Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A cheap and fun weekend

In keeping with our goal to dramatically cut back spending on anything that isn't food or medical expenses we planned a cheap weekend filled with good food and good times, a couple errands, and a very small treat for me.

My best friend from work lives out in the country so normally we'll just hang out around where we work. But fortunately for our friendship, Miles' next door neighbor is a certified Honda mechanic and our car needed a bit of work. Andrew does all of the work on our car at a fraction of the price at the dealership. This means we had another excuse to visit my friend.  The car got fixed, we saved a bundle, and Andrew got to make some extra money.  Good all around.

So while Andrew was working, Miles, his girlfriend Mara, the Chief Engineer and I enjoyed a good lunch and literally hours of conversation. Miles then took us to a really awesome used bookstore. In the DC area used bookstores don't exist because they don't make enough money. This was an hour outside of the city so the used bookstores were back and it was a real treat. Sadly there's no picture of me skipping down the aisles.
Miles is hiding in there somewhere

We did splurge and I got a hardback book for $5. I'm devouring it and I'm sure it'll be a book I read several times over. I skipped the chocolate-covered maple-smoked bacon soda and the Leninade that they offered at the cash register. Perhaps next time. Got a good laugh out of it though.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Office decluttering before and after!

 I'm back to decluttering again. The office is one place that I keep meaning to declutter and it never really happens. This AM I finally bit the bullet and started cleaning my two largest drawers.

Drawer 1: Towel for the days I run at lunch, several pairs of heels, 3 umbrellas, and a push-up bra?!

Drawer 2: more shoes, another umbrella, a winter hat, my lunch bag for the day, an ice cube tray and a box of grapenuts.

I decided to declutter by completely emptying out the drawers and then adding items back in. 
This is how it looks now.

This drawer is now for bags and the day's items. The red bag contains a reusable grocery bag. Both bags will stay there for use on days when I have large items to carry home. The blue bag was my handbag for the day, and the tall thing was a sodastream cylinder to take back home to get refilled. 

 The top drawer is now my food drawer. I eat breakfast and my afternoon snack at the office so there are several shelf-stable food items: oatmeal, tinned fruit, sardines, instant latte mix, protein powder, and the red tin has jars of peanut butter and packets of grits and grapenuts for breakfast.  The purple tin contains tea and coffee. I keep enough plates/cups/silverware for two meals or two people. The white box is my box for dirty dishes, which makes it easy to do the cleaning before I leave. 

I can't say it's minimalist, but I can say that every single item in that drawer will get used at least once a week.

Now on to the other drawers!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What the Spanish taught me about money

from lifehacker.com

This is what I feel like I've been doing with money lately. Money can never make it to the piggy bank because I burn it on a new kitchen. A trip to Williamburg. A trip to Spain. Meals out. Trinkets on the internet.

Yes, the kitchen's gorgeous and was ultimately worth the expense. It took up a lot of time and kept me from feeling bored or depressed. Going to Spain was also another expensive distraction. Williamsburg was a trip to lift my mood (and reconnect with good family).

In Spain I lived for three weeks with a wonderful, wonderful 76 year-old lady. This woman had her life figured out. She was extremely wealthy but didn't live like it. She took students because they were interesting, not because she needed the moolah. She lived off the interest of her many assets and mostly spent money on two things:

Food. The food she made was incredible, and I took notes. After a couple weeks I noticed something weird. I had absolutely no desire to eat out. At all. When I got home I heard a quote from Paul Newman: "Why should I go out for a burger when I've got a steak at home?"  Her food was so good that I didn't miss eating out one bit.

Quality time with family and friends. She'd visit her daughter and grandson weekly. Each day at 10 AM she'd go take a walk and meet friends for a $2 coffee, then chat away the morning. Her adult son stopped by each day for lunch (this is normal in Spain).

I didn't see her spend money on anything else except medicine, rent and utilities. She cleaned the house daily and it was immaculate and a joy to stay there. And in spite of being a widow she was one of the happiest people I've ever met. I don't think my home needs to be immaculate but I do think that a clean, decluttered home makes you want to stay and relax there and not need so many distractions.

What to take from this? If my goal is to stop shopping to fill an emotional void, I want to try to attack that emotional void like a Spaniard.

1. Focus more on preparing really, really good food.
2. Spend more time with friends
3. Clean the house a bit every day.
4. Walking every day.

These things should make me happy and take up quite a bit of time. I'll be less bored, healthier, and happier, I hope. Maybe less in debt in the end. It's an experiment. Let's see how it goes!

I'm back!

Hello everyone! I'm back from my study abroad trip to Spain albeit a little early. The country was beautiful, the people were wonderful, and I learned a lot about a great many things. And my history class was pretty awesome too. I think it was one of the best classes I've taken in the course of many, many years in school because the professor taught me a new way of thinking about the events of the past.
A recap of some of the sights we enjoyed:

Oh look, the new king and queen!
We arrived the day before the coronation.
We got up early and got a spot on the parade route right at the edge of the barricade. Super exciting.

Famous sites...The Puerta de Alcala in Madrid

Over-looking the royal palace and the cathedral in Madrid
Don Quijote's windmills along the road to LaMancha
The mosque/cathedral in Cordoba
I am also now addicted to lattes, as in Spain they are excellent and very cheap. This is a problem. But figuring out how to get a latte fix that tastes like it's Spanish and is priced like it too should be an adventure! Any suggestions?

Now back to decluttering, learning to spend less and be happy where I am in life.