Sunday, September 22, 2013

Backyard Intruders

"Paying the bills" is an everyday phrase.
We often overlook bills until they begin to gang up on us. I stress over a small pile on occasion, but for many of you crazy spenders, the stack never subsides. "The Bills" have become such a part of our lives, like wearing underwear or flossing before bed. I find it rather annoying.
What really gets me is hearing people speak of their expenses as if they have no control over them.
Before you go getting all pissy and defensive, I will disclaim that YES! we need to pay for necessities. Four walls with a roof, light at night (questionable), insurance, fuel, clothing, sustenance... yadayadayada. I understand. And it's okay if your necessary shoes happen to be ultra cool!
But the list goes coloring, mani/pedi?, new cars, lattes galore, style, toys, keeping up with who?, never eating leftovers, partying, elf on the shelf?, jewelry, storage space, digital storage space plus cellular plan- upgrades!- what the hell is going on here? Where did all this stuff come from?
What happened to going next door to borrow an egg or two, taking only what you need, natural beauty, patience is a virtue, seek and ye shall find.... where did these community building fortuitous acts go?
Well, I am officially ranting. Just when you thought you had me- I will admit I can be a bit negative. I can turn it around, I promise.
Ok, so the other night when I rolled into my driveway from work at a respectfully late hour, I was troubled by a bright glow coming from the backyard. It totally caught me off guard, and I actually sat in my car for a minute before turning it off and mustering up the strength to get out and stumble up my dark steps into the equally dark house. I was petrified. No lie.
As we all assume from past posts, there is never a light on when I arrive at home. That is a good sign. This night however, was not like others. Since my rather large bodyguard Zeus was on vacation that week (false), I dug deep for all the courage I had, and fumbled my way into the house, grabbing my 60 foot double shot mace gun on the way. (true)
Now we're talking. This shit could take out a T-Rex.
Liquid courage #2..... READY... AIM...
It was my backyard spotlight which I always have switched off because I don't need it, and it's crazy hard on the electric bill.
I crept toward the back room without a breath in my lungs. Finger on the trigger... poised for chaos, I thought, "Is someone messing with me?" My cat didn't reply. I opened the door- all was well.
Deep breath in, I formed a list of suspects (2), stashed my weapon, and grabbed a beer from the fridge.
Why do the kids continue to needlessly turn lights on? Besides it being habitual, I couldn't think of a thing.

But who cares, right?
Seriously, does it really freaking matter if a light or two are left on all day because we aren't teaching our kids to conserve? Does it really matter if I drop an extra $5 here and $7 there for coffee and bagels because I couldn't pack a PB & J? Who gives a shit if I upgrade my cell plan so that I can stay connected every single second of every single moment of every little breath I take? I do. I care. You should too. It's your cash. Or if I put it another way, it's your time spent, gone forever, while you are working for that money. It's your life. Think about it before you spend it. Check in with your money habits once in a while.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

DIY Gone Amazing!!! (a.k.a. "thanks guys!")

#tile floors
#day off

The only thing better than your friends coming over to throw a "do-it-yourself party", is when Dad stops by when you are at work and then texts you, "Nice job on floor."

YES! YES! I knew it was good, but now it's... GOOD! This may be the family girl in me, but if Dad is on board, I am re-modeling the kitchen, by myself- you know, until I can't anymore.

It's been a hard two weeks of "can't", and then suddenly more friends showed up and did a little tweak here and there. Suddenly I had faith again.
I was so proud of myself for what I did alone. I was also proud of myself for what my friends did while I stood and watched. This is new for me. I like it.

Friends, family, empowerment...

Just three more reasons trying to save money is awesome! 

I love this town. I love being willing to try new adventures, to learn new things, to accept help when I need it- sometimes.

Now on to the kitchen, where I have been trying to figure the best way to rip up linoleum for the last 2 weeks....


Lights Out Savings

It's official, the electric bill is in...

My "Lights Out Challenge" was successful! I saved $15.15 last month on electricity. It was $47, two bucks shy of my goal.

That's a pound of cocoa butter, or almost a pair of decent flip flops, ingredients for a nice home cooked meal, or just 15 bucks I still have earning interest in my savings account. If you don't believe me, put on your cheaters and lean into the screen, check out the kWh chart above. If you did this every month you could end up with an extra $181 at the end of the year.

 I love saving money. I almost reached my goal, and I will admit after the first few days I wasn't always trying as hard to keep the lights off during the day. Plus- I am having a hard time breaking my little guy of his phantom "turner- onner" habits. And it's been a dark and rainy June, which required some daytime lighting after our search for the sun didn't work out.

Most of you may be wondering at this point why I am so elated over cutting back by 15 dollars? Here are a few motivating reasons:
- Empowerment. I did it myself. I took a system we all take for granted and scaled it back. No more free- flowing kWh's at my house.
-Savings. It saved me money. They even graphed it out for me on my bill. Free comparison to last year at this time.
-Respect. That $15 adds up in my busy household bringing in a small income. It represents so many other nickles and dimes, dollars and cents, and straight-up moments when we could all use a mini financial slap across the face. Makes ya think.
-Motivation. This was a small push to remind me to be more conscious of my consumption habits. Which make want to look for ways to save more cash in my daily doings.

Believe me or not. That's your business. However, if you want to get ahead making the most of your money, you need to remember this, "A penny saved is a penny earned". Ben Franklin couldn't have  said it any better. Corny, but so true.

This just motivates me to take it to the next level. I am going for a $20 savings next month, and I think I can do it. Did anyone out there join in on the Lights Out Challenge? I would love to hear about your savings experience!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

To DIY or Not? (May contain negativity, foul language, and "TMI". Proceed with caution.)

I have been busy. 

Learning, growing, and experiencing the gifts life has to offer first hand. Getting things done all by myself.

Thanks to my friends who brought me tiles, tools, and their amazing know- how, I have taken on the task of home improvement, a.k.a. tiling my bathroom floor. It's fun, and easy, and makes me feel like I could tile the world.

So far I have spent $60 and almost have two new floors. This is huge since all I had before was some sub floor and a sloppy peel-and-stick vinyl job. That was before. Now I am willing to invest a minimum amount of cash and a maximum amount of stress and free time to achieve amazing results. 

Flash forward to reality...

Crapping in the woods on a rainy morning. This includes trekking across the yard in my slippers with a shovel in my hand at 7:30am (like clockwork) so I can drop my daily duty in a hole and bury it. 
All in the name of saving money. 

The issue is that my tile skills do not extend into the realm of toilets, valves, and water containment. My water has been turned off for a week because of the little valve on the hose that supplies the toilet with water. Mine is broken. I need to fix it. Now.

This morning, as the tip of my shovel pierced that first slice of earth, I gave my new ritual a name.
The Trek of Shame. With shame being that I am almost ready to admit maybe this project is a bit over my head. Soon I may do the unthinkable... which is to just call a plumber and pay. Paying for a job I could rig myself is one thing I hate to do. Balancing over a hole while trying not to drop the t.p. roll in the morning dew is now on my list of things I hate to do as well. I am experiencing a true dilemma. 

I have put off writing about this because when we started the project I was pumped! Learning how to use a power tool, hanging with friends, feeling the love of group labor- I never thought things would slowly turn on me. I never thought my negativity would almost take over after everyone went home and it was just me and the wet saw. I never thought I would be on day 9 of burying my shit in the woods, swatting mosquitoes from my behind, boiling water for cleaning dishes, filling gallon jugs at work, and fantasizing about flushing. 

It's not my fault.
I didn't know about the valves.

Today I am on a mission. If you see me, hints and encouragement are welcome. I can do this.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lights Out Challenge Update

   This concept is catching on a lot faster than I thought it would in my house.

   The kids are on board!

   Keeping the lights off during the day to save on the electric bill is becoming a way of life in our family.

   We are fully utilizing the free light from the sun! Imagine that! I am naturally overjoyed.

   I find myself savoring the simple beauty of the sun's rays spilling across the floor. I love the contrast of shadows spread out around the house, placing geometric patterns here and there.

   I love how we naturally gravitate to hanging outside more, and eating dinner out on the porch every night. 

   This is turning into much more than a money saver...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Lights Out" Challenge

Lights Out Challenge

Classic parenting moment right here...

"Don't forget to turn the light off when you are done!"

How many times need I ask, gently remind, or straight up yell it across the house? Still, my kids never do it. I bet yours don't either. They appear to think I am asking too much of them. My daughter finds me annoying. My son, who is almost three, gets a kick out of nudging every light switch he can reach into the "on" position. He then waits for me to figure it out, laughing and trailing behind me as I turn them off, lecturing to him, "during the day the sun is our light." It's free!

Take notes here- sunlight is free! All day long!

They should teach this stuff in kindergarten.

No new information, perhaps a simple case of overlooking one detail, taking the big fiery ball in the sky for granted. I understand, after all- we are busy. Who has time to stop and think about things like this?

Don't worry. I am here to remind you.

When it comes to electricity... skimp. (I never encourage anyone to be cheap, but in this case- go for it.)

I prefer not to turn on lights during the day. Why would I? There are people out there that pay $125 and up a month on electricity! Is this you? Mine never hits $60 in the summer months, and hit $111.90 in the darkest, coldest February when we barely did more than huddle together on the couch watching movies all night. Okay- I also forgot about July when we run a box fan most nights to suck the hot air out of the house. The bill might hit $70. There is a solution.

Just a flick of the switch should do it lovers!

So here's my new scheme challenge.
My household is going "lights out" during daylight hours! 

Which means as long as the sun is shining there will not be any flicking of switches. The children will be re-trained, and so will I. Last month the bill was $62.65, from May 3rd to June 4th. A late start, but I am going for $45 in June. Anyone going to join me?

I do realise living in New Hampshire really helps with this scenario. If you are pumping the a/c in a place like Phoenix, sorry. But you can still try keeping the lights off during the day- I promise you will see a difference. Also- unplug those chargers when they are not charging, drink lots of water, and be happy because you are saving money!

Happy skimping! xoxo

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Treasure Chest

  When the subject of savings comes up, I always get funny looks from my friends. Some wonder how I even have savings. Most of them don't posses a freezer stash like I do. Sometimes I can see the gears slowly churning in their heads- they think of themselves as hopeless spenders.

  "Never will I have enough to take my family on vacation."   "I can't afford to buy organic food."
      "Never will I save enough for a down payment on a house."    "I don't make enough money."
          "Never will I be able to buy a car without a loan."    "I could never pay that much for shoes."

  Pretty sure all of the above is absolute baloney. Silly excuses. I can back myself up on that because I pretty much do all of those things earning much less than everyone else.  I am single. I have two kids, a dog, two cats. I made $20k last year working 25 hours a week average. I buy nice shoes. I own my home and car outright. I swing by my local cafe on occasion to subdue an afternoon craving. We take vacations. I have no debt. This is not me bragging, it means we all start somewhere taking lots of small steps. Which is what I want to teach all of my friends to do.
  My first memories of money offer insight into how I manage it as an adult. I had this orange wicker basket shaped like a pumpkin about the size of a soccer ball. It even had a cover that fit perfectly on top with a painted green stem and little curly vines that hid what was inside. That thing was packed full of coins, and each time I picked it up I feared it would break. My dad used to toss in the leftovers from his pocket, which became my first stash.
  I have silly fond memories of shutting myself in my room, dragging that thing to the middle of the floor and tipping it over so that the change spilled out in a rush of sparkle and delight. The tangy metallic smell made me smile. I would scoop it up in greedy handfuls to watch it slip between my fingers, and hear it musically clink to the floor. Sometimes I would run my palm across the heap, smoothing it flat to see how big an area of the floor it would cover. I made patterns and piles, counting each stack, and on occasion ran across the hall to the sink so I could try to scrub a dirty penny clean. This was one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon as a 7 year old.
   As far as I can remember, I never thought to spend it. I loved having it tucked away in my room where I could keep an eye on it. It was my vessel of possibility, my treasure pumpkin. It really helps to have a special place to keep your cash. My dad used to hide his in the back of the freezer. He has a great name for it- cold cash. My friends used to think that was hilarious, I thought it was pretty neat. So when I got a place of my own, the freezer became my piggybank. My friends still thought that was hilarious, and I still thought it was neat... but none of them had a lump of savings like I did.
   About 6 years ago I had a bum tooth. It was a wisdom tooth that was falling apart in my mouth. It hurt so bad I wanted to pull it out myself. I was just getting on my feet after a divorce, and finances were tight. My cold cash barely covered rent. The only dentist I could find to pull my tooth without charging a fortune was in RI where my family lives. I made an appointment on the weekend of my birthday. It was short and sweet and slightly gross, but I got out of there only paying $125 for the procedure . Life was good again and I headed back to my grandparents place for a little birthday chill and grill. After our meal, my Gram handed me a white envelope with "From the Tooth Fairy" written in her shaky scrawl across the front. Huh? Then I opened it and pulled out the bounty inside. Right. She gifted me the cash that covered the tooth. The whole family got a chuckle.
  That envelope became my new treasure chest. It has spent years in the back of the freezer, years at the bottom of  underwear drawers, or tucked between mattresses. I had to clear tape the whole thing- inside and out- because it started to disintegrate. Now that my sweet Gram has been gone for a few years, it is a treasure with or without my weekly earnings hidden inside.
  Find yourself a treasure chest. Make it something special. Then start filling it with treasure. Touch it, count it, smell it, love it. Give your money the respect it deserves. I guarantee you might start holding onto it a little longer. xoxo