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Weekend Frugal List - 6/6/21

June 6th, 2021 at 05:05 pm


I've somehow got out of the habit of doing these frugal lists - partly because I am barely spending any money these days apart from just regular life expenses, so it is hard to come up with a list sometimes. At the moment, most of my frugalness comes from my garden. Anyway, here's my list from this week:

(1) Bartering Galore: Spring and late summer are two of my barter-heavy periods. There is a thriving community of backyard farmers in my town who trade all kinds of garden and food related things. Since I always start about four times as many seeds as I need plants, these are part of my Springtime trades. The two other big things in Spring/Early summer are new raspberry starts and the huge excess of herbs that I have. Not only does starting plants from seed save me money (a 4" start at the home-garden store is ~$3.49), but I also get to trade them for other goodies. This year I have traded for starts I don't have, as well as chicken and duck eggs. Later this year, I will trade my excess produce for produce I don't have or for goat's cheese, eggs and honey. This is the first place I have lived where people barter like this, and I absolutely love it.

(2) The garden is super productive right now. Over the past few weeks, I have finished harvesting all the peas, harvested 30 heads of garlic (20 more heads will be ready in another 2 weeks), harvested all the green and walking onions, the first flush of cilantro, and loads of lettuce. Also, some cut flowers for the home. But, this year we've had really hot weather, and my first round of Italian basil was bolting early. I cut a whole bunch for a bouquet and it looks beautiful in addition to making my kitchen smell absolutely heavenly. I've replaced it in the garden with sweet basil and Thai basil for the rest of the summer.

(3) The realtor I used to purchase my home sends regular ads to people who have bought from her before as one of her marketing methods. She will frequently include things for the receiver (calendars in December, free coffee coupons, free frozen yogurt coupons, and so on). This month, her newsletter ad came with a free coupon for a car wash. It was quite welcome since I was thinking of getting my car washed sometime soon anyway. 

Another Big Expense Done

May 14th, 2021 at 01:46 pm

A couple of days ago, the installation of my ductless heat pump was completed. It's a two-headed Daikin system, and I am delighted with the results. It will be useful both summer and winter, but especially in the winter. It's also more energy efficient and will probably lower my electricity costs. I will also get a $300 tax credit on this year's taxes. The total was $5412 - homeownership is not cheap!

Yesterday, I went out to water my frontyard flowers, and saw that someone had dug up a whole clump of sweet alyssum! It was there the day before, and then just gone - leaving a gaping hole in its wake. I was really upset. But, I grow most of my plants from seed, and have other flowers in the greenhouse that I can plant there. It's just really annoying and such a rude thing to do - who the hell steals plants already in the ground???!#@#$!^&!$@

My garden is starting to be productive again, and I have more food being produced that I can use up - so most of the excess is going to get processed for later months and next Winter. Right now, I have an excess of walking and green onions, spinach, fava beans, and am absolutely overrun with cilantro. This weekend, I am going to do a massive fava harvest. I'll have another one a week from now and then replace the plants with peppers and eggplants.

Still waiting on the final update from the bank's underwriters to close on the refinance.

NW: $287,581.23

Back from Vacation

May 9th, 2021 at 07:03 pm

I returned last night from my week long camping and hiking trip. It was fantastic! I am exhausted physically, but emotionally it has been so relaxing and rejuvenating. I need a vacation every month!

I booked this trip last December when I was feeling cooped up. It started out as a mental experiment - if I can't travel anywhere, I can plan and let my mind travel. I decided to plan a week long outdoor adventure. I picked Utah, and started planning. By the time I got to the third day, I couldn't contain myself any longer and booked the trip. I picked May since the weather there would still likely only be mild, and a school week thinking that it may be less crowded with fewer families. (I was wrong on both counts - the weather was hot and the national parks were busier than I had anticipated). I thought that if I were vaccinated by May, I would go. Planning the trip and the hikes provided me with months of enjoyment.

I rented a campervan - I have never used one before, and I was delighted by it. It was compact (fitting into a regular parking spot), and was set up with a bed, a kitchen, and an outdoor shower). I booked it because I didn't want to stay at hotels with other people or eat at restaurants, and I didn't want to fly my tent, camping cot, and all my camping supplies all the way to Utah. I stayed at campgrounds for the first two nights, and then did dispersed camping for the rest of the trip. It was beautiful. I camped by mountains, in the forest, and in dark valleys. Three of the places I camped were certified International Dark Sky spots, and I saw the milky way all three of those nights. I grocery shopped the first day and cooked all three of my meals each day.

The most expensive part of the trip was the van rental. I ended up paying for extra miles thinking I would need them, but I didn't. So, it could have been about $250 cheaper. Oh well...

Here is the cost breakdown:

396.61 - Flight, airport parking, and Uber to and from van rental office
822.13 - Van and equipment rental
157.04 - Gas
76.92 - Groceries and snacks
45.00 - Campground fees x2 nights
125.00 - National Park Annual Pass and 3 state park entry fees
76.91 - Gifts, souvenirs, and donations
1699.61 - TOTAL

I'm off to read the blogs that I missed while I was gone.

Month End Update

May 1st, 2021 at 03:38 am

April has been a good month financially. It's been brisk for business and I am very much on target for what I want to make this year. There were a bunch of largish purchases and expenses that left my savings account mostly depleted. Some were expected (mortgage refinance initiating fee, ductless heat pump installation, vehicle rental for my trip next month, an airplane ticket for later this year to go see my sister, tax prep, and taxes) and some were unexpected (new phone, car repair which ended up being a camshaft exhaust solenoid replacement $300.95). I had enough money to cover it all, and am not in the red.

My home value keeps skyrocketing. There was an $9k jump in the Zillow estimate this month (borne out by the refinance auto-appraisal). While I don't plan on selling anytime soon, and this is not a liquid asset, it feels nice to see jumps in my NW because of it. I went from $14k equity in it when I bought it in March 2019 to $108k equity in it this month.

I noticed that one area of my roof persistently has moss on it despite me adding the moss treatments each year. A maple that has a bunch of moss overhangs this section and so this bit of roof also doesn't get much sun. I hired a handyperson to scrape the moss off the shingle edges and apply more moss preventer. It cost $158.98 in all (mostly labor), but hopefully this will save thousands in terms of delaying leaks or replacement costs. I am seriously considering taking out that maple tree. It is slightly damaged and will have to come out within the next 10 years or so anyway.

I got a somewhat broken changing table for free off craigslist and altered and fixed it up to make it a rather excellent potting bench. It's been helping my back tremendously.

NW: $296,258.39

More Unexpected Expenses

April 20th, 2021 at 02:46 pm

I mentioned in my last post that I had a bunch of expenses piling up this month. In accordance with Murphy's Law, I have another unexpected expense on hand: the check engine light on my car went on on Saturday. I called the two mechanics I typically go to and the one that had an opening earliest was today. I'm taking it in today to have checked out and fixed. I am hoping it's not a large or expensive fix.

I'm counting the days to go on my camping vacation to the UT National Parks early next month. I have a week of vacation each month from now through August and it's making me so very happy to anticipate these holidays. This week, I received a call from a friend I have not met in two years and she asked me to go and spend some time with her at her beach cabin on Puget Sound. She's spends her summer months there, and I am looking forward to joining her there later this summer.

My brother in-law gets his second shot on Thursday. After this, everyone in my close family except my toddler niece will be fully vaccinated, and that is such a relief for now.

The flowers in my garden are making me happy. At the moment, I have tulips, bluebells, columbine, Persian buttercups, chives, wild violets, comfrey, and one solitary red marigold. The calendula and peonies look ready to open flower in another week or two. My fava beans have set fruit, and the blueberries are just starting to. The raspberries have flower buds on. The walking onions are forming bulbils. Spring time is my favorite season - there is a new delight to wake up to every day or two.

NW: $285,460.93

This and That

April 9th, 2021 at 11:14 pm

I sent in my Federal, State and County taxes as well as the estimates for Quarter 1. I also fully funded my SEP-IRA for last year. This has left my bank account almost completely empty. That money was never really mine to use - I just had it saved up and earmarked for these things. But, seeing about $50k disappear from my bank account is quite heartbreaking. This is one of weird psychological things about self-employment. This year, my estimated taxes will be much closer to the correct number, so I suppose next year I won't have to go through this illogical sadness for the loss of money that was never really mine.

The refinance process is going well. They anticipate closing around mid-May. The loan officer told me what my credit scores that they pulled were: 803, 813, 826. That's the first time that I have been aware of that all three of the scores were over 800. I felt warm and gooey about it. About 8 years ago, my credit score was in the 600s.

My phone started acting up - it arbitrarily depletes its battery only to be full again when I restart, or will crash and turn off at arbitrary times. The screen is a little bit cracked too from me dropping it several times. It's an iPhone 7. I went ahead and ordered a new one - this one an iPhone X.

I got quotes for installing a ductless mini-split with two zones in my home. In my area it's common to have ceiling heat panels. It boggles the mind why someone created this bizzare physics-defying method of heating. It doesn't get too hot where I am except for about a month or so at the height of summer, so many homes including mine also don't have A/C. This new ductless system will solve both problems for me. The quote was for $5650 including a rebate from my local utility board. And I'll also be able to claim a rebate of $300 on this year's taxes for installing it. The quote is quite reasonable for what it is, but coming at the heels of tax depletion, a new phone, and closing costs, this is another thing that makes me feel financially stretched this month. But, I am grateful when I remember how not that long ago, this would have pushed me deeper into debt and cause a sense of loss and despair.

Once the refinance and the heat pump are installed, my only remaining big financial goals for the year are to replenish my savings account, and to fully fund my 401(k). That's doable, I think.

NW: $287,189.40

Weekly Frugal List - 4/3/21

April 3rd, 2021 at 02:58 pm

(1) I cut my own hair. This is the second time I have cut my hair during the pandemic, and I love it. I have very curly hair, and it is a bit hit or miss with hairdressers since curly hair does not behave the same way when it's wet as straight hair does. This is especially true if I try to get a layered cut. Anyway, I found this youtube video that provides a quick tutorial. I have used it twice now, and I have to say that it's the best haircut I have ever had. And what's more - it's absolutely free! The first time around, I gave myself a very deep "V", and I adjusted the angle of cut this time around, and it was perfect! Who would have thought that the best haircut of my life would have taken 5 minutes, and would be absolutely free?!!?!!

(2) Once I retire, one of the things that I want to do is walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It takes about 35-40 days, and I won't be able to do it before I quit work. So, this is a retirement goal for me. There are multiple routes, but the one I want to do is in Spain, and I have decided to give myself 10 years to learn Spanish. I've been using the free Duolingo app to learn it, and it's a slow and frugal way to learn some basic Spanish. My sister also got me a book on Spanish vocabulary - isn't it lovely to have supportive family? Spanish is so like English, and this makes it easy. I speak five languages, but English is the only romance langauge and it has been fun to learn another one. I've done 40 days already, and am doing pretty well so far (at least as far as Duolingo Spanish goes).

(3) I registered for a few amazing looking free virtual events. Those and a bonus are included below for you too

a. In Pursuit of Happiness: A conference on seeking happiness. It has some interesting speakers. Free to register for this virtual event.

b. How to be an Anti-Racist: A lecture by Ibram X. Kendi who wrote the excellent book on Anti-Racism. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. This virtual event is also free.

c. Hi Dr. B: A resource that connects you with local providers who have extra doses of the COVID vaccine. Free to sign up and be alerted.

NW: $280,921.73

Mortgage Refinancing

March 31st, 2021 at 04:06 pm

I've written here about my mortgage troubles with the bank I refinanced with last year. It was not a good experience at all and has continued to suck even a year later with their refusal to drop PMI, etc.

Since my taxes for this year are filed and I now have two years of adequate income in self-employment to show, I started the process to refinance my home.  I contacted my sister's mortgage person and right off the bat this person is about a million times better than the previous one. It's with USBank with whom I have been since 2004, and I trust them. And the mortgage officer is incredibly responsive and helpful.

I already have a small amount of savings - the mortgage officer ran my home value through the automated system and it came back at around what the Zillow estimate is, so I do not need to do an appraisal since my loan amount is less than 78% of the home value. That is $575 in savings right there! Not to mention that I will not have to pay PMI, which will be an additional $39.95 saved each month. 

Yet again confirmation that I needed to leave the old awful bank I have the mortgage with. My current mortgage lender refused to run an automated appraisal for me and insisted that I would have to pay for a new appraisal. Furthermore, regardless of the appraised value, they insisted that I would have to continue to pay PMI for the next two years despite my having ~29% equity in my home. Screw them! I can't wait to be done with them.

I'm refinancing for a 15-year loan term. 2.75%

First Vacation Since the Pandemic Began

March 25th, 2021 at 04:38 pm

I just returned from a three week vacation to visit my sister and her family. My parents are abroad during the pandemic, so it will be a while until I get to see them. But, they have received their first doses as well and will get their second doses in two weeks. So, everyone in my immediate family except my brother in law is vaccinated, and this gives me an immeasurable amount of relief.

This was my first vacation since the pandemic began. It felt so good to get out of town and visit my family. Here is a gist of my thoughts on it:

(1) I chose to fly Delta because they seem to be only one of two airlines flying out of my local airport that are committed to blocking middle seats. (Alaska was the other one). United and American are the two other major airlines that fly from here, and neither of them are committed any longer to blocking middle seats. I hate United, and will never fly with them if I can help it, and this convinces me further that they are not a company I want to spend my money on.

(2) There is a marked difference between how people in the west coast (at least in my state) treat the pandemic, and how it's treated in the Midwest (at least in the city my sister lives in). I saw loads of people wear masks underneath their chins in stores, playgrounds absolutely packed with hundreds of parents and kids, people not maintaining 6-ft distance in stores, etc. It was quite astonishing. I was not prepared for that.

(3) I spent way less money. Usually we go out and do things when I visit. This trip, most of what we did was hang out at home, go for long walks, watch movies at home, and cook together. My only expenses this trip were a few times I ordered take-out for us all, and the Uber drive back home from the airport when I returned. It was probably the cheapest 3 week vacation I have been on.

(4) It felt absolutely wonderful to be with family. My sister thought it was funny that I wanted to eat only when she ate. In our family, we only eat dinner together, for the other meals we just eat whenever we are hungry - which means it ends up being at different times. But, eating meals with family is something I have missed this past year, and I ate every single meal with her and my neice. I think I ate more than usual and not always very diabetic-friendly meals. But amazingly, I somehow lost 3 lbs.

(5) Time away from work only made me even more determined to retire as soon as possible even though I love my job. It is not what gives me a sense of worth or meaning. My joy comes from family, travel, nature, gardening, reading, and all my other hobbies. I have my fingers crossed for a 10 year time frame to retire.

Financial things while I was gone:
(a) The new CPA did my taxes, and I am very pleased with him. I am also delighted that I chose to switch this year to a new person rather than wait as I had initially thought to do. He is excellent, and cost me about $150 less than my previous person.

(b) For the most part, I did not really keep track of finances except to keep an eye on GME every so often. In the three weeks that I was gone, the price rose from ~$40 to a high of ~$265, and then back again. It's currently at ~$160 as I write this. The GME subreddit was somewhat funny over the past month while the users were having some fun at the expense of the bots, in the earlier part of the month. But in the last few days at least two of the subreddit mods who post daily DD have reported that they are getting death threats and hate/disparaging messages. It's ludicrous to think that any individual share owners would do this - especially as the price rises, so I believe some form of psychological pressure from Hedge Fund reps to drop the subreddit's morale. It makes me feel even more disgusted with the nefarious ways in which these large financial entities run. I'm still holding my shares. Since I had reconciled myself to losing the lot, anything over zero just feels good.

(c) My garden has exploded in the weeks I was gone. In the green house, my eggplant, peppers, basil and tomatoes have germinated and started to put out true leaves. In the garden, the radishes, spinach, lettuce, and cilantro have sprouted. The fava beans have flowered, the shallots and kale are growing well, the sage and oregano have exploded, the peas are climbing their trellises, almost all my flower seeds have germinated, and the raspeberries and blueberries are filling out with foliage. In the front yard, the daffodils and hyacinth are putting on a good show, the nigella and tulips will flower within a month, the Persian buttercups and the daisies are looking healthy, the plum tree is in blossom, the comfrey has loads of flowers and the bees are loving it.

(d) I set up appointments to get quotes to install ductless heat in my home. Apart from redoing the front yard, this is my other big home expense for this year. I will push painting the outside until next year.


NW: $274,888.12

End of Month Updates

March 2nd, 2021 at 04:53 pm

Got my second dose of the vaccine a few days ago. Contrary to expectations, I didn't have any diffiuclt symptoms following either of the doses. I can now finally go and visit my sister. She also has got both doses, but no one else in her family has, so I wanted to make sure that I was fully vaccinated before I go there.

February started out good as far as investments go, but was brutal in the last few days with a downturn in the market. The returns on my investments were down a bit, but they have rallied in first few days of March. I also purchased my first ever options. I have a way to go before they expire. They're already in the green and it's a company I feel really good about, so I hope to make a good bit on them.

The value of my house seems to be skyrocketing. I live in what used to be one of the nicer but still affordable parts of town, but it is rapidly turning into a nice and somewhat unaffordable place to buy. I am glad I bought my house when I did. In the last month, it appreciated by $14k.

NW: $265,320.45


February 19th, 2021 at 02:42 am

I was scheduled to get the second dose of my vaccine this weekend, but the shipments have been delayed due to weather conditions en route. So, my second dose is delayed by 8 days - I'm still in the window within which it's fine to get the second dose.

I found a really affordable handyperson to work on my front lawn. I considered putting in grass, but didn't want to deal with mowing and watering in the summer, so I am paying her to take out the landscape fabric, use cardboard to suppress the weeds and cover with a thick layer of woodchips.  That should be sufficient to last another two years at least before I have to decide once more whether or not to install grass. I am glad to have contracted this out rather than to have to do by myself. 

I have been weeding the garden area myself. I completedly weeded the garden area. Added sulphur to acidify the soil for my blueberries and raspberries. Sowed lettuce, radishes, spinach, peas, beets, carrots, nasturtium, and cilantro. My jobs for the upcoming week are to weed a bit more, give the garlic a spring feed, rotate my compost pile, clear my flower beds from fall debris and plant flowers, repot my sage, and clean out the greenhouse. If I can do all of this stuff, then I can go on vacation after my second dose without worrying about all the tasks to tackle when I get back.

The next home task I have to do is to install a ductless heat pump. I may need two because of the layout of my house. I'll get a few of quotes within the next month or two.

Got all my tax documents and gave them to a tax preparer. I had initially thought that I would go with the person I used last year for the sake of ease. But, I decided to switch sooner rather than later. I am using another person recommended to me, and in my first conversation with him, he was already aware of what I had to correct my previous person on. So, I feel much more confident already. Once I hear back from him, I will know how much more I can add to my SEP-IRA.

Weekly Frugal List - 2/13/21

February 13th, 2021 at 03:58 pm

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. ❤️💖

Here is my list of frugal things:

(1) Finished reading four books so far this year (and am halfway through two others). I had been on a very long run of reading only non-fiction, and got back into reading some fiction again. Three of the books I read were fiction, and I recommend them: "The Silent Patient" and "Memory Man" are both gripping page turners. The other was "Good Omens", and I haven't laughed as much while reading a book in a long long time. I highly recommend it. Got all of the books read this year for free through the library on either Hoopla or Libby.

(2) Sowed peas, beets, flowers. I start almost everything in my garden from seed. It's very frugal since it's just pennies as opposed to buying starts from the garden center for $1-2. I also started some eggplant seeds for the garden this week - starting them early because I hope to get them nice and big before I transplant them. I'll start spinach and radishes in the next week or two.

(3) I've been making loads of stir-fry lately. I ran out, and so made a new batch of hot oil. I'll share the recipe below in case anyone else is interested. I used to spend $4.99 for a small bottle of it at the Asian store until I started making my own. I highly recommend it since you can customize it to suit your taste, and it costs less than a dollar to make a good sized bottle of it.

I used to buy hot oil (the condiment you find at the tables of Chinese restaurants) because I made lots of stir-frys and also because I found that when getting take-away food from a restaurant, I was given the condiment in impossibly tiny containers and it was never nearly enough. However, it can be expensive to buy it (if you eat lots of hot food like me), and so I started making my own. The only two ingredients you really need are red pepper flakes and oil (something that has a higher smoke point - not olive oil). I usually buy the red pepper flakes from the bulk section of the grocery store for a few pennies, but you can also buy bags of it for $1-$2, and you can use those for 4-8 batches depending on how much red pepper you are going to use. And I use regular canola oil.

1. Add the red pepper flakes to a glass jar. The more flakes you add, the hotter the oil will be. I usually fill the jar about half full because I like hot spice.
2. Add any other ingredients you like (I usually add a little pink salt, some sesame seeds, peanuts, and thin garlic slivers). This is optional, but I find makes it much more flavorful.
3. Heat the oil in a saucepan that has a lip for easy pouring. Heat until you start seeing small wisps rising.
4. Place the jar on a flat surface and slowly pour the oil into it in small batches. It will bubble up and smoke, so stand back. Once the jar is filled, take a spoon or chopstick and mix the peppers about in the oil to ensure that you don't have any dry spots or air pockets. You can do this indoors, but I don't recommend it because you'll be coughing a lot and your entire kitchen will smell like chili peppers for a week. I always do it outdoors. I then leave it outside until it is at room temperature before I bring it in.

It can be stored at room temperature and will last for months. I add it to my stir-fry of course, but also use it in loads of other ways. A little spoonful in scrambled eggs, mixed with yogurt or sour cream for a spicy dip, mixed in with some plain hummus to make it spicy, etc. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy.

This and That

February 4th, 2021 at 09:53 pm

GME continues to tank. It's at 50-something today - still more than it's worth, probably. I don't think it's going to rally at this point. If RH had not restricted buying shares last week, I imagine it would have risen more. At one point they were only allowing retail investors to sell and not to buy. Later, they changed it to a limit of owning 100 shares, and then this morning to 500 shares. The free market is not so free when you can manipulate who can buy shares, is it? My disillusion with the financial system continues. SEC is going to hold hearings in two weeks. I don't think much will come out of it - I wish I were more optimistic about it. I am reminded of what Steve Carell playing Mark Baum said in The Big Short - "In the end they will blame the poor people". But, both Ted Cruz and Ben Shapiro agreed with AOC about the situation - that's not something that you get to see very often, and made for some pretty hilarious twitter reading.

In the realm of things that are more under my control, things are ho hum overall. I have not been doing much money-wise. I got take away for the first time this year yesterday. And, bought my sister a birthday present. I also got some seedling compost for seeds this year.

I decided this would be a good time to make a vision board. I have been thinking of and coming up with a new strategy/timeline for how I want things to be in my life, so a vision board seems like a fun way to dream and enjoy some creative time focusing on what I want in my life. The last time I did this was five years ago, and I ended up doing/accomplishing about 90% of things that were on there. I got a bunch of magazines on Buy Nothing, and started to clip out images. I'm having a hard time finding things related to what I want financially. It's surprising how little there is related to money in most magazines. Unless they are financial managizes, I suppose. So far, about 50% of my board is related to travel - I think being cooped up in the pandemic is making this desire more prominent in my mind.

Harvested some mustard a few days ago. I need to get started with some February seeds. I have shallots coming up nicely and did an early sowing of eggplants - I am hoping to get them nice and big by the time they are ready to go out into the ground. I will also be planting peas, more mustard, and some greens in the next week or so. I am so ready for Winter to be over. For all of those out East and getting the bizzards, stay warm and safe.

GME Update 1

February 2nd, 2021 at 11:38 pm

GME was a roller coaster today. Well, not so much a roller coaster as a complete plummet downward. I checked every now and again between work, and it pretty much tanked the entire day as far as I can tell. But, I was much less stressed about it today than yesterday.

I gave it some more thought yesterday, and came up with two important deciding factors: (1) Emotional: I am not in it for the money. In fact, I was aware of this back in December, but didn't buy it till last week after it had already fallen 50% in value from its peak. The RH manipulation and a couple of other things happened and pissed me off. The video of Leon Cooperman (billionaire, convicted insider trader) literally crying in an interview and then losing his shit and saying that "people sitting at home with their $600 government checks" are using it to "attack wealthy people" and "we all need to just work together" pissed me off even more. So, the second stock I have ever bought in my life was a protest stock, I guess. If you had told me a month ago that I would be doing this, I would have laughed. (2) Financial: I read Marc Cuban's AMA on WSB. He said that if you can afford to hold the stock, to hold it. I can afford to lose the little bit of money I have put in, so I decided to stick it out and removed my stop losses. So, at this point, I guess it's all or nothing.

So all in all, I decided that I was neither emotionally nor financially stressed about it. It's a good story to be part of. And talking about stories, both MGM and Netflix are working with a screenwriter to make this into a movie.

Bought some GME

February 1st, 2021 at 05:32 pm

After some consideration, I bought four shares of GME at $250 each. If I had bought back in December when I first considered it, this would have been closer to a 100 shares. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

Over the last week, I have grown increasingly disheartened by the way the market is being manipulated by the billionaires and the hedge funds. It's been encouraging to see politicians from both sides of the aisle come out in support of retail investors. It has been astonishing seeing Robinhood go to pieces over their role in the market manipulation. It is sickening to watch billionaires and hedge funds be up in arms when the little man profits from exactly what they have been doing all these years. Two rules - one for the rich and one for the poor. They think their bets count and ours don't?

So, I say: screw them. This feels like a movement - even if it is short lived. I am going to be part of the movement. So, I bought my four shares this morning. I am not sure what is going to happen with the stock. My decision to buy was more emotional than anything else. It'll be a fun ride at the very least. I won't break the bank with this amount invested in the stock. And hopefully I will come out of it with a little bit of Melvin and Citron's cash.

Net Worth Update - Jan, 2021

January 30th, 2021 at 07:47 pm

It was a nutty month for investments. It's been a roller coaster watching the GME drama, and I've been feeling some major regret about not joining in when I first saw the WSB chatter last December.

Changes this month:
(1) Funded my HSA for 2021.
(2) Started and funded a new brokerage account at M1 Finance
(3) Rebalanced savings and moved excess to brokerage
(4) Made my very first stock purchase. I usually just buy index funds, and decided to gamble a bit. I know this is more volatile than my VTSAX position. Thankfully this only makes up a small amount of my portfolio. I'm still learning.

79,396.62    Home Equity
10,009.65    Savings/EF
56,412.95    Brokerages
  8,060.74    HSA
29,996.66    SEP - IRA
52,340.76    457 Account
236,217.38      NET WORTH


January 23rd, 2021 at 07:56 pm

I got my COVID vaccine today. I got the Moderna vaccine.

I am so relieved. I knew I would be, but I guess I hadn't realized just how much. My sister is getting hers on Wednesday. I had vague plans of visiting her sometime this year, and this makes it much much more doable earlier in the year than I had dared to hope. Her baby is almost two and a half years old, and growing rapidly. I want to see her. And, I want to be hugged and held. No one has touched me in a year, and I feel so excited to see them and to give and receive giant big hugs.

Weekly Frugal List - 1/16/21

January 16th, 2021 at 05:07 pm

This week's frugal thing:

(1) I am almost done reading two books so far this year - both free through the library. One through Hoopla and the other through Libby. One of them was "Atomic Habits" by James Clear, which I highly recommend. I am pleased with the pace I am keeping of reading so far. A half an hour here or there makes short work of a book, and I am spending much less time watching TV. I don't have a reading goal for the year. However, last year I read 22 books, and hope to read around that many or a few more this year.

There hasn't been much I have been doing in terms of money - my only expense was filling gasoline in my car, and my first grocery trip since mid-November.

BONUS: A lot of people have been blogging about eating from their fridge and pantry this month. Here is a resource that helps come up with recipes that use ingredients you already have on hand. I think there are several of these about, and you can just google them. This just is one that I have used on and off and find easy.

PMI Frustrations - Part 2

January 12th, 2021 at 04:50 pm

I heard back from my mortgage lender. They won't automatically drop the PMI within 2 years of executing a refinance on my mortgage even if I have paid down to 78% of the home value (even if I don't account for appreciation). I can request and pay for an assessment to demonstrate that I have made substantial improvements (they apparently won't consider appreciation of home prices in the area), and even then it's not a guarantee that the assesor's report will make it happen. I am pissed! I have had nothing but trouble with this particular credit union through the whole process, and this is the last straw.

So, after filing taxes in a couple of months, I am doing another refinance as long as the interest rates remain low. This time, I will take out a 15 year mortgage with a different bank. I ran the numbers and it looks like if the mortgage rates remain the same as they are today, and I keep the same accelerated monthly payment amount as I am paying now, and presuming I won't have to pay PMI on this new refinance, I will pay $17k less in interest, and pay off a year earlier. It seems worth the hassle and the refi costs.

I hate debt for the years I spent in debt, and with the one remaining debt I have, I keep being reminded of how little power and freedom a debtor has. Debt is EVIL!

/rant over.

Weekly Frugal List - 1/9/21

January 9th, 2021 at 05:55 pm

What an awful week this has been! I'm sad and angry, but also deeply grateful that the democratic process continues despite the repeated assaults on it.

Here is a roundup of this week's frugal things:

(1) Harvested the rest of the carrots, and a third of the mustard greens this week. There weren't a whole lot of carrots left - about a dozen or so, and most were little ones, but still enough for sides for 3 meals. Cooked up the mustard greens into a frittata. I've still been eating from the freezer and pantry, so no grocery expenses this week.

(2) Got a referral link from one of my friends for M1 Finance. $10 free for both of us for using the link - it's not a lot, but it's free money. I'm going to use this account to play around with investing. I won't add a lot of money to this - most of my money is stashed in low cost index funds that I am going to hold for the long term. This account is going to be to learn to work with individual stocks. I am pretty risk averse, so I don't know if speculating will be fun or stressful. We shall see.

(3) Started crocheting an amigurumi toy for my neice using a free pattern. I almost feel like it's silly to add this to the frugal list since there are so many free patterns out there. But it will be a frugal gift to give the little toddler. She likes horses at the moment, so it's going to be a purple and gray horse since those were the colors of yarn that I had on hand. The bag of polyfill that I purchased for $4.97 will be enough for about 4 toys, so I see more crocheted toys in my future. I also hope it will help me curb the ridiculous habit I have of simultaneously watching TV and browsing on my phone.

Thoughts on Last Year's Expenditure

January 6th, 2021 at 05:27 pm

I decided to take a look at my expenditure for 2020. Interestingly, though I have been keeping accounts of every purchase I make for the past 15 years, I have never done this before. While I was in debt, this might have been more a depressing experience than an uplifting one - I imagine I was putting away far far more towards debt than I was to living expenses. But, doing this today has been quite an eye opening and pleasant experience, and makes me feel even more confident that I will be able to achieve financial independence by my 2034 birthday if not sooner.

My total expenses for 2020 were: $52173.23. That alone is pretty impressive to me. But, this includes my regular and extra mortgage payments. This year, I paid $17,916.99 in mortgage payments (principal, interest, PMI and escrow) and an extra $9,083.01 towards the principal. This means that if my mortgage were to be paid off, my total living expenses would be $25,173.23. To me, that is a pretty low amount considering that I don't really deprive myself of anything - I am frugal, but I end up buying everything that I want and doing everything that I want to.

Of course, this has been a pretty unusual year. However, apart from travel costs, the above numbers are similar to a typical year.

The $25,173.23 above includes some pre-pandemic 2020 travel: expenses while I went on a cruise in February, and visited NYC in early March. The cruise had been paid for in 2019 - only the expenses on board and at ports are included in the 2020 expenses.

The total also does not include my health insurance expenses - about $400/mo for health insurance comes out of my business account. I am diabetic, but this is managed entirely through diet and exercise, and I am not on any medicine or insulin. So, healthcare expenses are also negligible for now. All being well, my hope is that this continues for as long as possible.

My grocery bills are pretty low, as are my restaurant expenses. I grow most of my vegetables and some berries in my garden, and freeze or process enough for them to last me all year long. I am vegetarian, so I don't have any meat/fish/poultry costs. I purchase dairy and non-perishables at the grocery stores. I get my eggs for most of the year from local folks who keep backyard chickens - some of this is purchased, and some I get from bartering my excess produce. I also am part of a local food rescue group that goes to organic farms/orchards/backyards and harvests produce that would otherwise have rotted on the plant. The farmers/homeowners get a tax break for donating to our non-profit group, and for a few hours of labor, we get plenty of fruits and veggies. I only went on one harvest this year (about 3 hours of time), and got a wheelbarrowful of delicious Shiro plums that I dehydrated. But, there often is so much produce and fruit, that we share with the group. And over the year, I picked up apples, pears, winter squashes, cauliflower, kale, and zucchini that others harvested. We end up rescuing thousands upon thousands of pounds of perfectly good food that would otherwise have been wasted. I also forage the delicious, but extremely invasive blackberries that are taking over the PNW. For the price of scratching up my hands on the brambles, I can have an unlimited supply of berries for the year. I enjoy going out to restaurants, but it is almost impossible to find vegetarian low carb food at most restaurants. So, my restaurant costs end up being pretty low even in non-pandemic years.

I have about $7600 in atypical expenses this year - refinancing the house, a new couch, a new small freezer, a tree removal, etc. But, there probably will be other things each year that probably will cost around that much - painting the house, a new appliance, a new fence, or other expenses.

So, I guess this means that I have been living on about $2000/month (not including mortgage). If I were to add in more travel expenses, it might mean about $2500 each month post-pandemic but before retirement. And adding in health insurance and more travel post retirement, I might expect to spend about $3500 monthly in today's money.

Provided I keep saving the way I do, if I retired at 55, I think I shall have more than enough money to safely draw this much monthly, and still have enough for periodic larger expenses. If I stick to my plan of paying off my house, this becomes all the more realistic.

All in all, this was a wonderful exercise to do. Having some tentative numbers makes me feel more at ease, and more prepared.

Weekly Frugal List - 1/2/21

January 2nd, 2021 at 04:52 pm


Here is a roundup of this week's frugal things:

(1) Started out the New Year by starting a free book through Hoopla.

(2) Started seeds for shallots on New Year's Day. They will go out into the garden on the 1st of March and all being well will be harvested at the end of July. These are my first seeds for the year. Last year, I started them in mid-Feb and had small-ish shallots. So, decided to start them sooner this year. It was a lovely way to start the new year.

(3) This one cost money, but will save me money. I purchased a National Park Pass. I plan to go on a camping road trip later in the year to visit all of Utah's national parks. I have been to the Zion and Bryce Canyon NPs about 10 years ago, so it will be fun to go again. I paid less for the pass that I would have paid in individual entrance fees on my one week trip. And I can use it to go to other national parks and monuments if I travel any more this year.

Starting New Year's Day with reading, gardening, and travel related things are hopefully something of an auspicious omen for how this year will go. I hope you all have a wonderful 2021.

Net Worth Update - Dec, 2020

December 31st, 2020 at 05:57 pm

I reallocated $11k from tax savings to the brokerage account since I'm pretty certain I have saved way too much for taxes again this year. Good NW gains this month overall.

In fact, this has been a good year overall in terms of NW. In addition to growing in numerical value, this process has also provided me with emotional relief and knowledge/learning. So, I have included some (mostly) non-number gains for the 2020 year below:

HOUSE: There was a whopping $30k in appreciation this year. Refinanced to a lower interest rate in July, but was not able to drop PMI as I had hoped.

SAVINGS/EF: This year, I saved to have an acual EF instead of having my tax savings double as one. Most of this came from grossly overestimating how much I needed to pay in taxes for 2019.

BROKERAGE/RETIREMENT: Learned a new skill - how to invest. I opened the brokerage account this year, and it has been very exciting to learn how to invest even though I use a very boring "buy and hold index funds" strategy. My 457 from my previous employer is managed for me, and is all in a target date fund. I don't get a choice on what happens with that, so I never had to learn. Although I started self-employment a couple of years ago, it wasn't until this year that I started retirement savings through my self-employment.

HSA ACCOUNT: Until June of this year, my health insurance was always paid through my previous employer. I learned about the triple tax advantaged HSA accounts, and picked an HSA plan. My deductible (which is also my maximum out of pocket) is $7000. I have more than this amount in my EF if needed, so medical costs won't sink my financial plan. The plan is to keep the money in the HSA for as long as possible. I am healthy-ish for now, but this will not always be the case. The tax advantages will come in handy when I am older.

I am excited to see what the future years hold in stock.  

77,400 - House Equity
29,700 - Savings(EF)
33,100 - Brokerage
29,900 - SEP IRA
52,300 - 457 Account
4,200 - HSA
226,600 - NET WORTH

2021 Financial Goals

December 29th, 2020 at 04:08 pm

For the past three years that I have been self-employed, one of the hardest things has been getting used to a variable income. Now that I have almost a full year of full time self-employment, I have a better idea of what to expect. I have decided to give myself a "salary" so that I am withdrawing a set amount each month rather than just take money from my business account as needed. I took my lowest earning month from the past year, and based my budget and withdrawal based on that. I can always revise it as needed. The hope is that taking a regular monthly withdrawal will help me make regular investments so I can take advantage of dollar cost averaging. It also helps me to have a more streamlined budget rather than trying to rework it every month.

And then stash it away in HSA, 401(k), brokerage, and extra payments towards my mortgage principal.

I am moving to a solo 401(k) instead of a SEP-IRA because I can save substantially more for retirement this way. I plan to max out the employee deferral. And, if possible to max out the employer contribution as well.

I have lost faith that my current accountant knows what she is doing. She gave me some wrong information that caused me to be able to save less this year in tax-deferred accounts. I corrected her, she doubled down on what she thought was right. I had to research and send her information on why she was wrong, and she passed it off saying, "Of course I knew that. I just didn't realize you wanted to save that much." But, I could not undo it by then. Then she made another error that is going to take some time for me to call around and undo. This one is fixable, but an annoyance. Finally, she thinks that I will not benefit from making an S-election on my taxes. I ran the numbers and I don't think that is the case. I am going to use her again this year for the sake of ease. But, when things slow down after the tax deadline, I'll look for another person.  

I used to do this diligently. But, I froze my account with all three credit bureaux immediately after the 2017 Equifax data breach. Since then, I have slacked off on this a bit. While my credit is still frozen, it will help to make sure to run an eye over the reports a few times a year. An additional hope that my credit score rises over 820. It is currently 792.

Also, drop PMI on mortgage.

Paint the house, and install a lawn in the front yard. Painting needs to happen this year or next. The lawn is optional, but pretty high on my wishlist. The front yard currently has landscape fabric that is covered with woodchips - done by previous owners. While this is very low on time and maintenance in the summer and winter, it is an absolute nightmare in the Spring and Fall. In the Spring, I am constantly digging out weeds and grape hyacinth. In the Fall, the whole thing bubbles up because there is a giant layer of mushroom that grows beneath the landscape fabric and I have to keep pulling it up, removing the mushrooms and replacing the fabric and the woodchips. I hate it. Also, the mushroom is Agaricus Campestris. So, if I had a lawn, I could actually just pick the mushrooms to eat. They're deformed and squashed and dirty when they grow underneath the landscape fabric and squashed against the soil. I removed a whole wheelbarrowful of mushrooms this year, and it make me so sad to just have to throw them away. Installing a lawn will mean that I will need to mow it most months and water it in the summer. But, that seems infinitely preferable to how things are right now. I'm going to get some quotes on someone coming to do the whole thing because I don't want to put in the labor myself. Another option is to remove the landscape fabric, and cover in more woodchips. This doesn't look as pretty as I would like it to, but is very low-maintenance.

Towards the end of the year, if it looks like the pandemic is more under control and 2022 is going to be a year when folks from the US can travel more widely, then in the 4th quarter of 2021, I plan to open a travel bonus credit card and try my hand at travel hacking for the following year. I have never had a credit card that carried an annual fee, so this is going to be an interesting one. If any of you use these cards, please let me know what your experience with them has been.

(9) LOSE 12 lbs.
One pound a month should be pretty doable. Also, exercise 120 days - that works out to one in three days of the year. I think right now I'm only doing around 2x/week on average. This  health goal will have positive financial implications.

2020 Goals Recap

December 27th, 2020 at 05:05 pm

I started my blog late in the year, and didn't post my 2020 financial goals here. But, I make new goals each year and track them. Here is the recap.

(1) Quit my job for full time self-employment
To be fair, this was something that I had been planning for two years. So, the work towards this goal was spread out between May 2018 and March 2020. I made the switch the last week of March 2020, and it just happened to coincide with the pandemic lockdowns. This was absolutely heavenly because I could just make my own decisions rather than have to deal with organizational resistance and issues related to the change. I have learned a lot over this year about self-employment. The biggest things to get used to were managing my own retirement savings/contributions, and getting used to inconsistent income.

(2) Save 75% of income
NOPE. But, almost done.
I ended up saving 69.27% of my gross income this year. This is still an astonishing proportion of savings, and I am delighted by it. I chose to measure %-age of gross income since a lot of this is saved pre-tax. Included in the savings are: HSA, SEP-IRA contributions, EF/savings, additions to brokerage account, and mortgage principal paydown. Not included are mortgage interest and escrow (property taxes, insurance, PMI), any of the money put aside for taxes, and any interest/appreciation on savings/investments. I am going to keep the same goal for next year, and see how it goes. If I don't meet the goal next year either, maybe I'll revise it to 70%.

(3) Credit Score over 800
If I use the FICO reported on my Citi account (reported by Transunion), my score is 845. But, I am picking the FICO reported on my Chase account (reported by Experian) to gauge this. Based on that, I'm at a 792 score right now.  Either way, I am up from my score last December when it was a 748. I like to think that refinancing my house required pulling hard credit which prevented it from rising the last 8 points. Two credit cards that I was not using also closed, and this may have had an impact on the score, although I am not sure.

(4) Consistently put extra money towards the mortgage
I put extra towards the mortgage each month. I also refinanced the house in July and went from a 4.5% rate to 3.125%. This helped more of my extra payment to go towards the principal. Now I wish I had waited longer since the interest rates continued to go lower. But, it's still a substantial savings. Even with my accelerated payoff plan, the change in interest rate shaved 1.5 years off my payoff date, and $17,800 off the total interest I will pay.

(5) Have six months worth of an EF
I did have an EF last year, but it was not a dedicated EF. My tax savings was also doubling as my EF. This is super risky, and I decided to save a separate dedicated EF for peace of mind. Based on an MMM blog post I read, I am considering opening a home equity line of credit to use as an EF if I need more than 2-3 months of expenses. This will enable me to put about $15k more into the market. It's riskier, but $20k sitting in my Ally account isn't really doing very much. What are your thoughts on this?

(6) Max out HSA
First time having an HSA. Fully funded for the year.

(7) Max out SEP-IRA
DONE (ish).
I won't know exactly how much more I need to add to max this out until I have year end numbers. My accountant estimates $10k more, and I have this amount saved. I just don't want to add it to my IRA account until she runs final numbers just so I am not running into any issues about contributing over the limit. This is my first year managing my own retirement accounts and contributions. It has been a learning process.

(8) Travel more, and do so frugally
DONE (ish).
I had hoped to travel more since I was anticipating having more time on my hands when I left my job. I had planned to take a cruise, go to NYC for a conference + personal time, take two camping trips, and go to Iceland and England. The pandemic changed all of this. However, my cruise (mid-Feb) and NYC conference (early Mar) both happened before the pandemic shutdowns. In retrospect, I was so lucky to not be quarantined aboard a cruise ship or catching the virus when I was travelling. The first reports of COVID in New York happened while I was there. I ended up not attending any of the conference social gatherings, and at the sessions I sat as far away as possible from others. This was lucky since many attendees reported that they tested positive in the month after. No travel has happened since I returned from NYC. I ended up getting a refund for my airfare to Europe. The two camping reservations I had made were canceled because the state parks here were closed and I was not feeling adventurous enough to go boondocking. The two trips that I did take early in the year were done frugally.

(9) Manage my health
DONE (ish).
I started 2020 by breaking my toe on New Year's Day. So, my very first expense of the year was a trip to Urgent Care and a ridiculously expensive boot that they gave me. Thankfully, that and a new pair of glasses have been my only medical expenses. I ended up losing about 12 lbs this year. Mostly, I think this was due to less stress after leaving my job and consequently less stress-eating. I also started to semi-regularly exercise since I now have more time to exercise. And, I learned how to hula hoop, and this was loads of fun. I had hoped to lose 17 lbs, and achieved most of this, so I am happy. My blood sugar is still being managed without medicine or insulin. My diabetic eye exam this year was normal. I decided not to go to a dentist this year due to the pandemic, but my teeth seem to be in good repair as far as I can tell.

(10) Create a plan for FIRE
I have a plan to retire by my 55th birthday. I worked on it all year - this included crunching numbers, planning retirement contributions, learning how to best invest my money, spending a few hours each week reading books, watching YT videos and listening to podcasts that help me prepare for FI. I have been working and tweaking a plan for how I can make this happen, and even with very conservative estimates, I think this is doable by age 55 in the year 2034. If the market continues to rise, or my income rises (I anticipate that I can work a few more hours a week when I am working in person), I can make this happen by 2032. If there is a housing market crash and I am able to get a deal on some rental property, then this can happen by 2031.

Weekly Frugal List - 12/26/20

December 26th, 2020 at 04:16 pm

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

Here is a roundup of this week's frugal things:

(1) A friend just moved into a new house, and I had the perfect gift for her that came from my "gift closet" - when I see something nice on sale that I would like to gift, I buy it and stick it in my gift closet. If there isn't already something specific I have in mind for someone or if they don't tell me they want something in particular, I can usually find something really nice from my collection of frugal gifts.

(2) I got a code for 5 free magnets on shutterfly, and made five sets of photo-magnets for friends and family who have children with pictures of their kids from this year. I think they are super cute, and only cost me the price of shipping.

(3) My sister ended up buying the camping cot for me for Christmas, so that is one purchase that I don't need to make this year. I am so excited. I love getting gifts that I want. Also, one of my friends made handmade soap for gifts and brought me some. It is chai-scented and smells heavenly.

(4) One of my friends who is also single shared his HBO login with me. He can stream on 3 devices at a time, but only uses one at a time since it's just him. So, this week I watched Wonder Woman '84 as soon as it was released and binged two whole seasons of Insecure.

(5) This Christmas was a frugal one in general because I am not traveling anywhere to see anyone. I would have gladly forgone this frugal thing.

Weekly Frugal List - 12/19/20

December 19th, 2020 at 05:25 pm

This week's frugal things:

(1) I atteneded a zoom training hosted by my previous workplace, and got 3 hours of free CEs. It's always nice to be able to get those for free.

(2) Sold a couple of things on FB Marketplace. I don't have a glut of things, but I have more than one person needs. I don't think I will ever be a minimalist, but my goal is to sell or give away more things and distill my posessions down to a slightly lower level.

(3) Harvested half the remaining carrots. The other half will be harvested immediately after the new year. Also pulled some leeks. I will make some leek risotto with cauliflower rice.

BONUS: I didn't get this myself, but for those of you who are healthcare workers, Starbucks is giving away a free tall cup of coffee to healthcare workers and emergency responders for the month of December. Coffee just for the price of the tip is a good frugal thing.

PMI Frustrations

December 18th, 2020 at 04:27 pm

I had requested early this month to drop the PMI since I now have 22% equity in the house. It's not a lot of money, but I was excited about this milestone and putting $40 extra each month towards the principal balance. I heard back from my Credit Union mortgage person. The CU is still the servicer of the loan although some other company purchased my mortgage a few months ago. 

She told me that she is going to let the company holding my mortgage know to see if this is possible. I asked her why it would not be possible since I am now at a point where they legally have to drop the PMI. She said that sometimes PMI can't be dropped until it has been a year since the loan has been taken out. She is going to find out for me if this applies to my loan. I had refinanced in June, and if this is the case, I would have to wait till June of next year to drop the PMI. I was pissed. No one told me about this when I refinanced. It may have been in the fine print, but I did not read that - and that is on me. I am cheesed off nevertheless!

2021 Garden Outlook

December 16th, 2020 at 04:28 pm

I thought I would do a garden post since I have been in a flurry of garden planning for next year. This is one of my favorite activities, and also is a very frugal thing that helps me save thousands of dollars in grocery bills each year.

My veggie garden is one of the great joys of my life. The first thing I did when I purchased the house last year, even before I unpacked my boxes, was to construct raised beds and start a garden. After nearly 15 years of living in apartments, I could finally have a garden - something I have always loved. In addition to being a frugal habit (organic veggies are expensive), it also provides me with hours of fresh air, exercise, and peace throughout the year. I love tending to my plants. I feed them, care for them, protect them, and they repay me by feeding my body and soul.

Last year, I grew a lot of veggies, but it was far from ideal. I worked out a better method this year of intensive planting paired with flowers for the bees, and this helped increase output. I also asked for and received a small plastic greenhouse as a Christmas gift last year. This helped me to give many of my seedlings a head start, and this meant a longer productive season. I also got more effective at processing and storing the food, and bought a small freezer to store it all. It really helped that I was working much less this year, and was working from home all the time. My garden really benefitted from this. Learning from what I did this year, I have worked out an even better plan for next year. This includes a more intentional staggered system of planting, growing even more intensively, adding a lot more flowers, and growing a few things that I didn't grow this year to save even more on grocery bills.

Here is my garden plan for 2021:

Garlic - Shantung, Corsican Red, Russian Red (already in the ground and growing)
Tomatoes - Black Krim, Sungold, Chocolate Cherry, Purple Russian
Peppers - Cayenne, Serrano, Hungarian Wax, Jalapeno, Bird's Eye, Aji Lemon Drop, Sugar Rush Peach, Brazilian Orchid, Jimmy Nardello
Eggplants - Rosa Bianca, Listada de Gandia, Little Prince, Galine (if it overwinters)
Peas - Magnolia Blossom
Shallots - Zebrune
Beets - Detriot Dark Red, Golden
Greens - Red Russian Kale, Mustard, Mache, Spinach, Mixed Lettuce
Beans - Royal Burgundy, Red Noodle
Summer Squash - Pattypan, Ivy gourd
Winter Squash - Red Kuri, Delicata, Butternut, Sugar Pie Pumpkin
Onions - Walking, Bunching (already in the ground and growing)
Leeks - American Flag
Carrots - Purple Dragon, Nantes, Danvers
Herbs - Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Mint, Cilantro, Nigella, Sage
Berries - Blueberries, Raspberries

I will take a break from growing zucchini since my food resue group gets hundreds of pounds of it donated from one of the organic farms for whom we harvest. If I have the space between rotations or between plants, I will also add radishes, turnips and cucumbers. But, mostly I will focus on the above.

At first glance, this might seem like a ridiculous number of things to fit in three garden beds and a few pots (for the herbs), but I do almost year round planting, and these are planned to be staggered so that something is growing in each bed almost at any given time. Each of these crops lasts 2-6 months from planting to harvest. So, staggering them based on what grows in each season helps me to grow much much more than if I didn't.

In addition to the vegetables, I am going to plant loads of flowers - both for aesthetic appeal, as well as for the pollinators. The first year I had my garden, I planted no flowers. The second year, I added a few marigolds, a few calendula, sweet peas, one peony, and two lavender bushes. Once I did that, my garden was teeming with bees and bugs, and my yield went up by more than twice my first year. This year, I plan on having - poppies, sweet peas, hollyhocks, calendula, marigold, dahlias, Persian buttercups, carnations, cosmos, zinnias, peonies, morning glory, shasta daisies, gazanias, lavender, sea thrift, nigella, mallow, sunflowers, lobelia, gypsophila, and whatever is in two wildflower seed packets I got. That should keep the bees in the area happy, and will make my whole garden look like a delight in addition to providing me with cut flowers for every room.

The major garden projects this year are (1) re-do the irrigation plan I have to make it more time efficient for me, and (2) take out five rose bushes in my front yard and replace them with annual flowers. I like the idea of roses, but I don't actually like having the rose bushes themselves. Also because the earwigs seem to prefer the roses more than anything else on my property.

Weekly Frugal List - 12/12/20

December 12th, 2020 at 08:44 am

Here is a roundup of this week's frugal wins:

(1) My food rescue group received a very large seed donation for last year's seeds. So, a volunteer made up bundles of seeds for the members (we have almost a thousand households in the group). I receieved a bundle of 50 seed packets. While they are last year's seeds, seeds often remain viable for several years. I already had planned and collected seeds for about a half of next year's garden, and will certainly use many of these seeds. I will keep what I will use, and then donate the rest back to the group. Earlier in the month, I had planned on using's yearly seed swap, and then backed out of it because of the pandemic. If you have a garden, it's a frugal way to get a bunch of seeds. You post seeds you have to swap, and then for about a week or so, get to pick seeds that you want. Then you mail off your seeds to the host who collects all the seeds, then redistributes them into packets of seeds that each person picked and then mails them out. It costs $9 (varies by year) to enter the swap (to cover the host's postage) plus the cost of mailing your box of seeds to the host. All in all, it may cost about $15-$20, and is an economical way to receive seeds for close to a 100 different crops. The swap happens in November and is closed for this year, but for future years, here is the website: While that is extremely economical, my free seed bundle was certainly a wonderful frugal surprise.

(2) I needed a new warm hat for this winter (although it's not very cold here yet). I was thinking I might get one in an after Christmas sale. But, someone I know said that she was crocheting as a coping mechanism for this year and had made hats and scarves for everyone she knew and was constantly making more. I got an amazing and beautiful crocheted hat from her. It is so beautiful and fits my head perfectly. This is an absolutely wonderful way to cope with the craziness of this year.

(3) This would be the week that I typically send out Christmas cards. I love sending Christmas cards, and this is a line item in every December budget because of how many I send (domestic and international). However, I decided to forgo cards this year so that people don't have to handle mail that several other hands have touched. This is another unintentional frugal thing this awful year. I'll send e-cards instead.

(4) My sister asked me what I want for Christmas, and I gave her a couple of options of things that I was going to buy myself anyway. I started doing this years ago, and while she is not a big fan of "useful gifts", she has come to accept that I go completely gaga over something useful and those are the kinds of gifts I like best. Over the years, she's given me things I would have bought anyway (a greenhouse, my first iPhone, an Apple TV, my favorite perfume, a big pack of assorted bottles of hot sauce, my Fitbit, the wallet I have been using for the last four years, etc. - all things that I use every day or almost every day). Of the options I gave her, I hope she buys me the camping cot. It will make camping much more comfortable.

(5) Gave away an older microwave that was sitting in the garage for about a year or so on Buy Nothing.

P.S. I don't seem to be able to add a link here using the URL tag. How do you all do it?

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