It Never Rains But It Pours

By on February 8, 2018

So, folks, it’s been an expensive few weeks for us. We’ve had to cough up quite a bit of dough that is painful to spend, but at least we’re able to do so, right? 

It sure feels like expensive things always pile up simultaneously. Here’s the rundown on the recent COD big money drains. 

Medical Expenses

Dual dental checkup!

  • We (finally) took both Junior and Mini COD to the dentist! Thanks to a recommendation from a local friend, we found a wonderful dental office that caters to kids. Safari-themed main room, a racecar x-ray seat, neon sunglasses for them to wear during their checkup…it was a fun time. Mini’s first visit and Junior’s second ever, and the dentist liked what he saw. 
  • I (Mrs. COD) went to see a new podiatrist. Plantar fasciitis has returned with a vengeance. I’ve dealt with heel and arch pain since just before our wedding almost eight years ago, but it had been largely under control until the past few months. Now, there are days when I can barely walk due to the stabbing pain in my left heel. Thus, a visit to a doc for my foot was in order. I’m just doing extensive stretching so far, which is helping somewhat, but I may need to start getting cortisone shots for more effective pain relief. 
  • There’s also that pesky issue with my knees, which began back at the end of March. I certainly am not surprised by the knee pain, given my longtime running habit and my family’s notoriously bad history in that area. (Three out of four of my parents’ knees have been replaced, one brother had Osgood Schlatter Disease and surgery, another does ultra-distance races and has suffered various injuries.) Anyway, I had been cutting back more and more on my running mileage and frequency, but after Thanksgiving the pain became so bad I had to go cold-turkey. No running at all. It sucks. Only took two more months to get me in to a doctor, and I just had a MRI to ascertain whether surgery will be required. $$$…

Takeaway from all of the medical issues: having insurance is a good thing and SO important. We will still have quite a bit of out-of-pocket expenses, but perhaps once we meet our deductible it won’t be so bad. 

House Repairs

  • Our heat pump needed some work before Christmas, and we shelled out about a grand for that. Unfortunately, we then had a leak occur at the beginning of our eleven-day holiday trip (when temps hovered around ZERO the whole time). Our subsequent bill due in January was…not fun. 
  • We needed to completely replace the heat pump to the tune of over $7,000. Grrr. After spending a chunk to fix it already, that one really hurt. However, the past three days of our home actually warm has been so lovely! 
  • Our old house has an old roof, one that doesn’t inspire awesome levels of confidence. Honestly, we probably should have asked the seller to spring for a new roof when we bought the house, but we didn’t have the nerve. So, as I type this, a crew is up on the roof making quite a racket removing the old shingles. I’m avoiding the seat directly under glass light fixtures, ha! By the weekend, we’ll have a brand-new roof over our heads! More payments. Cha-ching! 
  • Less drastic spending: new paint and painting supplies. The little guys have miraculously begin playing together more amicably, freeing up a bit of time during the day for me. I feel less guilty about painting for an hour or two if I don’t have to park the kids in front of the TV to make any progress. I’m beginning to get the sense that room and trim painting is my part-time job! So far, we’ve freshened up two-and-three-quarters of the bedrooms, a downstairs hall, tons of wood trim, and the kitchen. I don’t believe any part of this house had been painted in at least ten years, so it’s making a huge difference. Walls look so much cleaner. Plus, some fresh colors are always nice! 

Home Sweet Home

Our Feline Family Loss

One more thing got tacked on to our crazy few weeks. We had to put down our oldest cat, Sadie, who had been with me over ten years. She had to be near twenty years old, as I took her from a friend of mine who’d had her a good 8-10 years as well. 

Sweet Sadie

With her advanced age and other signs such as more labored movements and lack of proper litter box use, we knew it was only a matter of time. Neither Mr. COD nor I expected her to last long enough to move to Kentucky with us, but we’re thankful she did. She seemed much more content here, possibly because of the larger space in the house.  

Sadie’s health took a pronounced turn for the worse these last couple of weeks. Last Friday, she was clearly just done. She peed on the upstairs floor, which she’d never done before (she’d at least attempted to use the litter downstairs, though not always successfully). And she suddenly had a terrible skin infection. We sadly made the decision to let her go, seeing how much she had deteriorated. 

The vet bill was an added expense, of course, but worth it to know her final moments were peaceful. We certainly didn’t wish her any prolonged suffering. Mr. COD took her to the vet’s office and sat with her and held her paw through the end. 

It’s a relief to know our old girl is no longer in pain, though we’ll miss her. Of our three cats, she was the most tolerant of the boys and their (sometimes overenthusiastic) affection. This was likely because she was too old and tired to run away, but still, she was sweet to them. 

Thoughts On Expensive Times In Life

Anytime a bunch of high-cost items sort of crop up all at once, it’s hard to part with the additional money. We are financing the roof and heat expenses, which is so irritating, as we really dislike being in debt. However, being on one income this year means a tighter budget, without much wiggle room. 

The positive side of all of this expensive stuff: it only adds to my motivation to ramp up my side hustles. My freelance income hasn’t grown as quickly as I’d like, but it is on the upswing. I’m finding more writing opportunities gradually and working on how to find proofreading clients as well. Knowing that every additional dollar I can bring in will help pay off the roof and heater helps light a fire in me. Freelance work is hugely about hustle, and that’s what I’m learning to do better. 

How do you handle big, sometimes unexpected expenses? 


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?