#5TF: Heroes and Cheapskates

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 7 – August 5 – 11, 2017

I finished reading a pretty good book this week by Jeff Yeager – The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means. It’s kind of like The Millionaire Next Door in that it’s a collection of tips and stories about cheapskates (not millionaires) from across the country. Though it was written right after the economic downturn of 2008, many of the suggestions are still applicable today. You won’t find anything ground-breaking in the book but if you are also a cheapskate, like we are, you’ll be able to benchmark your cheapness and possibly pick up a few new tools of the trade.

Since reading the book, we’ve started using a rinse bucket for our hand-washed dishes (as opposed to running water to rinse them) and we are hanging up more of our clothes to dry (as opposed to using the electric dryer). I also tried renegotiating our internet price with Comcast…which we’ll get to in just a moment…and I’m trying to remember to unplug “energy vampires” at night. We already do fairly well in the food waste department but need to elevate our game when it comes using a crock pot and making meals (or at least ingredients for meals) ahead of time. This seems to be the hallmark of a true cheapskate and since we aspire to be both The Minimalists and The Cheapskates Next Door, we have some improving to do 🙂

Speaking of Comcast…at the end of this month our internet bill goes up from $19.99/month to $49.99/month. In a conversation with them on Wednesday, I inadvertently cancelled our home internet service. Panic immediately set in LOL.

I need to let go of the delusion that I’ll ever be able to live without home internet. It’s a wonderful thought but not one that I think I can do. Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists does it and he’s a productive writer, blogger, etc. but me, I’d be nuts within a week. My inner cheapskate (and the fact that I’m a bit of an introvert) makes working at a coffee shop nearly impossible. In my head, I start thinking: $2/day for a cup of coffee x 4 working days per week x 48 work weeks = $384. That doesn’t include gas to drive to the coffee shop or the fact that I’d get hungry being around all those bagels (or frustrated being around all those people). So go to the library you say. Nope, our library is only open 3 of those 4 days.

It might be different if our sole income was not derived from a remote, internet-driven job. But since it is, I made a very valiant effort to negotiate our rate with Comcast. In the end, we settled on $29.99/month for another year. That gives me 12 months to figure out a workable plan in case I can’t renegotiate a decent rate again next year.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was having my mom over for breakfast on Sunday. 99% of the time we go to her house to eat so it’s always a treat when she comes to ours. We had a great breakfast of whole wheat pancakes, blackberries, and sausage from the Farmer’s Market. After breakfast, we sat outside for a long time just talking and then walked next door to Aldi so my mom could do a little shopping. It was a very relaxing day capped off by a scenic drive in the evening, where we found a new picnic spot and lots of grazing deer.

We made progress on the usual suspects: food preservation, decluttering, and cheapening our vacation plan. We put away more peppers and onions, another quart of spaghetti sauce, 2 more servings of okra, and a half dozen ears of corn. We cleaned out 9 items from the shed at my mom’s house. And we found a way to get to the cruise port from the airport for just $2.75 – the local bus!

We also put up a new antenna for our TV. Since moving to this apartment, we’ve been able to get 3 channels, and none of them facing in the same direction. Last football season, it was nothing to find our flat indoor antenna taped to the ceiling in the morning and threaded through the blinds of the patio door in the afternoon. There are so many pushpin holes in the walls around the TV from mounting that thing in so many different positions that we may need a whole tube of toothpaste to fill them one day. The new antenna is very “old school”. It looks like one my grandparents had back in the day but it really works. No more playing Twister to watch the Texans (um…I mean the Titans) play!

On a much different note…

I am grateful that we have a home. I may not always like where we live and I may wax philosophical from time to time about the high cost of rent in this low-rent town but I am glad we have a clean, safe roof over our heads. What prompted this attitude of gratitude was the fact that once again my niece has found herself bouncing between homes. This time, she and the little one, along with her boyfriend, their roommate and her 3 children were all holed up in a hotel for the better part of the week while trying to sort out their living situation. Though she declined our offer to stay with us for a few days, we made sure all of them had food during this ordeal.

It breaks my heart to see anyone homeless, especially children, and of course, I want to leap to the rescue. However, this is the 3rd time in a year they have been kicked out of a residence and the underlying mentality is one that I can’t correct by being a hero. They actually think that they do not need to work and they should not be required to pay anything to live in someone else’s house. This incident could have all been avoided if any one of the 3 adults in the situation had paid the $40 that they were asked to contribute to the month’s utility bills. Being asked to fork over $40 was a slap in the face, yet the fact that they just paid more than $210 to stay in a hotel to avoid paying $40 in utilities somehow escapes them.

And back to something joyful…

The funniest thing that happened this week was when Ticky snuck into the neighbor’s kiddie pool, fully clothed, all while being supervised by 3 adults. At first, she gingerly dipped her socked toe into the water and looked around to see if any of us were watching. The pool is one of those hard plastic things with a slide. Since Ticky is crazy about slides, she just couldn’t resist trying this one out. As firm believers in doing spontaneous things like jumping in the ocean with our clothes on, neither Angie or I said a word. A few minutes later, Ticky was standing in the middle of the pool splashing the neighbor boys. She had such a good time and it only took a few minutes to change her into dry clothes. It was so worth it just to see her laughing and playing.


#5TF: Family Week

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 6 – July 29 – August 4, 2017

Big Hug!

Angie said that the theme for this week should be “family”. I’m pretty sure Sunday was the only day this week that we didn’t spend with one or more members of our family, either in person, online, or on the phone. We visited with my mom on Saturday, had my niece over for dinner on Tuesday, spent the day with little Ticky on Wednesday, and worked in my mom’s yard yesterday. I also talked to my sister several times and Angie connected with her aunt and grandma to arrange a dinner meet-up during our trip to Niagara Falls in October. She also talked to her mom and swapped old photos with her aunt via Facebook. So yes…I suppose this was Family Week.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was having my niece and the baby over for dinner on Tuesday. It’s been a while since she’s been here. In fact, I think February was probably the last time we shared a meal together. The evening was quite unplanned. They had been swimming all day at the new City water park and their ride back home never showed up so as usual, we were the default backup plan. Instead of being upset by the interruption, we took the opportunity to make sure they had a good meal (with lots of veggies and fruits) before sending them back home. We even took a few minutes to walk to the park after dinner, where Ticky entertained us for a good while going up and down the slides. These impromptu moments of lighthearted conversation and laughter are always a welcome in my book.

Going for a ride-along with the neighbor boys. Looks like Ticky is calling for back-up!

I am grateful that Angie and I were both raised to be confident in my own ability to do things. DIY skills come in very handy when you are trying to be frugal. Last year, my mom spent more than $200 fixing an $800 lawnmower. This year, we decided that was nonsense and we would deal with maintenance and repairs on our own (when possible). While mowing last week, we noticed the cut was uneven. One side was barely topping the grass while the other was scalping it. I fixed it temporarily by adjusting the tire pressure but decided to try realigning the deck for a permanent solution. Thank goodness my mom keeps every manual for everything she ever buys. The adjustment was not too difficult and it made a huge difference in mowing this week. Plus it made me feel good to know that I’d done it on my own. [We’re also grateful for the free Panera bagels again this month.]

I need to let go of measuring our day by the clock. Every day I seem to get stuck at 5 PM. It’s like this position on the clock somehow represents the finish line for the day and I think everything – both necessary and fun – has to be accomplished by that time. For some reason, I think work/play should end by 5 PM and dinner prep should begin, followed by the wind down to bedtime. The only problem with this scenario is that we don’t go to bed until 11 PM so that’s 6 hours of our day in wind down mode. Relaxing is definitely necessary but perhaps it wouldn’t be so necessary if we didn’t try to cram everything we want or need to do into banker’s hours. It’s okay to go to the grocery store at night. It’s okay to take a walk at sunset. It’s okay to take a nap during the day and write in the evening instead. The clock is arbitrary (she says, mostly to remind herself) and it’s okay to simply ignore it from time to time.

The new freezer is almost full!

We made progress on our winter food stash, adding 2 quarts of tomatoes, 4 ears of corn, 4 pints of okra, and 2 quart bags of bell peppers and snack peppers to our freezer. We also took a short 2 mile hike on Sunday and spent the rest of the day scheming up ways to cheapen our fall vacation. So far we’ve decided to camp for the first week and use the free bus passes provided by the campground to get around to all of the attractions in Niagara Falls. The following week, we’re catching a cruise out of NY so if anyone has suggestions on cheap parking in or near the Manhattan cruise port, we’re all ears.

Enjoying her “stolen” ice cream bar.

The funniest thing that happened this week was when Ticky stole Angie’s ice cream bar. Up until that time, we had no idea she even liked ice cream. On the other occasions where we’ve tried to share some with her, she’s turned her head or said no. This time, Angie tried to give her a bite and she took off with the whole bar. She wouldn’t even let go of it to go down the slide! Poor Angie lost her snack. On the upside, Ticky didn’t waste a bit of ice cream. She ate the whole thing with little mess, while somehow managing to simultaneously slide and avoid Nanny’s attempts to chase her around the yard with a wet washcloth.