Day 9,325 (ok but really it’s week 12 of quarantine)

Does it feel like we’ve been at this forever? or that we have forever left to go? Ya, I’m right there with ya. But realistically, that’s not the case. I have been working from home (and not going to the store, or seeing friends, or hugging LITERALLY ANYONE for 12 weeks). Cabin fever hasn’t really set in, but I definitely miss my people. I miss Wayne, I miss going for drinks with friends, popping into my mom’s office at lunch time. But here we all are, and here we shall remain for some time longer!

So, what frugal things have I been up to lately? Funny you should ask!

  • I have not gone to the grocery store in a LONG time. And as someone who loves grocery shopping, this is admittedly pretty difficult for me. But my brother and my parents deliver care packages on occasion, and I food swap with friends/neighbors from a safe distance. So I haven’t set foot in a proper market in over a month. I have instead, been using what I have in my freezer, getting delivered in my weekly CSA (yay fresh produce!) and getting creative. And double plus bonus, it’s going just fine. I definitely end up with repeat meals (hello gnocchi or garlic bread pizza) but I am not complaining. I only freeze and make food that I know I know i’m going to enjoy and I’ve always been one to eat repeat meals day after day.
  • I have spent exactly $0 on gas this month. I think since the beginning of the pandemic (so say March 1 here in Portland) I have put maybe $30 of gas into my vehicle? Other than occasionally going to look at houses, because house hunting right now is a great idea, I’m not driving to work. I’m not driving on fun adventures. I’m really not driving much at all. So that is definitely saving $$$
  • Because I am working from home as opposed to being in the office at all, I am not paying for parking or snacks while at work. Because no matter how diligently I pack my lunch every day, I always end up “needing” a coffee or a bagel.
  • I have not cut my hair or had my brows waxed in MONTHS. And though I don’t get my hair cut that often, I easily spent $25 a month on my brows. So it never seems like a lot in the moment, but I’m realizing how it definitely all adds up!

The above (socially distanced photograph) was taken on Mother’s Day last weekend. My brothers planted tomatoes and lemon cucumbers for my mom per tradition, and we ate an early dinner of her favorite pizza on the porch. It was toasty warm (almost 90 degrees) and it was lovely. I couldn’t hug my mom but we were able to be together while still being safe. It was days like that that I am reminded of how good I really have it. I have such an incredible support system, a family that would move heaven and earth for me, wonderful friends, a safe roof over my head. I am really one lucky gal. And let’s try to remember that during these difficult times, we do have a lot to be thankful for.

How the corona virus is affecting my finances

mmmm…….bread

Like basically everyone on the internet, I decided to learn to make bread this weekend. A coworker offered to teach me over video chat, and it was such a cool experience!

I have literally never made bread before. And not that I need to be buying fresh bread every week, I LOVE bread. So I thought having this skill in my arsenal wouldn’t be a bad thing. We spent the better part of the day (6 hours) prepping, resting, rolling, folding, and finally baking the bread. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Was it delicious? Oh you bet your butt.

Let’s see, what else? I have been in a grocery store twice in the past 8 weeks, and this has definitely lowered my grocery bill. I am working my way through everything on hand and finding new things to use up daily. I am not going for coffee or drinks with friends, but once a week I am ordering take out from a favorite local spot. So this line item of my budget is also considerably lower. I do get an Imperfect Foods box weekly (mostly produce) so this allows me to have fresh fruits and veggies, and requires that I actually plan accordingly to eat it all.

I will admit, that the first few weeks of home quarantine I definitely spent way more money than I needed to. I was worried about all my favorite local businesses, and my favorite animal rescues, and basically threw money at them all. I don’t regret it. I feel like I’ve contributed, and I ended up with some really cool swag. (I have enough sweatshirts for all of eternity, please don’t let me buy anymore. ever.) I bought a few gifts and pre-paid for a haircut with my friend. She needs the money now and will happily cut my hair when it’s safe to do so again.

On top of that, I’m not driving regularly, and not parking downtown. This is saving me heaps of money as it costs $18 a day downtown, and I typically put gas in my car about every 10 days. Now it’s more like every 40 days. And since I am working from home I don’t need to pay for any transportation or parking costs.

All in all, I think I am probably coming in about even, maybe saving a little money. I think the longer this continues, the more I will save, balancing out the money I spent initially. How about you? How are you handling your finances through this?

More frugal things (because it has just been that kind of week)

  • Back in January I bought tickets to a concert for my closest friend and I for her birthday. It was scheduled for June 24th and I was crossing my fingers that by some miracle we would be able to attend. Of course, the show has been cancelled. While I am super bummed, there will always be another show. And this morning I saw that the cost of ticket was refunded to my account. So that money went straight into savings.
  • While I was online looking at my bank statement I noticed two charges of $70 from Instacart (the grocery delivery app). Yesterday I ordered groceries for delivery and they put a hold on your card of a certain dollar amount, and then refund you the difference based on what you actually spend. But twice? That didn’t make sense. So I reached out to customer service, and if it doesn’t disappear in 10 days I will contact them again for a refund. It always pays to check your statements people!
  • I have been eating a lot of snacky bits instead of full meals these days, and that works just fine for me. Half a bowl of steamed rice? Snack. Leftover broccoli? Snack. Strange, but it’ll do and it will prevent food waste!
  • I sent referral codes for Imperfect Produce boxes to three friends and they all signed up! I should have $30 credit for this so that’s very exciting!
  • Not exactly frugal, but I have been sending at least one card a day to a friend or loved one. I think it is so important to stay connected now more so than ever. And everyone loves getting mail that isn’t a bill. So I am happy to send random cards to the people I care about to brighten their day.
Wayne and I on Earth Day two years ago. He kept saying “Momo hair” as the wind blew my hair in my face. He would very carefully pull the hair aside, only for the wind to do it again. Sigh, hair Momo. One of my very favorite memories with him.

Covid 19 Frugal Five

1) I’ve been eating meals on repeat so as to not waste anything. I don’t mind eating the same meal day after day. It’s actually nice not having to think about it.

2) I’ve been using up what I have, since going to the store isn’t an option. Today for lunch I had purple potatoes, broccoli and egg. Random, but it worked! And I didn’t waste those random bits of food.

3) Because I am driving so infrequently, I filled up my tank of gas this week for the first time in 5 weeks. While I typically don’t drive a ton, rarely does a tank last a month.

4) I baked blueberry muffins. My mom’s muffin recipe is amazeballs. And buying a dozen muffins anywhere would certainly cost more than the ingredients I used to make them (including frozen berries I picked last summer)

5) I traded with a friend. I offered up two quarts of chicken stock, plus a quart of chicken soup and half a dozen carrot cake cupcakes. She shared home made gnocchi and scones. It was such a lovely way to show that we care for one another, while still remaining apart. And let me tell you, that human knows what they are doing in the kitchen and I will now need to learn to make gnocchi.

What about you? What have you been up to lately?

The big elephant

Let’s just talk about what’s on all of our minds: the coronavirus which is currently taking over the world. How do we react? How are you handling it?

I’m sure you are following the news like the rest of us. Being bombarded by the media at every moment of the day. And I don’t want to add to your concern, your stress.

So I just want to say to you, we will be ok. We need to be careful, look after the ones we love. Be responsible. Look after your friends and neighbors. Make good decisions. (You probably don’t need 6 cases of toilet paper, but I’m not judging you.)

I know everyone is in a state of mild panic. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. But there are ways to stay connected and help out our communities without causing more concern. Drop off food to a neighbor who may be in need. Take surplus food to your local food bank. Wash your hands. Stay home if you aren’t feeling well. Buy a gift card to your favorite restaurant or boutique so that they could have the funds now, while you could stay away for the time being. We are in this together.

What concerns are on your radar? What are you thinking about this weekend?

Five Frugal Things

  1. Today I took my sweet pup to his follow up oncologist appointment. Though this may not seem frugal in and of itself, but by keeping up on his medication and his blood work I can plan for his medication without any unpleasant surprises. He gets his blood count checked regularly to be sure we are giving him the proper dosage of his medication, ultimately keeping our costs lower.
  2. Yesterday I bought a $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco. First I stripped all the meet off the bones, then I put the bones into the crock pot with some veggies I had hanging around in the freezer. (I keep a bag for any odds and ends like tops of carrots bits of celery and onion, etc.) The stock went into a huge pot and I made chicken soup with the meat. I added some potatoes I already had on hand, as well as some extra veggies. The whole thing cost only the cost of the chicken and made probably 10 to 12 servings of soup. I will freeze most of it for evenings when I’m not feeling like cooking or am under the weather (because no one wants to cook when they’re sick!)
  3. I borrowed a Harry Potter book from a friend/neighbor. I have been re-reading the books and loving every minute of it. My mom has the whole set, so I just swing by every weekend to grab the next one. This week however I was too quick and found myself finished with book 3 (Prisoner of Azkaban) without a copy of book 4 (Goblet of Fire). Desperate, I thought of all the possible ways I could get my hand on the book in the next 12 hours. Then I realized that a friend who lives less than a hundred yards away ALSO has all the books. A quick text and he said of course I could borrow his copy. No money spent, and got to have a quick visit with a friend. Win Win!
  4. Speaking of Costco, I bought only exactly what I needed yesterday while I was there: one rotisserie chicken and one 40 pound bag of dog food (this will last my two dogs about a month). Costco has really reasonably priced dog food and it’s gentle on my boys’ sensitive stomachs.
  5. Tomorrow will be my first day in the office in a week (bonus points: working from home means no temptation to eat out or grab coffee because I’m bored) and I have my lunch/snacks packed, iced coffee ready to go in the thermos tomorrow morning. I will be at work from 12-8pm so I have enough food to cover two meals and a few snacks in between. I will have no reason to purchase any food or drinks.

Frugality isn’t necessarily huge things. It’s little things, day after day, that help us achieve other goals in life. What frugal things have you been up to lately?

Charleston, completely unrelated, but ridiculously adorable

How I am choosing to spend Cyber Monday

How was your Thanksgiving everyone? Mine was lovely: quiet, with family, chill. I didn’t have to travel out of town, I didn’t have to cook a whole big meal, so I would say it was a huge success. My mom did cook most of the meal, and I was responsible for the mashed potatoes (that I think I can handle.) It was tasty and fun and nothing major happened. Just the way I like it.

please enjoy this picture of the adorable Charleston, which has absolutely nothing to do with frugality

Skip ahead to black Friday and SHOCKER, I stayed in and addressed holiday cards. I am sure there were deals in abundance out in the world, but I chose to stay in. Even if something is 60% off, that’s still money I don’t need to be spending right now. Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

I, like many people, am working on paying off some pretty hefty bills at the moment (I was in a car accident recently, and my dog had major surgery) so I have lots of bills and not exactly a lot of additional money coming in. So while it would be easy to spend money on things that I don’t need just because they are on sale, I decided to stay home. And the same goes for today, Cyber Monday. I opted to simply go to work. I took the train. I picked up books at the library. I drank the coffee provided at work. I packed my lunch. Nothing terribly exciting. And yet, all things getting me ever so slightly closer to my goal.

I will admit that I spent a decent chunk of change this weekend on a 70th birthday gift for my mother, but it was purely coincidence that it happened the weekend after Thanksgiving. I had been searching for MONTHS for the perfect gift, and it impossible to find the right thing. My brothers and I decided to go in on the gift together, so that we could get her something nicer, that she would really appreciate and wear on a regular basis. So after visiting basically every local jewelry shop in Portland (support small businesses people!) I finally found the right necklace. It suits her personality, her style, and it’s timeless. I think she will love it. And because we split the cost three ways, none of us were really hurting with this purchase.

What about you? Are you going to shop today or stay home?

a follow up

Recently I wrote about how being chronically ill adds a line to my budget and creates cost where there otherwise wouldn’t be. I think I am going to try to view this in another light.

This morning I drove to work. This means tonight I will have to pay $18 to have parked for the day. I do not love this expense, but I am choosing to see it as unavoidable. I don’t park downtown everyday as that would definitely blow my budget. But I am going to make an allowance for an average of a day a week.

Here’s the thing, Crohn’s really doesn’t care if I need to be at work at a given time. I am going to feel crummy/get an upset tummy whenever it damn well decides to. So being able to drive and park myself is a comfort that I need to account for. Not always, but some days it’s just necessary.

Today was one of those days. I had drive the past two days to work because of doctor’s appointments and not feeling well due to a delayed reaction to my iron infusion. So I bit the bullet and just drove to work. Could I have survived the train ride? Probably. But did I want to risk an incident on public transportation when I really wasn’t feeling well? Definitely not. So I drove. And I paid to park. And I’ll do it again tonight.

It’s annoying but necessary. It is definitely NOT frugal. However, as someone with a chronic illness, there is really no way around it. I will continue to do my best and take the train to work as many days as possible. Some weeks I manage to take it every single day. Some weeks it’s just not going to happen, and this was one of those weeks.

So instead of beating myself up over it, I decided to account for it in my budget. That way, I know it’s coming, and I know I will have the money for it.

These little changes can go a long way towards a budget and goals. If I take into account that I may need to spend $18 a week or so on parking, I will be mindful of that extra spending and account for it elsewhere. It’s not perfect, but it’s what will work for me. Living with this illness is a constant struggle and learning curve. I am working on figuring out what is best for me, and this is just another piece of the puzzle.

These flowers have nothing to do with this post, but we could all use more flowers.

Reading: my favorite frugal activity

My dad will tell you that I am the most well read individual he knows. Personally I highly doubt this to be true. But I will admit to being a voracious reader. I have a list of to-read books a mile long, and a stack next to my bed to match. I read at lunch, before bed, on public transit. I read every single day.

I like to read books recommended by friends or family, I read books mentioned in blogs or news articles, books by favorite authors, or simply books I happen upon. So ya, I read A LOT.

Most of the books I read come from the library. I update my “books on hold” list weekly, so that I have a constant supply of books available to me. Sometimes I have to wait months for a book I want to come in, but that’s part of the fun! It means I get to randomly read the new one by Murakami (one of my favorite authors) when I happen to be in picking up another book on my list.

You’ll see from the photo above it’s a “Lucky Day!” selection. These are books that typically have a waiting list a mile long. The library keeps a small number of them available so if you happen to be lucky and get to the library the day it’s available, you can check it out without the long wait! Needless to say I was VERY excited about this one.

There are still of course a few books I will always buy. Murakami tends to fall into that category. However, the last book of his to come out I was less than impressed with sadly. So I wanted to read it first to determine if I was willing to shell out the hefty price of a new hardback book. Even if I waited until it was out in paperback, it’s still close to 800 pages, so I knew it wouldn’t come cheap.

Any who, back to the library. For someone who reads as much as I do, it is a total game changer. I average anywhere from one to three books a week. Even buying used that would be a minimum of $5 a week, times 52 weeks a year. That’s a minimum of $260 a year. Even though that isn’t a huge expense, it certainly would impact anyone’s budget. If I bought a new hardback book weekly, they average close to $20! $1,040 a year! I definitely could put that money to good use elsewhere.

So I turn to the library. Our library system has branches all over town, including one just a few blocks from my parents’ house. I use this opportunity weekly to pick up my books and spend an hour or so catching up with my family. More often than not, my mom and I end up on the porch reading (I got it from my mama). And it is truly one of the best parts of my week. Sometimes I’ll also have it so that I can pick a book up from the location on my train route to work. It allows me to pick them up on my commute without having to drive anywhere. I call that a definitely win-win.

Reading calms me, centers me, reminds me of all the things that are good in this world. It allows me an escape from daily life and shows me all that life CAN be. The fact that I can get books for FREE from the library is one of my very favorite things in the world. And it happens to be super frugal to boot!

So tell me, read anything good lately?

Is it possible to be frugal with a chronic illness?

I have not always been practically frugal. I was definitely that kid who earned ten bucks and had spent it within the hour. Lip gloss, hair clips, you name it. I was not so great at saving up for something big. But I got better with practice, as is most things. I saved up for my spending money on a trip to Spain with classmates. Each summer in college I worked a full time job so I could have money during the year to eat out and buy clothes. But it takes practice.

I paint this picture as a way of saying that I’m not so great at being frugal. I have to really try and think about my actions, and try hard to see the big picture.

While I truly enjoy cooking at home and making meals from scratch, sometimes I just don’t plan well (as was the case yesterday when I left the house for an early doctor’s appointment before work, totally forgetting to take ANY food with me. I was away from home until 9pm). This meant that I had to pick up lunch AND dinner out if I had any interest in actually eating for the day. Oops. If I had really thought about it I would have packed double the food the night before so all I should have had to do was grab my lunch bag. But alas, that’s now how it went. And I ended up spending about $18 on food yesterday. Ugh.

All this brings me to my question: can you be frugal with a chronic illness? A chronic illness in and of itself is not frugal. Even with insurance, doctor’s visits, medication (over the counter and prescription), therapists for the inevitable feelings of isolation and depression, special diet, it all adds up, and fast!

This is not to say there aren’t ways to be frugal while living with chronic illness, but I certainly think it’s more difficult and takes additional planning.

Let’s take food, for instance. I have a very finicky diet and can’t eat a lot of things. This means I have to stick to a strict shopping list. And if I don’t have those foods on hand, I am far more likely to order out for something I can eat. Granted, this usually means I am ordering plain noodles, rice or soup. But this still comes with a delivery fee if nothing else. So that adds up. And if i’m out with friends I need to remember to take my own food with me lest I end up buying food out simply because I can’t find something to eat wherever we are.

Many people with chronic illness find themselves home more often than their “healthy” counter parts. We may earn less simply because we can’t put in as many hours at work. So we are at a disadvantage to begin with.

Let’s also take into consideration last minute doctor’s appointments. I may run out the door to get to an appointment and realize my dogs are going to be left unattended now for 12 hours. So I’ll hop on an app and have to pay someone to walk my dogs during the day. (My roommate and I are on opposite schedules so that theoretically the dogs are only crated for about 4 hours a day.) Or I get to work only to realize that what I packed to eat that day simply isn’t going to work for my tummy that day (Crohnies, you know what I’m talking about). So I need to figure something else out. The frugal solution would be to keep rice and other shelf stable items in my desk. But honestly, I just forget sometimes!

Here’s the thing, I’m not perfect. No one is perfect. But I think there are definite barriers for those of us with chronic illnesses that make frugality even more challenging. I have friends with Celiac disease who struggle with their food budget because gluten free can be a challenge in today’s highly processed world. Even if they were to buy solely fresh produce, that adds up quickly!

Most importantly, let’s not judge anyone simply for not being “frugal enough” for some random standard. We are all trying our best to keep ourselves fed and healthy, and doing so as frugally as possible.