April and May update.

It was about May 10th before I realized I had never posted April’s update, so I figured I would post both months at once. And then I almost forgot again! Oops.

Goals for 2019 – April Progress

Send one real letter a month.
I sent at least one postcard, but I think that I sent two and forgot to write the other one down.

Sew at least one garment a month.
I made a last-minute Twin Peaks/Black Lodge costume for a party that consisted of a long, sleeveless mini-dress in a chevron print and a red stretch velvet waterfall cardigan, and also cut out several other garments.

Send newsletter at least once a month.
I didn’t manage it AGAIN this month. Maybe I need to rethink this goal.

Make one apartment improvement a month.
I had a cleaning service come in and do a deep clean in April, which I do once or twice a year. It was nice to have a detailed cleaning, but it didn’t make up for the disappointment of March’s no-show.

Go on one outing with Lennox a month.
We went to the costume party I previously mentioned. No one knew what my costume was, even with hints — and I thought it was really obvious, especially once I said I was a place and/or metaphysical construct.

Read one physical book I already own a month.
I read Born to Be Wilde by Eloisa James. It was okay. It had a slow beginning, and I didn’t really like the hero or heroine very much. Just a “meh” romance. Ah, well! They can’t all be winners, I suppose.

Track spending on books, clothing, and sewing.
I did well on books in April! I spent only $50.92 out of my allotted $60.00. (Don’t worry — I blew all of that surplus and then some in May.) I only had $25.03 budgeted for fabric and patterns because of overspending in March, but I went over AGAIN due to a last-minute fabric purchase for that costume. I ended up spending $41.19 on sewing in April, but that’s going to look like incredible restraint when we get to May’s numbers. I also spent $91.48 on clothing and accessories, which was fine.

Track daily writing habit.
I had some real trouble sustaining any progress with my writing in April, despite participating in Camp Nanowrimo. I decided mid-month that I had chosen the wrong project, so I changed both my project and my goal — and although I missed my target by just about 1000 words, I did some good writing on a non-fiction project that I hope to use here on the blog one day. I ended up writing 17/30 days, which may be the best I’ve done yet in 2019.

Post weekly IG photo.
I only posted 2 out of 4 weeks in April, but as this is the most minor of all of my goals, I’m not too worried about it.

Run robot sweeper, vacuum bedroom, tidy, and clean bathroom weekly.
I managed 2 out of 4 weeks again this month and had a cleaning service do a deep clean, as I mentioned above.

Goals for 2019 – May Progress

Send one real letter a month.
I sent a single postcard and have a stack ready to post in June. I have a couple of cards I mean to put in the mail, too — but the allure of the postcard is just too great at times.

Sew at least one garment a month.
It was Me Made May, so I, of course, sewed a LOT. I sewed a simple print-blocked rayon top, three dresses, and a t-shirt. I still have another pair of trousers and a top cut out to sew later, too. It really felt great to sew so much! I hit a pure flow state a couple of times. I also really needed some new summer clothes. I feel like giving myself a high five, Liz Lemon style!

Send newsletter at least once a month.
I wonder if it’s my perfectionism that’s holding me back here. I mean — sincerely — to send this every month, and often have an idea what I want to write in it, too. I just… don’t DO it. I’ll ponder this and hopefully make some progress in June.

Make one apartment improvement a month.
I was so focused on my sewing that I took a break on this.

Go on one outing with Lennox a month.
We went to the MFAH to see the Van Gogh exhibit, which was a bit of a disappointment due to overcrowding, and we also went to see “John Wick 3,” which was not disappointing at all!

Read one physical book I already own a month.
I read His Captive Lady by Anne Gracie, and I straight up hated it. A lot. I hated it a lot. Not even sure why I finished it, except that I generally like this author and I kept thinking that it would stop being awful. It didn’t. Do not recommend! I also read When a Duchess Says I Do by Grace Burrowes, which I accidentally pre-ordered in paperback instead of as an ebook. It was pretty typical Grace Burrowes fare, but I really enjoyed it.

Track spending on books, clothing, and sewing.
Okay, confession time. May was a veritable orgy of spending in the sewing category. This wasn’t unexpected, but it was an eye-opening number (mostly because I never tracked how much I spent on sewing patterns before this year, just on fabric). I spent $285.16 on fabric and patterns in May. That’s completely bananapants, even for me. I don’t know if I was reeling with FOMO or what. I do know that I’ve decided to up the quality on my fabric purchases, so that was part of the much higher number. But that wasn’t all of it. I need to re-think the budget numbers here, and not just because I spent so much during this one month. I didn’t have sufficient data regarding pattern and notions purchases to assign a realistic budget number. I don’t think I will track this category against a specific budget target for the rest of the year, just to accumulate data. (I can do this because I don’t spend money I don’t have. If I go over in spending on any category, I just put less into my personal savings at the end of that month. This doesn’t count against any household category; it is part of my personal spending budget. Basically: I just spent most of my “fun” money on sewing and books this month instead of saving it.) I went a little over on books and spent $83.86 (out of $70.00 — the usual $60.00 plus the extra $10.00 from April) — but spent only $25.04 on clothing and accessories.

Track daily writing habit.
I took May off to concentrate on my sewing and now have a couple of new story ideas I’d like to explore.

Post weekly IG photo.
I posted outfit photos every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday (as I had pledged to do for Me Made May), plus a couple of other pictures. So that was a big yes!

Run robot sweeper, vacuum bedroom, tidy, and clean bathroom weekly.
I only managed to do this once in May, but you know what they say: “Sew, don’t clean.”

Longer Term Goals

Reduce fabric stockpile to less than 100 yards (plus scraps) by the end of 2019.
Considering how much I spent on sewing in May, it will not shock anyone to learn that my stockpile swelled to a truly unreasonable figure in May. I ended the month with 149 yards! Oof. As I’ve decided to purchase better quality fabric when possible going forward, I’m going to sort through my fabric again in June and pull a minimum of 10 yards to donate.

Finish cross stitch and frame it.
I framed this in early May, so it’s done now — and off the list.

Finish Baktus scarf. 
I knitted a few rows here and there, but I’m not really making much progress on it right now. I’ll be sure to take this with me when we go visit my family in Missouri later this summer, as I tend to get a good bit of knitting done when we travel. It’s a lot easier to pack a simple knitting project than it is to lug a sewing machine everywhere you go!

Find a way to keep performing.
Not yet, but I have an audition in June. Fingers crossed I can shake the last remnants of this head cold, so I can do justice to the Handel piece I’ve chosen. Send your good vibes my way!

Combine websites, transfer blog, forward other domains, purchase an SSL certificate.
No further progress yet. I’ve been procrastinating a bit here. I admit it.

My Combined April and May Frugal List

I have a pretty short combined list this time. In April and May, I:

  • Downloaded two Prime First Read titles and four Audible Originals for free.
  • Used a $5 off birthday coupon at Jason’s Deli — on the last day it was valid. It was nice to sneak one final birthday hurrah into April.
  • Downloaded several free sewing patterns — thanks to the monster list of freebies on Broad in the Seams, all of which go at least to a modest plus size. Jess’s work compiling this list is an invaluable resource for the plus size sewing community! Now I need to find the energy to sew up some of these great patterns.
  • Redeemed $4.22 in eBay Bucks on a shoe purchase.
  • Purchased a paperback in perfect condition for 50 cents at the library and used it as a gift.
  • Downloaded a free Kindle book on Amazon for World Book Day. That’s a holiday I can get behind!
  • Redeemed $5 in rewards at Walgreens. Most of my Walgreens rewards are earned through my FitBit steps — I wear the FitBit every day, so why not use this benefit? That’s pretty much free money.
  • Made a rayon shirt for summer using $7 worth of remnants and a t-shirt using $8 worth of remnants from the bins at JoAnn Fabrics. All other notions, including thread, were leftover from other projects — and both were made from patterns that I’d used for multiple garments. That’s as cheap as fast fashion (if you discount the cost of my labor), definitely more my unique style, and better made, too.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Read 9 physical books and 15 ebooks from the library. I also read a free Prime Reading title.

Here’s to a productive June!

The March Update.

March was a mixed bag. I failed on several fronts, had a major disappointment, and spent a lot of money. But I did all right in other areas, so it wasn’t the worst month I could have had.

Goals for 2019 – March Progress

Send one real letter a month.
I sent a thank you note.

Sew at least one garment a month.
I finished a pair of simple trousers (that count as a Make Nine project, too), a short-sleeved Astoria top, repaired a ready-to-wear nightgown, and made a skirt from one of my favorite old dresses. It had holes in both sleeves and permanent deodorant gunk on the bodice (ew!), but the skirt was just fine, so I cut it apart and added an elastic waist.

Send newsletter at least once a month.
I didn’t manage it this month.

Make one apartment improvement a month. In March: Get hanging lamps from IKEA.
I did get one hanging lamp, but IKEA was sold out of the other paper shade I wanted, so I only got one. I haven’t hung it yet. I also got new rolling metal drawer units for underneath my sewing desk and completely reorganized my sewing storage. We also replaced our welcome mat with a more cheerful version. A lot of progress this month! I don’t have any immediate plans for improvements in April, so I may just take the month off.

Go on one outing with Lennox a month.
Lennox took me to see “Captain Marvel,” which we both really enjoyed. (We won’t only go to movies for our monthly outings, of course — it’s pretty unusual for us to go two months in a row.)

Read one physical book I already own a month.
I didn’t get one finished, but I started reading one of my paperbacks this morning. I’m unlikely to finish it before midnight tonight, so I’ll probably read two in April. (I just didn’t run out of library books until today! Hahaha.)

Track budget for books, clothing, and sewing.
I spent like a maniac this month, but it wasn’t a surprise. I usually do in March, and much of this spending is planned. I spent $126.83 on fabric and sewing patterns, which was $35.97 over the allotted $91.86. This was where I really overspent! I’ll carry forward the deficit, so I’ll only have $25.03 to spend in April. I’ll try to look at that as a challenge. I do have several projects that I’d like to finish before Me Made May, but I already have fabric and patterns for all of them. (I may need thread or interfacing, though, but that won’t break the bank.) I spent $161.21 on clothing and shoes, but I put $50.00 in birthday money towards this spending, so it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I also spent a little more than I intended because I found Birkenstocks in my size (new in box, even) at an unbeatable price on eBay, so I went ahead and ordered them, as my black sandals needed to be replaced before it got warm again. I spent $64.14 on books, so that was only slightly over the budgeted amount, which I think I can count as a success.

Track daily writing habit.
I barely wrote a word in March and I didn’t track it at all. This was just a failure all around, although I think it may have been a necessary break. Next month is Camp Nanowrimo, so I will likely get back into my daily habit then.

Post weekly IG photo.
I posted 3 out of 4 weeks and shared several things in my stories.

Run robot sweeper, vacuum bedroom, tidy, and clean bathroom weekly.
I managed only 2 out of 4 weeks this month, which would have been fine…except that the cleaning service flaked out on me and failed to come when scheduled! This caused me to cancel a party and left me feeling hurt and extremely angry. Although I cope very well with my chronic fatigue under normal circumstances, I sometimes need outside help — and I have to drop everything when that help does not happen. I’m still angry, to be honest. I will never use that service again, as this is the second time they’ve pulled a no-show.

Longer Term Goals

Reduce fabric stockpile to less than 100 yards (plus scraps) by the end of 2019.
I ended March with 138 yards in storage, which wasn’t unexpected — just a little more than I’d anticipated. I’m not mad, though. Four of those yards were excellent quality clearance fabric from The Sewing Workshop bought for a song, and three yards from a 100% linen bedsheet found in the as-is bin at IKEA and purchased for $5.00! I will be cutting out at least one dress this week, as I finished tracing the pattern this afternoon — and as I mentioned, I plan to get a couple of other things done before May, so I expect my storage to shrink back under 130 yards in April.

Finish cross stitch and frame it.
I finished it (hooray!), and picked up a sheet of craft felt for backing the hoop, so it’s ready to frame. I am definitely done with cross-stitch, though; it bores me to tears. It took me five years of procrastination to finish this very simple project. My current position is Hannibal forever, cross stitch never again!

Finish Baktus scarf. 
I knitted a few inches while watching TV. I’m getting dangerously close to the mid-point, believe it or not.

Have four tea parties.
I had a party scheduled for the 30th, but (as I explained above), it got canceled. I’ll try to have my annual Halloween tea, but I’ve decided that this just isn’t a viable goal for 2019, so I am dropping it from the list.

Find a way to keep performing.
Not yet.

Combine websites, transfer blog, forward other domains, purchase an SSL certificate.
No further progress yet, although I did cancel hosting for my secondary website. I’ll work on this after tax season.

My March Frugal List — and Bonus Birthday List

First, all of the discounts and freebies I got for my birthday. I sign up for all mailing lists that give me a decent birthday perk, which is one of the reasons my March spending is always higher — sometimes those perks come in the form of a discount or a generous gift card, so I wait to shop until my birthday month.

This year, I got the following birthday perks:

  • Used a $25.00 gift certificate on an eShakti order. I’m one of their “platinum” customers, so this was a discount from the company, not a gift card. I combined this discount with a wicked sale, too — and spent only $65.00 on a dress and top, both custom to my measurements. That amount included customization and shipping!
  • Installed an app to get a Michael Ian Black ebook for free.
  • Used a 10% off coupon to get some canvas shoes from ASOS. This wasn’t the best discount, but it was a planned purchase, so I took advantage of it. Any discount still counts.
  • Used a $10.00 off coupon to order a needed replacement bra from Torrid.
  • Had a free salted caramel milkshake at Smashburger. I didn’t make a cake this year, so this was my birthday dessert!
  • Had a free birthday drink at Starbucks.
  • Rented a free DVD from Redbox with a coupon code.
  • Had a free buffet at Sweet Tomatoes — & 20% off the rest of our check. I was really impressed with this one. We had two buffets and two drinks for about $14.00 total.
  • Used a $15 off coupon from IKEA to pay for one of the small wheeled drawer units for my sewing area.
  • Declined to shop with my $10.00 birthday voucher from The Body Shop, but opted to have it donated to Born Free instead. I didn’t need anything, so I was happy that donation was an option.

As you can see, that’s quite a pay-off for a year of advertising that I mostly ignored! If you want to do the same thing yourself — it’s a lot of fun, especially collecting the freebies — I do recommend that you set up a special folder and email filters for all of the marketing stuff. (This is especially important if you don’t have a lot of shopping willpower.) You can go in and clear out the folder periodically, or check for sales or coupon codes when you do want to shop with a specific retailer. Work the system — don’t let it work you.

I also did regular, non-birthday-related stuff in March:

  • Paid for all of my Patreon pledges and my Seamwork subscription using money earned taking surveys.
  • Downloaded an Amazon First Reads novel for free.
  • Downloaded two free calligraphy worksheets. I’m pretty terrible at calligraphy, but I might improve if I practice.
  • Gave Lennox a haircut. It took all of 5 minutes and saved at least $15 plus tip.
  • Stocked up on inexpensive produce and gluten-free items at Aldi while we were in the area on another errand. (We don’t have an Aldi in our neighborhood.)
  • Used a $7.00 off coupon code earned doing a survey for eQuilter to pay for shipping on a yard of batik fabric. (It’s destined to become some very fancy bias tape.)
  • Had a free (non-birthday related) drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Read 15 ebooks and two physical books from the library, as well as one book borrowed from Prime Reading and one Kindle First Read.

That’s still quite a bit! None of these things probably outweighed all the extra spending, but at least it made a dent.

I plant to participate in Camp Nanowrimo next month and hope to keep my sewing spending under control. Here’s to a productive April!

Wrapping up February.

Fairy tale animals frolic.

Goals for 2019 – February Progress

Send one real letter a month.
I only managed to send a postcard, but at least I did that.

Sew at least one garment a month.
I didn’t finish any sewing projects, but I did baste together a pair of trousers to check the fit and cut out two knit tops — so I have plenty to work on right now. I also taped together and traced off two other patterns, one of which I hope to get to this month, too.

Send newsletter at least once a month.
Yes. Squeaked it in by sending on the 28th, but it still counts!

Make one apartment improvement a month. In February: Replace a duvet cover.
Not quite. Our oldest fitted sheet developed a rip in it last month, so I replaced that sheet set instead. I’ve decided not to replace the worn out duvet cover. We still have one perfectly good cover, and I’ve already spent all winter washing it and putting it right back on the bed. We no longer use a duvet year-round (we switch to lighter blankets when it gets hot), so I don’t think I need to store an additional cover anymore. I plan to purchase a couple of very simple hanging lights from IKEA for our dining and office areas this month.

Go on one outing with Lennox a month.
We went to see “Isn’t It Romantic.” It really cracked me up; I recommend it to anyone who secretly loves romantic comedies. It’s a send-up, but it’s not mean.

Read one physical book I already own a month.
I read Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas, which — true story — was a used paperback I bought while whacked out on dental sedatives. My dentist’s office is only two blocks from my favorite Half Price Books, and I often browse through the store when I’m waiting to be picked up after an appointment. As you may imagine, I do occasionally walk out with a head-scratcher after those visits. In my drug-addled state, I thought this book was the first one of a series, but it was the third. I had to track down the first two before I could read this one, so it stayed on the shelf for a while. I enjoyed it, though I admit it was fairly standard for a slightly naughty historical romance. It started out with a really difficult-to-like hero — a character trope I often have little patience with — but he loosened up nicely by the end. I would recommend it for Kleypas fans and fans of the genre, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point for historical romance.

Track budget for books, clothing, and sewing.
I did okay on books last month, with only a slight overage: $62.65  out of $60.00. Not bad. I also spent $28.14 out of $60.00 on sewing patterns and fabric — a vast improvement over last month. I’ll carry forward the balance there. I spent $110.93 on clothing, shoes, and accessories in February, though.  I need to analyze last year’s numbers more closely because my 2018 average seems too low. I expect a good number of 2018 PayPal purchases were miscategorized, so my projected budget average was wrong. I’m just going to tally this category instead of tracking against a budget goal for the next couple of months as I reassess this. I will almost certainly spend over $100 in March again, as I have both birthday coupons and gift certificates that I use every year. I also need to replace both my ankle boots and one pair of summer sandals, so this spending category is likely to be inflated for a while.

Track daily writing habit.
I wrote on 12 out of 28 days. That’s dismal. I will try my best to do better in March.

Post weekly IG photo.
I think I only posted 2 photos in February, so 2 out of 4 weeks.

Run robot sweeper, vacuum bedroom, tidy, and clean bathroom weekly.
I did 3 out of 4 weeks again in February, which is fine with me. Sometimes I just can’t get to it or don’t feel well enough to clean. I may have a cleaning service in for a deep cleaning later this month or in early April, too.

Longer Term Goals

Reduce fabric stockpile to less than 100 yards (plus scraps) by the end of 2019.
I ended the month with 129 yards in storage, which is admittedly only one yard less than in January. Although I cut out three things in February, I also added the flat sheet from the set with the worn out fitted sheet (approximately 4 yards fabric). It’s really soft organic cotton with a nice drape that is likely to become a summer dress. I’ll probably add some yardage in March (especially if I get a gift card for my birthday), but I do a lot of my summer sewing in April and May, so I’m not too concerned about the number growing temporarily.

Finish cross stitch and frame it.
Not yet.

Finish Baktus scarf. 
Not even sure I touched this at all in February. Oops!

Have four tea parties.
I’m waiting to hear back from a couple of people, but we have a tentative date set in late March. I’d better plan my menu!

Find a way to keep performing.
Not yet.

Combine websites, transfer blog, forward other domains, purchase an SSL certificate.
I transferred hosting of my primary site, though I need to correct a few settings and get the SSL certificate up to date. I’ll keep working on this, but may not get to anything else until after the tax deadline.

My February Frugal List

I made good progress in trimming down my personal spending in February, and we cooked at home more than we did the previous month.

In detail, I:

  • Reduced or eliminated most of my Patreon pledges. I felt bad about doing this, as I like to support creators, but I will be losing one of my long-term clients after April and needed to cut back in anticipation of that reduced income.
  • Put Creativebug subscription on hold until May. I will decide whether to restart or cancel the membership then. It will depend on whether or not I finish the classes I already have in my library.
  • Canceled YouTube Premium. I found that I wasn’t really using most of the benefits of the membership — I was only paying to avoid commercials.
  • Downloaded another free book with Amazon First Reads.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Used free graphics (including the one above) from the Graphics Fairy.
  • Read 19 ebooks and 3 physical books from the library. I also read a book I already had (as listed above), and re-read 3 Kindle books. Not bad, considering I read 34 books in 28 days this time around!

I’ve already started getting my birthday freebies and discounts and will include a full list next time. I’m also trying to figure out what I’m going to do to replace that soon-to-be eliminated income. It’s not a large amount of money, but it was a really easy gig — and I’m not sure what I’d like to do. We’ll see.

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!

Victorian Frog Murder, Or December’s List.

I feel sure that I’ve used this graphic before, but it’s my favorite inexplicable Victorian holiday image — and it gives me such a tickle of violent joy that I could not resist repeating it.

December was, I am sorry to say, a spending orgy. Besides our annual gift shopping, I also spent significantly on the Christmas show I performed in. I bought fresh stage make-up, some hair accessories and a hair dryer, some costume jewelry, and four pairs of tights for the performances. I had already spent $600 on (completely optional) voice lessons earlier in the autumn, and then came all of the little extras this month — including drugstore items and parking at the theatre. I don’t have an exact total, but I spent something approaching $1000 to be in this show. Yes, it was totally worth it — and I loved every minute of it. But it was undeniably a pricey activity.

We also, partially because of my rehearsal and performance schedule, spent a ton on takeout. It was a spending failure all around, all month long. Over the past weekend, I even managed to forget to put the groceries away after a trip to Trader Joe’s! The frozen items acted as ice packs and kept the refrigerated foods safe, but as they thawed they became unsafe to eat and I had to throw them away. I’ve never done that before, and I felt like such an idiot!

However, I also:

  • Got a year of Martha Stewart Living for $5.49. I think I would pay more for a single issue at the store!
  • Only purchased a few gift bags and a single pack of tissue paper for wrapping. Everything else was leftover from previous years or reusable.
  • Saved peels from 2 bags of satsumas to make citrus vinegar for cleaning. It worked better than I expected and even diluted it removes hard water stains without scrubbing.
  • Used a 15% off coupon on eBay to buy some extremely Darth Marple red suede loafers for less than $20, including shipping. (Who knew eBay even had coupons?) I get many (if not most) of my shoes on eBay, usually very lightly used or new-in-the-box for a fraction of their normal retail cost. I have problematic feet, so I generally purchase the same brands again and again. Most of these have consistent fit, too, so I have no qualms about ordering them without trying them on.
  • Reviewed my fabric spending for the year and discovered that I actually stayed below my budget of $35 a month. I spent $353.44 in 2018, which works out to $29.45 a month. This is probably the first time I’ve come in under budget on this category, so I’m justifiably pleased with myself.
  • Rented “Mission Impossible: Fallout” for $0.99 on Google Play streaming with a coupon code.
  • Read six ebooks and five physical books from the library, and one free Kindle book. I also checked out a DVD. I spent $41.54 on other books (not counting gifts for others), which isn’t terrible considering my track record. I’m going to try to stick more firmly to a budget in the new year, but I’m also going to raise my book budget amount, as my current target is clearly not realistic for my reading habit.

I’m changing up these frugal lists in 2019 and will be unveiling a whole new kind of monthly recap post at the end of January. I’m going to be tracking all sorts of goals and intentions, rather than just how I save money. I’ll post my new set of goals within the next few days. I don’t think many of us will miss 2018, so I’m not going to belabor the point with any further reminiscence. Forward!

A long list for October and November.

I somehow missed posting after October, but I’m back.

Things have been less than ideal lately. My partner had a death in his family this month, so a lot of things got derailed. I have been very overextended energy-wise, so I’ve been spending a lot more to compensate. Oh, well. Guilt isn’t going to improve the situation; only effort can do that.

Without further ado, in October and November I:

  • Downloaded a free Kindle First preview novel.
  • Bought a fantastic shower head for only $16. I read some random article on the best things you can do to upgrade a rental and it mentioned that this particular shower head was excellent, so I thought — at that price — that I would try it. One of the (many) irksome features of our flat was how awful the shower was. A combination of the cheapest and most terrible shower head imaginable plus low water pressure made for showers like standing under a lukewarm garden hose. I did try to fix the old shower head by soaking it in vinegar and removing the silt from it, but that only made it a slightly more vigorous garden hose experience. Since we renewed our lease again*, I decided to do as many inexpensive things as I can to make it a less negative place to live. This was my first such experiment, and it was a real winner! Everything positive the article said was true! I’m kind of in love with this shower head. It even makes rinsing my long, fine hair easier! (*I know I have probably complained a lot about this apartment on here, so you must be wondering why on Earth we renewed the lease on this terrible place. Well, mostly the price. They didn’t raise our rent at all with this renewal — and average apartment rent in Houston went up 16% last year. Yeah, in a single year. We didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars more a month — or endure the trauma of moving again. So we’re sticking it out for a while.)
  • In that same vein, I spent $6 on new drip pans and $8 on burner covers for the electric stove. It’s definitely less unattractive now. Marginal improvements are still improvements, even in this apartment.
  • Convinced apartment management to finally replace our dishwasher! It’s not top of the line, but it’s brand new and completely functional — and will make my life much, much easier. We made such strides in making our apartment a better place in October.
  • Had my annual Halloween tea. I had plenty of decorations (since we do this every year), so I only bought a bag of fake spider webs and some Halloween themed paper plates and napkins on sale. We did buy some special food and some purple tulips for the table, but we managed to have a heck of a “do” for around $50.
  • Bought four pairs of leggings from Old Navy for $5 each. Yes, I know that this is fast fashion and therefore a questionable (and arguably unethical) purchase — and yes, I’m fully capable of making leggings myself — but I could barely get fabric for a single pair of leggings for the $20 total I spent on this. And that’s without counting my time or energy! I wore out several pairs of leggings recently, so these were also replacement purchases.
  • Redeemed a $5 reward on my Walgreens loyalty card for my OTC allergy medicine. I usually purchase it at Costco, but I had suddenly run out and this made the price comparable.
  • Ordered holiday gifts during a 40% off sale, long before Black Friday. I have to have my shopping finished at least a week early this year because of the play I’m doing, and although I’m waiting on a few packages in the mail, I am very nearly done already.
  • Bought a new-to-me, very gently used wool coat on eBay for $35 (including shipping). I don’t usually talk about this, but even though I stopped dieting years ago, my weight has never completely stabilized. I swing up and down within the same 20 pounds (most of the time), but even that is a full dress size. My favorite winter coat was custom made during a lengthy bout of stomach illness, during which I was about 10 pounds smaller than my normal low weight point. I’m currently about 5 pounds larger than my normal high point, and although most coats are loose-fitting enough to work with a 20-pound difference, my old coat is too fitted to work with a 35-pound difference. “But Sarah,” you may be saying, “You’re a ‘great big fat person,’ as Buffalo Bill so memorably said in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ — why don’t you just starve yourself until that coat fits again?” Well, I have a couple of problems with that. First of all, diets don’t work long-term (it’s true), and my body will likely return to its 20-pound wide comfort zone on its own soon enough. I just can’t say when. Secondly, my fat ass is cold right now. I can’t wait the eight or twelve weeks it would take to starve myself into my old coat, even if I were willing to do so. (Sorry not sorry for the fat acceptance rant.)
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Spent an afternoon at the fine arts museum strolling through their regular collection. We pay for an annual membership, but sometimes forget that one of our benefits is free admission to all of the various regular collections. The membership almost always pays for itself in reduced price or free admissions to special exhibits, so free general admission is just a bonus.
  • Redeemed credit card points on two credit cards to help pay for Christmas shopping. We got back $150.00 on one card and $175.00 on the other, and we’re not likely to spend much more than that since our gift list is relatively short — and we’re relatively cheap. This really is “free money” because we pay all of our cards off in full each month.
  • Read 22 ebooks and 6 physical books from the library between the two months, and managed to squeeze in 5 more Kindle Unlimited titles before my cancellation in October. I spent a ghastly combined $85.03 on other books, though, so I have nothing to brag about. I simply have been unable to stick to a reasonable book budget.
  • Checked out a few DVDs from the library, too. I sometimes forget to add this to the list, but free beats even Redbox prices every time.
  • My partner got two free boxes of granola bars from my step-dad because they fell off the back of a truck. I mean that in a literal sense, not the mafia sense! He’s a truck driver and an entire case was damaged and written off. The store told him to keep it. My step-dad kept some, gave some to friends and family, and sent the rest to the food bank. It was only the outer box that was damaged, not the bars themselves.
  • Was delighted to be informed that Instacart has dropped their service fees for Express members. I expect that means they’ll be raising their Express membership price next year, but I’ll analyze that when I see the new numbers (if that really happens). I’m going to enjoy the reduced fee while it lasts!
  • Got a free hot chocolate mix and a free jar of black pepper from Penzeys. Both will be holiday gifts. I really love Penzeys. Not only are their herbs and spices delicious, but they’re generous with free items and discounts. And they’re even woke! They’ve become so vocal about the political situation in the US that right-wingers have called for a boycott against them. Usually you hear about boycotts against companies that are doing truly terrible things, but apparently calling for unity and caring among cooks is reason enough for some people.
  • Despite everything, I did manage to cook more of our meals at home than we generally do. This is better for our bottom line — and our health — even when using some pre-packaged ingredients. Success! On at least one thing.

I have my show coming up in December, so I expect that my energy deficit will continue to drive my spending through the roof. I guess we’ll see!



A short list for September.

We spent a significant amount of money in September, as we purchased a new car. This is the first time in about ten years that we’ve had two cars, so it’s quite a change. We’ll be adjusting for higher transportation expenses, but I need a couple of months of real numbers to analyze before we can make realistic adjustments to other budget categories. I’m hoping to bring in a little extra income to help offset the insurance costs, too, but we’ll just have to see how that shakes out. We live very much within our means, so we have more wiggle room than most people. I recognize our privilege in this case and know that this would be a much larger budget change for most households — but also understand that this will be an adjustment for us, too.

Being able to go wherever I want without worrying about using up all of my energy getting to and from the bus stop is very freeing!

I wasn’t too focused in September, but  I:

  • Rented the newest Avengers movie from Redbox using a coupon. Only $0.81 for a Blu-ray rental!
  • Caught up a side client and billed for five months of work. (They paid right away, too.)
  • Ordered a batch of Lane Bryant underwear during a “buy three, get three free” sale.
  • Needed a 3-ring binder for my script and music for the show I was cast in and opted to use an old one that I  had from teaching my last voice student instead of buying a new one. This only saved a few dollars, obviously, but it’s more of a mindset. Each small thing eventually adds up.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Read 7 ebooks and 3 physical books from the library. Also read 7 Kindle Unlimited books, for an approximate cost of $0.14 a book. That will be the last of the Kindle Unlimited reads, though — I will cancel the trial this coming week. I also re-read a few of my old books — that’s always free. I managed to halve last month’s book spending (thank goodness) and spent $45.98. Still not ideal, but a vast improvement over last month.

Besides the cost of the new car, I also managed to get sick with a terrible sinus infection in September. Our new insurance didn’t cover the clinic visit, but it did help a bit with the prescriptions. (When did ear drops get so expensive, anyway?) I also spent a small bundle on probiotics and supplements because I need to stay healthy to perform in December. I’m willing to do the work, but my immune system needs all the help it can get! I expect I’ll fare a little better once the ragweed pollen tapers off — and I’ll be sure to get a flu shot — but there are certainly plenty of things I can do or take to support my immune system.

Here’s to a hopefully productive and healthy October!

I forgot to post the August list!

My apologies. I have been “Mucha” distracted. (So sorry! Couldn’t resist.) I have been distracted, though — and am likely to get overwhelmed in the upcoming weeks. I mentioned in the newsletter that I had been cast in the chorus of a Christmas show and rehearsals start this week. I’m nervous and far busier than usual. I haven’t been on stage for many years and have no idea if I can still handle it. We’ll see.

In a month of mostly usual stuff (and one impressive failure), I:

  • Paid for my Seamwork subscription and one Patreon donation with money earned doing surveys.
  • Did unspeakable things to free clip art from Creative Market and The Graphics Fairy. (Note: The Graphics Fairy website is particularly egregious to deal with and slow to load due to ads and other web clutter, but it is still a good source of free vintage graphics. Just don’t try to look at it on your phone or on a slower web connection.)
  • Pulled a very pretty 2019 wall calendar from the free pile at work. I usually wait until closer to the end of the year to give clients first pick, but we moved to a new office this month and I was afraid the calendars would be thrown away.
  • Got a bottle of kombucha and a can of a weird sparkling Kool-Aid drink as free samples from Instacart.
  • Read 16 ebooks from the library and one free Kindle book. I also read 15 Kindle Unlimited books with an approximate cost of $0.07 each due to the promotional price I paid on Amazon Prime day. I will probably cancel Kindle Unlimited before it renews at the usual rate. Although I am more than getting my money’s worth on the program at the moment — and it has been a handy source of books during an unusual library slump — I know from previous experience that the selection is too limited to maintain my interest in the long term.
  • Bought a paperback at the library for $0.25. This, however, was nothing to brag about since I spent an unconscionable $74.90 total on books. I could make excuses, but I won’t. I just plain spent more than I intended.

Who knows what September will bring? We will probably buy a second car this month, so I expect our expenditures will be, um, intense.