UFM 7: Groceries

Today’s mantra: I will eat everything I buy at the grocery store!
Today’s action: Make this week’s grocery list with the above parameter in mind.

I made the grocery list and also bought the groceries! I like grocery shopping on a Friday afternoon because no one else is doing it. Apparently grocery shopping does not count as fun Friday times but it’s also when the stores are the least crowded.


I’m not sure if I’ll actually be able to make it through the week with what I’ve got, but here’s my plan:

  • I have some basil that I need to use up, so tomorrow I’ll make some cashew basil pesto for use with pasta, maybe throw in a tomato (not pictured–all stuff I already have).
  • Saturday night we’re going to a wedding, so who knows what will happen there. But at least there will be food.
  • Sunday is my meal prep day. I’m planning to make a big three grain salad with black beans and a Mexican-ish flavor (hence the peper and onion) plus some frozen mixed veggies because veggies. I ran out of oatmeal this morning, and we have a lot of flour so I’m going to try something new and make waffles to freeze and then eat them like breakfast sandwiches with peanut butter and jam and banana all week. I’m pretty bad at making waffles so this may be a horrible plan.
  • The can of tomato paste and the broccoli will with a lentil pumpkin curry I’m planning, plus more rice (hopefully this week I can make it without burning everything) which I’ll make once I’ve run out of the three grain salad.
  • Coffee and almond milk should be pretty self explanatory.

So that’s my plan for the next week! I also have some lemons that I need to use up so there may be some lemonade or some lemon scones or some something. I like meal planning almost as much as I like budgeting. It lets the control-freak side of me and the creative side of me do something productive together.


UFM 5 & 6: Playing catch up

Today’s mantra: I will eat all the things!!!!
Today’s action: Start combing through your pantry, freezer, and fridge and make plans for all the foodstuffs you find.

I missed posting yesterday because I was too busy eating all the things at a meeting of my personal board of directors. Well, not all the things. I went to Whole Foods and Starry Lane Bakery after work to pick up vegan cheese and gluten-free bread, which were delicious and I regret nothing.

I am working on eating all the things in our pantry before we move, and I hope that I can get close Old Mother Hubbard with her bare cupboards by the time August rolls around. Today that meant working through my kind of gross rice and beans from Monday as well as the left over mac-and-cheese from last night, which was much better (there were also vegetables with both–don’t worry).

While I’ll still need to get some groceries this weekend, particularly oatmeal (unless I can accept eating beans for breakfast), I think I’ve got most of the key ingredients for next week’s major meals. I have a can of coconut milk, lentils, and pumpkin to make a pumpkin lentil curry with rice (or quinoa or sorghum… I have a lot of grains).

Today’s mantra: I can manage my money on my own! I will empower myself to learn what I need to learn in order to build a healthy financial future!
Today’s actionSign-up for Personal Capital and run through the other steps (described below).

I did not sign up for personal capital. I am really happy with my own money management system—You Need a Budget. As for the other steps in Mrs. F’s email, I am on it:

  1. Track your monthly spending. I do it with You Need a Budget, not Personal Capital. My favorite feature of YNAB is the phone app, even though I almost never look at it.
  2. Know your monthly net income: My average net income is $2,483 currently.
  3. Know your net worth. Without being too specific (and feeling suddenly shy on the internet, my net worth is the highest its ever been, above $45K. On the one hand, that seems like a crazy amount of money to me, more than I make in a year, and at the same time, it seems like a crazy small amount of money to me, certainly not enough to build a life on. But as the old chestnut goes, a millionaire is made a penny at time.
  4. Calculate your savings rate. This is something I’ve never calculated this before! You take your annual change in liquid net worth (the balance of all your accounts as of Dec. 31 2016 minus the balance of all your accounts as of Jan. 1 2016), subtract any major non-salary inputs (none for me) and divide by your net take-home salary. This is actually a lot harder than it sounds, and I was getting numbers anywhere from 5% to 53%. The exercise definitely made me more aware of what I know about my money, and what I don’t. Having finally tracked down what I think are all the correct numbers, my savings rate is 37%. There’s definitely room for improvement, but it’s a lot higher than 5%.

This is also maybe something that would have been better saved for a weekend when I’m well-rested, as opposed to late at night on a weeknight (not my best time). I asked my man for help with the math and then he had other thoughts and opinions as though he’s some kind of sentient human being! The nerve!

Despite the grouchiness that staying up so late to do math has created, I highly recommend calculating your annual savings rate. It was really eye-opening to me to see my savings as a piece of my total pie, as opposed to a self-contained unit. (It’s great to save $5K if you’re earning $10K, not so much if you’re earning $100K.) Frugality is a quality I believe I have, so it’s interesting to see how the data of my life actually matches up to that. There’s room for improvement, but I knew that already. Hence, the challenge.

#UFM Day 4: Know what you spend

Spent the fourth grilling in the park with friends. Got a little sunburned and napped most of the afternoon.

I lied yesterday when I said I didn’t spend anything. Checking my bank account, it turns out my subscription to a vegan meal plan program renewed yesterday, $97.  I’d noted on my calendar a few days before that I should think about whether I wanted to renew the service, but I put it off and here we are. I could probably cancel it if I wanted to, I don’t really use many of the recipes anymore, but I like the community aspects and the bonus content, so I’m not chuffed to be renewed and to put off thinking about it again for another year.

Today’s frugal action was to determine how much money you’d have in the future if you eliminated a few recurring expenses and instead invested the money. This exercise actually helped me feel more comfortable with my unwitting spending yesterday. If I canceled my subscription and instead invested the money (assuming 7% interest), I’d have $1,624. In thirty years, I’d have $10,542. Those aren’t small numbers, but they’re not big in the course of a decade or three. I’d be much better off to focus on reducing recurring expenses that I think of as “one time” like “this one time I went to the fancy bar and read and ate a full meal by myself.” (Okay, that was like five times.)

We don’t subscribe to a lot of recurring services, like cable or meal boxes. We mooch of the man’s parents for our Netflix entertainment. We do have Amazon prime, but it costs about the same as my vegan meal plan.

No, my downfall is the once-offs. The “special occasions” that manage to happen every month: people’s birthdays, coworkers moving, once-a-year-funtivities, etc. They’re great! And always fun! And I’d have more money and feel more comfortable if I budgeted and planned for them instead of assuming that no one will ever move, have a birthday or want to do something fun again. Life is in the planning, people.


#UFM Day 3


The wonderful fruit, but not so wonderful this time

First, a tip I learned yesterday: don’t write and cook at the same time. I scalded two pots. One of them I cleaned last night and one of them is still waiting for me, pasted with baking soda. Also, the beans still came out crunchy.  Oh well. Throw a couple of spoonfuls of salsa on top and it still tastes okay.

Today I spent nothing. I looked at AirBnBs but committed to none. Per today’s action item, I’ll wait until Thursday before I book–a 72 hour hold on purchases. For me, it’s not so much about the willpower to wait as it is about trusting that there will still be options when I get around to it. Barcelona is a big city–there are plenty of places to stay.

I worked most of the day. At least, I was at work most of the day, and I did some work related things. I cleaned my desk. I found a carabiner to replace the one on my key ring that broke. I biked. I hung out with friends and began learning a new skill (shout-out to Page, a great teacher who reads this blog). It was a good day for remembering that it can be normal not to spend money, not to get coffee or go out or order something online. It can be a full and satisfying day without all that. Which seems like something I shouldn’t need reminding, but I’m glad to be reminded anyway.

Today’s mantra: I have the willpower to wait!

Today’s action: Enact the 72 hour waiting period starting today and running for the rest of the month.


#UberFrugal Month Day 2: Where are you going?

Today, I’m not going anywhere besides the couch. Actually, I spent most of the day napping in bed, so a pretty great Sunday in my opinion! A friend and I ran in the morning, then did some exercises she’d been assigned in physical therapy which knocked me out!

But where am I going going?

A long time dream of mine is to retire early. How early and what “retirement” means keep changing, but ultimately that’s still the goal: financial freedom. The ability to do what I want, when I want, without the burden of a traditional job. I’d like to spend time with my family, to be outside, to write, to read more than I already do. My picture of financial freedom includes a house with a yard, travel, and enough money not to have to think too much about money.

Today’s mantra: When you’re working towards a goal, frugality isn’t about what you’re giving up, it’s about what you’re going to gain.

Today’s action: Write your long-term goal on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet. Mine is below:wallet

On the frugal agenda tonight: folding laundry and making lunches for the week. In my quest to use up all the food we have before we leave (and because it’s heckin frugal) I’m making rice and beans. I didn’t get the beans started in the crock pot, so I am pressure cooking them, and Hillary does not approve.


I find your methods of frugality disturbing. 


#UberFrugal Month Prep List Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are my notes on the last suggestions Mrs. Frugalwoods offers to prepare for an UberFrugal month challenge.

Examine Your Habits
I thought I could skip this one. I think my habits are pretty good! Sure, I spend more than I like on restaurants, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with my spending. But then I thought deeper, and I asked myself what is the root cause of my spending?

I have a habit of saying yes to ideas that sound appealing without thinking about how they fit in my overall plan or budget. I figure I’ll make it work and usually I do, but I’m not always comfortable with it afterward. So for July, I’d like to say yes slower. I’d like to wait, to say I need to go home and check first. I don’t think this will stop me from doing things I really want to do, but it will give me an opportunity to do a gut-check and to think of possible frugal alternatives.

Plan ahead

july plan

Every weekend is fun!

I love to plan. Frugalwoods gave examples like packing snacks and planning your day so you don’t have to spend money, but I took this in a different direction. I looked at my month to see what I’ve already committed to and where I might be tempted to spend money, so that I can make a plan. As you can see, July is already a full month with lots of fun things on the horizon!

Buy used (or cheap!)
Because we’re moving, and I don’t want to add additional stuff to our lives, I’m not really tempted to buy many things right now, though I suppose this could also apply to going to cheap restaurants instead of the best and most expensive one (even though it’s so good).

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not big on shopping for clothes. The last clothes I bought were some bras that I think I got in December or January, but I am feeling some pressure to get a different dress for the wedding we’re attending in a couple of weeks and for my trip to Barcelona. Both are events hosted by our fancier friends, and all of my dresses are sundresses or black. I’ve thought about borrowing a dress from a friend for the wedding coming up, but I feel a little weird about that. But I would feel okay about a trip to some of the second-hand stores around the neighborhood, and I’m not talking Buffalo Exchange–I’m talking the 5 for $5 places.

Banish excuses
This is the hardest one for me because I think I have a pretty ironclad excuse: we’re moving! We won’t see these friends ever again, or at least not for many months! Moving has all kinds of unexpected costs! This is the last time I can go to our favorite Thai place or the fancy but delicious vegan bar. Will they even have vegan bars in Rochester? It’s probably better if they don’t.

While there is truth to this excuse (I really am leaving, I really won’t see these friends again for a long time), spending money isn’t necessarily the answer. I’m feeling sadness and affection for my friends and the community we have here, and I’m trying to cover that sadness with a meal out or a drink or a fun day spent with them, but it’s those last three words that really matter. Spend (time) with them. That’s what matters. That’s what is significant and that’s what I need to remember this month.

#UberFrugal Month Prep List

Frugalwoods’ July UberFrugal Month starts tomorrow! And like the high school students I work with (and the one I sometimes was), I’m doing my homework the night before. Mrs. Frugalwoods laid out a pretty lengthy prep-list to get the most out of the challenge. I did the first one… and then stopped. Until now! Like my essays in high school, this will be long, meandering, and mostly only interesting to me!

Establish Goals: See this post! 

Review last month’s spending & categorize expenses: See here’s why I stopped. #Excuses. I wanted to make sure that I was perfectly accurate, so I wanted to be done with all my June spending, which didn’t happen until today.

Anyway, here we go! Let’s do the numbers!

  • Rent: $720
    This is really the amount I pay into the joint account with my man to cover rent, utilities, cat expenses, when we go out (which we rarely do), etc.
  • Doctors/Medicine: 354
    Yep. An expensive month. Dentist and doctor stuff.
  • Travel: $1036
    Plane tickets, plane tickets, plane tickets. Language classes in Spain. Still need to rent an AirBnB.
  • Groceries: $212
  • Gas: $22 (oh yeah! I only filled up my car once this month!)
  • Phone: $28
  • Cat expenses: $104
    But wait, wasn’t that supposed to be included in the rent stuff? Yeah, but I forgot, so I paid for her vet appointment with my card. She’ll need to go back this month for the airline paperwork, but hopefully it will be less since she won’t need shots.
  • Restaurants & coffee out: $411
    Yeah, you thought I was cool with my $22 gas and my $28 phone. And then we get to this monstrosity! What was I thinking!
  • Entertainment: $15.28
    A movie and a song that I bought for work and will be reimbursed for.
  • Gifts: $73.61
    Mostly money for cool high school girls I know who are graduating. And cards to put the money in.
  • Moving expenses: $1,000. This isn’t necessarily spent yet. My man and I just both put in some extra money to the joint account this month to cover our moving costs. And confession time: I don’t keep as much track of our joint money as well as I do my money. Laziness? Subconscious misogyny? I don’t know.

So with the exception of the rent, all of these are discretionary expenses in that I could reduce or eliminate them if I really needed to. And tbh, I could reduce our “rent” spending if we needed to, but my man is really frugal and I trust his financial judgement on what we should sock away. We don’t end up spending the full $720 every month, but it’s nice to have when we want to treat ourselves or like, decide to move across the country.

What can I eliminate entirely? What can I reduce? Honestly, I don’t think I could eliminate any of these expenses entirely.

WHAT? I know. I’m a terrible uberfrugaler.

Here’s why:

Rent: It is what it is. This is what we’ve agreed upon and it doesn’t bother me.

Doctor: Yeah, this will probably go down I hope. But I do have to see my optometrist this month and buy a year’s supply of contacts, so it might be close to the same.

Travel: Now I’m committed. Need a place to stay. Don’t think there are other things I need to purchase in July though.

Groceries: I feel like this is pretty low already. I am committed to eating all the things we’ve already got in the apartment though, so I’m trying to plan meals around a lot of rice and beans.

Gas & Phone: Not even. I’ve got these on lock!

Cat: will come out of the joint account. So we’ll pay for it, but the cost won’t count against my budget!

Restaurants: This has to go down. I want to bang my head against the table every time I see that number. How is that even possible? For what it’s worth, all of that is with friends too. My husband and I haven’t gone out all month. Lessons for July: Have people over instead! Don’t go to the great but expensive bar! Don’t get apps! Don’t drink! Especially don’t get drunk and generous and pay for everyone because you just want them to know how much you appreciate them!

Entertainment: I’ve committed to going to Hogwarts before leaving California.

Gifts: Still have girls I love graduating. Still gonna give them $. It’s not a lot, but it has meaning in my heart which is a little weird for me. There aren’t many girls left, and I do have cards I can use instead of buying new ones, so I can lower but not eliminate.

Moving expenses: We’re going across the country! Who even knows!

This is getting long! Let’s wrap it up, Canter!

What can I substitute?
I could give thoughtful cards instead of gifts to coworkers for my good-byes.
I could use cards I already bought.
I could have people over to my cute apartment instead of going out and pack my own food at Hogwarts (at least some, gotta get some Bertie Botts).
I could sub water for alcohol. Better for my body anyway.

What can I in-source? I have no confidence in my ability to in-source the things we need for this month. I need to get my car and bike checked out before this massive move! I can’t do that myself!

But–I did see the property team at work changing the oil on one of their trucks this week, so I could buy oil and get them to show me, then wait until we’re moved to get the necessary 90,000 mile check (I’m still a couple thousand miles away from this so I’m not terribly worried about waiting a few months), and we’re shipping the car, not driving it. This has the advantage of giving me a new skill and letting me find a mechanic who knows about winterizing cars. Not a thing we really deal with here in San Diego. I could also just avoid having the bike tuned up until I’m in Rochester, again where people know how to winterize transportation devices.

Whew! Mrs. F still has four more steps to prep for the uber frugal month, but I’m running out of steam and words, so I will save them for tomorrow’s posting! Check back here tomorrow morning for more fascinating insights into my spending!


1 Easy Way I Learned How to be 10% Happier

How do you like that title? I think I’ve written about this before, way back when this blog was new, so it might be more accurate to say 1 Easy Way I (Re)learned how to be 10% Happier. The method?


Two of my good friends (who are remarkably frugal and healthy and cool but that’s a whole ‘nother post) bike or take public transit to work regularly. And they work much farther away than I do! We were having dinner one night when the subject came up, and I said something along the lines of, “oh yeah, I used to bike to work, but I haven’t lately. It’s too bad because I only live two miles away.”

Their shocked expressions and exclamations of “really?” shamed me back into riding, but the shame was quickly replaced with joy. When I ride my bike to work, I start my day with a cool voyage across (mostly) quiet streets. I get to feel the air on my face, and breathe it in. I have to think (just a little) about what I’m doing so I don’t start worrying about the day’s tasks until I’m actually at the office. A similar process happens when I bike home. I leave the day’s work and any annoyances behind me as I roll out of the parking lot. While the ride back is usually busier, I admit I get a little extra pleasure seeing so many people in their cars while I am cruising past on my bike. I’m having fun! I’m enjoying myself! Look at all these people who aren’t! It’s terrible. And great.

my trusty steed

My trusty steed

Now, biking is no cure-all. People can still be jerks. I can still be tired or grouchy or anxious. But biking consistently makes it better. And the fact that I need to buy gas less often? Just another bonus.

I had similar experiences biking to work when I worked much farther away. At my last job, I would sometimes take the shuttle to the university and then bike the rest of the way to my boss’s house and bike all the way home afterwards. It took about an hour each way, and the way home was sometimes fraught, but it helped me release my frustrations about work and come home happy.

It’s not that I think commuting via car is the worst thing in the world. I wasn’t miserable when I was driving to work; in fact, I barely noticed it. But I think that’s the point. When I ride my bike, I notice that I am riding my bike. I am present for the experience. When I drive my car, I’m somewhere else: either already at my desk thinking about problems or wishing that I was home in bed.

enjoying a ride

This could be you!

It is too rare that we are really present in the current moment of our lives. Biking places me firmly in the current moment. And I think that’s what makes me happier.

Before you say, “that’s great” (it is) “but I could never do that,” (maybe true, maybe not) I encourage you to try it! If not, what things make you 10% happier in your daily life?


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.