April 30, 2008

Stocking Up On Food?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:53 pm by bitsypieces

Is it time to stock up on food? According to this WSJ op-ed piece–brought to my attention by a post at Like Merchant Ships–we should be loading our pantries with non-perishable food items.

Personally, I think it’s a little extreme to create a massive stockpile of food. But I realize that there are folks who disagree with me on this topic.

Hubby and I always keep a small stockpile in our basement. It’s mostly overflow of canned goods that I’ve purchased on sale with coupons, but it’s usually not more than two grocery-bags worth of items.

I have been hinting to him (Ok… I’ve been almost-insisting) that we buy a deep freeze. Once Baby arrives, I think a deep freeze will be an extremely useful way to prep foods ahead of time so we can eat “homemade” without much work. Although I probably won’t follow the whole “once a month” cooking philosophy, I probably will make extra large batches of things like spaghetti sauce and then freeze the surplus. Additionally, it will help me store foods purchased on sale, like bags of shrimp or frozen veggies.

As for things like grains–which seem to be a big source of panic for lots of people–I checked my local Asian food store yesterday, and they are still selling huge bags of rice for regular prices. So they’re not rationing their rice, and they haven’t yet jacked up the cost. If I notice the price creeping up, I may buy a big bag of rice and store it in an airtight container… just as a precaution. But I suspect that’s about the most I’ll do when it comes to stockpiling.

Because, in reality, sooner or later your stockpile will be depleted. So exactly how big should we build it? I could see something like this growing out of control very quickly, just like Y2K.

April 29, 2008

Leftovers

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:12 pm by bitsypieces

My Hubby made himself a whole chicken last night for dinner.  He didn’t eat it all–he barely ate half a breast.  Much of the leftover meat can be used to make him sandwiches for his lunch this week, but that still leaves a hefty remainder.

We also have a boatload of leftover rice.

The obvious leftover choice seemed to be a chicken and rice casserole (which I can then freeze and take to my dad, who needs some help in the kitchen now that Mom is gone).  However, as I perused chicken and rice casserole recipes on the web, I realized that almost all of them contain some type of “cream of” soup (such as cream of celery).

Perhaps I’m one of the few–or maybe it’s pregnant-lady syndrome–but “cream of” soup sounds totally disgusting to me.

Chicken and rice soup is out of the question (it was one of the foods Mom ate often during her last days… too many negative memories attached to it for Dad).  And anything ethnic–like chicken fried rice–will not appeal to my father.

However, both the frugal and environmental side of me wants to avoid as much waste as possible.  At this point I am considering a chicken potpie (for the leftover meat).  I’ll just eat the rice myself during the next few days.  It’s not the simplest solution, but it’s the best I can do to avoid a bunch of wasted food.

April 28, 2008

Cloth Diapers

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:53 pm by bitsypieces

After a lot of research, Hubby and I have decided to cloth diaper Baby. We’re going to do a mix of inexpensive prefold diapers and pricier fitted/all-in-ones. We’re also going to wash them ourselves (no diaper service!) and line dry whenever possible.

So I’ve started building up my cloth diaper stash. Having never done this before–and knowing no one in my generation who does it–I’m not quite sure exactly what I’ll need. But I have done tons of research, so I feel moderately prepared. At this point I’ve purchased:

DIAPERS
Prefolds: 24
Kissaluvs Contours Small: 5
Imse Vimse Contours: 6
Kissaluvs Fitted 0: 2
Little Lions Fitted NB: 1
Bum Genius AOI Small: 1
Bumkins AOI Small: 1
Kushies AOI NB: 1

COVERS
Prorap Covers NB: 4
Prorap Covers Small: 4
Bummis Super Whisper Wrap Small: 1
Bummi Cotton Cover Small: 1

LINERS/DOUBLERS
Microfleece Liners NB: 6
Doublers: 3

ACCESSORIES
Snappis: 3
Pail Liners: 2
Cloth Wipes: 60

I think that should be enough to get me started.

I bought from 3 different Internet stores to take advantage of low prices, stocked brands and free shipping minimums. Ultimately, the diaper stash has cost me $310. Not exactly cheap. But I think this stash could go for the first 4-6 months of Baby’s life, and some of these items will be used for all of Baby’s diaper years (like the pail liners, cloth wipes and Snappis). I definitely expect to save money in the long run, even if the initial upfront cost is pretty pricey.

April 25, 2008

Party Time

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:09 pm by bitsypieces

Check out the Festival of Frugality at On Financial Success!

Three of my favorite posts:

  • Sound Money Matters discusses pet costs. In my mind, my pets are priceless… and worth every penny. But these tips for lowering their annual expenses can be useful.
  • Know the Ledge writes about 5 things you shouldn’t buy cheap. I can’t say I really agree about all of them, but it’s definitely entertaining to read.
  • Money Changes Things talks about inconspicuous consumption. As a bit of a crunchy granola type, this post very much appealed to my eco-friendly side.

Don’t forget to check out the Carnival of Money Stories at Can I Get Rich On A Salary, too.  I found these great posts:

End of an Era

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:57 pm by bitsypieces

Until a week ago, Hubby and I had one plan for whenever we were going to be out during a favorite TV show.

We set the VCR.

Yes, it’s an antiquated machine.  But it also served its purpose.

Unfortunately, the VCR decided to start munching our tapes.

A little research revealed that VCRs are no longer readily available for purchase.  Indeed, they’ve become something of an anomaly.

So now we’re stuck.  What are we to do when we’re away from home during The Big Bang Theory and BSG?

We considered DVR and TiVo.  We considered digging until we find another VCR.  We considered simply *gasp* missing our favorite shows.

But I tend to think, after Baby arrives, that I’ll need to watch a few adult shows when she’s down for the night.  It’ll be the closest thing I get to adult conversation during the days that Hubby works.

Right now we’re just bouncing around options, trying to weigh cost with convenience and availability.  Unfortunately, at this point, DVR is just out of our budget.

April 21, 2008

Balancing Work & Family

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:32 pm by bitsypieces

As a freelance writer, there are pros and cons to my work.

PROS

  • I can accept or decline assignments depending on my schedule.
  • I can work from home.
  • I can work whenever I desire (as long as I meet deadlines).

CONS

  • Work is sporadic, and isn’t always available.
  • Freelancers are, generally, less respected than staff writers.

Although I have the freedom to accept or decline assignments, I almost always accept work when I get it. It’s possible to get a steady gig–and I’ve had them in the past–but right now I’m just getting occasional work from a variety of editors. We need the extra money with Baby on the way, so I’m scooping up every bit of work I can get.

In a strange piece of serendipity, I hardly got any assignments during the months when my mother was very, very ill. (Good thing, because I didn’t want to do much work at that time.) Then, a day after her funeral, I got work from three different editors. Those assignments came at a time when (emotionally) I needed to keep busy and (for the first time in months) I actually had the time to do the work.

I am, however, concerned about how I might balance work and family once Baby arrives. Having never before raised a child, I have no idea how much time and energy will be required of me. (Though other mothers say that ALL my time and energy will be used up by Baby.) At this point, I’m just trying to stay flexible. And, fortunately, I can do that as a freelancer.

April 18, 2008

Cheap Versus Pricey Nursery

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:11 pm by bitsypieces

I know it’s possible to spend thousands on a nursery… especially once you include fancy crib sets, expensive decorations and high-end furniture. But as a generally frugal person, I just can’t bring myself to pay $800+ for a crib that will probably be used for just a year or so.

Here are a few ways Hubby and I are cutting back on a nursery costs:

  • Inexpensive furniture: “Inexpensive” doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap.” I spent hours and hours researching cribs and baby furniture. I read books, Consumer Reports and online reviews. (Surprisingly, the online reviews were probably the most useful thing I read.) Based on quality, longevity, features and appearance, we ultimately decided on a crib that cost $250 at Sears. (But I found it for $180 at Wal-Mart.)
  • Using gifts: I was given a crib set as a gift at a shower. I don’t love it–it’s probably not what I would have chosen–but the price was right. And, over time, I’ve grown more fond of it. By using the quilt in the set as a wall hanging, I’ve taken care of the nursery decorations.
  • Keeping things minimal: We’re not buying a changing table. I figure a floor or bed will be just as useful. We’re also not buying any decorations (we’ll just use the crib quilt). The paint will be a simple green/beige theme that will hopefully last into Baby’s childhood years. As for things like diaper holders and baby wipe warmers… forget about it!
  • Using things we have: A few years ago, Hubby bought me a very nice rocking chair as an anniversary gift. It makes a nice chair for the nursery, and I won’t have to buy a thing. We also have some extra wooden bookshelves in the basement (leftover from another project). With a little bit of paint, they’ll be perfect for Baby’s wall. No purchase required!

There are things we probably could have done to be more frugal. We could have borrowed a crib, for example, and left the walls a stark white. But I think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping things within a workable budget.

April 16, 2008

Locking Financial Horns

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:38 pm by bitsypieces

Hubby and I have two different approaches to saving and spending.

He prefers to spend his money on big purchases, like a huge TV or a video game console. I tend to dribble money away on small purchases, like household items and shoes.

The one place we really lock horns, however, is the debate about a new car purchase. I started thinking about this after reading Frugal Dad’s Language of the Perpetual Poor. Third on the list is the gem: “Everyone has a car payment–it is a fact of life.”

I’ve heard those exact words come out of Hubby’s mouth.

We’ve got one car payment already on our newest vehicle. And now our second car–the one he uses to commute to work–is on its last legs. I suspect we’ll have to replace it within a year or so (it’s 11 years old).

Every time we discuss the possibility of buying a new car in the future, Hubby and I argue.

He wants: Something new and nice, which means we’ll have another car payment.

I want: Something used and decent, and I want to save up the cash for it before we need to buy it.

Personally, I think my idea is the smartest from a financial perspective. I’ve been considering different ways to handle this:

1. Argue. Continue to try and convince Hubby that my way is better for our financial picture. I have my doubts as to the success of this, however. Whenever I start talking about “saving” for a future car and/or buying used, his eyes glaze over and he totally tunes me out. I fear he has already made up his mind about this, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. (According to him, he will be the primary driver of the vehicle, so it’s his decision.)

2. Secretly stash away money. At the very least, I can start a secret stash of cash to help pay for the car when it’s time to purchase one. I’ve never kept a secret from Hubby before–especially about money–but I don’t know how else to keep him from spending the “savings” on bills, since his comfort level for savings is lower than mine.

Anyone else have a suggestion?

April 15, 2008

The “Comfort Level” for Savings

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:39 pm by bitsypieces

Everyone has a different “comfort level” for savings.

I tend to think “more is better.” Hubby, on the other hand, is okay with having just enough to squeak by.

In fact, one of our biggest money arguments is that he’ll dip into our emergency savings to pay for non-emergency things. I hate it… and I protest every time he does it. But then he says, “Hey, we need to pay this bill. Where else are we going to get the money?”

Somewhere–somehow–we’re making some financial mistakes. Given our income versus expenses, we should be saving a lot more than we do. We definitely should not be dipping into an emergency fund to pay off a credit card.

April 14, 2008

Seeking A Way To Serve

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:07 pm by bitsypieces

I believe that service–both to my fellow humans and to God–is a necessary part of my existence. It’s easy to get wrapped up in material things and saving money. Serving helps remind us that there’s more to life than 401(k)s and taxes. It’s part of being a good Christian and a good person. It helps remind us of our own blessings. It creates a sense of community, and it benefits others.

Unfortunately, I’ve done very little to serve anyone lately.

As a result, I’ve decided that it’s time to look for more ways to serve. My first step is going to be a return to church. It’s been years since I’ve been a regular church-goer. In all honesty, the only reason I don’t attend regularly is because I’m not a morning person, and morning Mass is just too darn early for me.

Before my mother died, she told me this: With all that He’s given us, the least we can do is give Him a little bit of our time.

She was right. So I’m making a mid-year resolution to return to church and become a part of its community again.

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