January progress.

Illustration of Victorian children walking through the snow.

It’s not all that cold here right now (despite the Polar Vortex in other regions), but I chose a snowy graphic anyway. Maybe it’s snowy where you are. It’s definitely icy in my soul. January is extra rough when you work in accounting. All of my clients’ 1099s and W2s were completed before 4:00 p.m. today, so now I can breathe a sigh of relief.

I did decently on my goals in January, despite the amount of extra work I had.

Goals for 2019 – January Progress

Send one real letter a month.
I sent a thank you card with a personal note and a postcard, so I’d say both things count.

Sew at least one garment a month.
I didn’t manage any sewing this month, besides repairing a ready-to-wear nightgown. Too much client work, as I mentioned.

Send newsletter at least once a month.
Yep! I bet almost everyone who received it had forgotten that it ever existed, though.

Make one apartment improvement a month. In January: Better organize our walk-in closet.
Our closet isn’t perfect, but it is much improved. I spent two afternoons rearranging it and pulled several items to donate. In February I plan to replace our older (and very shabby) duvet cover.

Go on one outing with Lennox a month.
We went to see the British royal portraits exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. I enjoyed it (though I was beyond saturation point with photos of Princess Di by the time we left), and was tickled to run into Misfit Marjorie (my BFF Forevs) there — who by sheer coincidence was visiting the exhibit that afternoon with his dad and brother.

Read one physical book I already own a month.
I read Glimpses of the Devil by M. Scott Peck, which I’d had on my shelf for at least a year. (I do recommend it if you have any interest in demonic possession and exorcism. It was an unusual glimpse into the psychological side of what many consider paranormal nonsense, but without a skeptical position. Fascinating stuff.)

Track budget for books, clothing, and sewing.
Good news first? I spent $0 out of $35.00 on clothing and accessories this month, and $52.36 out of $50.00 on books, which isn’t too terrible with my track record. However, I spent an embarrassing $96.67 on sewing patterns and fabric — more than double the $45.00 I’d budgeted. Most of that was on sewing patterns, which I haven’t tracked carefully before. I definitely purchased more patterns that I normally do in a month, but it may be that the budget number will need to be adjusted as time goes on. I expect that both my books budget and my sewing budget need to be closer to $60.00 a month. I’ll carry forward the unspent clothing amount (since it’s based on a yearly average).

Track daily writing habit.
I managed 11 out of 31 days…which is worse than a normal month. I really was crazy-busy with work in January.

Post weekly IG photo.
I managed 3 out of 4 weeks and posted six photos total.

Run robot sweeper, vacuum bedroom, tidy, and clean bathroom weekly.
I did 3 out of 4 weeks on this one, too. I’ll never like this apartment very much, but I like it a lot better when it’s clean.

Longer Term Goals

Reduce fabric stockpile to less than 100 yards (plus scraps) by the end of 2019.
As I mentioned, I didn’t get any sewing done, but I did donate 10+ yards to Goodwill this month as part of the closet clean up. I ordered a single length of knit fabric but returned it, so I didn’t add any yardage and ended the month with 130 yards in storage. I think I started the year with 144 yards, so this feels like a good start.

Finish cross stitch and frame it.
Not yet.

Finish Baktus scarf.
Knitted a couple of inches while watching TV.

Have four tea parties.
I’m planning one for March, but haven’t settled on a date yet.

Find a way to keep performing.
Not yet.

Combine websites, transfer blog, forward other domains, purchase an SSL certificate.
Not yet.

My January Frugal List

  • Bought next year’s holiday cards on clearance for 50% off. (Maybe I’ll manage to mail them before the holiday next time.)
  • Bought two packages of fancy pumpkin spice granola on clearance for $0.79 each. I definitely couldn’t make my regular granola for that price! (It was good, too.)
  • Took advantage of free printable calendars, goals sheets, and habit trackers.
  • Downloaded two Kindle First titles for free this month. I rarely bother to download books from that program (they generally don’t appeal), but this month they allowed two downloads — and I actually wanted to read two of them! Nice how that worked out.
  • Used a coupon code to get 40% photo prints at Walgreens.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Bought some make-up with a loyalty card voucher at The Body Shop. The make-up was already on sale, so I paid only half price.
  • Bought three Audible books on “daily deal” super sale — and paid less for all three than I normally would for a single audiobook. I find I’m listening to audiobooks more than podcasts these days, and though I get some through the library, this is another entertainment expense that has started to creep up on me. (Podcasts are generally free! What is wrong with me?)
  • Got a notice that our Hulu subscription will be $2 LESS in the future. I don’t think that’s ever happened with any other streaming service! I will be delighted to watch old episodes of “SG-1” and “Archer” for two bucks less a month.
  • Enrolled in a free writing course on Udemy. I have taken several other courses on the platform (that I’ve paid for — although all were purchased on sale, of course), and was pleased to see such a highly rated course available for free. It’s shorter than the average, but as it often takes me several weeks to work through one of the regular courses, I’m looking forward to taking one that I can finish in an afternoon.
  • Read 16 ebooks and four physical library books (including one interlibrary loan), and one free Kindle book.

Not too shabby. We spent too much on takeout (ugh, January) and there are several areas where I need to get my personal spending under better control, but we’re already building our household savings back up to our pre-car-purchase comfort zone.

On a random blogging note, I’m much happier now that I’ve found a way to ditch the new block-based WordPress editor! It is ghastly, and the opposite of an improvement. (You can install a plugin called “Classic Editor” which gives you the — you guessed it — classic editor back. I highly recommend it!)

Here’s to a productive February!

Planning an audacious 2019.

Despite my energy limitations and both mental and physical health issues, I managed to do more in 2018 than I thought possible. Five years ago I couldn’t leave the house, and now I’m able to do stage work again. I’m absolutely filled with gratitude, particularly that I have been lucky enough to have access to (and have been able to afford) extremely high-quality therapy.

I’ve decided that I don’t want to lose that momentum, and have therefore chosen a series of goals and intentions for the entire year. My list is ambitious, and flies in the face of most goal-setting advice. Sure, you’re supposed to choose one small thing at a time, but I say nah to that. I have too much I want to do to limit myself to one small behavioral change. I will admit, though, that this list will be subject to change as time goes on. If I need to modify something, I will.

Some of these things are weekly intentions, some are monthly, and several are longer term. Only one thing is daily, and that is the resumption of a lapsed habit, rather than anything new.

Goals for 2019

Send one real letter a month.

Sew at least one garment a month.

Send newsletter at least once a month.

Do one apartment improvement a month. In January: Better organize our walk-in closet.

One outing with Lennox a month.

Read one physical book I already own a month. (I have a bit of a backlog. I tend to read new ebooks soon after purchase, but often save the physical books for trips — but we don’t travel all that often, so they just pile up. With my voracious reading habit, there’s no need for this.)

Track budget for books, clothing, and sewing.

Track daily writing habit. (This is my lapsed habit!)

Post weekly IG photo.

Run robot sweeper, vacuum bedroom, tidy, and clean bathroom weekly.

Longer Term Goals:
Reduce fabric stockpile to less than 100 yards (plus scraps) by end of 2019.
Finish cross stitch and frame it.
Finish Baktus scarf.
Have four tea parties.
Find a way to keep performing.
Combine websites, transfer blog, forward other domains, purchase an SSL certificate.

Is this a lot? Yes. Is it achievable? Yes, I think so. Will I fall short some of the time? Absolutely. But I think it’s worth trying, and I wanted to post my list here to be at least a little accountable. Wish me luck!

Ding-dong, the year is dead.

Wrapping Up 2016

2016 was not a good year for me. Or for a lot of people. Many of our heroes died. There were garbage elections in several places. It has been tough.

I definitely had a rough time on a personal level. My health was worse than usual: I had to have a tooth out, I had the second worst respiratory infection of my adult life, I had a foot injury. All of this had an effect on other areas of my life, too. It took over two months to unpack after we moved, and I got behind on my paid work. I had to let two private clients go this year, and haven’t been able to work as many hours outside the house as usual, either.

My 86 year old grandmother’s memory is finally starting to fail, my 64 year old father has become frighteningly frail, and our cat went suddenly blind this year. Misery not only loves company, but seems to have a house full of guests at the moment.

It has been a year of terrible decision making — both on the micro and macro level. I see both the American election and the earlier Brexit vote as an aspect of this, and our personal choice to move house. We decided to move over some pretty petty bullshit, without clearly thinking through the consequences, and it was a big mistake. But just like the US and the UK, the Crowder-Chan household will just have to deal with the consequences and make plans to better our situation later.

This is the part where I’m supposed to say that it wasn’t all bad in 2016, and of course it wasn’t — not in its entirety. It just feels like it was. Sure, I got to visit my family in Missouri for the first time in seven years, and I started work on my second novel. I read like a maniac this year, and plowed through 421 books. But does that outweigh the stresses and tribulations this year wrought? Realistically, no. No, it doesn’t.

The usual platitudes don’t help. “You’ve still got your health!” Do I? Please see above. “Next year is a blank slate — surely it will be better!” Will it? It looks pretty grim to me. “Well you’ve just got to stay positive, and…” Nope. Let me stop you right there. I don’t. Just let me wallow for a while. I have legitimate reasons to feel legitimately bad right now, and although this wallowing won’t be a permanent condition, I’m allowed to feel like shit when my world is shitty. You and Pollyanna can show yourselves right out, thank you very much.

2016 has been a garbage nightmare year. The best I can say for it is that it’s finally over.

I am a walking disaster.

After a couple of weeks of improvement in our spending, I had to go and have an accident that put me in the emergency room one night, and will have a few follow-up appointments. Thank goodness I have health insurance these days. I didn’t for many years, and even though our deductible is enormous and ridiculous, at least I can see a doctor when I need it. If you’ve been insured for a long time, you may not realize that without insurance, doctors charge you right up front — as in, you pay or you don’t see a doctor at all. And a regular office visit is generally $200 and up!

So this week’s list is to the point:

  1. My accident impaired my mobility, so I did almost no shopping at all. I sent Lennox out for groceries, and that’s about it. (I did buy a DVD from Amazon, but it was only $5 and it was a replacement for one someone borrowed and never returned! At least it was a bargain.)
  2. Since I last posted, I read 8 library eBooks and watched one DVD from the library.
  3. Took advantage of my need to move around less by catching up on some client work. Found a little silver lining there!
  4. One of my clients came to pick up her payroll reports and brought me a box of macarons. Free cookies are always a nice bonus! They were wheat-free, too — most macarons are made with almond flour — so I could eat them.

Needless to say, the apartment is still kind of a wreck. I have never unpacked so slowly in my entire life. It’s excruciating. Next time I am outsourcing everything I possibly can. My only goal for the weekend is to get the dining room table put together. Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t lose another toenail! Heaven forbid. I shouldn’t even joke about that.

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!

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.