Finance Part Two – Saving Money

In my bid to seriously change up my life I have embarked on a series of small changes, hoping they will ultimately lead to a better life and lifestyle for me and my family. Micro changes. Several are ongoing but it is time to address our financial situation. I am a stay at home parent and see the value in that. My son has had some challenges in the past few years, he’s a talented, sensitive teenager and although he is very mature for his age in some ways (he just got himself his first job with no input from me at all) he still needs some supervision. So going back to work is out of the question for now.

I earn a small amount on mTurk and have amped that up somewhat but now it is time to address saving money. Frugality can be a dirty word in some circles I have found. Tightwad, skinflint, money grabbing, cheap, many of the words used are negative but I see saving money as being responsible, smart and creative. So below is a list of things I currently do or are thinking of doing to save some cash/wonga/ackers/benjamins etc. Feel free to comment on my list or add suggestions of your own, I will try almost anything. But first I need to check that the lights are turned off in the house. 

1. Cook at home. I already do this as I said in previous posts. I cook almost everything, I love the challenge of learning new ways to be creative with cheap ingredients. I actually prefer bean burgers to the meat kind and have realized that soup is my favorite part of any meal – or just a meal in itself.

2. Grow food in the back garden. This I also do, my cucumbers are my pride and joy! My results are erratic, can anyone say Tomato Hornworm? But producing food is the stuff of life and I love it.

3. Make cleaning products at home. I do make some cleaning products already, for example laundry detergent which saves a fair chunk of change, and I also tried my hand at liquid soap. Next up will be cleaning spray (I usually use 409) made with vinegar or lemon juice. 

4. Couponing. Now this is a thorny topic for me because I have tried couponing in the past and found it to be almost a complete waste of time. The trick, I have found is to only clip coupons for items you actually use. Thing is, most of those coupons are for things like scented candles or boxed food which I absolutely never use. So sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a total time suck. I stick to a few basics – I use the coupons I get mailed from the grocery store, they are targeted to what I use anyway, I go onto coupons.com and print any coupons that I actually want, you can print these out three times so I do that, then I wait for a sale and use them in conjunction with a store sale. I am also trying out a coupon rebate site called Checkout 51 where you upload your receipt and get rebates for certain products, again mostly products I just don’t use so we’ll see if it is worth it. I will usually go with a generic product too if I can, I have zero customer loyalty (unless it’s ketchup or cornflakes my family just won’t eat the cheap versions of them!).

5. Phones. Our family have three iphones. I know that is a bit excessive but I just won’t swap. My phone has saved my time, gas costs and my sanity. I love it and will not give it up, neither will my husband and although my son is not allowed his full time he will be getting it back when he starts his job. But our plan is expensive – we pay $205 a month for three lines. There might be a saving there somehow, needs some investigation.

6. We have two cars. One is paid for, one is still being paid off. My husband has checked out the credit union at work and they are offering car loans at 1.69% so he is going to refinance the rest of the loan. It was tempting to him, to extend the term of the loan and make the monthly payments even lower but after I pointed out that we would end up paying more he saw the light. We will save $24 a month on this. It’s not a lot but it’s $650 or so in total.

7. The trash company have smaller rolling trash carts which cost less per month. As I recycle most of our waste – compost and the recycle bin and we don’t buy a lot of pre-packaged foods, the smaller bin is plenty big enough for the three of us. Again, it’s only saving $4 a month but that’s $48 a year I don’t have to pay and I’m helping the environment.

8. I pay all my bills online. Can’t remember the last time I ordered a check book – oh wait yes I can it was when we moved house and we needed to update the address. I also buy very few stamps, only really for cards which I think are much nicer than e-cards.

9. We pay about $60 a month for internet and $80 a month for DirecTV. I could look at getting this cheaper. We survived before without cable TV and could do so again I suppose. There is a point at which frugality and quality of life collide though and this could be it! No Dance Moms? Sigh…

10. We switched our back lawn to a water wise garden and although we are having to water to establish it, we will be able to cut it down next year. Another way we save water is by putting a bucket in our shower, in the morning the bucket fills up with run off water and we either use it to water the plants in the garden or flush the toilet. If everyone did this, think how much water the state would save!

Okay, that’s 10 items with a couple for me to look into, anyone else got ideas? I’d love to hear them.

Below is a iPhone case I designed, the text reads :”In the future phones will play music, take photos and fit in your pocket” I should have also put, given you directions, played a movie and allowed you to read the entire world’s newspapers, but it was too long! Sometimes I feel very old.

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1970s dudes shooting the breeze.

 

The Penny Drops

I am starting my long journey back to health by actually listening to my body. It does a fantastic job of moving me where I want to go, doing what I ask it (generally) and asks for very little in return. As thanks for providing me with 46 years of pretty amazing service – it made a human! – I have treated it like crap. I have put poor quality fuel into it and neglected its service requirements. If it was an employee it would have quit a long time ago, probably changing the network passwords before it left for good measure. So, time to give it a bit of love I think, or a raise.

As my main problem has been back pain, I have taken this week to rest and move back into my family life and obligations slowly. My husband and (to a lesser extent teenage son) are still fetching and carrying for me but now I am up and about and moving much more than before I have resumed some tasks, like cooking (yay!) and laundry (bah!). I have stopped taking the medication, it’s there if I need it but I try my hardest to not take it. If my back hurts I want to know, not mask its message with addictive pills.

As part of getting back to normal I actually managed to find a taker for about a hundred old bricks we had lying around. We pulled up two old patios, the Ash tree in the back yard has grown so big it had done a good job itself of pulling it up on its own and they were pretty ugly. We put some raised vegetable beds there instead and I’m looking forward to planting in them soon.

The nice man who came to take the bricks suggested I read a book called Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. In a haze of muscle relaxants and vicodin I ordered it and when the haze cleared a couple of days later it arrived! Along with a foot peel called Baby Foot which must have been in my online cart and got ordered alongside it! Reading this book was like finding the missing puzzle piece to my problems. It made so much sense I couldn’t stand it! My problems, Mr Egoscue assures me is that I am using all the wrong muscles to stand/walk/bend/work out etc. OK there is much more to it than that but the key is to training the correct muscles to get their act together and give the poor overworked compensating muscles a damn rest. It solved a major question for me – which was how can I be so weak in some areas and still so strong in others? My arms and leg muscles are solid! I shifted 200 plus bags of gravel, I can walk for miles, I regularly hoist 25 pound bags of flour over my head (seriously!) But I’ve been doing it wrong for my entire life.

So I started the Pain Free program three days ago. The first day’s exercises, which are so simple I feel a bit guilty calling them exercises, I got my husband to eyeball what I was doing and point out when I wasn’t in the right position. A couple of the exercises were hard to complete because of the current back pain but I managed them all – there were only five and the total work-out took about 25 minutes. After I finished them I had this really weird feeling of my legs being a bit ‘wibbly wobbly’. Kind of like my hip joints were baggy. I know that sounds odd. I still had pain, even after the exercises but I figured one day isn’t going to do anything. The second day I re-read the exercises and realized I had done one of them incorrectly. Perhaps that is why I still had pain because the second and third day I had zero pain after completing the regimen. Zero pain is huge I tell ya! The pain came back later in the day. How tempting to do the work-out again? But the book specifically tells you not to do this, so I didn’t. I’m on day three now and it is definitely helping. I’ll keep up with it and report back on progress.

In the spirit of not completely giving in to a set back, I made the teenager of the house an offer he couldn’t refuse. Dig the remaining beds in the back yard for money! Now I know that this is probably bad parenting, he should offer to do it for the good of the family, right? Yeah I know and he does do chores (admittedly half heartedly sometimes) but this was a lot of garden and I would have to pay someone to do it, so I just sort of gave him first refusal. He roped in a really industrious friend and they spent almost the whole day digging. It was funny to see him organizing the work party. Another, less industrious friend, had agreed to come too, then at the last minute got a better offer of hanging out at the mall. Round here we call that a flake! His mall plans were then cancelled so he asked if he could come and work. The two boys already literally digging in decided no, they would be better without someone so unreliable, plus they would get less money. Real life work decisions in action!

While they were doing that I was grilling ribs for lunch, making potato salad, corn on the cob, lemonade etc. It was 80 degrees, and it so felt like summer. The boys did a fantastic job and the two beds are pretty much ready to be planted. Just got to buy the plants and mulch oh and provide my husband with all the porter he can drink (which these days sad to say is about two!) Well, at least he’s cheaper than the 14 year olds and he won’t want to listen to dub step while he’s working. He’s more of a Billy Bragg fan.

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I know it’s sideways, I just can’t figure out how to rotate. Story of my life really.