July 2015 Net Worth Check

So… I am two months plus behind on this. Haven’t done it since January. Oops!

Obviously our situation has changed since we bought a house–not so much as far as our actual net worth, as where it is distributed. In other news, we have switched from Mint to Personal Capital. I just found Mint very clunky and awkward to use, and kept hearing good things about PC… we’ll see.

ASSETS

Cash: $3840.75 (includes our emergency reserve of about $2K)

Investments: $53,389.03 (This used to be more, but we spent my Roth IRA on a giant pile of bricks). New in this category: Mr. FP’s traditional IRA. We will owe taxes on the capital gains that were part of my IRA balance when we cashed it out, so decided to do a traditional IRA to help offset that.

  • My rollover IRA: $18,222.11
  • Mr. FP’s traditional IRA: $2,944.28 (He is rather depressed that this has already gone down–he just opened it with $3K a couple of weeks ago!)
  • Mr. FP’s old 403(b): $32,221.88

Property: $308,000 (assuming that the value of our house is exactly what we paid for it). We do not count our cars in this category.

Total assets: $365,229.78

LIABILITIES

Credit Cards: $2873.70

Mortgage: $293,278.43

Total liabilities: $296,152.13

TOTAL NET WORTH: $69077.65

Since January, that’s a change of $883. Hard to believe it has stayed so steady! On the other hand, at least it hasn’t gone down. The market has not been great and we have been seriously hemorrhaging money on things for the house. Normally we don’t run around buying used pianos and photo prints and whatnot.

When I started this blog in January 2015, I was surprised to find that our net worth was over $50K–it was at that time $51,681.47. That’s an increase over the last year and a half of $17, 396.18, or 33.7%.

Let’s call that “good, with room for improvement.” The next big question: When will we add that fifth zero?

How’s your net worth growing? How do you track it?

Look, I’m Growing Something!

Our new house came with no flower beds or garden of any kind. We have four different surfaces:

  1. Rocks
  2. Concrete
  3. Questionable grass
  4. Rubber mulch
  5. More rocks

And did I mention the rocks? So many rocks.Trying to keep the rocks out the rubber mulch and the mulch out of the rocks and both of them out of the grass is my new part-time job.

An experienced gardener would probably not have been deterred by this obstacle, but I am anything but an experienced gardener. The only thing I have ever planted in the ground is knockout roses. And if you live in the Deep South, as I did, knockout roses are pretty much the easiest thing you can possibly plant. They look nice and live forever.

So, no time this spring to create a garden. The whole backyard needs some kind of master plan involving a garden, a garage and many fewer rocks.

But I still wanted to try growing something, so I took over some of the containers that were already set up by the side of our house. The swamp cooler is already set up to drain into them, so less watering!

I have a rosemary plant that I bought at Sprouts, two basil plants (same) and several green onions (also, actually, from Sprouts). I cut off the green tips for use in a recipe, replanted the white bulbs, and they really did come back up!

On the left, you can see the little hose that runs from the swamp cooler up through the bottom of the container.

On the left, you can see the little hose that runs from the swamp cooler up through the bottom of the container.

And for decoration, the coneflowers I received for Mother’s Day. These are not super-healthy looking, but they are technically alive, so I’m calling it a win.

I'm such a newbie that I thought the plant was dead the first time the blossoms died. Then they returned.

I’m such a newbie that I thought the plant was dead the first time the blossoms died. Then they returned.

Maybe it will all die off. Maybe not. I am enjoying seeing things grow, but I’m honestly not prepared to get emotionally invested right now. I’m a person who likes to operate by baby steps, so the goal for this year was really just to get my hands dirty and enjoy some summer color and flavors.

Do you garden? Did it come naturally to you? How did you get started?

FP 1, Disposable Culture 2

As you might imagine for someone who sometimes carries drinking water in an old jam jar, I do not like throwing things away. (The only exception is pens. I feel a great sense of accomplishment if I manage not to lose a pen long enough that it runs out of ink, as opposed to ending its life in the dust bin at the grocery store, as I suspect most of my pens do.)

Avoiding throwing things away is hard in a culture, like ours, that makes things easy to replace and hard to fix, and Mr. FP and I have had a run of bad luck over the last month or so:

  1. He dropped his phone and broke the screen.
  2. My phone suddenly went dead.
  3. The TV also suddenly went dead.
  4. The printer went from working “intermittently” to “never.”

Mr. FP called Motorola to ask about having his phone repaired. We don’t do that, they said, but for $100 we’ll send you a brand-new phone. Reasonably good deal for us, sure. But one point for disposable culture.

My phone was an HTC Evo 4G LTE from 2012. About three years old. Turns out that the battery is integrated and can’t be replaced. (Things I wish I’d known before I bought it.) I actually bought a special set of tiny screwdrivers and tried taking the thing apart anyway, but I failed. HTC told me that the phone was “end of life.” Really? I have a kid as old as that phone, and he still wets his pants. But off to the recycling center with the phone. Another point for disposable culture.

I did, however, learn from the experience. I ordered a replacement phone from Glyde (of course) and this time was more careful. I decided that I do not need the LTE capability because I almost never use data anyway, and then usually for email, and that opened up some options. I settled on a Samsung Galaxy S3. You can actually still buy that one new, so I figure there will be a longer period of support as far as being able to get replacement parts and Android updates. And yes, the battery can be replaced. So maybe I can keep this one out of the jaws of disposable culture for a few years. I opted for “Good” rather than “Excellent” condition to keep the total cost under $100 and I’m glad I did. There are some scratches to the case but none to the screen, and the case scratches (a) are not very bad and (b) are hidden by the protective case anyway. One point for the FPs.

Then, the TV, which is at most three years old. Mr. FP took it to a local repair shop and was quoted $250 to repair it because the job requires replacing one giant, integrated board–disposable culture trying to make us buy a new one. Now, that gave us pause, because you can buy a new 40-inch LCD TV for less than that (albeit not from quite such a good brand as we have, evidently). We agonized for a few days while huddling around one laptop to watch Game of Thrones (HBO comes free with our cable Internet for reasons best known to ComCast).

Then we decided to just cough up the money. Here’s why we opted for repair over replacement:

  1. Enrich a local business instead of the businesses making junky TVs.
  2. Avoid having to learn a new TV, program a new remote, and all that nonsense.
  3. Save the time researching a new TV purchase.
  4. Keep our old TV out of the landfill.
  5. Save a few bucks ($30-$50) over a comparable replacement.

I would say that we beat disposable culture on that one, but only sort of–we did get stuck with the hefty repair bill because the TV was designed to be hard to repair. So let’s call that one a draw.

The printer’s death  was less distressing because it’s at least ten years old, maybe twelve, so it had a good run. It was a multifunction color inkjet, but here’s the thing about color printing: 90% of the time when we printed in color, it was an accident. After enough accidents, we would have to replace the (expensive) color cartridge. Then, guess what part of the printer broke? The color cartridge compartment. The printer lost the ability to recognize it and, for reasons of its own, declined to print even in black and white on the grounds that it could not feel the color cartridge.

So for a replacement, we went with this multifunction laser printer. Laser printing is cheaper than inkjet, we won’t have to worry about color cartridges, and laser printers have a reputation for being less temperamental, so we hope it will be easier to own. Let’s call this one another draw.

Well, everything is up and running now at a total cost of $600. Now, if we were REALLY frugal, we would have saved the whole $600. Every single thing that broke is a luxury item.

How do you decide whether to replace something, repair it–or just not have it anymore?

Thank Goodness It’s Shorts Season, or My War with Preschooler Pants

As of mid-May, Big Brother (age 4) owned zero pairs of pants that were his current size and had no holes in them. That’s not even counting pants with patches–all his patched pants had new holes. Even the pants that I bought brand-new for him in January had holes. Fortunately, then the sun came out.

Now, I’m not a sewing expert, but I’m learning and willing to try new things. The stakes are a little lower with clothes for preschoolers because tots just aren’t that picky, so it’s a great place to practice! Grandpa FP always used to say, “It’s already broken,” meaning I couldn’t make things worse. So in that spirit, I get out the sewing machine and the special sharp scissors and I just Google some tutorials and go for it!

I have tried a variety of methods for dealing with holes in the knees, starting with patching. The problem here is that the pants kept springing holes AROUND the patches. My patches, accordingly, kept getting bigger and bigger as the winter went on. I have also discovered that self-adhesive patches must be sewn on as well. I could do this by hand, but no. I hate hand-sewing with a fiery and intense passion, and also I am terrible at it. So I do it on my machine, even though I often accidentally sew the front of the pants to the back of the pants and have to start over (not much room to work in a pair of jeans worn by a 42 pound preschooler).

I tried to patch/sew up the small hole above the patch separately, but that didn't work. These pants now have enormous patches (not pictured) ready for cold summer evenings.

…but that was a fail. These pants now have enormous patches (not pictured) ready for cold summer evenings.

IMAG0136

I tried to patch and sew up a small hole that appeared in these jeans above the patch…

Then there are pants not suitable for patching. First, a pair of sweatpants (not pictured)–it just seemed like a patch would look strange. But as it happens, now that the weather’s warm, Big Brother desperately needed shorts! I measured a pair of shorts that fit him to figure out a good inseam. There was plenty of length to work with here, so I just did a traditional finished hem (double fold). Because the fabric was a little stretchy, the hem came out a little wobbly, but, well, I didn’t make them to enter in a hemming contest! Big Brother was delighted to see his favorite “running pants” come back to life as “running shorts.”

Next up, black cargo pants. With these, the hole was awkwardly high, close to the pocket–not much extra length. So I tried a new trick and used hem tape. I’d never done it before, but I remember Grandma FP using it, rather indulgently, when I was a teenager and insisted that my favorite dress had grown too short and needed to be let down.

I cut off the pants right at the rip and zig-zag stitched the cut edge, then sewed the hem tape as close as possible to that edge. (Actually it was self-adhesive hem tape, so I pressed it down first). Then I just barely folded over the hem tape, and sewed it down. The idea with using hem tape this way is that it lets you fold over just a tiny bit of the fabric, instead of losing the full half-inch minimum required by a proper hem.

Hem tape sewn in place.

Hem tape sewn in place.

005

Hem tape pinned down, ready for sewing.

I was thinking that the color of the tape was not important, since it will be on the inside, but of course it is sometimes visible–these are shorts. Fortunately, the neutral beige looks fine, almost like it’s an intentional embellishment. Good thing I didn’t use pink lace or something!

Finished result. Definitely imperfect, but pretty adorable on.

Finished result. Definitely imperfect, but pretty adorable on.

Lastly, we have the unsalvageable. One pair of khaki cargo pants ripped right up to the pocket, leaving no room for repair. Then a pair of jeans which ripped underneath the large patches (not pictured). I was thinking of making shorts of the jeans, but Grandma FP pronounced them unworthy (too threadbare in the butt). I am saving both of these to cut up for future patches. (See my upcoming post on Adult Pants Problems for how I have already used these!)

Cargo pants are always tricky--the pockets limit one's options.

Cargo pants are always tricky–the pockets limit one’s options.

I feel like I spent all winter trying to keep Big Brother in pants, so I am very glad that part of the year is over. No word yet on whether he will be allowed to have patches on his uniform pants at his new school next year–I hope so, or it could be an expensive winter!

How are your mending skills coming along?

Well, My Time with Leapforce at Home Is Done

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I have been doing just the minimum to get by with Leapforce at Home–frankly, mostly to try to keep getting referral bonuses–but then my smart phone died and “minimum” became “nothing all month.”

I received a notice this week that I am no longer an active agent and would need to re-take the qualification exam. (No word on whether if I did so, I would retain my preferred agent status and pay rate.)

I was actively trying to keep myself alive with Leapforce, but now that they’ve let me go, I have no plans to try to get back in. With my new job, I have barely been keeping up with my other, better side gig (fact-checking trivia questions) and don’t need the money as much.

It’s a bit of a relief, really. Besides having to steal the time from other projects,  I haven’t been performing very well on the new rating tasks using one’s smart phone, so that was an added source of stress. No one likes to get unsatisfactory performance ratings from anonymous algorithms. Now, since I have already failed, I don’t have to worry about it any more! What I feared has already come to pass, so I’m free.

I was active with Leapforce at Home for over four and a half years, and I continue to recommend it for at-home parents and others who want to make a little extra money with not too much commitment.

It gave me something to do during naptime and (back when I was doing more hours and thus performing better) let me feel like I was still pretty good at something besides deodorizing cloth diapers and loading babies into back carriers without assistance. It kept my brain active and introduced me to some funny YouTube series and a few interesting factoids. (Did you know there’s a part of the human spine that looks like a Scottie dog?)

I might have more free time in the fall if we succeed in getting Little Brother into our local public preschool. But if I do, I’d like to use that time for more creative, productive endeavours, like sewing or getting back into writing fiction.

Have you ever felt immediate relief upon “failing”? What have you trimmed from your life recently?

Why I Spent More To DIY My Bike Chain

Before we go any further, a clarification: This is not a post about HOW to replace your bike chain. I’ve only done it once and there are many sets of directions out there on the interwebs. This is a post about why I did it–even though in the short run, it was actually more expensive. It’s also meant to be encouraging, as I am inexperienced, lacking in upper body strength, notoriously uncoordinated, and responsible for supervising two preschool boys simultaneously with any repair attempts, so if I can, you can!

A few months back, I had my bike at the local bike shop for a gear problem I couldn’t resolve myself. The bike mechanic mentioned that my chain was near the end of its life. I had two options:

  1. Pay them to replace it. This costs $15, and they give you 15% off the chain.
  2. Replace it myself. This would require a $15 tool, and I would have to pay full price for the chain. The total was thus slightly higher.

Well, I bought the chain and the chain tool (the mechanic called it a “chain breaker,” which sounds awesomer, so I’m going to call it that, too). A chain breaker is a unitasker. It does only one thing–push connecting pins in and out of bike chains. But without it, you simply can’t do the job. Fortunately, it is small and not too expensive.

Post-repair, the thing was no longer nearly this shiny.

Post-repair, the thing was no longer nearly this shiny.

Obviously, I will save money next time I need a new chain, because I already have the tool. But to save $15 every year or so, was it really worth learning a new skill and, well, getting my hands filthy? Obviously, I think so. For one thing, there are four people in my family. If I replace four chains a year, that’s $60 a year, not $15. I already worked out, back when I learned to wax my own eyebrows, that saving $15 four times per year, with compound interest, works out to $904 over ten years.

Then there’s the one-more-thing factor. I’ve realized that I probably actually save more money than I thought by doing my own eyebrows because inevitably, I got my hair cut at the same time. So sometimes I was getting my hair cut because my eyebrows were a mess, and sometimes vice versa.

I took this picture of the chain so that next time, I won't need to go to the bike shop to buy it as I will know what I need.

I took this picture of the chain so that next time, I won’t need to go to the bike shop to buy it as I will know what I need.

I imagine it would be much the same thing with a bike chain. Go in to get the chain replaced, wind up with a couple new gadgets (rear view mirror? clearance bike shorts?) and some additional services you only kind of need.

Pay particular attention to which way the chain goes under and over these little wheels (shown upside-down).

Pay particular attention to which way the chain goes under and over these little wheels (shown upside-down).

It’s a pretty easy job. There were a few points of challenge:

  1. Turning the chain breaker to push out a rivet is surprisingly difficult. Those little pins are in tight.
  2. Re-winding the chain was tricky. I took a photo (see above) of the chain path, but the harder part was getting the chain under the little metal guards. Then it was hard to hold the ends together and shove in the closing pin at the same time.
  3. The special closing pin had a guide portion that, once the chain was joined, had to be broken off with plyers. This took several tries.
  4. The trickiest part of all: The kids kept running away with the chain breaker.
I used old dishwashing gloves--the ones I normally use for rinsing grossness in the toilet--and they helped, but eventually I just grabbed the chain with my bare hands.

I used old dishwashing gloves–the ones I normally use for rinsing grossness in the toilet–and they helped, but eventually I just grabbed the chain with my bare hands.

How are your bicycle mechanic skills coming along? Am I the only one making slooooow progress?

Hacking Mini-Blinds

So I mentioned a few weeks ago that one does not count lightbulbs when one is looking at houses. You know what else you don’t notice? Whether or not the mini blinds have strings in them.

Yes, all the mini blinds that came with the house are missing at least some of the strings used to open the blinds. I don’t mean that they are broken. Someone clearly took the blinds down and carefully extracted the strings. Why, you ask? Excellent question. The sellers had small children, so I suppose it’s possible they removed the strings in a burst of excessive caution. Except, then why did they leave some of the strings behind?

Regardless, the situation was this. The main living area had four sets of blinds. Only two of them went up and down. And those two had broken slats.

Kitty Paragon reclines by the window. Maybe their children broke the slats?

Kitty Paragon reclines by the double window in the living room pre-repair. Maybe the sellers’ children broke the slats?

Now, I was seriously tempted to throw them all away and go buy real wood blinds (I have ethical and environmental concerns about vinyl). But… real wood blinds are expensive. And while I think it would be “better” to buy real wood, the best case is generally to fix what you have.

See below for details, but here’s a quick summary of tips:

  1. You can restring horizontal blinds. It’s easy.
  2. If you hang new blinds, when you shorten them, save the extra slats from the bottom to use in future repair jobs.

Step 1: Restring the dining room blinds

These weren’t too bad. This set of blinds originally had two strings, only one of which was missing. These blinds had been shortened correctly and none of the slats were broken.

Horizontal blinds laid out on striped rug.

The string on your right was removed for unknown reasons.

So I took it down and restrung, using this excellent tutorial and some twine we had lying around. The cotton twine was not really the ideal string for the job, but it worked with a little finessing. Because it tended to separate at the ends, I used a large plastic yarn needle to help thread it through the slats.

Working the new string through. You don't need the needle if you are using the proper kind of cord.

Working the new string through. You don’t need the needle if you are using the proper kind of cord.

This is what happens if you get a slat backwards. I had to start over. Watch out for this!

This is what happens if you get a slat backwards. I had to start over. Watch out for this!

The new string needed a tassel and a cord stop, which is a little clear plastic doodad. This doodad is EXTREMELY important (not but pictured). It prevents small children from being able to strangle themselves with the cord, which is a real thing that real children have done (not just a theoretical danger). Fortunately, I had some on hand. You can order them for free from the Window Covering Safety Council.

The hardest part was getting the string out from under this part of the mechanism at the top of the blinds.

The hardest part was getting the string out from under this part of the mechanism at the top of the blinds.

Tip: If you try this at home, make sure to run the new cord to the INSIDE of the ladder strings holding up the slats. It will help the slats stay in place better.

Step 2: Single living room blinds, broken slats

The set of blinds facing the street, miraculously, had both its strings intact. It was, however, missing three slats. It had also never been shortened, so when fully extended, it hung perhaps a foot below the end of the window. In a rare case when two wrongs DID make a right, I was able to take the excess slats off the bottom and use them to replace the missing ones.

This part I found easier to fix with the blinds still hanging–no need to take them down since I was not restringing. The process involved taking the little buttons off the bottom and cutting the knot off the bottom of the strings. Then, I pulled the string out above the broken slats, slid new slats in from the sides, and worked the string back down.

Pulling out the string.

Pulling out the string.

Sliding in a new slat.

Sliding in a new slat.

Step 3: Double living room blinds, broken slats and missing strings

On the side of the living room was a double set of blinds 41” wide. The ones on the left had only one string, while those on the right had two strings out of four (enough to function). Both sets had been shortened and they both had several broken slats (see picture above with Kitty Paragon). Boo.

Nothing to do here but buy new blinds, since I had no extra slats to work with. However, I had the brainstorm of buying only one set. Our 2” faux wood blinds come standard from Home Depot. We measured the space between the strings to determine that they had been cut down from a 42” set. We hung the new ones, shortened them and saved the extra slats for future repairs, and then cannibalized the now-defunct set for the spare slats we needed to fix the other old ones.

If you look closely, sure, you can tell that the ones on the right are old and the ones on the left are new. So what?

If you look closely, sure, you can tell that the ones on the right are old and the ones on the left are new. So what?

I could have run two new strings through this other old set, of course. But since two do the job, I decided to leave them alone. I’m not a fan of doing extra work just for the hell of it.

So instead of buying four new sets of blinds, I bought only one. Is it better environmentally to buy one set of vinyl blinds or four sets of wood? Well, I’m not sure, but I suspect that once you factor in all the energy and waste from the manufacturing process, plus the shipping, I did the right thing.

It was certainly the right thing for my pocketbook. The new blinds were about $40. The wood blinds would have run at least $280 for the most basic, more if I wanted upgrades like cloth tapes over the strings.

What have you saved from the trash bin or avoided buying recently?

 

The Joy of Fixing

When we decided to go temporarily back to being a two-car family, we found ourselves with only two harness car seats and a need for four. Since Big Brother has turned four, we decided to put one harness seat in each car for Little Brother and buy a booster seat for Big Brother. Not finding anything on Craigslist or after making a few calls, I bought one new for $30.

I only bought one. While harness seats are bulky and a major pain to install properly, booster seats are light and portable and pop in and out easily. I bought one partly to save money, but equally importantly for the environmental impact. I didn’t want to cause a whole new thing to be manufactured, not to mention creating all the packaging trash.

But lugging it in and out of the cars was a bit of a pain, especially because often I drop off the boys at daycare and Mr. FP picks them up. You should have seen me when Little Brother had his cast on–giant casted toddler on one hip, booster seat on the other, walking into daycare!

So I was thrilled to find one at a large yard sale for $5.* No packaging! Hardly any cost! Saving something from the dumpster! Money for a good cause! (Presbyterian youth group, as I recall–service trips, maybe? I’m an atheist myself but I was certainly happier giving the money to them than Walmart.)

 IMAG0285

The only problem was that the elastic straps holding the bottom pad in place were a mess! They were all stretched out, knotted together strangely, and in no way doing their job. The pad slid around each time Big Brother got in, in an annoying way.

This is the kind of messy knot the stretched-out elastic was tied into. Blech.

This is the kind of messy knot the stretched-out elastic was tied into. Blech.

So I bought some replacement elastic at Jo-Ann’s for $1.99. My strategy was to cut off the old elastic, but leave perhaps a quarter-inch stub,  and then hand-sew the new elastic directly to the old elastic.

Close-up of the repair. As you can see, I should have actually bought wider elastic, but this seemed to work.

Close-up of the repair. As you can see, I should have actually bought wider elastic, but this seemed to work.

Another view of the repair in place.

Another view of the repair in place.

Because I’m slow, this took me about an hour. But it was an hour that I spent with my sewing basket on my porch watching the kids play. I could make $20-$25, the amount that I saved, working on my computer, but I would not have gotten to:

  1. Be outside.
  2. Be with the kids.
  3. Remind the kids to look but not touch.
  4. Practice my sewing.
  5. Practice my general problem-solving skills.
  6. Save waste from the landfill.
    And perhaps most excitingly:
  7. Take a Broken Thing and make it once again a Useful Thing.

What have you fixed lately? Did it give you that warm fuzzy feeling?

*Not even my $5. I didn’t have my wallet and I asked Grandma FP if I could “borrow” $5. She later gave me such a generous housewarming present–thanks, Mom!–that it seemed rather churlish to insist on repaying the $5.

Disclaimer: As you probably know, used car seats should be accepted with caution. I feel confident that most human beings would not donate a car seat that had been in a crash–remember, they did not personally get the money. And the seat is not expired, etc.

Unpleasant Number Crunching: BMI

Disclaimer: This blog post is about me. No judgment about the size, shape, appearance, or health of any other person is intended.

Friends, I have never been what you would call svelte. I haven’t had flat abs since puberty and empire waist dresses only looked good on me in the adorable second trimester of pregnancy. My “skinny” jeans have a high waist and control top, suggesting that the garment is somewhat misnamed. I’m not ashamed of this. I’m a mom and I like ice cream.

But I do exercise (to the extent that I enjoy it) and make some effort not to just shovel whatever I want into my mouth, so, it was a bit of a shock last week when I was filling out an online health questionnaire (as part of an effort to get a $240 bonus from my employer) and realized that the last few pounds that have snuck up on me have pushed from the high end of normal to, technically, “overweight” on the BMI scale.

Digital scale showing 125.9 lbs.

This would be a “good” weight if I were not 4’11” tall. More than I have weighed at any point when I was not pregnant or post-pregnancy.

Yes, this is a seriously flawed measure, but it’s the one that the software was using. (The latest evidence seems to suggest that the scale may need shifting upwards–people who are slightly overweight on the scale seem to be less likely to die at any given time than people at the low end of normal.) To be clear, I don’t think that there is anything particularly unhealthy about my current weight.

So why am I talking about it at all, and in particular why am I discussing it in my frugal living blog?  Well, I am clearly eating up more dollars, in the form of food, than I need, and fluctuating weight can also make maintaining a wardrobe a pricey proposition. (Fortunately, I have not, thus far, actually outgrown anything.) And the technicality of the word “overweight” really got my attention. It feels like some weird mid-thirties, post-motherhood rite of passage that I never saw coming.

Most importantly, though, steady weight creep threatens things I value. Like being able to take the kids to school by bike. Walking across downtown. Hiking in the mountains. The general sense that I am strong and capable.

The cause of the weight creep is, on reflection, totally obvious. I was biking six miles several days a week for preschool dropoff, but now that we have moved across town, I’ve been driving. And I can remember too many times when I got up from the dinner table feeling fuller than full. So… portion control and upping my activity level. I have already gone to an extra Body Pump class and walked by a bag of donuts in the break room at work.

Not because I’m ashamed of myself, or think I look bad, or because I want to look better than other people. For the sole reason that I think my chances of continuing to enjoy an active, frugal life are better if I stop gaining inches and maybe shake off a few.

Do you see a connection between your size/weight and frugality?

Our Honda Fit Is Magic

Right after our move last month, we somewhat reluctantly became a two-car family again. For the rest of the school year–over two months at that point–I will be driving Big Brother to his current preschool, fifteen miles round trip; my workplace is a different seven-plus miles from our house and Mr. FP’s is ten.* Because I need the car every single weekday for that preschool dropoff, we thought we’d all be happier with an extra set of wheels.

Next year, Big Brother will be attending his neighborhood school, and there will be more wiggle room–we CAN both take a bus or bike to work, just not necessarily every single day–so we may go back to being a one-car family again. Aside from the cost issue, there’s the trouble involved. Two sets of oil changes, two sets of snow tires to take on and off, etc. It seems strangely extravagant not to have to negotiate for the car every day, even though by modern American standards, we “need” two cars.

Any way, we bought a 2008 Honda Fit Sport using a small life insurance policy left us to Mr. FP’s grandmother, who died earlier this year. And the timing could not have been better, because, with our move, we were finally ready to upgrade our furniture. Two dressers, for instance, are not adequate to the needs of a family of four. Craigslist sellers, Big Lots, and the local Presbyterian youth group yard sale have all benefited from our spending spree

Here’s a partial list of the things we have shoved into our Fit since we bought it:

  1. A twin-sized mattress. (This was the only time we left the hatch open; all other times, it was closed.) ($175)
  2. Two three-drawer dressers. At the same time. ($40)
  3. An overstuffed armchair in nearly new condition. ($10)
  4. One six-drawer dresser. ($21)
Comfy. And it swivels. Mr. FP loves swivel.

Comfy. And it swivels. Mr. FP loves swivel.

We got two of these excellent-condition dressers for $40 at a church yard sale.

We got two of these excellent-condition dressers for $40 at a church yard sale.

And the piece de resistance:

  1. A dining room table with six chairs. ($80) Yes, all at once. And even though Mr. FP had forgotten to leave the car seats behind.
The legs can be unscrewed for better portability, a trick we learned in our last move using a 16-foot truck).

The legs can be unscrewed for better portability, a trick we learned in our last move (using a 16-foot truck).

I can only conclude that it’s like that Ford Anglia that Arthur Weasley bewitched so that it could carry all kinds of things. Except that the Fit does not, so far as we have been able to ascertain, actually fly. The only thing that wouldn’t fit in the Fit was Big Brother’s new loft bed. We had to rent one of those Home Depot vans for $20 or so.

So… it’s a tiny car that gets, in our experience, about 30 mpg (way better than my elderly Accord). We paid less than $6K for it. And it has saved us probably hundreds of dollars in delivery charges. Who needs a pickup truck?

Does your car help you perform badass acts of self-reliance?

*Our workplaces are far apart, so close to one would have screwed the other partner. Plus, we either didn’t want or couldn’t afford to live in those neighborhoods.

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