No Domestic Backup

I have never lived on my own. Mr. FP and I went directly from the sophomore dorm to our first apartment, the summer we were all of 19 years old. As I recall, we had camping chairs for furniture and a National Geographic map thumb-tacked to our living room wall for decoration.

At first, giddy teenagers in love, we did all the things together. Grocery shopping. Laundry. As the years went on and our domestic responsibilities increased and increased some more, we began to specialize. Laundry was all me. During times we had a yard, that was all him. He set up all the utilities, I arranged all the repairmen.

Well, he doesn’t live here anymore, and I’ve had to learn some new skills. Here’s how it’s shaking out.

Cutting the cat’s claws

Kitty Paragon in repose.

Kitty Paragon in repose.

Difficulty: Low

Time involved: 5 minutes

Potential for mishap: Medium

Result: Satisfactory

I seem to have been left with Kitty Paragon. She is a nice cat and a devoted user of her scratching post, but nail-trimming was never my job. She cooperated reasonably well and only ran away once. However, when I first went to do the task earlier in the day, I couldn’t find her. Still don’t know where she was (she is strictly an indoor feline). I just waited until she turned up, after the tots were in bed.

Plunging the toilet

Difficulty: Medium

Time involved: 5 minutes

Potential for mishap: High

Result: Satisfactory

I had perhaps trimmed the cat three or four times in the years she has lived with us. Plunging a toilet, never. I am not proud of this, but the one time I attempted it, I became so distressed that I, umm, cried until Mr. FP came and did it. (Let the record show that I do not, EVER, personally clog toilets, but small children are luxuriantly profligate with toilet paper.)

Well, I’m not exactly sure what I did. I wrapped a towel around my person for protection, plunged ineffectually a few times, and eventually it seemed to get better even though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t doing it right.

Using the trimmer

Resplendent weeds. Sorry I do not have a picture of it freshly trimmed. I am procrastinating.

Resplendent weeds. Sorry I do not have a picture of it freshly trimmed. I am procrastinating.

Difficulty: High

Time involved: 3o  minutes

Potential for mishap: Very high

Result: Unsatisfactory

The actual lawnmower I don’t mind. Our yard is small and mostly dead and we have one of those manual push mowers, so there was no gasoline involved. But I made a hash of the trimming. I invariably either exposed bare dirt or failed to actually trim anything. Mr. FP’s instructions consisted solely of “cut the grass, not yourself” and the few YouTube videos I watched were not very illuminating.

Vacuuming

Goodwill vacuum now working.

Goodwill vacuum now working.

Difficulty: Low

Time involved: 3o  minutes

Potential for mishap: Low

Result: Acceptable

Our marital vacuum was a Hoover Runabout that we had owned since 1999 and had never even needed to replace a belt. They don’t make Runabouts any more. I was sad, but it seemed fair for Mr. FP to have it since in our sixteen years of cohabitation, I vacuumed perhaps eight and a half times. I went to Goodwill and researched the models on offer there. For ten dollars, I bought a well-reviewed one that was, at that particular moment, running but not actually sucking anything.

It just needed a new belt (which was entirely missing) and filters. I wonder how many vacuums wind up at Goodwill just for lack of routine maintenance? At any rate, I got it working with a little help from Amazon Prime, but vacuuming does not come naturally to me. I can never figure out what places I’ve already vacuumed and I run into things and get the cord stuck and just generally flail around ineffectually. The carpets looked like they had been vacuumed, however ineptly, and I suppose I will improve with practice.

Well, so far, so good for the most part. I have not had to outsource any tasks that Mr. FP customarily performed, and I feel like a more completely rounded adult human. I can do All The Things. (Incidentally, I’m sure Mr. FP is having many of the same experiences but with different tasks. The children always seem to be wearing freshly laundered clothes, for instance.) In the future, should I be in a relationship again, I won’t have to do All The Things, but it will be nice to know that I have the capabilities.

What tasks have you taken on? How did it go?

First Month of Solo Spending

I haven’t always posted my monthly spending on my blog, for this reason: I have often been embarrassed by it. I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’m a frugality blogger. How could I come on here and admit that we overspent our income for the month… again? I won’t bore you with the details, but the financial dynamic in my marriage was unproductive, and that’s not something I was comfortable exposing to the interwebs.

But… it’s all me now! I did a “fresh start” budget in YNAB, started a new YMOYL “wall chart” (actually a line graph in a Google Sheet), and here you have it, my unadulterated income and spending for August.

Income

Net Earnings: $1012.79

Selling stuff on Craigslist: $50

Child Support: $350

Spousal Support: $383

Reimbursement: $210 (from Mr. FP for boys’ July health insurance)

Total Income: $2005.79

Spending

Housing: $697.50

Internet: $68.33

Electric: $53.19

Water: $25

Total housing/utilities: $844 (This is my share–Mr. FP covered the parts of these billing cycles that dated to before his move-out.)

Home supplies: $83.55 (flannel sheets, Goodwill vacuum, parts to fix vacuum)

Groceries: $192.79

School lunches: $41.83 (This is 2-3 months of lunches as the boys are now on reduced-price lunch at $.40 per meal)

Wine: $10.78

Total home/school food: $245.40

Gas: $44.81

Parking and bus fare: $12.55

Total transportation: $57.36

Bike supplies and maintenance: $59.95 (this is a floor pump, Mr. FP having taken his, and new brakes for my bike–parts only, labor to follow in September)

Boys’ allowance spending: $6.78

Clothes and shoes: $49 (new uniforms)

School supplies and swim lessons: $63.87

Total kid spending: $119.67 (Again, this is my share–Mr. FP reimbursed me an approximately equal amount as I had done all the back-to-school shopping.)

Adult health: $8.70

Restaurants: $22.79

Coffee shops and snacks: $40.07 (Higher than usual because of house being on the market and me having to leave at weird times)

“Out” entertainment: $22.60

Total Entertainment: $86.46

Frippery: $68.73

Adult clothing (Thinx): $60

Gifts: $5

Can’t remember what I bought at Target: $20.42

Total Shopping: $154.15

Travel: $76.38 (My budget for family vacation was $100. That’s almost exactly what I spent–I paid for my own Uber, slipped my niece a twenty for babysitting, and bought some booze, but then my aunt insisted I take a twenty when I got on the airplane. Thanks, Aunt B! Giant thanks to Great-Grandfather FP for the funding and Grandma FP for the planning.)

Cat food: $24.75

GRAND TOTAL FOR AUGUST: $1759.39

Analysis

First of all, I think that a 12% savings rate on such a low net income is nothing to sneeze at. And I participate in a mandatory defined contribution pension plan at 8%, so my actual savings rate is higher.

That said, I’ll need to be putting away more than a couple hundred dollars a month if I’m ever going to pay off my lawyer, rent an apartment and rebuild my life. So I’ll obviously be working to reduce the categories of Coffee Shops, Frippery, Adult Clothes, and Bike Supplies and Maintenance. All of those categories had non-typical charges in them.

And I’ll need to make more money. I am in the process of signing up to substitute teach and have been picking up on-call library shifts. After-school child care remains a big hurdle–more on that later.

How was your August spending?

 

Waiting It Out

There’s always something to wait for, isn’t there? Wanting to meet someone and get married, saving to buy a house, trying to have a baby, waiting to hear about a job, trying to lose weight. Right now, I’m waiting for our marital home to sell so I can rent an apartment and move on, an especially frustrating time because it is taking much longer than we had originally hoped. (Also true of the making of Big Brother, an 18-month waiting game involving charts and Robitussin. Don’t ask.)

The hard part about waiting is to live fully and not, well, “wait” for everything to change. Here’s how I’ve learned how to keep going while waiting for a big change:

Focus on the “cans”
I try to think about what I can do, rather than what I can’t. No, I can’t apply for an apartment until my house sells, and cooking is complicated because I have to keep the house so squeaky-clean, and I don’t want to start a sewing project for the same reason. But I CAN work on things I may not have as much time for once I start moving:
-make some extra money writing trivia questions
-work on my Spanish
-update my blog (hi!)
-take my kids on free outings
-read more
-etc.

I’ve also been doing some unproductive things, too. Like binge-watching the BBC Sherlock now that I have control of the remote for the first time in my adult life. It’s like I didn’t know how to watch television by myself.

Stash money
Whatever change you’re waiting for, it will probably go better with some extra money, am I right? The delay in selling the house has let my paychecks accumulate a little before I need to put a deposit down on an apartment.

Prepare without obsessing
Poring over apartment listings would not be a good use of my time right now. There are a few little tasks I can get out of the way, though, like packing up my books and getting my finances in order.

(The not obsessing part is especially important when you’re trying to get pregnant.)

Get other tasks out of the way
So… I should really be making some headway on my divorce paperwork. So much paperwork. And it’s so bloody complicated. Also, technically we’re behind on it and might get forced into totally unnecessary mediation.

Don’t complain
There are things that suck about being stuck in an on-the-market house, especially with young kids. I haven’t always been successful in resisting the urge, but I’m trying really hard not to gripe about it. It won’t help and will just make me feel worse. I was deeply influenced by The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Complaint-free World, both of which make this point.

What it all amounts to is spending my energy on what I can do now to either enjoy my life right now, or improve my life to come. And no matter what you’re waiting for, there are undoubtedly lots and lots of things in those categories.

How do you handle waiting?

Halfsies

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which support this blog at no extra cost to you. I bought the things with my own money and all opinions are my own.

Well, I always said I had too much stuff. Now that Mr. FP has moved out into his own apartment, I have half as much stuff. It has been an unusual and fascinating opportunity to reconsider my relationship with my possessions.

Sometimes, it’s been an opportunity for me to no longer own something I didn’t like that much to begin with. (I have nothing against the Kennedy brothers, but that giant poster of them got old after the first couple of years.)

No more pepper leakage.

Sometimes, it makes an excuse to buy something nicer for myself and take pleasure in its functionality. Goodbye, yucky old cheese grater. (It was a box style with no rubber on the bottom, so very hard on my cutting boards.) Farewell, pepper grinder. I ordered highly-rated replacements, which are great. This OXO Good Grips pepper mill has a clear door so I can tell if I need to refill it AND a cap on the bottom, so it doesn’t get pepper all over the cabinet. Fantastic! And the also-OXO Good Grips folding cheese grater stands up like a box grater but folds up for easier storage AND takes up less space in the dishwasher. Brilliant!

The two halves come apart, so you can wash just the part you used.


Sometimes, it means re-evaluating what something is worth. There was only one Vitamix. He took it. (I got other stuff.) Should we ever have bought a three hundred dollar blender? Will I save up for another one? Well, probably not, but let’s say TBD. In the meantime, since I have ten pounds of frozen fruit in the freezer, I am making sorbet in the food processor instead of smoothies in the blender I no longer own.

Sometimes, it means losing something I liked and can’t replace. Two of the four creepy New Orleans coasters my aunt gave us, for instance, and the framed still life of the wine bottle that looked nice with the wine-themed curtain we got at Goodwill (which I still have). Yes, they are Just Things, but I feel a sense of loss.

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I still have enough coasters to terrify myself and one select guest.

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Not actually a red Swingline as in Office Space, but a maroon one at least.

Conversely, a strange feeling of victory attaches itself to the few favorite things I kept, even though I do not consider myself an acquisitive person. The nice heavy can opener, the new vegetable peeler, the Crock Pot. Mine! And I had that stapler before we were married! Mine, I tell you!

And then there is a poignancy to this process with its empty spaces and its absurdities. I now have a hammer but no nails, and he has nails but no hammer. He has an almost-empty toolbox. I have a Whole Foods bag full of the wrenches and screwdrivers that I owned before we were married.

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Possibly not an ideal long-term tool storage solution.

It both is and is not a question of “just things.” It’s the dismantling of a shared life, represented in the things we used to share but will no longer be sharing.

Keep some, give some away. Do without some, replace some. Rebuild.

Well, This Will Be Different

Many of you either know me in real life or follow me in the Mr. Money Mustache forums, so you already know my sad news. For those just joining in: After 15 years of marriage (that’s ages 20–yes, 20–to 35), Mr. FP and I are divorcing.

It’s amicable and mostly mutual and sad and painful.

The effect on my self-concept has been swift and startling. Among my many roles–mother, professional librarian, daughter, middle sibling–was that of Respectable Wife. And I tried to be a good wife. I worked part-time and made a home. I washed my husband’s clothes and ironed his favorite shirts. I reduced the amount of onion called for in recipes by at least half, maybe two-thirds, and what onion I did include was food-processed almost to the point of puree, because that’s how he tolerates onion. I have a killer recipe for cornbread. I brought home Cadbury mini-eggs from the store every spring the very first day I saw them for sale.

If there were some sort of spouse achievement scale, I would score average to above average for sure. But none of those things made me the right wife for the man I was actually married to.

So I’ll need to cross Respectable Wife off my mental list of Roles I Play. Now, all my other roles also involve relating to and doing things for other people, so I guess I’ll take some of the time and intellectual energy I was devoting to fulfilling my role as Respectable Wife and spend it on being Myself more fully.

Aside from using larger chunks of onion, I’m not entirely sure what that means after all these years, but I’ll be interested to find out as the dust settles.

We are selling the house and I’ll be living, at least temporarily, in something like a one-bedroom apartment, and the boys will be living with me about half the time. That should add up to much less cooking, cleaning, laundry, and general homemaking, so my use of time will be quite different.

Solo adulting and single parenting will present all kinds of exciting new frugality possibilities and budgetary challenges, so I hope you’ll stay tuned.

I Made Another Skirt!

This post contains affiliate links for research purposes. I got both books from my public library.

Results are in for my second effort at sewing a skirt. Two highlights:

  1. I had dropped one size.
  2. I got the zipper in on the first try (see “Caught in the Zipper” for my previous travails).

I did have some snafus. When I sewed the pleats, the skirt came out a little smaller than it was supposed to. I overcompensated when I made the lining, so it was too small and had to be altered. Twice. Grandma FP said I should sew a new one from new fabric but I was too lazy to face a new set of darts, so I just sewed a strip of fabric into the side. (And then a large strip when the first one wasn’t big enough.) Probably not the approved method, but hey, it’s a skirt. The zipper space in the lining, for some reason, is not as long as the actual zipper, but I can get it on and off, so who cares?

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You can see the white fabric sticking up way past the end of the zipper. Oh, well.

Also, the darts don’t quite match up between the skirt and the lining. Well, one of them does, and the other looks like this:

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I used the “contrast pleat” pattern from the same book I used last time, The Essential A-line. I consulted a second book, Skirt-a-Day Sewing, but it seemed too complex for my current skills. Their designs feature waistbands and interfacing rather than full lining, and the suggested sewing kit is much larger. (I can’t imagine that I will ever invest in a “tailor’s ham,” for instance. It is a ham-shaped hard pillow thing used for ironing darts, apparently.)

I think next time, I will stay away from pleats altogether and try something a little simpler. I really want a black skirt and have not found a satisfactory one in stores. Note to retailers: Not everyone likes pencil skirts. Some of us look pregnant in them.

Cost for materials was under $20. I did not buy any new gadgets! I was really, really tempted to buy a real metal invisible zipper foot, but I resisted the urge and I actually found that my cheapo plastic one worked much better this time under my more-experienced hand. It did not fall apart even once! I bought new polka dot and lining fabric and used up some of the leftover houndstooth from my first skirt.

Here are some pics of the finished skirt. I’m a librarian, so I can do stuff like go to work wearing a homemade polka-dot-and-houndstooth skirt and low-top Chuck Taylors (not shown).

What are you making lately, or what new skills have you learned?

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Selfie. Arms not long enough to show whole skirt, but this one shows the color the best. The houndstooth is not really that crooked.

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Big Brother needs to work on his photograph skills.

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How to Adult: Book Roundup

Last month, after two and a half years in operation, my blog finally crossed the advertising payment threshold and I received a payment of $11.47 from Amazon. Partly in honor of this momentous occasion, here’s a book roundup. Amazon links are affiliate, of course, but your library probably has these excellent books. In fact, I only own one of them; it was given to me secondhand as a gift.

I spent most of my twenties feeling like a fake adult. In retrospect, it’s not surprising–I was working in a job (teaching) for which I was both unqualified and temperamentally unsuited, with mostly older coworkers.

This year, I am thirty-five. That’s the age my mother was when I was eight years old; it’s about the age my beloved Girl Scout leader was when I joined her troop in 1990. They seemed like real adults, and I’ve finally decided that I am, too! A flawed adult who knows more than average about some things and less than average about others, but not qualitatively different from other adults. In short, I have grown enough confidence to at least fake adulting. And here are some of the books that have helped me on my way.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

I was assigned this classic for my library school class on management. Yes, it is a little corny in places and will seem even more so if you are not a Christian (though this comprises only a tiny part of the book). But it helped me stop whining and instead think about what I was actually trying to accomplish and how to do it, as well as how to listen first before you talk.

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlich

There’s a key lesson here that anyone can benefit from: You will never convince anyone of anything by telling them that their feelings are wrong. That way madness lies.

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott

This is a funny one to be on the list, perhaps, but I find myself thinking of it often. Part of a way of Francophile books, the premise here is a woman looking back fondly on her time spent as an exchange student in France, when her host mother was the lovely “Madame Chic.” I am not as elegant as the author, let alone Madame Chic, and never will be. But thinking of the always put-together Frenchwoman sometimes makes me put on my damned earrings before I leave the house, and has also inspired to overshare less (as one of Madame Chic’s lessons is to be a little mysterious) and apologize for myself less.

The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping by Erica Strauss

Another one that I think of often. (I have even sent my personal thanks to the author, who used to hang around the Mr. Money Mustache forums as something like Erica @ NW Edible.) When I read the author’s admonition to think of your evening chores as a gift to your tomorrow self, I’ll be honest: I thought it was corny. It is not corny. It is powerful. When I put the kids to bed and then have to go back in the damned kitchen to do the dishes, thinking about my husband and children wasn’t helping. What did help was thinking about how I would feel in the morning. Some nights I work late or am unusually tired, and then I think, “My tomorrow self will have to fend for herself.” More often, I stick it out the extra seven minutes or whatever to finish properly and wipe the counters with my lovely-smelling, attractively green peppermint counter spray (recipe from the book) and then I feel great.

There is, of course, a fantastic wealth of other information in this book, from advice about tidying to canning recipes to directions for airing out your mattress, and it would be an excellent addition to any home library.

What books helped you find your adulting mojo? I’m not the only one who has felt like an imposter, right?

My New Frugal Weight Training Hobby: How and Why

This post contains affiliate links. I bought my own book and my opinions are my own.

In my mid-thirties, the list of things I never thought I would do, that I have now done, just gets longer and longer. Here’s a new addition: I have taken up training with free weights. Heavy ones. More or less on a whim.

See, I used to do group classes at a YMCA, but we moved across town. The only reasonably priced, childcare-equipped option in biking distance was a public rec center. On Cyber Monday, I was able to purchase a one-year membership to Denver Parks and Recreation rec centers half-price, or for $183 dollars. Childcare is $15 for a 30-visit pass–that’s fifty cents for one kid or a dollar for two, each visit.

I had been paying seventy dollars a month for my old Y. I missed the free coffee and longer childcare limit, but the savings were immediate and huge. The problem was that while my new rec center does have classes, they are inconveniently timed. (Except for Zumba and cycling, both of which I really hate.)

Well, I thought, maybe I can figure out something I can on my own. I liked that Body Pump class, I thought, I should

This contraption now answers to me.

This contraption now answers to me.

do weight training. So I did what I always do–check out a library book. The New Rules of Lifting for Women, which I had seen recommended, had a hold list, so I checked out The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged in the meantime. It seemed pretty convincing about the benefits of using as much weight as you can handle (no, ladies, this will not give you excessive muscles) and focusing on big movements (think squats, rows, and lat pull-downs, not little things like triceps kickbacks), so next thing I knew, I was teaching myself how to operate the cable pulley machine thingy.

It was hard to walk into a part of the gym where those few women who were present appeared to be a lot fitter and, well, hotter than me. It was hard to make myself fumble with unfamiliar equipment than everyone else seemed to already know how to use. (They’re not that hard once you get up close.) So I started a little slowly, learning one or two new things at a time. My first routines, though they were shredding me at the time, didn’t use barbells at all.

This is a squat rack. I made myself walk right up to it even though I didn't know how to adjust it until I got there.

This is a squat rack. I made myself walk right up to it even though I didn’t know how to adjust it until I got there.

Friends, I have become an addict. The thing it, it is satisfying to use more and more weight every week. To learn how to handle an Olympic barbell, which is seven feet long and weighs forty-five pounds before you even put weight on it. To raise a pair of twenty-five pound dumbbells overhead. (That’s like having a toddler in each hand!) As a person who finds numbers extremely motivating, I love seeing my numbers climb a little higher and a little higher every time I go.

When I started, I could not do 10 pushups or 15 lunges with bodyweight. A few months later, I have to put my hands on medicine balls to make my pushups harder, and I can do 12 lunges with a 65-pound bar balanced on my shoulders.

I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve lost a couple of inches. Those were goals I knew I was going for. What has surprised me is good it is for my confidence. I am the kind of person who can lift a 90 pound dumbbell! I have excellent squat form! I am the kind of person who needs to put hands on medicine balls because other pushups are just too easy! When I go home, I feel exhilarated and less daunted by my little daily challenges.

With what I pay for childcare, my cost is coming in around $20 a month. I have also bought Chuck Taylors ($50) and my own copy of NROL Supercharged ($10 used). (I did eventually get my turn with NROL for Women, but Supercharged is better; it has better illustrations and more up-to-date exercises.) I wear the same clothes I already owned. I have also taken to drinking post-workout protein shakes even though I’m usually a whole-foods kinda girl; I just found that otherwise, I was simply too hangry to prepare my next meal. That’s a cost of about a dollar per shake. All in all, it’s a cheap hobby.

I was reasonably confident about my form because I had been doing Body Pump, and not only have I not been injured, my old injuries have been bothering me less. If you’ve been fairly sedentary and are really worried about injury, well, a few sessions with a personal trainer would be cheaper than winding up at the orthopedist, and you could go it alone once you had the hang of it. Seriously, weight training is fun, and you should try it.

What’s your exercise routine? How do you keep costs down?

Let’s Talk About Feminine Hygiene

No, really, this post is about feminine hygiene. If that’s something you would rather not be a part of, this is your chance to click the little X and move along.

Amazon.com links are affiliate links. I paid for my own products and my opinions are my own.

Here’s the executive summary: If you are a woman of menstruating age, you should probably get a menstrual cup even if you have never liked tampons. Here’s why:

  1. Save money over monthly purchases.
  2. Environmental benefit of not having all these disposable things manufactured and thrown away.
  3. They feel better than tampons.
  4. They also feel better than reusable pads.

If you’re not convinced yet, read on. If you just want to know how to buy one, skip to the end. (Full disclosure: reusable sea sponge tampons are another option which I have not tried.)

When I start thinking about writing this article, I realized with something of a shock that it’s been going on twenty-five years since I first peeled the backing of an adhesive maxi pad. And I can expect to be dealing with menstrual periods for another 13-20 years, according to US averages.

For most of my post-pubescent life, I dealt with this in the standard American way; I bought Kotex or Always (or the store brand if I was feeling frugal, but they were never as satisfactory) at the grocery store.

When I developed an interest in avoiding toxins in personal care products, the issue got more complicated. You can buy maxi pads that were made without chlorine bleach. There are three problems: they’re expensive, they’re hard to find in stores, and they never seem to have very good adhesive.

LunaPads (clickable Amazon image)


So one day when I sat down to order some from drugstore.com, and found my cart starting to add up ridiculously, I wondered if there was another way, and more or less on an impulse, ordered an intro kit of reusable cloth LunaPads instead. At the time, I had two children in cloth diapers, so the ick factor was simply not present and I was getting much more interested in avoiding waste as well as toxins. I liked these enough that I ordered some GladRags a few months later so that I would have enough to last a full cycle. (I had been supplementing with disposables.)

They work. They are comfortable (when clean and dry). As a few years went by, however, I began to notice problems with them:

  1. They slide around, causing minor leaks, unless safety-pinned to your underwear.
  2. The metal snaps are painful for bike riding.
  3. They are gross. Once I moved on mentally from cloth diapering, I think I noticed more having to rinse these out and soak them.
  4. On heavier use, they feel slimy.

I kept hearing about menstrual cups. Not for me, I thought. I don’t even like using tampons. (In fact, a four-pack lasted me ten years.) Finally, after hearing so many people go on about how great they were (in this MMM forum thread), I resolved to try one.

I certainly noticed some downsides:

  1. It can be uncomfortable if not positioned properly, and it’s hard to tell, when putting it in, what that means.
  2. Also if it’s not positioned properly, you can get SPECTACULAR leaks.

Those are the only disadvantages, and I expect they will resolve themselves as I get more proficient. More importantly, I noticed the advantages:

  1. I can take a bath when I have my period! I know, also true for tampon users, but I’m new to this party.
  2. I can easily bike.
  3. I do not feel gross.

The last one is huge for me. Even wearing tampons, I always felt gross. With the cup, I sometimes forget about it for hours at a time. Emptying it out can be messy, but to me, messy is somehow not the same thing as gross. Highly subjective, obviously.

I anticipate needing to replace my cup every three to five years, so just a few times in my remaining “childbearing” years. No monthly purchases!

I have a Lena small, which I like. Diva Cup seems to be the best-known and most widely available, but not necessarily the best. I made my selection after extensive perusal of this excellent Mr. Money Mustache forum thread I mentioned earlier.

It has links to various size charts and reviews. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll see me waffling over the purchase and the ladies encouraging me to try one. Lots of ladies recommend their own favorite brands and if none of them sound right for you, you can post what you are looking for and see if someone has a suggestion!

I also read the review on menstrualcups.wordpress.com. Note that there is a discount code for Amazon, which was still working when I ordered mine.

I still have my reusable pads, which I wear as cup backup and as  pantyliners. If I were starting from scratch, I would strongly consider Thinx instead. They cost more, but they look a lot more comfortable.

Have you made the leap to reusable?

More Misadventures in Appliance Repair: The Oven

I was trying to cook dinner one night and just not making much progress. The pork chops were still pink inside after what seemed like a long time. And the apples underneath them were still crunchy. I couldn’t understand why.

And then Mr. FP realized that the top heating element in our oven (it’s called the broil element, and you should remember that because it’s going to be important later in the story) was not working. The bottom element was working, so the oven felt generally hot, but it was not hot enough to cook pork chops. I finished dinner in the toaster oven.

So I needed a new heating element. No problem; I did a little Internet searching and ordered the cheapest new OEM part. In the meantime, at least I could use the toaster oven and the cooktop, right?

That was true until I blew the circuit breaker. When the new part arrived, I flipped off the circuit breaker, then I remembered I wanted to use the stove and tried to flip it back on. Except it wouldn’t go back. It was stuck in the middle, tripped position.

Also, I had ordered the wrong part. I had ordered the BAKE element; I needed the BROIL element. Silly me, thinking they would be interchangeable.

Well, I know my limits. The thing about electricity is that if you do it wrong, you burn your house down. So I called an electrician to replace the circuit breaker. It wasn’t done quite right before and neither was the one for the dryer, so he fixed, that, too. This repair totalled a princely $311. Evidently my circuit breakers are manufactured by unicorns.

The electrician informs me it is not uncommon for a bad oven heating element to take the circuit breaker with it. I am told that in the future, immediately cutting power and not using any part of the range until it is repaired may spare the breaker.

A few days later, the correct part arrived. (The part was $40 and it cost me $12 to ship back the one that was wrong, for a total cost of $52.) I flipped off my brand-new circuit breaker and removed the old element. Here, I hit a snag. See, here’s the number one rule of replacing oven heating elements: Do not let the wires fall back inside the oven.

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Close-up of the hole that the wire had fallen through, seen from the back. The little metal doodad you see hanging down is what connects to the element.

You see where this is going, right? Well, when pulling out the old element caused the wires to snap back inside the oven, I nearly despaired and called a repair person. Then I thought, well, how would the repair person get those wires out? I asked Google. Turns out all I had to do was pull the oven out from the wall and remove the back. Now, I could tell this wasn’t going to be hard because it came off with a regular screwdriver. I have a theory that when a manufacturer wants to keep you from messing with something, they use oddly shaped screws. (Like the star-shaped screwdrivers I needed to take my dishwasher apart.)

Once the back was off, I easily located the wires. It actually made installing the new element easier, because I could attach the wires from behind the oven rather than inserting the top half of my person inside the oven. My arms aren’t long enough, anyway. Several more minutes with the screwdriver and we were back in business.

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Re-assembled back of oven. Sorry for bad photo quality–as you can imagine, it was dark behind my oven. And kinda filthy.

I don’t know how much money we saved, paying for the circuit breaker but fixing the oven myself. But I had a plumber at my house a few months ago and I asked him how much it would cost if, in addition to the job for which I had hired him, he also tightened my loose faucet. To tighten this screw, he said, he would charge $179. So I’m guessing I saved three figures.

And equally importantly, it was extremely satisfying. I would like it noted that at no point did I ask for or receive any assistance from Mr. FP. This was my show.

What home repair successes or debacles have you experienced recently?