Monday, April 27, 2015

Yard Sales!!!!

It's getting to be yard sale season in these parts! Saturday marked the first community yard sale we went to this spring, and an annual favorite sale is coming up next weekend. As a thrifty mama, I adore yard sales - in 2012 I barely had a positive pregnancy test before I went out and scored nearly everything I'd need for Tristan's first year at the spring yard sales. (The kids didn't even know I was expecting then - I had to say the purchases were for our coming nephew!)

As much as I love yard sales, sometimes I find one that makes my head spin. On Saturday, as we were cruising, I spotted a sale that looked like they had emptied the whole contents of a house onto their lawn. Thrilled, I grabbed summer clothes for Daniel and a few things for myself. As I shopped, I saw that many items were tagged for a consignment sale, so I asked if the prices were the same.

"Oh, no, just a dollar each. Those came back from the sale last year, and I didn't feel like retagging them for the current sale. I actually have over a thousand pieces at the consignment sale happening today." I gawped. There was enough here that if I needed these sizes, I could outfit two women, two boys, and drown a family in toys. And she had a thousand more pieces at a sale right then.

On one hand, I love people like this. They buy things at high retail prices, their wardrobes are so extensive that things get outgrown before they're worn out, and I get to buy them barely used at a fraction of the price. But on the other hand, it hurts my heart to see the excess and waste. I wonder what else they could have done with the money they spent on all these things they no longer valued. She went on to say she had no idea what to do with all the stuffed animals, since most consignment stores wouldn't accept them. She was shocked when I told her that Community Aid would not only accept them, stuffed animal donations were how they refilled the stores claw machine.

I hope that between the yard sale, the consignment sale, and donating to Community Aid, that she made some more room in her house and put some cash away for the future or to pay things down. But maybe I'm projecting too much. Maybe she has ample space even if she never got rid of a thing. Maybe she has so much money that yard sale cash just funds her sushi habit. Not everyone limits themselves to what they NEED - some people just buy what they want, wear it three times, and call it good.

Why does that bother me so much? It's their money, their space, their stuff - if they want to spend it that way, surely it's none of my business. So why do I let it get to me like that?

When I had my consignment store, there was one customer that I loved and hated to see. I loved when she came in because I knew that my sales would go up by $75 minimum every visit, but I hated it because I knew she was a hoarder. Every purchase, even though she cooed about how cute it would look on this grandchild or that one, would end up in a bag in her garage, and she wouldn't get around to giving it to the grandkids until they were too big to wear it. Her kids wouldn't talk to her or accept the gifts, so it seemed extra tragic to me.

Another woman, when I was dirt poor and working in a convenience store, would come in and buy $500 worth of instant lotto tickets. My rent was $425, due the next day, and I had no idea how I was going to pay it. Yet I had to keep selling more tickets as she scratched them off and found losing ones. I wanted so badly to yell at her that she was WASTING money while I had none to pay my rent, but I bit my tongue. Then a friend of hers spotted her and struck up a conversation. I forget what it was about, but Lotto Lady said "Oh, no, you know me! I'm as poor as a church mouse!" I finally looked at her and said "Ma'am,  I wish I were as poor as you!". She laughed and went back to her tickets.

It's their money. They can waste it if they choose. So why do I let it make me so crazy? The day they choose to spend it differently will have no effect on me (unless they hire me to look at their budget or buy my book). It's theirs to do with as they choose.

What about you? Do you find that other people's spending habits make you crazy?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Still no work

Jake got his last paycheck today. That means that the only actual "income" that we now have is from my book sales and freelancing - and my freelance gigs are odd, to say the least. Because I'm new to the freelancing world and don't have many credits on my profile, I decided to set my price low and do random writing assignments so I would get positive feedback. The end result is that I end up earning $5 for writing 450 - 500 word blog posts. Not hard in and of itself, but I have to include key phrases, like "invest in Mongolia". Seriously.

Hopefully I'll gain enough experience that I can start doing more interesting jobs that pay more, but right now I figure that any money that I earn is better than not earning any.  :)

One good thing that came out of all of this is I sat down, calculated our net worth (including house and non-liquid assets) against our debts, and we came out way ahead. Even if Jake can't find work for months, we shouldn't have to worry about paying our bills or putting food on the table. But at the same time, we've worked a long time to create that kind of cushion, and it's a little upsetting to know that every time we have to pay bills out of our savings, we'll lose ground.

So another thing I'm researching is ways to increase our "passive" income - like I said, there's my book, but I'm talking to Jake about the possibility of (in the future) buying rental properties. He's not too keen on the idea, so it may not happen, but the right real estate can be a good money generator.

Eh. We'll see. Meanwhile, I have another 400 words to write, to include the phrase "physiotherapy center Hong Kong".

Peace out!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day!

I hope you all had a lovely Earth Day.

I wish I could tell you about all the environmentally friendly things I did today, but sadly the most eco-friendly thing I did was put items in the recycling bin.

I MEANT to do all my travel by bike today, to dry my laundry on the line, and to cruise on my cargo bike to see if there were some "treasures" sitting at the curb tonight that I could keep from heading to the landfill (and possibly sell as a side hustle).

What actually happened was we met with some homeschool friends this morning at a playground, which was way too far to bike. The laundry had to go through the dryer, thanks to a sudden early afternoon storm. And I was inexplicably super tired this afternoon, so I ended up crashing on the couch until it was way too dark to troll for trash.

BUT - I do many of those things other days and other weeks. Just because I didn't do them on Earth Day doesn't mean that I'm not helping the earth with my little efforts on other days. And most of my thrifty moves are also eco-friendly, so everybody wins!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sometimes you want to go....

...where no one knows your name.  :)

After all the commotion with Jake quitting his job last week, I was a stressed wreck. Fortunately, we had a planned getaway that we had been preparing for for weeks - a friend of my mother- and father-in-laws owns a furnished three bedroom condo at Rehoboth beach in Delaware, and once a year we get a chance to go there in the off season. So the five of us, my MIL and FIL, Jake's sister, her husband, their three kids, and their 13 year old bonus girl (long story, but hey, she's family now) all stayed in the 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath condo. It did get a little cozy, but we had a load of fun. And because there were so many grownups and so many young teens, we parents got chances to enjoy grownup times out on our own, and we got to have time together as a family without getting on each other's nerves too badly.

But before we left, Tristan had a special milestone -

Yes, my baby finally got his first hair cut!

With a fancy certificate and everything! We got Daniel's hair cut too, and she only charged us for one haircut (we gave her a good tip, though).

Then we headed down to the shore in the newer minivan, because it gets better gas mileage, and brought most of our own food and our own bikes to save on expenses down at the shore.

There was a rainbow behind the bridge, but it didn't show well in the shot
Friday night we got set up at the condo, and the next morning...


Where are your feet, Tristan?
Oh, there they are!

At the boardwalk there was a swanky baby store where I spotted these!

See? Instead of snaps, they use little MAGNETS!

Isn't that clever? The price was a little too high for me - $25 for a little bodysuit - but how brilliant is that? Perfect for those bleary eyed wardrobe changes!

Yesterday we walked to church at the beach. (The condo is within easy walking/biking distance of everything down there, so one of the things I relish is parking the car on Friday and not getting into it again until we head home. )
By early afternoon we were packed up, had said goodbye to the beach, and were headed home.

We did this trip fairly frugally - staying in a free condo with family, bringing most of our own food, and my MIL gave Jake's sister and us each a gift of gas and splurge money. And the kids brought their own cash to spend at the arcades and gift shops, so we didn't end up spending a lot on souvenirs.

The best part according to Catie, was that we let all the 13 year old cousins wander ON THEIR OWN, as long as they were in a group together. Remember the first time you got to split off from the grownups? Yeah.  :)

We're back to reality and its' related stress now (though there is a possibility that Jake MAY be eligible for unemployment - more on that next time), but it was nice to get away, enjoy the beach, and relax for a bit.

Friday, April 17, 2015

I'm here to help YOU!

Hey everybody! I'm putting myself out there - if you would like me to look over YOUR personal budget and let you know where you can save money, I'm for hire on Fiverr! For a humble $5, I will look over your expenses and help you come up with ways to save money EVERY MONTH! I guarantee you'll save AT LEAST double my fee the first month (if you follow my tips, of course) - what a bargain!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Oh dear...

Remember a few weeks ago, when Jake lost his job and almost immediately landed another? And the new job sounded so great, and they wanted him to start immediately?

Yeah. Good times.

Sadly, this turned out to be a job that Jake hated. HATED. He's been completely unhappy. I couldn't understand why he was so miserable until he explained that the safety standards at this company were very lax. That's not something that an electricians' wife wants to hear - I've personally known of 2 people that got badly injured or killed in the past 5 years in our area because of electrical accidents. And apparently when he mentioned his concerns to coworkers and management, he was blown off. There were other issues, like being put in charge of jobs when he didn't feel ready, and when said jobs were already floundering. He said he felt like he was being set up to be the fall guy when the job didn't go well, because the company could say "oh, he's new".

Jake broke down. He told me he couldn't manage one more day in that company. Nothing I could say or do helped. So he quit. Wrote up a resignation letter, detailing all the OSHA violations, handed it in, and walked.

Right away, he seemed happier. Giddy, even. I haven't seen him so relaxed in ages, since he wasn't too happy in his previous job either. When he was stressed and upset about work, he would be crabby and short tempered at home. Last night, for the first time in months, he got down on the floor and played with the boys. No matter what else happens right now, no matter how nervous I may be about having no current income, it's (almost) all worth it to have my husband back.

We have enough savings to keep us afloat for a few months - more if I can get some freelance work and work some side hustles, and if Jake can hustle a little too in the meantime. He has about 45 applications/resumes out right now, so it's not like he's slacking.  :)

Pros - we don't have a mortgage. That was paid off with a small inheritance a few years ago.
Most of our expenses are low already. And we have a little under 8K in available cash.
Cons - we have two car payments, a payment on furniture, a credit card payment, a medical bill, a cell phone bill, internet/cable bill, car insurance, utilities, and food, that totals (currently) around $1600 a month.

Steps I have control over - I can write, both here and to score some freelance gigs.
I can be diligent about conserving what we have - saving on utilities by hanging laundry, turning off lights, etc, riding our bikes and eating out of our food storage to keep from spending our cash.
And I can pray.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Homeschooling geometry and architecture

Tired toddler using big bro as a pillow
Laundry in the fresh air

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Saving, "upgrading", and fixing.

Glorious, warm, sunny weather here in Harrisburg! (About dang time, too! ;)  )

For a few months now, I've been thinking I  needed to replace some of Tristan's diapers. Not with anything fancy, mind you - it's just that some of the prefolds were going to shreds in the washer. It seemed like every third load would destroy another one, reducing it to rag status. True, these were "rag" diapers to begin with - retired diaper service diapers - but they had held up for about a year in my rotation. They clearly weren't going to last much longer, the rest of my diaper stash is for smaller babies, and Tristan is resisting potty training right now; I needed to find replacements.

My preference would have been to order some toddler sized prefolds and a few bigger covers (everyone who sees him says "wow, he's tall for two!" and it must be true - the one sized covers are starting to show plumbers crack!) but at $40 a dozen for Cloth-eez prefolds and $12 - $18 for covers, I hesitated.

Then on Friday, I got an email from Om Baby - their annual Mom 2 Mom sale (sort of a swap meet) was happening this Saturday morning! Since Om Baby caters to the naturally minded mamas, I was sure I'd find a few diapers to pad out my stash.

I did! Boy, did I! Everything in that picture (plus a diaper being worn at the time) cost me $10.75!

I went early in the morning to get the best selection, and found so many good deals that I felt too guilty to buy them all myself - I didn't want to be a hog! I mean, what if another mom really needed those diapers too? So I bought a bunch, then went back at closing time and got some of what was left - I needn't have worried - apparently I was the only one psyched about these diapers.  ;)

I got 5 of these XL Bumkins AIOs for $1 each
5 of these Nikki training pants for 0.25 each!!!! (I LOVE these, BTW. Very absorbent, waterproof, and easy to pull up and down. And originally they would have cost $30 EACH. Granted, that would have been 3 kids ago for these pairs, but they're in super shape.)
10 prefolds for $.50 each (those covers were freebies)

2 inserts for $.50
And 6 Kushies AIO Toddler size from the free box.

Yes, they're in "rough" shape. The elastic is shot in many of the AIOs, and some of them need some repair to the fabric on the inside. But they totally meet my current needs, and I can fix them to last at least until Tristan graduates to full time potty use.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my bike is calling to me!

Ding ding!

Monday, April 6, 2015


It was a GORGEOUS day today! Warm, sunny, and overall perfect. It's the kind of weather that makes me want to wash all my laundry and hang it outside, so it can capture the scent of the sun and wind.

I have strange pleasures.

But sadly, I couldn't hang my laundry. I loaned out my portable clothesline to a friend whose dryer had broken, and it got tossed by a heavy wind, bending one of the tripod base legs. (If you can't click through the link, it looks like a standard umbrella style clothesline, but on a tripod base. Very handy for apartment dwellers, people who dry indoors, or people with small yards.)

I was briefly upset, but then I realized that the clothesline part was still fine - I just needed a way to mount it. I mentioned it to my husband, and today I came home to this treat on our back deck!

Just because PART of something is broken doesn't mean it's totally worthless. In fact, this is better now, because it takes up much less of our back deck than it did when it still had a tripod, and I can use my handy IKEA FROST rack in the middle of the deck, allowing me to dry up to 3 loads of laundry at a time! (the clothesline takes about two)