Job Hunting and Waiting

By on March 23, 2017

Job hunting is a huge hassle, amiright? It requires so much time and energy to research the right job openings, learn about the companies hiring, fill out applications, track down references, and participate in interviews. Plus, you’re typically doing all of this on top of your current job duties, attempting not to slack off there. I’m personally pretty happy not to be job hunting for traditional 9-5 jobs right now, but Mr. COD is in the thick of the hiring season for the 17-18 academic year. Right now, it’s largely a waiting game. 

Raise your hand if you love waiting! 

Nope, me neither. Patience isn’t a fun trait to cultivate. The only way to learn it is by waiting more. 

Job Hunting Process

As you guys knows, Mr. COD applied for some positions last fall and continues to send more in as more schools post openings. As his field is somewhat specialized and the programs he’s qualified to teach aren’t offered at every college or university, we know we might not be able to pick our dream locale for this first teaching position. The primary goal at this point: get Mr. COD out of school counseling and into teaching within a counseling master’s program. Our hope is that he’ll get an offer from one of these schools, work there for three years or so, and then have more experience with which to snag a job back in southern Wisconsin, closer to family. 

Job hunting has led to several (maybe 4 or 5?) phone/Skype interviews so far, and Mr. COD has done one in-person, on-campus interview. One more is to come in another week or so. (Yay! That in itself is a success.) The two campus interviews are at schools he feels pretty confident he’ll like, and both towns have some great benefits that are important to us, like parks and natural outdoor beauty. 

We understand the possibility exists that Mr. COD won’t receive an offer of employment with either of these two second-interview schools. It’ll be disappointing if that happens. We’re definitely at the point where, if he does get an offer, he’ll take it. (Of course, should he receive offers from multiple schools, we’ll have a decision to make.) 

It’s a little scary to be this close to making such a huge change in our lives. I mean, we’ve been talking about this move for as long as we’ve known each other. It’s been almost nine years of waiting and saying, “maybe in another two years”. Now we’re so close to taking this big step! It’s not quite as big as taking the step into early retirement, but it has a lot of the same earmarks (leaving the status quo, changing schedules, etc.).

This teaching at university or graduate level, for Mr. COD, has been a longtime goal of his. He’s worked for it. He’s given up leisure time for it. He’s furthered his education for it. He’s done a lot of stuff he didn’t really have to do, all in service of stepping out of his reliable-but-somewhat-boring job. He’s ready for a challenge, ready for change. That’s why he’s doing all of the fun job hunting work!

If and when we do this, it’ll be a pretty major change for our family. If he takes either of the two options that appear most likely at this point, we’ll be moving in a matter of months. Leaving the area that’s been home to me for nearly 15 years. For him, it’s been nearly ten years. Pretty significant lengths of time, if you ask me. 

Proximity to Family

The proximity to our families is still a high priority for us. The main reason we want to move to Wisconsin is to be closer to Mr. COD’s family (and not much farther from mine). Unfortunately, no job openings have appeared for that area. Either direction we move, we’ll be farther from a lot of family. No one will be drop-by-for-Thursday-night-dinner kind of close, so I guess at least we’re used to that. It’s just a bummer that all of our parents and siblings are so spread out. 

We’re hoping to convince our most-flexible sibling and family to follow us wherever we go. (Come on, Jimmy and Teresa!) Selfish? Ha, perhaps. But if they could also find work near our new home, that’d make it that much more like home for us. 

Hassles On Our Minds

-House (selling or renting ours out). So many little things need to be fixed! Plus, we’ve never been landlords…)

-Pets (3 cats, which is way too many to bring with us. Yes, this sounds terrible, but it may be a necessity to decrease our cat total if we end up renting an apartment.)

-Preschool. Junior COD should be in one next year (he’ll be four by then). A lot of our friends have recently registered their kids the same age for the fall, but of course we can’t do that without knowing our location. 

Positive/Easy Stuff 

-Well, one perk of my SAHM gig is that it makes things much simpler with only Mr. COD looking for a traditional job. I am not planning on working next year yet. I could do it if needed, but since we may be waiting for quite some time before we know what his job status will be, it’s nice not needing to look for a job in an as-yet-unknown location. I’ll just be pluggin’ away in the freelance world!

-Another benefit of my not working: I’m free to travel with Mr COD on interview trips. Scouting out the areas where we may live is important to do as a family. Gone are the days of worrying about taking too many personal days from work. No more planning for substitute teachers, either (oh, lord, what a pain)!

-Both potential new locations seem to have a fairly low cost of living and lower property taxes. That’ll help a lot with our transition. 

-Both new places would save us a bundle on our health insurance. Yay! Insurance…just one of the myriad ways that Illinois…well…sucks. The new job will be a pay decrease from Mr. COD’s current salary, but the insurance savings alone pretty much even it all out. (Yeah, insurance costs are ridiculous here. This is when we don’t even go to the doctor, except for our kids’ wellness checkups. Good grief!)

 We are so nervous about this potential move, believe me! But it just feels like it’s time. Time for a significant change in our work and our lives. We’ve already put in a year of my default change to stay home with munchkins. Now it’s Mr. COD’s turn! It’s pretty darn exciting!

What big moments in life are you waiting for? Are there any fun waiting disappointments or success stories you’d like to share? 


Feeling Stuck

By on March 21, 2017

I’ve been feeling stuck in a bit of a rut lately, so I haven’t posted in awhile. Hello there! I think this is the longest absence I’ve taken from posting on this blog since we began about a year ago. Lots of other blogs I read have recently celebrated their one- or two-year blogiversary, so we’re in good company! (I am nowhere near the prodigious amount of writing of Picky Pinchers or Our Next Life, but we all need someone to inspire us, right? Check out the stats on how many posts they’ve published in their blogging lives! It’s insane!)  (more…)

Water Parks, The ER, and An Interview

By on March 9, 2017

Whew! We just arrived home from nearly a week away, and it was lovely to sleep in our own beds again. The above title sums up the past few days pretty well, but I know you’ll want the full story! As you can guess, the COD family went to a water park on our recent trip. I also got to experience the joys of the emergency room at the local hospital (always fun to be sick when on vacation, right?). Mr. COD finished off the list with his on-campus interview for a university teaching position. 

Last weekend was the women’s Christian conference I attended with a friend. Our whole family stayed with their family, so Mr. COD and his buddy hung out with all four kids for the day while my friend and I relaxed and refreshed our spirits at the conference with 2,500 other women. Great speakers and music, plus it was my first full day away from my boys since July. Yeah. My friend asked me if I was having a hard time being away, but I had to admit, NO! It was so freeing to be myself for like nine hours, without anyone needing anything from me. 

Our kids had a ton of fun with our friends’ kids and their new puppy. Hanging out in the evenings was great, and it was overall a terrific weekend with old friends (Mr. COD has known the two of them since college, and they are awesome people.) 

En route back home on Sunday morning, I knew Mr. COD was getting anxious about his upcoming interview. He’d planned to drive on his own on Monday, interview Tuesday, and drive back late Tuesday night. But we got the idea that having me and the boys along could help him decide whether to accept the job, should he receive an offer. He’d been concerned that the kids would distract him too much, and he needed to focus, quietly, to nail the interview. 

Thankfully, he changed his mind and decided we should all come along. We made it a little adventure and decided to stay in a cool hotel Sunday night on our way north. So we got home, hurriedly ate lunch, packed again, and took off that afternoon. 

Mr. COD found us the perfect hotel! We got a great deal, $100 for a jacuzzi suite. Not necessary, but with small children it is nice to have separate rooms to help all sleep better. Plus, there was a small water park area for little kids. My kids are still too young for the huge water slides at most water parks, but this was just right. We didn’t have to hold them every second, as we would have had to in a regular pool. Shallow water and small slides and fountains thrilled them to no end!  

Swimwear is a bit big on mini COD😀

So, after an hour of water-tastic fun, we returned to the suite to cram the four of us into a jacuzzi tub! My stomach was starting to bother me a little, but I didn’t think much of it. 

It wasn’t until after we’d all pulled on our jammies and settled down for TV and a snack that my stomach started hurting in earnest. Mini COD climbed onto my lap and squished my belly and it hurt like hell, so much that I cried out and pushed him off me. Mr. COD shot me a look of concern and said, “Are you sure you don’t have appendicitis?” 

NOOOOO! I panicked and wished for the pain to instantly evaporate so I could laugh off his question. Alas, the sharp pain continued as waves of nausea swept over me. Mr. COD was googling symptoms and broke it to me that it sounded like I really might have an appendix issue. 

I did not actually throw up (don’t you love all the gory details?), but my rosy-pink complexion after swimming and jacuzzi time had given way to a colorless face. I was now experiencing chills as well, and the abdominal pain hadn’t gone away. 

So at about 9:30 pm, I managed to pull on shoes and a jacket while we loaded the boys (still pajama-clad) into the van yet again. Thank goodness for Google maps, which guided us to the hospital emergency room in an unfamiliar town. One kid was asleep before we arrived, so I went inside alone and Mr. COD drove them back to the hotel. 

Let me tell you, I turn into a great big baby anytime I’m sick. Throw in the possibility of surgery, and I’m a basket case. All I can imagine are worst-case scenarios, and I imagine us on the news the next day. “Vacation in the Dells turns into nightmare as wife clings to life.” So were the thoughts in my head as I kissed Mr. COD goodbye in the car and glanced back at my precious children. 

I had some time to pray and think and watch Golden Girls reruns while I waited for various tests and results. (Why is it that Golden Girls is always on in hospitals? Betty White is rather comforting, I suppose.) No cell service within the hospital contributed to my sense of isolation. I answered the same questions four or five times, had my first ever CT scan (scary but cool), and they eventually found that my appendix was fine. Yay! It turned out I only had “periumbilical abdominal pain”, a souvenir from childbirth. Right by my navel, it simply flared up into massive pain for a brief time that night. Doc said it wasn’t cause for concern and I was free to go.

Statistically, I realize that an appendectomy is a very common surgery, and rarely a huge deal, but with any surgery there’s always risk. So my fears definitely took over as I worried over my diagnosis, whether I’d be okay, who would watch the boys so Mr. COD could be with me as I recovered, and whether he would have to miss his big interview. A bit of guilt entered my mind as I recalled my relief in being away from the kids on Saturday. Now all I longed for was to hold my little guys again.

Of course, I know that Mr. COD would never place a job interview over me or my health, but I still didn’t want to mess up his plans. And the friend who went to the conference with me on Saturday would have watched the kids for us (we asked her right away when we thought my condition was serious). 

I was so looking forward to snuggling with my babies once I got back! I hated having to call my husband at 2 am, especially since he had only returned to our hotel around midnight and the boys would be asleep. But he got them back in the car and drove back to pick me up. I waited in the lobby, half-asleep on a couch, half-listening to a Mike and Molly episode. 

How ironic that the one time we spring for a suite and have such comfortable beds, we end up only sleeping in them for about four hours! Oh well. No surgery and no more abdominal pain? Nothing but thankful! 

The remainder of our trip was positive. The kids handled the car ride fairly well (God bless the in-vehicle DVD player). The scenery was pretty and the university put us up in a comfortable waterfront hotel for two nights. While Mr COD was in his daylong interview on campus, I took the boys out to play in the dusting of snow by our hotel. After the mild winter we’ve had, the bracingly cold wind was especially hard to endure!

We watched a bunch of PBS Kids and then I drove around a bit. I took the kids to Aldi for a few picnic supplies for the return trip, then meandered through neighborhoods to get a sense of the place. The main reason we went along was so I could see the city and area in person, to determine whether I could visualize us living there. Otherwise, if he got the job offer, we’d have to go back in a few weeks so I could see the town before he would accept the job. 

My verdict so far: yes. I can see us living there. It’s definitely colder than the southern states I’d started to dream of, but the lake is gorgeous. The area has an aquarium, zoo, and children’s museum; those all are pluses for us these days! Plus, there’s an Aldi, haha😉. It has a couple of Acts 29 network churches, which is sort of like a denomination. Our current church is part of that network and we absolutely love it. 

It’ll be a few weeks before Mr. COD gets an answer, and he still has interviews lined up at other schools this spring. However, I can say that he really liked what he learned in his meetings with various faculty and the dean. He can see saying yes easily if they offer him the job. 

Now…we just wait. I’m trying not to think too much about the monumental task of packing and moving. The idea of leaving the area where I’ve lived for nearly fifteen years makes my heart sad, for sure. We’ll see what happens. Lots of things are up in the air right now, but we’re okay with whatever happens. A medical scare has a way of improving one’s perspective, right? We’re so grateful for our health and our family. Stay tuned for updates!

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Frugality Report: February

By on February 28, 2017

Awesome frugality or not, February has been a good time for us. I’m doing more freelance writing, Mr. COD is busy interviewing, we enjoyed a frugal birthday for our two-year-old, and our weather here in IL has been freaking INCREDIBLE. 

Here are some of our frugal highlights for this month!

  • No Valentine’s Day gifts or dinner out. In typical COD fashion, we kept it low-key. I baked my heart cookies the weekend beforehand, which we enjoyed for several days (and had plenty extra to take to church). I did get a kick out of seeing the multitude of guys purchasing flowers, balloons, and candy the night before!
  • I finally went to a children’s resale shop that is literally two blocks from our house. I happened to end up there on a sale day when all clothing was $1! Wahoo! That sale scored us a bunch of stuff for Junior COD, which was great since we’re starting to run out of hand-me-downs as he grows bigger. I found two sets of swim trunks and rash guards, several shirts, a pair of pants, and some really nice sneakers for him, all for $13.50. Only the shoes were “full” price, which was $4. Much better than $15-20 or more, which is not uncommon for kids’ shoes. 
  • I refreshed my pasta-making skills a couple of times, and my technique is improving!
  •     
  • Last week I also took on (for the first time) Mrs. Picky Pincher’s homemade tortilla recipe, which was a big win! It’s a super-duper easy recipe to follow. If you want to check out her new e-book, that’s where I found this recipe (plus a ton more recipes and a detailed four-week meal plan): 
  • Slash Your Grocery Bills In 28 Days: Eat like royalty on a shoestring budget

    Tasty tortillas!

  • Mini COD’s birthday festivities were fun, but also mellow, as we’d hoped! On the actual birthday, we grilled out for lunch on our deck (never thought we’d do that for a February birthday in the Midwest). I made his cake from a boxed mix because I had one in the pantry and just wasn’t in the mood to make it from scratch. His PJ Masks figures became the cake toppers instead of getting wrapped up, and they’re perfect little toys for him. We didn’t have a party, just the four of us at home, a few presents, and cake, and it was just right. Since we’re both homebodies and slightly lazy when it comes to celebrating, and he’s too little to care, it was perfect for us! 

    that’s about as fancy as my decorating gets!

  • A trip to the children’s museum was a big hit one Saturday. It does have an admission fee, but since we squeaked in there before Mini’s second birthday, he got in for free! Woohoo!
  • The nicest weekend weather led us to Madison and the Henry Vilas Zoo, which is totally free! We met Mr. COD’s sister and her family for the day and the boys were ecstatic to hang with their cousins and aunt and uncle. It was so gorgeous out that we ate a lovely picnic by the lake as well. Super frugal fun!  

    not sure what exhibit this was…

  • Our Madison picnic view…an icy lake on a 65° day!


    the view of the zoo from the adjacent park

 

Frugality Fails:

  • Groceries got waaaay out of hand this month, which is a bummer after we kicked some grocery budget butt during Uber Frugal January. We got lazy and got back into old habits like going to the market four days in a row. That’s what happens when we don’t plan meals and shopping! Over $500 in the shortest month of the year = dang it!
  • Along the same lines, we ate out quite a bit. Honestly, though, we’re not sorry. We found an awesome new sitter the boys love, and dating your spouse is important! Once those kiddos are grown up, it’ll be just Mr. COD and me again, so we gotta stay connected. 
  • Too many gifts for Mini COD! We gave him two resale shop board games, which were cheap, but he’s still not ready to play them. He liked the other toys we ended up buying, but a week later, they’re already largely forgotten. Plus (and this is the worst part), Junior COD was definitely watching, so he’s been sharing his birthday wish list for the past week. Whoops. We may have set too high a precedent for him that will make it harder to stay frugal and limited when he turns 4. Plus, that’s not for another three months…sigh…

How about you guys? Any big frugal wins or flops this month? Hey, at least if we failed, it can’t be as big a gaffe as that one on Oscar night…


Debt Payoff Story at Budgeting in The Fun Stuff!

By on February 23, 2017

Howdy, default changers! Today I’m excited to share my first post with Crystal’s blog, Budgeting in The Fun Stuff. Crystal is an inspiring woman who took the courageous leap several years ago to become a full-time entrepreneur through blogging and other side hustles. No longer stuck in a dead-end job, she’s changed her default to design a whole new life, which is awesome! 

My article for today, How I Paid Off $20,000 Of Debt And Quit My Job In 7 Months explores our debt-free journey and how it’s changed our lives for the better. Here’s a snippet for ya:

If you’ve ever tuned in to a Dave Ramsey radio show, you know how often he disparages a normal life. “Normal” to him means putting spontaneous purchases on a credit card, taking out enormous student loans, buying cars you can’t afford, and rationalizing every single stupid financial decision you make day after day.

Let’s put the cards out on the table: I used to be that kind of normal.

Head on over to Budgeting in The Fun Stuff for the full post

Fun stuff for us lately: wildly warm February weather at a local playground


Freelance Baby Steps

By on February 21, 2017

As you know if you’re a repeat reader of Changing Our Default, I’m a former teacher building a new part-time freelance career. It’s by no means an easy endeavor, but I’m having a ton of fun with the process.  

Ah, my idealistic high-school senior scholarship essay! Note the emphasis on writing… I loved it then and now😀

CURRENT EFFORTS

I wrote every day in January (a minimum of 500 words daily), which helped get me more momentum for the blog and my freelance goals. February has been trickier; I know I’ve skipped a few days of writing due to lack of motivation and plain old fatigue.  

I joined a Facebook group called Earn More Writing, led by Holly Porter Johnson. Besides teaching how to make money writing on a freelance basis, she often shares job leads with the group. Finding work is probably the toughest aspect of freelancing, for me, so I appreciate the leads to no end! That’s given me several potential blogs to write for, and I’ve just submitted my first staff writing piece for one of these, a personal finance blog! (This will be my first PAID blogging gig. Score one for Mrs. COD!)

Another win so far in 2017 was the youth devotional magazine that chose four of my meditations for publication in their last round of submissions. These are also paid, so I have now officially earned my first $100 of the new year! Boy, I better watch out come tax time next spring, haha😉. 

TIME: THE EVER-PRESENT STRUGGLE TO FIND MORE

Of course, it is not easy fitting in a freelance business in addition to a full-time parenting job. I actually feel as if I had more time available to work on my writing passion when I was still teaching. I could sit at my desk over lunchtime or stay after school, writing or pitching clients. Of course I rarely did so when I had the opportunity. Being out of a paying job has had this strange effect on me, lighting a fire under me to MAKE THIS WRITING LIFE HAPPEN. If I could build this freelance business over the next two years into something substantial… man, that’d be amazing!

Carving out time to write can be a tall order…

At home, Junior and Mini COD are much more demanding bosses than my principal or students ever were, requiring my utmost attention ALL. DAY. LONG. I don’t even get bathroom breaks now. They follow me everywhere.
Some days it is all I can do to keep the kids fed and busy all day, so I flop into bed the moment they’re finally asleep. They don’t really nap, so there goes the brilliant idea of writing while they catch a snooze. Working from my phone or tablet is OK at times, but the boys are little screen gremlins who can sense whenever I have YouTube at my fingertips and will steal my device. The phone is super handy, though; I often tap out first thoughts and drafts on it so I don’t forget ideas. I allow myself some slack once or twice a week by giving them my iPad, so I can work in relative peace for an hour or so. 

Obviously, the bulk of my freelance writing and researching of jobs (and blogging) must take place at night after the boys are asleep. Some nights it takes two hours for Mr. COD and I to get them both to give it up for the day, so we are pretty wiped out afterwards. 

It’s tough, but pushing myself is essential in this game. I have to write during that quiet evening time nearly every day IF I want to accomplish anything. Mr. COD has been busy with job applications lately, so he doesn’t mind keeping it quiet and peaceful. (Who am I kidding? Any parent of toddlers is thrilled to get a whole hour of peace and quiet!) 

Some nights I find myself staying up scandalously late (we’re talking 11:30, midnight here) since that’s the only way to get my thoughts flowing and polished. Mr. COD is out long before me, so I can fully concentrate on my work. I cannot expect to make any decent strides in my writing career without sacrificing some other things, namely, sleep! 

OTHER FREELANCE AVENUES

While writing is my primary focus, I’m also exploring a few other areas in freelancing. Proofreading is of interest. I met with a friend who is a romance writer to discuss some of the tasks she and her author friends need done. They’ve used beta readers to check up on the story and plotlines, another editor to create a character Bible listing all pertinent traits and connections within their books, plus copy editors and proofreaders. 

Since I enjoy editing and proofreading but have no professional experience, I’m going to offer my services to these friends for free in exchange for the experience and (I hope) positive feedback. If that practice and networking help get me in the door, that’ll be another fun side hustle to pursue!

THE DREAM

Giving up sleep, putting in tons of hours that might lead nowhere, slogging it out writing for free or for pennies a word. Why would all of this appeal so much to me? 

Because I LOVE IT. I do. I absolutely love writing. I love the work and the stress of the blank page and the hours of solitude. Writing is what fills my soul. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. When I’m exhausted from arguing with a three-year-old (hint: grown-ups can’t win those debates) or cooking or tripping over dinosaur toys, I still long to get to my writing. It’s my craft, it’s my passion, it’s me. 

Stay tuned for further updates on my freelancing escapades! If you’re a side-hustler, what’s your field and how’s it going? Let’s cheer each other on in the comments!


Fresh Pasta: The Ultimate Frugal Luxury

By on February 17, 2017

FRESH PASTA!

If you have never undertaken the task of making your own fresh pasta, you are missing out on some seriously delicious stuff! It’s incredible how much better the taste and texture of homemade pasta is from the boxed stuff. Now, I’ll admit I don’t take the time to do it very often, but when I do, it’s soooo worth it. I feel like I get a little taste of Italy right in the comfort of my home. (A trip to Bella Italia is on our someday list, but not for quite a few years!) (more…)


Valentine’s Day and Risks

By on February 14, 2017

The COD team hopes that you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know we subscribe to the goal of simple and meaningful for all of our holidays, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. You’re probably wondering why the word “risks” is in the title. Read on to find out!

A SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY 

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Free Board Games

By on February 10, 2017

On Christmas, we discovered that Junior COD is now into board games, so more game time is on the docket. Anything that provides a respite from dinosaur toys and television is a parenting win in my book! So this past week, I pulled my Crafty Self out of storage and cobbled together my version of this game he’d played with family over the holidays. Hence, I bring you our Frugal Friday activity of the week: homemade board games!

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Uber Frugal Month Is Done!

By on February 7, 2017

Like many of you (I think over 10,000 at last count), Mr. and Mrs. COD joined the Uber Frugal Month Challenge inspired by the Frugalwoods. The purposes of this little experiment: to spend as little as possible and to reset our spending defaults. Let’s look deep into the January 2017 COD expenditures…Can you stand the excitement?!

UBER FRUGAL GROCERY SHOPPING

The biggest reduction we hoped to see was in grocery spending, and we definitely kept that lower than usual. Woohoo! We didn’t quite squeeze by under that $300 mark I was eyeing, but that was a long shot anyway. The mere thought of our Uber Frugal Month was motivation enough to help us exercise restraint in our shopping excursions. (Plus, we have you guys to hold us accountable!) 

Ways we limited the grocery expenses this month:

  • A hallmark of the frugal mindset: shopping in our fridge, freezer, and pantry before heading to the market. We roasted a big ol’ turkey to use in soup and other meals. We finally ate a few of those canned vegetables that have been lying around forever. We cooked one of three (three!) rotisserie chickens we also had frozen. FYI, brining chicken in simple water, salt, and garlic rub for a few hours, then grilling it? OMG, perfection! We kept snacking on it long after dinner was over because it was oh so good. 
  • Keeping track of each trip to Aldi or elsewhere, plus having a running total as the month went along. This was a bit tricky, as I like to be in control, but Mr. COD went a couple of times to pick up items I’d forgotten or neglected to buy. 
  • Checking on what we already had before each shopping trip and writing a list down. This helped limit spur-of-the-moment buys; I knew we could get by without stocking up on every single thing. 
  • Eating quite a bit of soup, eggs, and vegetarian meals. We can eat for pretty cheap if we bulk up soups with beans instead of meat.

UTILITIES THE UBER FRUGAL WAY

We’ve continued with our adjusted default house temp of 65 (down from 70-71 a month earlier). I know some frugal folks keep it way lower, but that’ s where we landed without feeling like we’re living in the tundra. The newest bill hasn’t arrived yet, but we know we saved something by lowering the thermostat. I can tell I’ve changed my default because when at my parents’ or anywhere else, it seems really warm. Mr. COD and I are now used to wearing multiple layers in the house, too.

SPENDING BREAKDOWN

  • Groceries $356.43. Totally stoked about this! We’ve been more in the $500/month range, so it’s a fantastically low number. Let’s keep that uber frugal train rollin’!
  • Dining out: $135.30. This is abnormally high for us, which is ironic during an Uber Frugal Month.  Sigh. We finally had enough of these 3-month droughts between date nights. Time to connect with each other, without kids, is vital. We’ll spend a bit to make it happen. Add in a couple of times out with old friends, and that’s how this total came to be. Not bad when combined with our lower grocery bill!
  • Babysitter for one date night: $36. See above. But at least our first date of the month was when the in-laws could watch Junior and Mini COD! For free😁. Yay for grandmas and grandpas!
  • Gas for vehicles: $89.39. This is one of those expenses that are hard to break down by month. (I know we also filled up on December 31st, but that number isn’t included here.)
  • Household items: $457.32. This is a bit high, as it includes a bunch for paint for some touch-up work and items needed for redoing our floors (DIY house beautification in case of rental or sale this summer). Also included: thrilling things like toilet paper, cat food and litter, etc.
  • Gifts: $31.93. This included $8.93 for takeout lunch for a friend of mine. In addition, we picked up a few birthday presents in advance for Mini COD (turning two in February) and a DVD for car rides. The resale place had decent prices, so for $23 we got two board games, a large toy truck, and the movie. We don’t expect to spend any more on his birthday, as I’ll make his cake myself and we won’t have a big party
  • Miscellaneous: $16.99 for WeeSprout Double Zipper Reusable Food Pouch – 6 Pack – 5 fl ozreusable baby food pouches, $38 for my ticket to an upcoming women’s Christian conference, $28.02 for a jewelry purchase to benefit an organization that helps refugees.
  • Ultra Miscellaneous: $550. New laptop. Grrr. So remember that computer screen Mr COD had to replace a month ago? Yeah… It’s still not working. The motherboard might be replaceable, but that’ll take time to learn. He has to have a reliable computer for doing work-related tasks  at home (and completing job applications), so it was pretty much a necessary expense. Quite the un-frugal bummer!
  • I’m only documenting expenses that could possibly be limited or frugalized somehow. Things like our mortgage and internet use, I’ve left out as they aren’t things we’re changing anytime soon. 

a favorite cheap date activity: walking around the university campus (where Mr. COD earned his doctorate)

 

 

UBER FRUGAL MENTALITY: A LONGTIME PHILOSOPHY

The psychology of this mission was fascinating to me. It was awesome to increase our frugal mindset. I felt like we had been living so frugally the past few months that now would have been the time to let go a bit. But the pressure/encouragement of Mrs. Frugalwoods’ daily emails kicked up my motivation. It helped me to avoid Dunkin’ Donuts when I really was dying for an excuse to take the kids out. It helped me decide to bring my own coffee to the library for some “me” time one evening. It prevented a bunch of little shopping trips that inevitably lead to buying more than planned. 

When you live without overspending, it affects your mentality every day. I fancy myself a fairly frugal gal, but this past month I managed to push myself a bit more than usual. Practicing a frugal mindset enables us to put our frugality on autopilot, where saving money is actually easy and spending unnecessarily is super painful!

STUFF WE DID THE FRUGAL WAY

  • No haircut. I haven’t gone anywhere for one since last March, so I’m totally breaking all the salon rules. It’s beginning to bug me slightly, but I held off at least for this month and saved that money. (I don’t have any appointment set for anytime soon, either.)
  • No little “treats” like a cafe bagel for me and the kids to brighten up weekday mornings. (We make muffins at home all the time anyway.)
  • No Redbox rentals. Not that we do that very often anyway, but we stuck with our plentiful entertainment options like Netflix and Amazon Prime shows, plus have started checking out movies from the library! Frugal win!
  • Plenty of free fun for the munchkins. We visited the library, went on walks, and even hung out at the pet store a few times. Our public library even shows free movies about once a month or so, but we haven’t had a chance to partake in one yet!
  • Junior and Mini COD on a recent excursion to the park

AN UBER FRUGAL SLIP-UP

  • When a friend came into town for dinner, we took our whole family out instead of inviting him over to our home. (Face palm!) Not only was it more expensive to eat out, but our kids also aren’t exactly at a great age for sitting quietly in a restaurant. One of us had to take Mini COD outside to walk around for most of dinner. At home, we can cook, and the kids can run around the house all they want, so we should have just asked our friend to come over! 

Need some uber frugal motivation? Check out the Frugalwoods’ tips for making frugality your default mindset!

How’s your frugal mindset these days? If you did the Uber Frugal Month, what did you learn from the experience? Was it harder/easier than expected?