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!