Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Frugal Hits and Misses: December Report

This month was a strange one, frugal-wise. I think we were reasonably careful on costs and such...but it sure didn't feel like it. And our bills aren't that low. (Though they're not bad, either. Considering.) 
    Maybe because you're alwys spending a little more here and there than you'd planned, on the grounds that "after all, it's Christmas." Which sounds good -- until the credit card charges come in.
     Anyhow, here goes:

*Found two pumpkins discarded in a ditch -- which the chickies devoured.

*Bought more dollar videos from the library used booksale room, including a Hunger Games we didn't have. These made wonderful presents, combined with the thrift shop and Walmart Black Friday sale videos I'd been collecting all year. Each kid got a stack of videos, which they seemed to really enjoy.

*Paid off a student loan (for Daughter #1) we'd been chipping away at for years. Felt wonderful.

*Had a long weekend of dog and house-sitting. Also had a meetup with new possible customers (and Oliver, the rambunctious pug). A neighbor also just booked us for a week of visits. Nice.
      These take time and energy, of course. I am surprised, though, at how much I can fit them into our schedule. And also surprised at how fond I've become of our canine charges.

*Taught a few piano lessons. Not many -- I usually take December off. (The kids are too excited to get much done, anyways.)

*The Brick drove schoolbus for various events. He also fixed or adjusted several items that were broken. (I'm lucky this way.)

*Got two tanks for gas for $1.61 and $1.75 gallon, respectively. Thank you, King Soopers and Safeway discounts!

*made my own apple moonshine -- a hit! People really seemed to enjoy this.

*Sold more books and videos on Amazon -- 8 more.

*Had a lecture/teaching gig for the Colorado Quilting Council. And a lot of fun doing it. Sold a bunch of books, kits and even a few pins.

*Did a big batch of appraising. Still finishing some up...but almost done.

*Watched football games and a few tv series episodes for free, again. Not that the Broncos did any better, because of it...

*Listened to Christmas music pretty much all month for free -- thanks to Pandora.

*Continued to sell eggs all month. Barely. The chickens have slowed way down -- we can sell 2 dozen a week if we really work at it, and stint ourselves. Which I do not like to do.

*Bought this decorative Christmas house at the thrift shop -- for about $1.25. The only thing: if you push a button (which I did by accident), it whips into LOUD Siberian Orchestra renditions of Christmas music. Scared the liver out of me, first time it happened.

Surprisingly creepy...

     Also got some holiday candles (roughly 50 cents each) and a huge bag of holiday-themed pins ($2.50). Pulled the ones I wanted to keep, including a vintage Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer brooch. The rest will be offered for sale, or used in kits.

*Paid a higher credit card bill in December than usual. Why would I put this in the positive category? Because we'd stocked up in late November, including basics like dogfood, dried beans and chicken feed. Those will take us through much, if not all, of the winter. Also, we spent extra on purchases like:

*A 10% credit on the Amazon gift cards we bought. Also, a $5 credit for every $25 in Red Robin gift cards, as well. (We got four.) Every bit helps.

*Didn't spend much extra during our anniversary trip. We ate the food I brought with (except for their wonderful breakfasts, and cookies/wine always on tap). We also spent $10 on a fresh Christmas tree -- a price practically unheard of out here in Colorado. (Usually they're $40-50 each, even the small ones.) See the November report for more on this.

*The Seven Fish Dishes were surprisingly inexpensive -- in large part because I'd been collecting seafood for months, and stashing it in the freezer. The biggest discovery, at least to me: canned oysters tasted just as good as fresh in the Angels on Horseback! I'd been paying at least $5 a jar for them -- and found a case lot at the Friday/Saturday store for 50 cents each. Go figure.
     Spaghetti with clam sauce was a big non-hit. (Except with the chickens, who gobbled down the copious leftovers.) But the tuna casserole turned out really delicious. And the scampi was wonderful, as usual. Go figure again.
      Look for an update on this year's rendition of the Fish Dishes soon.

*Bought more than I'd planned -- but it was all for a good cause. The local dollar store kept us nicely in gift-wrap and tape. (And I spent extra for the piano students to go shopping for their family -- something they left.) Sprouts had pineapples for 88 cents, rosemary trees for $3.99 and panettone for $1.99-2.99 -- almost unheard-of. Have you ever taken a good strong whiff of a rosemary tree in wintertime, or rubbed a branch of it? That brisk scent really clears out your sinuses. (Or, as Daughters watched our friend Jeff enthusiastically fondle his rosemary: "That tree's gonna need therapy. Lots of it.")

*Got myself a few Amazon videos I'd wanted. Poldark, Season 2. My Best Enemy. (One of my very favorite foreign flicks.)

What a guy...
Bought a few for presents, too: some Jimmy Stewart westerns for Cousin Phil, and Taming of the Shrew for Daughter #1. Replaced a Dickens set I'd been having trouble viewing. (Don't laugh, until you see Little Dorrit for yourself. Amazing.)
     How much did I pay? Thanks to the gift cards I earned through Swagbucks -- nothing. (You can do this, too -- go here for more info.)



*Let some really good coupons expire -- in part because I forgot they were there. (It got pretty busy there, in the beginning of the month.) I am bound and determined not to let this happen again.

*Renewed some very expensive memberships -- like the American Society of Appraisers, for $590. Ouch. More are needed, for a total of around $250 or so. Double ouch.

*Got a bunch of dental work done... with more to come. We'll be paying our dentist $286 a month pretty much all of 2017 -- if not into the next year.

*The Brick used his Swagbucks to get me some videos for Christmas -- videos we already owned. I'd kept them on my Wishlist originally, but had forgotten to take them off as we acquired copies. Frustrating, since there were others still on the list (like Jericho, Walking Dead and Turn) that I would have loved to have gotten. But as The Brick pointed out -- he didn't know to check. Sigh. For my part, I:

*Got the Brick a beautiful black leather jacket -- which didn't fit. And turns out it buttons on the wrong side. (It was made for women, not men. I wondered...) Thankfully, it can be returned for store credit.

*We still have not processed all of the credit card customer charges for the month. Nor have I turned in the hotel bills for the John C. Campbell trip. I hope to get all these taken care of in the next few days.

*We also wasted more food than usual -- mostly because there was no place to store the unused Fish Dishes. Ditto for some fruit that had problems. (I did get a bag of oranges replaced at Sprouts.)
     The chickens loved all these.

I did buy some after-Christmas sale items, including several for The Mama. (Who treated us to an Outback gift card for our anniversary.) Largely, though, I plan to stay away from the stores. We just won't have the room! (More on this in a bit.) I'm also going to cook a lot out of our current groceries. No real need to hit King Soopers or Safeway, except for a few sale items plus milk. 

It's easy to over-focus on making our money stretch; The Brick is much more comfortable splurging than yours truly. But I feel extra-embarrassed about any griping, when I see how truly little others have to work with, compared to our riches. My new blogger friend at Harvest Lane Cottage has it a lot worse than we've ever faced, and generally comes up smiling. 

More about next-year goals in a bit. Meanwhile, if you're curious about other Frugal Hits and Misses months, go here for the links.

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