The Month of Financial Recovery and Wellness, part 2: Minimalist Game

July is sneaking up on me!  So now I have to catch up on posts.  In addition to No Spend July, I will spend the month participating in the Minimalism Game from The Minimalists.   Basically, on July 1, I’ll get rid of one item that is cluttering up my life and my house by selling, donating, or trashing it.  On July 2, I’ll get rid of two items, on July 3, three items, and so on.  By July 31, I will have purged 496 things!

Anna from And Then We Saved is doing this challenge now and her household purge inspired me to do this for a month.  Since moving three times in the last two years, I realized that the amount of stuff I own is out of control.  I have done several clothing purges and I still don’t feel like I’m down to a reasonable amount.  I know I tend to shop when I’m lonely or bored, and with Andy working nights I have found myself shopping for the sake of shopping more than a few times in the last year.  The habit looks nothing like it used to–I’m no longer going to TJ Maxx weekly and blowing $300 or buying stacks on stacks on stacks of DVDs at pawn shops–but I still feel way too cluttered.  I have changed the way I shop for clothes and other things, favoring quality and versatility over a “good deal,” while still trying to get a good deal, but there is still So. Much. STUFF.  Look forward to regular updates of the junk that’s leaving my house.  I am looking forward to having my garage back.

For a sneak peak at what kind of shit is cluttering up my house, here is my July 1 item.

Miley, but less naked.

Miley, but less naked.

That damn giant white teddy bear has been residing in our garage for almost a full year since I dressed as Miley Cyrus for Tour de Fat.  It will be gone tomorrow, back to its home at ARC, where hopefully some kid can enjoy it as much as I did and will never know its background.

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An Affordable Mid East Feast

I survived a weekend closer to “broke” than ever before.  It involved a lot of watching Big Love and cooking at home.  Julia and Courtney came over for dinner on Friday after a pretty rough end to the week (all is well though!) and I made a Middle Eastern feast of falafel, hummus, kohlrabi fries, and a bell pepper, garlic scape, and radish salad.

Mid East Feast

Mid East Feast

Andy and I have a CSA share with Native Hill Farm that enables us to buy fresh, local produce all summer long while supporting a local farm and our local economy.  We pay for the share upfront, so it is a bit of an investment, and then we are able to go to the farmers’ market each week, pick out what we want from our farm’s stand, and the cost is applied to our account and deducted from what we paid.  As share members, we get a discount off the public price.  This is our second summer with a CSA share, and I love that buying whatever is currently being harvested makes me more adventurous with my cooking.  The kohlrabi for the fries, and the garlic scapes and radishes for the salad all came from our share.  The bell peppers are from my second favorite way to buy produce: on manager’s special at King Soops!  There is a “misshapen and undersized” produce corner at our neighborhood store, and almost every time I walk in, I can get 3 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers for 99 cents.  I have never found anything wrong with them and they never actually look misshapen or undersized.  To make the salad, I chopped up two bell peppers, about five medium sized radishes, and two garlic scapes.  Then I added some lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, dried cilantro (I didn’t have any fresh), and red wine vinegar (toss to distribute vinaigrette).  To make the kohlrabi fries, I peeled the kohlrabi and basically just cut and baked them like oven fries.  I used red pepper flavored olive oil and a dusting of chili powder to season.  They got a touch well done…

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi looks strange, tastes delicious.
Image from http://www.thehealthjournals.com

To make the hummus, I put a can of chickpeas (half-drained), lemon juice, tahini, and lemon flavored olive oil in the food processor and pureed until smooth.  The key to super smooth homemade hummus without adding a gallon of olive oil is to leave in about half the chickpea liquid from the can.  It ups the sodium a bit, but you’re not eating that much anyway.  Hummus is easy and affordable to make at home, especially if you take advantage of sales and coupons.  I always have chickpeas on hand, and I can generally buy a can of Kuner’s of Colorado chickpeas for 60-80 cents.  If I find it for 70 cents or less, I stock up.  I also always have a giant bottle of lemon juice in the fridge for cooking and putting in my water (more on that in a future post).  Tahini is pretty expensive, but I like to have it for hummus.  If it’s not on sale or I don’t have a coupon, I sometimes buy unsweetened/unsalted sunflower butter.  I never notice a difference in taste when mixed with other ingredients, and I can save up to 3 bucks.

The falafel is from a Fantastic World Food’s mix and is inexpensive, easy, and I bake it instead of frying to cut down on calories and fat.  Fill out the feedback form on their website for coupons.  The pitas were also crazy inexpensive.  I found a bunch of bags of whole wheat pitas on manager’s special for 76 cents a bag because they were nearing the sell by date.  Bread freezes well and defrosts quickly, so I bought all of them and threw them in the freezer and we get out what we need.

It all made a ton of food, so four of us ate and still had leftovers, and it cost very little.  Since I don’t have specific prices, I’m not sure what it all breaks down to, but it was a healthy, hearty meal for very little.

Do you have your own tips for buying produce or groceries on the cheap?  What’s your favorite “strange” veggie?

The Month of Financial Recovery and Wellness , part 1: No Spend July

One of my favorite financial blogs of all time is And Then We Saved.  Anna–who lives in Denver, making her that much more relatable and inspiring–paid off her debt by not spending any money on “wants” for a full year.  While I’m not ready to take the plunge for a year, I do like the idea of a No Spend month.  I did it last November and managed to save up quite a bit more than I expected I would.  As part of what is going to be a month of getting back on track financially and health and wellness-wise, I will be embarking on No Spend* July.

*Prepare yourself for lots of exceptions.

The Rules

    • Money can only be spent on Needs, and not Wants.
    • Needs include:
      • Mortgage
      • Car payment
      • Utilities
      • Cellphone
      • Internet
      • Groceries
      • Dog supplies (food, grooming, dental chews)
      • Chiropractor (I go once every 3 weeks as part of a treatment plan)
      • Acupuncture
      • Yoga membership
      • Gym membership
      • Doctor, meds, and supplements
      • Netflix (let’s be real…it’s absolutely necessary)
      • Mike Birbiglia tickets.  He’s coming to the Lincoln Center and they go on sale July 5.  He is my favorite comedian of all time and I reference his jokes at least once a day, so this is a NEED.
    • Groceries are a Need, but I can’t load them up with Wants, like $3.00 kombucha or whatever nonsense I always end up buying at Whole Foods.
    • I will do my best to use what we already own.
    • Pause unnecessary memberships (Audible and massage memberships are on hold until August)
    • Wants include
      • Clothing (TJ Maxx is basically off limits)
      • Shoes (so is JAX)
      • Records
      • Craft supplies
      • Eating at restaurants, coffee shops, fast food, etc.  The exception to this is using the BOGO Qdoba coupons that I bought for a fundraiser.  They expire in August.
      • Supporting fundraisers
      • Alcohol, unless Andy buys me a beer, it’s obtained on a brew tour or a steep discount, or I use my Fort Collins Passport.  The passport gets me BOGO drinks at 28 places for a mere $10 investment upfront, and expires in August.
      • Unnecessary driving expenses.  I will try to bike as many places as possible.
      • Work parking permit
      • Movies
      • Concert tickets

I am still planning on having plenty of fun in July.  The key will be free fun.  Any ideas for me?

 

 

So the reason that I’ve called you all here…

The Boy and I just got back from vacations in Boston (partially work) and LA (all vacation) and I managed to spend all my money.  Ok, not ALL my money, but this is the poorest I’ve ever been in my adult life.  I’m not counting retirement or other investments because, as a rule, I don’t touch those.  But I have managed to dwindle my checking and savings accounts down to uncomfortably low levels not seen since grad school.  So I’m starting this blog to a) give me motivation to set and stick to financial goals, b) hold myself accountable by putting it out in the blogosphere, and c) maybe motivate someone else to get their financial life in check.  I also want to share how to live like a boss on the cheap because Fort Collins is the greatest place on earth and I’m not willing to give up having fun while saving up.

 

This should not cost a lot, but somehow it did.

 

Amazed at all my money flying away.

Amazed at all my money flying away.

 

Now that we’re back in the beauty of FoCo, here are my financial goals:

1. Pay off our new furnace by the end of 2014.

2. Build an emergency fund of 6 months of expenses.

3. Pay off my car loan.

4. Start contributing $250 a month to my Roth IRA, in addition to other savings and other retirement contributions.

5. Pay off our house early.

6. Save a travel fund so I can see the world.

 

I’ll give each of these their own posts so I can elaborate on why they are important to me.  I also plan on posting how I’m going to get there.  Things you can look forward to as you read about my experiences: how to indulge in hipster shit without spending (too much) money, enjoying beer culture for free or very inexpensively, learning about the kombucha brewing process, frugality and wellness challenges, the amazingness that is Fort Collins, pictures of me making dumb faces or doing dumb things, and some recipes and DIY ideas.  In the meantime, what do you want to see?