Friday, September 28, 2012

Bridezilla attacks!!

Everybody here wants to do the right thing. We want to repurpose instead of recycling. We'd rather recycle something than trash it. We want to be green.

But right now the only green part of me is the part of me that's green with envy. Envy of people with empty closets. Because I am so sick of looking at these things!

Look closely...can you see them? The huge boxes on the left?
 When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we were unfortunately very easily manipulated by family members who had their own agendas. We let other people make decisions about the party (and at first, about the ceremony too) because we thought we were being good children/granchildren. Minor detail: the husband and I paid for the wedding out of our own pockets. And to give you an idea of the amount we spent, we could've bought a car with what we spent. A very, very nice car. 

Screw that. All I did was make myself miserable by letting other people decide how to spend my money and tell me what religion my non-existent children should follow. By the time the big day rolled around the hubs and I had grown something resembling spines. We were able to tell people how we wanted our ceremony to go. I really envy the women who become bridezillas, because as least they have the strength of character not to get walked all over at their wedding.

But two years later I'm still letting other people's ideals dictate my happiness. Case in point, two things from the wedding that I still have because I haven't been able to do the "right" things with them.

The vases we used as part of the centerpieces at our wedding reception. I've been trying to tell myself to be green and take them to the thrift shop so that they could be reused. But after keeping them in my closet for months I am sick and tired of seeing them. They went in the recycling bin this morning.

The next thing was a bag of plastic pink heart confetti that Grandmom tried to convince me to put on the tables at the wedding. I hate plastic. I hate confetti. I hate pink. And yet I kept it because I'm not supposed to waste them, right? They went in the trash can.

I feel so wasteful. But I feel like the true waste here is the amount of mental energy I've put into trying to do the "right" thing with these objects (whatever that is) instead of going out and grabbing what I really want -- the space in my closet.

The right thing to do with these objects is to get them out of my home so that I can be happy. Now.

Oh yeah, I got rid of this mirror too. It was another gift from Grandmom (Miss "I can't bear to see it go to waste!") It's been sitting in my closet for over a year now and I have no use for it. I don't want to waste the gas to drive all the way out to the used home goods donation place when I have nothing else to take out there. It goes in the recycling too.

Have you ever tossed something that you knew could be recycled just because you needed it out of the house? What were your thoughts about doing that?

The Reckoning
Well, the mirror didn't cost money. The stuff for the wedding...well, I paid for that. But at least some of it got used. Add three more things to the tally of items chucked.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday's Fashion Fallout: What do you call two banana peels?

A pair of slippers! That would've been more fashionable than these hideous slippers:

Black watch plaid? What was I thinking?

It's Friday! What fashion fails have you gotten rid of today?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I'm going to get political

Capitalism is the worst kind of economics. Except for all of the others.

There are pros and cons to capitalism. But crapitalism? definitely the pits. Capitalism doesn't give a damn about quality of life. Crapitalism is the epitome of capitalism.

So while I think of an original, creative post, please enjoy these thought-provoking words on crapitalism from the New York Times.

See you on Friday!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Finding less expensive options

Part of learning to spend less money is learning about the different options available for things I want to do. So far this week I've had to buy a book for a class I'm taking and also get my dry cleaning done.

Normally I'd go to the organic dry cleaner, but until our finances turn around I'm going to use the dry clean club. Perchlorethylene isn't going to kill me in just three months of dry cleaning and I'll live with the clothes not coming back perfect.. Organic dry cleaning is $25 for five pieces. Dry clean club charges $13.50 for the same clothes. Savings: $11.50.

Instead of buying my textbook I'm borrowing it from a local college library through the interlibrary loan service at my library. I used to find out which library owned the book. I saved $26.50 by doing this.

Fighting my urges has been the biggest saver of cash so far. Every time I want to buy something I don't need immediately I put it into a list. It will wait until next month or it will go on my Christmas list. It looks like this idea has kept me from spending $400 so far this month! You can see all of the things I've coveted or wanted to buy here. Less than a third of those I suspect will actually get purchased. Here's to resisting impulse buys! I can do it!

I'm a third of the way through the month. I've spent ~$205 so far. In recent history I've already spent $500 by the 10th of the month. At this rate I'll have cut my expenses by $900 if I can keep it up!

9-hour workdays = more time with the family

Confusing, right? Most full-time workdays are 8 hours. How in the world do you get more time with the family by spending an extra hour every day at work? We'll see in a bit. But now for something completely different!

Growing up I don't think I realized how much time and money my parents wasted acquiring and dealing with the junk in the house. Money went into buying junk instead of into family vacations. Time went into hunting for anything and everything instead of actually spending productive time with each other. Time went into listening to my parents complain about how they didn't have money, when I realize now that they had a very solid income.

I won't repeat this pattern when I have kids. Oh, I'm sure I'll make my own mistakes. But having time and money to spend on myself and my non-existent children matters to me. It's a large part of why I'm decluttering my living space.

But what about decluttering the rest of my life so that I can have more time and money for the things I really want to do? Well, I've decided to quit cello for a while, and to consider dropping it permanently. I was never very good and while I do enjoy playing a Messiah sing-along every other year it's the only time I play. Guitar and piano are what I'm really interested in. Not going to orchestra rehearsal every Wednesday night frees me up for pre-triathalon swimming training. Spending more time running, biking, and swimming was one of my life goals.

The question that looms in the future is, how do I get more time to spend with my children?  No, I don't have kids yet but we will soon enough. And this, folks, is why I'm going to be tired for the next couple months.

You see, where I work we have an unusual leave plan. You can work up to an extra hour every day and bank that extra hour to use as vacation time.

We know we want to take three big life-goal vacations between now and next January: one week in the Caribbean (wedding present we still haven't cashed in on from the MIL), two weeks at Glacier National Park, and three weeks in Australia.

Math majors beware, I'm going to try some arithmetic!

The three vacations are going to use up 29 days of vacation leave. The way the rules work is that I'm allowed to use batches of three days of banked leave at once. So with three vacations and three days of banked leave saved per vacation, I'll be able to avoid using 9 days of my vacation. Why? 

Because the more I read about life with a baby the more I realize that I'm going to really, really want those nine days when I suddenly find that half of my genetic material somehow got mixed up with the DNA of some guy I've known since 3rd grade. 

So for a while (24 work days until we go to the Caribbean to be exact) I'm going to be shorter on time and energy than usual. I'm complicating things now for the sake of making them easier later. 

I'm unfortunately also in the middle of writing a paper for publication, which is another way of saying a miserable, drawn-out, never-ending, self-deprecating way of justifying the fact that I kept my maiden name so I'd still be recognized in my field (ha!) meanwhile ensuring that I have very little free mental time and more anxiety than I deserve. But my boss wanted our group to get published and I volunteered, so I get what I asked for. So I will really be feeling tired and worn out. 

Will it be worth it?  It's nine measly days. Nine. I'm going to be tired for two months. Nine days / two months. Seems to be quite a difference there. 

Have you ever complicated things for a while to make your life simpler, easier, and more pleasant later?

And since it's a decluttering blog, I better get back to decluttering. 

The Reckoning

Item 139, a box of crayons I bought for my mother four years ago. 

She wanted to sketch the awesome view from my apartment when she visited so I bought her these. The sun rose. The sun set. The crayons stayed in the box. Now they're going into the school supplies donation box at work to help out poor kids. 

Money wasted on the crayons: $7.00
Total money wasted on junk so far: $1504.00

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's not paranoia if they're really after you

The "you buy too much" goons are really after me now. And I deserve it.

I haven't decluttered much lately. I've also been buying more stuff than I'd prefer. We got spooked by a very large credit card bill this month, an unfortunate emergency room visit for the hubs (severe allergic reaction, it happens) and suddenly finding that our long-planned kitchen wall demolition could be moved up to this Fall instead of Winter. Cash (but not savings, fortunately) are tighter than expected. My hallway is getting crowded with stuff to discard that hasn't made it out of the house yet. The books that need to be sold on are waiting to be listed. The clothes for the last few weeks' Friday's Fashion Fallout are still waiting for their date with the donation box.

The most urgent issue is that the purchasing MUST stop. But it's like the eating disorder, I can only go so long before the urge to binge (buy something) overrules the rational desire to behave normally.

At least with shopping, the urge to binge can be fixed safely. I bought a book for my kindle tonight, and then thought better of it. Apparently Amazon has a liberal Kindle books return policy. So I paged through it, got my fix, and returned it. It felt good.

I'm discovering that returning things helps my spending habits a bit. But I still buy too much in the first place. While this does in the end help keep my spending down, it requires a lot of energy. My mother would often buy things, swear she would return them and then I would find the item tossed into a corner in one of the offices later. I don't want to rely on returning things because I may end up getting too lazy to return them.

Do you buy and then return things? Or do you just buy and keep them, even if you regret the purchase?

September expenses

If it's in red, I never should've done it. 

9/1     $50 Nutrition counseling for eating disorder
9/2     No spend day
9/3     No spend day
9/4     $45 guitar lesson
9/5     No spend day
9/6     No spend day
9/7     No spend day!
September week 1 total: $95 

So happy! I could learn to live like this. Until Lululemon puts out another line of purple clothing.

9/8     $13.50 dry cleaning
9/9     $1 soda
9/10   $35 visit to the eye doctor, $65 pool membership
9/11   $45 guitar lesson
9/12   No spend day
9/13   No spend day
9/14   $40 on supplies for my hydroponic garden, $30 on lunch w/ a friend

September week 2 total: $229.5 Bad week.


9/15    $50 Nutrition counseling for eating disorder
9/16    $50 ED group therapy, $10 for swim cap and earplugs for swim practice.
9/17  no spend day
9/18    $45 guitar lesson; $30 for eyebrow shaping
9/19 DUMB!! $43.50 on a discount gift card for next month's eyebrows, then found out that they don't take gift cards anymore. Can't return the gift card. Fortunately I can use it at another salon when I have to get my hair cut. But I now have money sitting around that I can't use. Oh, and I spent $3 on soda.
9/20    $3.50 on food at work
9/21  No spend day
September week 3 total: $235 

9/22  $120 therapy appointment
9/23 $20 metro tickets
9/24 no spend
9/25  $8 on a new journal, $100 on new shoes <what?!>  I found out that my eating disorder therapist is moving to California. All the way across the country. So I have to start out with someone new...this is incredibly stressful. I bought myself new shoes to make my self feel better, and an $8.00 journal to help me do the cognitive behavior therapy techniques that I've learned so I can cope with this. The shoes made me feel better about taking care of myself. The $8 did more to make me realize that this isn't such a horrible event and that I'll get through it and still continue to recover. Skipped my guitar lesson today because of an all-day class downtown.
9/26  No spend day
9/27  $50 on Christmas ornament. $5.00 on supplies for hydroponic garden.
9/28  $7 lunch at work.

Expenses for September week 4: $310.00

9/29 metro $20, notebook for eating disorder notes $8
9/30 no spend!

Total expenses for last days: $28

Total: $898.50!  Yay! I kept my spending under $1000!

Except I've been neglecting to add in my church tithe ($45 this month) and my student loan: $95. That brings the total to $1038.50. Not bad compared to what it's been!

What did I learn from this?
  • Writing everything down and keeping a running total really does help keep track of my spending.
  • I start out strong in a month and then get weaker as time goes on. I need some kind of incentive to encourage myself to behave in the second half of the month. Not sure what though.
  • It's important for me to look at the expenses I know I will have in a month before I have them. That way I know how much disposable in come I'll have.  

August wrap up: oh yeah, it got worse

I spent less than last month, but not by much.

But most of last month's expenses came from eating disorder treatment and having to purchase two new pairs of glasses. I couldn't get around those expenses. But this month had far fewer required expenses and far more fun stuff.

Last month I said my goal was to cut down my clothing purchases. Well, I did that, but my entertainment purchases went way up. And I didn't even buy souvenirs when we went on vacation!

Add to it the fact that we went on vacation this month AND purchased tickets for next year's vacation. In all as a couple we spent EIGHT TIMES what I made in a month when I was in graduate school. And I survived on my grad school income with no help. That shows you how bad our expenses were this month.

Then I found out that our kitchen work has been moved up to next month, three months earlier than I expected. So I need to make sure we have the liquid cash to pay for it. This month I'm going to have to keep our expenses down or we we'll have to sell some stock or ask parents for short-term loans. I have no objections to that because the loans would be easily paid back in less than two months, when we were originally expecting to have the work done. And our parents offered up money to pay for our hugely expensive wedding, but we ended up refusing so that we could make the decisions about what we wanted. If I can FINALLY get my act together maybe I can get our bills down to less than $2000 this month.

So I'll be recording my purchases everyday. Here goes.

Monday, September 3, 2012

morally superior souvenirs

Having just gotten back from a vacation, this New York Times article seems appropriate since it talks about the positive side to souvenirs. It's also a scathing retort to minimalists who use "living with less" as a way of making themselves feel morally superior. Perfect for those of you who have gotten sick of "I'm right, you're wrong minimalism."

My truth is somewhere in the middle. Souvenirs do matter to me. I'm a visual person and I like reminders of the fun I've had in life. 

But there gets to be a point where my souvenirs aren't doing their job efficiently. They multiply to the point where each one doesn't mean much. I can turn anything into a souvenir. Program from my 3rd grade cello concert? Check. Cereal box written in French and English from my family's trip to Canada? Check. Receipt from the bookstore in Austria where I bought the third Harry Potter book the day it came out? Check. 

Needing utterly useless and relatively (or completely) meaningless items to serve as reminders of the past can be a symptom of hoarding. I know this has been a problem for me in the past so I'm trying to reduce the numbers of souvenirs I collect, and to make the ones I do collect worthwhile. 

Last week the hubs and I went to Puerto Rico, checking one place to visit off my list of things I'd do if I won the lottery. I made a conscious effort this time to only pick a souvenir or two. The souvenirs needed to be either useful or *extremely* interesting. I only got two: 

1. A rock.

No kidding, I needed a doorstop at home because we have windows on three sides of our unit and the breeze is constantly making the doors slam. Found it washed up on the beach at our hotel. It's a five-pound coral skeleton and it's a great reminder of the coral we saw when we went snorkeling. 

2. Photos! 
At the Arecibo dish!
This was the photo I saw on a website that made me want to visit Puerto Rico
These are my own pictures of the place in that photo:

An artsy picture of the husband sitting on the wall in the picture that made me want to visit Puerto Rico
One of the world's top ten beaches...on a cloudy day

But that's it. A rock and some photos. I almost ponied up for a diffuser of the intoxicating fragrance that filled the open-air hallways at our hotel. But I refuse to buy anything directly from the hotel and it's available online from the family company that makes it so I can buy it anytime. Maybe I'll ask for it as a Christmas gift.

I like getting souvenirs after the fact. So much is available online direct from overseas retailers. That way I can take the time to decide if they're really worth it.

My engagement ring was actually one of those. Ten years ago I studied abroad in Spain. It was one of the best experiences of my life. While I was there the Crown Prince got engaged and this was the ring he gave to his fiancee, Letizia:

I was completely head-over-heels in all of the royal wedding craziness. So three years ago when my husband proposed and asked me to design my own ring, I jumped at the chance to make myself a reminder of the Boda Real (royal wedding) that I enjoyed so much to bring a little luck to my own marriage. My ring is the same style as Letizia's but in the yellow gold that I prefer (and the smaller price tag that my husband preferred). It's a bit of me, a bit of my husband, and a bit of a reminder of two of my fondest memories all in one object, and I think my favorite souvenir of any adventure in my life.

What's your take on souvenirs? Are they worth it? What were your most/least worthwhile souvenirs?