Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wow, it's November

Wow, I guess I didn't post anything in October. I had almost too much to say. It's been a whirlwind fall season. I've had a family member in and out of the hospital. Right now he's out and improving by degrees.

I've started a quilting and hand-piecing class. The one thing I've gained from taking this class is the confidence that I can probably sew most simple things if only i had a machine. It's such painstaking work to sew fiddly things by hand. So putting a button back onto a coat is a piece of cake. Why was I afraid to do this in the past?

We've paid off one of our student loans. We just took the plunge and wiped out 60% of our savings doing that. The interest we were earning was nothing compared to the interest we were paying and we're not in a position to buy a house anyway.

My husband also paid Murphy to go away. There was a thing. I can't get into it. Anyway, it's gone now.

And meanwhile I've been shoppping like a crazy person. Oy! But rest assured, I'm not buying frivolous little stupid things. These are definitely needed.

I think that is all that has happened. Oh, and I had a birthday. We'll be celebrating this month. Had to put everything off what with hanging out in the Emergency room and hospital wards for so much of October. But that is alright. It'll be soon enough.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Five reasons we won't buy a house until we're ready

1.      Tens of thousands of tiny reasons in the form of dollars that we owe to banks that so generously helped us pay up front for educations we couldn't afford at the time.

2.      Budding, but location-dependent careers that could make life intensely difficult if we tied ourselves down geographically. Imagine you've bought the house of your dreams and suddenly a better job materializes over 50 miles away. Sometimes when opportunity knocks, you need to be able to pack your bags and simply move.

3.      We have barely enough space right now. We're champing at the bit to get out, and have two cats who seem to be constantly underfoot. I can't tell you how many times I've almost pulled a hamstring or twisted an ankle in efforts to right myself again after tripping over a cat. One even bit me on the ankle after I stepped on her tail, which she placed right behind me as I stood at the stove. Yet, it's still enough space for us. We haven't turned to a self-storage and decluttering and donating seems to be doing the trick for the time being.

4.      20%.  Call that 100%. We don't really have a 20% down payment on the type of house the bank thinks we can afford. And we don't have 100% either. And the bank thinks we can afford a whole LOT of house. They think we should buy a 3 bed, 2 bath monstrosity with a garage, a front and back yard, and perhaps a gazebo. Honest. Well, we don't have the first dollar for that. Not if you don't count our emergency fund and our baby emergency fund (in case someone dies and leaves us a baby or the stork brings one). We wouldn't want to put our emergency fund toward a house and then find ourselves in an emergency without a penny to our names, now, would we?

5.      We're too picky. We want a house we can live in until retirement. Not that we plan on it. We, like many reluctant West Indian transplants, dream of sunnier climes for our golden years. Every year it gets a little bit harder to deal with the utter destruction cold weather can wreak. But if it turns out we don't wind up in sunny Orlando, or mild Virginia, perhaps we need a house we think is valuable, meets our needs, and we can grow into. The realtor we contracted with told us that most people's dream house is the second or third house they buy. What dreams eh?!You know what that means. . . someone's getting a big fact commission every time. I'd rather do what my parents' generation did , or should have done. Save until you can afford a house, then buy the best house you can afford without assuming you'll always be in a position to trade up.


And there we have it, all the reasons I can think of right now why buying a house is not in the cards for us. I know what everyone is saying. Think of the interest rates! Think of the low low prices! That is alright. I stand firm. We know our budget better than they do, and it's just not in the picture.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

money leaks

Brunch with friends: $18

Knock off "Cronut": $3.50

Drinkable wine: $6.00

Though not all purchased at the same time.

Friday, August 23, 2013


A few months back I had an interesting experience happen to me. I walked out of my office building and left my phone behind. I was halfway across the busy street before I realized what I had done. And I couldn't go back and get it! I was rushing to a doctors' appointment and I hated the idea of being late. I had to take a train, a bus, and walk a few blocks so any false moves would have put me off schedule! What to do?! I didn't suspect anyone would steal my phone. I was certain it would be safe at the office overnight. So I kept walking. And I was right, the next morning it was right by the coat rack, where I had set it as I put on my coat.

But that evening was almost torture. I felt like a fish in a puddle;  not really gasping for air but definitely tense. I was bored on the train and had only a newspaper for entertainment. Gone was my music, the complete works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, puzzles and games, the internet. All gone!

As I exited the train station, I decided to make a phone call to my husband so he wouldn't worry if he had been trying to contact me. I had enough change, but lo and behold! The price was double what I recall it being just a few short years ago. I wasn't about to pay 50 cents to make a phone call and I ended up asking the receptionist at the doctors' office to allow me to use the phone.

The next day when I went to work and found my phone, I hadn't missed any calls, and there were no text messages.

There are people in America who live without cell phones. In fact I am acquainted with two or three of them. But it isn't something I thought I could do. I'm sure it takes some careful planning when everyone around you is accustomed to nearly constant contact. But it must also be somewhat freeing not to always be reachable.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Do it Yourself!

One of the great money-saving principles in personal finance is DIY, i.e. do it yourself. This isn’t just a way of saving money, it also expands your horizons and can lead you to an interesting hobby. Depending on what we do for ourselves, we may even improve our health, increase our net worth, make new friends, and learn marketable skills.

A forum I occasionally read lurk on asked what we do for ourselves. It was asked in the form of a sentence you could complete. I am my own. . . .

Some people completed the statement with what they were. Others found it easier to saw what they weren’t and those included tasks that one might be better off paying someone else to do such as legal representation (not much cramps your style worse than losing out in a court of law).

So I got myself thinking as to what it is that I do for myself that I could easily pay others or buy a machine to do.

1.      Stylist/hair dresser

2.      Cook (most days)

3.      Dishwasher (when hubby isn’t washing up)

4.      Pet groomer

5.      Pet food supplier (we make it from scratch with ingredients we buy)

6.      House cleaner

7.      Accountant (we do our own taxes with the help of software)

8.      Personal trainer (though not much is happening recently in this arena)

9.      Manicurist (I notice some of the wealthiest people just have neat, unpainted nails so I rarely do mine anyway).

10.  Eyebrow shaper (They don’t have to be model-thin, just neat).

That being said, Dave Ramsey Dave Ramsey’s FB team recently posted the following, “When your budget is tight, don’t spend money on things you could easily do yourself”.

Now that word “Easily” is a tricky one. Suppose I’m a wimp and I think that washing dishes myself will ruin my gel manicure that I had to pay someone to do because I don’t have the equipment at home? Or suppose I am an excuse-maker. Suppose I say that pet nutrition is too complicated and I should trust a large company that can claim that vets trust their brand for the best pet health? [Side note: National brands made my cats seriously overweight to the point one was unable to clean himself. The whole point of cat ownership is the low maintenance, right? So I feed my cats chopped meat mixed with this and they lost the weight and no longer have to ask me to wipe their butts].

I think a dose of ¡Si se puede! is necessary for some people, including myself. One of the forum participants mentioned some work she did in her bathroom after a strong pep talk and a few youtube videos. So far, success! Another blogger recently renovated her kitchen cabinets and with a little help from family reinstalled them. Neither of those tasks were easy (though I admit the mental part of the game was likely tougher than the skill part) but they weren't all that hard either.

Soooo what is there I’m not doing that I could be doing for myself to get mad skillz, save money, and have interesting stories to tell about how I got that scar? A few ideas come to mind:

·         Car repair

·         Baking

·         Investing

·         . . .

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pricey habit

At my workplace we have a couple of coffee makers. One is a fancy brand named monstrosity with a hopper on top that makes freshly ground and brewed coffee while you wait (it's only half bad). The other is a regular old coffee pot that we use for average cups of decaf. The decaf is my choice of drink, but sometimes I make the mistake of stopping at a store on my way to work for iced coffee.

First off, I've got to stop that because nobody sells decaf iced coffee so I get weird feelings and thoughts of paranoia.
Second off, iced coffee is easy enough to make.

I simply take the last bit of coffee from the pot that nobody wants to drink. Pour it into my cup, let it cool, covered on my desk. Then place it in the freezer in the break-room. Later on when it is half frozen, add milk (I keep soy in the fridge and nobody touches it), sugar, stir. It's icy, but when the ice melts, it won't water down my coffee. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes this is bad.

Now I just have to start bringing my own lidded cup with a straw to work so I can stop throwing plastic cups into the landfill (in my city they don't recycle number 5 plastic and I'm too lazy to collect them and take them to the one place that does).

I'm partway through a book that has reminded me of David Bach's "latte factor" so pardon me while I do a little math.

If I avoid buying iced or hot coffee for $2.99 at New York's more affordable donut chain a couple times a week, I'm saving myself over $300 per year, and as much as $3,000 over the next 10 years. I can already think of what I'd rather spend that money on.

1. a cruise for hubby and myself to the Caribbean with all the fixins
2. 3 trips with hubby to the local men's suit shop for 3 suits on sale. Yes, that is 9 suits over the next 10 years.
3. 2 LV handbags and 1 clutch at retail (I would never buy luxury bags brand new. . . they are just like cars with depreciation so I could probably get 6 LV bags secondhand never mind how many C0ach).
4. Stocks that could appreciate to $14,000 over an additional 20 years.
5. Or if I just start investing about $25/month I could have $52,000 after 35 years. 

Some of those alternatives for the money I could be spending on coffee are not that motivating. The ones that require even more saving are not that attractive. I guess because the tangible, the status symbols, and the just plain fun are still somewhat my focus.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Murphy got me

There's a guy we all know and don't like and his name is Murphy. He has a bunch of laws. One of the most memorable for me is that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. And boy, didn't it.

A few months ago I had an appointment for my regular check-up at the dentist. Sadly I couldn't make it in time and had to cancel. My new job is very far away from my dentist. I rescheduled for late last month and showed up a week too early. Sigh. Big misunderstanding. Anyway, I had some time off coming up and I rescheduled again.

The assistant did my x-rays, and the dentist came in and did my cleaning and exam. I was proud of myself as it seemed I was flying through this dental appointment without a hitch. Then, at the end, came the news. I had cavities! Why didn't he tell me that at the beginning? He asked if I was flossing my teeth (well, not as much as I know I should). He also asked if I had been rinsing with mouthwash. Honest answer, not at all. I hate the mouthwash my husband likes because when I use it my mouth burns so much that I see stars! But we had talked about that last time and I didn't do anything much about it. After fighting my way through a bottle of alcohol-free stuff, I gave up.

Well, I should have. It's going to cost over $200 to repair the damage that was largely preventable. It's not that I can't afford it. It's just I hadn't budgeted for that and it didn't have to be this way!

I'm kind of embarrassed and definitely mad at myself. And I'm stamping my feet and saying "it's not fair". My husband brushes for half the time I do and seems to only remember to floss when he sees me flossing and yet he never has cavities!

However, I learned from this experience. The dentist suggested some techniques:

1. use a mouthwash that claims to prevent cavities and restore enamel. Even though the enamel restoration hasn't been proven long-term, for the short term it might help.
2. don't rinse with water after brushing. Allow the toothpaste to remain on  your teeth so they can absorb the fluoride.
3. brush for upwards of 3 minutes to give the teeth more exposure to the fluoride (I'm still working on this).

And next time, hopefully I can walk out of there with my wallet and my pride intact.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Death and Taxes

One of the things I've become interested in lately is local real estate.  While perusing RE listings for areas near me I've increasingly wondered why taxes are so high outside of New York City; especially in towns where there is obvious urban blight and the schools are easily as bad as or worse than some just south of the Westchester border. Here is an excellent, if dated discussion:

Why Are Our Taxes So #%*! High? - Westchester Magazine - June 2010 - Westchester, NY

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reading List

I recently borrowed these books from the public library and read them (well, all of one and most of the other two). These notes are for my future reference.

Psych Yourself Rich

Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build your Financial Life

By Farnoosh Torabi

This book was pretty good but I couldn't quite finish reading it. Honestly, the writing style wasn't quite for me. However, the anecdotes the author provided from her stint on a financial makeover-style show were quite interesting. Yet I felt like this book is for someone who is just beginning their financial life. 

The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough

How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed A Money Club, and Took Control of Their Finances

With Jennifer Barrett

Although the cover of this book turned me off, I decided to try and read it. It was very good. Because the book was written from the perspective of five different women, there was someone most women can relate to. One person was a divorcee, another had ended a long-term relationship, while yet another was embarking upon marriage. They were all women who had made some blunders and wanted to get clean up the mess and create success. I confess I skipped over one of the chapters but I felt I got some really good stuff from this book. One good thing I took away was the idea that you should invest in yourself. One individual increased her salary by 20K just by beginning a MSW degree. I'm not in that field but it encouraged me to think about ways I can increase my value.

The Five Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me for Women

By Paul Richard Evans

Most unique idea: buying silver coins instead of bags and shoes as a way of satisfying the hunger to shop, yet still purchasing something that can be considered an investment. (caveat: As investments go, I guess this is alright provided our world economy doesn't collapse or we don't have a large-scale natural disaster. In that case, as Dave Ramsey would say, a pair of clean blue jeans, a gallon of gas, or clean drinking water will get you more in trade.)

I would read this book again. I felt the lessons were well-illustrated with examples. I also liked the author's philosophy and writing style. This book got me to pause and take stock again of what I'm doing and where I want to go. It also encouraged me to think about the types of investments I would like to have in my portfolio (not just my stock portfolio).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


New York City Mayor Bloomberg's so-called soda ban has made headlines over the last year or so, and came to a head this week when a judge dropped the kibosh on the new law.

In reality the legislation is not actually a ban on soda, it is a ban on the size of the beverage container. Certain stores and restaurants may not sell a sugary beverage that is 16 ounces or larger. The issue is really about how much sugar is in each ounce of the beverage. When you look at what is recommended for our diets, vs. what is in an 8 ounce soda, it is a wonder people can drink 16 ounces of soda and still live. The average soda in the average deli has 40 grams of sugar in one serving. That is already double the recommended daily amount of added sugar, per day for an adult female (20 grams or 5 teaspoons). For men it is slightly more (9 teaspoons, or 36 grams) . So if an 8 ounce can of soda puts you over your limit for two days, a 16 ounce soda is enough added sugar to last you most of the week. Drink one of these a few times a week and you're already on your way to moving the needle on the scale.

A lot of opinions have been given on whether this ban is good for New Yorkers, ineffective for controlling obesity, bad for businesses, or just plain overstepping boundaries. News outlets have looked at this issue from different perspectives. I've even seen beverage delivery trucks with signs painted on suggesting that our freedom is being encroached upon.

However, for me, this is a none-issue. As someone who is trying to be frugal, I generally make an effort not to buy beverages at all! With my lunch, if I'm thirsty I drink water. At home we do purchase bottled juice from the supermarket but try to stick with the cheapest ones. And then I water them down for myself as they are bit too sweet for me. At restaurants, mostly we stick to water. This is good for my wallet, and good for my waistline. Oh yes, and my kidneys too!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Yes Takeout!

Well, actually, still no takeout. But now we can eat out! And we did. . .and it wasn't that great.

Last weekend I finished a 28 day challenge of no prepared foods from outside our home. It was difficult and I was often frustrated. However, now that it's over, I don't really want to stop. We would like to go out to eat for special occasions or for a date night. However, we will not be just ordering food because we don't feel like cooking.

On Saturday night we had the pleasure of attending an amateur production of a mystery play at a really progressive church in Manhattan. We had an awesome time. Afterward we went to J0e's Shanghai on 56th street. The food was reasonable. The price was not. I understand it is the city and rents are high. However, the food was no better than (maybe not even as good as) the food from the takeout place around our neighborhood with just two tables and four chairs and a flypaper hanging from the ceiling! Maybe it's our fault and we should have tried something we never had before. I had chow mei fun and my husband had sweet and sour chicken. Both tasted okay. But just okay. Okay like I could have made this if I bothered to buy all the ingredients and worked at it while listening to the Knicks game on the radio. No offense Joe. It wasn't bad. It was okay.

Last night we resisted ordering Chinese. Instead I made pancakes, turkey bacon, and eggs. We put it away in front of a movie from the library. Such a delicious penny pinching moment!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

No Takeout--3 weeks

Three weeks into no takeout I have discovered some things about myself, my life, my eating habits, and my home. I would definitely recommend this exercise to anyone, and definitely during the month of February.

I feel I have saved a good chunk of money. I've also discovered some "recipes" for lunch that I might not ordinarily have tried. The fact my husband and I are trying to stay away from "lunchmeat" has something to do with some of the new foods we are coming up with. Suffice it to say, there are definitely pros and cons to not eating out or ordering in.

Something I've discovered is that I'm a decent cook. I've perfected my chili. I've also made a mean turkey b/l/t and a not half half-bad egg salad. Incidentally we thought my husband hated tuna salad. Turns out he hates restaurant tuna salad that's been left to get weird and soggy. My tuna salad is a big hit!

Something I've taken away from this exercise is that food is very expensive. If you can somehow manage to find coupons and discounts, you're ahead of the game. If you cook your own meals, you're also saving. But overall, you will spend if you want to eat tasty, somewhat varied food. If you don't mind repetition it can be easy and cheap. I don't mean to say that inexpensive, easily prepared foods are categorically boring. It's just the ones that I make so happen to be.

Another thing I've discovered is that having to buy groceries cook nearly all the meals is a full-time job. If you don't want to open containers and dump things in a pot; if you want to marinate, season, chop, and blend; if you want your meals to be at least as good as the local diner, then you'll have to work at it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

harder than it looks

Even though the month of February is the shortest month, if you are not doing something which you are in the habit of doing, then it will be the longest month in your entire life.

Some observations from my fast from takeout and dine-in:
  • Coffee in a paper cup from the deli looks like it tastes better than free top-brand coffee from your employer's hot beverage machine
  • Chinese takeout sounds like the healthiest thing in the world at 6:02 PM
  • Old habits don't die. . . they weaken and crawl under a rock to rest up so they can attack you when you are defenseless
  • Only the deli man really knows how to toast a bagel (even though he has always gotten your order wrong!)
We did go out to eat last night, for my husband's birthday. It only happens once a year. We ate modestly and still spent $42. That is slightly over half what we have spent on groceries for the month thus far. It really doesn't pay to pay someone else to cook my flippin food. They did a good job with the burger but I could have done it just as well. Luckily my birthday won't roll around for eight more months.

Now for the extra 1K, I did sign up to work for the upcoming holiday. I won't make anything near 1K. Ha! But, it's a step in the right direction.

Friday, February 1, 2013

No Takeout Challenge and $1K

I've heard it put something like this by another blogger: February is a good month to try a challenge because it's the shortest month!

I've often seen challenges on various blogs. On one, the author challenged the readers to make/save an extra $1,000 that month. On another the blogger challenged herself and her readers to take their lunch every day for that month.

The 1K challenge is something I'd like to consider but I'm not sure it would be possible to complete in just one month. I'm thinking of making it a February-March challenge. However, the no takeout challenge is something I think I should have gotten around to by now.

I have a tendency to get tired and frustrated and just kind of fall into ordering Chinese Food delivery for dinner when I don't feel like cooking, or I'm having the week from hell.  I'll also buy my lunch from time to time. That's horrible because I work in Manhattan and the prices are often about 2-3 dollars more than what you would expect to pay outside of Manhattan. I know February is not the greatest month for me to be doing this personally, as my husband's birthday, and Valentine's day both fall in this month. I think I'll excuse myself for his birthday but for Valentine's Day there will be no restaurant food. I'll be putting my Crockpot to the test and stretching my imagination. Before the month begins I'll be referring to a month-long menu I've planned out but haven't gotten around to using. I don't expect to save a whole lot because I don't make it a serious habit to order in. But I do expect to come out of it with a little more discipline.

As for the 1K challenge, I have the opportunity on occasion to do overtime on the job.President's day is coming up in February and perhaps I can choose to work overtime on that day. I also sell books from time to time by listing them on I have one or two items in my closet I think I can list on Craigslist. Let's see how close to 1K I can get!

Friday, January 25, 2013

shelf space

In my last post I talked about things I can do to reduce the money I spend every month. I haven't completed all of the tasks but I already see a difference in my cell phone bill.
The things in my list were pretty passive things, as saving money goes. It doesn't take a lot of willpower once you've already made the call to reduce a bill.
Something I've been working on that is also somewhat passive is selling old books online. The website I use is half dot come. I'm quite happy with it. I simply input the ISBN of the book, write a brief description of the book's condition, and then input a price. The website even suggests a price range based on how that book has sold recently. When you sell a book, the site sends you an email alerting you what has been sold and the deadline for shipping. Once on the site you can choose to use their links to pay for shipping. You will need paypal for that last I checked. If the book is a simple paperback, you can probably drop it in a mailbox.

This week I was lucky enough to sell a textbook from years back when I was an undergrad. It's a classic text that one really shouldn't sell if one expects to remain in the field. But to be frank, the essays in this book aren't really the game-changing type and if the day ever comes when I need a copy of this book, I'll just buy one. Meanwhile it was taking up valuable real estate on my book shelf where I could be storing tomes on personal finance and what-have-you.
The book went for $22. The reimbursement for shipping was slightly less than the real cost, plus there was a small commission for half dot com. I got a free, used box, just the right size, from my workplace. And now I'm about 20 bucks richer.
You're not going to fund your retirement by selling old textbooks and bestsellers on the internet. But if you need to free up some space you could try it out. As I go along, the things I can't sell I plan on donating either to the libary or the salvation army.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Things I can do right now to save money

1.      Drop the insurance on our cell phones. The one time I called in about a problem with my phone, the person who assisted me insisted I check into replacing my battery first. Turned out it was the battery. So, yeah. But anyway, someone I know complained that something bad happened to her phone and although she'd paid insurance, they wouldn't cover it. I'll just try to be very careful with my phone. We've had our phones for a few years now and so far, knock on wood. The insurance premium is $7.99/month/phone. That's $191 per year.
a.       This is done now. I calculated what we might have spent over the time we've had these phones. The total. . .about $390. That could have bought us two new phones definitely. With fewer features for sure, but still money gone down the drain.
2.      Research <s>cheaper<s> less expensive auto insurance. The last time I researched auto insurance we got turned down because our situations were too variable for this company to take a risk on. I wasn't employed and was actively seeking a job. They saw the potential for me to suddenly get work fifty miles away from home (and I almost did). Now that I've got a job I travel to by mass transit and hubby has about the same commute, it might be time to try again; reason being our auto insurance went up by more than $10/month. The time I might spend on the phone is definitely worth less than $120. If I can switch to a cheaper plan, though, I'll save way more than the extra $120/year. 
3.      Prepare my lunch. I've found myself spending on lunch unnecessarily. This is embarrassing because what I wind up buying is sometimes something I could have cooked for a fraction of the cost. And sometimes I find the food makes me feel slightly ill. If I would only bring my lunch to work. Imagine, I've spent the better portion of $20 and none of the food was particularly good. There's a potential to save over $500/year doing this if you figure I can prepare my lunch for half the price of what I'd pay at a restaurant or supermarket buffet.
a.       I did this today. Leftover rice and beans with salsa, cheese, store-bought guacamole, an egg, and two tortillas. And I feel great. No funny sounds coming from my tummy.
4.      Return my library books. It's all well and good to borrow books from the library that you don't wish to own; or in lieu of owning books. But it doesn't do to pay too many fines on those books by returning them late. I used to comfort myself by saying, "well, the library doesn't get enough funding so I'm doing my part by paying these fines". That's just silly. If I've got extra to give to charity then I can certainly give it to the library. But I have no budget for fines. Besides, I'm keeping others from reading the books when I fail to return them on time. I haven't paid a lot of fines in recent years but in the past I've dropped $5-$10 on a single visit to the library. Still I'm not entirely certain about the savings here.

All told, I could save nearly $800 for the year if I can meet with success on all of the above.

Do you have a money leak somewhere? What can you do to patch it?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

that's so weird!

I think hubby and I are the average 30-somethings. But we want to be above average. We want to be weird.
For some people normal is finishing high school and then attending a city, state, or private university for four or more years with maximum loans and minimal scholarships.
For a subset of those people, normal is also going on to graduate school without really knowing if it is worth the expenditure and deciding to foot most or all of the bill (rather than having an employer pay for it or save up for it ahead of time).
And for most of the people in this set, and subset, normal is paying those payments nearly clear into retirement.
I don't want to be normal anymore. I am tired of our debt practically cancelling out our savings whenever I calculate our net worth. I'm tired of not being able to go on a "real" vacation because we have to be responsible. I'm tired of paying interest! I'm tired of not being able to stack paper in our retirement and emergency funds. We work hard, so we should be able to save hard. But because of the loans we've taken, we just can't.

I'm fully aware that there are people who make do with a whole lot less and don't have the privelege of the educations we take almost for granted.. However, I'm not happy. I feel that if we have fancy educations, and solid jobs, we should have healthy finances as well. I believe we've been truly blessed and we need to do awesome things with those blessings. Things so awesome that haters line up around the block.

On our road to weird here's what we've done:
1.  paid off our credit card debts.
2.  saved for an emergency. Yes folks. We somehow manage to scrape together a modest-living eight-month emergency fund. That means we'd have to cut our lifestyle to the bone, but we wouldn't have to go without food, transportation and shelter for eight months.
3. Now we're going to pay off our student loans. By my calculations it will take a little less time than the emergency fund, and a little more time than the credit card debts. But I know we can do it.

How weird are you?

Monday, January 7, 2013

cog in the wheel

The shredder I received for a birthday some years back has died. At first it was unclear whether it was jammed, overheated, or just plain kaput. After some investigation we determined we really did need a new shredder. Here's how:

Step 1. I searched for the model of the shredder online and found complaints about the same problem. I also found a video where someone described how they repaired their shredder.
Step 2. Referring to the video, I took the shredder apart. I didn't care if I had never done this before or unintentionally broke any parts. If I could fix it, great. If not, at least I had tried not to waste money.
Step 3. I found that the offending gear was not the same as the one the video instructions identified as the problem. His gear was metal and he was able to slip it out and use the unworn end. My gear was plastic and had somehow been ground down or melted. I'm not sure how it got so damaged but it had no teeth for the other gears to catch on. That was why it made a whining noise and wouldn't move the paper along. What kind of manufacturer makes a shredder with plastic gears?! Talk about planned obsolescence. I wish I knew where they sold gears and stuff. Pretty sure you can't get them at home depot.
Step 4. I left hubby and his assistant to amuse themselves seeing if they could put everything back together while I had a cup of tea (after washing all that grease off my hands).
Step 5. I found a shredder on sale at a big box store around here. It will probably cost about half of what the old one did and will handle more paper. Hopefully the gears are all metal inside. I'll try to get it before the week is out so I can start working on the pile of sensitive information gathering around my desk.

Friday, January 4, 2013

a stitch in time

It took me a few years to figure out what the saying "A stitch in time" meant. A stitch in time saves nine. It means that the sooner you mend or reinforce something that is weakened or torn, the less time and resources you'll have to put into repairing/replacing it later.
On new years' day I spent about an hour repairing some things that no one will ever see. Long undies for my husband had somehow gotten a hole and although he wears them under his clothes, well, you never know who might have occasion to see them. . . knock on wood. The other item was a pair of pants hubby wears around the house. They were khakis he used to wear to work. I sewed up the torn leg and tried my best to patch the turned up cuffs with cuff and collar of an old shirt of mine.
It's not the best patch job. I'm no seamstress. But those pants weren't good enough to donate and weren't bad enough to throw away. Hopefully he'll get a year's more wear out of them.
What have you done to save money/resources lately?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Hello and welcome to my new blog. Thanks for stopping by. I decided to start something new in a new year. And what better thing to start than to start writing about something I find fascinating.

The address of this blog comes from a Jamaican Proverb I heard growing up: one one coco full basket. Imagine a woman getting ready to sell produce at a market and being discouraged at what she is able to reap from her farm. But as she digs up what she has planted, one by one, the basket is being filled and soon enough there's enough to make the journey worthwhile. 

My understanding of this saying is that no matter how small each contribution is, you will eventually reach your goal. I think this is especially apt in regard to saving, personal finance, and home economics. it's something I'd like to keep in mind.

That being said, I'll be making an effort to blog regularly, share ideas, and review materials that I find interesting.

All the best for the New Year!