When we prepped the house for Thanksgiving, I noticed the "e-waste recycle" pile was getting a little out of hand. I recall taking big things in the past, but usually MH handles most of it.
Clearly he hasn't been handling it, but we drive by Best Buy once or twice a week when MM has gymnastics. So I just took care of it.
Of note, I had an external drive, some computer speakers (2 sets) and a broken car stereo face plate.
I wanted to put it out as a reminder, in case anyone has anything they can recycle. I know I have mentioned before, but it's probably been a LONG time. (Check the website, they take a lot of different kinds of things).
Viewing the 'Minimalism' Category
When we prepped the house for Thanksgiving, I noticed the "e-waste recycle" pile was getting a little out of hand. I recall taking big things in the past, but usually MH handles most of it.
MH just bought some concert tickets (including one for my dad). I told him that we should just cover it. Make it a Christmas present. Is the same gift he got last year (but a different band).
This is about how much thought/energy I am giving to the season. We don't celebrate in any big or materialistic way. I'll be figuring out some other gifts, but nothing I have to "plan" for or will spend much energy on. We don't save any money for Christmas, accordingly.
For us, the focus continues to be more and more on charity every year. I am still not in a place where I have any time for the Holidays. So though we generally give more time than money, there's not a lot we sign up for this time of year. It's easier for us to just write checks in the month of December. But I am taking the week off after Thanksgiving and I saw that someone needed help with a giving tree, and so I volunteered to help. Will see how it goes and if I want to do the same next year. (I've volunteered for the sorting in the past, which is probably more my thing, but this year I signed up to shop).
Other than that, we usually donate my Christmas bonus ($200). To the local food bank and the animal shelters, though it varies.
In addition, we are getting a $1,000 check (from in-laws) to donate to charities of our choice. This is a new tradition. They started last year with $500. For this year, $1,000 has been thrown out. Wow! I am SO EXCITED about this! I don't know why I find that number so mind blowing. Because it is 4 figures? I don't know. It sounds/feels like so much more than we have been able to give in the past.
So glad to be home! We survived our trip to Europe.
I think overall things went as smooth as could be. Phew!
We did have a huge flight delay on our way home. I am starting to think that is our jinx. This seems to happen more often than not to us, that our flights home are canceled or delayed. Anyway, accordingly (since we are so used to canceled flights), and not knowing how up we'd be for the 100-mile drive home, we didn't expect to get home until today anyway. So maybe that part wasn't very "smooth" but we were pretty mellow about it.
The only other trip hiccup was that our tour for Stonehenge/Avebury was canceled. We got this news late one night when we got back to the hotel. Ack! We were relieved that we were easily able to book a last minute Stonehenge tour. Phew! But I am bummed that we had to skip Avebury. Neither of us had any desire whatsoever to drive abroad or to pay for a more private tour, so we just let it go. (Our tour was apparently the only bus tour to Avebury, and they had some "technical difficulties").
That whole thing is going to be a bit of a mess because we paid for it with a reward credit card (with rewards). I didn't do much today but I did spend a few minutes making sure that getting a refund for that tour doesn't mess up our rewards. It looks like it should be okay but I just don't know how they will hash it all out. We will get a cash refund, but they are going to have to realize we never actually paid any cash for that trip which means they will probably refund us in rewards. & then I can just apply to other travel expenses we booked on that card. We are lucky that it will probably work out. For most credit rewards I just book the bare minimum for the reward but in this case we had booked some tours up (spent more than minimum for reward) and we have some new travel spending to offset these rewards. They count the tube expense and the new bus tour as "travel expenses" that we can pay with rewards. So it should all work out, but I just don't know exactly how. First things first, still waiting for our refund. (I actually applied all our rewards for tours because they were non-refundable. So yeah, I never expected any scenario where we would get a refund. I tried to be smart about it, but it is what it is).
I think we kept the entire trip to $2,000 per person, which is incredible! I will do an accounting and share some pictures later. Maybe tomorrow. (In the end I started typing this around 9am yesterday but crashed for the rest of the day. We did get back home about 1am on Wednesday morning. Just woke up and it is early Thursday now).
I am always in awe of other big city public transportation, but London takes the cake. We pretty much just did the Tube but I don't remember ever waiting more than like 1 minute for a train. We were really lucky and seemed to miss all the crowds. & everyone warned me that we would walk so much, but we really didn't. The transport is *everywhere*. For comparison we did DC last year mostly on their subway and that was a LOT of walking. The stations just aren't as close together. The Tube cost about half as much as DC subway did.
I just think it's all relative. The other thing is I really didn't find London to be that expensive, but I am from San Francisco. So, just more relativity. I thought the transport was insane cheap, and the food was much more reasonable than I had expected. & then all the museums are mostly free, so what else is there? Even the hotel was much cheaper than I would have expected for London. Our flights were cheap too, but that is what motivated the entire trip in the first place.
All this to say that we had a very pleasant/frugal-ish holiday.
(We would mostly never travel during summer and I thought we were probably insane, but we somehow seemed to miss a lot of the crowds. For example, when we went to Parliament there was a huge mass going towards Westminster Abbey and so on. Even MH was super annoyed I wanted to walk along the canal first, but NO ONE WAS THERE and we had the entire place to ourselves. Unreal! So we seemed to luck into some off-peak somehow throughout the trip).
On the flip side, there are a lot of reasons I don't particularly care for traveling. But one of the biggest is that I just don't deal with it well physically. On this trip I think I did pretty well with the sleeping, but I absolutely never adjusted to the time change otherwise. I thought we planned bad when we made big dinner reservations on our second full day there. We both just picked at our food and it was just really bad planning. But now 10 days later I can't say I would have done any better on our last day. I LOVE to eat and so I was really bummed that I mostly felt like crap the whole time and couldn't even enjoy any food. I picked at food the *entire* time and I know this is some of why we ended up spending very little on food. We also had a kitchen/apartment which helped to keep our costs down. I suppose this part was harder than usual for me since we expected this to be a bit more of a culinary trip.
I am hoping the adjustment is easier on the US side, since I never really adjusted to the time zone anyway.
I think I could have packed lighter if I put more effort into it, but overall we are super light packers. I noticed this a lot particularly on our Paris trip. We went on a tour because we wanted to see *everything* that we could in one day. That was one day our weirdness really shone through because someone had lost her luggage (on her flight) and everyone was going on and on about that. Yeah, it sounds horrible, but I don't understand why you'd need to check baggage in the first place. I don't know what other people pack. We really keep it to the essentials. (Everyone else had clearly checked bags as they went on and on how they kept some stuff on their carry on and made sure not to check this or that).
I *really* appreciated this when we got home. I swear it took me like 5 minutes to unpack. We did all the laundry when we woke up. I don't know if I've ever packed so light before for such a big trip and so I really noticed what a non-event it was to unpack. (Mostly dumping my suitcase into a laundry basket). I admittedly still have to sort through toiletries but that is about it.
It was on the same trip, Paris, that most the tour group skipped the Louvre in favor of shopping. Seriously!? I do not get people! The Louvre was just amazing. We only had a couple of hours there, which is just sad. (We maybe saw 0.001% of the museum?) But was definitely better than not seeing it at all. So glad we went.
I just can not fathom going to the Louvre to shop. I am sure many can not fathom going to Paris and not shopping. I am well aware that we are the weird ones.
I will post later more about the trip, pictures, and cost breakdown.
Oh, and we toyed with the idea of seeing An American in Paris. We decided not to go. One day when I saw a bunch of advertisements I told MH I wanted to see that one back at home some time. Wouldn't you know it? Went through the mail yesterday a.m. (also very light because we do most things electronically) and it's one of the musicals they will do in our city next spring! The tickets go on sale January and so I told MH that's my birthday/Christmas.
I don't go back to work until Tuesday, thank goodness! Glad I can squeeze in some quiet down time at home. It is long overdue. I was dreading even getting kids to/from school but that just seems silly now. I can take them (since MH is not a morning person) and he can deal with the afternoon insanity like he always does. I guess that's maybe 1/2 hour commitment for a couple of days. I will survive. We may go grocery shopping today, but we had left a ton of food for the kids and in-laws and still have some left. MH starts back work on Tuesday (the end of his summer break). I forget how easy this is when we are both home.
Post from January:
MH ended up buying me a very small computer. He kept seeing sales in the $100 range. This is an incredible deal if you already have all the accessories. But I haven't had a desktop since I've been displaced by kids. So... $500 later. The motivation was not "minimalism" but I am LOVING it from that standpoint. The computer is about the size of the original roku? (Or how I recall the original roku to have been). It just hangs off the back of the monitor. & I told MH several times that I did not need speakers. He did not believe me, so he ended up getting me a monitor with built-in speakers. So it looks like I just have a monitor/keyboard/mouse. We got it set up in our bedroom, for now. Glad it is so compact, because I might want to move downstairs in the summer.
To be clear, we just put the computer in our bedroom. I just used MM's old desk.
In the end, I have surprisingly not needed to move downstairs. I recall that we *never* used the upstairs A/C until we had kids. Now I remember why. All the cool air (and heat in the winter) seems to float up our bedroom. So it's been okay.
I realized that I never showed any pictures of my tiny computer:
This is the computer, just hanging off the back of the monitor:
I came across this beautiful article today:
GIVE ME GRATITUDE OR GIVE ME DEBT
"Recently I posted a picture of myself in my kitchen, and I immediately started receiving generous messages from people wanting to help me “update” it. Along with their messages came pictures of how my kitchen could look, if I’d just put some effort and money into it."
"You guys. I have a REFRIGERATOR.
This thing MAGICALLY MAKES FOOD COLD. I’m pretty sure in the olden days, frontierswomen had to drink warm Diet Coke. Sweet Jesus. Thank you, precious kitchen.
Inside my refrigerator is FOOD. Healthy food that so many parents would give anything to be able to feed their children. Not me. When this food runs out, I’ll just jump in my car to get more. It’s ludicrous, really. It’s like my family hits the lottery every freaking morning."
"Sometimes it seems that our entire economy is based on distracting women from their blessings. Producers of STUFF NEED to find 10,000 ways to make women feel less than about our clothes, kitchens, selves so that we will keep buying more. So maybe freeing ourselves just a little from the Tyranny of Trend is a women’s issue – because we certainly aren’t going to get much world changing done if we spend all of our time and money on wardrobe and kitchen changing."
I will say that gratitude is an important ingredient to living debt-free. I am often bemused by the "sacrifice" people project on to our choices. We are so incredibly blessed, so the bemoaning of our very minor sacrifices always sounds so melodramatic to me. We will survive. We've always been very blessed. We haven't always had the latest and greatest, but we've always had everything we needed and then some.
--Murphy has moved into our home. Something about summer months and trips to the UK. Yeesh! (See my blog July/August 2013. That whole year was some Murphy year from hell but those months were particularly absurd).
I'll have to post more about that later.
--We are knee deep in back-to-school. Since we keep things simple, not too much to do. But MM starts high school and has a lot of orientation type stuff next week.
I don't foresee spending much. The most of it is going to be funding their lunch accounts, which I haven't had to do in a while.
This is the first year we will have a child in regular public school. Our state is pretty strict about not requiring money to be spent to attend public schools. The public charters have been more lax on this and both my kids' schools have at times "required" that donations be made for this or that supplies. I feel like the public high school won't do this, but will see. (So far they have just asked for supplies directly, and not in a "this is required" kind of tone. This is what I expected).
--I am just in chore mode with trying to get caught up at work and getting the house ready for our trip. I guess a lot of the house stuff isn't entirely necessary, but was trying to use it as a motivational deadline since I am behind on all things domestic. I am so behind because the last year has been totally insane, including being off my feet for several months.
My default is to dread a big trip like this, so I am fine with the distraction and busy-ness. (If I thought about the trip too much I'd just stress. Really not much to do but pack, which I will probably do the day we leave).
Ting (Cell) Update:
Here's my Ting referral code (for $25-off), if this post entices you at all:
So yeah, I saw a discussion about cell phone costs in another forum. Ting is clearly cheaper than any other provider. (Though of course, it depends on your phone usage). I am just saying I saw 100+ other people recommending more expensive cell service than what we pay for Ting.
Someone in that discussion did mention that they had got a Ting credit from Ting customer service for "being awesome". Too funny!
In the end, the kids have been on our Ting for a while and it's been of basically no financial consequence. They've only been on one at a time, so MM is the only one with cell coverage right now. I expect to add back DL any minute now. It's $6/month per line to add each of them. So we are paying $12/month when they both have cell service.
With Ting you pay for what you use. The kids just don't use anything, so we aren't paying anything else to add them to our cell bill. We were absolutely genius in the way we set up our kids with cell phones. We gave them cell phones years ago and set them up with google hangouts. With hangouts, you can call and text anyone over wifi. So this put them in the HABIT of seeking out wifi. They had to if they wanted to use their phones. *This* is why they don't use any data.
I just checked last month's bill and MM used -0- minutes -0- texts and about 12MB of data. (You need to use 500-1000 MB to bump up to a more expensive tier, for reference. An extra 12MB isn't going to cost us anything. Ting even has a grace amount if you go over by just a wee little bit. They don't charge you for that).
This of course does not mean that my 13yo has no friends and never texts anyone. He just did all his texting over wifi.
In contrast, we told him to go crazy when he was in DC/NYC trip with his class. Just, you know, he has cell service and won't get wifi everywhere. To not worry about using what he needs. According to Ting he used no minutes or texts, but used 182MB of data that month. Since we generally pay $20 to use 1000-2000MB of data (for 5 devices), his 182MB did not increase our phone bill that month. (I am not sure how he texted us during that time, since I had tons of texts from him while he was out and about. ???) Not sure what that is about. But Ting barely charges anything for texts so not that it would matter. It's $5 to send 1,000 texts. We all use google hangouts/wifi mostly, so we've never been anywhere close to 1,000+ texts.
EDITED TO ADD: DOH. He was using data to send texts, I just realized, so maybe that part backfired a bit. (The google hangouts calls/texts will go over data if you are not on wifi).
The above ties in to my recent posts and an article I saw from MMM:
A Lifetime of Riches – Is it as Simple as a Few Habits?
"As it turns out, habits are little chunks of auto-pilot behavior that get burned right into your neurology – permanently. Once you develop a habit, you can never truly erase the program, even if you manage to deactivate it.
It gets even crazier than that: when your brain starts running one of its many habit scripts, a good part of your conscious judgement is shut off for the duration. The habit takes over, controls you until you get to the end of the script, and then dumps you out at the end. And this is not just a rare occurence – depending on who you ask, habits are in at least partially in control for between 50 and 90% of our waking hours."
I guess I have been thinking about this a lot lately. As people ask me how we raise kids that don't seem to have any spending habits. It's what we've modeled for them.
I am SO thankful to my parents, who did the same for us. They taught us not to buy things we can't afford; only pay with cash. That buying cars on credit is WEIRD to us. Someone told me a while back that it must have felt so awesome to pay cash for my last car (this was in the forums). The reality is: *Shrugs* That wonder-ment about it presumes that you are in the car debt habit. We've never been in the car debt habit so it all feels very normal and boring to pay cash. It's all we've ever known. Entrenched habits aren't very exciting. (I didn't even know this was "weird" at all until we were well into our 20s).
It's the big and the small things. I've been kind of fascinated by talks about food delivery in recent months. I've absolutely never paid for food delivery? It's not a habit we ever established. Honestly, it just sounds WEIRD to me. I am so entrenched in my habit of not getting food delivery. So it goes the opposite way for me.
What I am really noticing lately is the Starbucks habit. When I was in middle school no one drank coffee. ??? I am sure those were still the "coffee stunts your growth" days. It was when I was in high school and college that the coffee shops really started to take off. My friends tried their hardest to get me on the coffee habit, but I can't stand coffee and had been raised in a house with no coffee.
I've been noticing this since MM's DC trip. They made a big to-do about making stops at Starbucks. (Which honestly just annoys me, because took chunks of time from seeing the sights and so on. My kid had absolutely no interest in taking a Starbucks break). So I was kind of incredulous. The middle schoolers drink coffee? I mentioned to my MIL at some point and she told me of course they drink coffee! That my super frugal SIL stops there with her kids on the way to school. Seriously!? My niece is 12.
We are so removed from that habit, I just had no idea. If you think about it, it's not surprising. There's only so much "Do as I say and not as I do" that's going to fly. If you stop at Starbucks every day (or week, or however often) at some point your kids are going to become part of that equation. Apparently by the time they are 12.
If you want to give your kids a financial leg up, think about the example you are setting. I think the other thing is too if you are making six figures and you are annoyed about these discussions about the latte factor, that's totally cool. But remember that your kids are going to have to start basically from scratch at some point. I am grateful that I didn't have to battle habits like this in my teens and 20s. At 40, if I want to go start buying lattes every day, it's not like it's going to make much financial difference at this point in my life. But it would have made ALL the difference when just starting out.
When we asked what our kids wanted for their birthday they both said, "nothing." For Christmas they were both absolutely delighted with their one simple gift. We bought DL(11) a blanket and he made a point last month to tell me how much he loved it and it is the BEST gift. Six months later!
I've been pondering this a bit. This is nothing I expected from my kids. (Much like my last post, where I didn't necessarily expect them to be "super frugal" through their childhood). The best I can guess is that all their needs are WELL met (can't help but think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs). & beyond that, they just absorb what they see. We are VERY content. We like our toys and we have our stuff but we aren't constantly shopping/spending.
& let me make it real clear. My kids have computers and cell phones and a virtual reality system. (Which I know many people think would cause kids to go the opposite way). There is no deprivation going on in this house. But they aren't over-saturated. They can appreciate something as simple as a blanket.
In fact, I received a big box with the new pots and pans I bought. My kids (12 and 14!) are having a BLAST with the box. It's cracking me up. I encouraged MH to just leave it be for the cat to play with. The kids seem to have the same wonder and excitement about it as the cat does. It's along the same lines. We haven't over-saturated them so much that they can't appreciate the small things.
Anyway, I saw the most amazing article from Frugalwoods today, that ties into this.
How Making Luxuries Rare Increases Our Happiness
"Repeated exposure to stimulants deadens our ability to derive pleasure from them. These stimulants range from shopping for stuff we don’t need to sugar to dining out. Anything designed to deliver jolts of dopamine and excitement are best if used sparingly."
"After embarking on our extreme frugality journey, I was suddenly awakened to a slew of behaviors that I performed ritualistically without much consideration for whether: a) they were good for me; b) I needed them; c) I actually derived any true, lasting pleasure from them. I was a consumer automaton, ritualistically buying new clothes every season, automatically getting a latte if I happened to walk past a coffee shop, dumping a ludicrous amount of ersatz sugar into my coffee mug."
"Spending money works in precisely the same way and impacts the same pleasure centers in our brains. We humans have the remarkable ability to acclimate ourselves to almost any level of comfort or deprivation. We can all craft a reality in which we’re deprived or in which we’re surrounded by abundance (with caveats for privilege and the understanding that not everyone enjoys the basic necessities of shelter, food, and safety required for this exercise). Abundance denial is exactly what it sounds like: a failure–or inability–to appreciate our blessings."
"When we sign-up for our culture’s materialistic consumer carousel, we’re signing up for a lifetime of spending money. There is always more to buy, more to crave, and more to convince ourselves we “need.” There is no path to lasting happiness through excessive consumption because you’ll never reach a point of enough. You’ll never look around your home and experience the gratitude of wanting what you already have; rather, you’ll look around your home and constantly identify more things you can buy. Marketing is designed to continually create these false needs for us and to continually convince us that we are lacking and deprived and uncool if we don’t consume at the level that’s advertised to us."
"“But buying things makes me happy!” you might be thinking. And you’re right, it does make you happy, but only for a brief period of time. That’s the key–the adrenaline and pleasure of making a purchase fades quite quickly and leaves you casting about for something else to buy. There’s a deeper, more permanent happiness to be had when you stop this cycle and instead start to focus your energies on people, activities, and experiences that are meaningful to you.
It’s also true that you’ll have more time. I often hear the complaint that frugality takes too much time, but I find it’s quite the opposite: frugality takes far less time and frees up your physical and mental energy for fulfilling pursuits. Imagine for a moment if you didn’t have to run a million errands this week: no dry cleaners, no haircuts, no manicures, no dog groomer, no shopping (other than for groceries)… that’s what my weeks are like. I’ve created time and space for myself by ceasing to participate in the consumer carousel.
When we instead acknowledge that we do, in fact, have enough, we surrender to a default position of gratitude. We look around our house–that very same house–and think “I am so grateful to have a couch for my kids to snuggle on. I am so thankful we have a roof that doesn’t leak.” We no longer notice the stains on the couch and the scuffs on our furniture or our non-trendy-looking appliances. Instead, we see all of these things as benefits in our lives and evidence of how fortunate we are to have running water and electricity and the ability to safely cook inside our home–all things that many people in the world so desperately need."
"Our culture writ large doesn’t encourage temperance or restraint. Frugality is viewed as miserly and boring. But in reality, it’s the golden ticket that delivers us off the hedonic treadmill and out of the “you never have enough” mentality and away from the buy-your-way-to-happiness prompts that we’re all old enough to know are empty, false promises.
Frugality is not about depriving yourself, it’s about reconstructing your worldview so that you need less, want less, and spend less in order to achieve a higher level of happiness. Spending is a vicious cycle of always feeling that happiness is out of your reach whereas frugality engenders a virtuous cycle of knowing that what you have is indeed enough."