Uber Frugal July Challenge

In five-ish days, I’ll embark on Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal July Challenge. Even though I’ll have a fair number of unavoidable expenses related to moving (and probably an equal number of avoidable ones) a month-long frugal challenge will hopefully ameliorate the damage and help me focus my spending and saving on what is most important to me.

In preparation for a month of extreme frugality, Mrs. Frugalwoods suggests the following five questions to help participants set their goals. Below are the questions and my answers.

  1. Why are you participating in this challenge?
    I have a lot of expenses coming up and a lot of temptation to spend money where I


    How I feel about my spending

    don’t necessarily need to out of a sense of nostalgia and probably fear of the uncertain immediate future. I want to mitigate unnecessary spending so that I can enjoy the experiences I do choose to spend money on without guilt. I want to be able to enjoy the experiences I’ve already committed to (#Barcelona), and also feel like I”ll be okay financially when I get back and am job hunting.

  2. What do you hope to achieve?
    I want to end this challenge feeling like my spending was deliberate and like I have set myself up for success in the fall. I also want to return to a practice of thoughtful attention to my finances, which I think this challenge (and blogging about it) will achieve.
  3. What are your long term life goals?
    Buy a house, have a kid, stop working or work for myself in another way. Write and publish things. Work with teens.
  4. Where do you want to be in ten years?
    Ideally I’d like to have all the things listed in #3.
  5. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it?
    I really don’t save enough right now to make those things happen. On my own, I don’t know that I’d ever have enough money to buy a house. I spend more time (and money) enjoying myself with friends (which is valuable, not knocking friends here, just questioning my spending) than I do working on my own passion projects. I say yes to immediate experiences rather than long term goals.
    I suppose I can mind map a little more to be really clear on my goals and then stick to my guns and not go over my “fun” budget. I could be honest about what I’m feeling to my friends and let them know that I’m feeling tight on funds and I want to spend quality time with them, that they’re more important than whatever we’re doing that takes money. I could say no to things or propose alternatives.

My intention is to blog each day about how the challenge is going, and respond to the daily mantra or action. I think this will help me stay focused and get more out of the experience, and leave me with some long term changes.

Wish me luck! Click here to sign up for your own frugal month challenge!

June Gratitude

2017 has been a great year so far, even if I have been mostly absent from this blog (not the great part). Let me count the ways:

1. Work: I took on a new role at work, which, while being incredibly stressful and time consuming, has also been fairly enjoyable. I’ve gotten to spend a bit more time directly with girls (my passion) and had the chance to work with a new group of people. I’ve been consistently praised for my work this year, which is satisfying. I have a hard time feeling successful when I’m new at something so it is nice to hear positive reactions. Right now, I’m in the midst of planning next year’s events and activities, which is fun because I can be creative and build the kind of events I would want to do, instead of just delivering on what was already promised.

2. Changes: My man and I are moving! Yes, this is a little sad because I won’t actually get to see the events I’m planning come to fruition, but it’s also exciting. San Diego was beginning to feel like an enormous waiting room, and I’m excited (and anxious) to be moving on to the next thing. We’ll be going to the opposite side of the country so I’m also excited for all the differences (mostly snow and less expensive cost of living).

3. Writing: An essay I wrote won second place in a writing contest! I thought it would be published, but it won’t be and that’s disappointing, but second place is great! And second place paid $75! This is the first time I’ve ever been paid for something I’ve written.

4. Travel: I’m headed to Barcelona in September. After the man and I move, I’m taking a week and going to visit a friend in the city while she celebrates her ten-year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to imagine where I’ll be in ten years. But in two months, I’ll be taking Spanish classes and wandering the streets looking for Gaudi.

5. Love: My man is back! We lived apart from September (just after we married) until May when his year of teaching ended. While we were lucky enough to visit each other often, it was hard to be apart, and I definitely noticed a change in my energy and mood while we were apart. Now that he’s here again, I feel calmer, I sleep better, and I’m actually waking up in the mornings to do things again, even if it’s just getting up to make coffee and then coming back to cuddle or look at our phones together. It was hard to know what to wake up for when he was gone. I’m glad that it’s over, but the experience also reaffirmed how important he is to me.

What inspired this post? My man and I had a short conversation about the future, what

hk may

HK is also one of the good.

we’re doing for the next year and also what we want to be doing in ten years. Sometimes those conversations are inspiring, this time it was depressing. I began to wonder what I’ve been doing with my time, especially in the last six months, especially since it hasn’t been writing here or anywhere else for that matter (it has been spending plenty of money though). I feel like I had a lot of great ideas in December and January and then… nothing happened. I started spiraling and then I read Leo’s first Zen Habits post, which is a gratitude list. So I tried it. And I feel better. There have been plenty of not great things about 2017 as well, and it’s easy to focus on them, but I feel better when I remember the good.

Day 17 & 18

Day 18: Gas & electric–$15.45

I am more than halfway through #NoNoNovember, and it’s possible that I’ve somewhat fallen off the wagon. I have spent the same amount of “fun money” this month as last month (thanks, Word Bookstore in Jersey City) and only $50 less than last month on food and drinks, and the month isn’t even over. I’ve spent significantly less on groceries which is… not helping. But, with T-day next week, I will probably spend way over my groceries budget this week. #Allthefood #Bestdayoftheyear

I should be blogging more, like a full post, but I’m sleepy and this is all I’ve got right now.

Day 15

  • $900 – rent
  • $15.49 – groceries (chips, salsa, apples, almond milk, spaghetti squash)
  • $17.43 – groceries (bananas and a big bag of coffee. I let myself go to the expensive stores today)
  • $23.20 – lunch at Plumeria. There was nothing to eat at home and also I looked at the news for the first time in a week. Yikes.

Probably good that I get paid tomorrow.

Financial Forecasting on the Eve of All Hallow’s Eve

Greetings ghouls and goblins!

Actually, nothing in this post has anything to do with Halloween, but since it is my third favorite holiday (1. Thanksgiving, 2. my birthday) I thought I would at least acknowledge it here. It is a cool, grey southern California day; a good day for staying inside with a book, which is how I hope to spend the next few hours.

But first, to the numbers!

Income: $2,086
Expenses: $2,318
Difference: -$232

Ew, that’s painful to write. Let’s break it down a little deeper:

  • After returning from the scarf wedding, my computer screen decided to give out, just after the warranty expired, so that was $385 to repair. Unpleasant, but glorious to have it back and operational now.
  • I spent less on gifts ($62) and more on eating out ($161), and more on fun money ($122): a drag show with my sister making up the bulk of the “fun” expenditures. It was fun, so I can’t feel too bad, but if I could have spent less in these categories, the number above wouldn’t be so awful.
  • Groceries and gas remained normal. My rent is going up in December by $75, but still well under market rate.
  • I gave only $2 to a certain political candidate, not because she doesn’t deserve more, but because I think I’ve done enough. We’ll see on November 8th, I suppose. Feel free to tar and feather me if I’m wrong.

Alright then! New challenge for November! No spend November! NoNo November! I put my foot down, I stand where I am and I say, no more in November! Why should I spend so much on eating out? Why should I spend so much on fun? Are there not beans and cashews in my cupboard? Are there not books sitting unread on my shelves?

For the month of November, I commit to a daily accounting of my spending, here on this blog. It may not be long, it certainly won’t be pretty. But I shall do it. If I succeed, I will crow here and probably open a bottle of champagne (already have one chilling in the fridge conveniently). If I fail, I will fail here, publicly and get back up again.

I already know that there will be times that I fail. For instance, in week one: I will need to renew my license on this here website domain. I also invited out some work colleagues next Friday after a big presentation. I am heading to New York. It is Thanksgiving, people!

There are stumbling blocks. There will be failures. But I hope, come November 30th, that there will also be victories.

On Birthdays

A week ago I turned 28. Completed my 28th year, my father would correct if he were here. I spent it on a boat sailing the Ohio River. It was a friend’s boat, or a friend’s father’s boat, and she was getting married in a few days, and that’s what you do when you are getting married and have access to a large boat and a group of good friends. I’d like to make some kind of metaphor right now about the river being an in-between place, the space between two states—Ohio and Kentucky, single and married—the unstable, contradictory nature of water, can’t walk but can float, but maybe that is more about me than about her.


Me, on my birthday

Twenty-eight feels like an in-between year. It lacks the gravitas of 25 and 30, both round,significant numbers, but falls directly between them, hangs in their balance. And this year, by virtue of my place in life, feels in-between. I am not settled, we are apart, I am in-between career decisions, I am floating here in the middle, not committed yet to either side. I am being purposefully vague and hoping it is artistic, but I have nothing steady to hold onto right now, no firm ground on which to plant my feet. Beneath me, the riverbed shifts, the currents flow around my calves.

All this, and a sense that I am still young, that I am old enough to know I am young, old enough (if only in this moment) to feel comfortable with the passing of time and what I have not yet accomplished. Old enough to be able to tell myself, stop rushing, Canter. Old enough to know it takes time, which is good, because time is really all we have. First too much, then not enough.

A friend just sent me two Buddhist prayers. 1. Everything is as it should be. 2. Protect me from the obstacles before me. We agreed that it is hard to believe everything is as it should be, particularly given the obstacles.

My prayer for my 29th year: let me be like the river. Let me flow around my obstacles. Let me not rush wildly over rapids and let me not saunter so slowly that my waters grow stagnant. Let me be something in-between. Let me move steadily, at my own river-pace, towards the sea.

No use crying over broken glass

This morning, I took a Mason jar of vegetable stock out of the freezer to thaw for soup this evening. There was a little water left in the pot after I made my coffee, and I thought I remembered having read something on the internet about heating a jar in warm water on the stove to help speed the defrosting process. I didn’t remember exactly, but I had the water left, and I was in a rush, so I plopped the jar in about an inch of hot water, and immediately hard the crackling sound of breaking glass. I looked and sure enough, the glass around the frozen stock had cracked in several places, like a plate of ice being stepped on. I removed the jar from the water, and after a moment’s mourning, threw the whole thing away. No one wants glass soup.

A few minutes later, washing yesterday’s dishes, I remembered another kitchen and more broken glass. I was six or seven, standing in my best friend Vanessa’s kitchen, making jello with her for the first time. I’d made it before, I said, and I probably had. Vanessa heated the measuring cup of hot water directly on the electric stove, careful not to touch the red circle when she finished. We mixed in the jello powder, and went to the sink to add cold water. As soon as the water touched the hot glass, it cracked, and all our jello ran down the drain, leaving only shards of sticky glass behind. We had to get Vanessa’s mom who was mad we’d used the stove without asking, but I think she might have helped us make more jello. At least, that’s how I want this story to end.

So I should have known, I suppose, the consequences of heat and cold and glass. But some lessons learned get forgotten, and some glasses just break.


More jars defrosting after the first failure.

Maybe a little too much entertainment

On Saturday, I worked all day. I spoke in front of a group of about forty people, then hung out with a group of teenagers and helped me colleagues in between. There was a lot of talking.

On Sunday, I rested. I went for a run (I guess in my life that counts as resting now). I listened to a podcast. I went to dinner with friends. There was more talking and a movie was watched. There was delicious peanut sauce.
hk back turned

On Monday, I worked. After work, I phone banked for Hillary. I’m committed to electing  my cat as president of the United States. She was pretty annoyed though that I stayed away and made phone calls instead of hanging out with her. That’s the price of victory, HK. A lady yelled at me. I wondered why I was volunteering for something that was so much like my job. It’s because the people are good, like at my job. I didn’t write, even though I said I would try to write every day this week.

Today is Tuesday, I worked. I left work early and went to my aunt’s. I brought a new and challenging knitting project. I knitted for probably three or four hours, but I still don’t have the pattern down yet. At last count, I had dropped two stitches. That’s not too bad, in my opinion. I’m hoping that I’ll dream about it tonight and master it tomorrow. When my uncle came home, we made spaghetti for dinner and a salad. I didn’t run. I am writing now. You can be the judge of the quality. There was more talking.

Tomorrow is Wednesday. I might be going to a friend’s house after work for movies and wine. There will certainly be talking. I could bring my knitting. If it is not apparent yet, I’ve done a bit of talking this week, and I might need an evening at home with the presidential candidate. I’m not even sure that I want the talking of a podcast.

Thursday I am back at my aunt’s. I’m happy to go. There will be more knitting, but I don’t think I’ll stay for dinner.

Friday, I have no plans. TGIF.

Free Ways to Entertain Myself While the Man is Gone

Not that I couldn’t do these things if he was here, but just that I need some more ideas now that he’s not because otherwise I’ll just end up obsessively cleaning the apartment over and over again (it’s already begun).

  • Knit this whole box of yarn.yarn
  • Binge listen to podcasts.
  • Learn to handstand.
  • Write (duh).
  • Learn Spanish (claro).
  • Drink wine on my patio. #winewednesday
  • Teach the cat Ukrainian (step 1: learn Ukrainian).
  • Meditate. Actually go to a meditation studio and practice with other people.
  • Read more books.
  • Wake up at sunrise.
  • Jump in the ocean.
  • Jump in the ocean at sunrise (would be more impressive if I was on the east coast…)
  • Spend a weekend using no electricity (this I probably couldn’t do if he was here. He would not be into this little experiment).
  • Figure out how to become youtube famous and then do that.
  • Explore the independent grocery stores in San Diego and find some new cuisines! This is technically not free, but I have to buy food anyway!
  • Perfect my audition tape for lip sync battle.
  • Dance Party. Pairs well with lip syncing.
  • Make a pillow fort (maybe during the weekend without electricity).
  • See how far I can walk in a day? Could I get to La Jolla? Could I get back? I guess that’s what Uber’s for.
  • Learn a new skill. Like cellphone photography. All the better for taking pictures of my cat.
  • Play the pushup game. Every time you think of pushups, you have to do a pushup. Just kidding, I will never play this game because I don’t know how you could stop thinking about pushups once you’ve started. I would literally always be thinking about the pushup I was doing and then I’d have to keep doing them until I collapsed. Maybe that’s the point?
  • Make more lists of free or cheap things I can do to fill up my time. Making lists is free!
  • Volunteer. #Idothisalready, but also already read and write and also try to learn Spanish, so I guess it belongs here. It is an inexpensive and highly entertaining thing to do.