Friday, February 27, 2015

Where To Cut The Budget Next?

Have you ever found that you want to cut the budget again but you can’t quite figure out where to do it?

I’m there right now.  I want to cut the budget so I can build my luxury 96’sq cabin (hopefully with the help of Sher and Julie!  Hi Sher and Julie!)

Anyway, to make sure I have the $$ for that AND a well, I want to shave a bit off the monthly budget.

The phone:  My only option for reception is AT&T so I looked for the lowest cost version.  I have a used flip-phone (and a back up one) I got so I could sign up without a contract, but on “contract” rates rather than pay-as-you-go rates.  The cost difference was minimal, but the coverage area is larger so more value for the money.  I got unlimited talk, text, and pics and the least data (they always make you get some data so that when you hit the GIANT web button you have time to go “oh crap” and get out of that before you run up a bill).  It’s about $46/month.  Looking online, I can’t find an AT&T that will go any lower and not leave me rationing minutes.  It’s my only phone so I do want to have the option to chat.   Will continue to see how many minutes I use but so far, this is my best bet.
Car: I paid cash so no loan.  I may be able to raise my deductible.  I’m not ready to give up full coverage yet.  I will look into towing/roadside assistance coverage vs the cost/benefits of keeping the AAA.  I use the AAA discounts for hotels when I travel so I need to include that in the mix.  I’m keeping the speed down to keep the gas mileage up and combining trips to further lower fuel costs.  When in town I walk.

Travel: That will be cut back this year.  One fewer trips to Seattle.  Possibly no trip to Santa Fe.  We’ll see about the trip to Scotland.  We don’t want to delay that TOO long as none of us are getting younger.

Food: Groceries are getting about as low as I can go while still eating quite a bit of organic.  I’m using the “clean 15” and “dirty dozen” lists to buy/avoid the conventional produce that is safest and cheaper than organic.  I’ve done 2 “pantry challenges” now to eat up what I have, then restock with what’s cheap and eat that for the next while.  This is helping quite a bit with expenses.  I’ve even tried pig heart since it was $2/lb for local, free range and organic.  I’m underwhelmed with my first attempts at cooking it, but I’ve eaten most of it.  With any luck I can gag down the final bit of pig heart soup tonight.  It’s just hard having it for the 5th day in a row when it’s not delicious and seems to bet getting tougher and tougher in storage.  Oh well.  It’s cheap high quality protein so I’ll try try again.  I’m also making good use of the Grocery Outlet deals.  Not sure where else to cut on groceries.

Food: Eating out.  This could be cut.  I had a couple of spendy meals out this month to treat a friend.  And one not so spendy meal out because I was sick of everything in the house.  It would have been cheaper to buy one treat to cook at home.  Will redouble the efforts in March to cut that budget item back.

Coffee:  Doing darn well here.  Only one coffee-hut incident in Feb 2015 and that was again to treat a friend.  Otherwise I’m making it at home and drinking the free swill at work.  MUCH cheaper.

Rent: $425 is pretty good and once I can move back into the camper it will be zero from here on out unless I can’t make it through winter in the wee cabin.

Utilities:  The high so far this winter is $70.  That’s not bad.  It’s coming down and I’m going to start timing showers and trying to do better combining baking things to cut back on oven time.  I was baking more partly because organic flour was on super-sale so I've made bread and muffins and things, and also to help heat up the apartment without using the baseboard heater some days.

Storage: I’m giving away some things this week and next week in a 2nd cull.  I’ll see if I could switch to a smaller storage unit to save $$.  Possibly after I get the cabin going, and get a storage shed of some sort out there, I could put the non-sensitive items (tires on rims, etc) in there and get a smaller unit.  It is spendy at $120/month for the heated/cooled unit and yet that keeps several expensive items from being wrecked by a freeze/thaw issue.

Gifts:  I’ve cut these back to the point of being a bit of an asshole so I don’t think I’ll cut  more here.

Medical/Dental: I signed up for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) so am saving whatever my tax rate is on those expenses (it’s all pre-tax).  I did sign up for the concierge medical in January at $1500 for a year of doctoring.  It includes the personal training, long term health goal work, and much more.  I think it is worth it and the money’s spend for 2015 so can’t cut that at the moment.  I COULD choose not to get a tooth put on the dental implant but that would be stupid. The point of the implant in the jaw was to put a tooth on it to help save the opposing tooth/teeth in the long run rather than let them creep out of the jaw unopposed.  And that money is in the FSA.  Hopefully 2016 will be cheaper and the concierge doctoring will eliminate issues like the partly dead finger that was such a highlight of 2014 and now looks a bit like a creepy monkey finger.

Household:  This is the budget line I use for cleaners/sheets/towels/etc.  This area is cut compared to others.  I am currently cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, and borax that I’ve gotten on sale.  I’ve owned my vacuum for something like 20 years (seriously…wow).  I get vacuum cleaner bags at thrift.  I do filter my water.  I got the britta pitcher at thrift for 1$, and the current filters are generic ones from the drugstore…because I didn’t find them at thrift. I use dishtowels I get as gifts rather than buying paper towels.  I have cloth napkins so don’t buy paper napkins. I’m using the last of the dish soap I got on supersale and will go back to the bulk dish soap which is my cheapest option. Once I’m back out on the land I use the biodegradable soap for pretty much everything.  I’m experimenting with using soapnuts for this.

Personal care/Hygiene: Use baking soda instead of toothpaste and shampoo.  Vinegar instead of conditioner. Shea butter at 8$/lb instead of designer lotion, along with the lovely designer lotion I got for xmas!  I got enough lovely soap for xmas to not have to buy any for ages.  And of course I’ve culled soap from hotel stays.

Clothes: I’m continuing to cut this.  I stop by Ross Dress for Less, TJMaxx, etc in my quest for cheap bras.  The stock is low at the moment.  I got NICE sox for xmas and probably have plenty to get through 2015 especially if I mend the older ones and use those for work.   I got boots for $52 online in January which gives me one back-up pair of boots so shouldn’t need any more until 2016.  I COULD use a pair of walking shoes.  I’ve been wearing my “best” pair at the gym and they have a split on the side that can’t be repaired anymore and the soles are paper thin.  I have one other pair that is slightly narrow so I’ll see if I can make them work better.  They also make a farty noise while I walk but maybe I can just pretend I don’t hear it.  Or work with it when I’m a bit flatulent.  I got 2 or 3 more pairs of jeans at thrift in January so I can make it through much of 2015.  I could use a good pair of sturdy workpants.  My carhartts are beyond hope and I need to just cut them up for other uses.   I’m a bit low on sweatshirts but that will sort itself out.  I have plenty of thermal undershirts and longjohns and will work with that rather than more sweatshirts.  I have 1 dressy outfit and haven’t needed it in 18months so no one will recognize it.

Laundry: I spent 4$ at the laundromat in Feb!   Part of this was because I rotated more undies into the mix.  With 2 weeks worth of undies I just need to wash one “heavy” (jeans, sweatshirts, towels etc) and one load of “not heavy” (undies, t-shirts, sheets) per month.  I’ve done the dishtowels with my manual laundry kit (buckets and a rapid washer plunger thingy) and that worked fine.  I hang everything to dry hence no cost for drying).  Here’s hoping I can keep it that low next month.  I think sox and undies can be rotated into the manual washing system.

Insurance:  Right now I’m carrying renters and auto.  As noted above, I’ll try to cut the auto insurance cost.  The options are limited for items in storage when one has no stable address.  Will reassess that when I convince the county that I need an address on my land and if I can move things into storage on the land.

So, I’m taking suggestions on where to cut the budget.  What am I forgetting?

Monday, February 9, 2015


I think maybe I overdid the leftovers.

I just realized that my lunch at work today was the third iteration of the key ingredient.

A couple of weeks ago I roasted a chicken.  I ate some and froze the rest of the meat and then boiled the carcass with vinegar for broth.
I picked the meat bits out of the broth and froze those.  The bones got composted and trashed.

Then I made soup with some of the leftover roasted chicken meat and the broth with some added vegies.

About the 5th meal of leftover soup made from left over chicken...I'd had it.
So I strained out the broth and used it to make a white sauce with coconut oil and flour (dairy free you know). I used that and some cracked wheat I found in the cupboard and a few more veggies to turn the last 2 servings of soup into 4 servings of casserole (it was a loves/fishes sort of thing).

I just ate the last damn serving of that casserole...though it was tempting to chop it up and scramble it in and egg and have leftover-soup-casserole-frittata.  But that would have made 2 or 3 servings and this chicken loop would never end. 

Still, my food waste is at an all time low.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Visit to My Land and Weird Weather Update!

I was out at the land and thought I'd write up a summary.  Maybe I'll remember things then.  Probably not.

First:  The lock on the camper is getting very dodgy.  I need to replace it.  It's just a doorknob assembly so I can do that pretty easily.  I'll keep an eye out at thrift, and a screw driver in my car in case I need to break in.

Second: It's been so CRAZY warm that the plants are coming to life way way way way too early.  I hope they make it.  The hazelnuts, gooseberries, and currents had buds.  The container blueberry is loaded with buds.  There is even a strawberry plant in the 4' square raised bed that is already leafing out a great deal.  I only pulled back a bit of the leaves and didn't check the other strawberries or the garlics.  Crazy to see stuff going this early.  The wild oregon grape is also already growing like gangbusters. I didn't see buds on the apple trees or new canes on the rasberries.  The upper has gone completely missing and one is looking not particularly robust and one looks like it could soldier on nicely if it chooses.  The deer have eaten bits off most of the bushes and possibly one entire blueberry.  But I think it was one of the 4$ ones I got at Grocery Outlet that looked pretty dead anyway.  We'll see.  You never know what's going on below ground or if I just couldn't find it.   We may have another missing shrub.  I swear I planted a total of 6 gooseberry and currant bushes.  I can locate 5.  Either I only planted 5...which could have happened as I found the pair of gooseberries and I found the 3 colors of currants that I know I planted, or one ran off with the missing blueberry bush.  At any's both nice to see new growth and disturbing to see it 2 or 3 months ahead of schedule.  A hard freeze could murder the new buds and other growth. 

We've had crazy warm weather.  It's 55 today in town.  My thermometer inside the camper read 45.  It could well have been warmer, certainly up at the pond where most of the berries are planted.  

Speaking of the pond!  FULL!!!  The overflow pipe is working nicely.  I checked it and spent a bit of time leaning on it and staring down into the water.  I didn't see anything swimming around, but water plants were greening up.  

When I arrived at the pond I did see somethings swimming around...followed shortly by somethings flying off.  I scared a pair of canada geese off the pond!  Very nice to see them, but again, a tad early.
While I was up there, I pulled the memory card out of the wildlife cam and just sorted through the photos.  I'd seen deer, elk, and turkey on it so far...along with a lot of moths.  This time more deer, more elk, AND a coyote.  I healthy looking one.  Very bushy tail.  Nice to see him/her out and about taking care of things.

The lone remaining pink flamingo (plastic, obviously) was still there, looked forlorn and lonely.  Hopefully someone will send him a little friend or two for a solstice prize sometime.  I'm glad he didn't leave with the others, but he has to be lonely.

The camper is doing well!  NO MICE!!! (yes, I did just take a break and actually knock on actual wood).  And no new apparent leaks (more knocking on wood).  If it's this warm next week I may throw the sleeping bag in the car and spend a night there.

The composting toilet has thawed out nicely so I added some enzyme and activator and stirred that up.  Seems to be appropriately moist in there and no visible TP left which the instructions say is a good sign. I keep it covered with a thriftstore sheet to avoid too much sun damage.  I don't know what sun does to fiberglass or whatever it's made of.  I'm also contemplating going to a sawdust toilet and selling the composting toilet...though I know that any visiting officials would be happier with the composting toilet than with a sawdust toilet and a separate compost system well removed from the creeks and drainages (which would actually be a superior system environmentally but whatever).

Speaking of creeks...they are also pretty full, flowing nicely.  The real creek runs the length of the hypotenuse of the land, more or less, and is not as full as I've seen it.  It's comfortably full rather 'holy crap' full.  I did need to get a couple of logs (ok...good size branches) away from the inlet to the culvert.  they were not blocking it but were diverting the main flow to the side a bit before it came back and went through the culvert.  This looked like it could be digging into the bank and the area where the culvert goes under the access road.  So, best to remove them.  I was very very very careful because falling into the inlet end of a culvert while alone would be worse than falling in with someone there to tell the guy with a backhoe where to dig to find the body.  It's possible I could have gone all the way through, but that would have been unpleasant at least.  I do have extra pants and a shirt and things in the car thanks to the sister-in-law (HI!) who gave me a nice bag for Christmas which reminded me that I should have a bag packed in the car in case I am somewhere and don't want to drive home.  Like sometimes at work I'm called to a remote location at the end of the day.  If it's dark and icy by the time I'm done working there, I don't want to have to choose between wearing mungy undies and driving on ice.

I think that is all the news on the land.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Wee Clothing Experiment Update


All those years worrying about repeating and outfit (OK...I spent far less time on this than most but there was still some lost time in my life) and no one gives a flying crap.  Apparently.

Could it be that the rules I've been following since I got this job 10 years ago actually work:

Wear Clothes That Are:

1) Clean (at least smell clean)...I haven't washed the sweaters since last spring but I never wear them without an undershirt of some sort and I take them off when I get home or change into another shirt before into a particularly dirty situation.  Other than gardening and the like, I always wear clean clothes.

2) Work Appropriate.  No cleavage (boob or butt) at work (that goes for you too, fellas).  Not overly tight anywhere.  It just looks bad.

Um....that might actually be it...I guess I also try to wear clothes that I'm comfortable in.