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!

Make Nine for 2019.

I’ve chosen a loose list of sewing goals this year, although I think I still fall well within the parameters of the Make Nine challenge. I only specify two sewing patterns by name; the rest are just items I need or particularly want to sew. So this list is purposefully vague and mostly To Be Determined.

  1. Cashmerette Montrose Top
  2. Retrace Washi Dress and alter to current measurements
  3. Something green for my birthday
  4. Black skirt
  5. Something with a square neckline
  6. Simple trousers
  7. Fit and flare dress
  8. Sewn cardigan
  9. Swimsuit cover-up

I think “Simple trousers” is one of only two repeated items from last year, and probably the thing I most need. I don’t know why I have such trouble fitting pants when I sew them! I don’t usually have significant fitting problems with ready-to-wear trousers — just waistband looseness in most cases. It seems like many sewing patterns have crotch curves made for Martians, though. I suspect that a lot of the indie patterns I’ve tried are improperly graded in the larger sizes, frankly. So…Trousers Quest continues into 2019.

I still haven’t tried the Montrose top, but I’ve seen so many cute versions that I have no idea why I’ve procrastinated this long. I made a new novelty print Washi dress for Halloween last year and realized that I needed to retrace the pattern and start over with the fit. I don’t think any of my measurements are the same as when I originally made it, but it’s such a versatile dress that I wouldn’t mind making another one or two versions, possibly with details from the expansion pack (which I’ve had for years but never used).

Everything else on the list represents more of an intention than a specific project, but I wanted to keep it non-specific for maximum flexibility. The perfect pattern could always come along later!

My other repeated item from 2018 is “Something green for my birthday,” which got foiled by a particularly nasty bout of flu last year. I have some pretty amazing fabric ready to go for this, but no pattern picked out yet. I’ll do my best not to procrastinate until the last minute this time around.

I’m terrible about taking the time to get photos (except during Me Made May); I’m not a sewing blogger for a reason. But since sewing one garment a month is part of my 2019 goal list, I’m hoping to share more of my sewing this year — at least on Instagram. I’ll try to keep up with any progress here on the blog, too. But I know myself well enough to say no guarantees!

Planning an audacious 2019.

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

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

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

Goals for 2019

Send one real letter a month.

Sew at least one garment a month.

Send newsletter at least once a month.

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

One outing with Lennox a month.

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

Track budget for books, clothing, and sewing.

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

Post weekly IG photo.

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

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

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

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!

More like “2018 Make None,” amirite?

I discovered when reviewing my 2018 Make Nine list the other day that I had failed pretty spectacularly in accomplishing much on it. Reading the list literally, I made exactly one item: my beloved Suki Kimono.

I did try two different trousers patterns, neither of which went beyond the muslin stage due to fitting issues — and I did make an A-line dress from my Concord tee pattern, but not technically a swing dress. So I’m not sure either count as completed items.

I also knitted a few inches of progress on my Baktus scarf, but I’ve come to realize that I am no longer really a knitter. I do intend to finish this scarf, and I’m not ruling out knitting a hat or two in the future, but knitting is rough on my hands (pain-wise) and I don’t watch much TV these days, so I have less need for an “occupy my hands” hobby. Furthermore, if I’m going to be brutally honest about it, I was never very good at knitting. I’m also a very slow knitter, which always tried my patience. I intend to finish this scarf (eventually) and then let go of most of my yarn. I’m going to hang onto my favorite knitting tools, but I intend to knit very sparingly in the future.

I like the idea of the Make Nine challenge — and I did sew several things last year — so I’m going to attempt it again in 2019, only with rather different parameters (post coming in January).

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.