i’m a cheapskate


A few weeks ago our church moved into a new building and when we picked Asher up the teacher was telling us about the cool new stuff they would start the next week, including a video curriculum for the Bible story. I asked them for the name of the curriculum and if there was a way for me to watch it first. She told us and I was going to leave it at that but Jake then informed her that we don’t let Asher watch videos. I realized that we have become one of “those” parents – the weird ones. As we were talking about it on the way home I pointed out that, as Asher is potty-trained and we don’t leave Caroline in the nursery yet, they aren’t even aware that we cloth diaper. They are going to think we are REALLY weird when they find that out. I told Jake that I don’t feel weird, these things feel normal to me. But taken as a whole we are very weird people and I can see why it is a bit difficult for us to make friends.

  • We don’t own a TV. And I am very vigilant about limiting screen time for my kids when they are around smartphones etc.
  • Cloth diapers (which, for the record, I prefer over disposables – even if the cost was the same. Disposables stink and feel so…papery.)
  • No soda, except root beer or cream soda as a special treat. We pretty much drink only water, sometimes juice.
  • We put our kids to bed super early and make sure they have time to take solid naps.
  • We try to avoid licensed characters. When Asher needs a toothbrush or something I go to great lengths to find one that doesn’t have a “character” on it. Aside: I shouldn’t have to go to great lengths but unfortunately most toddler toothbrushes have Mickey or Thomas or Dora on them.
  • We’re debt free and actually have money in the bank. Even during times of unemployment.
  • I try to cook from scratch and avoid prepackaged things.
  • We buy used. Any time we need something, we check craigslist first. We have a stroller, a couch & loveseat set, a glider, and a sewing machine that were all purchased used. We only buy used cars. Our mattress, washer, and dryer are hand-me-downs, and everything else has been built by Jake from re-purposed wood.
  • We both try to stay physically active.
  • I will keep my kids rear-facing in the car until I can no longer find a carseat they will fit in.
  • Per WHO recommendations I hope/plan to nurse my babies around 2 years each.

So, lady, it’s not just that I expect you to actually teach and interact with my child instead of popping in a DVD (seriously. What is so difficult about teaching 2-year-olds? Tell them a short story, they will love it and it is so much better for them than watching a video!). Altogether these things make me, and us, pretty different from most of the people I know. I’m ok with that and I’m ok with the fact that you probably talk about us after we leave for rocking the boat. Looking over that list I totally sound like a hippie-granola but I like all of these things about me and my family. These things are comfortable and normal for me. And I think you’re the weird one for thinking a video curriculum for Bible stories is a good thing.

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By which I mean, I have not vanished into thin air. I have, however, made some major changes in my geographical location and have now been on the blessed soil of the United States of America – specifically, the hallowed state of Texas – for one whole month. I now have the mommy badge of making an international flight with an infant and also the badge of coping with baby jet lag.

So, we are currently staying in a guest house through Thanksgiving…we have a car (and insurance!)…and are busy putting things from France in storage, and getting things out of storage we will need for our extended Indiana visit, and rearranging it all to go back into storage. Oh, and introducing the most wonderful little boy to all of our friends and family here, and going to showers and getting cute stuff for him. I have happily eaten Chick-fil-A a few times (and have to admit, I am sadly disappointed in their decision to use canola oil for the fries…much less tasty and probably not really helpful to people with severe nut allergies) and love clipping coupons (and using them!) again. I also got free jeans at the Gap, which is awesome since all I had were maternity jeans. So, things are going pretty well so far. I mean of course there are “issues” as with any culture change but in a lot of ways it feels like coming home and taking off your business casual stuff to put on your comfy sweats. I don’t like how loud people are, I don’t like how overbearing sales associates can be, I don’t like how busy everyone is, and I don’t like talking about personal stuff with people I don’t really know…but I didn’t like any of that stuff before we left. It’s just magnified now.

So, basically…I’m back. Back in the States, and hopefully back online. Just been working through how the me I am now fits in (or not) with what I had before France.

I have been deprived from my bargain hunting the past few months, stranded in the wilderness – no more free stuff from CVS or Kroger, no more compliments from cashiers.  I felt weird.  But yesterday I discovered that I have not lost my touch, and have even graduated from groceries and household items to electronics!

I have been wanting to get a stereo/speaker thingy for my ipod before we go overseas, and various clues led me to believe I would not be receiving one for Christmas.  So I started to shop around for a good deal, because if I’m going to have to spend my hard-saved allowance money it will only be on a good deal, and I found one at A Particular Store.  It was a stereo I had included on my Christmas list, normally priced at $150 and on sale for $60.  Unfortunately it was an online only deal, and they were out of stock online (the cheaters!).  I kept shopping around and found some decent prices on good speakers, but nothing that was really exciting.  We decided to go to Best Buy to examine some of the contenders in person and verify their voltage for overseas purposes, and I printed out the Particular Store’s deal just in case.  We looked around at Best Buy and there was still nothing that just seemed like an unbeatable, once-in-a-lifetime deal.  I didn’t expect anything but asked an employee if they matched competitor’s prices, and he said yes.  My heartbeat quickened.  I asked if that included online prices and at first he said yes and then he said he’d have to check to make sure.  Oh, the agony of waiting on the verdict!  I totally expected to get shot down but the manager said to go ahead and match it!  Without even looking at it!  I handed the page to the employee, he rang us up, and we walked out without setting any alarms off.  So I got a $150 stereo at a place where it wasn’t on sale for $60, which by the way is way below their employee price too.  Hooray!

Now I just hope it doesn’t get squashed in our luggage.

Yesterday I:

  • worked on my ipod (the computer my itunes is on does not have internet access.  It is very time-consuming and tedious to put several hundred CDs on there without the assistance of the internet.  Which is why I am still working on it, despite being a reasonably satisfied ipod owner for a year and a half.)*
  • started learning French.  fille = girl, garcon = boy (there is supposed to be one of those squiggly things under the c, but I have no idea how to do that), femme = woman…oh, and the lesson also covered prepositions, so I can now recognize such common and useful phrases as “a boy under an airplane,” “a boy over an airplane,” etc.

Today I:

  • did Pilates
  • began an application to open a bank account with free international ATM access
  • traded mutual funds like a pro
  • ran boring general errands
  • GOT SEASON TWO OF HEROES!!!  FOR FREE!**
  • GOT GAS FOR $3.19 A GALLON!!!  I never, never thought I would see the day when gas would seem like a bargain at that price.  But it’s here…thanks, Kroger!
  • saved $39 at the grocery store (you know you did well when the cashier tells you, “You did good!”)
  • accidentally sprayed myself in the face with the sprayer in the kitchen sink
  • made a lovely & delicious quiche: eggs (of course), half & half, cream cheese, Swiss cheese, and…little green chilies.  Little green chilies give any recipe bonus points, in my opinion.
  • spilled quiche batter all over the counter
  • had a great time at lifegroup.  We love, love, love our lifegroup.  And our church.  This is really the first group of people we have really connected with since we got married; no one tells you how difficult it can be to make friends as a couple.  Our old church had a few exceptions, like Paige & Barry, but on the whole we really struggled to make couple friends.  We weren’t expecting too much when we joined 121, knowing we would be leaving soon, but after my parents & family these people will be some of the hardest to leave.
  • stationary bike & weights
  • ate cookies late at night

*when I am finished converting my vast musical library into mp3 – I made it through Third Day, and of course they are alphabetized – I will put them all on an external hard drive and move them over to Trusty Little Macbook.  It just didn’t make any sense to put half on the desktop and use the laptop for the other half, especially because a) my internet is spotty and b) I don’t think little ipod (his name is Nicodemus, by the way) can sync like that.  But I could be wrong.

**we were given two sets of season one for Christmas, so we returned one, put the balance on a gift card, and waited anxiously for the next season to come out with the intention of purchasing it with the gift card.  Worked like a charm.

Jake & I went on a whirlwind road trip this weekend.  Not really a pleasure road trip – his Mamaw (great-grandmother) died.  I have some musings on the topic of death rolling around, which isn’t really unusual for me as death is something I think about quite a bit (sounds morbid but I’m not crazy, at least I don’t think I am) but if I ever write those thoughts they will be a post unto themselves.  Two 16-hour drives in four days isn’t really my idea of a pleasure trip, anyway, although it was nice to see Jake’s family.

pro to driving a Toyota Echo on a road trip: phenomenal gas mileage (and it’s not even a hybrid!)

con to driving a Toyota Echo on a road trip: no cruise control (the gas mileage is partially due to a complete lack of “features”)

I saw this video last week and thought it was really funny.  Guess which part is my favorite?

fast food awards: Chick-fil-A’s breakfast burrito.  I have reveled in the chicken biscuit and the more recent advent of the chicken mini, but had never sampled the delights of their breakfast burrito until last Thursday.  It was delicious and perfect (eggs! peppers! onions! cheese! chicken but not overwhelmed with chicken!) and not greasy at all.  Thin Mint Blizzard at Dairy Queen.  And last but not least, the Quizno’s in Bryant, Arkansas.  They were super friendly and also my sandwich was delicious.  I have never been a big Quizno’s fan but I am now considering it.

After today I only have 8 days left in the workforce!!!  I am so happy and excited.  I don’t think I was cut out to work all the time.  Of course I will be working after I leave but it will be in my house, on my time, doing things that need doing that pertain to my real life.  Yay!!

I read this on a blog the other day: “The world is not an easy place to live in right now and I can’t see any way out of the hole our country is in economically. We’re heading for the bottom and I can barely see any light anymore. I wonder if this is how people were feeling during the great depression.”

Oh, pleeeeeeeeease.  First off, we are nothing nothing nothing like the Great Depression.  People who lived through the Great Depression STILL, more than 70 years later, add water to the ketchup bottle to make sure they get every smidgen possible.  Absolutely nothing got wasted or thrown away.  You didn’t buy new clothes, you had to repair what you had.  When it couldn’t be repaired anymore you made something new out of it for a smaller family member.  No one had a job – there were no jobs to be had.  The lady who said that was complaining about how hard it is to make ends meet on the two incomes she and her husband bring in – she did mention that one of them makes 90k a year.  The fact that either of them is working indicates it is not the Great Depression.  Also my husband and I make two incomes which combined don’t even equal 90k.  We live very comfortably off less than one of those incomes, which is by itself slightly less than the average American household income, and I am so happy that I saw a shooting star a few weeks ago and couldn’t even think of anything to wish for.  Possibly this lady needs to re-examine her budget because I feel ridiculously wealthy on less than half of what is apparently suffocating her.

Secondly, WE ARE NOT IN A RECESSION.  Yet.  Our last quarter’s economic growth was 0.9 percent, and the quarter before that growth was 0.6 percent.  I will readily admit that those are not great numbers, but the economy cannot be growing and receeding at the same time any more than the tide can simultaneously come in and go out.  A true recession requires two successive quarters (six months) of negative growth.  We are not growing at the rate we have been over the past few years, but we are not in a recession.  It is more like a stagnation.  I am no economist but I did pay a bit of attention in high school and I know this, so I am surprised that the media in general can’t figure this out.  Reporter does not equal economic expert.  Yet, people in general listen to the media in general and get all flustered over “our horrible economy.”  Well, I hate to break this to you but stagnating at a relatively good place does not count as being horrible.  Yes, gas prices could be lower…but they are still much, much lower than in most places in the world.  Food prices could be lower…but you have access to food, which is worlds away from what a lot of people experience on a daily basis.  Jobs could pay more…but you have a job, so quit whining.  I know things are getting hard for some people right now, but – and I am speaking anecdotally here – most of what I can see is people suffering from poor choices they made in better times.  “Oh, let’s go ahead and get the bigger house with that balloon mortgage thingy – surely we’ll get a raise before the balloon payment is due.”  “Well, we really need a new big-screen flat panel HD TV.  We’ll just finance it, they have a great plan here.”  “We consolidated all our loans!  Let’s celebrate by financing this great new set of couches.”  But the raise didn’t come, or the balloon payment wasn’t saved for, or the planned-on bonus didn’t come through, or whatever.  Here’s a thought: don’t plan on money you don’t have.  You’re not entitled to something because you breathe air, to borrow a phrase from Dave Ramsey.  If you have money to pay for something, great.  If you don’t, wait until you have money.  I cannot tell you the number of foolish financial decisions I have witnessed over the past year through various friends and acquaintences, and I have very little sympathy for those who are lying in a bed of their own making.

And thirdly, an economy cannot sustain huge, uninterrupted growth.  I am reaching back to high school again but it is OK to have times of growth and times where the economy isn’t so great.  Just keep thinking of the tide – it comes in, it goes out.  Nobody gets too upset because they know that, sooner or later, it will come back in again.

Honestly I think the biggest problem is that Americans live in a culture of entitlement: “Waaah, I want that, waaaaaah, why can’t I have it, I deserrrrrrve it!”  And suddenly banks realized that it isn’t so smart to lend money to people who can’t pay it back.  And people who can’t pay the banks back get foreclosed on, which everyone has known in the back of their minds all along but suddenly it is National News.  And suddenly people have to spend money on food rather than pay-per-view, and that means we are in Desperate Times.  The media created this recession impression (I’m a poet, too!) about 6 months ago, if I remember correctly, at the same time we were posting record low unemployment rates.  And now they feed it with horror stories of the dark, dark times we are facing when most of what is going on is people not being able to spoil themselves as much as they want to.  I will add here that the media is possibly creating a recession – scaring people into not buying that tomato because they don’t think they have 79 cents to spare, and then the little tomato farmer goes out of business, and then the fertilizer company has less income and lays some people off, and so on.  It is wonderful to report news; it is not acceptable to invent it.  We may be headed for a recession; I don’t know that.  I’m not an expert.  But I’m not worried.  Jake and I, through hard work and stubbornness, are 100% debt free.  We can handle our rent, utilities, and food on his income no problem.  We have an emergency fund saved.  I know how to use coupons.  We drive only when necessary and then use a car that gets amazing gas mileage.  We learned how to live small while everyone else was living it up – living like we were in a recession when we weren’t.  Because of that our way of life hasn’t changed a bit.

This wasn’t supposed to turn into my soapbox about financial choices…I’m just really tired of being told at every turn that I’m just an innocent victim.  I’m not a victim.  I made choices and I like how the chips fell.  Of course I would like cheaper gas and vegetables, but I really don’t have a problem with The Dire Economic Situation.  It may be popular to sell the victim mentality but I’m not interested in buying.

I’ve always wanted to be a tidy, organized person.  I hope my mom doesn’t read that, she has often informed me of my slobbish habits and could never believe I don’t enjoy clutter.  She would probably die from laughter.  But periodically I get the urge to organize, and I spend all my free time organizing until I’m done.  And then it goes to pot, until my next frenzied attempts to get all my stuff into some kind of order.  Lately I have been really wanting to get my house organized, because now I am a wife and part of being a wife (in my non-politically correct opinion, anyway) is creating a comfortable atmosphere at home – which can’t really happen amidst piles of papers and books, no matter how much I love them.

But this time I want it to be different.  This time I want it to last.  And the only way to do that is to get rid of stuff.  FlyLady says you can’t organize clutter, and it’s true.  So I have set about the daunting task…and have come to realize that I have a lot of stuff.  Worse, I love my stuff.  I get emotionally attached to it.  Little trinkets that someone gave me when I was 8 become a symbol of their love for me – I can’t throw it out!  It will hurt so-and-so’s feelings if I get rid of that whatchamacallit they gave me years back, because they will think I don’t appreciate their gift!  When I was little I couldn’t bear to get rid of any of my stuffed animals because it would hurt their feelings.  I knew in my head that they were inanimate objects but in my heart, I felt I was betraying their trust.  (I admit I still have a few special ones hidden at my parents’ house.)  My mom got me new pajamas, lovely soft ones, when I had chicken pox, because I had a horrible case of them and everything else was torture.  (I am not exaggerating.  I had them EVERYWHERE, including internally – under eyelids, in my throat, and other places it would be horrible to have chicken pox and inappropriate to discuss on the internet.)  I kept those pajamas as long as I possibly could…getting rid of them, even after I’d long outgrown them, was heartwrenching.

Why do I love my stuff so much?  I wouldn’t even really describe myself as materialistic – I’m not trendy, I don’t drool over cute shoes, I hate shopping.  But the stuff I already own…different story.  I have tons of papers I will probably never get to read – but they have information on them, I loooooove information.  And I might need to know those facts someday!  I have scraps of various materials, because what if I ever become crafty?  Never mind that I have had nary a crafty day in my life.  I have more clothes than I can wear, because oh!  That one has been a trusty, faithful shirt since I was 10 (I am not joking) and I looooove it!  This one is so soft, I loooove it!  I haven’t worn this in ages, but Mom made it for me and you just don’t get rid of things like that!  I have 4 coats and a bunch of sweaters, even though I live in Texas, because it actually gets cold once every 10 years and I would hate to go buy sweaters when I have perfectly good ones right here, wouldn’t it be just awful to waste money like that?

What?!  How can you be emotionally attached to ITEMS, which don’t even have emotions?  But getting rid of them makes me feel like I’m getting rid of part of myself, or getting rid of whoever gave it to me.  I don’t even know where I learned to think like that; my mom is the least sentimental person I know.  I would have no remnants of my childhood if an aunt hadn’t salvaged them from the Goodwill sack and stored them for me.

So, I begin a process of reform.  I’m trying to follow FlyLady’s system, which involves slowly building cleaning/decluttering routines into your life, and using little 15-minute increments to get things done.  This is good for me.  I was taught if you’re going to do something, you should do it right – so I put off doing something because I don’t have the time to completely declutter my house, or deep clean every square inch all at once.  But I have already found that I get a lot more done when I use those extra minutes on my lunch break or on the phone to be constructive around the house rather than sitting on my bum.  I just keep reminding myself that I didn’t accumulate all this in one day, so it’s ok if it takes longer than one day to clear it all out.

But I’m not getting rid of any books.  I draw the line there.

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