Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No, I Can't Volunteer For That

My name is "Amy," and I can't say "no."

It's not a matter of desire. Every time somebody asks me to do something and "yes" comes out of my mouth, I really do want and mean to say "no."

But I can't.

So, like any person who is trying to be frugal with her time, I am working on it.

This morning when my wonderful husband informed me that at some point today I would more than likely be volunteered for a whole slew of things against my will, I said "no, no, and no thank you!"

Go me!

But when someone called yesterday and asked if I would make a desert for a gathering Wednesday evening ... I said "yes."

(Just between us I "made" it by making a trip to Costco. Mmmm. Costco pie!).

All of this just goes back to the "best use of time" bit that we've been talking about now for quite awhile. If volunteering gets you towards your goals in life, it's good. If it doesn't, it isn't. ... I must practice more "no."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Frugal Win of the Week: Vocalpoint!

I opened my mailbox yesterday to find a package of three free pampers diapers, a coupon for $3 off any package of pampers and at least four coupons for $1.50 off the same.


Just the day before I had been silently lamenting my lack of Pampers coupons. The commissary is running a pampers sale, as is Target this week, that I would LOVE to have a coupon to make even better. Yes, we are cloth diaper folks, but when Dave is in care on post off and on during the week they require regular diapers. We are almost out.

Thank you, vocalpoint for making a diaper steal!! And I'll be hitting up Target for a similar deal later this week. Win! Win! Win!!

Which brings me to this: go, join Vocalpoint. And I mean right now. Go here to do it. I have received a whole hill of stuff from them, not the least of which is a full size bottle of Panteen. And their stuff always comes with high value coupons. Coupons included with another panteen sample scored FOUR BOTTLES of free shampoo, etc. at the commissary a few weeks ago. Not even kidding.

Frugal Fail of the Week: Blew it Big Time

It's time for the end of month budget assessment. I should be excited about this moment. But I'm not. Instead, I'm in dread. Why? Because I know how much I blew the budget this month. Or at least I sense it.

... moment of truth ...


Blew the grocery/household goods budget today for the month by buying a new quilt for our bed. (the one we got for our wedding has a big tear in it on a seem in a place that I can't repair it). Eeeesh.

Blew the clothing budget (a generous $200 a month that in previous months I didn't even come close to meeting) by a LOT. This is due to my stop at the Nike store (where I bought more than the frugal win), the purchase of a dress for our upcoming military ball, Luke's frugal win and more! It's a little unreal. I can't believe we spent that much on clothes.

Now that I've taken in my shock, let's examine the lesson in all this: the point of keeping a budget is knowing and controlling where your money goes. We make mistakes, yes, and we learn from them. And in the end, even though I spent more than I wanted to and therefore saved less, I DO know where my money went.

A second frugal fail, brought to you by the city of Tacoma. Seriously, how DO you build a ramp in the wrong place?!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Love Me Some Public Whatever

I was wandering through the library the other day when I had a little life flashback. You know, one of those moments when you see a replay of part of your history in your mind. Not quite a dejavu, mostly just a vivid memory.

It is safe to say that as a teenager I had major dreams of becoming a librarian, even talked about getting a college degree in library science so that I could be The Librarian (not just one of those book organizer types). I realize now that I have a better sense of, well, fashion than many of the people who choose the library as a full time calling (and I really don't dress that well) as well as more social skills. These clearly make me a bad candidate for such a job. (And also, the "library science" degree required more math classes than I was willing to take. ... I pretty much wasn't willing to take any).

Another thing I recalled was the amount of time I spent in the library exploring the stacks, reading, borrowing, returning and just being educated. I logged enough hours to last me a life time. When you're a teenager your full time job is to learn, grow and explore. The library made that happen.

This memory brought up another thought: I think people don't take advantage of the library the way they should. Heck, I don't take advantage of it as much as I should.

As far as the consumer is concerned, the library, just like other public services paid for with your tax dollars (or, in my case, someone else's tax dollars ... let's hear it for the military!) is a full time practice in frugality.

I don't know if this has occurred to you recently, but let's give it a think: the library has free books for the taking (er, borrowing). FREE. Hello! FREE! This is Bumble Thrift, we LOVE free things here!

The library also has free movies. I think this is something people think about even less than the books. I'm going to go ahead and credit Abigail with reminding me of this last year. While it may take a little more patience than, say, going to the store and buying any given season of TV or renting a new movie, a quick visit to and request via the library Website and BAM! you have a stack of free movies waiting before you know it. (OK, fine. In the case of my request for "The Blind Side," "before you know it" is more like "after 145 other people are finished borrowing it." Technicality).

It was the library that inspired us to cancel our Netflix account. We were receiving, after a "very long wait" more often than not, some newer release movies, but mostly classics and documentaries, several times a week. We were not watching said movies more than on the weekend. It was costing us about $20 a month.

Now, instead, I've moved our Netflix movie list to the library request page. Anything that I'll be waiting to watch after 123,343 other patrons we'll just rent on Redbox for $1 (or, more frequently, free given the number of promos that business runs). And we are saving $20ish a month.

The looser here is Netflix. The winner? My pocket book. I rule this a frugal win!

And give it a think: what other public services (pools, tennis courts, parks) are you underutilizing all the while spending gobs on the same thing elsewhere?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Frugal Fail of the Week: Facebook much?

Welcome to your weekly frugal fail, the time of the week that I confess to some sort of spending atrocity or complete inability, despite my best intentions, to do anything more than spends gobs of unnecessary cash, or time or both. It happens to everyone, but confession is good for the soul, right? (and maybe a little entertaining for you):

After some more thought, part of the missing time below was blown on Facebook last week. Despite my good intentions (and win! from the week or so previous) I was unable to steer clear of the frugal time ruiner for much of last week.

Where does the time go on Facebook? I piddle it away looking at pictures, stalking former boyfriends, laughing at poor clothing choices, wondering what people aren't saying as they don't comment on that picture of me in a wet suit, and that sort of thing.

Tips, anyone, on breaking the Facebook addiction?

Frugal Win of the Week: more clothes

Welcome to the weekly Frugal Win, a time that I get to brag about some sort of awesome frugality that I achieved and that you wish you could achieve. Ha! Just kidding. If you don't like bragging or you think I should be brought down a peg, check out the weekly Frugal Fail. "Pride cometh .... "

We spend a lot of time in the Bushatz household buying new clothes for me. It's a mystery as to why I need new clothes all the time, but I swear I DO. (ooooor maybe that should be the weekly "Frugal Fail?")

This week we did a little shopping for Luke using this deal at Sears. We were able to buy just over $50 of clothing with the promise of getting $50 rebate for more later. So, we basically will get $100 for just over $50. What was an extra bonus is that all of the stuff we bought was on major sale as well.

What we scored:

Dockers dress pants: regular $48
Dockers dress shirt: regular $30ish
Another dress shirt: regular $30ish

Frugal win, I say! (And so does Luke)

Frugally Absent

Sorry, dear readers, about my MIA status over the last week. I'll go ahead and contribute that to two things:

1. Triathlon training (although this is mostly a lie as the pre-race week has something like "senioritits" going on ... you just don't care anymore).
2. Focusing on frugal time

Since I already admitted the first one is mostly, well, bull, let's focus on the second.

I am astounded by how much I got done last week and it is all thanks to being very, very purposeful with how and on what I spent my time. A sampling:

Sunday -- morning spent with friends, afternoon spent on one-on-one time with Luke and David as we explored the Mt. Saint Helens area, including some way cool lava tubes. It was amazing and so much fun.
Monday -- Workout, library, coffee with a friend, grocery shopping, work
Tuesday -- Very productive work day with lots of writing, but no workout (see senioritis above).
Wednesday -- Semi productive work morning, workout, quality time with David, farmer's market, intense household organization/cleaning time (like the deep dark cabinets you never get around to cleaning but must. be. done.)
Thursday -- Bible study all a.m., workout, work
Friday -- Time with Luke and David in the evening proceeded by very productive work afternoon and mixed in with no less than 10 loads of laundry. I know, right?
Saturday -- Triathlon! And the family time/errands
Sunday -- Church, quality family time

Now that I've written that all out, honestly, I see room for major improvements. For example, on the days I worked half days I haven't the foggiest idea what I did the majority of the morning of afternoon I did not work. I DID manage to spend major time reading and playing with David every single day, but not hours on end. So where did the time go? Food for thought.

We are also trying something new: making Sunday family day and family day only. We are planning to go to church in the morning and then spend the afternoon exploring where we live, playing tennis or doing something else fun and active together (if the weather would only cooperate ...). Yesterday, for example, we visited the Steilacoom history museum and then got the week's grocery shopping out of the way (it was really rainy, folks, grocery shopping wont be on the to-do every week OK? We were GOING to go on a nature hike but it just didn't happen). It was really neat to hit up a place just down the street with us and learn so much about where we live. Score.

So, here's my question for you: how can YOU better use your down time? Think about it, and reign in those hours.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Good news: I did NOT die during my triathlon! In fact, I did not even come close. I felt great the entire time (well, except for when those dudes kept passing me on the bike portion. I outswam them all but they just flew past me during that section. And that never feels good). During the run my legs felt like dead weights for the first half and I was tired the second half (and thinking "I'm glad this is almost over). But it was great!

And it was fun.

And I did it in under my goal. I said I'd be happy if I finished under 2 hours (since I knew the bike ride took me at least 56 minutes during training). And I finished in about 1 hour and 49 minutes.

Next time - July 17 - I'd like to finish in under 1:45. To do this I'm going to speed up my transition and cut time from bike ride. By the August race I'd like to be finishing under 1:40. There's only so fast you can transition but my bike ride is slow and I know it. If I can cut two minutes of the transition (which should be easy considering I spent two minutes this time trying to get my feet on my pedals) and seven minutes from the bike ... Here's hoping.

My times (unofficially, according to my stopwatch which, granted, I forgot to stop between the bike and run to time that transition): 16 minute-ish swim; 58 minute-ish bike; 29 minute-ish run. (excellent run time for me since you are slow coming off the bike and I never run under a 10 minute mile in training).

Now, a few pictures. Others are on Facebook.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pre-Tri Jitters

We interrupt our "normal" programming for some pre-tri rammbling ...

As I type I am munching a bowl of my favorite cereal (Special K Red Berries), wearing my tri-suit (zoot!) and revving up my mind for the fact that in, oh, four hours (and hopefully not much longer) I will officially be a triathlete.

This is something that has been long, long in coming. I've talked about that before. But this morning, on the cusp of my goal becoming a reality, it seems ... well ... scary.

What if I drown? What if I fall off my bike (with my balance or lack thereof this is a real possibility)? What if... what if ... what if....?

Stay tuned (hopefully) for pictures later. If I don't die.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Frugal Fail of the Week

Welcome to your weekly frugal fail, the time of the week that I confess to some sort of spending atrocity or complete inability, despite my best intentions, to do anything more than spends gobs of unnecessary cash. It happens to everyone, but confession is good for the soul, right? (and maybe a little entertaining for you):

The store: Ebay, need I say more?
The price: $80 :::::::shame:::::::
The take: Babyhawk baby carrier
The why: Weeeell I've been thinking about getting one of these for a long time to replace my baby sling, which Heavy McHeavyston has outgrown. Several friends have this super neat carrier and, well, I caved. And I bought one. And I had not budgeted for it. ... but I bought it anyway. ::::shame:::
Now I will look like this woman. Minus the baby being a girl. And the getting on a bus thing. And the hair cut. And a variety of other factors.

Frugal Win of the Week

Welcome to the weekly Frugal Win, a time that I get to brag about some sort of awesome frugality that I achieved and that you wish you could achieve. Ha! Just kidding. If you don't like bragging or you think I should be brought down a peg, check out the weekly Frugal Fail. "Pride cometh .... "

The store: Nike Clearance Outlet
The Cost: $14
The Take: One Nike drifit fit jacket, retails $75
The How: Outlet, baby! I was looking for a new jacket, as you know. When we drove by the Nike Outlet on our way into Oregon today Luke suggested we stop and I approved. Strongly. It didn't take me 10 minutes to find the exact thing for which I was looking. Score! Here it is (or something very similar):

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Core Competencies Revisited: this time, a frugal win

I had the fantastic opportunity yesterday of interviewing the author of this book, also author of the blog posts I wrote about here. I am using the interview to write a piece for The Washington Times, which I will link to once it's published.

Meanwhile, let me revisit what I wrote regarding core competencies. In her book, like in the blog posts, she talks about outsourcing. I still think most outsourcing equals an epic frugal fail.

But she also expanded on the subject, adding that there is nothing wrong with simply not doing something or as much as something. For example, that time you spend vacuuming three times a day? How about only doing it once.

This is hard for me. I love vacuuming -- the process, the results, everything. But do I love it more than reading to my kid? No.

And so it really does come dow to this: priorities. ... and what, in the hierarchy of your life, is most important? If it is between vacuuming three times and vacuuming once while spending that other 15 minutes playing with that darn shape ball again, what are you going to choose? Shape ball, hands down. (We really need a new toy ... that thing is driving me nutso).

When it's between doing something not as much and priorities I rule core competencies a frugal win.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Covet

... and, unfortunately, I think that includes stuff from REI and Road Runner Sports. Bummer.

It's back to the need v. want conundrum. ... and where "nice to haves" and "deprivation" live in that dichotomy.

Can I live without a reflective rain/wind breaker on my training bike rides? Sure. Will I continue to be cold and miserable? Yes. Does that make it a "need" or a "want?" Unclear.

I believe this is where two factors come to play: how hard core your frugality is and your budget. If you are super hard core and determined not to spend money on things that can be considered comfort items ... well, than I guess "nice to haves" are out.

But if you've budgeted for it, than slide that sucker right over to the "need" category.

At least that's how I figure it.

Now let's return to my REI/Road Runner problem. I've maxed out my triathlon budget for the season. Between the wetsuit, new running shoes, triathlon suit, race fees, goggles to replace the ones that finally broke after five years of use (miracle they lasted this long), more body glide (you always need more body glide), sunglasses, shot blocks for race day and so on ... there's nothing left for the jacket. Since that is the case I'm going to go ahead and live without the bike jacket. Maybe when we take a new look at the budget when the season is over (.... yeeeeeessss off season budget!!!).

Meanwhile I am in the market to replace the super cool "yoga jacket" (I'm not sure what makes this a yoga jacket, but OK) I'm wearing here:

Yeah, that's not a good picture. Regardless, I love that jacket. I bought it at Old Navy. And by the time it occurred to me that I Love That Jacket so much that I was going to wear it out pronto, they stopped selling it and they only had it on clearance in sizes much too big for the current rendition of Amy (or really any rendition in the past either).

So I'm looking for a new one. Yes, I sometimes wear it in training. I also wear it All The Other Times. So I'm sticking it under the "clothing" category. And guess what? I still have a budget for that for the month of June! Is it currently a "need?" No. But it will be. And since it's budgeted I'm going to go for it.

Meanwhile I just need to avoid browsing and browsing and browsing and browsing stuff on Road Runner ... because that super cool looking Puma pull over is NOT a need. Sad.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Frugal Win of the Week

The store: Target
The cost: $.13
The take: 10 sobe lifewaters, one bottle of shout
The How: 4 sobe coupons here (press the back button your browser after each print up to four time), 2 target sobe coupons here plus a buy 10, get a $5 target gift card promotion. For the shout a $1 off Target coupon here plus a manufacturer coupon here and the checker using a second manufacturer coupon attached to the bottle (which she probably shouldn't have).

All over win! And now I'm not thirsty AND I have stain free clothes. Bonus!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Sometimes there's a problem with super frugality: non-buyers remorse.

It's pretty much the opposite of buyers remorse in that you are sad because you passed something up that you really did want for reasons including cost or because you didn't think you'd need it and now you do.

A variety of things have fallen into this category for me recently. For example: white sugar (skipped it at the commissary because I thought I had an extra bag at home even though I wasn't sure. I was wrong ... and now my humming bird feeder is empty and I have not a single piece of cake. Tragedy.), that really pretty dress at the store (I thought what I already owned would work and, even though I had the money for it, I skipped it for what was maybe in my closet. Turns out already owned dress had a big hole in it) and a registration for the Army 10-Miler.

That's right, I want to run the Army 10-Miler and have for several years. But instead of just registering just in case I could make it and then making an effort to get to D.C. for it, I didn't spend the money. And now that I'm going to be in town that weekend anyway I really, Really, REALLY want to run in honor of our fallen soldiers.

But registration is full and closed. And the only way to get a registration is to buy it off someone else IF you can find someone to sell and HOPEFULLY at a non-inflated rate.

Because I want to run in honor of our battalion's lost, I decided to try an easier road to registration first: call the race organizers and tell them my story. A few weeks into pestering them I found out one of gold star wives actually wants to run too, as do a few other people. So I started pestering them for multiple registrations.

Yesterday they Finally Called Back and I found out that they would give us one registration for the gold star wife, plus one extra registration. The other two we were going to have to find another way to get. They assumed I, as the organizer, would take the plus one. I did not make an effort to correct them.

Since I've been working on getting registrations for a looooong time, I felt like this was completely fair.

Except how it looks to other people is that I was using this poor gold star wife to get what I want ... which is simply not the case ... but it doesn't matter what the case is, does it? It matters how it appears. And that is NOT how I want it to appear. I didn't do this because it would get me in free and I'm that cheap (it doesn't and I really am not that cheap).

And so I'm going to call the 10-miler folks back and let them know that the plus-one will be passed to someone else ... and I'll just deal with it. Meanwhile, if you know someone who is selling their race registration for about what it's worth, please let me know. I really want to run.

Incidentally, I was just reading about this in I Corinthians this morning as part of the From Garden to City reading plan. And, ironically, the verses I feel are relating here are the ones about running a race towards the end of the passages. Find them here. Holy sense of humor, anyone? Thanks, God, for that one.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Frugal Time WIn: Facebook Free!

Today was my first day for reals working on my fellowship. Dave was in daycare from 9 to 5 (oh how leaving him there all day just killed me!) and I was determined - DETERMINED - to focus on my work.

I made a looooong list of things that I needed to work on. I knew that there was no way that I'd get the whole thing done. I always knew that having more than I had time for would keep from getting off track.

I really only had two goals for today: no google reader and, more importantly, no Facebook. I can actually hear my time being sucked away while I'm on Facebook and I just didn't want to get caught in that while I was trying to focus and be productive.

I am happy to report that I succeeded! No Facebook happened and I got tons of stuff done.

The thing about the beginning of a project like this is that completing every item on your to-do list actually creates more work because as you go through those things they lead to other future tasks. My to-do list is now four times as long as it was when I started this morning and I checked off a TON of stuff in the process.

I also made a point today of spending what time I had with my little man. This one:

I don't think I really spent any more or less concentrated time with him than any other day. Well, maybe a little bit less. But not much. And that's because while we are together all day long I rarely sit down on the floor and just play with him. I help him find toys. I feed him. But I dont sit there and play very much.

But tonight I made a strong effort to play. We read "A to Z" four times (one of those times I made up a song for the words) and put the shapes in the shape ball three times. And more.

All that and I also had time to run 5 miles. That's right.