What I've Been Reading Instead of Cleaning My House

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Month of Not Buying Recap: By the Numbers

0 -- amount of money spent on eating out (restaurants or fast food) in July.

1 -- number of times I had to tell my children that I wasn't buying anything this month before they believed me.

2 -- number of times I broke my "no buying" rule purchasing adhesive to attach my car's rear view mirror back on the windshield.

3 -- number of vacuums I borrowed because mine broke and I wouldn't buy a new one.

4 -- number of times I had to tell the neighbor kid that I wasn't going to buy her anything before she believed me.

8 -- number of large garbage bags full of clothes that we gave away to a local thrift store (emphasizing how much we DON'T need any more clothes).

11 -- number of super fun free activities that I went to in the month of July (my kids went to even more than I did).

14 -- number of free samples I got from the Farmer's Market, See's Candies, and snow-cone stand (this prompted my family's idea of setting up a booth that gives out ONLY free samples -- no product, just free samples).

16 -- number of dollars I came in under budget for buying gasoline in the month of July (not buying also equals not driving?).

18 -- number of days before I broke down and bought prepared foods from the grocery store.

21 -- number of nights until Frances started having dreams about eating a Papa John's Meat-Lover's Pizza.

31 -- number of days to learn this important lesson: I will not be thrown in "bad mommy jail" if I don't buy everything my kids (and their friends) ask for.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics Fever

OK, so I've pretty much tossed the idea of not buying anything "prepared" or "processed" from the grocery store out the window. It's just too hot to cook from scratch. I'm still not going out to eat or getting any fast food or buying anything extra (though the other day my husband was buying something and he forget his wallet, so I had to pay for it -- but it was his stuff, so that doesn't count, right?).

To celebrate the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics, we ate only ring-shaped foods (get it, Olympic rings). So we had bagels, donuts, gummy rings, ring-shaped cookies, onion rings, pizza topped Bagel Bites, Cheerios, Spaghettios, etc.

I did try to round out all those "prepared" foods by making up a mess of collard greens and purple green beans (they start out purple, but turn green when you cook them) that I picked out of my garden for dinner.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

But It's Not Fun Unless I Buy Something

So yesterday I took the family and some of the kids' friends to a fair at a local park. As I picked up one of Alice-Grace's friends, I explained to her mother that I'm not spending any money this month, so she should eat before she went (we
 would only be gone two hours).

While at the park, the first thing the little girl said to me was, "I want a dollar." I asked why and she said so she could get a sucker. I explained to her that the majority of activities were free and that she didn't need to buy anything. I even took her to a booth where after you played a game you got a free sucker.

But that wasn't enough. Throughout the whole day of free music, free face-painting, free hair-braiding, free games, free bounce houses, free samples of various foods, free petting zoo, free pony rides, etc., she kept saying over and over again, "But I really want to buy something!"

I know, I so get the feeling. Why do we have this overwhelming desire to buy something? How come an activity doesn't count unless we buy something?

(I didn't really well and didn't buy anything yesterday, though my car's rearview mirror keeps committing suicide and jumping off the windshield -- right now it's mounted to a camera tripod we stuck between the two front seats)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hostess with the Mostest?

On Monday morning before work I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things (I made the mistake of making cookies Sunday night and therefore we're all out of milk for cereal Monday morning). Well, those few things turned into a million things. So much for not buying anything "prepared."

I used the excuse that we have a house guest living with us and I was concerned about her starving to death (she picked a bad month to visit). But I must admit that I use this excuse a lot to buy things I wouldn't normally buy -- even when I know that my guests don't eat anything (I'm looking in your general direction, Rena's family).

By the way, I made the "Root Beer Float" cupcakes from that free cookbook I got from the library. Let's just say that the cupcakes are STILL sitting here on my counter. I think there's a reason why that cookbook was free.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

So today started off with a free breakfast at the church (and it was delicious).

Then we spent the day cleaning the kids' bedrooms (well, they cleaned -- I mostly yelled).

But then Jeffrey needed some film developed (yes, I still use a film camera). He had taken some photos of his Lego creations and needed to mail them in for a contest. Since the deadline was August 1st, I couldn't wait to develop them. So I spent the money and...

...none of the photos came out! They were either fuzzy because the camera was too close or they were fuzzy because the camera was too far away.

Oh well.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Free Swim Parties

Thursday night our orthodontist threw a free swim party for his patients at the local water park. I made sure to tell the kids to eat a big dinner before we went because I wasn't bringing my wallet. It was great. Everyone had fun and no one begged me to buy them Dipping Dots.

Then on Friday night we had another free swim party at a local pool. Again, I didn't bring my wallet. We just had a good time and didn't spend any money. Hooray!

Usually when we go to these "free" pool parties, I end up spending a ton of money on food and treats and souvenirs thinking my kids and their friends (we usually bring a few friends to hang around with since my children can't seem to get along with each other) would think me a bad host if I didn't. Well, turns out they were just as happy without any of that stuff. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Love the Library

I kind of redeemed myself for spending like crazy at the grocery store by going to a class on making homemade ice-cream at our local library.

We were late, so I missed the demonstration, but we were right in time for the samples. Free samples! And then they had a drawing for a free recipe book and I won one! Yay! As you can see by my Shelfari list above, it was "101 Gourmet Cupcakes in 10 Minutes." I'm seeing lots of cupcakes in my future (once it hits August and I can start buying cake mixes).

Fail with Glory

I was doing so well not spending any money and then today I hit my limit. I just couldn't stand it any more. Luckily I was only in the grocery store (and not the mall) when I went nuts.

My kids were elated (but confused) to see bagels, chocolate milk, cereal, candy bars, pepperoni, cheese, ice-cream bars, etc.

I must admit it was a very delicious failure.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mirror, Mirror, on the...floor?

Today my car's rearview mirror fell off so I had to spend $3.09 to get a kit to fix it. Stupid car.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Waffle Cake

Today I actually went to the Farmers Market and DIDN'T spend any money. Hooray!

I must admit it's pretty nice to say to my kids when they beg for something, "You know I'm not spending any money this month." End of conversation.

I was in the mood for cake, but didn't want to heat up the house by turning on the oven. Instead I made some white cake batter (from scratch, thank you very much) and cooked it in  the WAFFLE IRON! It turned out delicious with strawberry jam and whipped cream. Of course, everything tastes great from my 1941 Manning-Bowman waffle iron.

Tonight I even took Alice-Grace to the mall and didn't spend any money. I'm probably going to get a call from my credit card company thinking that I've lost my card.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lumpy What?

So yesterday we did good and didn't spend any money. The only problem is that now Nigel is obsessed with making pasta. I think I see a lot of linguine in my future.

Our dentist is throwing a swim party tonight. Free food and pool? We're in. (Of course, with all the money I've given him through the years, I think that I deserve a four course dinner complete with steak AND lobster.)

We got some yummy burgers, chips and watermelon, but then it started to rain and the wind was whipping up pretty fierce, so we decided to skip out on the pool. We did think that it was a little odd that our dentist was offering a lot of free cotton candy to all the kids (job security, maybe?).

When we got home, Alice-Grace was determined to make Lumpy Dick. In summer school she's been learning about pioneers and I guess one of the dishes they used to make was a milk-flour mixture known as Lumpy Dick (which is strange because I always thought that combo was called "glue"). So she goes on the computer and starts googling "Lumpy Dick."

Whoa there, little Missy. I'm not about to let my nine-year-old daughter look those words up on the Internet. There was actually a recipe for it and we made it this evening. She thought it was delicious (with lots of sugar on it), I think it tastes like something only a person who just walked across the plains would love.

Oh, I did give out 25 cents being the Tooth Fairy today. Does that count as spending money?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Even Steven

Today I was bad and bought a loaf of bread. I've been baking my own so that I don't buy anything "prepared," but it's just been so darn hot that I couldn't bear to turn on the oven.

On the upside, Nigel made pasta tonight. He got out the pasta maker and made some super delicious linguine.

So we cancel each other out, right?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Snow Cones, you temptation of the devil!

So of course I did good on Sunday by not spending any money, but let me say that I did go to Costco on Saturday, but just got some milk, more berries, and a rotisserie chicken -- I'm pretty sure it's a law that you have to pick up a delicious roasted bird every time you go in there. I usually avoid stores on Saturdays, but we were out of milk and I've heard so much about their wonderful free samples on the weekend. Well, I must've gone on a bad day because there was hardly anything (unless you count the Culligan guy giving out samples of water -- really? Free water?).

On Monday I spent a long day working and sleeping. No spending there.

Today I'm doing pretty good, but just let it be known that the new Snow Cone stand that they set up on my block (literally just feet away from my home) is killing me! Oh, icy goodness, fruity syrupy wonder, you freezing delight, how I long to embrace you.

I did buy gas today. This was something I was dreading because I was hoping to do a lot more walking and not have to buy any gas this month. But the extreme heat, my laziness, and having to drive my children 6,000 different places a day kind of put an end to that idea. I am hoping to buy a lot less gas, though. We'll see how it works out.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pride Goes Before the Fall

I think that I got a little too proud of myself for not spending any money in downtown on Friday night. Today I got off of work early, so I decided to go to the Farmer's Market. Big mistake. I just can't resist a Farmer's Market.

What Frances and Alice-Grace couldn't resist were some belly-dancing skirts at one of the booths. I'll admit it, I used to take belly-dancing classes, so my children are genetically predisposed to love anything with jingly coins on it. I had promised them skirts last year at the Farmer's Market, but I didn't have my purse at the time and the booth never came back to the park. My girls totally remembered this and begged for the skirts. What could I say? It may not be there again in August. So I caved in and bought the skirts. They have been wearing them non-stop, much to the chagrin of our poor cats who are scared to death of the noise.

I was good and didn't buy any snow cones (they didn't have cotton candy).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Free Friday Downtown

Tonight I did really well. We went to the art gallery stroll downtown and didn't spend any money (it helps that they have free food). We also participated in a "Dance Walk" where a group of people dance while walking down the streets of downtown. It was really fun for me and Nigel, horrendously embarrassing for Jeffrey and Alice-Grace. They begged for us to stop and go home. And they aren't even teenagers yet!

All in all, another successful spend-free day.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Service is the new Shopping

So I've realized that I spend most of my money out of boredom. I go out to eat, I take the kids places, I buy things -- all because I'm bored.

So what have I been doing instead since I'm not spending any money this month? Amazingly enough -- service.

The other day I blogged about helping a family move.

I'm in charge of a community garden and I've noticed that quite a few of our gardeners have not planted anything this year and have let their plots go to seed. I called them up and asked permission to weed. So I've been spending my free time pulling weeds and cleaning up the garden. I'm out in the fresh air, getting exercise, helping out my neighbors and best of all, not spending any money. Win-win-win-win!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Frugal Fourth

Well, I managed to celebrate Independence Day without spending any money.

It helped that I worked in the morning and then took a nap in the afternoon.

Then Jeffrey wanted me to take him and his friend to the store to buy fireworks. I reminded him that I wasn't spending any money this month. They managed to finagle some money from the friend's mom, found a quarter on the ground, and with a nickel from the nice cashier,* they scrounged together $1.75. With that, they were able to buy one box of snaps, six smoke bombs, and four flowers. Pretty good if you ask me.

Then we went to a local park to set off the fireworks. We stayed at the park and watched everyone else set off their fireworks. It was quite a show -- better than the shows you have to pay for!

Then we hung out with some neighbors as they had a family party watching the professional fireworks display out in the distance.

I think that we all had just as much fun as when we spend a ton of money on fireworks and food. So all in all, a very successful, and frugal, Fourth of July.

*I reminded Jeffrey that since the cashier gave him a nickel, he is now obligated to help someone else out if they're short on money.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grocery Shopping

So I just got back from grocery shopping.

I went to Target and got a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi. With the coupon it was free, so no money there! Of course, it meant that I had to buy Pepsi, so I guess my husband and daughters will have it (my son and I don't drink cola).

Now the lady who wrote the book "Not Buying It" said that she didn't buy anything that was processed during her year-long experiment.

As I was shopping at Costco, it suddenly dawned on me, what exactly does "processed" mean?

I bought milk, heavy cream (so we could make our own ice-cream), ground beef, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and lemon juice.

I was torn on the lemon juice. Should I have bought fresh lemons instead and juiced them myself? Is lemon juice "processed"? If it is, was the cream also "processed"? Should I have gotten a steak and ground it myself?

So confusing. Anyway, the good news is that my Costco bill was about half of what it usually is!


So what are the rules to my "Not Buying It" experiment?

I think that I'm making them up as I go along.

It's amazing how much money I spend with no effort of my own. Most of my bills are automatically taken out of my checking account or billed to my credit card: mortgage, various insurances, condo fee, most of my utility bills, etc. In fact, the only bill I have to pay myself is my natural gas bill -- why? I guess because they're the only ones so far that haven't pressured me to go automatic.

I'll be spending money on all my usual stuff, but I'm trying not to buy anything extra: clothes, activities, toys, fast food, junk food, entertainment, etc.

Also, this only applies to me. My kids can buy whatever they want (they never have any money anyway) and my husband can use his money (that doesn't really count because he's the type of guy that can have the same $10 bill in his pocket for seriously two years).

We'll see how it goes!


So Monday was my first official day of "not buying it."

I was OK as long as I was at work, but then I went home. It's amazing how much I wanted to spend money just to alleviate my boredom (you know, finding reasons to NOT clean my house).

There's lots of stuff going on downtown to celebrate Independence Day, but I knew I would just end up spending money on snow cones and cotton candy, so I didn't go.

What did I do instead? Help a neighbor move. I didn't even know this neighbor. They were moving, I was bored, so I just started picking up boxes. It took quite a few hours because they lived on the third floor. After that I was so exhausted that I went to sleep.

So I didn't spend any money, helped a neighbor, got lots of exercise. Win-win-win!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Not Buying It

A while ago I read the book "Not Buying It" about a woman who goes a whole year without buying anything (she set up her own guidelines -- since she couldn't go without purchasing some food items and paying her utility bills). I've always wanted to try this little experiment (I love me some stunt journalism), so I'm going to try to go the month of July not buying anything and then blogging about it.

I'm sure that I'll fail miserably, but that's half the fun!

Good news -- I didn't buy ANYTHING on Sunday, July 1st.

Of course, that's an easy one since my religion frowns on going to stores or purchasing items on the Sabbath, but I'll take any victory I can.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Closed Captioning Foibles

I love watching TV with the closed captioning on. I'm not quite sure what machines those people are using while they're typing out a live news broadcast, but they have some interesting shortcuts that I don't think they should be using.

In one news broadcast (I think I've already blogged about this), every time the reporter said "Barack Obama," the trascriber typed in "Backyard Habitat."

Today, every time the news anchor said "Mexico," the transcriber put in "Mechanical Psycho." What? That's so much longer than just typing the word "Mexico"!

I really hope that hearing-impaired people are getting their news from newspapers, and NOT television.