Category Archives: Finances

Socially conscious…and frugal, too

In August, I decided to add Target to my (sadly) growing list of stores that I boycott. Target joins a venerable list which includes Wal-Mart (shady treatment of women, and, well, they’re gross) and Whole Foods (the CEO said WHAT? about health insurance).

I decided to boycott Target because of that whole “we took your money and made a giant donation to an organization that you would NEVER support if you had the choice thing.” Check it out here.

Truth is that I’m totally sure Whole Foods could care less, considering that I never liked the feeling that I had to refinance my mortgage in order to shop THERE anyway. Target, though – well, now, that’s another story. I was surprised that the first month I didn’t drop at least $100 there that I would get a “we miss you” postcard. I used to joke that I should have a portion of my paycheck direct deposit there.

The problem, though, is that I buy stuff there. Lots of it. Makeup, food, toilet paper, you name it.

To start with, I buy 6 Luna Bars a week there. They’re cheaper at Target than they are anywhere else. I’m sure, too, that when I pop in there to buy the weekly Luna Bar stash (and they get kind of stale, so I buy them once a week) I spent at least another $30 on impulse purchases – stuff that I used like, well, food. But impulse purchases nonetheless.

Target’s not stupid, of course.

So – now that I can’t shop at Target… what to do? I actually kind of panicked for a while. Then I realized that, well, there are other options. I know Target’s the closest (I could walk there if I wanted to. I don’t, of course, but I could), cheapest and all-around most convenient.

Here’s what happened in the last two months since my own little boycott began:

School supplies. Now that wasn’t hard at all. In fact, it was easy. Staples? Hello? Back-to-school supplies sale? Cheap cheap.

Food. Back to the grocery store. Not my favorite by a long shot. I hate grocery stores – the big ones. I hate the lines, the parking, the people (I mean the other shoppers who leave their damn carts in the middle of the aisles and talk for hours to neighbors). I did, however, discover that grocery stores can be pretty affordable if you do two things: read the ads instead of recycling them (since I don’t get a daily paper I don’t get them that way but I realized that the newsapery stuff that comes in the mail every week is actually useful if you plan to do grocery shopping) and only buy stuff on sale. There’s lots of it. I buy soda, um, kind of frequently and it’s almost always on sale somewhere.

Luna Bars. Know what? They’re like a dime more expensive for 6 of them at Trader Joe’s than they were at Target. And I pretty much hit Trader Joe’s once a week anyway for my lunch provisions.

Toilet paper. Two words: plan ahead. Bought it at Sam’s Club (yes, I know that Sam’s Club is just Wal-Mart in disguise but there are some things that I just have to buy there like the super-cheap chicken that’s probably hormone-laden and will eventually kill me, and the cheap-cheap (ha ha) eggs that thankfully didn’t kill me). I bought a giant package of toilet paper there that, considering I live alone, will probably last me 2 months or more.

And, finally, make-up. I’m not a big make-up buyer, but there’s stuff I do use. Well, now, have you considered drugstore.com? OMG… here’s where being generous paid off as well. I had a boatload of cash left in my FSA this year and encouraged younger daughter to use some FSA money at drugstore.com to buy her first load of over-the-counter meds for her new apartments. Anyway, that earned me over $6.00 in drugstore.com money that I could use starting this month. That, combined with free shipping and some sales got me the following for just a little over $30: foundation, powder, blush, mascara, eye shadow and a new hair brush. Are you kidding? That would have been at least $20 more at Target, not to mention the five other things I would have bought on impulse.

Socially conscious and frugal? Can be done.

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I’ve discovered the key to doing home repairs

I’ve been a crafter my whole life. I love to buy new craft toys, play at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or Joann Fabric… The Internet changed my crafting life by exposing me to new ways of seeing and doing things.

This is it – the key to doing home repair. I just have to look at it the same way I look at crafting. Here’s what I found:

1. doing home repairs give me an excuse to buy new tools and play with new materials.

2. If you think of Home Depot as just another craft store, it’s way less threatening. It even has a cutting station, just like Joann.

3. Google anything, anything at all – you’ll find somebody on the Internet showing you how to do it.

4. Crafters have that “it’s more fun to do it myself” mentality. Just like home handypeople!

5. Doing my own home repairs takes advantage of my artistic ability, too. My heart just sang when I read that good grouting is more about artisitic ability than home repair skill. YES!

See ya later – I’m off to Home Depot (again!).

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Filed under Creating a new life, Empowerment, Finances, Fixing stuff, Haven for one

Newly single on a budget

Check out Paula Wethington’s blog Monroe on a Budget for tips for the newly single. I really love the one about not paying for a storage locker. Thanks, Paula!

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More on single frugality…

Last week I discovered that my beloved Luna bars were recalled due to the peanut butter issue. This was a crisis – I eat a Luna bar (Peanut Butter Cookie, to be precise) every day. I buy them by the box at Target and take them to work so I don’t have to think about breakfast in the morning. Well, I went to Target and they didn’t have any. They had Lemon Zest and other flavors, but not mine. Later in the day we checked the peanut butter recall online and discovered that my Luna bars were recalled. I don’t like any other power or energy bars, so I had to figure out what to eat in the morning. I grabbed a handful of instant oatmeal packets (that, I believe, have been in the pantry since the somebody came home from college, and I’m not sure that it wasn’t the older daughter… so they’ve been there a while) and brought them to school. I have a microwave in my classroom so it’s easy to heat the water. Know what? I ate those oatmeal packets every day and lost three pounds last week. Now, I can’t be sure it was the oatmeal, but I didn’t really do anything differently, so it’s worth continuing. And, I saved somewhere around $5.00 on Luna Bars and ate stuff that was already in the pantry.

I also didn’t have any 100-calorie packs of chips for my lunch, so I used snack size Ziploc bags and took 100 calories worth of the Roasted Gorgonzola Crackers from Trader Joe’s instead. If you haven’t tried those crackers, give them a shot. They’re really flavorful and you get a good amount for 100 calories. And they’re around $2.00 a box, which makes them waaaaay cheaper than pre-bagged 100-calorie packs. One box is good for lots of lunches (well, it is if you don’t eat them when you get home from work and you’re starving — not that I ever do that), which also saves on trips to the grocery store.

Trips to the grocery store – I just hate ’em. Mr. Ex used to do that (I think he really loved it), but I do not love. More on that next week – how the frugal single avoids constant grocery store runs.

Kerasotes Theatres
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One more thing – did you know about the five-buck club from Kerasotes Theaters? You can sign up online and get a card that gets you a ticket for $5.00 at selected shows. The catch is that you can only buy one ticket per card, but that’s perfect for the frugal single! Since that’s the theater that I usually go to on Saturday to meet girlfriends, I’m lovin’ it. They even send you an email wth participating theaters and times.

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Stayin’ Frugal

If you’ve been reading here for any time at all you realize that frugal spending is somewhat of an obsession of mine. I think it partially because I’m totally anxious about money and it’s also part of my whole taking charge of my life thing.

A big thanks to Glblguy for hosting this week’s Festival of Frugality. I haven’t had a chance to read all the articles but I really enjoyed The perqs of pinching pennies by Funny-About-Money.  It’s amazing how small changes make such a difference.

To that end, I’ve decided to take enough out of my savings to pay off my credit card this month. Now, that isn’t going to help much with my anxiety, since I’m sure that less money in the savings will mean more anxiety in me. But it just doesn’t make sense to continue to accrue finance charges when I’m getting bupkis (you know that means nothing, right? Not that it doesn’t mean anything, it means nothing. Makes sense?) from the savings account. And I’m just going to focus on looking at that zero balance in the credit card statement. It hasn’t been at zero since the summer, so I’m excited.

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The frugal single

More on living single on the cheap…

Disclaimer: although my husband of 30 years has moved out, my 23 year old daughter still lives with me. I’m still purchasing most of the groceries for the two of us, but she handles her own personal expenses and gas, etc.

I’ve been doing all the shopping for groceries (well, for everything) since he moved out, and it’s been an eye-opener. He did most of the grocery shopping in the past, so I didn’t really know how much we were spending on stuff. Being newly single has forced me to reevaluate the way to do everything, and spending is certainly one area that was ready for examination. Here are some of my recent observations:

Grocery buying at a non-grocery store

I buy a lot of Crystal Light. A lot. We don’t drink much soda at home any more (too expensive, not good for you, and – most important – too heavy to shlep), but sometimes dinner needs something more than water. So I buy Crystal Light. It isn’t the cheapest, either. It is, however, less expensive than soda (and I don’t have to recycle cans or bottles). Friday I was at Jewel (my local grocery store – owned by Albertson’s) and bought a can for over $5.00. But they didn’t have the flavor I really like, so when I was at Target yesterday I wandered over to the grocery section. Not only did they have the flavor I like, but it was under $4.00. That’s a big savings, in my book. Especially since I’m at Target at least once a week.  While I was there I checked out some of the other stuff I buy. Eggs were $2.30 for 18. Normally I buy 36 eggs at Sam’s Club for just over $4.00, so that was a little more than I normally spend, but the upside is that I wasn’t planning to go to Sam’s so the extra 30 cents was well worth it. And, it was still cheaper than buying eggs at Jewel.

Milk. Milk is expensive. Did the cows get a raise? I checked the price of milk out at Target. It was definitely cheaper than Jewel. Speaking of milk – I usually pop into the local 7-11 to buy milk – it’s almost always cheaper than the grocery store (and no long lines to buy it, either).

Bulk buying when you’re eating alone

Speaking of buying food at Sam’s Club – here’s my observation on that. If I can freeze it or eat it right away, it’s usually worth buying. But most everything comes in packaging that’s way too much for one, so I pass it up if it’s perishable. I almost always buy chicken breasts there. They have a package for around $11.00 that has 6 enormous breasts in it (I can’t quite picture the chicken from whence these breasts came, to be honest). I open the package immediately and freeze the breasts individually. One is enough for Allie and me for dinner. When she moves out next year I’ll still buy the chicken – I figure I can roast one breast and have some yummy leftovers for lunch the next day.

The importance of planning

Leftovers seem to be a huge problem for me. I’m still adjusting my cooking habits, so I end up having a lot of extra food. I also don’t have a huge love for leftovers – I hate eating the same thing days in a row. The problem is I love making soup, and every soup recipe seems to make way too much. I’ve decided to cut back a little on how often I make soup and freeze half immediately. I’m working on eating our way through the stuff that’s in the freezer right now so that I can store portion-sized soup containers to make it easy to pull them out. So far I’ve frozen lentil-barley soup and chicken tortilla soup.

Besides freezing, I’m also working on perfecting the planned leftovers method. In other words, planning on having leftovers to repurpose in another meal. A couple of weeks ago I roasted chicken breasts (try the McCormick’s Rotisserie Chicken seasoning – yum). It uses just as much cooking gas to roast two as it does one, so I made a couple. But that was way too much for Allie and me to eat at one meal, so I sliced the rest up and threw it in the fridge. The next night I took out a ready-made pizza crust, put barbeque sauce on it and covered it with the roasted chicken from the day before and some cheddar cheese. Oh – and some caramelized onions (a worthy addition to every meal, I must say). It was really good and cost next to nothing!

Tradtional 28-ounce tin of McCann's Steel Cut ...
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The next thing I’m going to try is making a large pot of oatmeal and keeping it in the fridge for breakfast microwaving. Check out Mark Bittman‘s blog post for tips on that.

One of the things I was most worried about when the STBXH moved out was that cooking for one would really cramp my style. I love to cook and make a nice meal, and I just didn’t know if it would be fun to do it for just me. I’m finding out that with some modifications it can be just as rewarding and affordable, too.

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Come to the carnival!

I’m excited that my Paying the Bills post was selected as an editor’s pick for Penelope Pince’s Carnival of Personal Finance: The Jane Austen Edition. It’s

The Big Money
Image by DavidDMuir via Flickr

so fitting, too, that it’s in honor of Jane Austen! I mean, you couldn’t choose a better author for a post from a blog about becoming empowered after a divorce.

Be sure to check out Penelope’s great blog. She has a ton of excellent advice for frugal living. It’s beautifully laid out, which makes it especially nice to read.

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