My friends and family learned yesterday that we finally bought our dream retirement spot, land in the mountains... yesterday. In my mind it was a dream that was 20, 30, 40 years in the future but it came to us right before our 12 year anniversary.
Some may know we are huge savers, close to the point of insanity and on the line of severe discomfort. I thought it helpful to so many readers right now in financial distress, or perhaps in great comfort but with dreams too far away, to share some of our money savings tips (that were 90% my husband's but I am learning to embrace more every day).
It's not whether you are earning huge amounts or not, but that you take little steps every day to spend less than needed. What's hardest about the below steps is that we don't HAVE to do it, but if we do, the savings are HUGE! And really, we aren't missing out on anything...
- I write all our receipts in a pocket calendar I keep on our desk so I know in a glance what we've spent for the week/month/year. This is especially important with so many "auto pay" bills nowadays with email statements you hardly need to keep tabs on.
- We have the cash for anything before we buy. Cars, furniture, anything. Never carry a credit balance or owe interest on your credit.
- Our cell phone bill is $10-20 a YEAR. We use a prepaid plan (.15/minute) and only make very quick calls. We have a Costco membership we may not need now that we're done with diapers and formula, and a SW Air visa so all our trip flights are on reward tickets.
- Our grocery bill is $100 a week, under $400/month. I meal plan and shop at 2-5 stores to get every deal on fresh foods. We recently bought a freezer that runs $24 a year on our electric bill to store fruit from our trees and meat/veggies when on great sale. The kids and I eat out about once a week with friends, and our family eats out once a month on an evening or weekend.
- We put in a sink water filter for drinking water. My husband turned down the valves in the girls' bathroom sinks because they crank it on high while brushing their teeth. (This even helps me prepare for the water pressure we'll probably have in the mountains!) We use hard water bottles to fill and take everywhere rather than buying bottled.
- We wash and vacuum our own cars; steam our own tile and carpets. We bought a Steam Vacuum Cleaner and tile cleaner, they are built incredibly easy to use and cheap to purchase.
- We have the base cable, phone, and satellite; all our books and movies come from the library. We take the girls to the $1 theater a few times a year for great kid movies. We never buy books; we put a hold at the library and pick it up when it's in.
- Electricity: We replaced all our windows with double-pained, insulated all our walls and outlets, put in energy-saving light bulbs, and installed solar panels (cash ahead) on our roof, and installed a whole-house fan that runs much cheaper than the refrigerated air in the hot summer (at night it runs and pulls in cool, outside air, then we seal the house during the day).
- Our kids are 2 and 5, and our budget for them is $1000 a year. This covered one year at Little Gym (spring/fall), Zoo/BioPark/Aquarium pass, 40 city swim lessons, a Groupon for 1 month at Bounce N Boogie, Spring Music at Gymboree for both, and some friend's music classes. I hit every museum free day, library event, Home Depot project, free reading and story programs (like Dions, Balloon Museum, and Borders), and farm tour. Check out my posts on home preschool.
- Clothing: Our girls get sneakers/boots for the winter/fall, and sneakers/sandals for the summer, my youngest has mostly hand-me-downs but I shop at Kohls for my oldest and combine coupons and $10-back days. We aren't church-goers, so I usually borrow dresses and dress shoes for one-time formal events. I love shopping, and it's been grueling for me refrain so I avoid clothing stores for me and only shop with a list.
- We do home mani/pedis. Polish is $2-5/bottle and we love the decal stickers at Walgreens. I cut our kids hair in between my twice a year visits (girl's hair is easy like that).
- We don't have a gym membership (gasp!). We invested in a home gym about 5 years ago and slowly built up our home equipment, DVD collection, and live close to trails and parks.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Below is my Day 11 5k Training Run.
April 21: Rest
April 22: Run #11!
Sports Bra, 2 socks, black pants
5:30 AM: Yoga warm-up, 500 steps, for upper back/chest flexibility
5:45: Academy Trail, 7100 steps
Speed: 5 mph hr up, 6.5 flat, 7 down, 6 mph flat
40:48 mins, 3.75 miles
6:40: Cooldown, 200 steps
6:52: Stretch (Especially quads, back, neck)
Notes to Self
- Tight R hip, no ab cramps, left knee/pelvis twinges
- Tired legs from intervals on Wednesday
- Gearing up for Easter weekend; egg stuffing, cooking, cleaning
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Below is my Day 10 5k Training Run.
April 18: Rest Day, Clean House
April 19: P90X Stretch X
April 20: Run #10!
Sweats, Pant cover up, New sports bra from my friend (sweet!)
7000 Steps Total
5:30 AM: Levoxyl, Water
5:45 AM: 8 crackers, Water
6:10: 400 step warm up
6:15: 3.98 miles, 45:20 mins, Academy Trail
5.5 mph up1 mile East
6.5 mph flat 1.8 miles North (ab cramp) and down West
Flat South, 2.8-3.8 miles
9-10 mph 30 seconds sprints with 2.5-3.5 mph 1 min walks
7:01: 600 step cool down, 3 mph decreasing
7:15: Oatmeal, Protein Shake, 1/2 vitamin (read below)
Notes to Self
- Remember to pause Running Watch at stop lights.
- I have not run Academy Trail since I was with my dear friend in November who recently moved but I visited the week prior to this run. This one was for you, miss you and wish you well!
- My kidneys are functioning better than average (could it be, exercise?) and all my levels were great except Bilirubin, which is always high from my Gilberts.
- I'm having early Neuropathy symptoms (numb fingers/feet, weakness). Starting treatment is to watch for pinched nerves and see if it may be a Vitamin B deficiency. I'm trying 1/2 kids' vitamins with iron; I can't take Adult because of my missing liver enzyme/protein from Gilberts, I feel too awful afterward, very counterproductive.
- Great to know my protein levels are perfect since I love my post-workout shake so much!
Readers: How often do need blood work, and what symptoms bring you in to your doctor?
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Below is my Day 9 5k Training Run.
April 15: Drive home from Texas
April 16: P90X Yoga X
April 17: Run #9!
45 F and sunny, 5400 F altitude
Light shirt, white pants, 1 sock, gloves
6:37 AM: 400 step warm up with Yoga Sun Salutations
Yoga Tip: Squeeze/contract gluts & abs tight to protect your back in Poses #2, 7, & 11.
Keep elbows in on Pose #6; I skip pose #9 and jump feet in from #8 to #10.
6:45: 3.2 miles, 34:14 mins, 5400 steps
Soccer field x2, parking lot, Flat x2, Down, Up
7:20: 800 step cool down, 3.5 to 2.5 mph decreasing pace
Notes to Self
I caught a talk show conversation on "Community Talk 100.3" about Tri Sport Coaching. They have some great runs and training sessions in NM so check out their page, including a Bike Fit session for $75 and link to a free article on the bio mechanical analysis of pedal stroke.
They mentioned in their interview the high rate of asthma in inner city kids, particularly in Detroit, from pollution and low physical activity. (On researching this issue, I also found household allergens, like mites, mold, and dust, and poverty/ poor nutrition, and little to no healthcare were also high factors, as well as pediatric stress caused by poverty, school changes or poor education, and job loss).
Readers: What are your thoughts on this growing prevalence of pediatric asthma?
Hit your runs early in the AM for cleanest air in NM. The good news is, kids are becoming more involved in running events and have great pride setting distance and timed goals they can accomplish themselves. I can't wait for my ACE Youth Fitness course I'll be taking in August; my 5 year old just mastered grapevines and towel hopping and wants to start weight training. Eek!
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Below is my Day 8 5k Training Run.
Time to work out while traveling; luckily my dear Texas friend had gym passes for us!
April 8: P90X Shoulders/Arms and Ab Ripper X
April 9: P90X X Stretch
April 10: P90X Yoga X
April 11: Drive to Texas!
April 12: 24 Lift at 24 Hour Fitness, South Lake, TX
April 13: Zumba at 24 Hour Fitness, Keller, TX
April 14: Run #8!
68 F, 80% Humidity, 700 Ft Altitude; oh my wonderfully hydrated eyes and skin! Ahh!
Tank, run pants, 2 socks
5:45-6:10 AM: 5500 Steps North
5 sprints, 40-60 steps with walks up to 6000 steps
6:20: 200 step cool down
Notes to Self
- I felt so brave heading out to a nearby unknown park with a directions on a slip of paper, sight-unseen. I was easily out of my mind but it was incredibly enjoyable. Thank you, Google Maps!
- I'm not buying any more black workout clothes: My husband made a good point about wearing bright clothes and reflector tape on myself while running. I was on a major road and it was PITCH BLACK outside; I have never felt so close to being road kill!
- At the end of this park driveway toward the exit, I felt like I was jogging the road away from Forrest Gump's house, lined with trees and gravel. "Run, Forrest, Run!" It was stunning... beautiful.
I despise those awful tasks waiting for me on my "Bad" To-Do list. Those nasty things that need attention and work from us but we manage to transfer it to our new weekly task list only to have it go unchecked for months and months....
What is the final straw, the last tipping point that makes us charge after those nasty tasks and finally get them done? Perhaps a perfect storm: having or making time, skipping a workout for some stored physical energy, rallying positive voices in our head, channeling past experiences of accomplishment, saying "Enough already!"
Some days I wake up and tell myself, "Hey! If you have time to go to a play date or watch Oprah, then you have time to get this thing done!"
And then I don't shower until I spend at least one hour in the yard after that dirty job, and I stay outside hour after hour until I get it done.
In order to keep my kids busy on this job, I gave them bucket after bucket of dirt from around the stump base and said "There's worms in here, can you find them?" That game thankfully lasted two hours.
Their is an amazing feeling to be experienced on the other side: accomplishment. Success! Freedom! Joy! Elated Exhaustion! And a huge deep breath and a hot shower before you decide to get back to your life, or maybe you rally your spirit to tackle the next Dreaded To-Do...
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Below is my Day 7 5k Training Run.
This was a good week; although not running everyday, P90X workouts are going well:
April 3: Run #6
April 4: Kenpo
April 5: Cardio X/Ab Ripper
April 6: Yoga X
52 F, Thin shirt, sweats, 2 thick socks (need to wash laundry...)
5:30 AM: 8 animal crackers, 8 oz water
6:10-7:02: 41:27 Minutes, 3.6 miles, 7200 steps since 5:30 AM
Down Loop, Soccer field x2, Up Loop, Down Loop
7:20: Shake, breakfast
7:26: It's RAINING OUTSIDE! Great timing, phew!
Notes to Self
- "Mother nature" is here, and I'm stressing about UNM Zumba fundraiser tomorrow
- LOVE my running watch, timer/speed/distance are amazing
- R leg pain, 1st mile
Once made ahead, we grab one container in the morning. Then we dump it into a microwave-safe bowl, add water until it's slightly above the oats and stir. Microwave for 60 to 90 seconds, add milk to cool, and voila! Ready to eat. If I exercised prior to breakfast, I include a protein shakes (mine is 8 ounces 1% milk with 1/2 serving powdered Muscle Milk Chocolate, shake in a bottle and drink.)
For the occasional breakfast I also love great leftovers like home-made lasagna, our breakfast burritos, and the Costco Multigrain pancake mix. If I haven't exercised and am not too hungry, I go for yogurt with 1 tsp sweet coconut and 1 T super nutty granola.
Share your recipes at www.meganmerchant.com!
In chatting with my friends this week and wishing all a Happy Easter, we've been discussing the stuffings of our Easter baskets for our kids. Baskets from "The Bunny" are a huge party of my husband's childhood, much like stuffings from Santa Claus on Christmas. But with my husband and I increasingly health-conscious as we work to be more athletic, I thought I'd share the content list of our $20 baskets this year:
(Shh! Don't tell my kids I help the Big Bunny!)
(things on my list I keep forgetting to get.)
Our 5 Year-Old
(She's been trying our 3 lb. weights since she was 3 years old; it is time.)
Happy Easter Everyone!
Note: All product links above are same items I purchased except the hand weights and resistance bands, as a match was not available. The bands linked above were the highest ranked on Amazon, ours were purchased at Target.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Below is my Day 6 5k Training Run, with notes only that differ from Day One.
55 F, Thin shirt, sweats, 2 thick socks (need to wash laundry...)
3.01 Mile Baseline
6:00 AM: Levoxyl, water
6:35: 8 crackers, water, Warm up
6:42: Becca waved from her bedroom window (ahh!), awesome sunrise
7:12: 3.01 miles, 31:29 minutes
Down/Up .5 mile, .7 mile soccer field x3, Down/Flat .4 mile
7:20: .4 mile cooldown, walking Up hill
Notes to Self
- 1 mile sore heels, 1.4 mile ab cramp, 2.5 mile sore knees
- Get up earlier and set timer to go!!!
- Prep running things before bed: water, shoes, notes
- Sun is coming, I need a haircut to stay cool.