Thursday, May 30, 2013

Three Thing Thursday

Thing the First: This recent Atlantic article about ambition and relationships does a great job of summing up one of the reasons I am happier on Minnesota than I was in New York City. (another h/t to Molly of Smart Pretty and Awkward - you should really sign up for her newsletter!)

Thing the Second: Last fall, we were busy dealing with a very sick baby so we did nothing to prepare our backyard and garden for the winter. This year, I'd like to do a "lasagna garden" as demonstrated by Frugal by Choice - just look at her results!

Thing the Third: Reclaiming Wife is my favorite category on A Practical Wedding (which makes sense, because that's the stage of life I'm in). Recently they did a three-part series of different mothering situations, and I found the conversations brilliant and thought-provoking. Here they are: The Work-From-Home Parent, The Stay-At-Home Parent, and In Praise of Daycare.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Three Thing Thursday

Thing the First: This little girl! Holy cow, she's awesome. I want to know how I can make Baby M turn out like her. :) (h/t to Molly of SP&A - I found this link in her Coffee with Molly newsletter)

Thing the Second: Love this article about the bacteria that live on and in our bodies, especially the information about how we get that bacteria. I'm a big proponent of breastfeeding - although Baby M was never able to do so, she was fed breastmilk by tube and bottle for four and a half months before we had to switch her over to formula for medical reasons. I knew it was good for a lot of things, but I love the idea that my pumping helped set her up with healthy gut bacteria for life!

Thing the Third: Here's a list of twelve great first aid tips that you should know - some of these were new to me!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The value of imperfection

I got a fantastic deal on an enameled cast iron dutch oven the other day.

We had a gift card to a department store, and Peanut picked up a dutch oven a few weeks ago. It turned out  that the six quart size is too big for our purposes - we're only feeding two people here right now, and even when Baby M is big enough to eat regular food, she's not going to justify the larger size pot (although she looks real cute sitting in it right now). Plus, I could hardly lift the thing when it was empty, there was no way I'd be able to actually cook with it. So I took it back to exchange it for a smaller size.

It happened to be my lucky day - there was only one 3 quart pot left in the same color, and it was on clearance. There's a small mark on the outside of it, which I guess is the reason it was on clearance - but it made a $150 pot cost me about $40. YES. Let me tell you how much I care about the appearance of my cookware: not. at. all.

If that mark is the reason the pot was on such a steep sale, the value of imperfection is clear. I love looking for these kinds of things - seconds, rejects, imperfects. Not to get all wabi-sabi on you, but I think imperfection is a thing of beauty.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Well, this is an interesting read. The Forbes article details how hard it is to avoid making the rich richer by detailing the ways your everyday spending lines the pockets of billionaires. The article highlights an app that helps you make different decisions, if you choose. (The most interesting part of the article, to me, was the slideshow showing how pretty much all of your purchases benefit a billionaire somehow.)

I've been frustrated in the past, especially when reading books like Salt, Sugar, Fat to realize how closely linked almost all the big brands are and yet how opaque it is to the consumer. The Buycott app (which I absolutely just downloaded) makes that a lot more transparent.

Should we care about things like whether our cereal company spent money to oppose labeling of GMO foods or that a CEO makes 11 times the average salary of someone employed in her company? I don't know. I go back and forth on the issue myself a lot of the time. I'm not going to live an ascetic life just to avoid the possibility of someone being exploited somewhere - it's not very practical. I can make small changes, like buying secondhand whenever possible and doing without a lot of "necessities". But what I really like about the app is that it gives you the information to make a choice when you do make a purchase, which I feel like has really been missing for the layperson.

How do you feel about your money going to make rich people richer?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Color of Money

I'm catching up on all my magazine reading, and I came across this very interesting article from the March issue of Real Simple: How Color Affects Your Spending.

According to the article, different colors can get you to open your wallet through a combination of psychological associations and marketing. Black signals sophistication, blue connotes trust, green indicates environmentally friendly (even when the products really aren't), red can slow customers down, white suggests purity and yellow gets your appetite going. I know that purple tends to catch my eye (the article says this is because it makes me think of royalty, I think it's more because it's my favorite color).

Do any of these ring true for you? Any colors you have a hard time passing up - or bringing home?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quality vs. Price

These two recent posts have me thinking: The bitterness of poor quality from The Frugal Girl and Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-Will from The Non-Consumer Advocate.

For some reason, I have a very hard time remembering that I like high quality over low price. Because of this, I own a ton of cheap shirts from department store clearance racks that last one season, or maybe two, and then have to be replaced.

I'm starting to get better about this - last year Peanut and I replaced a lot of our cookware with restaurant supply store items instead of big box store brands, and we've been very happy about that. We're planning a small revamping of our living room/office set up that will require some new to us furniture and I've been struggling with how to achieve it. We are on a very tight budget, but it really needs to be done in order to babyproof the computer area. So I'm torn between going to Ikea, trying to find the same pieces I want from Ikea on Craigslist, or hoping that I stumble across something that fits the space at an estate sale. The first two options are likely to end in broken down furniture in a few years, and the last option is an exercise in frustration. Maybe there are options that we haven't really explored, though, like unfinished furniture stores, or building something ourselves...any suggestions? We need two desks, six shelves, and a cabinet that can be turned into a modified window seat. The cabinet/window seat is the big priority, since that will hide all the dangerous wires.

I'm still working out how we're going to manage all the updates I want to do - have you been in a similar situation? What did you decide?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is coming up...and I have learned my lesson. No more ordering flowers from national companies! I went with a local florist in my mom's hometown, who I have used before. Finding this florist was just as easy as using 1800Flowers, but I'm betting that I will not have the problems I have had with the latter.

The Consumerist had a great post about this as well: We Don't Want to Hear About Your Disappointing Flowers This Mother's Day

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April Recap/May Goals

April Goals
1. Finalize estate planning documents. Ahem. 

2. Take advantage of Baby M's naps. Better! Her naps were nice and consistent early in the month, devolving into completely unpredictable the last week or so (four month sleep regression!), but I managed to get a lot of little projects off my plate while she snoozed and also made time for things like reading for pleasure again. 

3. Sell some things on Craigslist/eBay. No go. I have weeded through a lot of things that I want to sell, but I spent a lot of those naptimes mending, writing descriptions, or taking photos. I want to do some batch selling here instead of doing it piecemeal, so that's what's taking so long. 

May Goals
1. Get the wills signed and notarized, FFS. I am so tired of this damn project I could scream, and I've got no one to blame but myself that it's not done. Right after we filled out all the forms, I panicked that we need to see a lawyer instead of using software. The reality is that our wills pretty much simply ratify what our state's laws already would decide, so it's a mere formality indicating our wishes as to Baby M's custody should something happen to both of us. So a home-done version is absolutely fine, and if there are any problems with it that would cause state law to override them, we'd have exactly the same outcome. So it's time to just get some signatures and file the pages and BE DONE WITH IT. 

2. Declutter. This is basically me just putting April's third goal back on the list, but I also have a lot of stuff that I want to take to Goodwill because I won't get anything for it if I try to sell it. Once again, using those naptimes!

3. Set up one playdate. Now that Peanut has the Jeep up and running, I have a car during the day again. And Baby M has been cleared to go visit very healthy friends and family. It's a big production to leave the house with her, and has to be carefully timed because eating is a problem and she'll only do it at home under familiar circumstances. But by golly I need to get out of the house, and setting up a playdate with another friend with a baby should help me get over the fear of going out with her. 
What are your goals for May?

April Spending Recap

Baby $78.44
Business $3.89
Car (Mazda) $138.81
Car (Jeep) $1,039.65
Cat $25.95
Cell Phones $111.46
Charity $25
Clothing $136.92
Dental $274.40
Electric $87.69
Entertainment $41.24
Food - Groceries $318.87
Food - Other $258.41
Gas $104.45
Gifts $19.03
House $1,366.54
Household $137.48
Hygiene $15.00
Internet $72.50
Medical $20
Student Loans $178.63
Transportation $50
Water & Trash $78.05
Yoga $40
Therapy $26

Total $4,648.41

Things of Note:
The weather (briefly) got nice enough for us to become a two-car family again, but getting the Jeep ready for the summer cost us quite a bit of money. Luckily, this was a one-time cost (new tires and wheels and some other things) and won't happen every spring. 

We both got our teeth cleaned and I'm getting more dental work done in May, but we now have an HSA set up so at least that money is being spent pre-tax. Our utility bills are creeping down now that the days are longer and the weather warmer, and I've been able to line-dry diapers a few times instead of running long dryer cycles. I plan to get a clothesline up in the backyard this month. 

Our food spending was higher than it has been in previous months, for no real reason that I can discern. I guess we just got a little lax about eating out!

And lastly, you'll notice a new category - therapy. Now that Baby M is home from the hospital, I am starting to face some of the trauma, grief, and stress that I've been holding onto for the past eight months following her birth and hospitalization. Longtime readers of this blog know that I am no stranger to therapy and find it enormously useful, and I expect that to be the case again this time around. Time and money are both a little more precious to me now than they were five years ago, so I will be going every other week, keeping the cost to around $50 per month. Money well spent!

Just Enough

I love this series from Parent Hacks: Manage Your Money Just Enough

Mainly what I love is the title. It's easy to get swept up in doing everything "right" - finding the perfect envelope system, tweaking investments to get top performance, developing systems, perfecting budgets.

The reality is that if financial freedom is a recipe, there are two ingredients: action and time. There's only so much you can do before you have to let time pass, and while that's happening, managing your money "just enough" is a great plan.

I believe it was in a book about Eastern medicine where I read about a concept called "80% is perfection". This means that in any holistic approach to your life - diet, exercise, etc. - there is no achieving 100%. It's just not possible on a human scale. But getting things right 80% of the time will get you to where you want to go, and is achievable.

Is it a bit of a cop-out to only aim for 80% or for "just enough"? I don't think so. I think it's a great sanity saver!