Secret to Reading Boring Materials

I am currently reading “The Bond Fund of America Annual Report.” I intend to read the booklets on all the funds in which my husband has invested.

I finished reading the booklet from my health insurance company. I was unhappy with my company when it said online that my “rescue inhaler” was no longer covered.

Seriously?

After reading the booklet, I found I could get refills on my rescue inhaler if I ordered them through their mail order division. I admit it was not exciting reading, but it is information I need to know!

Every year, I intended to read my health insurance booklet, but it ended up in the pile on my desk of things I should do. I finally learned a secret to reading boring materials – a paragraph or page each time you use the bathroom.

I am not pushing multitasking. I am saying we spend more time on the throne than we realize. I put the booklets in with my regular magazines and catalogs. I read a page, leave a book marker in it, (usually a subscription postcard) and put it in the back of the magazine organizer I keep in the bathroom. That way, I alternate reading something fun, with something boring.

“Make it fun and it will get done.” flylady.net

Magazine organizer "Secret to Reading Boring Material" frugalfish.org

 

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Resolved: More Weight, Food, Spending; Less Organizing, Travel, Reading

You read that title correctly. My resolution this year is to eat more food, gain weight, and spend more. I also plan on less organizing, travel, and reading.

More Weight

I can thank Jenny Kuhn for this resolution. Here is a picture of Jenny and me, with her daughter Kathryn, around 2005.

Jenny, Katie, & I "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

She moved to Arkansas and opened Jenny’s Gym. Last October, she competed in the World Powerlifting Alliance competition in Portland, OR. She is now the WPA-APA World Powerlifting record holder in the squat and the deadlift for the 45-49 age group in the 132# weight class. She also broke the previously held accumulative world record (squat+bench+deadlift), see here.

Jenny lifting in her gym "Resolved . . " frugalfish.org

 

Jenny regularly posts clips of her clients lifting. Most of the clips are of middle-aged women who are strength training. Sometimes she posts informational clips. When she explained the proper way to do a push-up, it changed my life.Jenny Kuhn "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

I usually tried doing push-ups from my knees, but that does not use all the muscles correctly. You need the same form as you would use to plank. Now I do them off of the kitchen counter and will move to the ottoman when my arms are stronger. If I do not keep control of my arms, I bump my forehead! I know I am using the correct form now.

Since muscle is heavier than fat, I plan on gaining weight this year. I want to gain muscle, not fat, and will concentrate on that instead of my bathroom scale!

Eat More

For the past few years, I would weigh myself on Monday and plan my meals based on that number. It didn’t work! I would gain a pound and then try to cut way back on my food. Of course, that pound stubbornly stayed.

This year I am going to work my body and feed it what it needs. I will eat bigger servings of salad, vegetables, and more meat. I never have been a big bread eater, but my sweet tooth is my downfall. That is where I will cut back.

More Spending

I am a saver and try to buy everything on sale. That is not always possible. This year, I want to buy things when I need them and not do without. I have lived under the poverty level during childhood and as a mother. I have no problem telling the difference between a need, a want, and a desire.

In my wallet now are 2 months worth of allowance! I also have a note of a few things I need to order. (Hello, sports bra!) I have watched the sales for over a year and have the money. I just need to get online and order it!

Less Organizing

Marla Cilley, aka The FlyLady, says over and over, “You can’t organize clutter.” But I can, and that is the problem! I organize things that I should send to Goodwill or pass on to family members.

There is a box with “Graduation” written on it in my pantry. My youngest graduated in 2015. I am hanging on to it for my sister-in-law, Melinda. I need to just give it to her, even though Brayden doesn’t graduate for another year.

Less Travel

I will no longer feel guilty for staying at home. There are many opportunities to go places and do things, but if I have to take a round of Prednisone to go, it is just not worth it! (Or worse, go without Prednisone and then fight a flare for two weeks.) I don’t care that I only go out 3 times a week for four hours. I have so much I love to do right here at home.

I know my Facebook page is boring, but I refuse to compare myself to others. I will travel vicariously with my friends. (Sorry, Jill, I have no desire to go clear up to the Arctic Circle. Enjoy your trip!)

I really enjoy the posts from Australia on the travel blog, outan’about.com. It was interesting reading about celebrating Christmas during their summer!

Less Reading

I can speed read. It is a blessing and a curse. I would normally go to the library and fill a large bag with 18 books every other month. (No, that is not a typo; it is eighteen books.) We have a great library that is always getting new books and the community buys books in memory of loved ones.

Obviously, I don’t watch TV at night, in fact, I will only watch a movie once. My family will put in a movie, and if I have already seen it, I go to bed and pick up a book. I can read a 300-page book in 2 or 3 days. The problem is, I get close to the renewal date and I speed read through my stash. That is not as enjoyable as slowly reading, savoring, and even taking quotes from books.

This year, I will only check out 8 books at a time and will make sure one of those books is nonfiction. I am on chapter 2 of the book, “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg. There are many things I would like to do, but I get bogged down in laundry and cooking. I want to make those tasks more efficient to allow time for fun stuff!

Smarter Faster Better book "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Dave Ramsey

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Black and Decker Redeems Themselves

My working title for this post was…

All of My Appliances Were Black and Decker

You notice that title was past tense. I did have Black and Decker for every appliance. What changed?

Failure to communicate.

I chose Black and Decker appliances because they had a longer warranty than the other less expensive brands. I was always pleased with their price and reliability.

Then my mixer died. I got out the warranty and read the instructions. It told me to fill out a form online at Spectrum Home Appliances.

I received a reply right away wanting to confirm the date of purchase, model number off of the end of the plug, amount of purchase, a telephone number, where I purchased it, and if I still had the receipt. I replied with all of the requirements and threw the unit and box away. (I save the original box for the duration of the warranty, see here.)

The trash went out that night and imagine my shock when I got another email telling me to cut the end of the cord off and send it to them.

Nowhere in the warranty papers, on the box, or on the website, did it say I would need to mail in the cord. So, I’m just out the price of a mixer?

Hardly.

I am sending a copy of this post to them, and if I do not get a positive response, I will  contact the Better Business Bureau.

***************

I received a reply the next day.

Thank you for contacting Spectrum Home Appliances.

We did receive approval that we can release the replacement unit to you as a one time courtesy without requirements. Please allow 7-14 business days for delivery.

If we can be of any further assistance, please contact our Consumer Service Department at 1-800-231-9786. Our hours of operation are Monday thru Friday from 8:30 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.,EST. Alternatively, you may e-mail us at homeappliancessupport@spectrumbrands.com, or go to http://www.prodprotect.com and fill out a contact form. A representative will be happy to assist you.

Consumer Support Team
Spectrum Home Appliances
A division of Spectrum Brands, Inc.
www.spectrumbrands.com

Well, they redeemed themselves!

Through this experience I learned to hang on to the broken appliance until the warranty is honored and a replacement arrives. Yes, I keep all warranties, you can see my filing system here.

My Replacement Black and Decker MIxer

My Replacement Black and Decker MIxer

Saving at Kids Ball Games

Baseball and Softball are in full swing! You can spend a lot of money on food, drinks, clothes and equipment. Here are some tips and tricks I have learned over the last fourteen years of having kids playing ball.

Food –

  1. Bring it from home. Pack several snack bags with non-perishable snacks. Raw veggies, fruit, pretzels, crackers and nuts make good healthy snacks. Kids like cookies and hard candies. If you pack perishable items use a cooler and have plenty of ice. Keep the cooler closed and in the shade.
  2. Sunflower Seeds. I buy a large package and put one-half a cup into snack size baggies. I think he could do with one-fourth a cup, but my husband wanted me to use one-half a cup. (He probably gets into them too!)
  3. Bubblegum. Another “must have item”. Buy the large bag at a discount store and just take what you need in snack size bags for the game.
  4. Just the Entrée. Pack your own drinks and chips and purchase just a hot dog or hamburger. This is a good alternative when you are at a tournament all day long.
  5. Plan to Eat Out. Or eat a picnic lunch and plan to stop at a local restaurant after the tournament. It will give you a good meal and a place to cool off.

Drinks –

  1. Water. I fill bottles with water run through a Brita or “Pur” pitcher. I freeze a couple of bottles when my son is scheduled to play at a tournament.
  2. Gatorade. You can buy canisters of powdered Gatorade and mix it up yourself. It is much cheaper than purchasing bottles at the store and exponentially cheaper than buying it at the concession stand. It also freezes well for a tournament.
  3. Coffee. It is not always hot at games. Sometimes it is freezing! Bring a thermos of coffee, or hot chocolate for the kids, and cups.

Special Note – Umpires are sometimes given a bottle or two of water or Gatorade. Some ball parks will even give them food. If you know the rules of the game and are willing to spend the day or part of the day at the ball field you will be kept busy. It is best if you umpire games your child is not playing in, at least behind the plate. You will need to start with the younger kids and work your way up.

Concessions Stands – Sales from the concessions stand helps keep the cost down for the individual teams. Many stands will have a bucket or pass a bucket for donations. I prefer to bring my own food and make a donation when I see the bucket.

Clothes –

  1. Pants – My son wears 32″  x 34″ pants. When his uniform was given to him the pants were too short. I let the hem down and sewed black elastic strips to the bottom of each leg. The elastic can go over his socks or over his shoes. It keeps the pants down to a respectable length. If the pants are too long you can roll the legs up inside them a couple of times. The elastic will hold them in place. If the waist is too big you can either tighten the belt or sew two darts in the back to make the waist smaller. If the waist is too small, ask for another pair. The legs would be too tight and would restrict movement.
  2. Socks – At the end of the season, baseball socks will go on clearance. I used to buy one of each color in his size for the next year. If your child is selected to play on the all-star team, you never know what color they will choose.
  3. Shoes – Do not buy used shoes. They are broken in to conform to the first wearers feet. I start looking for baseball shoes between Christmas and Easter. The shoe stores are trying to get rid of last years models before this years models arrive. We have used  final-score.com (a division of eastbay.com) and baseballsavings.com.
  4. Unisex clothing – Baseball pants are the same as softball pants. Baseball socks are the same as softball socks. Under-armor for the cold games are the same. (They do wear different types of sliding shorts.) Save the unisex clothing for your other children.

Equipment –

  1. “Play It Again Sports,” playitagainsports.com, is my favorite because not only can you buy equipment, you can sell the equipment your child has outgrown.
  2. Garage Sales and “Resale” shops are another place to find used ball equipment.
  3. Gifts – Ball equipment makes great birthday or Christmas presents.
  4. Budget – When your child is old enough to earn their own money you can give them an amount to buy, say a glove, and if they want a more expensive model have them pay the difference. They seem to take better care of their equipment when some of their hard-earned cash went into the purchase.
  5. Storage –  Clean the dirt and sweat off of bats, balls, catchers equipment and allow them to air dry. Wash gloves with saddle soap, wipe off excess, put a baseball or softball inside it and place a rubber band around it.

Park Proactively – You don’t want to park too close to the field. Many a foul ball has cracked a windshield.

Gas for the “Away” Games –

  1. Gaspricewatch.com. You can zoom in on the map to any city and it will show you the gas prices at the stations there. You can compare them with the stations at your destination and the towns in between. You may save if you wait to fill up at your destination.
  2. Take the team – give kids a ride and ask their parents to chip in a buck or two for gas. Make sure at least one other parent rides with you for crowd control. It will make the trip more pleasant and you will be able to concentrate on your driving.
  3. Leave early – you don’t want to make up time on the road by speeding.
  4. Combine errands – If you have an older child that has to ride the bus to and from the game you can use this tip. We do not have an Aldis grocery store in our town. When our son is playing in a town with an Aldis we go an hour early and stock up on non-perishable items. The money we save can cover the gas. (I don’t recommend this if you have a van full of ten-year olds!)

Umpires – It’s a part-time job!

  1. Umpires for the Babe Ruth Leagues are paid – You need to go to baberuthleagues.org for details.
  2. Money and Time –  You will need to take a class, take a test, pay yearly dues and purchase special clothes and equipment.
  3. Physical condition – This is for the serious athletic dad or mom. You will need to be able to squat for hours at a time and take cold, high heat and humidity.
  4. Strong Marriage – Your spouse will be alone for most of May and June.
  5. Wisdom of Solomon – Every play is viewed through the lens of how it affects their team. You will have to know the book of rules to back your call.
  6. Be a Diplomat – You will be tempted and tried to the nth degree of your patience by parents, fans and sometimes coaches or players. You have to be able to keep your cool while retaining your authority.
  7. Need a Bookkeeper – The money paid for umpiring must be reported on your income tax. You can deduct dues, mileage, equipment and clothes you buy for yourself. You must keep good records and have receipts to support all of your deductions.
  8. High Pain Tolerance – You will get hit by the ball. You will get bruised and run into from time to time by players. Avoid the bat at all costs!
  9. Allergies? Forget it. – Part of your job is to sweep home plate to keep it visible to the pitcher. It will be hot, humid, and windy most of the time.
  10. 20/20 Vision and Thick Skin. – You will be accused of blindness at least once a game. If you do not have 20/20 vision then you will need to see the eye doctor every year. Having an accurate glasses prescription is a must.
  11. Love Kids – Baseball and softball are for the kids. Parents, coaches, and fans forget that sometimes in their quest to win games. Part of your job is to make sure the kids play safely. Their shoes need to stay tied, shirts tucked in, no jewelry and they need to slide correctly to prevent injury.  You also have to watch for behavior that would injure another player.
  12. Understand the Weather – The umpire calls the game when storms threaten. If someone sees lightning, the game is called to protect the kids. You don’t want kids playing when it is too cold to control the ball. You need to watch for heat stroke and heat exhaustion during hot weather…especially the catcher who is wearing all of that protective gear.
  13. Make it Fun – You will need a sense of humor. Enjoy your time on the field. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be there. Remember these kids will only be here for a couple of years.

My kids are grown; but I couldn’t resist posting a picture of college boy when his team won the championship for the 10-12 Year Olds.

Saving at Kid’s Ball Games


Your Buried Treasure

The words “Buried Treasure” make you think of precious metals underground, but sometimes they are just buried. Treasure can be defined as: wealth, rich materials or valuable things.

Last week I found a treasure that was not made of rich materials or expensive. In fact, it was free…it came with the item it was designed with which to be used.

That is what made it so valuable. I could not purchase another one. What I was using as a substitute did not do the job completely.

Where did I find this treasure?

In my storage room.

I was actually looking for a curtain rod, when I picked up a basket and saw it inside. The funny thing is I had been looking for it for months. I don’t know how I possibly overlooked it!

During my many years of being housebound, I spent fifteen minutes a day doing what flylady.net refers to as decluttering. I went through every room, closet, shelf, and drawer pulling out items to give away and throw away. When I finished the final room, I thought that was it. I no longer needed to declutter.

Unfortunately, life is in a constant change. Our granddaughter was born and I accumulated many items just for her use. Those items and toys were taken to the storage room and stacked.

She has outgrown the bouncy chair, pack and play, high chair, and baby gates. At the ripe old age of four the only item she still needs is a car seat.

When we purchased the car seat, it came with a plastic zip on cover. I folded it up and put it in a basket in the storage room.

When we bought a new van, my husband brought the car seat in the house. I set it in the entry way and looked vainly for the plastic cover to protect it from dust. I used an extra-large space bag, but it only partially covered it.

Yes, my buried treasure was the plastic, car seat cover. I have to protect that car seat because I plan on using it for many more grandchildren.

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to the store, picked up an item and found I already had one. I’m looking at a scarf right now that I should return because I found an identical one in my closet!

The point is, we waste so much money because we let things pile up and things get buried. Decluttering is a job that is never finished. I need to put it back in my daily routine.

Only this cover fits the car seat.

Only this cover fits the car seat.

Logo Contest!

Last week I was reading a post from “blogging101” and realized I have never made a logo for my blog. I am not artistic and I decided to have a contest and let the artists in the blogging community help me out.

I want a fish, facing left, with the word “frugal” inside. Or the word “frugal” in the shape of a fish.

Any takers?

Oh…the prize?

I will give you credit under the logo.

I doubt I will have many responses because we want money, not credit!

Yet, that is exactly what many stores do. When you return an item, they give you credit to be used only at their store. They are keeping our money and we let them get away with it!

Sometimes, they just say you cannot return an item…even when that is not the store policy!

My point is…we need to check the return policy at any store before we make a purchase.

After all, it’s our money!

 

Twitter – @frugalfishorg

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Deadline for First Goal

Today is the first deadline for the goals I set on February 3rd, see “Facing My Giants” http://wp.me/pKNzn-Fc.

2015 Goals for frugalfish.com

1. Gain 20% more followers by March 31st.

2. Increase daily hits 30% by end of 2015.

3. Gain 6 new twitter followers by May 30th. (@frugalfishorg)

I realize the day is young, but I think I may have overshot that first goal. My goal was for 829 followers, but I haven’t reached it yet.

I am doing better on the other goals. I am halfway there on both of them!

Our finances work a lot like my goals. We may be disappointed in one area, such as an increase in salary, but pleased in another, i.e. debt reduction. The important thing is to keep going.

For over a decade we added $15.00 to the principal on our mortgage and we were able to pay it off before our 50th birthdays. Every little bit counts.

A blank piece of paper to write my 2015 goals on.

A blank piece of paper to write my 2015 goals on.

 

Facing My Giants

Sunday we had a winter storm and church was canceled. I had a free morning!

I started my day as usual, by reading my Bible. I read the account of David killing Goliath and decided it was time to face my giant.

I’ve been hiding out from this giant for a month and it just wasn’t going away. It was adjusting our family spending plan to fit our “new” income of…unemployment, see “My Husband Lost His Job, http://wp.me/pKNzn-DT.

I had the percentages of my spending plan memorized: Give 10%, Save 10%, Housing 30%, Food 12%, Auto 15%, and split the rest fairly evenly. (We have to allocate more to medical expenses than the average family.)

In the time it took my husband to clear our drive, and the neighbors drive, I had adjusted the numbers. Since he has been the one paying bills, I went over the figures with him when he came inside. We had to raise some numbers and trim others, but in less than an hour, we had a plan.

I should have done it last week when I learned the amount of our new health insurance premium, but I procrastinated.

Today, I faced another giant…goals for this blog. It is also something I have been avoiding! But I started taking “Blogging 201” and that was today’s assignment. For bonus points, we were to write a post and list our goals.

2015 Goals for frugalfish.com

1. Gain 20% more followers by March 31st.

2. Increase daily hits 30% by end of 2015.

3. Gain 6 new twitter followers by May 30th.

I recorded the goals on my editorial calendar and will report my progress.

I encourage you to face your “giants.” It won’t take as long as you think and will not be as painful as you expect.

A blank piece of paper to write my 2015 goals on.

A blank piece of paper on which to write my 2015 goals.

My Husband Lost His Job

When I signed up for “Blogging 101,” I knew it would be difficult. I had no idea how heartrending the first assignment would be. We are to write who we are and why we are blogging.

I went back to my “About” page, http://wp.me/PKNzn-2, in this blog and made adjustments. I was able to add two more goals met: paying off the house and paying cash to replace our van. But I had to add, that after working for 30 years at a Lumberyard, my husband was laid off last Friday. The Lumberyard is for sale and his former boss is hoping the new owner will rehire him, but there are no guarantees.

Why am I blogging? My friends asked me to write down the little things I do to make things last longer, organizing my home, decorating my home and doing it without spending money. I worked as a bookkeeper for a church for almost 25 years and I learned how to stretch a dollar just to survive!

That is still my goal – to survive during this time that we both are unemployed and our youngest finishes up college. Odd, the only one in this house that is gainfully employed is our son!

I would like to connect with others who are surviving without running up a large credit card bill; those who live beneath their means. Unfortunately, today I am not even sure what our “means” will be.

I do know it is a new year and we have a totally blank page with which to work.

The filler paper I made for my Day-Timer using my kids loose leaf paper.

The filler paper I made for my Day-Timer using my kids loose leaf paper.