frozen vegetables, and a pile of veggie burgers.  Honestly, I have enough food and variety of food that not only will I be healthy, but I shouldn't get bored.

The plan is to eat up what I already have, and only go to the grocery store for fresh veg.  This should save me some cash, and clean out my cupboard.

In the bathroom, I plan to use up all the hotel soaps before going back to body wash; go through my bags of stuff and see what's actually in there (I keep small items in cosmetics bags and have a tendency to lose things at the bottom), use up all the shampoo and conditioner I have before buying more (I don't really like the stuff I currently have, but it still works fine); and use up all of my travel size items.  I have refillable bottles for body wash, shampoo and conditioner, I don't know why I hang onto all these travel size samples I've acquired.

Last night's dinner was most of a log of polenta (I'll use up the rest tonight) with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella plus a side salad.

Tonight, finish off the polenta with some kind of frozen vegetable and eat up the butternut squash bisque I bought a while back that's getting close to expired.

I can do this!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Creeping Lifestyle Inflation

I'm settling into my new job and starting to figure out what the hell I actually do in my day-to-day, but I am starting to notice a bit of the old lifestyle inflation creeping in and I need to nip it in the bud!  So far, I'm doing ok with recognizing it, but there are also some circumstances beyond my control that I hadn't considered. I did get a pay raise with this new job, but I am by no means a fancy person now!  I still have student loan debt, after all.

Circumstance One: In which I taste a bit of my own medicine
I have always bee a pack-your-lunch-for-work type of gal.  I like to eat pretty much the same thing every day, I don't like to waste time while I'm on break finding food and I like knowing what's waiting for me (and controlling the calories in it).  I've always brought soup or sandwich and holed up in the break room for my lunch while reading a book.  It's never been a problem--until now.

Previously, while working at the public library, I always had something to read.  Here, at my new academic library, there is no leisure reading, and I kept forgetting to bring a book!  That's not a huge problem, just a minor annoyance.  The bigger problem is that the staff room is just awful.  It's tiny and shared by a ton of people.  There is nowhere to hide, no way to relax, and you're basically tripping over all the other people in there.  So I've started taking my lunch on the balcony of the building next door.  I have no idea what I'm going to do when it gets cold out, but I shouldn't have to worry about that for a little while. So far, at the new job though, I've bought lunch more times than I care to admit, but today, I have my trusty sandwich and yogurt along with my Nook.

So I've always been like "why doesn't EVERYONE just bring their lunch to work!?!  I don't get it!"  Now, I get it.

Circumstance Two: In which starting a new job is stressful/ exhausting
I've been drinking a lot of coffee lately.  Usually I drink a large cup of coffee at home, and then just have tea for the rest of the day.  These days, I'm a bit sleepy and have been availing myself of the on-campus Dunkin Donuts and the new Starbucks (which is so close to my office it's dangerous).  I know that a few extra dollars a week isn't a huge deal, but we all know that that adds up!  Sometimes though, it's just good to have an excuse to go for a walk.  I brought my tea into work and bought an electric teakettle for the staff room (can't believe we didn't have one), so I'm all set.

Circumstance Three: In which I now have an office and never need to move around
I didn't realize how much hopping I did at the public library until I started working here and realized that the most moving around I do is walking to the bathroom.  So I bought a membership to the college gym.  It sucks that I have to pay for it, but it's still about half what the YMCA (the next cheapest option) is, and since I'm here already, I will make myself use it (especially in the winter).  I also may buy an under-desk pedal machine, but I really don't know if it would be worth it.  Any one have one to recommend to me?

I also am going to upgrade my home wi-fi, and go shopping for more business casual clothes--the dress code here is slightly dressier than my last job.  Other than that, I'm keeping it in check!  I made a larger than usual payment on my student loans, and I plan to get back on track with putting money in savings and max out my Roth IRA contributions for the year.  I also almost bought a smart phone, but then stopped myself at the last minute.  Good job, self, now you can have another coffee for being so strong!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Reducing Food Waste: One Thing at a Time

One of the biggest challenges with reducing food waste is to find a way to not waste things you want to have around, but don't use that much.  In my case, I have been having a hell of a time with milk.

I'm not a milk drinker--I never sit down and have a glass, but I do need to have it around in small amounts for tea, some recipes, etc.  Unfortunately, by the time I realize that I need my milk, it is often decidedly stinky.  I throw it out, buy more, use a tiny bit, and then the rest goes bad.

When BF and I lived together, we could usually make it through a carton without throwing it away, though there were plenty of mornings when I needed it for whatever reason and had to trot down to the corner store in wrinkled clothes with bedhead.  Now that we're in separate places, we're both struggling with this.

I started buying smaller and smaller containers, but since those containers are plastic, I felt bad, and the smaller options are more expensive ounce per ounce.  So I came up with a better solution--freezing it.

I bought a case of small mason jars:
And now when I buy milk, I fill up the jars and freeze all but one.  You obviously need to leave a bit of room for the milk to expand as it freezes, but this way, I always have milk on hand, and I don't throw nearly as much away.  I can also buy a larger size container and reduce the amount of packaging I consume while saving money by buying the largest size.

The biggest enemy in terms of milk spoilage is air.  You'll notice that if a jug has been opened, but only a little taken out, the milk stays good for a much longer time.  Pour out half the milk, and the rest goes bad much faster.  That's why this system works to reduce spoliage in two ways.  I freeze what I'm not using and effectively stop the clock on it going bad, and I reduce the amount of air in the milk that's thawed and ready to use.  Plus those blue mason jars are so cute!

Another tip for keeping milk fresher longer is to store it in the back of the fridge so the temperature doesn't fluctuate as much.  We used to have a fridge that was wearing out and had cold spots and warm spots instead of even temperature throughout.  We noticed when we stored the milk in the back in a cold spot, it lasted much longer.  Now I store my milk in the back of the fridge near my Britta cooler so that it doesn't get hit with hot air when I open the door.  It really does make a difference.

Have you ever tried this?  Any other tips for reducing food waste?