A week of cheap and free.

Things are finally getting back to normal, spending-wise at least. The apartment itself is still chaotic and terrible. We still have not finished putting together all of the bookshelves (though we did get the DVDs completely unpacked and put away), or the dining room table — and there is still a wall full of boxes to unpack. Having very low energy is an awful burden sometimes. Okay, most of the time.

This week I…

  1. Used $10 of rewards points at Walgreens.
  2. Got a free chai at Starbucks using a Star Reward.
  3. Finally used a $25 restaurant Groupon that I had gotten for only $3 using a magnificent coupon code, meaning our lunch on Saturday was only $7 plus tip. Sometimes I impress even myself, haha.
  4. Watched a DVD from the library, and read 6 library eBooks.
  5. Read a magazine for free* using Prime Reading. (*Well, I get my money’s worth out of my Prime membership. I use the shipping, of course, as well as the video and music streaming services — and now the reading program, too.)
  6. Got a free box of Belvita breakfast cookies from Kroger for my grandma. I can’t eat wheat, but she loves all kinds of cookies and will probably be delighted by a kind meant for breakfast!

I have also added a new source of income this month: I’ll be earning just a little bit of extra cash coaching a very fine young actress for an audition. I used to teach voice lessons, and long ago used to teach drama classes for kids, so this is a good fit for my (somewhat rusty) skills.

Approaching normal this week.

I feel a little better — finally — and although there are just a few things left to get for the new apartment, all of the major spending is finally done.

This week…

  1. Bought a bath rug on clearance for 40% off.
  2. Went to a couple of thrift stores…and didn’t buy anything at all.
  3. Really wanted to take a cab to work when my ride was out of town, but saved more than $10 by taking the bus.
  4. Watched 2 DVDs from the library, and read 4 library eBooks.
  5. Checked out a free book using the new Prime Reading program on Amazon.
  6. Made the final payment on our car and paid off the loan 7 or 8 months early, thereby saving some interest. Now we can just put that payment amount directly into savings.

It felt pretty good to have a much-closer-to-normal week, even if we still haven’t put our new bookshelves together and are still living in box-based chaos. Maybe next week!

Still alive.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks because I did something very un-frugal: I came down with terrible bronchitis. Very ill-timed — and expensive, too. I not only had to go to the doctor, but I had to have a chest X-ray. Ugh! Between that and furniture purchases, we just hemorrhaged money all month.

This list accounts for the whole period since my last post:

  1. Our Crockpot’s temperature controller knob broke in the move, but I was able to order a set of two replacement knobs for $7.99 (with free shipping). We were given the Crockpot as a hand-me-down several years ago (one of Lennox’s foodie friends was upgrading, and it was like new), so this is the first we’ve spent on it! And it’s far less than the cost of a replacement.
  2. Our local (& amazing) hardware store actually carries the rare bizarro-world size of air filter the A/C in our new apartment uses. Although it’s not the heavy-duty Filtrete allergy filter we normally use, it is rated far better than a standard filter, and its $8.69 price tag beats the stuffing out of paying $140+ for a six pack of custom filters ordered online.
  3. Watched a DVD from the library, and read 14 library eBooks. (I could never afford to read at the rate I do without the library!)
  4. Saved $16.61 by buying a collapsible crate at Costco instead of ordering it from Amazon. Not every Costco bargain is this impressive, although (according to the spreadsheet I keep) we have saved $917.32 so far this year by shopping there.
  5. Decided not to get new dining room chairs, even though we got a new table. Though I spent about $20.00 on paint & supplies to re-do the old chairs, it was still a considerable savings over buying new ones. I painted our old console table to match, too, which we had planned to get rid of, but we’re going to put it in front of the living room windows instead of getting a bench for that area.
  6. Saved $24.00 over regular retail price by purchasing shoes on eBay (new with tags). These were my favorite Toms shoes, but my old ones had gotten so ratty I wore them for my painting project, which finished them off! I wanted the exact same ones to replace them, so that’s what I got. The old pair lasted over 3 years despite heavy wear, and I didn’t pay full price for them, either.
  7. Ordered a new desk for my sewing area from Wayfair, but got 10% off by using a coupon. Better than paying full price, at least.

We have finally gotten our remaining furniture from IKEA, and should be done with the wild spending phase of our move. Things should be much, much closer to normal in October. We’ll also pay our car off next month (over six months early), so we should be able to start saving in earnest again. Alright alright!

Short list this week.

Very short list this week. It was…a rough week, both stress-wise and spending-wise.

  1. Started brainstorming what sorts of simple gifts I can make for Giftmas this year, with an emphasis on gifts that I already have materials to make.
  2. Ordered my favorite teabags in bulk from Stash Tea using a $10 off coupon I got for taking a survey. I normally buy catering packs through Amazon because it’s a little cheaper (though I buy several other flavors directly from Stash), but thanks to such a generous coupon, I ended up paying even less than usual — including the shipping charges.
  3. We needed some new furniture due to the awkwardness of our new place — and couldn’t wait to find it anywhere but regular retail. (There is no usable kitchen storage for daily items. Like plates. Seriously. There is nowhere to put plates, let alone a microwave. There are no utensil drawers, either.) We managed to find a perfectly acceptable piece on clearance at Target, which was sheer luck, as I am very picky. I guess I am only counting this because we managed not to pay full price? Like I said, rough week.

There are still a few things we need to “throw money at” to solve, but fingers crossed that next week will be better.

This week’s list.

This week has been stressful in a monumental way. First of all, packing for a move is bad enough — and always takes longer than you’ll think — but the actual move itself is generally a terrible upheaval. Thankfully, our physical move went very smoothly (we lucked out and hired great movers), but our new apartment turned out to be a little…problematic. We’re going to make it work (and the new landlord is going to fix several things), but it has been a bad week.

And we have been spending like crazy. Ugh. Moving sucks!

Still, little things do add up over time, and though my money saving list this week is all small stuff compared to our moving costs, it still counts.

  1. Put book on hold at library instead of spending $7.99 on a very tempting ebook. (Also read an additional four ebooks from the library.)
  2. Used a piece of leftover fabric to make a reusable furoshiki style wrap for Lennox’s present instead of buying a gift bag.
  3. Dumped my piggy bank into the CoinStar machine and got a $10.30 Amazon gift card (which had no CoinStar fees). I know that I could roll my own coins and deposit them at the bank, or even…you know…spend them. But I have long had the habit of regularly dumping my coin purse into a piggy bank of some kind, then using the money on some kind of treat after it fills up. (I often used it on a movie ticket back when I could rarely afford to go.) Self-care is important, too. I’ll probably use the gift card on an ebook or two. Gotta support my voracious reading habit!
  4. Had a free hot tea at IKEA because of my IKEA Family membership. Hey, free tea is free!
  5. Decided not to replace our bathroom trash can. I’ve wanted a new one for a long time now (our current one is 16 years old!), but after I really thought about it, I realized I only wanted to replace it because I have trouble keeping its exterior clean. It’s a metal bin with a spring-loaded opening, but it has grooves around the lid and at the bottom of the bin that trap dust. I decided I would just try to clean those grooves a little better, and now it looks fine enough to me.

We still have to get our new washer and dryer and a few pieces of furniture before things calm down, but we’ll get back to normal soon.

These are a few of my frugal things.

We are spending a pretty penny on our upcoming move, both by hiring actual movers (a first time thing for us) and by replacing some of our worn out furniture — as well as purchasing a washer and dryer.

In order to remind myself to stay focused on longer term financial goals during this time of intense spending, I’ve decided to share a weekly list of frugal things I’ve done to creatively stay under budget or to create a little extra income. (This was pretty obviously inspired by The Non-Consumer Advocate’s “Five Frugal Things” lists.)

This week I…

  1. Took a few boxes of books, CDs, DVDs, and a few old videogames to sell at Half Price Books (a local discount/used book chain). They paid us $45.00 — and they almost never pay that much!
  2. Sewed a birthday present using a pattern I’ve had for years (and have used three or four times before), leftover thread and elastic from other projects, and $13.00 worth of fabric that I only paid $7.00 for out of pocket because I used $6.00 I earned taking surveys online. $7.00 plus two and a half hours of effort is a pretty cost effective gift, IMO.
  3. Spent only $26.00 on groceries this week as we’ve been cooking from the pantry and freezer to minimize waste when we move next week.
  4. Read 6 ebooks and 1 physical book from the library — also watched a DVD from the library. The library is a holy place. And it saves me hundreds of dollars every year (no exaggeration).
  5. Used a “Star Reward” to get a free chai at Starbucks. I love loyalty programs that actually pay off.
  6. Remembered to (finally) bill a client for her quarterly bookkeeping.

I’m not a black belt level tightwad or anything like that, but I’m pretty frugal. It’s easy to throw money at a problem — in fact, it’s sometimes unavoidable — but very often a flexible mind can find a more creative, and a more cost effective, solution.

KonMari-ing as fast as I can.

After 10 years at our current address, we are moving to another apartment in early September. As if that isn’t nerve-wracking enough, I’ve also decided to complete the KonMari process I began last year (then abandoned after clothes and books because my energy took a terrible nosedive) before we go.

Needless to say, this is probably not an approved application of the KonMari process. Oh, well! I’m a rebel and I’ll never-ever be any good.

It is, however, going well — at least in a tentative way. I did a very thorough sweep through clothing and books the first time, but I did a “touch up” to get myself started again. I managed to clear most of the clothes I had in the storage unit (a few small boxes), a coat I didn’t like, and a few other odds and ends — and another small box of books and a large box of magazines — before moving on to paper…for the first time.

I really thought I had paper under control. And I probably did have a lot less than the average household. I’m mostly paperless already, but even so I had not purged old tax files in years and found a lot of miscellaneous, random paper I’d kept for…question mark? I have no idea. I found a bunch of 2011 utility bills that had somehow escaped an earlier purge, for instance. Anyway, I did it all in one day — with lots of breaks — and today we took three boxes of paper to the recycling center and two bags of paper to Office Max to be shredded. I now have one plastic file box of important papers, one plastic file box of old writing and sentimental items (collected, but not examined — I’m mostly following the rules), and one file caddy of client work that is maybe a quarter full.

Good progress.

We also started on the komono today, and went through all of the CDs and DVDs. I had an unrelated purge of CDs a couple of years ago, when I digitized most of my collection after a shelf broke on our CD storage, so there wasn’t a lot left that didn’t spark joy for me. However, Lennox got into the spirit of things and discarded a whole box full of CDs and videogames. We discarded very few DVDs, though, because almost our entire collection sparked joy. Sometimes that’s how it goes! Some categories are already pretty joyful, and require far less pruning.

We took the books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and videogames to Half Price Books to sell, and they paid us $45.00. We were pretty pleased at the unexpected cash; they rarely offer so much!

Next up for me will be sewing and knitting related items, and then kitchen komono in various subcategories. I hope I can keep up the momentum. My energy level has been pretty good lately, so the pace hasn’t been too much for me — so far.

Wish me luck.

Wrapping up Me Made May.

I’m not sure I’ll participate again — I may, but it will depend on my energy level next spring — but like most participants, I did learn a few things during Me Made May.

I do a good job making things I actually like to wear — and I sew clothes that work with my existing wardrobe, and that are practical for the actual lifestyle I lead. No fancy party dresses with nowhere to wear them, that’s for sure! As I mentioned earlier in the month, I tend to stay within the same color palette to keep things simple, and that helps, too.

Though my favorite purchased garments are mostly all fit-and-flare dresses from eShakti, I really do like pared back styling. I like simple lines and knits, and although I’m certainly capable of sewing more complicated items, I really do like the stuff I make. So far, so good.

However, I’ve realized that many of my sewing expectations are bananas. I have a ton of fabric, hundreds of ideas, and almost no energy to sew most of the time. I didn’t write a single word on my novel re-write this month, simply because I was focusing on finishing sewing projects I had already cut out. I need to be more realistic about my limitations. That being said, I can knock out a simple tee or a Mabel skirt in just about an hour. So it’s good that my fashion instincts lean toward simple projects.

All in all, I had a really good month and I’m glad I gave it a shot. I only repeated one garment the entire month, and only failed to get a picture one day. I managed to wear something I’d made every single Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday — and one bonus Sunday. I actually wore a couple of other things on other days, too — my infamous bunny print lounge pants, yet another Mabel skirt, and some linen shorts — but I didn’t bother to document them.

I made my pledge, and followed through. I call it a success.