Katie’s Prom

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on Katie’s Prom

My daughter’s growing up. It’s hard to believe that she is 18 and on the verge of graduating high school. She even has a boyfriend now. He’s leaving for the Army in a few months so he’s resolved to spend as much time with Katie as possible before he leaves. He even gave her a promise ring this weekend.

Here are some photos of them at Prom the other evening.

I am in awe of her beauty, of how wonderful they both look in these photos. I am in awe of how quickly she has grown up. It seems like yesterday I started blogging as I searched for a way to be the best mother I could be; to spend the most time I could with her while she grew up.

I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that it’s been ten years since my very first post on that very first blog. What’s next? This can’t be all there is in life. I’ve spent the last 28 years focused on raising my children…what do I do now?

I’ll figure something out. I always do. In the meantime I’ve something else to focus on: how did someone so beautiful come from a woman as ugly as me? 😀

Disconnect

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on Disconnect

As the days stretch into months I’ve gotten rather lazy when it comes to guarding my personal time. Whereas I used to go to extreme measures to have quiet time in which to write I found my days have become a whirlwhind of messages, comments, and other communications from folks both near and far. Every time I would sit down to write I would end up being interrupted, losing my train of thought, or going on some random goose chase down the halls of the Internet.

Ding.

Ding.

Ding.

<Hey, you on?>

<I see you’re online. Why are you ignoring me?>

Random thoughts. Pointless comments. Gifs and pics and jokes galore. The more I asked people to leave me be so that I could write the more they seemed to want to communicate until I realized that I was approaching my breaking point.

Early one morning as the beeps began I found myself missing my ancient Windows XP laptop. It might have been old and decrepit but it had one serious advantage: it couldn’t go online.

I could turn that old computer on and work all day without having to deal with a single person messaging me. They couldn’t, since the computer wasn’t connected to the Internet.

I leaped out of bed and dived for the ethernet cable attached to my computer. Soon it was unplugged and my world lapsed into silence.

I accomplished more today than I have in over a month.

Do you ever take time to disconnect from the Internet? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Life Without a Remote

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Life Without a Remote

We don’t often think about the little conveniences that we have these days. While those of the older generation might remember, many of us tend to forget just how life used to be in the past.

A while back, that reality slammed down on me. I was visiting a friend. We were just hanging out, watching a bit of television while we chatted when his phone rang.

“Here,” he handed me the television remote. “Pick out something to watch while I take this call.”

I stared at the device once he left the room. All of those buttons. Some were to change the channels but others, I gathered, controlled other things like the DVD player and whatnot. Completely befuddled, I played with it. I ended up messing up the television for a moment, switching the channel to another device.

I quickly muted it, then figured out how to get the television back to where it had been previously. Afraid to press my luck I left it like that, completely silent.

My friend returned a few minutes later. “Why did you mute it?” he asked. “I went into the other room so you wouldn’t have to.”

“Oh, I was afraid that the noise would still bother you,” I lied. I wasn’t about to tell him the truth!

He gave me a look and started laughing. “You don’t know how to work the remote, do you?”

I shrugged, embarassed. I’ve used a computer to watch movies on for so long that the devices have outgrown my limited knowledge.

He offered to teach me but I refused. I see no point in learning how to use a device that I have no intentions of owning in the future, so why bother cluttering my mind with useless knowledge? I’ll figure it out if I ever need to…which I hopefully won’t.

Have you ever stumbled upon tech that completely befuddled you? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Bill Collectors

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on Bill Collectors

Several months ago I received a phone call. It was a debt collector, claiming that I owed money on an old debt.

Since I’ve been living and writing about the stupidity of debt for a decade, I was skeptical. Even if I did happen to owe something to someone that I magically didn’t remember, that debt would have fallen off of my credit report years ago.

“You do realize that you’re talking to a woman who preaches against credit, right?” I informed the man when I stopped laughing. “I’ve been writing books and articles condemning credit for a decade. Now, tell me just why you believe this debt is mine.”

He did. He claimed that I had opened a credit card over a decade ago and then stopped paying on it some time later. I asked him for the address where I lived when I had the card.

I hadn’t lived in that house for twenty years and I told him as much. “Unless you can give me an address where I’ve lived within the legal statute of limitations on debt, I’m going to have to conclude that this is a scam,” I informed him calmly.

He couldn’t. The man didn’t have a single address for me other than the original one he mentioned.

I didn’t take out a credit card when I lived at that address. I was far too broke at the time to even consider it.

The man huffed and informed me that the debt would damage my credit rating and haunt me for X more years. I laughed. “Do your worst. I don’t own a house, I don’t even own a car, so I have nothing you can place a lien on. So unless you can supply me with valid proof that this debt is mine, I’ll just take my chances. I don’t use credit anyway.”

The man promised me that he would send the information on. I gave him my current address and told him I would look for it.

That was several months ago. I’ve not received a single thing.

Since then I’ve done a bit of research on bill collectors. There’s a scam going on where companies will create completely false debts in hopes that the marks will pay. Here is one particular article that I found rather interesting on the subject.

This is just one reason why I don’t believe in using credit. Not only do you pay a ridiculous amount of money for the ability to live above your means, you open yourselves up to predators who steal your information and attempt to bully you into paying on debts you don’t actually have.

Be warned, folks.

Cash register

It Pays to Use Cash

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on It Pays to Use Cash

How do you handle your money? Do you deposit your check every payday and then swipe your card when you want to buy something?

Every time you swipe your card in public you place yourself in danger. Not only do you put yourself at risk of having your card information stolen by skimmers, you also run the risk of spending more money. Studies have shown that people who prefer cash over cards spend less money. Even worse, some banks charge you a fee every time you swipe your card. My personal bank charges me a dollar every time I use my bank card as a debit card at stores.

Carrying cash can eliminate this issue. If you withdraw the amount of cash you have budgeted for gas, groceries, lunch, and other extras during that pay period, you eliminate the danger of overspending. You know you have so much money for the week, so you need to be careful with your money.

Paying cash also eliminates any chance that you will fall prey to a skimmer. They can’t steal your card information if you don’t give them access to your card in the first place.

If you’re worried about being robbed of your cash, place your money in a place where thieves won’t look for it. My father kept his stash in his sock; I keep mine in an assortment of places aside from my wallet (no, I’m not going to tell you where). It also helps if you don’t attract attention by driving fancy vehicles or dressing in clothing that indicates you’ve got money. It makes little sense to rob someone who appears to be broke just to get a few pennies. Dressing simpler also comes in handy when haggling for a lower price. Some sellers tend to charge more if they think you can afford it.

While you can’t pay cash when shopping online, you can do this for the everyday purchases you make locally. Food, fuel, and other everyday purchases can be made just as easily with cash as with plastic.

If you are not paying cash for your everyday purchases, you need to start doing it now. Your budget will thank you.

 

A Pillow for your Bank Account

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on A Pillow for your Bank Account

It’s happened to all of us. We spend more than we anticipate, a hacker steals our card info, even a mistake at the bank can lead to overdrafts. Just the other day a mistake at a local bank caused the accounts of several personal friends to appear overdrawn due to an accidental double-posting of charges.

Keeping a financial cushion in your checking account can help immensely. It can not only help prevent overdraft fees (without paying for another service), it can give you needed funds while you sort out the issue.

I keep a minimum of $500 in my checking account for this purpose. I never allow my balance to go below this amount. That way, if I ever do make a mistake while budgeting I know that I won’t have to pay outrageous overdraft fees. I call this my pillow since it cushions me if I fall.

It isn’t always easy to build up a financial cushion, especially when you don’t make a lot of money. I limit how much I spend each month so that I have a little left over to add to my padding. In time I plan to build my cushion to $1,000, the amount I kept in reserve for years but since times were lean a few years back I am still working towards that goal.

It may sound insane to some of you. You may be thinking “How can I save $500? I can barely pay my bills as it is!” but I promise you that it is possible. You may not be able to eat out as much or splurge on those little extras but you can do this. If I can build up $500 while earning minimum wage at a part-time job then you can do it no matter what your story may be.

More importantly, you should. My local bank charges almost $40 in overdraft fees per charge; a single mistake can cost you hundreds of dollars in fees if you use your bank card routinely.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Several years ago an attorney I hired cashed their check a week earlier than agreed. While there was enough in the account to cover it my balance was wiped out. I ended up owing over $250 in overdraft fees alone, on top of my other charges (which my bank thankfully paid). It took a while to climb out of that hole.

Ever since then I have insisted upon keeping a pillow of cash in my checking account on top of my regular savings. I refuse to be that stupid ever again.

How much of a cushion do you keep in your bank account? Please share your stories in the comments below.

How I Budget for Bills

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on How I Budget for Bills

No one enjoys paying bills. I for one hate them with a purple passion so I strive to have as few as possible.

When I moved out on my own decades ago, I really struggled. It never seemed to fail; a bill would come due before payday arrived or my check would be short and I wouldn’t have enough. I would sweat bullets every single month as I tried to juggle my finances.

Eventually I worked out a way to resolve the issue. I would pay all of my bills on the first of the month after saving the amount needed the month before. Since I didn’t want to be broke while I saved up the money, I would work out just how much I needed to save every single week on a spreadsheet.

Now that I’ve got a regular paycheck I’ve been able to build up a cushion in my checking account. Thanks to this cushion I no longer have to painstakingly account for every upcoming bill each payday.

Since I know I will be safe if I spend $25 a week on laundromat and extras, I pull that out of the bank and keep it in my pocket. When the money is gone, that’s it. No more little extras until the next payday. That prevents me from accidentally dipping into my bill money. The rest of my paycheck is left in my bank account until the first of the next month.

When the first of the month rolls around I pay all of my bills manually. Once that task is completed I look at the amount that is left. A portion of it (usually half) is sent to my online savings account while the rest is mine to spend or save as I please.

My financial cushion is kept untouched.

How do you budget to pay your bills every month? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Extra Paydays

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Extra Paydays

Several times a year I end up getting five paydays during a month instead of four. These are always good times; I have my finances budgeted for four paydays a month so the fifth is like getting extra cash.

When these months roll around my co-workers are always excited. They regale me with the ways that they plan to spend the extra cash. Some pay bills, some use the opportunity to reduce their debt, while others simply blow the cash.

I save half of it.

Every time that bonus payday rolls around I send half of the money to an online savings account. That allows me to build up my savings while also giving me a little money to splurge with.

We should all do that with the little windfalls in life. A large income tax refund, a bonus from work, or even those extra paychecks we get throughout the year can be set aside to build savings. Doing this allows us to painlessly save up for a rainy day or a large investment like a home or a vehicle.

This month just happens to be one of those months when I get an extra payday. I’m not only looking forward to having my savings account balance increase, I’m also looking forward to splurging on something special.

How do you handle extra paydays? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Why I Cancelled Netflix

Published / by Annie / 9 Comments on Why I Cancelled Netflix

It was the 1980’s. Dad and I were driving along when I spied a video rental store that had recently opened.

“Why don’t we rent a movie sometime?” I suggested.

“Makes no damn sense to pay to use something when you can spend a little bit more and actually own it,” Dad retorted.

“But you can watch more things for the same amount of money,” I argued.

“And have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end of the day,” Dad countered.

Over the years I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve rented movies, used subscription services…. What could be easier than just paying a few bucks to watch your favorite movies or listen to music?

The answer: actually owning the items in question. When you own the items you can watch them as often as you like. You don’t have to worry about the service you subscribe to removing your favorites or lose access to your whole collection because you happen to be low on money.

Even better, you can sell your copies if you decide you no longer want to keep them or need some extra cash.

Because of this revelation I have cancelled my movie and music subscriptions. I would rather own just a few items than pay to have access to a lot.

Instead of sending money to subscription services, I set that money aside for when I get a chance to look through the bargain bins. Some months I don’t add anything to my collection while others reveal so many hidden gems that I force myself to select only a few.

DVDs

My latest acquisitions.

Minimalism is a good thing but it gets ridiculous when you pay something for nothing. Since most of us don’t live out of backbacks there is no excuse for us to throw our money away when it comes to entertainment.

In short: If you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash on entertainment, get something to show for it at least. You can always sell it on eBay when you’re done.

Grumpy Gus

Published / by Annie

“Watch out,” my trainer whispered into my ear during my first day on the job. “The guy who just got in line is really mean. He’s made cashiers cry before.”

I glanced up to see an older man with graying hair and a decidedly sour disposition, tapping his foot impatiently as he waited his turn. He loudly remarked that if I couldn’t do my job properly that they should fire me and get someone in who could.

“You’re new,” he snorted when he approached my register. “I can tell. You’re slow.”

“It’s her first day,” my trainer defended me before I could respond. “She’s doing really good.”

“Hmph!”

I was out of training when I saw him again. A customer turned the bag carousel too fast and caused a two-liter to fall. Sensing their embarrassment I claimed full responsibility for the mishap. “It’s my fault; I should have handed it to you directly,” I apologized.

Just then, Grumpy Gus walked past my register. He glanced at me as he huffed. “Is she new?” he called to the manager on duty.

“She’s been here for a couple of weeks and she does really well,” my manager responded. He snorted skeptically as he began to shop.

A few minutes later he brought his purchases to my register. “So you’re the new girl.” He eyed me up and down like he’d just found me molding in his refrigerator.

“Yes, sir!” I responded cheerfully as I began scanning his order.

“And you’re the one who drops bottles for the customers,” he tried again.

“Yes sir, I sure am,” I looked up at him calmly, refusing to be intimidated.

His eyes widened. “Hmph!” He paid for his order and left.

Two more weeks went by, during which the man pointedly refused to come through my line. I watched him wait for service at the other registers while my line stood empty and he glared at me balefully.

I decided to up my game. Every time I saw him enter the store I waved and greeted him cheerfully. He was taken aback at first but then started responding with his trademark snorty huff.

“How are you doing today?” I asked when he was finally forced to go through my line again.

“Obviously not as good as you,” he grumped. He proceeded to complain about missing a sale. I apologized for his inconvenience and confessed that I’d missed it too. “They just don’t last long enough, do they? I didn’t get paid in time to take advantage of it either.”

“As much money as you’re sittin’ on I don’t see why you couldn’t,” he replied.

“Bills,” I told him with a shrug.

He nodded, paid for his order, and left. In the next few weeks he seemed determined to throw me off my game. I fielded him every time.

Just because he’s unhappy doesn’t mean that he has the right to right to disturb me. I allow every single insult and complaint to roll off my back because I know it isn’t personal.

He just likes to have something to complain about.

Inevitably the time came when he caught me on a bad day. I punched the numbers into the register so fast that the machine failed to acknowledge one of them. I called out my mistake and begged him to cancel the transaction on his side so that I could fix it before he ran his card.

I apologized profusely. Of all the customers, it just had to be him.

To my surprise he comforted me. “We all have bad days,” he announced. “At least you caught it before my card went through.”

I had to catch my jaw before it bounced on the floor. “Yes sir, we do. I’m so sorry it happened to you, though. I know you’re too busy to deal with my carelessness.”

He snorted. “I’ve got time,” he replied.

We came to an odd sort of truce that day. While he still likes to complain, his attitude has shifted somewhat. He now glances toward my regular register when he walks in and nods in response to my greeting.

He even fusses at me now when he sees me out after work. “I just can’t get away from you,” he grumped one evening when we encountered one another at a nearby gas station.

“I’m stalking you,” I gave him a mock evil look. He actually laughed at that one!

I love my Grumpy Gus.

Spinster

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Spinster

Valentine’s Day means that all of the lovely people around me will be focused on romance. As a cashier and a single mother, this means that the volume of questions will increase. My regulars have gotten so close to me that they feel completely comfortable asking questions that many would consider rude.

“Are you married?” No.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” No.

“Do you want one?” Meh.

I had one gentleman come through my line with his adult daughter the other day. When he started tickling my taste buds by describing the meal he was preparing to cook his daughter loudly announced “My dad needs a new girlfriend so he can cook for her. Do you know anyone?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheepish expression on the gentleman’s face. Either Daughter saw my lack of a wedding band or they were one of the many who have inquired about my relationship status over the months.

It has gotten to the point where I jokingly refer to some of my male customers as my harem. It’s hard not to think of them that way when so many like to sneak up and surprise me with friendly hugs! A shift does not go by where I don’t receive at least one.

I have been given phone numbers on everything imaginable. A few have included little declarations about just why I should call (and assuring me that they were serious).

While I never call the numbers, I keep every single one of those notes. When I stumble upon my little collection I smile.

The hardest part of being single is fielding one particular question: “Why?”

How do you tell someone that you’re content with your singleness when the whole world seems obsessed with romance? That you’ve not seriously looked for a relationship in years because you’re happy to go home to an empty house?

I usually just shrug and say “I don’t know.” It’s the truth, in a way. I honestly don’t know what to tell them.

While normally it doesn’t bug me, Valentine’s Day is the worst. Upon the day of romance I am usually looked upon by my beloved customers with well-meaning pity.

That’s okay. Their concern just tells me they care.

For now I need to get dressed, head to work, and deal with a stream of customers focused on love and relationships. My boss will doubtless have something silly for me to wear (she’s discovered that I’m the only one aside from her willing to dress up on holidays) while my customers invariably try to hook me up.

Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to it.

How do you handle being single in a coupled world? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Minimizing Relationship Stress

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on Minimizing Relationship Stress

It’s painful to watch friends self-destruct, to watch them slide down the slippery slope of insanity. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You’re unable to turn away. You reach out your hand, only to have it slapped away time and again. Either they realize they are slipping and don’t care, or they’re enjoying the ride. Regardless, you try to help.

Eventually you realize that this person is causing you misery. You dread your encounters. Instead of offering them another hand up, give them your foot–to shove them out the door of your life.

There is no shame in this. It is not beneficial to keep people in your life simply because they are friends or family when all they do is give you pain. Loyalty is stupid when the person in question bites the hands that feed them.

Minimalism is about so much more than stuff. It is about curating all aspects of your life to bring peace and tranquility. While you cannot eliminate all of life’s storms, you can reduce the day-to-day strain on your emotions.

Today I urge you to look at your relationships. Determine that one person you would be better off without.

Then let them go.

It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

In this disposable age most of us don’t think about the value in using items until they are completely worn out. Rather than keep the old, they buy new even when the item they already own still works.

It makes financial sense to keep things, however. The longer you use something the less it actually costs to own it. Here are a few examples from my personal life.

I purchased a small window air conditioner in 2010. I paid $105.99 for it ($99.99 plus tax). I’ve now used that little air conditioner to cool my home for eight seasons. When I averaged the cost over the eight summers I’ve used it I realized that I’ve only spent $13.25 a year to own an air conditioner. If I had upgraded to a newer, larger, fancier one, my costs would have went up exponentially but this one still works (it’s a bit noisy these days) so I plan to continue using it for as long as possible to reduce my cost of ownership even further.

I purchased a van in 2007 for $500. It needed a new transmission but I was able to get it on the road for $2,000 (that includes the purchase price). I sold that van to a young man in 2014 so that I could write my book The Car Free Experiment. Not including annual taxes and insurance, that means it cost me $200 a year ($16.67 a month) to own that van. To calculate the cost I subtracted the amount I sold it for from the initial purchase expense and then divided by the years owned.

I purchased an iPad mini in January 2013. It cost $344.50 after tax. I’ve had it 60 months, or 5 years. So far it has cost me $68.88 a year, or $5.74 a month to own. It is still going strong so the longer I keep it the less it will cost me.

This is the reason why businesses try to keep their equipment working for many years before they replace it. They know that the longer they keep an item, the lower the costs of ownership.

I want you to think about that. Every time you replace an item that still works you increase your cost of ownership. For folks like myself, who used to replace items like computers every year or so, that money can add up but the longer that you keep an item, the inverse is true.

You can save a lot of money just by keeping your stuff.

Have you ever calculated the cost of owing the items in your life? Please share your stories in the comments below

Laundry Day

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Laundry Day

Laundry day is always an adventure in this house. Once we decide that it is time to visit the laundromat we wander through the house to locate any stray items that have managed to avoid being placed in our laundry bin. We bag everything up and stick the whole load into our shopping cart along with our washing supplies.

After gathering everything together for a recent trip I looked down to discover that I was wearing one of my favorite shirts. I needed to wash it as well so that I would be able to wear it before my next laundry day. I tugged it off and tossed it into the bag as well.

“Hmm. I should probably wash my bra too,” I told myself. Off came the bra. Since I was already topless I decided that I might as well change my panties and jeans while I was at it. That way all of my dirty laundry would be taken care of.

Standing buck naked in my kitchen I realized that I needed to wear something. I couldn’t go to the laundromat naked! I padded over to my makeshift closet and dug through the remaining items in search of an outfit that I wouldn’t miss wearing until I did laundry again.

Being a minimalist I didn’t have a lot to choose from. I finally selected an outfit, added some panties to the pile, and decided to go braless for the trip. I was just going up the street; if anyone had a problem with my saggy boobs they could kiss my butt–I wanted all of my bras to be clean!

So there I sat at the laundromat wearing a ragged set of sweats, complete with saggy braless boobs just minding my own business when an absolutely gorgeous guy comes in to dry his laundry. He checked me out and to my surprise started flirting with me.

A friend who decided to meet me at the laundromat leaned close. “This’ll teach you not to dress your best,” she teased in a whisper.

I laughed. “That guy would have kittens if he realized that I wandered around buck naked for ten minutes just to choose this outfit!” I retorted out loud. I wanted to see his reaction to that little comment.

Sure enough, his head whipped around. “What?” he chimed in, eyes wide.

“I wandered around my house naked for ten minutes trying to figure out what I could live without until the next laundry day,” I replied. “Don’t tell me you’ve never done it.”

“Your boyfriend must have enjoyed that,” he grinned.

“Don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Oh.” I could see his eyes sparkle with possibilities.

Of course, my friend decided that this was the perfect time to add her own brand of humor to the encounter.

“She always waits till I’m not home to walk around naked!” she huffed with feigned upset.

I watched Mr. Cutie promptly toss me into a box named ‘lesbian’ and dismiss me from his mind.

“Gee, thanks!” I snarked at my friend after he left.

“You’re welcome,” she replied smugly. “The moment he opened his mouth I knew he wasn’t your type anyway.”

I shook my head. Leave it to your friends to tell it like it is.

Still, he was kinda cute.

Do you have a funny story to tell? Please share it in the comments below.

Wake Up Early

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Wake Up Early

No matter how early I am scheduled to arrive at work I make sure to set my alarm clock a few hours early. This can be a challenge sometimes. I have never been a morning person and frequently stay up until the wee hours of the morning but the results are worth the extra effort.

I wake up, stumble through the house for some coffee, then plop into my computer chair. Once I wake up I write something, anything that I believe has the potential to become a blog post or a book section.

This allows me to walk to work with the knowledge that I have already made a little bit of progress towards my long-term goals. My steps are lighter and my day easier. No matter what happens at work I know that I’ve managed to accomplish something worthwhile.

Even better, I don’t have to worry about the day getting away from me. Even if I am exhausted at the end of my work shift I can rest easy with the knowledge that I haven’t let the day slip by without working at least a little bit towards my passion of writing and helping others.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of living day to day. You get up, go to work, and are so tired by the time you arrive home that you simply don’t have the energy left to work towards your goals.

This is my solution.

Have you ever thought about waking up a bit early to work towards your personal goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Notes to your Future Self

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on Notes to your Future Self

Katie and I started a little tradition when we defrosted our refrigerator for the first time several years ago. We didn’t know how long it had been since we had defrosted it so sensing an opportunity we each wrote little notes to our future selves (Katie even left herself a gift) and stuck them in the back of the freezer for the next round.

My last note was dated April 16, 2016. In laborious chicken scratch, I told myself that “life sucks but it will get better.”

It definitely has!

So now the time as come to write myself another note. I think I’ll write more in this next one. In the meantime I have a nice, clean, defrosted refrigerator to enjoy.

 

Have you ever written a note for your future self to discover later? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Monitoring Energy Usage

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Monitoring Energy Usage

Every month my electric company sends me a letter concerning my energy usage. They keep track of your usage over a 12-month period. This letter covers details about how you compare to similar homes in your area, how your usage changes from month to month, and even how your usage compares to that of the previous year.

I must confess that I’ve not paid too much attention to all the information that the letter contains; I usually look at it to ensure that my usage is similar or lower than similar homes (it’s usually a bit lower) for the month and leave it at that.

This month I actually took the time to read more than the little comparison chart on the first page. I discovered that I’ve used 9% less electricity over the past 12 months than I did the previous year!

I had thought that we were actually using more. It seems as if the bills have been a bit higher, at any rate.

As a result of this I plan to start keeping copies of my electric bills so that I can take the time to review them periodically. I would like to see just how much electricity we use over a period of years in this house, and my electric company only keeps records for the previous 12 months. Since I plan to remain in this home for the long haul, that information would show me if I am slowly lowering my energy usage over time or if last year’s energy savings was a fluke.

Do you keep track of your energy use from month to month and year to year? Has the information benefited you? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Microsoft Cortana is Evil

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Microsoft Cortana is Evil

Last night I stayed up until two in the morning. I was wired for sound over some Family Business. Normally I don’t get upset over things that don’t directly concern me but I’m very protective of my blood family.

Even with the drama I wanted to wake up bright and early this morning to get some writing done before I had to go to work at my public job. Since I am really hard to wake up after late nights I set several 8am alarms on several devices in hopes that *one* of them would wake me up by 9am to get started.

One of those devices was my new (to me) computer, who has Microsoft Cortana. I told her to wake me up at 8am as an afterthought before I went to bed.

She woke me up all right! I fell off the couch, half peeing my pants and landed on the dog. I had NO IDEA what was going on! When I finally figured out that it was the computer I started screaming at it to shut up.

I had to crawl on my hands and knees over to the stupid machine to turn off the darned alarm. By that point I was WIDE AWAKE and cussing like a sailor.

Best. Alarm clock. Ever. Scared the living daylights out of me but by golly it woke me up.

Since I’ve finally calmed down enough to laugh over it I thought I would share.

Have a nice day!

The Art of Delayed Gratification

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on The Art of Delayed Gratification

There comes a time when even the biggest cheapskate decides that it is time to bite the bullet and spend some money. I needed a new writing computer whether I liked it or not.

It isn’t easy to wait for something you need while you save up money for the purchase. Every time you see a sale pass you by it burns. I am not immune to that.

I’ve learned to cope by developing a ritual for the process. Every single payday when I set some money aside for my goal I write it down and take a moment to give myself a mental pat on the back. I remind myself that I’m a bit closer than I was the previous week.

When it seems like I’ll never make it I look at the money I have already saved along with a picture of the item in question. I close my eyes and imagine how wonderful it will be to see the item in my home and to use it for the very first time. I look back at the photos of previous purchases to remind myself that I felt the exact same way as I saved up for them as well. While it always feels like I’ll never make it, those photos are proof that I have in the past and will do it again.

When the moment arrives where I have saved up enough money I take a few moments to savor the sensation. Sometimes I will deliberately delay the purchase even longer to enjoy the fact that I actually have the money to purchase the item in question. By the time I sit down to place the order I feel truly rich.

Then I sit down at the computer, look at the item one last time, and ask myself the following questions:

* Do I really want to buy this?
* Will this item meet my needs?
* Have I shopped around enough to get the best deal that I can?

If the answers are yes then I complete the purchase. I schedule the delivery to arrive when someone will be home to sign for it when it comes. When that is done, I prepare a place in my tiny home for it while I wait. I make sure the area is spotless as I mentally plan the unboxing and initial setup.

I deliberately psyche myself up to a feverish pitch before every major purchase. I know that I won’t buy anything large for quite a while so I make the most of the experience. After it arrives I take a moment to just admire it in its packaging. I snap a few photos, take a deep breath, and slowly begin to upwrap it.

This is what I purchased this time: a refurbished desktop computer running Windows 10 with a set of specs that will more than meet my needs. Even better, the system can be upgraded at a reasonable price so that I can keep it in service even longer.

My total price was $325, including shipping. Not bad for a quad-core computer that has 16 GB of RAM. It even has a 2 TB hard drive.

How do you deal with delayed gratification? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

It has been over three years since I sold my van. I wanted to go car-free for one year, write a book about the experience, and then move on with my life.

I honestly believed that I would purchase another vehicle once the experiment was over. I enjoy traveling on occasion, have family to visit, and prefer buying some consumables in bulk. Aside from that, it gets cold here in the winter; I knew that I would prefer driving to work during inclement weather.

Three Years Later…

I realized the other day that I haven’t even seriously considered buying another vehicle since my one-year fast ended. While I still admire beautiful vehicles and borrow one on occasion I have no desire to purchase one of my own.

What?

I know that I can save the money to buy one. It might take a bit of time but I am a pro when it comes to sniffing out bargains and saving up for big purchases. Money wasn’t the problem, so what was going on? It was time for some soul-searching.

I have to plan my shopping trips now but that has made me a better consumer. I have eliminated a lot of impulse purchases simply by eliminating how many times I go to the store. While I may spend a bit more money when I borrow a car or ask a friend to take me somewhere (I pay for gas and enjoy treating them in some small way as a thank you), I still spend less money than I did when I could go shopping whenever I wanted.

I love the fact that I no longer have to concern myself with maintenance duties. I no longer have the fear that a breakdown is going to decimate my monthly budget. I feel an odd sort of relief when my friends tell me of their latest automotive woes; I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

I also feel better than I have in years. I can walk across town at a decent rate of speed regardless of weather without getting out of breath. I can even jog for short stretches now, something that I’ve not been able to do since 1995.

Even better, I realized that I’m saving a small fortune every year. I no longer have to budget $50 a month to pay for car insurance or $100 for my annual taxes. That might not be a huge amount of money but it adds up over time.

While I am no longer able to visit my beloved aunt as often as I like we are closer than ever due to regular phone calls and Facebook chats, and when we do see one another, we make every moment count.

I get to spend more time with friends as we plan trips together. We both save money by splitting the cost while receiving the added benefit of good companionship during the excursion.

I have gotten better at planning my purchases beforehand. Since I never know when I will get to visit a certain store, I save up the money ahead of time for pet supplies, personal care items, and anything else I know I will need to buy soon. This allows me to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities when they arise.

The time has come for me to admit to myself that I am really, truly content without a vehicle.

Have you ever considered eliminating your car? What is holding you back if you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.