Archive | March 2014

More Proof That Free Never Is

Last year, Mr. FP decided to cancel our cable subscription (I probably would have done it years ago, but he watches sports). It was costing us about 70 bucks a month, so even with our new MLB TV subscription, the savings were substantial.

We wanted, though, to keep our cable Internet service, especially since I do a little work from home with it. And when Mr. FP called to cancel the TV part of our subscription, he was told that it was actually cheaper to keep the most basic television service. The bundled price for that and Internet was lower than the price for just Internet to the tune of about five dollars a month.

Well, fine. We could pick up local channels in HD right through our TV and we used it once in a while to catch The Big Bang Theory on a Thursday night or to pacify the spawn with a little Dinosaur Train. Then, seemingly inexplicably, the service stopped working. We turned on the TV and there was no signal. Disappointment!

And suddenly Mr. FP got sucked into a fairly draining series of events to maintain our “free” service:

  1. Call cable company, push buttons, wait on hold. Find out we now must have a cable box; get irritated.
  2. Drive to cable office on way to grocery store to retrieve box.
  3. Install box. Have difficulty; call cable company again. Get irritated.
  4. Realize that our TV service is no longer in HD. Get irritated.
  5. Get over it.

Did anyone else notice that that’s a lot of time, energy, disappointment, and irritation to invest in a service that we never actually asked for? Since it was cheaper for us, we allowed this unnecessary service to clutter up our lives. We got it working now and I’m sure we’ll watch The Big Bang Theory again on Thursday.

But you can bet I will be more selective as to what “free” goods and services I accept. I see now, for instance, that Mr. FP was right to talk me out of the free landline phone service we were offered. What about you, readers? Have you been burned by “free”?

The $0 Toddler?

British mom Hattie Garlick lost her job in late 2012 and made a radical decision: She would spend no money on her two-year-old son in 2013. No clothes, toys, haircuts, special kid food, Mommy and Me classes, or even disposable diapers.

Garlick found myriad benefits to her new arrangement, from getting to know other parents in her neighborhood through swap meets to  making her son a less picky eater. She enjoyed the lifestyle change so much that she has maintained it through welcoming a new baby and on into 2014, with the modest change of permitting herself (and her readers) and one purchase per month.

I’m glad it’s working so well for her, but I won’t be jumping on the bandwagon. Counting my purchases is a gimmick that I don’t think we need. For one thing, I don’t have enough excess “stuff” to trade away at swap meets because I never went through a stage of big spending on my boys. I have always spent on them more or less the same way I spend on myself, which is to say, minimally. The gimmick seems to come from the idea that parents have been treating their children better than themselves–spending the kind of money on the kids that they wouldn’t spend on themselves. Frankly, that just hasn’t been true at our household; our children have shared, not exceeded, our household’s standard of living.

For another thing, I like buying my children the occasional book or toy, like a set of Thomas and Friends puzzles half-price at the end of a consignment sale or a copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at the library book sale. Garlick did not buy her son any Christmas presents. I spent the amount that seemed proper to me on my sons’s Christmas presents: about $28, plus a few special snacks for their stockings.

If you have the nagging feeling that you’re blowing too much money on your kid(s) and not getting much value for the money, you might try Garlick’s gimmick or at least learn more about it, but it’s not something I need. I’m not saying I’ve never spent stupid money on something for my kids, but I’m generally happy with my level of restraint. Am I being too easy on myself? Would you consider taking the “Free Our Kids” pledge?

In Which the Frugal Paragon Mends Her Mom Jeans

We all have our crosses to bear. Being someone who is made fun of for being too skinny has never been one of my personal crosses.

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Before–see where the fabric is separating along the inseam.

Being a lady not plagued by “thigh gap,” my jeans always wear out in the same place–along the inseam. Now, I just bought new jeans this season! No more than six months ago. And already, the fabric was pulling apart at the inseam. It offends my frugal sensibilities to buy a second pair of jeans in one season. Besides, I hate to buy new clothes at the end of the season because I always hope that I will miraculously change sizes during the off-season.

So, inspired by the words of my father, who always encouraged me to jump right in to a repair project by pointing out, “You can’t make it worse. You already need a new one,” I decided to try mending them to see if I could get them to limp along until shorts season.

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After–the pulled threads have been tucked inside the new seam.

The approved method would be to patch the area from the inside, but I wasn’t sure how a patch would work right over the seam area. So instead, I decided to try sewing about a quarter inch in from the old seam, creating a new one just for the length of the pull. I was afraid that using my sewing machine would make a mess of it, so I sewed by hand. In retrospect, though, I kind of wish I had tried the machine. It took me a full episode of House of Cards to sew by hand, and hand-sewing denim is hard work.

For now, though, it’s holding. I am no longer in imminent danger of developing a large and embarrassing rip the next time I squat down to wipe a toddler nose. Let’s file that under “success,” shall we? Now if I can just figure out something to do about those tiny little holes that all my knit shirts develop…

What about you, readers? What half-assed (or full-fledged) repairs are you trying lately?

Goals for March

Aside from selling our fancy car, February was a rough month financially. We had unexpected expenses (i.e., the shiny new computer I am typing to you on right now) and I earned only $776, thanks to a week with no computer of my own.

March may not be much better, income-wise: My boys’ on-campus daycare will be closed two full weeks for spring break, which makes it hard to get work done! (They usually go two days per week.) Still, I think if I hustle I can push it to a full thousand.

Money-making goals for March:

  • Earn a full $1000 through Leapforce At Home and my trivia job.
  • Consign boys’ outgrown summer clothes and my post-pregnancy summer clothes.
  • Consign one of the car seats from the CRV (keeping the other as backup) and the Graco Travel Lite Crib (basically a small play yard) that the boys used when they were tiny.

Money-saving goals for March:

    Cloth diaper.

    It doubles as crash padding. Regular size cotton prefold wrapped around BumGenius infant insert on top of 2 Hemp Babies doublers, with Econobums cover and Gerber pants over all. No leaks!

  • Save 3 disposable diapers per week. Big Brother has been sleeping in them every night. I don’t have enough heavy-duty ones for him to wear one every night, but hopefully we can swing a few nights a week. I’m thinking cotton boosted with hemp and/or microfiber, for the added bonus of feeling wet for him, and Gerber pants over the cover for better leak control.
  • Hit the spring consignment sale on half-price day to get Big Brother’s summer wardrobe started. Check his hand-me-downs for Little Brother; we might need to buy little or nothing for him.
  • Keep food spending over spring break to the dollar-per-person-per-meal level suggested by Mr. Money Mustache. (We usually eat our dinners in the dining hall, but it will be closed for spring break.)
  • Eliminate waste of edible food. I’m not going to start eating orange peels and whatnot and we have no place to compost, but throwing away the bread ends is soooo 2013.
  • Try the baking soda and vinegar method of hair care instead of buying new shampoo and conditioner. Stay tuned for updates!

What about you, readers? What are you trimming in March?