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 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.

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.