This is not my calendar, but it totally could be. Photo credit goes to aperture_lag.
One week into the New Year, and January is looking busy, busy. What was wide open is now full to the brim with dinners and appointments, Grandmas visits, a concert and even Chicken Class. Woot! I am looking forward to my schedule, instead of dreading it. Bring it January!
Before, I continue with said schedule, which includes a final round of Birthday activities for The Husband, I’ll share a couple links I’ve been holding on to..
Eventhough, I’m not a minimalist, I’ve been perusing a couple minimalist blogs. One of which, Be More with Less gave me permission to stop now. This was actually a pre-Christmas message, but one I keep coming back to as an important reminder to myself. Sometimes you just gotta be done.
And now for something completely different, Mixed Greens, which I very much enjoy (the blog and the veggies) talks about eating less meat. As I struggle with the grocery spending, this is not something I’ve taken to heart. We eat a lot of ‘meat and a side’ kind of meals. Changing that requires some rumination. Food for thought. (Har!)
I am always so interested in what Van over at ThriftCore is doing, especially when she’s deploying the cutest version of the envelope system known to man. I’ve never gone the envelope route, technically I don’t “need to” since the mechanics of my Financial Empire are already in place. But, I’m considering a ‘Cash Only February Challenge’, just to put myself in touch with my money, where it goes, and when in a very literal sense. If I am going to do this, I’ll have to start prepping soon.
One last shout out to Wayward Dogs, who recently found me, and gave me a Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks Crystal! It looks like I’m in good company on that list. Documenting the dogs that wander into our lives, and what becomes of them is worthwhile, and makes for good reading. I’m enjoying getting to know this blog.
Happy reading! I am off! Busy schedule, here I come!
Anyone reading regularly has probably noticed by now. Yes, I have 6 dogs. Six. As in more than a handfull. The cat is, officially, out of the bag, excusing the mixed metaphor.
How we came to be the owners of half a dozen dogs is a long and nefarious tale, best saved for another time. Suffice it to say, it did not happen over night. In fact, it all began almost 12 years ago.
Abbey is a field-bred Springer Spaniel.
While we have a lot of canine residents, and we’ve had even more temporary foster or senior arrivals, Abbey is the only dog we’ve ever purchased.
There is much debate about adoption vs. buying, puppies vs. adults. I often hear the argument of buying a dog young so you “know what you are getting” or you “dont inherit someone else’s problems”.
Abbey was 8 weeks old when I paid $250 for her (if I remember correctly). She came from a literal backyard breeder. A hunter who had a single male and female dog on site. Obviously not a puppy mill. Well meaning enough, but not someone who necessarily did his homework or knew what he was doing.
Why do I say that?
Abbey has had not 1, but 2 knee surgeries to correct luxating patellas, a genetic condition. The condition is typically found in smaller dogs, but is becoming more prevalent in Springers due to, you guessed it, poor breeding. Combined the 2 surgeries cost over 5k. Even today, she needs to do therapy swimming to keep the strength up in her back legs and maintain her range of motion. Therapy swims run around $35 per half-hour, if you buy them in a package.
But wait, there’s more…
Abbey also suffers from Addison’s Disease, likely another genetic disorder where the adrenal glands don’t function. It is life threatening if not treated. She requires daily prednisone, which is cheap, running us about $20 a month. As well as shot of medication every 4 to 5 weeks ($75), and blood work to monitor her electrolytes every 3 months ($100+). Her initial diagnosis involved a overnight hospital stay and specialized testing at the Emergency Vet on a Saturday night (of course). $1200.
And that’s not all.
As she has aged, she now suffers from an inflammatory eye disorder, needing daily drops ($35).
Beyond her medical concerns, she has very, very poor doggie social skills, despite lots and lots of work with trainers and classes when she was younger (cha-ching), have never been fully corrected. She is manageable, mostly because she lives with other dogs and has had to adapt, but more than one trainer has told me Abbey’s “personality issues” are likely inherited.
Could all this happen with a dog I adopted? Absolutely. Although, I have 5 other dogs, none of which have cost me anywhere near Abbey’s running total. Abbey’s cost of ownership is significantly higher than any other 2 of my dogs combined.
My point is buying a dog, regardless of age, is no guarantee. Not of personality and certainly not of health. At least not when you are operating at this level of breeder.
I know people who have bought pet-quality dogs, from show breeders. Breeders who do health certifications, who screen parents for genetic issues prior to breeding. Breeders who would have never let a dog like Abbey even exist, let alone have someone off the street buy her. Breeders like this usually charge a minimum of $1500 for a dog they will require you either show or spay/neuter. Breeders aren’t all bad. That seemingly exorbitant fee will buy you as close as you can get to a ‘sure thing’ in the dog world.
While the thought of a well bred, selected dog certainly appeals to me on some level, I will stick with my rescues. Take my chances on someone else’s cast offs from questionable backgrounds, and have my eyes wide open about what I am (potentially) getting myself into.
And Abbey? Well, aren’t we both lucky that there was one dog in the whole world we bought? As much as she’s cost us, as much as she’s not a fan of new dogs, and reacts so poorly, Abbey has never met a person she didn’t completely freaking adore. Spending the last 12 years with Abbey McSpaniel has been worth every penny.
My Best Friend recently had a baby. Before that she was pregnant. Surprising, I know. As The Best Friend, I needed to throw her baby shower.
I have never thrown a baby shower. Nor have I had any babies. Or even attended a baby shower to my recollection.
No problem. I can google with the best of them. I’ve got friends who know these things. I can call in the troops. Unfortunately, I had two jobs and no money right when all this was going down. Decisions had to be made.
Yep, I made those. This garland, along with some homemade soap favors, were the extent of my time investment. It cost me about $10 in fancy paper, a borrowed stapler, and a few bucks for a lifetime supply of staples. I assembled it while watching the first Season of Glee, in the brief moments that could be identified as ‘free time’. Let’s just say it took me a lot longer than my recent origami endeavor.
By the way, I can not take credit for these better than my average photos. They are courtesy of Anderyckx.
These I did not make. I am just as capable of making cupcakes and pinwheels as I am garland. Maybe they wouldn’t be as cute, but you can guarantee they would have cost me less.
I simply did not have the time. Sure, there was other time invested into this event. I shopped, I emailed, I menu planned/coordinated, I evited. I even went down the day before and helped the parents-to-be clean and prep.
But, I knew I didn’t have the bandwidth to figure out how to make a pinwheel or decorate a cupcake. Let alone, the trial and error involved if there were failures. It was easier to throw money at the problem. Even if there wasn’t much to throw. I budgeted, and I negotiated. Talents I have readily available. No trial and error involved.
This type of time/money negotiation is something I consider a lot. Consider it as I make cheese or crochet gifts or whip up a batch of laundry soap. As I invest time into things, ostensibly to save myself money. Sure, there are a myriad of other reason to DIY. Usually though, it starts with a desire to save yourself some moolah.
I do these things. Then I complain about not having any time.
Conventional wisdom says, if you have more time (typically from working less) you have less money. Conversely, more money (from working more), equals less time.
When we have less time, we have to spend more money. Arguably. We have less time for the DIY that (supposedly) saves us money. Less time to watch ads and seek out deals. If we have more time, we can spend less money from these same methods, and we have to because, we have, that’s right, less money.
This doesn’t always hold true however. As in the example above, two jobs left me with both limited amounts of time and money. The considerations there were decidedly more difficult.
Even now, since The Return, I have both more time and more money. I know that. After over a year of deprivation, I can feel the influx of time in my life. And still, its not enough. No matter what your work circumstances, I’d wager everyone feels time as the finite resource it is.
So, how do you find harmony between what you want to do and what you have to do? Between making money, saving money and meaningful participation in own your life?
My question is what would I rather be doing? What would I do if I had more time?
If I had more time I would read more, run farther, blog better, make my own vinegar, grind my own flour, see my friends more often. I would have a well-stocked pantry and a winter garden and a regular book group.
I would not watch more television or spend more time on Facebook.
What would I do if I had more money?
I would use it so I had time to do all of the above.
I would not do fewer projects, or make less cheese, or stop dreaming over chickens.
Isn’t it funny how that works? How the lists are the same regardless of the resource? Is it not really about the time or the money? Because, for most of us, there is always going to be a trade-off. Is it really just about the meaningful participation?
The baby shower was this dichotomy in action. Trading money for time and vice versa, in order to enhance and further my participation, in what was a lovely and important event. Yes, I made the garland and the soap. Everyone loved both, and requested instructions. I also scoured the interwebs to find just the right pinwheels, which were sent home with guests along with the soap. And those cupcakes? Three words: peanut butter chocolate.
The shower was a success. I didnt do it single handedly, as I would like to say I did. I could have made more and spent less. I wish I hadn’t had to dash off promptly post-party.
Still success. Under those less than ideal circumstances. With lots of limitations. I successfully navigated the time/money turbulent waters. Good times. Memories made. So, with the taking and leaving of jobs, and additional resources, what the heck am I complaining about ‘no time’?
Good question. Because, those things on my list? I can do almost all of them now. I read some, I run pretty far. I don’t make my own vinegar or grind my own flour, but as soon as I master my own cheese making and breaking baking, I might. Yes, things are often a little more hurried or drawn out, but if I step back, I see I do pretty well.
I imagine we all do. Still, there is always that tug. How do you negotiate it? There is so much to this issue, and the pressure it creates in our lives. My little diatribe only scratches the surface. It begs more questions than it answers. What say the rest of you?
Boo and hiss. By the time you read this, I will be back at my desk, toiling away at the corporate salt mines. I really love my job, particularly when I dont have to be there. Must remind myself of how fortunate I am to have a job where I can easily take time off. In recent history, this was not the case.
So how did I do with my time off? Was I as productive as I wanted to be? Let’s review.
Run Outside. Done. 3 times even. Once with The Husband in tow, once with a dog, and one extra long run all by myself.
Finalize Chicken and Seed Orders. False! This is one of those cases where the more you know, the more you don’t know. As I embarked on my research, I discovered a local source of chicks available in March. They will have the varieties I’m looking for, without the trauma and coordination of shipping them. I’m also researching a couple different seed companies, that are closer to me geographically, with hopes of improving my crop success.
Clean Closets. Done. Behold my progress!
With absolutely no thanks to my faithful companions.
Who were all to happy to offer their drowsy moral support.
Anyway, my stash of shipping supplies had gotten completely out of proportion to the amount of shipping I actually do. Some recycling was in order, as was a general putting away of things into the boxes they belong in.
There was another closet purging. The closet containing Stuff Purgatory was subject a regularly scheduled..
Goodwill Purge. See Thrift Score for further details. All in all, I declare success.
Yearly Goal Review/Renewal.Done and Done, in case you missed it.
Pinboard Re-do. And again, with the Done.
Tossed items, much more manageable and reasonable looking. I even got rid of a couple things from the desk. It must be some sort of junior high throw back, because I do love me a pinboard. Something about collecting the scraps of my life in one place, and looking at them collectively. It’s no wonder pinterest is such a time suck for me.
If this post wasn’t long enough, what are my goals for this week?
Dye Clothes! Fell into a small stash of free hand me down clothes from friends. Only problem is a couple of items are white. We are messy, cant wear white anytime, never mind Labor Day people. I’m going to use some Amazon bucks to procure a pack of dye and do my best to alter the clothes.
No Dessert. I am sick to death of sweets. Even though, maintaining my weight was not part of my 2012 goals, it’s still an overarching life theme. A theme that has been on the back burner of late. I’m going to go back to my 1 chocolate bar a week ways, and beyond that abstain from extras and sugar.
Place Seed Order. Now that I’ve narrowed in on local-ish supplier, I can make my final choices and place the order already.
Spend $50 on Groceries. I am re-iterating this from my regular Sunday Spending. I intend to achieve this goal in January, for the first time in Dogs or Dollars history, so that is worth repeating. I will not spend more than $50 on groceries in the coming week.
Other than that it’s back to reality. Gym, work, home, too many social obligations. Rinse. Repeat.
The Husband had an ill timed birth. He was born in the no-mans-land of time after Christmas and before New Years. A period of time where everyone is partied, spent and sugared out. He’s the guy who everyone ends up giving an ‘extra’ present to on Christmas, with the note that its for his birthday, or worse yet a combined Christmas/Birthday gift. Poor guy.
The problem is we are no exception to this conundrum. By the time his birthday rolls around, we too are usually feeling a little overdone in regards to festivities. Post Christmas, he usually has a hard time coming up with what he wants for his birthday.
This is a recipe for a frugal birthday. If everyone is over spending money, how do you make the day special?
First, you leave The Husband in bed while you get up with the Pack of Mutts to feed them and provide the early morning potty break. This is usually his job, but not today.
While you’re up, you make coffee (also usually The Husband’s job) and sneak away to find the card you made.
Frankencard. Sewn together from 4 different birthday and valentines day cards you may have purchased, and then forgot to give to the Husband. Cost $0, unless you quantify the hour of muffled cursing as you attempt to sew 4 pieces of card stock together in a tidy fashion. You give him this, along with his first cup of coffee.
Eventually he rolls out of bed, and makes his own breakfast, because he makes better breakfast than anyone else. Ever. Of course.
A breakfast which contains the last of our Christmas Prime Rib leftovers, I might add.
Then you make your usual gym visit, only at a more leisurely pace getting there. After that, you bump up your monthly latte allotment just a couple of days, in order to get the best coffee ever on his Birthday.
Total cost for 2 lattes, and 2 current scones $16 including tip. Totally worth it.
Insert more leisure time, and the running of random errands, including pick up of a dozen fancy local cupcakes. Normally $38.50 +tax (if you can believe it). With Chinook Book coupon, $22 total.
Now have decidedly non-gourmet pizza (The Husband’s favorite) dinner with his Dad, who treats. Total cost $0. Before embarking to friends house with cupcakes for sharing in tow.
Where upon arrival Birthday Boy is doused in the face with a plate of homemade meringue. Because they know how much he loves meringue. Total cost also $0.
Spend the next 30 minutes cleaning meringue off people and house, then sing cheesy birthday song and enjoy cupcakes, which he is still, surprisingly willing to share with friends.
There is much talk about going to a movie using Christmas gift cards and plans for future testosterone driven events. Mostly you stay out too late with your friends, sitting on their living room floor or standing in their kitchen, talking trash.
So concludes, the frugal, mostly uneventful, somehow best birthday ever.
Yesterday we put together the meal plan and grocery list and set off on the last day of year, to start 2012 on the right foot. With a full larder!
Here’s how we did…
3 stops, 2 hours.
Farmers Market: $160.
Stocked up on local, organic eggs, chicken, bacon, sausage, pork chops, and a butt roast (hee.)
Whole Foods: $92
Used a $1 off coupon for keifer, $3.99 coupon for a free slice of turkey sausage pizza, and got .30 for bag refunds.
I think I am officially ‘over’ Whole Foods. There was so much I didn’t buy there because of bad sourcing or packaging. The only hold out is locally roasted PB thats .70 cheaper than anywhere else. That and I think I can recycle my old Christmas lights.
Local Market: $42
$5 off coupon, and .15 bag refund.
All the things I scoffed at Whole Foods, and got here instead, including milk in returnable glass bottles. I have mixed feeling about this milk. It’s not organic, but it is local, and jersey milk, which we prefer. I love the limited plastic and waste involved. I just hate the idea of antibiotics and hormones and, and, and… More research required.
You will note I got virtually no fruits and vegetables. This is because we are somehow dealing with a glut of apples and oranges. Plus a crisper full of parsnips and spinach. And *drumroll please* my homegrown sprouts…
Lovely on sammies and salads, or just the random mouth full, I eat because I grew them and I can. We buy the seeds for pennies in the bulk section of our local market, and as you can see the equipment involved is very complicated. HA! Those sprout growing kits, got nothing on my mason jar and cheese cloth!
Total for today is $294, plus the usual $76 beef allotment, and $72 for our 2 CSA boxes = $442.
Total for December is officially $540. Thats because of the $210 we spent on the Christmas Party and an undetermined amount on Christmas Dinner, both of which were budgeted for separately, and involved a significant amount of leftovers, which we utilized for weeks at a time. Basically our last 2 week of December were highly subsidized by other budget categories, making this something of a false positive.
With January all new and shiny, I’m feeling inspired to trounce my previous uninspiring record with the grocery budget. Maybe just this once it will work. Let’s try it again, $50 a week for the next 4 weeks, plus $8 for fudge room. $650 for January.
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.
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?
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).
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.