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2012 Goals


A small 2011 reflection on our old man Moses, who we said goodbye to this year. He came to us via Old Dog Haven. We miss him dearly.

On this, the last day of 2011, I reflect. And I write my 100th post. Weird. Not-planned, but kind of cool. Particularly since its my goals for the coming year.

My goal for Dogs or Dollars is to just keep swimming. I’ve been at this in a bone fide kind of way for a few months now. I continue to be amazed with the response I’m garnering both in traffic and in the comments I so enjoy. Really, I do. Keep them coming! I’ll keep documenting our day to day and overall journey, and the negotiation between saving money and Conscientious Consumerism, among other things, if you keep reading. Deal?

With that aside, what are our plans for 2012?

Increase savings by 15K.
With some events on the horizon, and our regular savings habit this should be totally do-able.

Find a better interest rate.
For the bulk of said savings. I’ve been loyal to ING Direct for a long time. But .85% sucks. While it makes me nervous, I’d like to move the bulk of the Emergency Fund to a longer term CD, where I can at least get over 1%. Researching Ally bank.

Big Fat Mortgage Balance of $X40,000.
This is slightly more ambitious than last year’s goal. Given our track record though, should be do-able. The only extenuating circumstance would be a potential refinance. We are still debating that.

Donate $50 a month.
This is a paltry sum, particularly when take as a percentage of our income. Still, I want to create a habit of giving and work it into our monthly spending. If I give more, wonderful. Otherwise, this is the minimum.

For our Targeted Savings Accounts…

Garden: Put away additional 1k, before its needed for coop build and garden expansion.
Vet: The dogs aren’t getting any younger. Add 2k to balance and *knock on wood*.
Car: Save 5k towards purchase of new car for The Husband.

Non-Financial Goals

Run 1/2 Marathon.
I mean it this time, dag-burnit! I’m setting myself a deadline of registration by the end of January.

Cancel Costco Membership, Continue No Big Box Challenge
More on this later, but I’m removing Costco from the Big Box Exception list. There will be some coordination required to cancel my membership before they charge me the yearly fee. I’m guessing this will be done by March.

Increase Food Production and Preservation.
I’ve been brainstorming on a way to quantify this. Increase X% over last year. Since, I really did not document last year that proves problematic. In any case, we are adding both Chicken Coop and tripling the square footage of Ugly Garden. That alone will be an increase. I will strive to further document what we are putting away, so we can measure it in the future.

And that’s it! That and the 1,000 other things that will happen in 2012. I look forward to every New Year with a sense of a clean slate and excitement. How about you?

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Thrift Score!

Not to be confused with ThriftCore, where my friend Van posts all her awesome thrifting finds, but still awesome in my own right. Yes, I’m going to keep saying ‘awesome’. Perpare yourself.

I’ve lamented my lack of thrifting prowess before. I try to be all zen about it, but I usually panic. I get overwhelmed. I don’t grab what I should, and I strike out. Not today, friends. Oh no.

Speaking of friends, that was the key. I recruited a couple of lovely ladies to accompany me on a Goodwill Mission a la Hillary Clinton, but with less travel and better hair.


Pay dirt! Pyrex, vintage Heinz ad (Ladies Home Companion, 1929) and santa tin for next Christmas, assorted canning jars at .20 each, Correll serving plates, an awesome (there it is again) cross stitch ship, .99 picture frames for some new family photos, and a gurgle pot miniature for one of my besties (you know who you are).

Wait. Is that a circa 1973 Risk game? Much like the one I was recently coveting over at ThriftCore?


Why, yes. Yes, it is! I was so excited when one of my friends unearthed this puppy from a very smelly kids isle. Seriously, smelly. She should have got some hazard pay for the chemical warfare.

It’s not quite as cool as Van’s, but the board is going to look great hung on our wall. I think this may be the start of a vintage board game ‘thing’. We’ll see.

I don’t know whether to be more excited about that or the much coveted pyrex, which fits in so nicely with my other fruit bowls.


If I do say so myself.

All this awesomeness? $15.09. Ok, so I had a 20% off coupon. Still!

Add to that the fun we had traipsing around a very crowded store alternately making fun of


and seriously considering potentially cool items…


I call that a successful day! Or dare I say… Awesome.

So thanks JP and KTB. You got me over my dry spell. I know I did the bulk of the buying, but I hope you enjoyed yourselves nonetheless.

Lest you readers be concerned that I not be following my very own rule of ‘one in, one out’, behold!


The departure pile. Leaving tomorrow morning for one last 2011 donation receipt. I think that haul more than takes care of today’s arrivals.

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2011 Goals

Long ago, before I was such a good blogger (peh!), I had a little blogspot page, I intermittently fooled around with. ‘Intermittent’ might be generous. Fits and starts may be more appropriate.

Somehow I managed to post my 2011 goals for all the world to see, and for us to refer back to now. To put these in context, this time last year, I was right in the midst of my 2 job nightmare, with no end in sight. Our income was still recovering from The Husband’s prolonged unemployment, and I’d had almost no time for a very long time. When I look back at these now, I can feel all that still. At that point, it wasn’t about making much forward progress. It was mostly about survival and eeking out whatever I could.

In any case, here’s the goals and here’s how we did.

Boost long term Savings to 55k.
This is not very ambitious. It means savings 5k, and increasing our savings by 10%. Not too shabby.

I was apparently a little more free and loose with the hard numbers, when I thought no one was reading this. Done. And then some. 5K was a good goal given my job situation then. The return to Corporate Servitude helped. That’s all I have to say about that.

Maintain slush fund at a $1500 low water mark.
That is actually where its at right now. I am not comfortable with it being any lower. $2500 is much better in my opinion.

For questions about my elaborate slush fund set-up, see The Emergency Fund(s). Again, this was much more important when we had less money coming in and I felt that doom was imminent. Done.

Open a Car Savings account.
Eventually one of us is going to need a new car. At the moment, we would have to tap our long term savings for that, which I do not like. I have no bigger plans than just to stash a little money away for this. I’d be happy if we get a few 1000 for the year.

This goal was much more prophetic than I realized. A few thousand saved? Yes, Done. Was it enough for me not to acquire car debt? No. ‘Eventually’ turned out to be sooner, rather than later.

Number One Goal is for me to be down to 1 job by 5/1/11.
Not sure yet how this is going to be accomplished or what it will look like. But 1 job and having my life back is my absolute goal.

For the love of all that is holy, Done. Not by 5/1, more like 7/1. Still, 1 job, life back. Mission freaking accomplished.

Get balance down to $X55k. Pay $8388 on principle. Since our principle payments should total somewhere in the $6000 range, this should totally be doable.

Done. Big Fat Mortgage balance currently sits at about X51K, so better than anticipated.

Do it. As much as possible this year.

How’s that for a specific attainable goal? And still, I think we only did meh here. I am currently in the midst of year end donations, which will keep it from being an abject failure. Let’s be a little more detailed next year, shall we?

Nothing terribly exciting. Again, this is the year of staying put. Also, getting a pet sitter has proven increasingly difficult and expensive in recent history. Our humble travel plans include…

Make a trip to Portland sometime before June.

CDA for friends wedding, with possible a side trip to Montana included.

Return to Eastern Oregon in Spring/Summer

We actually did all those. Not in that particular order, but done.

Other Random Goals.
Cancel Cable. This is another DO IT! And a repeat from last year.
We are back on the Netflix and I have been weaning myself off the cable teat for sometime now.
I must do it! I have a date for cancellation in mind. Now I must prepare myself for the psychological hurdle of making the call.

DONE! I’ve yet to revert to my Comcast loving ways. There is no shortage of TV in my life. Complete win. Cable deemed obsolete.

Maintain weight within 10lbs of current.
I would also like to run at least a 5k, if not a half marathon too. Entry fees and time are hard to come by for such activities, but I am putting it out there all the same.

Done and fail. Weight maintained. No problem. No race run, however. Even when entry fees were not a concern, lack of running buddy was.

Overall: Success. I will say this is the best we have ever done on our yearly goals. I will also say that is largely due to the change in our circumstances mid-year. I think we still would have made several of the above benchmarks, but probably not overshot quite as much. This tells me, goals for 2012 should set a higher bar. Speaking of next 2012, The Husband and I are currently deep in debate on the specifics. Look for those later this week.

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Christmas 2011, in Summary

Today is the day to take down our Christmas Tree. This isn’t really up for negotiation. The tree needs to spend a few days in the garage in order to re-acclimate to outside life, before we return it to the Adopt-a-Stream Foundation. The tree was decorated in our living room for a whooping 10 days. That is the shortest time we’ve ever had a tree. But, its just about the max a live tree can handle without officially coming out of hibernation, and not being able to survive outdoors without damage.

I have to say my admittedly ugly $25 rent-a-tree, pretty much the highlight of Christmas 2011. The joy of anticipation and Conscientious Consumerism at its finest. Yesterday, I spent one last lovely evening intermittently reading my new book, and basking in the LED glow from its uneven branches.


Until, I went to get a cup of tea, and promptly had my seat stolen.


After which, I had to share in my basking.


And so the tree leaves us. I hope we have the opportunity to do this again next year.

Christmas presents a tricksy proposition for the Conscientious Consumer. It’s a great opportunity for spending quality time and memory making, for socializing, opening up your house and sharing meals. If you can avoid the inherent pitfalls of mindlessly purchasing a bunch of crap no one needs, for non-genuine reasons, from questionable sources. Those pitfalls are big, with slippery edges. Very easy to fall into.

The things I loved about our Christmas.

Yay, Chocolate.


This is at least the 4th holiday, where The Husband has toted my Theo box off to the factory for a refill. Most of the time this box lives on my desk amongst my other lovable crap. Some time in the week or so before my Birthday or Valentines Day or Christmas, the box disappears. Sometimes I notice, some times I don’t. It always comes home filled with a seasonal selection of goodness. I am so proud of The Husband for continuing this tradition.

Kitchen Aid.


Big thanks to my in-laws for contributing to the improvement of our bread making, and eventually sausage and pasta too. Decidedly not local, but we have high hopes for the value it will add to home food production. Much thought was put into the addition of a new kitchen appliance prior to putting it on our wish list. Here’s hoping the functionality of this sucker, makes up for its valuable counter real estate.

Gift Giving.
Most of our own gifting was of things made by our own hands. I’ve mentioned this a time or two. For good reason, as its mostly a new concept for us. Its a huge time effort, but only serves to enhance the Holiday. I love how popular our jam was, and the comments about my crocheted cloths. My head is already a swirl with ideas for next year.

Other items in no particular order.
Handmade ornaments, regifted calendars, mysterious second hand dogs, etched zombie glass, Christmas babies, cards, cards and more cards, Origami garlands, Schmancy, and more. More of all of this.

There is always room for improvement. We need to continue to steer away from items which needlessly travel a long distance, and communicate that to our gift givers and receivers. This was our first year of actively avoiding the Big Box. We need to continue to spread that gospel. Because what ever am I going to do with a Barnes and Noble gift card?

At some point, I may go over our Christmas spending. Today is not that day. Today is still all about the basking.


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Weekly Goals: And Then Some…

I love the week between Christmas and New Years. Much of the festivities are done, although not all of them. The world is in limbo, between two Holidays where most everything shuts down. It’s hardly worth going to work, only to turn around and take yet another long weekend. Which is why I don’t. If at all possible, I take this week off.

A fringe benefit of not working at the Pet Store is being able to do such things without an act of Congress. That’s right, I’m home all week.

Where I will be spending a whole lot of time here:


This picture serves multiple purposes. It should sufficiently murder any rumor of me being a minimalist. Yes, there is a bunch of crap on and surrounding my desk. I love this crap. All of it. Very occasionally I purge some small percentage of it, but not usually. My desk, and to some degree my office as a whole, are my space for crap. Random, often inappropriate odds and ends, this is where they go to live. Its Gargamel to Sendak to bachelorette party “keepsakes” to handmade Valentines from The Husband. Throw in Domokun and old MTA passes, and welcome to my base of operations.

Bringing us to point two, if The Financial Empire has a Mother Ship, this is it. From this monstrosity of a desk ($15, Craigslist), all things are accomplished. Receipts, pictures, bills, this blog, even mushroom growing, all of it spends a high percentage of it’s time in process here. So, if I’m home for a week, throw in a few cups of coffee, and this is where you are likely to find me. Especially, when there is so much to be done, like now.

Because, while this week may be a wierd uncertainty for the working world, its prime time for my Empire, financial and otherwise. Assessing previous goals, making new golas, cleaning closets, writing Grandmas, making phone calls and appointments. Here’s what I plan to do with my bounty of free time.

Run Outside. We are hip deep in the portion of the year, where it is dark when I leave for work, and dark when I get home. I don’t generally run outside in the dark. Consequently this leaves me feeling like I haven’t run in fresh air in months. Rain, drizzle and wet be damned. I’m running outside, probably in the company of a dog. Obviously, this won’t be happening at the desk.

Finalize Chicken and Seed Orders. After the first of the year, my urban homestead dreams must start in earnest. Those dreams require both chickens and seeds. I need to go over garden diagrams and spend some time with catalogs, figure out the when of orders, and make a list of necessary equipment.

Clean Closets. I have two in mind. The gift closet in my office has gotten a little out of hand this season, and as Christmas retreats back from wist it came, that closet could also use a little love. Thats where my cold storage apples are living. I think it might be time to give them a look see.

Goodwill Purge. This will go along nicely with the clean closets, and post-Christmas clean up. Stuff Purgatory is a little full, and with an influx of new Stuff, there are definitely some candidates for the exodus.

Yearly Goal Review/Renewal. Expect a whole post (or two) on this. Amazingly, last years goals are documented, so I can hold my feet to the fire, so to speak.

Pinboard Re-do. You may notice in the above picture a large pinboard to the left of my desk. It’s over flowing, even by my standards. There needs to be a culling of the herd of pictures and stickers and ticket stubs. There’s also a waiting list of new items that would like to join the masses. That can’t happen unless we free up some real estate. This is one of those occasional removals of Crap surrounding my desk.

For all this, and a million things in between, I have 1 week. When I think about it, this seems like both a ton of time, and not enough. There will also be plenty of reading, crocheting, (hopefully) napping and general enjoyment of the last few days of the year. The key will be finding the fine balance between hell-bent productivity and delectable laziness.

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Car Payment #2

In the Holiday hustle bustle, I neglected to mention a monthly milestone. I am not quite ready to return to my regular blog schedule yet. Tomorrow, maybe? But, wanted to take a quick moment to mention making payment 2 of 8 on the shiny new car. That’s 25% paid for in two short months of ownership. Woot!

With parties and gift giving, making giant payment was slightly more painful this month than last. Still, it was done. If I can make it through this month, its gonna be smooth sailing to June. Right?

Still crunching numbers on the gas budget. It looks like my gas expenses are down, but I wonder how much of that is due to my awesome carpool buddy. Need to go back through the budget to find a “standard” month to compare current expenses to.

Quick update concluded. I am off to commence Boxing Day Festivities. Regular blogging to resume shortly.

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The Universe Provides

As a final thought before I embark on my own consumption driven Holiday weekend, I’m pondering all the things I don’t pay for. Sure, I’m an avid library user. But, thats not what I’m talking about. I don’t do freecycle, too competitive for my blood. These are not things I search for. These are things that find me.

Maybe it’s because there is just so much Stuff in the world, that somehow or another it finds it’s way into my life, often just when I need it most. Sometimes it’s borrowed and sometimes its mine for good, either way its free and there’s no explanation other than kismet.

For example, The Husband recently began mocking the sorry state of my hairbrush. You know all those little cap things on the end of the bristles? Mine had exactly one left. Yet, I was loathe to throw it away, let alone buy a new one. At a friends house recently, the subject of, of all things, hairbrushes came up. My friend has permed her hair for years, which doesn’t take too kindly to brushing. Consequently, she had two lovely, real wood hairbrushes very lightly, if ever, used. Well, thank you very much.

A few of my workouts every week are spent in spin class, where I use both a heart rate monitor and bike shoes, given to me by other spin class attendees. The shoes were brand new, and didn’t fit their intended recipient. The heart rate monitor needed a new battery. I’ve been using these items for going on two years. They enhance my workouts, and cost me nothing.

Even with my extensive Fiestaware collection, I was worried about running short on small plates for our party last weekend. The Best Friend and I pilfered her extensive Fiestaware collection. We simply marked hers with a little duck tape on the bottom, so they could be identified later. No money spent, and no paper plates in the trash.

And so it goes on and on and on. Ugly Garden is fenced with free fencing from the neighbor. I’m currently enjoying borrowed DVDS. Come spring, hopefully my bartered Raspberry starts will look robust and healthy. Prior to my recent shoe purchase, my last pair were discarded early on (also by Best Fried) because they were an ill fit. I wore those shoes nearly every day for two years.

Stuff, it finds its way to you. Even without thrifting and searching. These are solutions which presented themselves to me mostly via people I know or interact with regularly. Things I knew I needed/wanted, without actually searching for them, which came my way through a friend or a friend of a friend. That seems to be the key. If there’s anything that’s benefits these kinds of finds it’s the people you associate with. That and patience. I don’t know about you, but as an impatient person, I probably do better if I don’t even acknowledge I’m looking for xyz. It’s better to just let it stumble my way. Its a heck of an argument for maintaining quality relationships with your social circle.

The point here is, if you don’t get what you want this Christmas, never fear. The Universe will probably provide it. Eventually.

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This Week

The weeks before and after Christmas are always rather odd. Work becomes a ghost town. Traffic is lighter in the morning, but heavier mid-day. The blogosphere all but grinds to a halt. People are focused on their families and celebrations. Things start to slow down.


I will probably be in an out myself over the next week or so. But, here’s what’s going on at our house..

Starting mushroom kit #2, which was FREE from Cascadia Mushrooms because I let them use my quote on their website, and ordered other sets as gifts. This round is Shitake, so I’m excited.

Negotiating with The Husband on what movie we will be seeing, courtesy of the gift cards we received as an early Christmas Gift. My vote is The Descendants.

Posting a completely random picture of my dogs, because I like them.

Relishing this week’s meal plan, derived solely from party leftovers, freezer contents, and items malingering in my fridge.

Sharing those meals with friends before we all retreat to our respective Holiday Plans.

Wondering what to do with the crab dip and mushroom stuffings still left in my freezer.

Doing just a little more Christmas shopping locally, using coupons and online using reward points.

Collecting the beeswax from my spent candles, with plans to try my hand at my own candle making.

Enjoying borrowed copies of

, and



Asking the age old question, “Hulu or Netflix?”, while I catch up on Glee Season 3 during my week long trial.

Really not watching that much TV. Really.

Eagerly anticipating the arrival of yet more Christmas Cards with every day’s mail, and then basking in their presence on my mantle.

Happy to be increasing my charitable donations this year. Researching to figure out all the places they are going to go.

Loving this time of year, despite myself.

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Christmas Party Redux

And it’s over. Just like that. Another Christmas Party wrapped up. Always so much build up, for 5 or 6 hours of good times.

Our house is mostly put back together. We are surviving off leftovers and gifts. The beer seems to be reproducing in our fridge. Seriously, how did we end up with so much beer? As we coast through the last week of work towards Christmas, I have time to revisit the party details.

As stated before, I know this party costs me a lot. I just haven’t been real clear on how much in times past. I decided to track it as a specific category this year, only for my own edification. It’s our big event of the Season, we should know this, right?

Even if it cost $210? Do I still want to know then? Too late, cause thats the skinny.
Actually, I can’t say I’m surprised. Somehow that number feels about right to me. To clarify, all of that was spent on food. Our decorations were simple and cheap. In years past, I’d guess we’ve done worse.

Actual attendance came in at 24 people, and while there was plenty of food, we are not swimming in leftovers, other than the beer. There was also significant contributions from attendees. The booze was covered by a very generous friend who played bar tender all night. Crab dip, spice cake, green chile wraps, all were donated to the cause and yummy. From the looks of things, I could have skipped a fancy cheese or two. That was more about our last minute presentation than anything else, and I will happily consume cheese with my scrambled eggs all week long.

Speaking of last minute, a couple lessons learned…

Be prepared. We spent all day Saturday running, running, running to get everything done before the appointed hour. Usually, we have done more in advance. This year, with a busy schedule the week before, we were behind the 8 ball. Not fun. If there were sacrifices to be made, that should have been done on our dance card last week.

No one cares. This is an on-going lesson for me. No one gives two poops about whether my downstair shower is scrubbed clean. Even if they do, they likely aren’t going to see it over the course of the evening. So close the shower curtain and move on. Yet, every year I somehow get caught up in a bunch of details that don’t matter. It’s a great opportunity to clean my house, and I will enjoy that shiny clean shower, but it’s not worth contributing to my pre-party stress.

Worth every penny. If I could be a little overly analytical for a moment, with 22 attendees (24, minus The Husband and I) at $210, that comes in at under $10 per person. Even with the addition of handmade gifts, still a bargain for gifts that maximizes time spent and minimizes consumer goods. In a much more squishy sense, yes there are ways I could cut costs, making this a cheaper event over all. In fact, I probably will. That’s fun. I enjoy that. As long as it doesn’t impact the more enjoyable time spent with my favorite people. We get so few opportunities to see everyone at once, to invite them all into your home, and hear the din of combined laughter and conversation. That’s the important bit. That’s the part you can’t put a price on.

Several of my friends are loyal blog subscribers. If that’s you, then hey thanks. Thanks for coming. Thanks for being someone I would like to invite. Thanks for your contribution to the evening, because I’m sure you made one, one way or another. Thanks for allowing me to indiscreetly break down the details of said event for the benefit of the blogosphere, without being offended. *hint*hint*. And, see you next year.

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Its A Rental

I enjoyed a very busy weekend of party attending and hosting, marathon house cleaning, and rental tree collecting


Ok, perhaps it’s not a ‘traditional’ looking Christmas Tree. Not exactly the shape or fullness one would look for when choosing a typical tree. And while it is tall, it’s housing only about 1/3 of our ornament collection.

What my little Sitka Spruce lacks in branches, it makes up for in eco-friendliness, goodwill, and character!

We showed up at the proper time on Saturday morning with nearly 100 other people to choose our tree from amongst the imperfect options destined for future stream restoration projects. Not a one of them was traditional, actually. Yet, here were all these people who had put off their tree purchase, in favor of a better, less attractive option. That warmed my heart more than the complimentary cider.

And so we carted off our Charlie Brown tree. I brought it home, wrapped it in new LED lights (purchased on sale) and chose only the ornaments with some sort of sentimental value, the greatest hits, if you will.

I gotta say, I like it. I’m pretty smitten with this awkward tree. Not only is it the cheapest Christmas Tree we’ve ever purchased, but we didn’t actually purchase it. It will grace our living room for the next 10 days, hopefully without coming out of hibernation. Then make the transition back outdoors and out of our lives, moving on to bigger and better purposes.

Somehow it seems completely appropriate that making a different decision on how to spend your money and experience the Holiday, looks a little different when it’s sitting in your house.

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