Monday, August 18, 2014

Year of 31

It's only 2.5 hours away from my 31st birthday!

I liked having a "year of 30" list last year, but I want to keep it simple/accomplishable/affordable this year. So my goals for this next year of my life are measurable and trackable:

  • mise-en-place my life; get organized and then keep organized. Prepare things in advance (budget/meal plan/etc.) so that they are easy because I have all the pieces. 
  • Take the PPP, SPD and SD exams (half way through).
  • Build and take care of raised beds in front of my house (watering/weeding/thinning).
  • Create a budget every month and stick to it. 
  • Experiment in the kitchen. Cook meals, look at plating and presentation (take photos!)
  • Develop an exercise habit (experiment to find what works for me)
  • Get and keep kitchen organized (spice shelves, base cabinet organizers, back of door organizers)
  • Paint living room, kitchen and bathroom, touch up bedroom. These could be done in a weekend!
  • Connect more with friends and family (I just used Skype yesterday to catch up with an old friend. Chatting via video is amazing! I used it again to talk to a friend who recently moved and who I haven't seen in a long time and it felt like we were just chatting like normal face to face. Yay technology!)
  • Have more fun. This one is not so measurable (unless I have a daily calendar where I track the fun-ness of my day). But really just doing more things I enjoy, exploring nearby nature, finding ways to entertain myself that aren't too expensive. The last year was pretty stressful and I would really prefer to focus on enjoying life than stressing about it!
  • Sunday, August 10, 2014

    National S'mores Day!

    Today (Sunday August 10) was National S'mores Day!

    I started preparing on Saturday, making marshmallows. The Alton Brown recipe has been my favorite so far.

    Then I made graham crackers from one of my favorite cookbooks, Homemade Pantry.

    When the graham crackers came out of the oven, I set the pans on cooling racks and immediately put chocolate and marshmallow on them. This way the chocolate would melt, then cool with the cracker and become one.

    I assembled them this way to transport more easily to work tomorrow.

    This photos are showing me that I seriously need a better camera than just my phone if I want to take better food photos!

    I really wanted to roast these marshmallows over the fire pit, but I'm having a S'mores party in a couple weeks to celebrate my birthday, so I'll wait until then. For which I have plans to make marshmallows and I'm thinking about making a S'mores tart. Graham cracker crust, chocolate ganache topped with marshmallow creme and toasted via culinary torch!

    Saturday, August 9, 2014

    Chocolate Zucchini Cake -OR- How to use up your giant zucchini

    This cake means summer, and also has been m birthday cake pretty much every year for as long as I can remember. It is a cake with no frosting, and is probably why I love cake and dislike frosting.

    1/2 cup soft butter
    1 & 3/4 cup sugar (sometimes I reduce this down to 1 cup when I'm going for "healthy" cake)
    1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can replace some or all of this with applesauce
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 cup sour milk (to make this, pour a little lemon juice in the 1/2 cup and then fill with milk)
    2 & 1/2 cups flour, sifted
    4 Tbsp cocoa
    1/2 t. baking powder
    1 t. baking soda
    1/2 t. cinnamon
    1/2 t cloves
    2 cup zucchini, grated
    1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips
    Cream butter and sugar in stand mixer or large bowl. Add oil, eggs, vanilla and sour milk and blend. Mix together all dry ingredients in medium sized bowl and beat well into wet mixture.  Stir in zucchini.  Spoon mixture, and smooth top, into greased and floured 9 x 13  pain; sprinkle top with chocolate chips.  Bake at 325 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes.

    I need to get a better camera than my phone. No frosting allowed, I love this cake!


    It's so simple.

    When you want to know how much money you have, look at your budget, not your bank account!

    Of course, this requires that you write what you intend to spend and then what you actually spend. But that way I can keep using, and using my debit card to track purchases.

    Here is the spreadsheet I made to track budget (zero base where every dollar has a job, even if that job is vague, "entertainment").

    Cell phones$10$145
    Natural Gas$32$32
    Garbage ($40 every 2 months)$20$40
    House supplies/ toiletries
    Disability Insurance$97
    Oil Changes ($50*4/year)$17$25
    Car Insurance$107$107$107
    Wellness plan puppy$28$28
    Pet insurance
    Dog Food

    Credit Card


    Savings off the top$300$300 plus remaining
    Savings - online account for Xmas

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Early Retirement, I want it!

    I have to figure out how bad I want it, how much I am willing to live like no one else so that later I can live like no one else!

    The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement, from Mr. Money Mustache
    Starting from assumption of zero assets, starting today (+31)

    Savings Rate - Years 'til Retirement
    5% - 66 years (age 97)
       6% my current plus 6% matching (matching doesn't count, it's bonus)
    10% - 51 years (age 82)
    15% - 43 years (age 74) Goal for 2015
    20% - 37 years (age 68) Goal for 2016
    25% - 32 years (age 63) Goal for 2017
    30% - 28 years (age 59)
    35% - 25 years (age 56)
    40% - 22 years (age 53)
    45% - 19 years (age 50)
    50% - 17 years (age 48 - based on 5% pay raise every year and keeping current spending, I could afford to do 50% savings at age 43)

    Now, I'm not starting at 0, but I might as well look at it that way if  really want to kick things up a notch!

    Spending Less is more important than earning more.

    Oh man how I wish I knew this so many years ago when I was making good money and living exactly at my means. I don't have that many things I can reduce spending on, namely:

    1. Cell phone (planning to switch to Republic Wireless next month) 
    2. Food (set a budget of $400, typically have been spending closer to $600-700/mo)
    3. Shopping (I don't always do a lot of shopping, some months more than others - looking at more DIY and also just a minimalism approach. I don't need more stuff!)

    Basic rules of growing wealth I heard on a madfientist podtcast today:
    1. Avoid Debt
    2. Live on less than you earn
    3. Invest the surplus

    It's that simple. 

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

    Reflecting on my Year of 30

    Last year, I turned 30, I will be turning 31 in a little less than 2 weeks. I did a lot of things on my list, changed my mind about some, and took a complete 180 on others. I still like the idea of an annual bucket list, I think I should limit the number of things though to keep it more reasonable/achievable. I also started a bucket list - bigger things to work towards over a longer period.

    My list was a bit too aggressive! I think a list of maybe 10 things, 10 reasonable things (affordably reasonable and calendar reasonable! I do like the idea of a bucket list for the year, but I also want to work on a life bucket list. All my budgeting is helping with that. This month will be my first real budget month, I'm excited and I hope I can stay that way!

    I think for my Year of 31 my list will be as follows:

    1. Take my PPP exam again, and SPD and SD
    2. Build and take care of raised beds in front of my house
    3. Use a budget
    4. Focus on building up emergency fund (bonuses, gifts, side income => all goes to savings)
    5. Make as much homemade as I can (soaps, additional clothing, bread, meals, lunch, snacks, even desserts - gifts and start making items for my online business, no need to rush into that though - figure out some go-to recipes for bread, pizza, veggie dishes, stretching the grocery budget)
    6. Develop and exercise habit (I don't know what this will be yet, I bought a 15# kettlebell I like to pick up and do a couple random squats with but it would be good to get some kind of schedule going, even if it's just 50 KB swings a day, and a 15 minute walk with the puppy when I get home from work)
    7. Get kitchen organized (pots and pans, hooks for measuring cups, spice shelves, etc)
    8. Paint living room and kitchen (already have the paint! Just a matter of moving things around to get it done, and keeping the puppy away from wet paint.
    9. Spend more time with/talking to my family and friends, even if that means phone calls, texting and or letters. So many kinds of communication these days, I should really be taking advantage of them rather than feeling so far away from my friends!
    10. Have fun. Have way more fun! Do things that are fun (and affordable), make sure to have fun budgeted in, figure out what fun means exactly, because sometimes it's sitting here researching budgeting, or spending a whole night on Pintrest, or just watching a movie with the boy and the puppy, or sometimes it's spending a whole day making food
    This was a first stab at writing up a Year of 31, I will probably need to edit a few things, but 10 items, even more general items are better than the 50+ items I had last year (where my actual income was barely a factor! Haha!)

    Hey, that's catchy

    I heard and read a couple phrases in the past few days that I really liked.

    "Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle."

    When first getting into getting financially fit, it's easy to read stories about people who started way before you and to feel discouraged because you will never reach (or it feels like you won't) what they have accomplished and you are just getting started. First of all, comparison will get you nowhere. Secondly, what matters is that you have started! There are still so many people out there who haven't started!

    "Professional Home Economist" as the job title of a stay at home mom.

    I heard Dave Ramsey say this about a woman who was staying home with the kids, but money was still tight. It was her job to make sure the house ran affordably and efficiently. This means learning to cook, make things from scratch, find the best deals on things they need. I aspire to be a part-time professional home economist (see: sewing, canning, cooking, gardening hobbies!).

    "Don't blame other's for your financial problems"

    This is what really got me going. I've been blaming my under-employed boyfriend for my finances, or that I don't get paid enough. But really, when I look at my budget, I make enough to live on, I just have been spending too much on food, or gas to go places I really couldn't afford, or going out to eat for dinner when I'm too tired to cook, or forget to bring lunch. There are so many things I am  in control of. Now I am focusing on the final quote:

    "budgeting is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went!"

    Money, money, money, money.... MONEY!

    I have become kind of obsessed with money. I am salaried so there isn't really anything I can do to increase my income because I don't get overtime and don't have the time or energy for another job. What I have come to realize is that I need a budget in order to "tell my money where to go, rather than wonder where it went" as Dave Ramsey says.

    Right now, I am feeling pretty pumped up about setting up budgets, planning for the future, and figuring out ways to save money. Below I have gathered the places I turn to for inspiration when I want to think about or get high on budgeting.

    Basic notes I have gathered from the people below:

    • Put 15% of your income into your retirement savings. I am at 6% right now, plan to bump up to 10% with my next raise and 15% after that. 
    • Spend less than you earn. This sounds obvious and yet, it's so difficult because the money in my account always "burns a hole in my pocket" when I have it. 
    • Focus on the bigger picture. Dave Ramsey says "Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else." This idea gets me excited. I can kind of picture myself becoming the crazy lady who finds many ways to save money and does everything by hand. 
    • Without a budget, you don't really know how much money you have. In a budget, you are planning for bills you know will come, you can even save a little every month to prepare for bigger expenses (like oil changes every 3 months, if you save the amount over the 3 months instead of suddenly having that chunk expense you can be better prepared. Car insurance premiums are the same.)

    Some things I am still figuring out:
    • What is the most effective way for me to prepare a budget, keep track of my budget, and stay on budget. I am planning to give You Need a Budget a try, however first I need to update my operating system on my laptop!
    • How to budget grocery shopping when I love good ingredients and good food, and the grocery store isn't in walking distance like it was in NYC. Man I miss that. 
    • Spending money on experiences rather than things. I don't buy much "things" anymore (thank you fully stocked kitchen, but I love to make things and so end up spending money on supplies. I would like to review these habits and focus on experiences, as well as spending on supplies to compliment the supplies I already have (i.e. buy a zipper in order to make a garment with fabric I already have, but not buy new fabric until I have used all the fabric I have and have a specific need for more.) I really like the idea of taking off multiple weeks of work in order to travel. Having a dog will somewhat limit where I can/am willing to go. I don't really want to leave him behind! I see a lot of road trips in my future :) 
    • A minimalist lifestyle works very well with being frugal and saving. Understanding that I don't actually want things that at first I think I might want because other people have or want them. I don't need more stuff, I could do with less stuff. I like the idea of living a more streamlined life which to me means developing a personal uniform (more on that later), preserving food, growing it myself, spending time at home, and getting organized. 

    Keeping track
    • Mint, great for seeing where your money went, not great for planning ahead


    Keeping Track

    Things I want to learn more about:

    • Couponing, and if this is something I could get into
    • Making everything from scratch
    • Kettlebell workouts
    • Start up costs of chickens, and chicken care when on vacation
    • Ways to make money outside of work
    • Investing, for when I have extra income to invest (by my approximations it will be in 3-4 years)
    • Vacation, where I want to go on my big vacation in 2020 (as part of my 6 year plan)

    I'm sure these lists will continue to grow, I will post again once I have done more exploring! I am also trying to figure out what I want this blog to be. Back to the NW for the future. I want to be here, I am very happy to be here (especially right now at the peak of summer produce!) I think documenting my house projects and attempts at frugality and minimalism. Likely some posts on the frustrations but hopefully more on the successes!

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    Homemade, saving money and impressing people

    I love making things. Several of my home cooking experiments have stemmed out of "I wonder if I can make that. As I am preparing for my super budget, the one where I will have money for the things I need (3 months spending emergency fund) and the ones I want (a shed/office in the back yard of my new house) I am trying to figure out ways of cutting down on my spending.

    One project I will be in need of soon is dishwasher detergent, so I did a little research and found a few recipes for homemade soaps. They are quite cheap as the components are cheap and you don't need to use very much to get results (according to the posts).

    All recipes found at 

    Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

    1 cup Borax
    1 cup Washing Soda
    1/2 cup Citric Acid
    1/2 cup Kosher Salt

    Use white vinegar as rinse aid

    Combine in container with sealing lid, shake, use
    Simple cheap, impressive!

    Homemade Liquid Dish Soap

    I'll be needing this soon, not so soon that I don't have time to over think what I want it to smell like!

    1 3/4c boiling water
    1 Tbsp Borax
    1 Tbsp Grated Soap
    15-20 drops Essential oils

    Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, boil water, pour over dry ingredients, stir, add essential oils and let cool 6-8 hours on countertop, stirring occasionally. Put in a squirt bottle.

    Homemade Laundry Detergent (Dry, you can make wet ones but I worry that I would make too big a mess sloshing it into the washing machine)

    1 bar shaved soap (I plan to buy some handmade soap, all natural ingredients, from Slab)
    1 cup Borax
    1 cup Washing Soda

    Combine in sealed container, shake, use, 1 Tbsp per load (2-3 for soiled loads)

    The next step for me will be figuring out which containers to use and how to decorate them! Squee, art project!