Thursday, August 27, 2009

When you have what you want, stop looking for it

Do you know that story that goes around the Internet all the time about the fisherman? You know, the one where the businessman comes down and basically tells him that if he would just work harder he could build a multi-national conglomerate which in the end would allow him to retire, hang out with his friends, and fish a little in the morning. Kind of like he already is.

I don't think I've quite learned that lesson yet.

I'm in a very strange stage of my life. I left my full time job in May, my husband finished his PhD last week, and we're moving at the end of the month. Everything about our financial situation (along with most of the rest of the details of our lives) is completely turned upside down from what it's been for the past few years. My husband makes about twice as much this month as he did last month, and next month when he starts his job he'll make more than we've ever made combined, even when I worked two jobs.

And still I find myself chasing the pennies. On the saving/frugal side, that doesn't bother me because to me frugality is a moral choice as much as a financial choice. On the earning side, however, I think I'm crazy. When I'm home during the day, I find myself trying desperately to be "productive," which often means doing things that add very little benefit to my life. I'm researching ways to make extra money, I'm taking surveys and doing GPT offers, I'm worrying and obsessing over every penny that comes in. I think that if I can just work hard enough, build some income streams, pay off more debt, than I'll be happy. I'll be able to afford to just work part time, to live a simple life, to have more time to cook, to read, to write, and to take care of myself.

Y'know, like I do right now.

The more I reflect on it, the more I realize that the lifestyle I've wanted, the lifestyle I've been scrambling for for the past three years, is the one I already have right now. And instead of enjoying it, of taking advantage of the opportunity - even if it's temporary - to really take time to relax, I'm spending all my time still chasing the money. They say that if you don't articulate where you want to end up, you'll never know when you get there. But I have said it, and I still didn't notice I was here. I don't know if it's just habit, or if it's my fear of change and the unknown, but I have not been willing to accept that I met this goal.

There will be time in the future for more financial goals. We want to have kids, to buy a house, and of course eventually to retire. But there's time for all that. Right now, this month, I want to revel in the simplicity of my own desires and enjoy my small and quiet apartment before the chaos of starting another new stage begins.

Because if I don't enjoy it when I have it, what's the point of working towards it?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Coupon winner!

While it felt strange plugging 1-3 into, I want to get these coupons out today because some of them have short expiration dates. So, without furher ado, the winner is:


I'm sending you an email, get back to me ASAP so I can get these in the mail. Thanks everyone for the moving tips, and keep them coming! Who knows, maybe I'll find more stuff in my house to giveaway.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Giveaway: Take my coupons, please!

So, we just found out that my husband will be starting his new job much sooner than we expected (good news!), so I have about 3 weeks to uproot my entire existence (less good news). I'm a little overwhelmed right now thinking of all the things I need to do.

Because I plan to spend the next few weeks eating out my fridge, freezer and pantry, and then another 2 weeks in hotels and transit, I need to get rid of most of my coupons that don't have super long expiration dates. I hate to see good coupons go to waste, so I'm giving away a potluck envelope of coupons. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below with your favorite moving tip before noon tomorrow (Wednesday). We will be provided with movers so I really need logistical, organizational, or sanity based tips more than packing tips. I will select one comment at random to receive the envelope of coupons. Since I have an average of 2.3 readers per day, you should have pretty good odds! :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My top 15 frugal tips

1. Wear clothes more than once before washing them. Unless you are incredibly dirty, pants should last at least two days. This is my favorite because it lets me be lazy, frugal, and green.
2. Use less soap, detergent, shampoo etc. Most of us use way more than is necessary.
3. Unplug things that use phantom loads, like anything with a clock that you don't use.
4. Use reusable containers, lunch boxes, and water bottles.
5. Use cloth napkins (even if no one else in your family will).
6. Plan your meals around what's in your pantry first, then around the sales.
7. Use the library. Most have not only books, but movies and music too.
8. Sign up for freebies. I generally read Freebies for mom about once a week.
9. Look for balance in your life. Don't go crazy pinching pennies if it means you can't have a chocolate croissant once in a while, but don't buy things that don't bring you joy.
10. Take care of yourself. Not doing so will cost you down the line.
11. Use your food in the order that it will go bad.
12. Pay down your debt. Interest will eat up a huge chunk of your monthly income if you let it.
13. If you like eating out, make it an event. Really enjoy it. Don't waste your money on junk you scarf down in your car; just pack some sandwiches.
14. Give. There are plenty of ways to do this without spending a lot of money.
15. Be conscious of everything you use and do. Is there a homemade or reusable alternative? Can you do without altogether?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Frugality with guests?

This is kind of a strange Frugal Friday post because instead of giving frugal advice, I'm asking for it. We have family staying with us all week, and next week we're going to have a friend staying with us. Even though we have food in the fridge, we're going out every night. We're driving more than we ever do, and we're doing lots of tourist-y things, all of which cost money. I know that we have guests, and I want to just enjoy them, but in the back of my head, I'm a little worried about all the money going out - even when it's theirs and not ours. Does anyone have any good tips on being frugal when you have houseguests?

For frugal tips, check out Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beware of spending triggers

The place where I work part time is right next to a coffee house. Almost time I go to work there, I stop in next door for a cup of coffee before I go and teach my class. I've made a habit of leaving time for this, have a routine for it.

That's crazy to me.

I have always been the kind of person who couldn't save money by giving up lattes because I didn't buy them. I make my coffee at home, when I'm drinking it, and put it in a travel mug if I need to go somewhere. So why, oh why, do I need to buy a $2 cup of coffee every time I go to work now?

It started when I was still working two jobs. After a full day of teaching, it was a treat - and a help in some ways - for me to get a cup of coffee before turning around and teaching for another three hours. I convinced myself that I deserved it, that I was working so hard and making so much extra money that it was easy to write off the $2 for a cup of coffee as just a necessary expense. It made me feel better and gave me a boost, and in a lot of ways that I do understand, that made it worth it to me.

But at some point that changed. I'm not sure when, but at some point in the process, getting coffee became something I did not because I was tired, not because I wanted it, but because I was on my way to work. I don't derive any particular joy from the cup of coffee, I don't feel like I really need it, I just get it because that's what I do. Now, I'm not opposed to splurging and buying a chocolate croissant once in a while if it makes me happy, but if I'm spending money on coffee just out of habit? That's just a waste.

I think most of us probably have some spending triggers, some circumstances that trigger us to buy something that we otherwise would never buy. So maybe it's time to examine some of those spending triggers and see which ones make sense and which ones don't.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Me, us, the house, the money

Since this whole stay at home wife (maybe SAHM someday, but not yet, hold your horses people) is new to me, I've been fumbling a little as to what to do. Okay, so I'm not really a stay at home anything since I do work part time, but after working close to 55 hours a week at school, my current 7 hour a week schedule seems like a vacation.

And there's the rub. I can't get my mind around whether this home thing is a vacation or a career. Should I be working or playing? How much of my time is free time?

My house isn't a disaster anymore. Regardless of what you may have read in the Feminine Mystique, housework doesn't always expand to fill the available time. So that means I have time. Not however limitless time.

And so, despite the fact that it feels like I have all the time in the world, I find that I need to make choices. And I don't always make the right choices. I'm so used to trying to be "productive," which has so often meant money, that I found myself wasting all my time looking for something productive to do. That sounds silly, but it's where I am.

I don't want it to sound like I'm bound by any 1950's ideal of what a housewife should be. But in our current division of labor, my husband works full time. I work part time, enough to help pay the bills and have a little money left for savings and debt repayment, and the rest of the time I'm home. The equity of this situation does bear with it certain expectations. So when my husband comes home to find me on the couch with my computer, cranky and un-put-together, dishes in the sink, and dinner not made, something has gone awry.

So my new set of priorities is this: Me then us then the house then money. If there's something I need to do to be a healthy, happy, positive human being, then I have to do it. That might mean exercising, writing, cooking myself a real lunch, or just scheduling in some quiet time. Then, I need to make sure I do anything for us, anything necessary to charge our relationship. So, meeting my husband for lunch once in a while trumps scrubbing floors. The next priority is to take care of the house. Generally 10 minutes a day is enough for cleaning, plus a little time to keep up with my laundry. The money comes last. While I'd like to make extra money, everything else has to be done first. If I'm not taking care of myself, my marriage, and my house, then the extra money isn't worth it.