A New Job For Mr. COD!

By on April 25, 2017

A new job! Yep, IT’S HAPPENING! Mr. COD has accepted a university teaching job! He’ll be joining the counselor education department of the grad school. The CODs are headin’ south, baby!  (more…)


FOMO And Our One-Year Blogiversary

By on April 14, 2017

FOMO can be a total goal-killer. That Fear Of Missing Out can cause us to buy stuff we didn’t want until we saw someone else had it. It can make us join groups and organizations even when we’re already stretched too thin. We joke about it at our church, that FOMO is what drives people to uber-participation. Overall, it has power to convince us do things we don’t really want to do. (more…)

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…)


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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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 freešŸ˜. 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?

 


January Daily Goals: How Did Mrs. COD Do?

By on February 1, 2017

The first month of 2017 is behind us, so it’s time for a little rundown of the January daily goals. As I mentioned, I decided not to make a resolution for the new year and instead created five daily goals just for the first month. Here’s how Mrs. COD fared in the January 2017 Daily Goals Challenge!

We’re off and running in 2017! 

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Mrs. COD’s January 2017 Goals

By on January 6, 2017

Changing Our Default is the name we chose for this blog because although we do focus primarily on personal finance, our overarching purpose is to provide motivation for those seeking change and pursuing goals. I need only to think back over my social media feeds the past few days to find the evidence: we all know we aren’t perfect and we all desire to change something about ourselves. Resolutions are everywhere. (more…)


Dealing With The Unexpected With Frog and Toad

By on October 19, 2016

Frog and Toad are two of my all-time favorite literary characters. For those who aren’t familiar with them, here’s a bit of background. Frog and Toad are best friends who share everyday adventures together. Written quite simply, mainly monosyllabic, these beloved children’s stories give practice to beginning readers along with sweet lessons in life and friendship.I’m such a fan that I bought my own copies of the Arnold Lobel collections during my twenties (when I…ahem…had no kids). 

Toad optimistically going out with his list

In The List, Toad wakes up and writes a list of all the things he will do that day and begins crossing them off one by one. But his plans hit a snag when his list flies away on a breeze, not to be recovered. Frog chases the list, but Toad refuses because “running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do!” Deflated, Toad complains that he can’t remember anything from the list and therefore will have to do nothing. 

That moment when everything goes wrong

How Frog and Toad Relate to Changing Our Default

Reading this episode to my boys makes me smile every time, and I think it’s due to the fact that Toad’s response to a derailment of plans is so like mine. I, too, am inclined to list-making and planning and scheduling. Immaturely, I presume my list to be set in stone. Every event will go in the order I say, in the manner I want. Checking each item off the list as it’s completed brings me immense satisfaction. 

It’s my script, no one else’s. When anything unexpected arises, I might feel frozen. Indecisive. Changes in plans cause ambivalence. I throw my hands up in frustration and give up. 

No one likes unexpected circumstances. Changes to the script. You painstakingly organize everything you need to do, and it’s all supposed to go the way you wanted. Whether it’s just your daily chores on a list or the steps for building your new business venture over several years, things always crop up that slow down or totally derail the plan. 

It’s disheartening when things go off book. You write a script, whether literally or in your mind, but then the other actors start improvising. Making up their own lines. Running off stage into the audience. Wearing ridiculous costumes. Ruining the plan.

These changes in script can take many forms. Illness strikes. Funds fall through. People abandon you. Jobs are eliminated. The story might suddenly be more interesting to an outside observer (who wants to read a novel or see a play about someone whose life goes perfectly according to plan?), but to you on the inside, experiencing it, the change of script is not fun. All of a sudden, you’re forced to rewrite the script and start over. Like Toad, we can become so discouraged we don’t want to try anymore.

Giving up

We have to combat these inevitable script rewrites and not let them derail us permanently. How do we do this?

  • Expect the unexpected. It may sound impossible, and we can’t prepare for every possibility, but if we at least prep our minds, we won’t be so shocked when changes happen.
  • Accept the unexpected. Once you hit that speed bump, look at how it changes your situation and acknowledge it; don’t try to pretend it hasn’t happened.
  • Formulate a new plan. Starting with current circumstances, figure out what you can do to make things better. You don’t have to change who you are, but you do need to be flexible in how you get to your goals.
  • Accept help from others. Even if you can’t see a way forward, someone else might. Like Frog helping Toad, our “tribe” can step in to guide us.
  • Find the good in the reality. Some circumstances are truly beyond our control, so the best we can do is look for the positives. Gratitude is powerful.

    I now look back on plans I used to have for my life, and so many things haven’t turned out as I expected. Meeting my husband at my Christian college? Nope. In a bar, seven years after I graduated. Staying home to raise kids? Nope. Just never occurred to me. I’m happy where I am, and my plans have rarely been fulfilled as I’d envisioned. Some situations in my life aren’t as I wish at all. But somehow, God continues to lead and carry me through the unexpected.

    Favorite kids’ books and why? Do share! 

    How are you when it comes to unexpected changes in plans? Are you a solver or a wallower? 


    Birthdays, Change, and the Meaning of Life

    By on September 19, 2016

    I recently celebrated the 36th of my birthdays. The realization that I’m now one year older makes me think a lot about where I am in life. That’s a pretty natural response to birthdays, I think.

    We all have goals, right? Especially around our birthdays, we entertain high expectations. It’s not just about having an elaborate birthday party or people treating us better than usual. We want to accomplish x, y, and z by the time we reach certain birthdays. Who here recalls Phoebe Buffay’s 31st birthday celebration on Friends? She thinks she’s turning 30, but when visiting her estranged twin Ursula to wish her a happy birthday, she learns that they’re actually (gasp!) 31.

    Such a revelation would make anyone question their life path. Phoebe laments, “I haven’t done any of the things I wanted to do by the time I turned 31.” Of course there’s humor in that concept (most of us make to-do lists for more common milestone ages such as 21 or 40). Phoebe wanting to meet a Portuguese person or have the perfect kiss by age 31 seems rather random, but aren’t all of our age goals kind of arbitrary? How do we determine that we want to be married before age 30, or own a house before 40, or become company president by age 45?

    There’s an emotional weight involved in reaching a certain age. We attach meaning to every age, and our perception of each age changes as we approach it. One of my students woefully told me last spring that since she had just turned 16, her life would just go downhill from there. Boy, did I feel old when I heard that!

    Remember when age 18 seemed like the promised land? Or when you assumed age 25 would be the age you’d instantly have it all together? I know that as I approach and then pass up certain years of age, my views of that age are always different from what I’d expected. I certainly thought that by age 36, I’d be much wiser than I feel right now.

    Birthdays, like New Year’s Eve, prompt a lot of introspection, at least for me. Around my birthday, I ponder some of the bigger questions of existence. Why am I here? Am I fulfilling my potential? Where am I failing? Where am I now, compared to this time last year?

    Sometimes the birthday pensiveness is dangerous. Nothing like a little pressure from yourself to do better than the year before. I turned on Flipboard this A.M. and came across a Forbes article on entrepreneurs under age 18. Yep, these kids are all less than half my age and have already started successful businesses. Thank you, Flipboard, for making me feel like I’ve done nothing with my life!

    I’m kidding, mostly. Bravo for those kid entrepreneurs and the ways they’re changing the world. I have to stay away from the comparison game. I may not be an innovator, but it’s not as if I’ve been sitting around playing video games in my parents’ basement since high school. My life’s had plenty of positive changes since then.

    Reasons To Be Proud/Grateful

    I taught high school for fourteen years, which gave me a lot of really awesome experiences in the classroom. Introducing teens to another language and culture is not exactly the worst way to earn a living. It’s what I’ll probably return to once my kids are a little older.

    I’ve traveled to England, France, Germany, Spain, Haiti, and Costa Rica. Seeing such gorgeous parts of the world and meeting fascinating people has been a blessing.

    I’ve run three marathons. (The most recent was in 2008, which seems a lifetime ago. Today, I feel like a 10K may be as far as I’ll ever run again!)

    I’ve met and married an incredibly patient, generous, loving guy. We’re learning and growing as we raise two healthy, energetic little boys.

    Now that I’m away from the classroom, my own kids keep me busy. We are adjusting to the mundane sweetness of spending every day together. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly grace-filled. Here are a few shots of us on my birthday.

    Exploring a local forest preserve

    Watching geese head south



    Pet store! These two love animals!

     

    Goals Yet to Achieve

    Birthdays can also provide positive pressure. Give us the extra motivation we might need to kick-start our goal achievement. Of course, I have plenty of hopes and dreams for the coming years! This is a good thing; if you stop dreaming, what’s the point of living?

    The ultimate and ongoing goal is always growing closer to God. Faith must grow through daily walking with the Lord, studying the Bible, prayer, and service. Honoring God with everything I am and everything I do is of utmost priority.

    Writing a book has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I have begun many book-writing projects that I have yet to complete. So that’s number one in things I will accomplish eventually. Published or not.

    Other goals are primarily for fun (and still important!):

    • Learning to speak Spanish.
    • Learning to play the guitar.
    • Visiting many of our national parks.

    Some goals are mainly financially oriented:

    • Running my own business.
    • Paying off our home early.
    • Assisting our kids, nieces, and nephews with higher-education expenses.
    • Retire or partially retire by late forties/early fifties.
    • Give with outrageous generosity.

    Unlike Phoebe, I haven’t put an arbitrary deadline on most of my goals just yet. For some of them, I know I’ll have to become more focused in order to make them happen (like the book-writing). And no matter what, I want to be flexible and recognize that we’re always growing and changing, so goals are bound to evolve too!

    Life is a precious gift. My hope is that each one of you reading this is able to pursue the passions that fulfill you. For today, what’s the primary purpose in my life? They’re right here.

    img_20160820_082301821-1.jpg.jpg

    What’s on your list? What do you hope to accomplish in the next year, 5 years, 10 years, and beyond?