Category Archives: Family

Library liberation

I like to live thrifty.  And I am loving that so many free and inexpensive services allow me to.

For years now, I have been having a mad, passionate affair with the library.  I have always loved the library in general.  When I was a youth, I used to make it my after school hang out with friends.  But really, I was just flirting.  Courting, if you will.

This is  a full-fledged affair.  And I am not giving it up ;).

About 10 years ago, Mirror Image and I discovered our local library during my lay-off period and I have been hooked since.  It is not the biggest or most glamorous place.  In fact, compared to the libraries of my youth, it feels small to me.  But it is awesome, nonetheless.

Books of course, are available for the traditional library user.  But there is so. much. more. Not working at the time, I spent days there when Mirror Image was in Pre-K.  Watching movies on my laptop so as to not have to pay the $1 current movie fee.  $1 for a movie!  The policy has changed now and all movies are FREE to rent.

And the opportunity to catch up on whole television series, domestic and foreign has given me a sense of openness to other types of entertainment and a sense of closure for series that I lost track of over the years (here’s to you CHUCK!).

Oh and the books! Bound books, audio books, books on CD, electronic books.  All for free.  Years ago, I spent sooo much money on books (Devil Wears Prada, Shopaholic, The Next Big Thing, Undead, etc.) And yet, the library had those same titles, at no cost whatsoever.  Well, no more of that nonsense.

I now regularly save the price of going to the movie theater, reading the latest books and attending the occasional community event, compliments of my local library and trust me I take full advantage of it.

For instance, Mirror Image is not a big talker in the mornings and I drive her 45 minutes to school every day.  So I pop in a book on CD for the ride and boy has my book per month average zoomed up.

I have been enjoying new to me authors like Maya Banks, Thea Harrison and my current obsession, Jen McKinlay.  She has a cupcake mystery book series that is delicious (see what I did there?).  I am on book 6, I think – Red Velvet Revenge.

Last week, I even had Mirror Image and I listen to the CD of the book they are reading in her literature class. She didn’t overly appreciate the experience but I really enjoyed knowing the kind of literature she is being introduced to – Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  Great book, well written and well narrated but hard to hear considering the subject matter.  Heck, she might even get an A because of her independent work :).

Speaking of the school, Mirror Image asked to go the the library to get the big book of College Majors so she could do some research.  We did and she has decided on Atmospheric Sciences as a major after an hour of flipping through the book.  Now, I am excited.

The public library, I am a fan.

Have you even checked out a movie or book or audio book from your local library?

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Feeling kind of smug…

This weekend was busy.  Crazy, over scheduled busy. Like, there were so many times I thought I was going to give up scheduled plans, busy.

But I didn’t and am feeling kind of smug about it.

Yes, we did work out Friday night at the gym (before diving face first into a can of Lime-a-rita.  I got it with a $3 rebate from Ibotta!)

Yes, we did participate in the local community clean up early Saturday morning.

Yes, we did clean, Clean, CLEAN the sun room after the community clean up with the help of my awesome family. I was able to get my hands on Mirror Image’s passport and it expires in March.  Need to work on that now!

Yes, we did go to church, then to the grocery store  and then to Six Flags Sunday.  Loooooong lines for food and long lines for rides included.

Yes, I did drive 1 hour home from Six Flags Sunday night to prepare fried chicken for lunches this week because Mirror Image LOVES my fried chicken.

And finally, yes I did ignore the dishes in the sink last night after looking at the clock and seeing 10:23pm look back at me.  I was too exhausted to do another thing. (Yes, I did do them first thing this morning.  I can’t stand dirty dishes.)

I did everything we planned to do while not spending any budgeted dollars and I am feeling really smug about it.

How was your weekend?

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The weekend is here!

I have big plans for the weekend.  I am talking HUGE!

Mirror Image and I are participating in a Community Clean Up event early Saturday morning.  She doesn’t know it, yet.  Hahahah. I like volunteering in activities like these.  It gets us out and about, we meet new people, we get cleaner streets and we get a slice of humble pie.

But the really BIG part is my WONDERFUL family is coming up to help me clean out my sun room…again.

So this is what a sun room should look like

Random internet picture of a sun room

This is what my sun room looks like

Sigh

So why is a sun room clean up needed again and what does this have to do with personal finance?

I needed their help initially because I had started couponing and I had shampoo, laundry detergent and healthcare items spilling all over the place and could barely get through the room.  I went all in on the original clean up. I purchased sturdy plastic shelving from Ollie’s, moved everything out, mopped the floors, put down carpet tiles over the gross original vinyl tiles, organized all my “deals” and put up new shades from the Home Depot.  We rocked it.  We really did.  The sun room looked great!  For a few months.

Fast forward a year and everything that was moved from the bathroom closet during the bathroom remodel was dumped in the sun room, plus more purchases have wrecked the room again.  It is chaos.

As for personal finance.  I need a kick in the pants for how I let myself get so caught up in spending money  to “save” money via the coupon.  Having to move all that crap out and then move it all back in should just about do it.

I keep my safe hidden in the sun room and now it is covered up by…everything.  I cannot get to it.  I rotate my credits cards regularly but cannot get to them because they are in the safe.  I am thinking of cashing in some old U.S. Savings Bonds but can’t get to them because they are in the safe. And, Mirror Image says her passport is getting ready to expire and guess where that is?

But I have no fear.  The weekend is here! and we are going to kick that sun room’s butt.  And I am never couponing like that again.

Sunday, I am taking the kiddo and her friends to Six Flags.

Yeah what a HUGE weekend!

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Robbing Peter to Pay Paul – No Grocery Shopping Edition

When I was a child, I hated grocery shopping.  HATED IT.  I think it was the old ladies running over my toes with their carts.  Or maybe it was the mean auntie I was required to shop with.  I don’t know but I tell you it was not fun for me,  Not one bit.

That was pretty much my attitude for years, even as an adult.  Because of my first job out of college (BEST JOB EVER!) I had most of my meals paid for through travelling expenses. Sometimes fast food.   Sometimes room service, but never home cooked food.

I rarely grocery shopped and when I did, I didn’t shop well.  You know with a list, or a plan or a vague idea of what to eat.

Then one day, I had a daughter. And then the next day (so it seems to me) she was ready to eat meals that weren’t pumped or pureed.  And I had to make them.  And fortunately,  not too long after that I discovered Aldi.  And now, I no longer hate grocery shopping. If you don’t know the joy that is Aldi, you are missing out.  But that is something to share in another post.

So while I do not hate grocery shopping, I am still aware that groceries are a line item on my budget.  About $50 a week on average when I included special activities, family get-togethers and holidays.

I decided not to spend that $50 and instead, feed my family from the pantry and freezer for the week.  Why?  Well at first it was to have the guilt free pleasure of spending about $60 at Madonna’s Seafood at a Saturday date for Mirror Image and me.  My co-worker recommended this place because it has an All-You-Can-Eat steamed crabs menu.  We LOVE crabs.

But that changed.

The same day I made the plans to scrap grocery shopping for the week and made plans to dine at Madonna’s, I picked up a prescription for Mirror Image from Sam’s Club. It was $113 that I was not really expecting. Bye crabs.  It was nice almost eating you.

I decided instead to re-route the grocery money to the prescription expense.  Not because I couldn’t pay both.  I could.  In fact, I could have paid both the restaurant and the groceries to begin with.  What I wanted to do was experiment and sacrifice and claw back some kitchen real estate.

We go grocery shopping every week. I love trying to new recipes and stuffing Mirror Image’s little mouth with all sorts of yummy treats to show her she is the love of my life.  I also take my lunch to work and I don’t ever want to have an excuse to get a burger.  Finally, we are real foodies at my house.  We kind of live to eat, from a gourmet perspective.

So, to help balance out the unanticipated medical costs, we will sacrifice this week.  To show I can step up, I am experimenting with simple meals made from the pantry and freezer this week.  Here is my budget meal plan:

Saturday

  • Breakfast – Bacon & eggs & bagels & canned pineapple
  • Lunch/dinner – Ground turkey tacos & beans; homemade French fries

Sunday

  • Breakfast – Bacon & eggs & pork sausage & canned beans and apples
  • Lunch/dinner – Ground turkey tacos & beans; homemade French fries

Monday

  • Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs & bacon (me)
  • Lunch – Canned Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo soup (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple (her)
  • Dinner – Pasta and meat sauce (us)

Tuesday

  • Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs & sausage patties (me)
  • Lunch – Pasta and meat sauce (leftovers) (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple (her)
  • Dinner – Chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms (us)

Wednesday

  • Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs & sausage patties (me)
  • Lunch – Canned potato soup (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple & cookies (her)
  • Dinner – Beef Stroganoff & green beans (us)

Thursday

  • Breakfast – Bagel with cream cheese and salmon
  • Lunch – Chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms (leftovers)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich & apple & cookies (her)
  • Dinner – Garlic Chicken and broccoli

Friday

  • Breakfast – Pain au chocolate and banana (me)
  • Lunch – Baked potato (me)
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich (her)
  • Dinner – Tuna casserole & green beans (us)

Snacks

  • Banana bread
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Gelato

I have all of this food (or the ingredients) in my house.  Right now. It really is not a big sacrifice to give up shopping for the week and, it will help me clear out room in the freezer and the cupboards.  Plus, it is a good lesson for Mirror Image and I to keep in mind…gratitude for all that we have.  Especially when there are so many that have so much less.

How often do you prepare meals plans around your pantry surplus?

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Know When to Hold ‘Em (Part 2 to A Tale as Old as Time)

When I wrote my previous post, I didn’t realize that it would be a part 1.  But here I am today after a couple of days of weird coincidences and I couldn’t resist revisiting the issue.

Today I saw this on msn.com (and you should take a read as well) –

What $1,000 invested in these stocks 10 years ago is worth today.

Ha!  Disney is on the list!

Last night, I went through all of my old financial papers to finally shred them.  I mean OLD papers, bank statements, tax return copies, brokerage house statements, wage summaries, BGE bills and a really cute credit card summary from 2000 from Platinum Plus.  I don’t even remember that credit card but it must have been awesome because I have a cute booklet with all my charges for the year, broken out into categories and accompanied by graphs and value added coupons. Imagine what that cost to put out every year and how much these companies save by getting us to sign up to receive the same information online in real time.

Anyway, I decided to go through those papers to 1)free myself from the paper past and 2) to find the stock certificates that are (hopefully) hiding somewhere among the papers of the past.  And I only decided to do this because the night before that, Mirror Image walked into my home office and reminded me that I had encouraged her to buy stock a couple of years ago as a learning opportunity and now she was ready to buy wait for it…Apple (AAPL).  Why Apple and why now?  I just watched a show and the kids on the show wanted to buy Apple because blah, blah, blah…

I was really excited by her interest and wanted to show her my pretty Disney certificate from forever ago so the next night, after we came home from the gym, I tackled the file cabinet of financial lives past.

It is amazing what you manage to forget if you live long enough.  I was whip-lashed back to my past and some really interesting decisions I made regarding money.  In the papers I found a Merrill Lynch (remember when there was a Merrill Lynch?  Not a Bank of America Merrill Lynch but the true Merrill Lynch?!?!?!) 1099.  Here it is

See anything Familiar?

I still have no memories of this beyond my broker telling me of an exciting opportunity to invest in tech funds.  And even that memory is hazy. And I can’t see why I would have spent so much money buying funds to sell them 3 months later but, in many cases, according to the 1099, I did.  And, it was the beginning of the dotcom bubble burst.  And most interesting of all, where did I get the courage to give someone $15,000 to invest my money?  And where did I get $15,000?!?!?! (I am kinda joking – I have really always been a saver.)

But to the question, do you see anything familiar?  A cute little online book seller perhaps? Priced at around $61.72 per share when I sold it – 3 months after I bought it?  

Admittedly, most of the rest of the stocks and mutual funds appear to be dogs and or non-existent now.  Dell is still around but went private back in 2013.  The rest, I couldn’t even bring most of them up on Google searches.  Or when I could, I found them to be small regional internet service providers.  But AMAZON (AMZN).  If I had held onto those 10 little nuggets, based on last night’s $974 closing price per share, I would have pretty close to $10,000 sitting in my account.  Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

There is no turning back time and I will not lament on this beyond using it for the lesson it is.  Buy and hold (maybe), understand the stock that you buy (I wasn’t buying books online back then…I had no idea of what Amazon really did beyond INTERNET), pay attention, short-term versus long term tax implications, only invest what you can afford to lose, no one cares about your money more than you and on and on and on.

I tried to share this paper and a look into my life before her with Mirror Image last night but she had already fallen asleep (she has a cold and our personal trainer worked us out good yesterday so I think she just petered out).

When I showed her this morning in the car and tried to share the lesson of buy and hold and gee wow we used to own AMAZON, I saw a glazed look on her face.  So much for sharing the hard learned lessons of my past :).

But seriously, where as I once owned a new online bookseller, I could now own part of Whole Foods.  Shoot.

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