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Archive for November, 2020

Weekend Frugal List - 11/27/20

November 27th, 2020 at 09:42 pm

I thought it would be fun to do a roundup of the week's frugal wins:

(1) Frugal Thanksgiving - this is an involuntary one. Saved on travel and food costs. Did a zoom dinner with family instead.
(2) Harvested my first winter veggies - leeks and carrots. It's my first time growing both. The leeks are a success. The carrots are a bit smaller than I thought they would be. But, they function double duty since you can eat the leaves like you would eat spinach. I'll let them grow a bit more and harvest the rest in mid-December.
(3) Bought an airfryer at a Black Friday discount. I meant to buy one for myself for Christmas. The one I had identified was listed on Amazon was $69.99. I got one of a different brand but same capacity at a local store Black Friday sale for $29.99.
(4) Got a beautiful antique desk chair and a brand new food scale on the Buy Nothing group. The food scale was another thing I meant to buy myself, and now I don't have to.
(5) I'm in a local group that combats food waste, and this week we were donated about a 1000 tubs of hummus that have a sell by date of the end of the month. I got three, opened one and froze the other two. Hummus freezes really well.
(6) Read a book I got through Libby. If you have a library card, you can use Libby/Overdrive and Hoopla which are two apps that give you access to free library resources.
(7) I was feeling restless earlier this week, and was missing travel. So, I planned a road trip to the Utah national parks, and spent about 6 hours planning a 7 day trip down to the tiniest detail. Now, I have a full itinerary ready to go, and got to enjoy the closest thing to travel that I can right now. It was a fantastic pick me up, and was completely free. I guess this isn't really a frugal thing since it is always free to plan a trip. However, the itinerary that I planned is extremely frugal, so I am counting it here anyway.


Happy Thanksgiving

November 25th, 2020 at 05:47 pm

I'm looking forward to the long weekend. This is probably the first time since the pandemic started that I've decided to take a 4 day weekend. I usually don't work Wednesdays, but worked part of the day today, and now have a 4.5 day weekend.

I raked most of my leaves over the weekend, but ended up deciding to buy a leaf mulcher to mulch the leaves which will reduce the size of my leaf pile and also create more surface area so the leaves break down sooner. Got one on Amazon for $79 that had decent reviews. I am so thankful for the way that nature works all year long to provide me with food. The sunlight, rain, worms, leaves, kitchen scraps, the soil and its microbes, - that's all I need to provide almost all of my vegetable needs for all of the year.

I am also thankful for:
(1) Having a job during this pandemic year
(2) Being able to work from home and set my own hours
(3) Having been able to have taken two big vacations this year before March when the virus started to spread
(4) That my family and I are safe and healthy
(5) For the bounty of my garden
(6) For my wonderful and supportive friends who share many of my values - including frugality
(7) That I enjoy my own company - this year would have been hard if that were not so
(8) For the astounding net worth gains made this year
(9) For the election
(10) That the wildfires did not reach my home

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone.

Sidebar is Working

November 21st, 2020 at 04:50 pm

That was a pleasant thing to notice when I logged on today. Glad it's working again.

Things have been mostly ho hum. It's been cold and rainy, so I am dragging my feet on raking leaves. I think I'll do it sometime this afternoon. Rather than bag them up for the city to haul away, I keep my dead leaves. It provides me with brown material for my compost bin all year long. And over the year, the remainder breaks down to really wonderful leaf mold. I have a small amount of last year's leaves that have broken down beautifully. I'll add that to my raised beds before piling up the new leaves from this year. It saves plenty on compost costs for my garden.

The only things I still have growing in my garden than I can still harvest this year are mustard greens, leeks and carrots. I also have autumn-sown garlic growing, but that won't be harvested it till next June. It's my first time growing leeks, and I am super excited to start harvesting them around the beginning of December.


November 18th, 2020 at 06:56 pm

The markets look beautiful this week, and I am excited for what my NW at the end of the month may look like. I hope I cross the $200k mark - I am very close.  

My accountant caught an error she made, and I probably will only be able to put another $10k into my retirement account for the year. I thought the $29k estimate she gave me was too high, and I was correct. Glad she caught it! $10k is still a good amount. She also said that based on her recalculations, she does not think there is any financial benefit to me making an S-election on my taxes next year. I'm somewhat disappointed because I thought it would save me some money, but I don't mind too much because I would have lost a lot of control over how I manage the money in my business account. I'll revisit this in a couple of years once I have a better estimate of how much I will make a year in self-employment. This year has been odd: part-time SE for the first quarter of the year, even after going to full time SE the pandemic means I am working slightly fewer hours than I might in person, pandemic also means that I am making money each week whereas I typically might take a few weeks of vacation/year. So, I guess I will wait.

My state is going to lockdowns again starting today. It's about high time, I think. It's really disheartening to see people going about interacting as though there isn't a deadly pandemic going on. Grocery stores will still be open, but I went and made my bi-weekly grocery store trip yesterday and stocked up on a few things. I think I shan't need to groery shop again until mid-December now.

I gave up on the exercise everyday goal - modified it to a three day cycle of HIIT/Cardio/Rest. That seems to be working better. Weight isn't budging at all. Sleep has been better.

Gratitude and Nostalgia

November 14th, 2020 at 05:34 pm

I made tea this morning. I usually make coffee, so it had been a couple of weeks since I took out my tea canister from the back of the cupboard. Every time I see it now, I am struck with waves of nostalgia and gratitude.

I moved to this town in 2010. I was just out of graduate school, was broke and in debt. I moved here for a job, but there was going to be a two month gap between when school ended and the job started. I had borrowed $1,500 from my parents to help me tide over the gap - that was to be stretched to pay for the move, deposit and rent for an apartment, and to help me survive for a couple of months. I drove to the PNW from the Midwest with my sister. It was a difficult time in her life and she was very depressed. She was moving abroad at the time for work, and we did not know when she would be able to return - we were hoping within the year, but it was possible it could be years. It was immediately after the Great Recession and jobs in her field were hard to come by. She also had just graduated, and had tried all she could to find a job here, but ultimately had to move. She was broke too. I was heart broken that she had to leave. My joy at finding a job and moving to a place I always wanted to live was shrouded by grief and poverty.

In the week between arriving here and when she had to leave, she helped me find an apartment and buy some essential things to help me settle in. We had stopped at TJ Maxx, when I spotted the tea canister. For some reason unknown to me, I really, really, REALLLY wanted to buy it. It almost felt like I had to buy it in order to hang on to the hope that I deserved to have the things I wanted. I wanted my sister to stay. I wanted not to worry about money. I wanted not to be devastated with grief. I wanted to know what would happen within the next year. I wanted so much, and the tea canister seemed somehow to hold the power to prove to me that I could have it. 

I did not need a tea canister - I could just get the tea out of the package that it comes in. Furthermore, it cost $2.99. That is not a lot of money, but when one is broke, $2.99 can buy the ingredients for four days worth of beans and rice. I agonized for nearly a half hour trying to decide whether or not to buy it until finally my sister told me to buy it. And I did.

The following day, she and I had stopped at a local fast food chain, and we only had enough money to get the medium-sized rice bowl that they had. We had never eaten there before, and at the end my sister told me that she really enjoyed it and wished that we could have got the large-sized rice bowl. After my sister left, for the entire time she was gone, each time I saw the tea canister, I felt waves of guilt at having bought it. If I had not bought it, she could have had more to eat. I cried each time I thought of it.

My sister returned the following year. I eventually got out of debt. I am privileged now so that I can spend $2.99 and more on things that I want even when they are not necessary to me. I can now look at the tea canister with gratitude instead of guilt.

I will never again buy another tea canister. This one is so precious to me. I never removed the TJMaxx label so that I would never forget how much it cost, so I can always remember to be grateful for what I now have.

Buy Nothing

November 11th, 2020 at 06:36 pm

Are you in a local group that is part of The Buy Nothing Project? If not, please consider joining. The Buy Nothing Project aims to empower people to engage in a generous giving economy. When you are part of a group in your area, you can post things that you don't want - it helps create less waste, less landfill, and goes to helping people. You can pick up things that others post. And if there is something you need, you can ask on the group, and only buy it if no one has the thing you are looking for. No selling or bartering is allowed - it's purely about giving freely, and relying on your local community to meet needs rather than to buy things and have them shipped to you.  

I have posted and given away a lot of things - furniture, clothes, excess garden produce, knickknacks - things that otherwise would either go to a landfill, or I would have to haul to the thrift store where someone would have to pay money to get it. I also have received lots of things - clothes, decor items, garden tools, a cell phone charger, pots for my plants, an umbrella, houseplant cuttings, books, a backpack, etc.

But two of the things gifted to me stand out as the most valuable and useful - things I would have purchased anyway except for the BNP. I received a tumbler composter last year that has created a LOT of compost for my garden and keeps on giving.

The second, I picked up last night - a lot of 4 giant bottles of Protein Powder. The amazon cost of these is $160. I typically buy protein powder anyway because I am vegetarian and need to supplement my protein intake. I used to eat lentils and beans for protein, but I have diabetes and eat low carb now. So, I can't eat as many beans. So, protein powder it is! This generous give from the group will last me about 5-6 months.

The lady I picked up from has an absolutely enormous and gorgeous house. I did a porch pickup in the late evening. It was dark outdoors, and the house was lit from indoors. So, I could not help but notice the mind bogglingly huge living room with a 20+ foot ceiling through the floor to ceiling glass windows. That must be what living in luxury feels like. I can only imagine what the house costs - must be $1 million +, even in my little town. So, she's clearly rich. And she still is in the group - that is admirable. I love it when rich people are frugal too.

You can go here to find your local group: 

EOY 2020 Goals

November 9th, 2020 at 05:49 pm

I am a big one for new year's resolutions. And birthday resolutions, sunday resolutions, month beginning resolutions, and so on. It gives me a sense of motivation and excitement. I accomplish some, and don't accomplish some. I somehow seem to be completely devoid of the guilt that comes with failed resolutions. If I don't accomplish it, I feel a bit annoyed, but just turn around and make it again.

Last week, I was in a bit of a funk, and on Friday, started to come out of it. I had a beautiful weekend, and vaguely made up some more resolutions for now till the end of the year. 

1. Make my sleep schedule more regular. I have been up later and sleeping less. My fitbit always gives me a "fair" score, and I need it to at the very least be "good". So, I plan to get in bed by 10pm, at the latest.

2. Lose 7 lbs. That's about a pound a week, and very doable, I think. I have amazingly lost weight since the start of the pandemic. I have not tried to lose weight, I just have. I think it's because the start of the pandemic just happened to coincide with my plan to go into full time self-employment, and I went from working 50-ish hours/week to about 28 hrs/week. The resulting lack of stress is what led to it, I think. I have never before in my life lost weight without trying to. I haven't lost a lot - about 10 lbs over the last 8 months. If I try and lose another 7 lbs by the end of this year, I will be at a weight I have not seen since 2005.

3. Exercise every day. This is unrelated to the weight-loss. I have over the past few years been very much out of the habit of regular exercise. I started to do a 15-min HIIT exercise about a month ago. And this month, I have changed this to alternate days with a 30 min cardio on alternate days. I can tell that the exercises are getting easier as time goes by and that makes me feel good.

All the above seem to be health goals. But, I know that health is inextricable from wealth. If I have health, I incur fewer healthcare costs. I potentially get to live longer and enjoy the fruits of my labor for longer. So, I definitely see this as a financial goal as well.

Other financial goals seem to be on track. I don't know exact numbers yet, but my accountant projects that I can put another $29k pre-tax towards retirement this year, and I think that will leave me with another $21k to to add to my brokerage account. These numbers seem high, but we'll see. I won't actually know until the beginning of February. I always overestimate how much I need to pay in taxes and save more than I need, so it's possible it will work out like this.

In other good news, I read reports this morning that Pfizer thinks their vaccine is about 90% effective. I am hopeful. I can't wait for the pandemic to draw to some sort of an end, and for me to see my parents again.

Business and Retirement Updates

November 4th, 2020 at 09:54 pm

I just had a meeting with my accountant, and it was super helpful and exciting.

Here are the two primary changes that I am going to make:

1. Going to convert my SEP IRA to a 401(k), and that will allow me to put away significantly more this year towards retirement.

2. Starting next year, I am doing an S-election on taxes. This will reduce the amount of tax-deferred money I can put away for retirement in subsequent years, but I will be able to take tax-free distributions that I can then put into the market and can draw upon them sooner than my penalty-free retirement age. I call this an absolute win!

She's going to get the paperwork started to do payroll and other stuff like that.

She mentioned a 401(k) with a Roth component. I need to look into this. I am not quite sure how that works? I put in tax deferred money, and take out tax free money? That just seems too ridiculous to be true. I feel like I have read about Roth Conversion Ladders. Is this the same thing? Does anyone have experience with this?