Doing Without – Giving up Convenience for Space


So as we begin to adjust to life in a much smaller space and learning to make use of items we kept in some unusual ways, there has been only one glaring thing that the kids have missed…a microwave.  That became quickly apparent one night when they tried to make chicken wings for dinner from the frozen bag and plated them only to determine there was no quick fix for defrosting them.  Conventional oven route they went.

As we laughed together about this incident, I was grateful that we had used up all our typical microwave treats as we were eating through our pantry in preparation for this move.  The one that stands out is popcorn.  Microwave popcorn has definitely been one of their go to snack items, and we arrived here with just one bag left (and I’m sure they didn’t know that one was there or it would have been used.)

I knew coming in here there wasn’t a microwave and my thought was that they aren’t too expensive now, especially with the smaller, no-frill options so I would just buy one when we got here.  But here’s the dilemma (aside from the money woes I mentioned in this morning’s post:)

Our new apartment kitchen - it may look messy but really I just haven't found space for everything.

Our new apartment kitchen – it may look messy but really I just haven’t found space for everything.

We are WAY out of space.  There is no pantry. There is one drawer (and it falls out every time we open it.)  Truly, this is not a mess.  Everything you see is clean, I just haven’t been able to find storage for everything.

So as I think about this, I think…what about a year without a microwave, without a toaster (which we got rid of during the purge thinking we could use the oven to serve the same purpose.)  Not only will it save me the expense of a microwave, but with only one section of counter space large enough to hold it, it will free up a large amount of space that would otherwise be non-negotiable.

So for now, we are going to go old school and be microwave free.  I know there are others who do this…any hints for me?  (On a positive note, you may remember my hemming and hawing about the kids’ tendency to buy frozen meals with their grocery budget and how I got so tired of those…well, that won’t be an option for the time being.  Woohoo!)

I Quit!


“I quit, I’m over it!”

Seriously, that’s the call I received yesterday at 5pm, 2 days before the job was to be done! It was the painter/handyman/landscaper I hired to get the house ready to sell.

So not only is my dad here making lists of all the things (expenses) that need to be done to put the house on the market, but the contractor I hired to do the bulk of it quit.

I don’t know if there was an exchange between them or if he is just exhausted, but now it’s a mess.  Nothing is complete, shelving and lights have been taken down, the paint that was put up is 1) the wrong color and 2) splotchy.

And on top of that I had paid him more than half of the agreed upon amount up front…


Needless to say I’m stressed, stressed over the money, stressed over the work and even more stressed over my dad being here to witness it.  I so wanted him to be proud of me, to come and have so little to do that we could put the house on the market.

So on the good side, we are settled in, the apartment is tiny and cozy and all the kids seem to be settling in okay.  I will post more on that later, but today, have to help figure a way to get out of the mess we are now in with the house.

Making Do: Shampoo


I have a bit of a silly, but quite practical, story of making do to share today (see previous making do posts here and here).

As we near the end of the month, I’ve been struggling with our grocery budget. As it stands now, I’ve spent $483 on groceries this month – nearly $100 over our $400 budget. Obviously this is a problem, particularly in light of our lower income that we’re working with. So when last week I was beating the bottom of the shampoo and conditioner bottles and finally admitted that we have NONE left I was a bit worried (side note: yes, they both ran out at the same time!!! Ugh!). We buy shampoo/conditioner out of our grocery budget and I knew we had no money leftover for these products. But my hair isn’t the kind that can just go a full week between washes. What was I to do?

Instead of simply saying, “oh well” and running to the store to buy more, I decided to really dig into the bathroom cabinets. Please tell me I’m not the only one whose bathroom cabinets are filled with all kinds of random clutter! Anyway, I was digging around hoping to find a random spare bottle of shampoo when I found the perfect short-term solution to our problem that could get us through to the month of October…..I found a whole storehouse of old hotel shampoo/conditioners that I always steal when I’m traveling! I used to travel a lot for work-related things (at least 2-3 conferences per year), and I would always make a point to take the hotel shampoo and conditioner! My thought at the time was that they could come in handy if we ever travel on vacation somewhere and need little travel-sized bottles of these products (which is kind of silly, because when we visit family they always have full-sized bottles of shampoo/conditioner we can use, and when we travel elsewhere and stay in hotels….guess what…they always have these mini toiletries for free). So all of these years-old products have been sitting around collecting dust and cluttering up my bathroom cabinets.

I happily grabbed a few, put them in the shower, and haven’t had to worry about it since. They’ll easily last us until the month of October when I can buy some fresh full-sized shampoo and conditioner from the grocery store.

Score #1 for my pack-rat tendencies! Woohoo!!!

Do you keep the mini bottles of shampoo/conditioner from hotels? What other products do you “pack-rat” (I’m using that term affectionately)?

Wedding Gift Dilemma


Do you remember several months ago when I mentioned that one of my good friends got engaged? At the time, I was mentioning it in reference to how expensive it would be if I were asked to be a bridesmaid. Let’s revisit this topic now that some time has passed…

My friend Mary* (*not her real name) has decided to go a bit of a nontraditional route with her wedding. Her idea was to do something small and low-key – the goal was for it to be in-between eloping and an “actual” (traditional) wedding. They’re getting married at the justice of the peace downtown, and have rented out a brewery for a small 2-hour reception afterward. There’s no bridal party (bridesmaids and groomsmen), no bridal shower, no bachelorette party, none of the crazy shenanigans that often precede a wedding.

In lieu of all that stuff, the couple has let it be known that they much prefer to be gifted with money rather than any physical goods. They have all the basic necessities most new couples are gifted and would far prefer cold hard cash. They have not registered anywhere at all.

Soooooo, what to do?

Physical gifts can generally be bought at a discount either at bargains stores, using coupons, etc. Not so much with cash gifts.

My initial thought was that I want to be generous with this friend. She has always been generous with me and I want to return the favor during this important time of her life. If I weren’t focused on debt reduction, I would want to add up all the costs that I would have spent if I were a bridesmaid (the dress, the shoes, the bachelorette party, the bridal party, the wedding gift), and simply give her a check for that amount. That would likely be in the range of a few hundred dollars.

Welllllll, you all know my finances. We do not have an extra few hundred dollars in our tight monthly budget. Since I’ve started this debt-repayment journey I’ve tried to keep gift costs in the range of $10-$15 (for birthdays, baby showers, etc.), but I certainly want to give my friend more than that!

To compromise between these two extremes (giving only $10 versus giving several hundred), I feel like a gift in the range of $100-$150 would be appropriate. But even that amount of money is so much right now! Particularly with our lower income last month (and this month is turning into a bit of a nail-biter in terms of income, too. Though – update – one of hubs’ jobs was finally able to be completed late Saturday evening (you work when you gotta work!) and payment was collected! Sigh! Still 2 other jobs sitting in waiting-land-limbo, though).

What would you do? How much would you give to a good friend for her wedding? Would you honor the couples’ wishes of giving cash or would you go your own route and get a gift anyway?

Income Nail-Biter


Well, it’s happening. Remember how my first few months blogging I kept saying how unusually high our income was? Those first few months we were making in the $8,000-$10,000 range (crazy high! Highest months of income in our lives!), when our average had previously been closer to only about $5500.

Although I knew we wouldn’t be making that much forever (husband is in flooring and the flooring business is cyclical – busier during summer months and slower during winter months), I was not expecting the slow down to start until November.

Through a surprise turn of events, our income was quite a bit lower in August. This is the “fun” part of owning a small business. Four things happened that negatively influenced our income:

  1. Some of husband’s jobs were canceled or pushed back.
  2. Husband had a few large business expenses for flooring equipment that needed to be replaced.
  3. Husband had to do a warranty repair that cost him in materials and labor (for his time and to pay his employees for their time), but didn’t result in any income since warranty work is free for customers**this was the most painful in terms of monetary value.
  4. I didn’t get paid from my teaching job (due to regular schedule of payment). **this is where the majority of my income is from, so this was a big hit, too.

September would be so much better, we both believed. Husband has a HUGE job this month that pays out quite nicely. In addition to that, he has been busy with all types of regular-sized jobs, too. He’s back to working non-stop, though we’ve come to an agreement that he will always take Sundays off (thus, working 6 days a week maximum). So surely this month would be a jackpot in terms of our income, right? RIGHT???

Well, I’m a little nervous. Thankfully, I got paid from both of my jobs this month. However, husband is certainly the primary earner so huge income fluctuations are generally due to his income (or lack thereof). And, as it turns out, husband has run into some problems this month, too:

  1. For his super-huge job, he’s had to purchase a higher amount of insurance (this doesn’t affect our monthly budget since it comes out of his business account, but it does factor into the amount of money he’s able to give me for “income” during the month).
  2. He’s had to purchase separate auto insurance. His car used to be on our family policy and was categorized as a business vehicle. But this big job requires that he have a separate commercial auto policy due to the expensive materials he will be transporting (required coverage of a million dollars in property damages!!!) This will actually positively impact my monthly auto insurance budget because his car has been removed from our family policy. But, again, it’s an expense he pays for, which means less money coming to me in the form of income. ***Note, I actually think I prefer for his auto to be separate. I think it will make taxes easier to have it as a separate policy, though it makes us lose our multi-car discount. Anyone deal with similar issues? Think its better to keep these separate? After this big job is complete, he has the option to move his car back to our family policy if he wants. Any thoughts or suggestions of which idea is better from a business/tax perspective (keeping separate or re-combining)?
  3. Husband does not get paid until jobs are 100% complete. This month he has been KILLED on jobs that are unable to be completed. This happens from time-to-time. A customer may not order enough materials or, more commonly, there aren’t enough transitions or the transitions are the wrong color. Husband can work for two weeks straight and be 99% of the way through, but if he’s short even a single transition or t molding, then he can’t collect payment. And often, these pieces take weeks or even months to be delivered from the big distributors (and this often causes a headache because the dye packs are different even though it’s the same basic color, so then even more need to be ordered and it’s a whole cluster). ***THIS is what is hurting us this month. Husband has 3 separate jobs that are 99% complete, but he is unable to collect final payment because he’s waiting on little pieces to come in so he can install them, complete the jobs, get work orders signed, and collect payment.

It’s a bit of a nail-biter this month. Even though hubs has been working diligently almost daily, he’s made very little money this month…..even less than last month (gulp!!) We do have my pay that helps to off-set things a bit. And there’s still a few more days in the month (and supposedly transitions should be here soon). We’re holding our breath and crossing our fingers, hoping these pieces come in so he can complete these jobs and receive payment. Husband was looking at his various jobs last night and calculated that he has close to $10,000 sitting in nearly-completed projects. Of course, the full $10,000 isn’t income because some of it goes to recoup his business expenses, pay labor, etc. But a significant chunk of the money would be coming straight to me as income. And, instead, it’s hanging out in space making us nervous as crap.

Cross your fingers for us! Oh, the joys of being a small business owner.

Side note: it’s times like these that I am so glad we have a decent sized emergency fund and live on last month’s income so that if these payments don’t come through until October, at least we won’t be completely broke. We still have money and will NOT be in danger of having to pay for groceries and gasoline on credit (as we have done in pre-blogging days). Thankful for that!

Coffee Date


I saw this posting-style over at Gina’s blog (it’s a fitness/healthy living blog and its great! She posts lots of free workouts, youtube videos, etc.). Anyway, I loved the idea of a virtual coffee date (or wine date) and wanted to do one! We’re at that level where we can have a coffee date, right? I think so! Let’s get started!

If we were having coffee right now…..

  • I’d tell you about all the fun things I’ve got going on in the coming weeks! A dear friend had her baby shower this past weekend, a new friend has invited us to her son’s first birthday party this weekend, and my Mom and sister (and their husbands) are coming to visit for a long weekend the first weekend of October! I cannot wait!!!!! In the entire time we’ve lived away from Austin (first moved away in 2007!!), this is the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing my family! In the past we have always gone back once during summer and once during winter and we didn’t go back this summer (we went to visit my Dad in Utah instead) and aren’t planning to go back for Christmas like we usually do, so I have been Missing them with a capital M!!!
  • I’d let you in on a little secret I’ve been keeping… I registered for my first post-baby half marathon and am freaking out about it! The registration was only $30 (I got the early-bird discount months ago), which is one of the cheapest prices for a half-marathon I’ve ever seen! Since I dumped the gym, I’ve been training (for free, thankyouverymuch) but am so painfully slow! I’m worried whether I’ll finish by the time cut-off (It’s the Tucson Get Moving half-marathon, so its geared toward a non-elite crowd, but I know many races have actual cut-offs and I’m so scared I won’t finish in time!)
  • I’d tell you about how well debt reduction is going. It’s been 6 months and has actually been easier than I thought. I credit it all to having a written budget. Of course, I’d say that in one breath and in the very next I’d tell you about the very real house fever I’ve got going on.
  • I’d tell you about the girls – they’re getting so big! I am in love with their preschool and even though it costs a small fortune, I think its one of the best investments we’ve ever made (investing in our children!!!) I’m so glad we decided to go this route (even though it was a very tough decision).
  • I’d also talk about my job(s). My teaching job is going well, but is a LOT of work this semester! I’m teaching two writing intensive courses that require a lot of feedback and I feel like I have so many students!!! Usually there are lots of “drops” with writing intensive courses but for some reason this semester everyone seems to be sticking around. I love to teach so I’m glad that something is resonating with the students enough for them to stick with the challenging courses, but it means a LOT of grading for me! My research job is also going well. I’ve mentioned before, but I’ve gotten into such a terrible habit of putting it all off until Sundays and then I’m working frantically all night trying to make my Monday morning deadlines. I always finish on time, but I might be up until midnight or later. I have GOT to get things under control so I don’t keep doing this! I’ve come to dread Sunday nights instead of looking forward to them as a time to recharge for the coming week. Need to change this!

Of course, if we were having coffee I’d want to know about you and how you’re doing, too! How’s the job? Where are you in the debt repayment process? Do you have any major obstacles in the way? What are your plans for the coming holiday season (I realize its only September, but the holidays will be here before we know it)?

If I know me, it’s been awhile since our last coffee date. We should do this again soon sometime!!!