food

UFM 10 & 11 Grocery Shopping & Friendship

Coming in the middle of the week, Mrs. Frugalwoods’ reminder to shop from a list, buy in bulk, buy raw ingredients, etc. is not immediately relevant. The earliest I will be able to tackle her challenge–to go through your grocery routine and look for ways to economize–is Friday.

That said, I did have a pretty big frugal food win today:beautiful basil someone left a huge bunch of fresh basil on the free table at work! I brushed a bit of spiderweb off one of the leaves, and snagged it for myself! This, plus the tomatoes that I failed to add to my 3 grain salad, as well as a quick loaf of french bread that’s baking as I type, will be the basis of tonight’s dinner. I had been planning to make the lentil pumpkin curry, but I’ll save that for another couple of days!

So my frugal grocery suggestion is look for groceries in unexpected places!

Today’s email from Mrs. F was about friendships and frugality. This is an area where I struggle. Many of my friends like to go out to eat. I like to go out to eat! And it seems particularly tempting to go out to eat with said friends when I am about to move all the way across the country.

That said, I don’t want to throw all my friends under the bus here. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting up with one to learn some computer coding and hang out. Frugal and skill building at the same time! I’ll probably bring over the rest of the pesto and loaf of bread from tonight to snack on. My friends are often content to sit around, or go for a walk, or drink wine and gossip. All activities that are fairly frugal, especially when the drinking happens in our own homes.

So I suppose my challenge with my tempting friends is to suggest inexpensive alternatives–a hike, a picnic, etc. It seems like it should be easier than it feels! But, I also thought I needed a new dress for the wedding this past weekend, and look how nicely that turned out.

And nearly all of my friends like to come over and eat my bread. So, there’s that. dinner 711

A quote from one of my favorite books (Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding FYI) goes, “No one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves, just like you.” I think it could be expanded to say, “No one is thinking about your money. They’re thinking about their money, just like you.” And actually, it could also be added (and probably has been somewhere), “No one is thinking about your money except you.” Not your friends. Not really your family. Just you.

A little scary and a little empowering, isn’t it?

UFM 8 & UFM 9, plus a realization

Actually, the realization comes first. I’m nine days into this little month-long frugal and blogging challenge and I’ve already missed posting two days. It’s possible that I’ve bit off more than I can reasonably chew! And as I would like the frugal changes and writing habit to stick, this means I need to sloooow down and get the most out of this process that I can.

This realization came around after Thursday when the Frugalwoods’ email had 4 steps of tracking your money, three of which I’d done before, but wasn’t up to date on, and one that I’d never tried but now highly recommend: calculating your savings rate. I was writing after work and running and dinner and dishes and probably some relaxing (real talk) but it was getting later and later, and I was getting grumpier. Staying up late to manage my finances and then write something about it was a lot to add on! And things that feel like a lot don’t stick.

As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me to back down once I’ve set myself up for a challenge, so I’m going to practice taking a small step back: I’m going to keep up with the frugal challenge, but I’m going to drop my blog posting down to every other day (the odd days in case you want to keep track). I’ll cover whatever was interesting in the previous two days of the challenge, and on my off days I hope to spend a little more time on other writing projects (as soon as I started back up with the blog, my other writing stopped and I don’t like that).

So, now that that’s out of the way, what’s been happening!

Yesterday was the wedding that I thought I might need to buy a dress for. Turns out, I had a perfectly suitable one in the my closet! I’ve actually worn this dress at other weddings before (there’s even a picture of me in the dress on our dresser) but I hadn’t even thought of it until a friend suggested it. I did feel a little under-dressed because I forgot my heels at home, but–guess what? No one cares! And my feed didn’t hurt at the end of the night, so that was a win.

My man and I drove back this morning, and I spent the day pretty casually. I read my book (Helter Skelter currently–really enjoying it), napped, and then we met up with some friends for an inexpensive happy hour. Two of our friends are departing on a months-long tour of the United States before moving abroad, so it was important to wish them a fond farewell. This is the couple that got me back into biking to work, which I’m very grateful for, and I hope to see them again someday. 3 grain salad

Then the evening was spent meal prepping. I used up some more amaranth, brown rice, and all my quinoa making a Mexican inspired 3-grain salad with black beans, frozen veggies, and cilantro. I meant to add a tomato and pepper, but forgot, so they’ll have to go in the curry later this week.

waffleSince I have a lot of flour to use up and I ran out of oatmeal on Friday, I also decided to make waffles for my breakfasts this week. My plan is to take a couple of waffles with me to work and eat them with some homemade jam, peanut butter and banana. Yum! Not the healthiest breakfast, but certainly one of the most decadent for its price. I also had one this evening for a small dinner. I got the very basic recipe from Spice Up the Curry, but subbed more regular flour for whole wheat since I didn’t have any.

What about the challenge you ask? Well yesterday’s challenge was to talk about money with your partner. I didn’t, but only because my man and I already talked about money and our goals recently. While we’re not always in perfect agreement, we respect each other’s desires and support them. And this move has been helpful in opening up our communication about money because it’s one of the bigger expenses we’ve had as a couple.

Today’s topic was the options that frugality provides. Having set aside money and saved has allowed me to leave jobs I haven’t liked, to handle stressful car repairs quickly, and yeah, travel when the opportunity has presented itself. Only the last one has really felt like an option, but it’s been a huge relief to know that the money for major expenses, and pleasures, is there. I always think I could be doing a better job of setting aside more: for the move, retirement, eventual car and laptop replacements, emergencies, etc. but at least so far I’ve been lucky to have always had enough. I hope that by strengthening my frugal muscles I can set aside for those things I know are coming so that when they happen I can focus on the joy, the adventure, maybe even the sorrow, instead of the cost.

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.

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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.

eatallthethings

UFM 5 & 6: Playing catch up

UFM 5
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).

UFM 6
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.

Changing Plans

Life has felt extra busy lately, and I know that I make it so. This week in particular work has been exhausting (probably because I worked all weekend as well) so I’ve been feeling unproductive, exacerbated by mega-exercise and derby tryouts. I need to slow down and think more about what I want, then put that into action, instead of letting myself get carried away by the tide of “busy.”

On that note, I’ve been looking at the monthly goals I laid out in October and I’ve decided I’m going to scrap February’s no sugar goal. Of all the things I could care about in my life, how much sugar I eat/drink is just not on the list right now. I’d rather focus on writing or meditation.

So February’s challenge is now up for grabs. I think I’m going to continue the “no restaurant” challenge into February as well. It’s a short month and not eating out is one of the biggest challenges I’ve set for myself, but so far I’ve survived January and my pocketbook thanks me. I’ve also noticed that there are a few online creative nonfiction classes that I’d like to take, and having a little extra money to put towards writing would appreciated.

Earlier this week, one of the poets in the Wednesday group I attend emailed me to compliment my criticism and to ask if I’m in an MFA program. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten positive feedback on my analysis and it’s brought up for me again thoughts of going for an MFA and possibly going into teaching (#inevitable). It’s only been a few days, but taking an online class in nonfiction would give me a nice taste of what a long distance program might feel like. But a class is another way to get busier instead of calmer.

This weekend I’m looking forward to time. Time to run tomorrow morning and talk with the Boy and time to think about what we talk about. Time to recover from long days of work and if the weather cooperates, time to lie in the grass beneath the sun.

Frugal lessons I learned from my mom

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday (happy belated birthday, Ma!) and for the last twenty-seven years,  she’s taught me some valuable frugal lessons, mostly by her own example. Here are a few I can think of:

  • Early in my life, my mom chose to give up her fairly lucrative career to pursue her passion for writing. She was able to give up a job she didn’t like much and a terrible commute for more time to spend with us, to write, and to explore other avenues of income. This was possible in large part because my parents didn’t have an enormous house, new cars, a bunch of debt. She showed me early that happiness comes more from what you do than what you have.
  • She socialized with her friends by going to people’s houses more than going out to a restaurant or bar. Maybe this was a side-effect of having kids and not wanting to pay for a babysitter, but it was certainly less expensive, and gave my sister and I the added benefit of getting to interact with adults briefly before being sent upstairs to play.
  • In the same vein, Mom socializes by doing. She goes for walks with her friends (free!) or bookclub (free!) or volunteers at her church (free!).
  • And when she goes out to eat, it’s for lunch, which is cheaper than dinner.
  • Mom taught me that library fines are cheaper than new books.
  • While I have not adopted this method, Mom reuses every single container that comes into her house, even when she loses the lid. She’s also a bag  and box saver (good at the holidays).
  • My parents bought used cars, and never bought SUVs. Now, they currently have one car between the two of them, which seemed crazy to me when they started it, but it saves them money on repairs, insurance, fuel (maybe?), etc.
  • Mom is a great thrifter. I remember being in late elementary/early middle school and thinking that thrifted clothes were gross, but now I think that the prices for new clothes are what’s gross.
  • Mom introduced me to the documentary Affluenza (before that jerk kid used it as a defense) and the book Your Money or Your Life, both of which have been huge influences on my worldview.
  • This one is more entrepreneurial than frugal, but Mom is great at turning her passions and hobbies into income. She’s self-published several books and turned her volunteerism with the church into a position as their youth director. She’s always encouraging my sister and me to turn our talents into profits (for me, usually by cleaning and organizing other people’s stuff).

Probably the biggest frugal way my mom has influenced me is not by what she does but by what she doesn’t do. I’m lucky enough that neither of my parents suffer from addictions–drugs, alcohol, gambling or shopping. Where my friends’ moms would go to the mall to relieve stress, mine never did. She never took a trip to Blackhawk that I can remember (in fact the one time we went gambling on a roadtrip to Nebraska, neither of us could figure out the machines). She showed me how to live a good life, and how to spend on what is important, not what isn’t. Happy Birthday, Mom.

No Meals Out Fail

This month’s goal, to avoid eating out, was entirely a bust. Overall, I spent $252 on eating out, some of it work/derbs related, much of it friend/company related. There is a part of me, a strong part, that would like to engage in justifications now, about the various mental states of my friends (or myself) and the need for restaurant meals to relieve our distress. This is perhaps sometimes the case. It was not the case for all, and in my heart, I wonder whether a meal out is the best relief for an anxious heart. It’s what we did, anyway.

When I was growing up, going out to eat was a special occasion, saved up for birthdays or huge, unexpected successes (I can’t quite think of any now, but I’m sure there were some–winning a debate tournament? Graduating?) When family came to town, we might eat one meal out, but certainly not more than two. The rest of the meals were had at home. One of my mom’s “love languages” is cooking, so a meal at home could be just as special and elaborately delicious as one out (in fact, she regularly made a face after eating and started scrutinizing how she could recreate a restaurant meal for less at home. Now I do the same).

2015-12-14

These days, I eat out for anything. Work/relationship/life troubles? Meal out! Major work success? Meal out! Hectic evening with no time to prep tomorrow’s lunch? Meal out! Socializing? Meal out!

There are exceptions of course, book club and game nights, for example, but eating out is easily the default mode. My goal this month was to change that, at least in my own mind, and I didn’t succeed.

(Image right: I need more meals like this, breakfast in my new bowl).

So, it continues another month. I think what Barb said in her comment on my last post is right, doing is easier than not doing. So this month my “do” is to offer food alternatives: to invite others over for dinner and games, or a hike instead of a lunch.

My other “do” is to accept what is as enough. A hike without a lunch afterward is enough. A walk is enough. Time one the patio of my apartment with coffee and the cat is enough. There doesn’t have to be more.

I’m also going to try to take it week by week in January, rather than look at the whole month. It’s easier for me to think about what I’m eating each day in one week because I already do that, and to plan a “sociable meal” option in case I want to invite someone over unexpectedly and don’t want to serve them beans.

January is also “Drynuary” aka no alcohol for the month. I’ve done it before and it’s easy, but it’s a nice start the new year. Maybe that’s just yesterday’s bottle of champagne talking.

No Restaurants in December Update

So far in December, I’ve eaten out four times. That averages out to every other day. No restaurant month is off to a rocky start.

The first meal was work related and work reimbursable. The second was pizza after running six miles. The third was beers with the Man. The fourth was lunch for my sister’s birthday. There were also a couple of bags of stress chips from the vending machine at work.

I’m not trying to spend the month missing out on quality time with loved ones in order to save money. But I’m also trying to spend money wisely. And to me that means finding ways to replace spendy activities with less spendy ones of greater quality.

Some examples: last night I went to book club where the host made Indian food (the book was set in India) and we discussed it for hours, and I got to work on my scarf, so double points. Another couple of friends and I have been getting together on weekends to make bread (pretzels, bagels) and watch Man in the High Castle.

So what could I have done differently? Well, work paid for the first meal, so I’m going to let it stand. After running, my friend and I could have had a picnic instead of going out for pizza. The Man and I could have drank the beers we had at home instead of going out for beers. My sister and I could have made something at her place, but I’m going to let that one stand too because I love birthdays. I could have bought a big bag of chips and portioned them out instead of going to the vending machine.

I’m not saying that I regret the choices I made. The meals out this week were delicious and filled with good company. I’m just saying I could have made different choices without losing the quality of the food or company, and I think it is worth being aware of that.

There are opportunities to practice this in the weeks ahead. A friend of mine wants to meet up for coffee to talk about our fitness goals and being workout buddies. Maybe we can go for a walk instead? I’m going home for the holidays, which means seeing old friends, usually at restaurants. But maybe we can eat dinner at their homes or meet at a museum instead.

I don’t want eating out to be my default way of hanging out with people. I also don’t want to use eating out as a crutch for when I’m feeling stressed or to relieve poor planning (usually those two are tied). That’s what this month is supposed to be about fixing. I’m open to creative suggestions.

 

Hopes and Dreams Revisited

I was going through some old notes when I found a list I’d made back in April of 2012. It seemed worth sharing, so here it is:

Financial Goals & Responsibilities, Hopes & Dreams

1. Pay off student loans
2. Pay off car
3. Have own car insurance
4. Have health insurance
5. Rent/food/etc.

Roller skates
A cat
A 3 day vacation with Scott somewhere nice-ish
Bike
Food processor
Nice blender
Trip for Kate by the time she graduates

What struck me about this list was that I’ve managed to accomplish all of it, and that’s a good thing to remember.

I wrote this list a year before I paid off my student loans. I wrote this list just as I was starting to get into roller derby. I wrote it long before I adopted Hillary, whose butt is by my hands as I write this. I didn’t exactly accomplish all these things on their original timeline, but I did each one.

This week I crossed off #2. I sent in my final check to my grandmother for my car, 610 dollars. It feels good to have taken care of this, and even better to think of the $500 each month that can go straight to savings now. I’ve had that car since 2011 and even though I only started seriously paying it off recently, I still can’t believe how long it’s taken me and how much relief I feel to have that debt gone (even though there was 0 outside pressure associated with it).

#3 came quickly after moving to San Diego, though apparently not as quickly as I remember. I think I was on my parents’ car insurance until the time came to get California plates, and then my insurance was in my name. This is not something that gives me wild satisfation, like paying off a loan does. It’s a little bit of a pain actually because it reminds me that I still drive way more than I would like to, but it also reminds me that I’m responsible about it.

Health insurance took a long time to get. I was on my parents’ health insurance for awhile and worried about getting sick because it was a pain to use in California. I had health insurance when I worked at the law firm, so I must have just gotten it around the time I wrote this. It was good to have, but I didn’t like using it then either. It’s actually only recently that I’ve started to feel okay about using my health insurance. Girl Scouts offers a good policy and I like my doctor and my dentist, so I make appointments (well, I make dental appointments, but I would make doctor’s appointments if I thought I needed to).

#5. Rent/food/etc. It’s a responsibility. An ongoing one. I always had enough to make rent (it was the worst when I worked part-time for G.S., but I still made it). It’s only recently that rent’s become an easy thing. After I started working for Girl Scouts the second time, I just set an automatic transfer for my part of the rent payment. No more thinking about it. Now the money gets transferred on the first of every month and nobody has to remind me and I don’t have to think about which check I’m going to use. I’m going to use the money that’s in the account already. I feel like this makes it sound like I was always on the edge when I was paying rent before and I wasn’t; I just acted like I was.

Those were the responsibilities. The unnumbered part of the list were the hopes and dreams.

Roller skates–still one of the best purchases I ever made. I haven’t been skating much recently, i.e. in the last six months. I haven’t been going to practice and I haven’t been skating. I’d like to say I miss it, but I think I’d have to go back in order to realize if I miss it. So I’m planning to go back to practice and I’m hoping that once I’m there I’ll miss it. But I don’t know. I still love my skates though.

A cat–she’s been on the list for a long time. And she’s so so great.

A three day vacation with Scott somewhere nice-ish. We took a three day vacation for my 24th birthday in 2012 to Joshua Tree and we stayed in an adorable air-stream trailer. Mission accomplished. For awhile we only traveled to weddings, then we went to Glasgow and almost stayed forever (real talk: I almost stayed forever, Scott was ready to come home). What I’ve learned in the ensuing years is that three day vacations are important for me, not so much for him. I remember wanting this vacation, being so excited to be on the road after work even when we were stuck in traffic. I needed the break. And I needed the break this weekend when I took a couple extra days off. It wasn’t for us. It was for me. It feels good to know that.

A bike. I used Scott’s bike for awhile and then it was stolen and now I have my own bike! It’s great. I love my bike.

Food Processor/Blender. I have both now. Part of me thinks I only need one, and then I think that’s silly. They are very different. I wouldn’t say that I have a nice food processor or blender, but they also didn’t cost $400 so I don’t really care. They get the job done.

Trip for Kate by the time she graduates. I didn’t get this done by the time she graduated, but this year I took her and my grandmother to Washington, D.C.  It was important to me to do that with my grandmother, while she’s still with us and still mobile enough to travel, and it was also important to me that my sister come with us. It seemed unfair for her to miss out on that time with our last grandparent, who loves us both so well, just because she was still paying off loans and getting settled. So I took her too, and it was entirely the right idea.

My current list of goals & responsibilities, hopes & dreams is just as long if not longer than this one, so sometimes it seems as though I’m not making any progress. I’d like to be saving for a down payment on a house (why? it just seems like the next grown up thing to do). I’d like to be putting more toward retirement, like double or triple what I’m doing now (#dreambig). I’d like an emergency fund and a next-car fund, and a second bookshelf and some better knives. It’s easy to forget with all those other dreams out there that there was a time when I just wanted to pay off my student loans and get a food processor.

We’ve come, if not a long way, at least a long time, from those days.

October Update

Happy Halloween! I worked today and spent most of the rest of the day running errands to prepare for an extremely busy (but probably also extremely fun) work week ahead. I’m looking forward to next Tuesday when it will all be over.

I’ve decided not to wait for fall weather to enjoy fall foods and have root vegetables roasting in the oven, one of my favorite, very simple meals.

It’s been a long time (a whole month!) since I’ve posted… something I’m hoping to get better about again in the future. Remember when I used to write everyday? I still do, most of it just doesn’t end up online anymore.

Let’s see, exciting updates:
I am 27. A year older, a year wiser (or just closer to death).
Next month, I will have paid off my car loan from my darling grandmother and will be honestly debt free.
I got a raise, which I appear to have already absorbed into my grocery budget. Yikes.

Since it’s October, my birthday month, I’ve been pondering a lot about what I want to do and learn this year. In January (ish), I started thinking hard about family, work and fun. I actually feel like I’ve made the most progress on fun. I have had more fun in the last month than possibly ever before. I read books that I really enjoyed, hung out with friends and played scary games, explored north of San Diego.  I work a lot, but I like my job and I like my coworkers, so work is usually pretty fun too.

Work–which for me means money-work and creative-work has been good this year too. I changed jobs, much to my increased happiness (I was reminded of this last weekend when I was up in LA volunteering with my old organization–still a great crew and I was glad to see them all, but I’m also glad to work for G.S. now). I’m having a poem published. I’m writing a lot of poetry these days, much more than blog posts anyway.

Family is the piece that still feels the most open to me. I wanted to explore this piece this year because of uncertainty in my relationship to my partner, which I feel mostly resolved on, but the uncertainty is all still there, mostly around “the kid question” as I’ve taken to labeling it in my head. To some degree, “the kid question” encompasses all my questions about the future–will we move? When? Where? Will I ever earn enough? Will I have enough time (for what? I don’t know)? Would I rather go to grad school (as though those ideas are mutually exclusive)? I guess when I call it “the kid question” or the “family” question, what I’m really asking myself about is what my future will look like, and it’s uncertain because I don’t know.

Maybe the answer is getting used to the uncertainty.

Two years ago,I set out (and failed) to do twenty-six things in my twenty-sixth year. Last year, I set out to explore three topics in my twenty-seventh year. Now, having entered the twenty-eighth, I’m compromising/copying Gretchen Rubin: eleven things, one for every month of the year and one month to do it all. I’ve picked out my months, and the first one starts tomorrow.

November: Write a novel for NaNoWriMo. This is scary since it’s tomorrow.
December: No eating/drinking out. This is one of my biggest spending areas.
January: Drynuary! No drinking. I’ve done this before, and it’s pretty easy for me but almost always worthwhile.
February: No sugar–my biggest addiction. I’ve done this before too and found it much, much harder than giving up alcohol.
March: Write an essay. Sounds easy, but probably one of my more intimidating goals. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked in this form and I’ve got a lot of expectations since it was what I studied.
April: Submit for publication (and get accepted somewhere, implied goal)
May: Write a romance (aka NaNoWriMo 2.0). Few people know this about me, but I love a good romance. In high school, I used romance novels to rinse out my brain after the seriousness of the school year.
June: Hike a fourteener. California has some; they’re probably worth checking out. I’m secretly planning for Whitney, but we’ll see.
July: Read Les Mis. It’s been on my list for awhile.
August: Take up weight training. It’s supposed to be incredibly good for you as you age, and I’ve been meaning to try it (I took a class in high school and liked it a lot).
September: Spend less than $135 on groceries for the month. September is Hunger Action Month, so it seems like a good time to do the SNAP challenge, and also, my grocery bill drives me nuts. Sometimes it takes a bootcamp style fresh start to get back into good habits.
October: Everything month! (Probably not writing a novel this month, but who knows?)

Some of my goals this year are very time specific–I want to do NaNoWriMo in the actual NaNoWriMo month, same for Drynuary and the SNAP challenge. But overall, my goals seem to fall into a couple of categories: writing, spending and health. Fortunately, I am usually healthier when I’m spending less and I have more time for writing.