So it seems as if we’ve abandoned this blog. Sorry about that. It’s been a busy couple of months.

We visited Joe’s family in Arizona in November and shortly after returning he got a job!!! We are both relieved that we will have money coming in and better insurance. Our Marketplace plan premiums were due to double in January! Those commercials claiming you can get a plan for $100 a month are lies, don’t apply to Illinois residents, or are the most bare bones plans in existence because we had the lower level ones and were still paying a combined total of nearly $400 per month which was 25% of our income at the time! Plus anything beyond annual exams would be completely out of pocket before a $4000+ deductible was met. This country really needs true health care reform, not this garbage.

In any case, I’m back to being primarily responsible for cooking and cleaning so on my first day of “duty” I reorganized our pantry. We all have our different ways of doing things and I didn’t care for Joe’s pantry setup but left it alone since he was using it more than I was. Now that I’m mostly in charge (not 100% since I do work as well, just not full time like he does) I’ve set it up the way I prefer it.

Another development is that we came home from Arizona with a dog. A puppy, to be more specific. She’s a Shih Tzu mix born on September 21st. Isn’t she the cutest?

Wookie

It wasn’t planned and it definitely wasn’t a wise financial decision since at the time Joe was still unemployed. Yes, even smart, frugal people make poor decisions with their heart and not their heads. We just happened to get lucky and it all worked out.

Her name is Wookie and she is quite the handful. We didn’t make our decision to adopt her lightly but we still weren’t prepared for all the work having a puppy brings. Joe had dogs growing up but his parents dealt with them. I didn’t have any pets other than fish growing up so this is all new for me. The first week with her was the hardest and our house was messy and disorganized but we’ve settled into a better routine since then.

Joe started his new job on Monday December 12th and flew to Denver for training so I was on my own until that Thursday evening. I work Tuesday through Thursday and had to adjust my lunch break from a half hour to an hour so I could feed Wookie at noon. I work ten minutes from home but even so between the drive and dealing with her I’m lucky to get 15 minutes to scarf down my own lunch. Then when I’d get home from work she’d be understandably starved for attention so I couldn’t get much done outside of playing with her.

Needless to say, last week was pretty stressful for me. I’m sure as she matures things will get better but this whole experience has underscored two things for me – 1) I’m selfish with my time and 2) I totally made the right call when I decided I didn’t want to have kids. How people have kids, pets, and a job while still staying sane is a mystery to me.

A couple of weeks ago I met up with a friend for dinner at the mall food court. After dinner we decided to walk around the mall for a bit and found ourselves in a Bath & Body Works. I’ve always liked their products even though I feel they are overpriced. I only purchase them occasionally when I can get a hefty discount. The last time I bought anything was in December 2015 when I placed a fairly large order online for several foaming hand soaps and other assorted items and received a $20 discount. The soaps came out to under $2 each, which to me, while still not cheap, were reasonable compared to the $6.50 sticker price. I’m one of those people who finds pleasure in even the smallest of things so these soaps bring me joy every time I wash my hands. Luckily, I still haven’t gone through all the soaps because I add water to them to make them last longer. That didn’t stop me from wanting some new ones, however, especially when I came across a new scent I really liked (Sparkling Mint Blossom in case you’re curious). I didn’t buy anything, however, because I don’t need any new soaps, I just wanted some. But with Joe still out of work (and our Marketplace insurance doubling in price for 2017 – more on that in another post) I really don’t want to spend any money since we’re short every month as it is (thank goodness for savings).

Psychologically speaking it’s been really tough dealing with curbing our non-essential purchases even though when we were both working and could have easily blown money on whatever we wanted I still wouldn’t have purchased that soap anyway just because $3.50 (the current sale price) is still too much for a small bottle of soap. It’s simply the fact that I “can’t” buy what I want verses choosing not to that is starting to get to me. It’s funny how that works. I’m struggling to keep things in perspective but I’m not gonna lie – I will be so much more relaxed when we have enough money coming in again.

Sunday was our 11 year wedding anniversary. Since money is tight we agreed not to exchange gifts but we did order an electronic gift card for Claim Jumper thanks to our Discover cash back rewards. We love their steaks so we tend to eat there once every few years, typically on our anniversary.

Then inertia struck. Sunday evening rolled around and we didn’t feel like going out so we ordered pizza (using our Lou Malnati’s gift card) and decided we’d visit Claim Jumper on Monday evening instead. We reasoned it wouldn’t be as crowded and since we had errands to run that day we’d already be out. Except on Monday we got up early, got our errands out of the way, and when dinnertime rolled around were busy with stuff around the house and didn’t feel like going out again.

So that’s how we did absolutely nothing to celebrate our anniversary. Woo hoo, marriage!

On the plus side when we are in the mood for a good steak we have the $50 gift card and shouldn’t spend too much out of pocket if we split a nice filet and another entree.

Have you heard of Hoopla?

From the website:

Bringing you hundreds of thousands of movies, full music albums, audiobooks and more, hoopla is a revolutionary digital service made possible by your local library. From Hollywood blockbusters to best selling artists and authors – not just the hits, but the niche and hard-to-find as well – you’ll soon discover that hoopla provides you the freedom you’ve been searching for to experience, explore and enjoy what you want, when you want, and where you want. Simple to access and use, without the hassle of having to return the items you’ve borrowed, all you need is your library card, a web browser, smart phone or tablet to get started.

Our library just started offering access a year ago and at first I wasn’t using it because there didn’t seem to be much content. I happened to log in a few days ago and was amazed by how much it has improved. In fact, I was able to find somewhat rare albums in the music section – stuff the library itself doesn’t carry.

One thing I really like about Hoopla is that you can temporarily download a borrowed album to your device so you’re not using any data while listening. The only downside is your library sets a limit on how many items you can borrow each calendar month. In my case it’s ten. Given those limits, I wouldn’t necessarily advise using it to stream an entire season of a television show since you wouldn’t be able to binge watch it.

My biggest problem, which is a good one, is that there’s so much stuff I’d like to borrow that I had to create a favorites list which already has around thirty items on it.

OverDrive is a similar service although its main focus is on books. I like that you can download titles in e-reader format if you happen to dislike reading on a tablet (like I do). The downside to OverDrive is that your library only has a set number of licenses per digital copy so the title you want may not be available. Due to this I don’t use OverDrive as much; I end up going to the library and taking out a physical copy of the book inside. I haven’t come across this license issue using Hoopla; everything listed on the service is available right away.

In any case, I highly recommend both these services as an alternative to going to the library if that’s not your thing (or you’re just too busy).

There is much debate about whether the latte factor can really make or break you when it comes to finances. For the record, I think it can result in “death by a thousand cuts” (a phrase I just saw someone use in the comments on another blog), but what I really want to focus on is how in addition to it affecting your bottom line, it’s wasteful and detracts from your overall enjoyment.

Something isn’t a treat if you’re enjoying it on a regular basis. Is anyone really savoring their morning Starbucks (or Dunkin Donuts) if they get it every single day? Doubtful. It’s just routine at that point. So in addition to blowing $4 a day, you’re not even getting all that much enjoyment out of it. If instead you got your iced coffee once a week (or less), you’d be saving money AND you’d really enjoy the experience. You just have to be willing to try it.

Do you know how Dunkin Donuts currently has iced tea and coffee available for $0.99 from 2-6 pm every day? Well, if you’re like me you don’t necessarily want to drink a large calorie-laden drink in one sitting. What I do is order a large and then when I get home pop the whole thing in the fridge. The ice doesn’t melt for days, true story! I once got the large Almond Joy iced coffee (which is delicious by the way) and nursed it for three days. Just a little tip for anyone who wants to treat themselves but is worried about being able to finish such a large drink. Now you can have your treat and drink it too. 😉

*the picture below shows 3-6pm, but DD has changed the times here in Chicago at least, to 2-6pm.
DD

A comment made on one of our earlier posts inspired this one.

As you know, the general wisdom is you should have x number of months worth of expenses saved for emergencies so if you lose your job you won’t go into debt before finding a new one. Perhaps I gave the impression at some point that we didn’t have money set aside for such things, but of course we do!

We have always lived below our means not just so we could save for retirement, but also to save for the unexpected. We could have spent more extravagantly over the years and saved less but we both feel more secure with money in the bank. There’s something to be said for that peace of mind. It’s certainly more important to us than a bunch of material possessions.

While it would have been easy to continue spending money as if nothing has changed, and we’d be fine for awhile, we didn’t feel comfortable doing so. We have no idea what the future holds, and I’m not being negative when I say that, just realistic. I’ve seen too many people remain unemployed (or underemployed) for years, and would rather plan for the worse case scenario than assume things will work out, not reduce our expenses, and possibly find ourselves in a bad situation. Not to mention the fact that it took us 15 years to accumulate our savings and we don’t want to burn through that in a fraction of the time.

That’s not to say we aren’t having fun, however! It’s just a more frugal kind of fun, like seeing movies at the discount theater instead of going on a big vacation. That being said, we’ll still go to Indiana Beach this year and spend $100-$200 for the day. And that’s ok, because that annual event is totally worth it to us. We’re being cautious with our money, but not cheap to the point of not enjoying ourselves here and there.

I hope that clears up any misconceptions regarding our current state of financial affairs.

I’m one of those people who really really hates wasting money. I’m not exactly thrilled with spending it either, but if I get some value from my money then I feel good. But if I buy something that I never end up using it really bothers me. To avoid this as much as possible, I seriously consider any purchases regardless of the cost. I won’t pay even $1 for something if I’m questioning it’s usefulness.

Well, last summer I bought this day bag after carefully pouring over the reviews. I didn’t pay too much for it (I had a discount code), but after using it twice I realized the strap is extremely uncomfortable – it’s too think and cuts into my shoulder. What I thought was the perfect bag turned into something I didn’t even want to use anymore. This really irked me because otherwise I love all the different pockets and design of the bag. It’s been sitting in storage ever since because I couldn’t return it.

The other morning I was trying to find something to carry my lunch and snacks into work and decided to dig through the box where I keep all my bags to see if I had anything that was more suitable than the larger than I need bag I had been using. Then I saw it. Perfect! And it really is. The inside is even that type of material that wipes off easily if I happen to spill something inside of it. And because I’m only carrying it from my car into work and vice versa there’s not enough time for the strap to hurt my shoulder. You have no idea how giddy it made me to find a new use for this previously wasteful purchase!

It’s situations like these that make it hard for me to part with things I’ve haven’t used for years because often I will find a new purpose for them if enough time passes. There’s a delicate balance between hoarding and decluttering, that’s for sure.

Do you have any re-purposing stories to share?