A Bit of a Re-think


October 20, 2010 by Leah

We’re home. My head is full of information about cooking real food, CSA options (there is really an embarrassment of sustainable farm riches in Southern California), and finding jobs. I’m heading to the Long Beach Volunteer Fair this afternoon in hopes of finding an organization with values similar to mine that manages its volunteers effectively (the idea is that my volunteering could lead to local friends or even employment, both good things). I’ve applied for one job this week and am on track to apply for a couple more today. I canceled both my accounts with thrive.com, bowing to Aaron’s worries about security. I also canceled my $18/month membership to Weight Watchers Online. I’ve been following the program off and on for over 10 years now, and if I don’t know the precepts by now, I never will. (Plus, my weight and general health seem to be tied to the quality of and balance in my life at any given time. Too bad I wasted so much of my 20s wallowing in misery, but I guess I was learning, and I’m happy where I’ve landed.)

So, what about this frugal business? A couple of comments and conversations that happened a few weeks ago made me realize that I’ve chosen a very specific definition of the word “frugal.” It’s one that builds on definition number one from dictionary.com:

1. economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful: a frugal manager.
2. entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty: a frugal meal.

I think “not wasteful” best explains how Aaron and I want our lives to be. One of the first indicators that we were living in a way more closely aligned with not wasting our – or anyone else’s – resources (you know, like air, water, land) came earlier this summer, when I realized we were having to take out the (household, tall-kitchen-garbage-can-sized) trash once a week, if that.  (Although more if we forget and throw fish remnants in there.) Our big outdoor trash can by the neighbors’ driveway often has a few weeks’ worth of trash in it and isn’t full. We can’t quite figure out why it doesn’t get emptied – does the trash man forget to empty our trash because sometimes there’s nothing in there, or does he only take it when the whole thing is full?

At any rate, the point is that several of the measures we’ve taken in order to save money or improve health are having a noticeable effect.  I used to have to empty the same trash can a few times a week when I was living alone because it was full of junk mail and food packaging like cans, bottles, and boxes.  I also used to roll my eyes at Aaron’s “no compromises” take on recycling, but now I’m right there with him (actually, I’m the one hauling all our recycling the mile to the nearest recycling center every week or so).  Our compost bin didn’t seem interested in producing compost (of course, we haven’t exactly turned it) but closer inspection shows that things are actually biodegrading in there, and it doesn’t reek or attract animals, which is about all we can ask for being such lazy compost-tenders.

All of this is awesome – steps in the right direction.  There is still the financial aspect to consider, though, especially since we have this looming unpaid rent bill to deal with (thanks, Uncle Sam).  Aaron and I have a date to sit down together and work out a budget this week.  I’m not sure where we will fit this in between our every-other-day gym dates and the pumpkin-carving/pumpkin-beer-drinking date, but we will carve out an hour somewhere.  The plan is to figure out what our income is, then our fixed expenses, and then go from there.  Simple, I know, but I am really encouraged by this because I am fairly certain that the missing piece that indirectly caused some of this summer’s financial struggles and debacles has been the “together” piece.  I can make spreadsheets and calculate percentages as much as I want, but if that information and my arbitrary goals aren’t making it (thanks to my not communicating) to the other half of this partnership, then we are sunk before we begin.  So, do-over.  Starting very soon.

L&A looking over Squam Lake

Here we are looking all relaxed/determined in New Hampshire.


2 thoughts on “A Bit of a Re-think

  1. Lizza says:

    You guys look adorable and so happy! 🙂 I definitely feel the budgetting together issue. One cannot budget and control all the finances alone when the other person is also spending money, etc. It also really helps to be very clear that you are on the same page. D and I started “budgeting” in September and alloted a certain amount to “personal” expenses, to include eating lunches out, personal purchases, etc. However, D went over last month due to a $250 subscription into some honor society or computer club or something plus all the misc. expenses, promised he would not this month, and then bought himself a very expensive item which was almost equivelent to his budgeted amount this month so with misc. expenses went over this month as well (and we are only halfway through)- granted it was his birthday, but there was no discussion about making such a significant purchase prior to the actual purchase and certainly no budgeting for it (since I do all the budgeting) so we had to sit down and have a discussion. We also need to make a date to sit and talk about our budget as I tend to take care of things unilaterally because its easier to get them done when I have the time. Like re-financing our mortgage and dropping our monthly payment by $600 based on good interest rates and the fact I have paid so much towards the principal already. Then we have been pursuing a life insurance/retirement plan which may cost about half of that savings, but will provide signfiicant security if anything happens to either of us. Little things like this also make a big difference. I think we are making good headway on paying down our credit cards and working on our debt, although my next “goal” is to start paying off some of my variable interest bar loans so that if the economy ever decides to get back on track we will not be hit by that. Ultimately I think getting to the point where 10-15% of your income is going into savings would be fantastic and my goal is to hit that by early next year which will allow us to have both credit cards at $0 balance every month and then put the leftover into savings. Of course then I want to re-do the floors in the house and replace all the kitchen appliances so the resale value goes up…. but thats another story! 🙂 Glad you had a good trip! I miss you!

  2. Ronale says:

    Great picture!!

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