The Cost of Moving

Plane tickets: $500
Cat’s plane ticket: $125
Shipping Container $1500
Moving supplies (boxes, tape, rope, etc): $60
Security Deposit on the apartment we cancelled: $1005
First month’s rent on the apartment we cancelled: $1005
Last month’s rent on the apartment we cancelled: $1005
In the words of Master Card, getting out of a shitty apartment that smelled like varnish and cigarettes: priceless

New apartment security deposit: $1025
New clothes for Monday’s job interview because we can’t get into the shipping container yet: $150
Plane ticket to interview because twelve hours on a bus roundtrip just seems like too much right now: $300
Coffee and restaurants while we live without dishes or pans: $200? The limit does not exist.giphy

My mother usually writes a Grateful Mondays post on her blog. This is my attempt at a Grateful Sunday. This week has been stressful, in a mundane, exhausting sort of way. The problems my Man and I have faced have been basic and boring, not anything that has required our immense brainpower to solve, just our patience, which is sometimes lacking. All of our problems have been problems that money can solve, and we have been lucky enough to have the money to solve them.

Post-Santa Fe, my Man went to our new place in Rochester, and found an apartment that smelled strongly of chemicals and a property company unable or unwilling to assist. When I arrived, I smelled cigarettes as well, which is a deal-breaker for me. Instead of unpacking and putting together our new life, we jumped into action and started calling apartments to find a new home, while the cat cowered in the bathroom (turns out she is more afraid of ceiling fans than airplanes).

cat on plane

My baby on our adventure. #Nothappy #Champ

We are lucky enough to be ideal tenants, so within twelve hours, we had a choice of two good apartments, and selected one. My Man will move in September 1, and I’ll drink to his good health in Spain. In the meantime, we’ll cope with the smelly apartment and the lack of possessions. It’s an adventure, I try to remember every time I think of something in the shipping container that I need (clothes, passport, etc).

It is hard when I am tired and hungry and uncaffeniated to remember how lucky I am, but after a good night’s sleep and all the vegan snacks, I can. Here are just a few of the ways:

  • Human beings have mastered flight! Instead of a journey of days or months, I went from San Diego to Rochester in a matter of hours, with my cat! And she wanted to cuddle on the flight!
  • We have a place to stay. It smells, but it is warm. It isn’t “home” but it isn’t a refugee camp either. We have a comfortable air mattress and a refrigerator. We have indoor plumbing.
  • We have money. Sure, some of it was money we had set aside for future expenses, but it was there and it made our lives easier to have it.
  • We have so much money, in fact, that I’m going to Barcelona in ten days! The attacks in the past few days sadden me, but I am still looking forward to being there and experiencing Barcelona’s culture, and celebrating my friend’s vowal renewal.
  • Speaking of friends, we have a great community. Our friends helped us get to Rochester, and new friends are already offering support now that we’re here. We have family to help us and encourage us. One of my friends helped me prep for my job interview tomorrow, and reminded me why I’m a great fit for the position, and helped me brainstorm questions to ask to help me understand the position better.
  • Speaking of jobs, the reason I get to spend money on clothes and a plane ticket is that I have an awesome job interview tomorrow, which could mean doing something I really care about in the comfort of my own home with my own beautiful cat as my only coworker (she does have a tendency to put her butt in front of my laptop though, which is not a problem I’ve ever had in a traditional office).
  • Rochester is beautiful. There is great public art, the grass is green, there are trees everywhere. There’s a great (though probably too expensive) grocery store a few blocks from our current and future apartments that carries the entire line of Miyoko’s vegan cheese. #Heaven.

In short, we’ve been challenged this week. We’ve had to spend money we didn’t want to spend. We have been, gasp!, occasionally uncomfortable. But overall, we’ve been fine. And we’ll keep being fine. It’s good to remember that.

UFM 27: What we repeatedly do

It’s amazing how quickly human beings can acclimate to their conditions. I’m thinking specifically of frugality and spending right now, but it applies to most things. Last week, when I went out to eat with friends four times, I found myself craving restaurant food, instead of the humble (but delicious) quinoa and tomato stew I had at home. The same is true of my frugal habits. When I bike to work, I want to keep biking to work.

Aristotle said, we are what we repeatedly do. If we repeatedly stop at Starbucks each morning for our coffee, we will spend a shit ton of money on coffee. We’ll also habituate to the act of getting coffee at Starbucks–the interaction with the barista, the smells and sounds of the cafe, the branding of the cup and walking into work with it. Skipping the daily Starbucks trip can seem like a loss unless you can build a different habit, and maybe more importantly, a different mindset to go in it’s place.

In this coffee example, you might buy nice coffee to make at home (it’s really easy to get nicer than Sbucks) and savor the act of making coffee in the quiet of your own kitchen. You might take a few minutes to enjoy the peace and quiet. Or you might pack it to work in a travel mug that brings back favorite memories. I bought a mug from my favorite coffee shop in college and I carry it with me to work almost every day. It’s a little dented because it’s survived falling off my bike, but I love that thing, and it makes it easier to build the habit of self-sufficiency.

It’s still hard. Right now, I’m struggling because I haven’t found a really good way to replace restaurants and bars with friends. We can eat at home sometimes, and that’s good, but all the time? It’s just not the way people my age do things. I know, peer pressure and excuses, but I haven’t come up with a better alternative yet. I need to figure out a way to make eating at home (or packing a picnic or going for a walk or whatever) as appealing as going out. I’m playing with it in my mind though, and that’s the first step.


UFM 17: Plan Ahead (aka A Planner’s Autobiography)

I am a planner. 100% Type A personality, the type to have a five-year-plan in 6th grade. The tips and tricks I learned then still serve me well.

It all started back when I was playing the double bass, and getting pretty good, despite the idea that I had “no time” to practice. I made the mistake of mentioning this to my private teacher, Ms. Crisman, one day, and she suggested I try tracking my time. She gave me a handout from her side-hustle, Mary Kay Cosmetics, which was basically a spreadsheet (this one, in fact!) of the week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. “Just see what happens,” she said.

Immediately, I noticed where all my time was going. Television and playing The Sims, and just the knowledge that this was how I was spending my time (and that my idol Ms. Crisman was going to see it) was enough to get me to practice more, and probably to read more, clean my room, and do all the other things that I thought I didn’t have time for.

It wasn’t always so effective. Often, I’d start the week great right after my lesson, and by the end of the week, I was playing a lot of computer games again. But just the accountability of the chart helped.

From there, I moved into planners, and fell in love with them. The new planner was my favorite part of the new school year, and I liked looking back through them at the end to remember everything that I’d done and the things that had mattered to me at the time.

Sometime in college, or maybe a bit before, I started writing out full daily schedules, either in my planner or on slips of paper, which may have been where my planning and attention to detail really spun out of control. I liked the satisfaction of crossing items off the list as the hours ticked by, and I was overly influenced by a brief passage in Jane Eyre, when she was visiting the cousins who were horrible to her as a child, and one had become self-indulgent and the other puritanical. The puritanical one, Eliza, advised the other, “Take one day; share it into sections; to each section apportion its task; leave no stray unemployed quarter of an hour, ten minutes, five minutes–include all; do each piece of business in its turn with method, with rigid regularity.”

Eliza was not meant to be a model, but I made her one, and tried to contort my days into that kind of clockwork. It was not a great system, though I was extremely productive. It finally ended with me showing my week’s schedule to my therapist and her pointing out that I had not scheduled a break for in five days. This was apparently unhealthy and she made me change it, which made me less efficient, but ultimately got me out of therapy, so win.

Nowadays I use a bullet journal and I’m pretty pleased with the system. It has the shapejuly 17 of a planner with more flexibility, the space to schedule every hour of my day (including breaks) if I want to, and the ability to see what I actually do if I remember to write it down. It’s the system that works for me now. It helps me see where my day has gone, to note anything I want to be aware of like what I ate or how I felt, and to make longer, more elaborate plans whenever I feel like it.

This morning that meant planning out the first part of August with packing and cleaning the apartment. I also added a few things to my monthly to-do list which helps me see where my likely spending will happen. For instance, I need to change the oil in my car and I have a number of things to take to the dry-cleaners july(normally I would just take my chances and throw my clothes in the wash, but these are actually nice interview-y type outfits and my wedding dress so it’s probably not worth it). This helps me remember, even more than my budget, that I actually will spend money on my optometrist appointment and the cat’s vet appointment, etc. and that keeps me from giving in to the temptation to spend on a meal or a drink out. Though I may have actually scheduled one of those with a coworker today as well. At least I’m planning ahead?

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.

#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!


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.

Needs vs. Wants

May has been an interesting month. It was harder than I anticipated to adjust to a biweekly paycheck from a weekly one (I started working on the last day of the last pay period, so Wednesday will be my first full paycheck) and as a result, I’ve returned to a few of the older money-blogs I used to read like “And then we saved.” I stopped reading it because I don’t actually find the new stuff that useful (not compared to YNAB at least) but one of her older posts got me thinking. In it, Anna made a list of her wants versus her needs in preparation for a year-long spending fast. I’m not planning anything so grandiose, but with the trip to Glasgow on the horizon and my travel funds somewhat depleted, it would be nice to cut some of my expenses to put more money toward travel (to say nothing of my still outstanding car loan).

So I made my lists.

Rent (including utilities) $550/month
Cell phone $28/month
Health insurance $175/month (this may drop in June on my work plan. I forget the exact calculations because I did it at work).
Car insurance $106/month
Other health (co-pays, prescriptions) $20/month
Car Payments $500/month
Some gas $110 month
Food $190/month
HK food & litter $40/month
Vet trips $60/month
Household goods (TP, shampoo, non food groceries) $45/month
Derby $60/month
To give good gifts
New workout clothes
Eating out
Coffee shops
New laptop
To give to charity
Nice pens/office supplies
Writing subscriptions
Poetry workshops

Retirement $500/month
Saving whatever is left

The amounts in my “needs” column are averages of what I’ve spent in each category so far this year. The wants are listed in the order in which they came to me, not the order in which I consciously value them (though unconsciously perhaps).

If I could stick to just my needs, there would be plenty of money for most of my wants. So I’m thinking of instituting another “summer sequester” like I did a few years ago. Just spending money on my needs, cutting costs whenever possible–particularly aiming at the food and fuel costs. I’ve been biking to work whenever possible, which is glorious, but I have evening meetings offsite, so I usually end up driving in a few days a week. Still, I think it makes a difference.

I’m starting this week with a “spending freeze” until pay day on Wednesday. We’ll see if it actually works out, but I skipped today’s shopping trip in favor of eating what I already have in the house. One of my friends gave me a large purple cabbage on Friday from her CSA, so I cooked it up this afternoon and will be enjoying a lot of free cabbage over the next few days as a result. Then it will be black beans, now and forever. I’m exaggerating a little, I actually forget how many half eaten bags of frozen vegetables are in the freezer, but black beans are my go-to.

The hardest thing to give up, not for three days, but if I really do a summer sequester again will be eating out. Plumeria has become a convenient treat, especially with one of my friends, and it will be unpleasant to break that tradition, even temporarily (but probably good practice). They boyfriend and I budget a little “fun money” into our rent, so that we don’t have to keep track of who paid last time when we go out to eat, so we’ll still do that about once every week or so. I don’t feel like I eat out much otherwise, but the numbers tell a different story.

It’s nice to have a goal to aim for–Glasgow in August, but I really just want to get back into a frugal frame of mind for its own sake. I feel like I could be saving so much more, without great cost to my quality of life, if I only applied myself a little more closely.