Category Archives: simple living

Purchase #5 to 10 of 25

Kids are really expensive…(or can be if you want them to dress better than you do!) Note: Burberry red barn jacket is shown as an example only. I’m not crazy enough to spend $165 for a toddler’s jacket.

barn_jacket

boden

janie_lot

hanna2

536553653_o

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Frugal Substitutes: Less Tongue In Cheek Version

A few months ago, I created a fun chart about possible frugal substitutes.  The idea was that you can replace pricey wants like vacations and massages with cheaper options that fulfill the same need.  Looking back, the intent was good but I’ve totally ignored my own advice for the past few weeks!

I went on a short trip.  I bought a new computer. I got a massage. I went shopping. I bought some clothes and a new purse.  AND I keep browsing online shopping sites.  In short, I have been choosing expensive wants instead of examining the reason behind my sudden desire to buy, buy, buy.  The only possible exception is eating out but my husband and I did some of that, too.  It just hasn’t been a budget buster because we still eat home most days or tend to choose inexpensive places when we do go out.

I cannot justify my choices but I really needed a vacation!

 

My Best Decision Ever

I was going to write about my choice of college.  That experience truly shaped the person I am today. I can attribute many later decisions to those 4 years.  However, I could also imagine myself being happy if I had gone to my second choice college.

I was going to write about events that led me to meet my spouse.  Yet, while I can’t imagine anyone making me happier, if I had found someone else, I would never have known and could have been happy, too.  I didn’t even mention children but I’m glad I have them!

Then I thought about choices that led to my current job.  Despite minor complaints, I’m pretty happy with work and I could easily pinpoint good choices that resulted in finding my position and field.  However, my work isn’t  a “true calling” in the sense that I can’t imagine doing anything else.  Since I’ve had several good bosses and many great  co-workers, it’s also easy to believe that I could have landed another job with another company and be just as content.

Then the answer hit me…

It was so obvious….

My best decision ever was moving closer to my work (and parents).  With a shortened commute, I enjoy 2.5 extra hours with my family daily.  I’m more relaxed when I come home and have energy to play in the park, take walks, chitchat about our days, and even exercise on occasion!  In the mornings, I get up later but I now have time to eat breakfast and do light exercises (though it’s usually light stretching and trying to touch my toes!)

Since I don’t battle freeway traffic every morning, I’m more pleasant to be around at work, too.

And no matter where I work, who my spouse is, or where I went to college, I can safely say that a shorter commute is the BEST choice I ever made!

Topic choice courtesy of Ginger at Ramble Ramble.

My Fake Budget

About  a year ago, after reading Your Money or Your Life, I created my first budget.  I dutifully added up our income and averaged regular expenses.  Certain things like rent, utilities, gas, and insurance were easy to figure out.  I had to estimate other expenses like clothing, dining out, cleaning help, gifts, etc.  When all was said and done, our expenses tend to exceed our income on a regular basis.

In addition to irregular freelance income and unexpected expenses, another (major) problem was caused by estimated expenses that were basically numbers I grabbed out of the air.  Even after one year, I haven’t been diligent enough to figure out our average costs for many fun categories.  This is hard to do because we pay cash and we are not very aware of our budget.  In other words, if we budget $100, we may spend $100 jointly and still exceed that amount due to separate activities.

If we look on track to exceed our Dining Out budget by mid-month, I may send a half-hearted email to my husband and note to myself that we must watch our budget or cut elsewhere this month.  Only we seem to not do this or we get a bill that must be paid or another excuse…  The reason I am calling this my/our fake budget is that I simply INCREASE our dining out budgeted amount to match our actual spending instead of making any hard attempts to rein this in.

I know this isn’t good because some months we’re on track or under budget and I’m very happy. Then we exceed our budget the next month and I freak out.

Budgeting is hard!

My Balance Now

Before I moved closer to work, I had an hour drive to and from work.  I re-read my 2012 post that went into depth about how I balanced work/life and thought I’d update it.  Sometimes I can’t believe I endured this commute for so long.

1.  What’s your work schedule?

Before: I got up at 5:15 to 5:45 to get to work on time.  I got home by 5:30-6 pm., usually exhausted with an aching back.

Now: I get up around 6:25 and get to work on time.  I often have time for breakfast and light stretching/exercise!  My drive is 30 minutes tops (usually faster in the mornings when fewer people are on the road).  I get home by 5pm. Sometimes I even hit the gym or go to the park with the kids.  According to co-workers, I’m also less grumpy in the morning!

2. How do you handle childcare?

Before: Part-time nanny, freelancing husband with flexible schedule and more time at home.

Now: Still part-time nanny on occasion who does light housecleaning, plus A LOT of help from my mom.  My husband’s schedule and travel has picked up, which leaves me taking more time off for doctor appointments, illness and such. Pre-school pick-up is a pain to manage.

3. What do you find best about your current set-up?

I love my shorter commute which has resulted in more energy and quality time with spouse, self and kids!  I love getting more help from my mom since she is amazingly good and flexible with her schedule.

4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?

It’s not really about working or not. It’s really about flexiblity. Even within the restraints of a traditional 9 to 5 job, I know I’m fortunate that my boss is understanding about childcare issues as long as I manage to meet deadlines.

I still stand by my love of online shopping: Order as much as you can online.

And I’ve converted to the dark side — smartphone with tons of apps. It’s the only way I can keep track of my emails and shopping lists. My husband and I communicate quickly via text, emails and shared shopping lists, too.

I’ve been taking some vacation days to do a mommy-and-me class with my kids on weekday mornings. It’s shorten my work hours which is nice on a mental level BUT also forces me to eat at my desk some days to get all my work done.  I love using that time to  learn and play with my kids alongside mostly stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  This alleviates a lot of mommy guilt because I have more hours with my kids overall and don’t have to cram all the fun stuff on weekends.

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than men?

Yes.  I’m actually guilt-free and good at ignoring snippy comments but I do spend more time cleaning the house and thinking/planning kid-friendly activities.

Feel free to chime in with details about how other women (and men) handle the work/life juggling act!

What The Most Successful People Do At Work

I’m in the middle of reading Laura Vanderkam’s new e-Book “What the Most Successful People Do At Work“, a series that follows two previous e-books about what successful people do before breakfast and on weekends. All of these short books are meant to be quick, informative reads. I think they’re all very enjoyable and most people can get good tips from them. Because work is so busy right now, it’s taking me much longer to read this! For now, I will say that I was struck by the example of a successful children’s book illustrator in Chapter 1, as I expected the successful people profiles to hail from the corporate world. I wasn’t sure if I could relate but considering that there are tons of small business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers out there AND the fact that in many ways, in the current work world, we’re all freelancers that need to plan and prove our worth daily, I think the illustrator can be a good example for all of us. Right now the main take-away I’m getting is the importance of planning the day and your workload. I enjoy taking on bigger projects that require thought and strategic planning but it seems like most of my workday is taken up by immediate needs (and emails!).

Anyway, I would recommend this book. You can buy it yourself today and you’ll probably finish it before I do!

Recycling Is A Pain (But I Do It)

If you can make one change a year, I would add recycling a hard-to-recycle item on your list. We’ve struggled with this over the years as we didn’t have curbside recycling for many years, and we still often forget what is or isn’t recyclable.  However, in recognition of Earth Day, I thought I would share some new and old (recycled!) environmentally-friendly tips:

How to recycle even if you can’t get to a facility.  A simple, good idea if I do say so myself!

Recycling AAA batteries!  In addition to Jiffy Lube, I found a nearby hardware store that accepts household batteries. I feel so much better  doing this than dumping this toxic item into the trash.

Who knew you can recycle paint? Apparently in California, you can drop off used household paint at participating retailers like Sherwin-Williams, Vista Paint, Super Hardware (Mission Ace), Dunn Edwards and more.

I still can’t figure out a consistent way to recycle expired medications or Brita filters…

Of course, just as important as recycling is buying and using less stuff in the first place!

How are you doing in terms of recycling? Can someone explain to me how Recyclebank makes profits?