Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

I think I failed at Buy Nothing Day. Not only did I purchase three shirts and a pair of socks (one of my largest purchases this year in terms of number of items), I also bought a $12,000 CD.

At least I didn't end up "doing" Black Friday this year. I was a reluctant first-time participant last year, and NEVER AGAIN. I still have flashbacks whenever I go into a big box store.

My next goal is to actually figure out what to do with my taxable savings. This is way overdue--I think I was already holding too much cash at this time last year. I have about $46,000 in cash (savings accounts and CDs). I keep hanging onto it with the half-assed idea that I might buy real estate sometime soon. There is that nice first-time buyer tax credit, but in reality even in the best-case scenario it would take me 5-7 years to break even on a real-estate purchase, and at 28 I don't think my life situation is stable enough to tie up my money like that for so long. What if I get fed up with my job and quit? What if we decide we really want to live in a small town? What if DH and I break up (hideous idea, but possible)? Since I left my parents' house, the longest I've lived in one apartment was 2 1/2 years, and given the living situation that was 1 1/2 years too long. Maybe if we can more or less happily manage four or five years in this place it'll be time to start thinking about buying.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Couple of Frugal Tools

I've been using Swagbucks for the last few months. This tool gives you "Swagbucks" for searching. They can be redeemed for a lot of different things, but the best value for most people is the Amazon $5 gift card for 45 Swagbucks. I get about one a month, so it's not a fantasic payout, but it's so easy it's practically passive income.

I use Swagbucks mostly to "search" for sites I go to every day (like Worldcat), since the search function isn't nearly as good as Google. One trick I've learned is that you "win" at least once in your first five or so searches each day, so by doing about five searches on both my work and home computers every day I almost always get at least two or three Swagbucks. If you're interested, please consider signing up using my referral link.

Think Beyond the Bottle is a new resource I just found out about this morning through Fake Plastic Fish. This site tracks water fountains and other sources of free water. It's just getting started, but it's really easy to add sites, and I added a couple. I can see this being very useful--I hate buying bottle water or otherwise spending money just to quench my thirst. I often remember to bring a refillable water bottle, but if I'm out for a while, I need more water than my bottle holds.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time and To Do Lists

I still halfway believe that someday I will finish everything on my to-do list.

To be honest, I have a lot of to-do lists. And I don't really think I'll ever finish the crazy lists, like clearing out my Netflix queue or decimating my reading list.

But the everyday things, the chores, the errands, the work tasks, the letters to respond to--that I kind of think I might be able to finish. It's like this oasis shining in the distance, a magical time when I might go to bed every night with a clear head and wake up every morning to make a completely new list of tasks, because I've finished everything from the day before.

Right now, I might be closer to that ideal than almost any other time in my life. For the past month or so, I've been consistently productive at work, knocking out not only the routine stuff but that nasty stack of crap-I've-been-putting off, with the result that on Friday I actually COMPLETED EVERYTHING. My email box was empty. My folders of miscellaneous tasks were empty. I had no outstanding issues with the people who work for me or with my boss. My to do list for today basically consists of "check email occasionally" and "try not to fall asleep."

Over the weekend, I went through all the stuff on my desk and basically took care of my personal to-do list, too. Sure, there's a couple things left--an item to return, a trip to the DMV--but nothing I couldn't take care of in a single day of average productivity. Yesterday by 3:00 I found myself actually kind of searching for things to do. I made a pie and kept fixing little things in my novel because even though I'd "put in my hours" for the day already there wasn't really anything else that I felt compelled to do instead.

The funny thing is, having an almost clean slate doesn't really make me feel any more relaxed. I have to conclude that stress is not really a function of what I have to do, but of what's going on in my head.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I now officially own less than 100 books.

OK, 99. But several of them will be Paperback Swapped as soon as I'm done reading them. (And I'm not counting my collection of a series from my childhood. I consider that one item, cause I wouldn't get rid of any of them without getting rid of all of them.) This is down from something like 350 about a year ago.

According to the inventory I made when we moved a couple of months ago, I personally have 444 things. Not too bad, I don't think. Especially when you consider things like "bobby pins, about 20" are listed. (Come to think of it, why am I hanging on to those bobby pins?)

I still have this strong desire to minimize further. But I'm not sure how much more I can do. Books and wardrobe make up most of my stuff, and though I don't have a huge wardrobe, I do like fashion and can't see myself doing a Leo Baubata and bringing it down to seven outfits or so. In fact, right now I want MORE clothes.

I'm sure part of my desire to minimize and simplify is because my personal life is fairly complicated right now. If I simplify my material life, my emotional life will get easier too, right?

It's not like that. But by getting rid of one more thing, I feel a little bit more in control.

Now where did I put those bobby pins?