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…)

The Death of Shopping

By on April 7, 2017

Shopping used to be entertaining. A relaxing activity. A harmless pastime. 

Except…Um…It was never harmless. 

Shopping used to numb my wounds. It made me feel like a grown-up (ironically, since I would spend money I didn’t really have, being in debt as I was). Meandering store aisles offered a cure for boredom. Shopping was a way to make myself feel better, whatever was going on. 

Students sassing back in class? A new outfit will cheer me up and help me look forward to tomorrow despite the hoodlums. 

Envious of friends getting married and having babies while I’m still single? Go buy some Twizzlers and jellybeans to scarf down in front of the TV. 

Nothing to do on Saturday afternoon? Wander the aisles of Target. You don’t need to need anything, you’ll find 817 things you didn’t even know you wanted!

A NEW MINDSET

My recent Kohl’s visit opened my eyes to how my shopping mindset has changed. 

Where I used to cross that threshold and be instantly transported into a veritable Promised Land, I now walked in purposefully. Only to spend the $20 Kohl’s cash we had earned when Mr. COD unexpectedly needed to buy a new suit for interviews. I intended to spend as little as possible, targeting that $20 mark. 

Where I used to go to Kohl’s to fill up empty time, I yearned to use up the accumulated rewards cash as quickly as possible and get out. Part of that change is due to small kids in my house; I always feel hurried to get back home on the rare occasions I get out. A smidgen of mom guilt I need to release somehow.

Where I used to be thrilled each time I received a new coupon to use at my fave store (those 30% off ones were pretty sweet), I now receive multiple offers via email daily and use them rarely, if at all. I think I purchase from Kohl’s maybe two or three times a year now, always when I need my running shoes replaced. I get the same brand and style every time and avoid the stress of trying on and debating what to choose. This is especially helpful as I need custom orthotics, which I know will fit my good ol’ standby sneaks. 

Where I once would spend 100 bucks or more, so pumped to walk out with a huge bag o’goodies, I now am a more thoughtful consumer. Even if all seven of the new shirts I bought were $7 or less due to discounts, did I actually need those new shirts? Or would I now have too many choices of what to wear, making it tougher to decide? Would I end up tossing them out a few months later due to poor quality or my capricious style whims? 

Walking around Kohl’s that day felt so foreign to me. I would have just ordered something online, but was loath to pay extra for shipping, thus, to the actual store I went. I knew I wanted a digital food thermometer because Junior COD had recently broken ours, so I made a beeline for that section. 

I found the one I wanted and grabbed some socks to use up the rest of our Kohl’s cash (it went a little bit over, but socks are always disappearing). Yeah, I know stores only offer those promos to get us back in to buy more, but at least I ended up with a necessity! Not a super exciting shopping trip, but it was just what we needed.

REASONS FOR THE CHANGED ATTITUDE (WHY HAS SHOPPING LOST ITS MAGIC?)

  1. I no longer have a job, so our household income is (duh) a lot less now. 
  2. I think of stuff my kids need more than the stuff I want. (Not always, but I’m getting there.)
  3. If we move in a few months or a year, I want to pack up as little as possible to take with us. Less shopping=less to pack and organize! 
  4. I am trying to adopt more of a “use what I have” mentality versus a “buy more” mentality.
  5. I continue to learn and relearn that just because an item is supposedly a “deal” doesn’t make it a good deal for me. 
  6. With two kids, chances to shop alone are rare, and shopping with them in tow is a chore, not fun.
  7. So many are suffering or needy in this world, and I’d rather be more able to give generously than spoil myself. 

      What’s your relationship with shopping? Have you always loved or hated it, or has your perspective changed  over time?


      Frugality Report: March

      By on March 31, 2017

      I’m not big on sharing full budget reports or anything like that here, but I do like to sum up some ways we’ve been frugal or failed in frugality each month. Perhaps our successes will spark an idea for you or our frugality foibles will encourage you. Hence, I bring you the March Frugality Report!

      Less-frugal stuff in March:

      A trip to a kids’ museum near Mrs. COD’s hometown wasn’t free. Only five buckaroos a person, though, so we were happy to pay. It brightened up one of two dreary, cold days of spring break!

      A fair amount of eating out. Nothing super expensive, but we did spend a bit there. At least we got free babysitting from the grandparents again! 
      Frugal Wins this month:

      $5 hiking boots for me courtesy of VarageSale! I love them already, and they were barely worn when I got them. 

      I ended up not running a race in my hometown that I’d been planning on. My knees were acting up, so I decided to forego the run. A bummer, since a bunch of old friends were running, but since I hadn’t yet signed up, no money was lost! 

      Free vanilla soft-serve cones at Dairy Queen! March 20th, I happened to come across an ad for their free ice cream day, so after some park time with the boys, we walked over to DQ. 

      I exercised restraint in book-purchasing this month. I’ve managed to hold back on buying a certain book I’ve been itching to get my hands on since before it was released. I was tempted again, but frugality prevailed! Maybe I’ll get lucky if I ask around among friends if I can borrow a copy. Also, I checked out Liturgy of the Ordinary from our local library. Written by Tish Harrison Warren, it’s all about the everyday occurrences that present opportunities for knowing God. Things like losing your keys, sitting in traffic, and making your bed can become spiritual experiences. I love, love, love this book, so much I nearly bought it for myself. It sometimes is a joy to mark up a real book with footnotes and underlining, and I kind of longed for that again.  However, it’s perfectly adequate to check it out again from the good ol’ library! 

      No wild St. Patty’s Day frivolity here. I made green cupcakes with the boys that day (although Junior COD tried to talk me into buying some at the store the day before). We waited until two days later to purchase some corned beef at a significant discount. 

      Our second job-interview trip included a stop at Mrs. COD’s parents’ house, which meant free lodging and a chance to visit with them. Plus, the college footed the bill for fuel expenses and one night near campus! Junior COD was so anxious to see Grandma again on the return trip that he convinced us to drive back right after the interview. So he saved us another night in a hotel–yay! 

      We’d love to hear about your own quest for frugality this month! How have you been saving money (or splurging)?


      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!


      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!

        (more…)


      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?

       


      Me Time That Won’t Cost A Dime

      By on January 28, 2017

      Me time may sound selfish or impossible for you, but everyone needs a little “me time” once in awhile (or every day). That’s time you set aside to do something purely for YOU! It helps you recharge, contemplate, question, discover. I have to be more deliberate in seeking out this me time since becoming a SAHM; it’s just hard to catch a break from kids.  (more…)