Whoops, I failed at still being alive.

But here I am now! And there is a lot going on. The biggest thing is that I have resigned from my day job as an Administrative Assistant in order to pursue translation full-time. I know I advocate taking on extra work, and resigning from my job seems rather… the opposite of that. However! If I don’t have a full-time job, I can take on oodles more translation work, which pays better and is what I love doing. I may also relocate to New Orleans, which is a much less expensive place to live.

There is a lot to think about now that I am transitioning to full-time self-employment. Some of it I have dealt with over the last year in my part-time work. For example, this year was the first time I had to do complicated self-employed tax related things. But since I have a full-time job, I also have group health insurance, life insurance, a retirement account, etc. Right now, my biggest concern is purchasing health insurance. In Massachusetts, an individual health insurance plan can cost between $250 to $400 per month. In Louisiana, the range is $40 to $350. None of that includes dental care, or any number of other additional benefits that might be necessary. This is TERRIFYING. I have been worried about it for a while. It is a big incentive to move to Louisiana! 

And then, I did a very smart thing. I listened to my mom.

She wisely advised me to see if my alma mater has any sort of group health insurance for alumni. AND THEY DO. I can now exhale.

Sooooo sorry my dears. I was on vacation and I now have more freelance work coming in than I can handle, on top of my full-time job. This is a good thing! But it doesn’t leave a lot of free time. I will post later about some exciting things!

This is part of something that has been kicking around in my head lately – kind of a “use the whole buffalo” deal, where I have all this stuff at home that I don’t use, and a bunch of other stuff that I feel like I “need,” and I am trying to find ways for those two things to meet in the middle. I have this overwhelming urge to really use everything I have before I get anything new. Of course, this isn’t entirely possible, but I can come close to it. So I am finding ways to use the things I don’t need and turn them into the things I do need, while maintaining the things I already have and use. There are a lot of ways this has been manifesting in my life lately, but I’ll start with just one:

Don’t Replace – Repair!

There have been plenty of occasions on which I have justified buying something because I need a new one. This is especially true for clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. “It’s worn out, I need a new one,” “It has a hole in it, I need a new one,” etc. Sometimes, you really do need a new one, but a lot of the time you could make do with repairing the old one instead. It’s hard sometimes (or it has been for me) to make this decision, because we like new things. New things are great. New things stimulate our brains, which is why people always want to buy the newest gadget. It doesn’t even have to be new, it just has to be new to you (this leads to the thrift store discussion, but that is for another day). But a needle and thread or super glue are so much cheaper than a new sweater.

Sewing

(It’s okay if you’re bad at it) 

There are a lot of ways to implement “Don’t Replace – Repair!” but the one that’s been on my mind and that I have been focused on lately is mending my clothes. Now, I am not an expert seamstress. In fact, I am pretty awful at sewing. But most of the time, it doesn’t matter. I can sew, but it won’t look pretty. But it doesn’t need to! I like to hem pants, sleeves, skirts, etc. while I am watching TV. As long as I am patient and don’t use a highly contrasting color of thread, you can’t tell that I don’t have the steadiest hand. I’ll also either close up or patch small holes in items. This can be fun if you just go all out and make it obvious and funky, or you can try to hide it.

The most ambitious (and money-saving) project I have taken up recently is the repair of my purse. It’s one of those purses that has organizing compartments in it. I wanted one for a long time, but the one I wanted (the Cadillac of organizational purses – the Butler Bag) costs between $200 and $300, depending on what the designer is making at the moment. And let’s face it – even before I started getting my s*** together, there was no way I was spending $200 on a purse. That’s just not me.

The Cadillac of Organizational Purses
(Photo Credit: butlerbag.com)

I did some more research, and found that Kmart carries a budget version of the Butler Bag. It’s still made by Butler, but it’s vinyl instead of leather (and I am sure there are other changes that I am not savvy enough to notice). Like the original Butler Bags, the Kmart bags seem to change with the seasons. I ordered one online in September of 2011.

Kmart's Butler Bag
(photo credit: kmart.com)

I got mine for $30. The ones up there right now are $25, on sale for $18. Sure beats $200!  But recently, it started falling apart. I don’t mean to lay any blame on Butler Bags or Kmart – I abuse this bag. I use it every day, I keep a million things in it, I rifle through it with abandon, I throw it about the place, I stuff it in the seat compartment of my Vespa, I bang it into things on the bus… Really. It’s me. And despite the excellent price from Kmart, I don’t want to buy something new if I don’t have to. I don’t want to spend money if there is some other option. I also have a bunch of yarn sitting around from unfinished knitting projects, and I have been looking for uses for it. So I sat down with a darning needle and some dark-colored yarn and attacked my bag.

The side seam was coming apart, and also the lining was coming undone at the bottom. Stuff was getting lost in there, and I started to worry about someone stealing things from my purse while on the bus because there was a giant hole in it! I emptied the bag, which was a great exercise too, since I had the chance to throw out old receipts and the like, and decide what I do and don’t really need to keep in my purse. Then I vacuumed it with the hose attachment on my vacuum, ostensibly to clean it but really just because I love vacuuming things. I turned it inside out and started blundering through the repair. Like I said, I am not good at sewing. I am passable. I do not have any special tools for sewing vinyl. I just took what I had at home and made the best of it. I didn’t even have black yarn, so it’s a dark grey yarn. It looks pretty pathetic. It is now dubbed “Frankenpurse.” But the thing is, the only people who are going to notice it are the people standing behind me on the bus, spaced out and staring at whatever is in front of them. And if people do notice it, so what? When you’re not a magical domestic genius person, and you want to save money, sometimes you have to do that by wearing or using things that look kind of deformed. Yes, I have a budget version of a fancy purse that I sewed up (poorly) with yarn. So what? I’m going to be a millionaire someday.

Frankenpurse! So you can feel better about your own sewing skills. And your photography skills.

I have lost thirty pounds as of this morning! Perhaps now I will have to actually finish my post about losing thirty pounds in six months. I do still have ten pounds to go before I reach my goal weight. The long post is still in the works, but here are some of my favorite tips and tools:

Tips:

1. Walk as much as you can.

2. Portion control. I cannot stress this enough!

Portion Distortion (image from nutritionfornormalpeople.com)
Click to enlarge

3. Count calories! It works.

4. Weigh yourself every day – it keeps you honest.

5. Keep a food diary – ditto.

6. Just say no! This is the hardest one. Just say no to things that are bad for you, AND things that you don’t like but will eat anyway just because they are in front of you. Say no to boredom eating. Say no to eating when you’re not hungry. You have to keep saying it. It takes forever but eventually it’ll become habit!

Tools:

Endomondo – an Android/iOS/many other platforms app and a website that I can turn on when I am walking and it tracks my exercise. Works for many many many forms of exercise. Extremely excellent!

MyFitnessPal – This is my food diary tool. It has a HUGE database of foods, and it’s easy to add ones that aren’t in there. Also an app and a website. The app can enter foods by scanning bar codes – I love it! Calculates a goal number of calories to consume every day based on the information you put in about your height, weight, lifestyle and goals. Every day, it adds calories from food and removes calories from exercise. I really can’t say enough good things about this tool!

More later!

Stacks of US quarters and pennies

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It may sound like a cliche, but every penny you save counts. In the end, they add up. It’s hard to keep this in mind all day every day, but doing so can make a really big difference. Every time something catches your eye and you think, “Well, it’s only 99 cents, that’s like nothing at all,” you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s something you can do without. If it is, skip it! Although you may get to a point where you are irritating yourself and your friends, it really does add up.

This weekend, I was grocery shopping at the lovely Trader Joe’s. I was purchasing some seltzer water, which I love. It was really inexpensive and I go through it at an alarming rate, so I considered buying a few extra bottles, but decided not to because I had walked there and adding four bottles of seltzer would about triple the load to carry home.

I was with my boyfriend, and he pointed out that there were little re-usable bags for sale for 99 cents that would carry six bottles. “It’s only a dollar,” he said, “and you’ll use it again.” The question is, would I use it again? I am kind of space cadet and don’t see myself remembering to bring it next time, or even remembering that I have it. So I skipped it. It’s just a dollar, but if you skip something like that every day, that’s $365 dollars a year. It feels like a drop in the bucket, which is why I think you need to pat yourself on the back every time you do it, even when it’s a tiny amount of money. Congratulations! You saved a dollar! You are being vigilant! Go you!

How have you been frugal this week?