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!
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!
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.
The last week of June saw me scrambling to get everything done before our vacation in July, so I didn’t manage to get a list posted. Considering that vacations are spendy things (and that I came home sick), I don’t have much to show for two months of combined effort. I spent more than I intended in several areas (although not, oddly enough, on the vacation itself), but I didn’t go too overboard.
In June and July, I:
- Paid for Seamwork subscription with money earned doing surveys.
- Watched a free Redbox rental. It was “The Commuter.” Utterly forgettable, and yet — because I enjoy watching Liam Neeson beating his way out of impossible situations — I enjoyed it. I probably would have enjoyed it less if I had paid, though!
- Had a free Taco Bell taco and a $1 “happier hour” iced tea. I went with my Mom. She loves a free taco! (Who doesn’t? Only monsters, probably.)
- Bought two books from the library. They have a huge sale of donated books every year, but most branches have a small table of donated books for sale all the time. The prices are so low that they’re practically garage sale prices — only $1 for a hardback and $0.25 for a paperback. I got “Texts from Jane Eyre”(*) and a P.G. Wodehouse novel I hadn’t read before for only $1.25! (*I will now always send texts as Medea, which you will understand only if you’ve read the book.)
- Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
- Mom treated us to a night at the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Though famous for paranormal activity (and being the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining), I didn’t sense any ghosts — but it was beautiful there, and the history was fascinating.
- Enjoyed an at-home karaoke birthday party for one of our hosts while we stayed with friends in Colorado. I am completely jealous of their basement stage set-up! Puts my Bluetooth karaoke mic to absolute shame.
- Used a $1.50 off coupon and a $5.00 reward from my Walgreens card on my special mouthwash, making it pretty much the same price as regular mouthwash. (Seriously, take care of your teeth and gums. Don’t ignore them for years and expect that it will all work out in the end. It won’t.)
- Finally scanned a bunch of notes from online courses I’ve taken over the past couple of years, thereby freeing up a little physical storage space. Although that doesn’t really save any money on its own, you could argue that it does as a cumulative habit. I’m mostly paperless and have only one file box of current papers and one file box of sentimental papers and old writing. I also regularly donate and discard unnecessary things, which makes it much easier to live in a smaller, more affordable apartment. We’re not minimalists by any stretch of the imagination — I have 160+ yards of fabric shamefully squirreled away in our closet, for instance — but we live in 650 square feet and no longer pay for a storage unit, so we must be doing something right.
- Read 31 ebooks and 7 physical books from the library. I also signed up for 3 months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99 on Prime Day. I read 5 Unlimited books in July, so each cost me approximately 7 cents to borrow. Unfortunately, I spent $110.92 on other books. (Ouch!) I’m still averaging about $1.14 per book for all reading so far in 2018, so I suppose it could be much worse. (But still, ouch!)
Not a terrible pair of months, but it could have been better. I need to reign in our spending again, but I’ve fallen behind on client work (I have just been ill more than usual this year), so I haven’t had my usual amount of income lately. I need to focus on catching up that work in August — and getting paid by the clients who have outstanding invoices — as well as cutting unnecessary spending.
May was better than April, thankfully. Lots of things could be seen as better than April, though, so I’m not sure I’m saying much.
In May, I:
- Paid for half of my Patreon pledges using money earned doing surveys. I haven’t been getting as many surveys lately, which has been disappointing — but I don’t shop much (or buy the right kind of convenience foods), so I rarely qualify.
- Watched a free webinar that was mostly a product-specific ad, frankly — but still got some good, workable information on how to use email marketing as an author. (I expect I’ll need that info one of these days, you see.)
- Baked banana oat muffins using a slightly modified version of this recipe. I didn’t need any muffins right then — I just wanted to use up some overripe bananas before they spoiled — so I popped them into the freezer for later.
- Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
- Purchased a replacement mattress cover, since our old one was falling apart. It was on clearance and is supposed to help keep you cooler in the summer — yes, please! On both counts.
- Was pleased to see that we’ve saved $332.36 in the last six months at Costco, according to the spreadsheet I keep. That’s what we’ve saved over regular prices at Kroger or Target (or wherever) — minus the cost of our membership. Our membership renews in late November, so this should be about half of our annual savings.
- Went to see Houston Grand Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville” for free at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. Everyone was shocked that I, the former opera major, had never seen it. But it’s a dude show — and the female lead is a mezzo-soprano, so of course this soprano had never bothered with it.
- Made a t-shirt using scraps from other sewing projects and a pattern I’ve used at least five times — pretty much free, except for my time. I sewed several things this month, but I didn’t buy any fabric and only bought one sewing pattern.
- Spent $13 on a new battery for my three-year-old phone — which is considerably less than a new phone (obviously). This will probably save a tiny bit of electricity, too, since I won’t be charging it three or four times a day.
- Replaced our shorted-out microwave with a brand new microwave for only $20 using points from Lennox’s Best Buy Visa. We also got a Blu-ray of “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”* for only $1 on that same shopping trip because the credits were applied proportionately to both items. We saved $100! (*I’m studying to become Aunty Entity in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. I want to be ready for my metal shoulder pads when the time comes.)
- Got a free sample of Cheetos from Instacart. They also sent a free sample of mayonnaise about 3 or 4 times the size of standard restaurant squeeze packet, which turned out to be the perfect amount for the coleslaw dressing recipe I use — so it came in very handy.
- Read 15 ebooks and six physical books from the library, and one free Kindle book. I spent $35.82 on other books in May (including a full price pre-order and a gift for my Mom), so that was much better than last month!
All in all, a much better month! Let’s hope June goes at least equally well.
If, as this motto I spotted on an old bank building in downtown Houston claims, “Frugality is the mother of the virtues,” I have shamed my metaphorical mother terribly this month. For one thing, though I cringe to admit it, I spent nearly $100 on books in April. I bought a bunch of fabric I didn’t need, too, and all of that on top of dental fillings. Yes, I knew about the fillings — it wasn’t an emergency — but I usually cut back on the month of a dental procedure to help even out the cost. But not this month! Nope. I decided to spend like a crazy person.
And even though I actually am a crazy person…that’s not an excuse.
I went overboard on a lot of stuff this month, but I did do some of my regular things. In April I:
- Bought a big haul of 50% off Easter candy at Kroger — though we were so late there were no standard Peeps left! I consoled myself with more exotic Peeps (the pancake flavored Peeps are strangely tasty, it turns out) and some Hershey’s Kisses with tie-dye wrappers. I have no idea what the tie-dye had to do with Easter, but hey — they will be groovy whenever we’re ready to eat them. (They’re currently in the freezer.)
- Finished our tax return before we had to file an extension. Though we always aim to break even (and almost did this year), our small refund has already been direct deposited into our account and transferred into savings.
- Downloaded and altered free clip art from Graphics Fairy to use in my newsletter and here on my blog.
- Redeemed a $3 Walgreens reward on some make-up that was also on sale (and on my list).
- Downloaded Kate Bush’s “The Red Shoes” album from the Houston Public Library via Freegal. I borrowed this on cassette when it was brand new and only liked two songs on it, so I didn’t buy my own copy at the time. I thought I would give it another shot, and I loved it. It was just too sad and difficult for my teenage self to enjoy, but my sad and difficult middle-aged self found a lot more to appreciate in it.
- Read 23 ebooks and 4 physical books from the library…though that certainly didn’t cancel out my book-based spending spree.
Next month I hope to rein in my personal spending again. Hope springs eternal, et cetera. (Sigh.)
I was completely out of commission for two weeks in March, thanks to an unseasonably late case of the flu. (It was the influenza “B” strain if you’re keeping score.) Poor Lennox got it, too. We were a mess, and we’re both still coughing and very fatigued. I spent my birthday flat on my back with a fever of 101F, so my tea party was of course canceled. I missed two weeks of work, too; it was a less-than-fabulous birthday month all around.
Although I sign up for pretty much any retailer’s e-mail list that will give me some form of birthday coupon, I was only able to take advantage of about half of the ones I got this year — mostly because I was too sick to leave the house. I do wait to shop with several retailers until their coupons come in and rarely make purchases just because I have a coupon, so at least I only spend money I plan to spend. It’s not an excuse for a spending orgy, is what I mean to say! Heh.
Anyway, despite my mostly-wasted month, in March I:
- Paid for all but one of my Patreon pledges using money earned taking surveys.
- Was given a packet of feminine hygiene products by a relative who got the wrong kind. They were the exact sort I prefer, except that I normally use the store brand knock-off! (She whispers: “Gonna have a plush, name brand period!”)
- Got to enjoy the Blu-ray of “Thor: Ragnarok” that Lennox bought for only $3 using a combination of coupons and Best Buy gift certificates from his credit card points. (That man is a hell of a bargain shopper!)
- Used a $10 off any purchase coupon (for my birthday) to reduce the cost of a couple of bras at Torrid. They were also on sale.
- Used a $15 off any purchase coupon (again, for my birthday) to purchase a comforter insert at IKEA. We needed to replace our old one, and the coupon made it half price.
- Used a code (yet another birthday coupon) to get a free Red Box rental.
- Used one last birthday coupon to get 20% off at Jo-Ann Fabric. Unlike their regular coupons, this one worked on both regular and sale price items. That almost never happens! I only bought things on my list — thread, elastic, and 3/4 yard quilting cotton to make floral bias tape — but I saved $4.95 with my coupon.
- Had a free drink on my Starbucks card — but was too sick to redeem my free birthday drink before it expired! Oh, well. Better luck next year, I suppose.
- Read 21 ebooks and 5 physical books from the library. I also read one free Kindle book…but then spent $44.85 on other books (good heavens), so like…still not a great month for the old book budget.
I definitely spent too much in March, both personally and for the household. A lot of the household expenditures were unavoidable due to our illnesses (we ordered lots of take-out while we were both too ill to cook), and though I’m grateful that we have the wiggle room in our budget to do this when things are difficult, I hope we’ll do a little better in April.
Next month I hope to get some sewing done; I intend to make a few things for myself for Me Made May and a pair of wild leggings for my Mom for her birthday. I’ll also be participating in Camp Nanowrimo, so I hope to make decent progress on my current novel. (I have been doing well there, at least! I’ve been writing steadily every single day, except for the first week of that terrible flu.) I also plan to finish our personal tax return before the deadline in April. I haven’t had to take out an extension in over ten years, and I mean to keep my streak intact! I know this seems like a lot — okay, it is a lot — but I know I can do it…if I can stay healthy. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Actually, the pollen is already here — it’s just nowhere near its peak yet. Allergies are the worst. Ugh.
Here’s a short list for a short month. In February I:
- Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
- Did my shopping at Sprouts one week instead of ordering groceries from Instacart. Not only were grocery prices lower there — I also avoided paying a service charge or tip. Although I love the convenience of Instacart (and the way it frees up my energy for other activities), I can’t deny that it’s an expensive choice.
- Got a free Clif Bar for Lennox at Kroger, and a box of store brand cereal for only $1 with a coupon.
- Found a gravy boat on clearance for $3.49. I’ve been looking for one for a long time, as we usually host Thanksgiving dinner for my family, and this was exactly the sort I wanted.
- Realized I had an overabundance of canned pumpkin in the pantry, so I made pumpkin muffins — and will make some pumpkin spice cookies soon, too.
- Managed to stay close to my $15.00 ebook spending goal. I was on target to spend far less than the $15 I’d allotted (I was looking at a record low, in fact), but had forgotten a full-price Kindle book I had pre-ordered! Whoops. My actual total spending was $15.07 for the month. However, $2.15 of that was a gift for my Mom, so it technically came from our gift budget. Still, a 7 cent overage is pretty danged good even counting my oversight and a gift!
- Read 26 eBooks from the library, and watched one library DVD.
I did fail on one front, though. I purchased 2 1/2 yards of fabric to replace some yardage used in a botched sewing project. (It was the same fabric, right down to the color. I plan to try again using a better sewing pattern.)
Next month I will hopefully have lots of birthday freebies to cash in, and several useful birthday coupons, too. Keep your fingers crossed that the oak pollen doesn’t do me in before I can use them all!