money

Getting Gas

Gassing up my car used to be a huge to-do. I worked just 12 miles from home, but when you add in traffic and dropping my son at his school, the journey took about 45 minutes. I got gas almost every week, but sometimes I pushed it to two weeks. Working from home means I get gas once a month, which is such an amazing perk! My son’s new school is only 3 miles away, and all of our errands are pretty local. Sometimes we drive out to the suburbs to visit friends and family, but that’s rare (wow, I sound like the biggest hermit…). A bonus is that we have two restaurants and a small grocery store within walking distance, and my parents also live close enough to walk, so we get exercise when we visit or pick up a few items from the store. And, of course, save on gas!

This isn’t a sponsored post, but it will sound like it. (Sponsor me!) Kroger fuel points have been a huge help in saving gas money. We buy all our groceries at Kroger, save the random items we pick up at the nearby store as needed. I spend about $300 on food at Kroger every month, and that comes to be 30 cents off a gallon of gas when I fill up!

Receipts often have a code at the bottom, and you can complete a short survey to get 50 extra fuel points. DO THIS! It is worth it. It’s short, mostly multiple choice, and pays off! You can do one survey every 7 days, so that helps me plan my grocery visits – I don’t want to go too often just because it adds up (and I hate grocery shopping…), so at least 7 days apart is a great goal for me.

During the summer, you get double fuel points at Kroger if you shop on the weekends. I’ve started going on Sunday mornings, when people are at church or sleeping in, and I can get in and out quickly with those double fuel points.

There are some gas stations that will give you a discount if you come inside and pay in cash. I am going to sound like the laziest person ever, but… I don’t do that. I treat gas stations like a drive thru – I stop at the pump and stay at the pump! That’s why I stick with Kroger gas – I know the discount is already on my card.

Other stations take Kroger cards too, so that’s worth checking in to – one of those might be closer to your home or work so it’s efficient to get to. My Kroger station is close enough, and I try to fill up after I get groceries, since I’m already there.

There are apps to scout great gas prices too, but my phone is basic and doesn’t have enough memory for stuff like that. There are also websites you can use online, and sometimes it’s worth a long drive to get cheap gas! If you use gas for your lawn mower, you can fill up your gas can at the same time and keep that discount going! My parents used to save up for a huge Kroger discount, then take both cars and fill one up after the other! So you can see I came by this “saving” mentality honestly!

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Four

This week felt so productive, both inside and outside the house.

  • I separated one of my aloe plants; it had multiplied from one into five or six – it was hard to tell with the roots tangled. I wet the plant and gently massaged the roots (I felt like the Plant Whisperer) and re-potted it into five different pots. Now I have more greenery around the house!
  • My photography show wrapped up so I was able to take down the work and hang them around my house. Some of them had previously been hanging in my house, but some nails were newly empty since my husband took some of his paintings, so it’s nice to have those empty spaces filled. I didn’t hang everything up because I don’t want cluttered walls – and some of the pieces sold – BOOYAH! I’m so excited that 5 of my pieces are now hanging on strangers’ walls! And am also happy that some of my work is gracing my own walls again.
  • I also cleaned the house a LOT this week. Closets are organized, I moved some rugs around and cleaned floors and I LOVE the look and feel of my house right now. Still some work to do, but I feel light and can breathe easily and this space feels like mine again!
  • When getting something from the attic, I remembered that there are still some baby things up there to donate. (I am a prime example of “out of sight, out of mind”!) I had 3 bags in my closet to take to donate, so I took those in the attic to help my room feel clean. I think I am going to have to borrow a pickup truck for my next donation run, which will hopefully happen soon!
  • My latest utility bill is down about $30 MORE, and it had already gone down about $30 in the past month or two! This is with me using the A/C and fans, so it’s nice to know it’s not expensive to stay at the comfy temp I’m used to.
  • Update: the Chinese dinner ordered on Friday actually provided eight meals, making it mathematically about the same as meals prepared at home!
  • I went grocery shopping and got enough food and supplies for… a LONG time. It was the same amount as my last grocery bill, so I know I can stay in that range twice a month, though I will be buying more produce in between major shopping trips. So my grocery bill is what I projected, even though that projection was a “Yeah right, I wish.” Win!
  • I used ONLY canvas bags at the grocery this time. I did self checkout because I usually prefer the route of least human interaction. But the self checkout does not understand that canvas bags weigh a little bit. It scolded me after pretty much EVERY item that I needed to put it in the bag, or remove it from the bag and make sure it was the right item. Next time I will try a regular line again. I did once with canvas bags and the bagger had no problem with it, but I prefer to not have to be like “Oh I brought my own bags, SORRY.” I guess I could just bag my own at a clerked line… hm.

Not-so-goods:

  • EVERYONE’S BIRTHDAY IS IN MAY! That means I bought cards and gifts and meals out. Yup. MEALS out. Like… three times in one week. It was special stuff though, not just fast food, and of course these are rare occurrences, so I enjoyed them all – food AND company!
  • I just felt stressed overall. Looking back at my planner – wow. This was a huge week. To me, living minimally also means cutting down on stress, drama, etc, so I failed hard in that regard this week. But that should be somewhat rare also – fingers crossed!
home life, money

Living Without A/C: Part 2

I left off with everyone wondering: Did she turn on the air conditioning? Did she turn on the A/C?

I heard you.

And yes, I’ve turned it on by now. Remember I was suffering at 78 degrees on May 2nd, at 10pm? I thought nights were supposed to be cooler, but… that doesn’t happen so much around here. Keeping my bedroom window open worked for 2 nights, but I just couldn’t cool down.

One night in early May I was in bed, staring up at my ceiling, willing myself to cool down… and I spotted that switch on my ceiling fan. I remember learning that you could flip the switch to use fans in winter to keep the warm air circulating, but I didn’t remember doing it.

Google to the rescue! Ceiling fans should turn counter-clockwise to cool the room, and clockwise to keep it warm. I had to stop my bedroom fan and start it again to see which way the blades were spinning.

Clockwise!

I turned it off again, waited until it stopped spinning (crucial step), and flipped the switch. Once the dust started flying off the blades (shame my housekeeping skills!), I vaguely remembered switching it for winter – because dust flew off then, too.

I tiptoed into my sleeping son’s warm oven of a room, staring up at his ceiling fan. Counter-clockwise, but it was so warm I stopped it, flipped the switch, and gave it a shot. Not much difference, but I put it back the way it was. I’m pretty sure it was on the cool setting.

My two new ceiling fans were off since the house was hunkered down for sleep, but I started them up – one was going counter-clockwise, but the other had to be changed.

The fan in the back room is the heartiest I’ve ever seen – it keeps that room as cool as the inside of a refrigerator. I knew it was spinning correctly.

The house got a lot cooler after that. It was too warm to keep windows open, but the fans alone kept the house at 76 or 77 degrees every day. Sometimes, in the mornings, it was downright cool. Not too shabby.

On May 7th, my son and I visited my parents’ house. As we approached, I could tell the windows were shut tight. I knew what that meant – their A/C was on!

Sure enough, they had turned it on before the extra-warm weekend hit. I mistakenly thought their goal had always (since my childhood) been to make it until June 1st, but Mom told me it was May 1st, with the crazy heat we get. Both parents seemed impressed we hadn’t turned our air on yet.

As soon as we got home, I turned on the fans. It was pretty warm. I glanced at the thermostat. 78. Did I want to live like this? Nahhh. Besides, I had beat out my parents, and they acknowledged my sacrifice (shhh – let me have this!). So I turned on the air on the evening of May 7th. Quite far from my original (misguided) June 1st deadline, but the house sure is comfortable now.

My new heating and cooling system is efficient and cut down my utility bills. Plus the ceiling fans still help – they keep the house cool enough that I don’t need the A/C on very high. Right now it’s at 77 and I’m at my desk with a fan swirling above me, and the breeze is a little cool!

I haven’t looked into how much it costs to run a ceiling fan (or multiple ceiling fans), or how much it costs compared to running the A/C. So we’ll check out that utility bill at the end of the month and report back.

home life, money, natural living

Living Without Air Conditioning

I’m not.

Living without air conditioning, that is. So I guess this title is clickbait, sorry!

I tried to live without air conditioning. My yard gets nice sun and my windows let in a nice amount of natural light, but overall my house stays pretty cool. I had a new heating and cooling system put in about two years ago – a major investment, but worth it because there has been a noticeable drop in my utility bills, while my house still stays at an enjoyable temperature.

This spring I had two ceiling fans added into the house. The 2 bedrooms and back playroom already had fans with light fixtures. The living room didn’t have anything – we used two wall mounted lamps and a floor lamp in the corner for meager light. My “office” had a chandelier, because it was technically a dining room. Slight digression for the glorious Mitch Hedberg:

I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don’t you? “F*(% you, real estate lady! This bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom’s got a lot of people sitting around watching TV. This bedroom’s over in that guy’s house! Sir, you have one of my bedrooms, are you aware? Don’t decorate it!”

I hated the chandelier, and wanted to get a cool light fixture to spruce up my office, but then I figured since I was switching out the fixture already, why not get a practical fan?

So I did. I bought the most basic white builder’s fan for my office, and a slightly more stylish white fan for the living room. The living room didn’t have anything on the ceiling other than that lovely popcorn finish, so I had to hire electricians. They went up in the attic and drilled and cut and wired and did their thing very quickly and efficiently, and switched out my office chandelier, and voila! I had a fan in every room but the kitchen.

Having ceiling fans everywhere, and a window in every room that could open, made me think I could live without air conditioning until June 1st. That was my goal. Think of the low, low utility bill! Think of how empowered I would feel, beating the system, living life au natural!

Cue getting ready for bed, slightly sweaty, looking at the thermostat – 78 degrees! Oh my god, I’m not going to last! What day is it? It was May 2nd. I kept thinking I wasn’t going to make it…

 

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Three

I’ve been decluttering for several months now, but I feel like the past week or two have been my spring cleaning time. It will definitely continue to the next two weeks as well, because I have a lot to do and want to get it mostly done before summer is in full swing.

  • I went through old papers that were kept in the “Important Papers” folder. Some related to old jobs, some just were out of date. At my son’s first preschool, a half-page progress report was sent home every day. I saved these – for quite awhile, it seemed! I guess I was so nervous and proud of him starting full-time school at 2 years old that I wanted to keep them? I’m not sure of the reasoning. But they were only printed on one side, so I kept those, and other one-sided papers that didn’t have any personal info on them and cut them up into scrap paper. I put a small stack near the computer to jot down notes, and pinned others to the fridge to use for grocery lists. Papers with personal info will be shredded and recycled.

paperslips

  • Instead of buying a new room spray, I added water and a few drops of lavender oil to the empty spray bottle. This should seem like a given, but I was seriously about to add a new bottle to my Amazon cart before I realized – DUH! I can make my own. Embarrassingly simple to have overlooked like that.
  • My mom sent me a link to a nice top that “looked like me”. It was on clearance and I was very tempted to buy it! I even looked around the site some more and added another item or two to my cart. They were all on clearance, but I clicked the window closed. I don’t need new clothes. I already have too many clothes I don’t wear, and I don’t need to be spending money on more, even on clearance prices.
  • On a similar note – I am unsubscribing from emails that ask me to buy something. Sites I’ve bought from before continually email me with coupon codes, special deals, new merch, etc. I don’t need any of it! If I see it, I might want it. Even if I click out without buying anything, it’s still a waste of time and mental energy to stop myself, so why not cut out the temptation completely?
  • I cut several things out of my Amazon Subscribe and Save list. Things I don’t need, or don’t need as often, or can just buy at the grocery store with digital coupons. I still to evaluate the actual worth of Subscribe and Save, but I’ll get to that later.
  • The week was rainy off and on, so it was cooler out. We turned the thermostat to be warmer and even then the ceiling fans kept us really cool!
  • I organized a LOT in the 2 small closets in the back room (and cleaned up that room overall) and the hall closet. I threw out old stuff in the bathroom and rearranged the bins we use to store things (the bathroom is basically ALL open shelving). Next up: the 2 bedroom closets.

On to the not-so-great:

  • I did two loads of laundry this week, one was the usual load and one was smaller because it included my son’s stuffed animal. I put both in the dryer – the stuffed animal because I wasn’t sure if it would thoroughly dry on the line and get soft, and the regular load because it was raining off and on all week, usually coming on suddenly, and I didn’t want to hang out clothes and risk them getting rained on and having to re-wash.
  • My son and I ate fast food lunch this week. Not great because I am trying to be healthier, and I feel like having fast food can sometimes be “breaking the seal” for me. I haven’t had it in so long and I’ll be fine, but once I had it, I remember how delightfully junky it truly is, and how easy to pick up and eat with no prep and little clean up! But it was after we had a nice, special morning together, and I’m not craving it a couple of days later, so maybe it’s ok this time. It was more than we usually spend on meals made at home, though, which is another great reason to cut it out.
  • Another day we had Chinese for dinner. Again, I love Chinese but the longer I go without it, the longer I can last without it. I was craving it one night and my son said he wanted it too, so I ordered it. What we order isn’t too expensive, and the leftovers last so long, that it turns out to only be a few dollars more per meal than things we would make ourselves. So it’s not really a bad thing (we get at least 3 meals apiece from our order) but it’s not great we did it the same week as having fast food.
donating, fun, home life

Let the Music Do the Talking

I used to have a HUGE music collection. As a teenager, there was nothing I loved more than spending my money on CDs. This was that weird period where CD and cassette singles were being phased out, but iTunes wasn’t up and running to buy whatever individual songs you wanted. There was Napster, sure (wow am I dating myself…), but you ran the risk of downloading something that was 3 minutes of static instead of the song, or even worse, a virus that could kill your computer. What a time to be alive!

Instead, I’d go to Best Buy (I can’t stand them now because of all the time I spent there as a teen) and buy an $18 CD. I always made myself listen to the whole album… kinda. I would start it and listen to all the songs before the radio single (which always seems to be track 3 or 4). Then I’d usually be hooked on those songs and keep going back to re-listen. Which was actually ok, because then I had “new” music to listen to later, when I finally listened to the last half of the album!

Cut to present day. I decided to upload all of my music onto my computer and give away most of my CDs. I kept all of my favorite bands’ albums, and some bootlegs and rare stuff. Even some CD singles, believe it or not! (I still have a few cassettes in my car from when my tape player worked – RIP.)

I still buy music, but through iTunes. No liner notes to read over as the album plays – so sad! Did anyone else love doing that? If I buy a record from a favorite artist, it will come with a digital download code, so I download and import into iTunes.

My laptop died about a year ago; I was sad, but thought “oh well.” I logged into iTunes on my desktop and voila – over half my music was gone! Apple support told me that those albums had been downloaded onto my hard drive, not into iTunes – even though I imported all of the music into iTunes.

Is this common knowledge? If not, I’m an idiot and missed it somehow. But I feel like this is not really advertised. Of course, there is the whole issue of you not really “owning” the music you buy through iTunes like you would “own” a CD, so I’m pretty confused about all of that. But I digress.

Luckily I backed up my computers regularly, including my iTunes folders, so I still have most or all of the albums as digital files on my external hard drive. But if I hadn’t done that, just thinking “Since they’re in my iTunes account, they’ll link up anywhere!”, then I would be out a WHOLE lot of music.

In the long run, it wouldn’t REALLY matter, because I don’t know what albums I’m missing. I could go through it all and check, but that won’t happen. What usually happens is I’m dying to hear a certain song, scroll around, and realize it’s not on my iPod. (Yes I still have an iPod.) Then I get sad, but I usually just find it on YouTube or look for it on my external drive if I remember by the time I get home.

I got rid of a lot of CDs and am very proud of that – compare my collections! This was my collection in high school/college – sorry for the blurriness, but you can get a good idea of how many CDs I owned!

cdsold

I think my mom gave me this card catalog when I moved into my first apartment. All of those drawers used to be filled with CDs, with others stacked on top. I have more CDs than shown here – each drawer holds about 18 – which is a LOT! And I don’t even have a CD player, besides my computer. But they hold memories and I can’t let go yet, so at least they are nicely organized and out of the way.

cdsnow

Next up: getting rid of records!

 

 

donating, money

Selling Your Stuff

I used to sell a lot online; this was when I was an undergrad and needed all the pennies I could collect. I would sell old textbooks on half.com (RIP – that was the BEST site to sell on), and I sold a few things on eBay that took off in the last few minutes of the auction, much to my broke-student relief!

Since then, I haven’t sold much online. I used to list a lot of books on PaperbackSwap, but that’s a fair trade, not selling. When it comes to getting rid of things, I would rather get rid of them immediately instead of have them lurking around a week in hopes they sell. I try to match my items with the best donation center, like taking books to the library and baby clothes to Catholic Charities, who gives them to families for free.

I had a few days with no projects on the task list, so I decided to take time to list a bunch of items I had around the house. I had planned on donating them, but I thought they might be worth something to someone. A Squirrel Girl figurine, for example – just donating that might be a waste because they might not know what it is. Why not list it for a couple of bucks?

I ended up listing 31 items over 2 days. It took about 15 minutes to list each item, from photographing it and measuring it, to writing about it. I tried to write funny, engaging descriptions because I’ve seen auctions go well because of the writing. I wasn’t trying to go viral – I just wanted someone to want one of my things and bid on it because they liked the overall tone and wanted to buy from me over someone else.

Three items sold from my first day of auctions. Three out of thirteen. Not great.

Three more sold the next day. Three out of eighteen. Even worse.

I thought it was better than nothing – I wasn’t working those days, so at least it was something. You could say that I made about $70 on those days, for about 10 hours of work (listing, packing, shipping).

Then… the post office. I don’t know if I got ripped off, or if ebay shipping estimates are just totally off, or what. But I spend almost $45 on shipping! This majorly cut into my profits. I still made about $30 on junk I was going to get rid of anyway, so I’m trying to see it as free money. But I put so much work into it… just not worth it.

For me, it’s just easier to donate what I don’t want anymore. I know I paid money for it, but I got my use out of the item and don’t need it anymore, so what little I actually lose on it is fine, because I get peace of mind. I know the item is not cluttering up my house anymore, and hopefully it goes to someone who wants it. I will probably list a few more specific things, like camera accessories, but otherwise I’ll just donate the bulk of my unwanted items.

Have you had good luck selling things online? Is it worth the time and effort you put in?