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I love the beginning of the new year with all the challenges for health, fitness and financial savings. Why? Because I can do all of them, at least for the first week. Walk a block? Done. Plank for 20 seconds? If broken into 10 second increments then I’ll say done. Clean my home? http://www.flylady.net says we start with baby steps and the first task was to shine my sink. Done. 52 week savings challenge? One dollar in the jar. Done.
For one week out of the year I am at the top of my game.  The week has passed.

Now it is real and I’ve got a problem.  I’m a multimedia artist.  That’s a nice way of saying I sometimes secretly want stuff that is being thrown out on “Hoarders”.  My son has pretended not to know me when I bend down to pick up a rusty bottle cap. Yelling “It’s OK. I”m an artist” does not appear to repair the situation.  There is potential everywhere and sometimes it find its way to my basement. All of my basement.

Being penny pinched I have learned to get discount groceries, free samples and learned how to recycle most everything that enters the house.  Old t-shirts?  Those can to used to make rag rugs, stuffed animals, cleaning cloths and little pillows. Little bits of metal can be used in sculptures, jewelry, baskets or mosaics.  Glass jars are great for storing beads, spices, paper clips etc. You get the idea.  Waste nothing!  It great.  The problem is that when I want that jar I can no longer see it. I don’t remember where it is.  I don’t usually remember I have it.

I may have thirty samples of shampoo.  Some date back to 2011. ( Hhm.  “How to Tame Your Mullet” may be a bit older). Having it is great only if I use it.  If I’m not using it, it is taking up valuable real estate.  It is actually an obstacle to being able to create, to live less expensively.   Eventually it amount of stuff becomes oppressive. It yells at you to do something with it but you can’t think for all of the other screechy little voices. It drains your energy.

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Eventually you hit weeks 2, 3 and 4.  It is time to organize.  This month it is time to create a simplified environment.  It is to stop over spending in terms of space, and energy and time vrs. reward.  Penny pinched is still going to be about getting a deal and I’m going to start by reclaiming valuable property from my stuff.  Time to clean all the things.

Can’t Afford to Coupon

You have seen this movie.

Slowly the hero enters the darkened passage.  He scans the shadows and suddenly there is a sharp noise.  He whips around to confront the danger.  It turns out to be a cat or an old rocking chair. He breathes a sigh of relief, realizing there was no real menace, and relaxes.  He turns back. Before he can even react it’s too late.  He is taken down by a  claw, a tentacle or an old school mate inviting him to a home sales party. Either way he is hooped.
Welcome to my January. I made it through Black Friday until just after Boxing Day. Even with the best of intentions I got hit with the January desperation deals and I bought things that were nowhere near being on my “without this we will become hobos” list. (This is not meant in any way to be critical of or unfair to members of the hobo community considering that without careful planning I could one day be carrying my possessions on the end of a stick.)  Knowing that I have some financial needs that do not fit in the budget I knew that I needed to take some drastic action to get back on track.

Where do I start?
It means I can’t afford to get great deals. I cannot afford bonus points or couponing, at least for the foreseeable future. IMG_0256 I know. I hear the tense snipping of the scissors and feel the disapproving stares as the coupon clipping continues at a furious rate. Heretic. I know that in the U.S. with double coupon days and stacking you can often go home with free stuff. My dilemma is that I am good with free but cannot afford a deal. I already have enough detergent, hair products, and pasta. A good buy is still using money for things I already have.
I learned a secret at a Mrs. Smith seminar, couponer extraordinaire. She said that most coupons come in three month cycles. If you have enough to cover that time frame you do not need more.  The truth is that I can’t resist the deal so I have to get rid of the flyers before I look at them.  It is just too tempting.
So what do I plan to do now that I have little suction cup marks all over my face from the last tangle with the lure of the great deal?
I am planning a “No Spend Month”. (It is more fun if you capitalize it and put it in flashy little grammar markings. I could have used an exclamation mark but I’m saving that for later.) I have ten days to strategize how to make this a success. I will share my battle plans with you. I’m going to have to get creative if I want to succeed. Let’s go savings! Momma needs a new washing machine.

image   One of my go-to blogs is called Debt Proof Living by Mary Hunt.  This was her Facebook post today. I admit that I love the search for the deal.  Right now the flyers are overflowing with huge savings, meaning savings off of prices you wouldn’t have paid before the sale.  The real way to save?  This artist nailed it.  Wishing you many 100% savings. Happy New Year to all, Deb

Year’s ago I saw an episode of the Simpsons (don’t judge me) where Homer was given an award for excellence in the field of excellence.  All through university we were encouraged to be leaders in our community, the best of the best, blazing new pathways, bold going where no man had gone before, no wait.  That last one wasn’t us.  The point is that nothing short of earth changing was a suitable goal.  As we stood there in our M.C. Hammer pants, our mullet haircuts shining in the sun, our collars flipped up, we knew we were almost at the pinnacle of humanity.  New wave music and glam rock were forever.  We had arrived at a time where our earrings, belts, purses and shoes matched.  What higher plane of being could we achieve on an evolutionary scale?  The cruel truth of our delusions was completely revealed years later when the movie “The Wedding Singer” came out and we saw ourselves as others saw us.  It was a rude awakening.

As we approach New Year’s Eve we look at our resolutions.  We shoot to scramble up that sheer rock face of our daunting goals with grit and determination.  The problem is that if you are not used to the exercise you are going to pull something awful.  Your sciatica is going to flair and you are definitely not dressed for that kind of weather.

What if you start a little closer to where you are at?  What if you set achievable goals?  Why not a little stretching and a walk around base camp first?

With your eating instead of saying you will never eat out again and you will make all of your food from scratch maybe you can plan dinner two nights a week and eat out once a week.  You know you are going to eat out so find your weak spot and make a realistic goal.  What about one fresh soup a week?

For fitness instead of training to be a marathon runner how about a local walking group or how about a walk around the block?  Set goals you can see yourself doing rather than ones that look good on paper.  Instead of pump, rip and smash it is OK to shimmy and wiggle.  Embrace your velcro closing sneakers, the hoody with the missing string and yoga pants that have never seen the inside of a studio.

Financially you could collect your receipts and have them in monthly envelopes so you can review your spending and be more realistic about where the money is going.  You will spend something on yourself so give yourself an allowance that is in a cash envelope. Find your real level of frugal.

Feel guilt free setting the bar low because you know you can step over it and keep going.  Wave your participant ribbon proudly because this year the list is going to mean something and that is excellent. Rock on my people and happy New Year’s.

 

Boxed In

I don’t know how many of you are still out there but I promised myself I would try and reach as many of you as I can. Time is short. Some have already fallen to exhaustion and will be woken with shrill cries, demands for tribute submerged in a haze of carbohydrates and sugars. The frenzy of wrappings, colours, people and conversation may make it impossible to think clearly. You are being conditioned my friends.
How do I know? Because last year that was me and I vowed to share my story so others do not have to make the same mistakes.
You can call me Deb because that is my actual name. It seems like only a year ago I was celebrating, unwrapping yet another low fat cookbook, which was starting to make me a little sensitive, and hitting the hot cocoa pretty hard. I was feeling no pain, except for the damage to my self esteem, and was relaxed. I was too relaxed. As I sat at the table, under the pile of newspapers I saw the edge of something glossy. Why was there no music in a minor chord to warn me of the danger? I’m always the one at a movie to notice the music when someone heads for the basement door or walks into the woods in high heels. No. There was no warning for me. I pulled the sheet towards me and there written in thick black oozing blood, I mean ink, were the numbers. It said 70% off everything (with the illegible writing saying that it did not apply to anything that you wanted, that you had to ask a clerk to help you find, non-toxic, non GMO, in your size or in style).
I started to shake and quickly check the time. It is only 20 hours until the Boxing Day sales started and I knew I needed to be in that line. Where was the sale? It didn’t matter. Did you not hear that it was 70% off? I’d never been to Hank’s House of Hinges but they were giving out free organic ragweed blend knitted scarves with every $200 purchase. How is that not a deal? I don’t remember that day well but if you come to my home you may notice that everything moves well. Too well.
It is too late for me to unplate the damage but it doesn’t have to happen to you. It doesn’t matter the discount. Defend yourself by making a list before you look at the flyers and if you do not have anything on the list get rid of the flyers without looking at them. Yes I know they compel you to look. In history there has been the dreaded three, the basilisk, Medusa and the Boxing Day flyers. The peril is too great. I have purged the house of these papers. The inbox. No. I must empty the inbox. Why do I hear music? Nooooo.

The Booking Process

“One of the most terrifying things that has ever happened to me was watching myself decide over and over again – thirty-five days in a row – to not return a movie I rented.”

“I like being a woman. I also like being friends with other women. I don’t, however like being thrown in with people you don’t know and don’t want to be with, but you are all going to share this intimate event with glee. If it kills you. And that’s how I feel at this bridal shower.”

“It was Miss Somer’s turn to make the tea. Miss Somers was the newest and most inefficient of the typists. She was no longer young and had a mild worried face like a sheep.”

I was challenged to list 100 things for which I am grateful.
One of them is the feeling of being captured by a book. There is nothing like finding something that first attracted you with its cover or title and then knowing, within the first paragraph, that you’d found your latest adventure.
You know when it happens. You are already up too late or need to leave for an appointment but you need to read just one more page (chapter). You know you’ve found a good book.

Growing up we moved a fair bit and reading was my passion. I loved the play of language and imagery. Books were friends that always moved with me.
When I got married I had approximately 800 books in my room and had to make a choice between the book shelves and him. It was a close race.

In watching the budget I am so grateful that with a free library card I have access to a world of entertainment. I can spend hours browsing the titles and discover authors I never knew and books to suit my need for laughter, distraction, fantasy or learning. If I want I can just go on line and order whatever book I’d like from within the system and have it delivered to my local library. I can borrow movies or music as well but it is always the books that call to me. I love to curl up with a book, carry it with me in the car, and have it as an always available dining companion.
I am so grateful for the connection and insight that comes from books.
When I’m feeling boxed in because of finances I can get myself to the library and travel vicariously, laugh until I snort, get inspired to learn a new language, or allow myself to be enchanted.

Wishing you all the richness of a good read, Deb

I will admit that there can be a rather chilly detente that occurs in my refrigerator.  There are certain shelves that see a fairly brisk rotation of items. These spaces are the accepted free trade region.  To the sides are the condiments that are the story keepers, the elders of the fridge that rarely cede their spots to newcomers.  In the crisper I do my best not to let the denizens liquify but how much parsley do I really need?  Oh sure I could freeze it but as long as it is visible I can tell myself I am going to make a fresh and healthy soup.  It is a green leafy badge of clean eating superiority.

So what has this all got to do with being penny pinched?  I admit that some days I am intimidated by my fridge.  I open it and see random supplies and am not sure what to do.  I might see one dish for a meal but I get a little sketchy on how to make it reflect the food rainbow.  I’ve been told a handful of M & Ms does nothing to meet the requirements of the bottom of the food pyramid.  Elitists.

That being said I realize I will never balance my food budget or dietary needs without some help. I had gotten into the habit of buying new food because I didn’t know how to use up what I had.  This is where I found this helpful tool on allrecipes.com.  I had been looking for the perfect cornmeal muffin recipe and I noticed that one of the search engines was to list the ingredients I wanted and also the ones I did not want.  This opened up a lot of possibilities.  I decided to haul everything out of my fridge.  Green Peace launched a formal complaint as the contents of the veggie crisper were being considered as a part of a self sustaining eco system but I prevailed.  I found recipes that would use up the scraps of cooked chicken, 1/2c. of green beans, red pepper paste and pearl onions.  I began to make headway into hostile territory and dismantle the peculiarly stacked architecture of tupperware, take out boxes and ziploc bags. (In my defence there was really only one takeout box but the visual image was too cool not to use).

I also found that Pinterest became a great place to store recipes that worked for me with veggies where I was lacking a bit of imagination.Translation: I sometimes need encouragement to not settle for just meat and potatoes.  The photos help.

This new year coming up I am setting Friday as ifits day.  If it is in the fridge then that is what’s for dinner.  If it is still there the next week it is time to shuffle it off to that great compost pile.  My goal is for a couple of empty shelves because I learned to use what I already had.  Now to go back into negotiation with my tartar sauce who is staging a sit in.  Wish me luck.

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