Archive for January, 2010

Reflections on My Cash-Only Diet

YANG MOMMY

Over the last few days, I’ve felt like a sprinter racing those last few yards towards the finish line.  My DH and I stuck to our “financial fast” and this weekend, it officially came to an end. Good thing too, because I only have a few dollars left and we need groceries 🙂

The “diet” was a bit harder than I thought, but on the other hand, wasn’t as tough as I imagined it would be. I think one  of the hardest things  was bypassing really great deals on tot’s clothing or even something stylish for me (I still dream about those boots I could have had…sigh). I have to admit,  I did cheat a little. One of our rules was that we could not spend on any “wants,” only “needs.” But when a local bookstore was going out of business, and slashing prices to 60-80% off, I couldn’t resist. I bought my little girl a few classics for under $5 and myself a nice large tome to while away the winter night hours, for $1.50.

We did discover something rather interesting about our little family during this experiment, too. We eat a lot more fresh food than I realized (that includes frozen meats and fish, but not say, prepackaged frozen dinners or boxed ones). My fridge & freezer are nearly cleaned out, yet my pantry is still filled with rice mixes, tinned veg and soups. We’ll eat those but our taste buds are definitely more attuned to creating our own meals from scratch, from the sublime to the ridiculous (as in, homemade pasta sauce to sardine sandwiches w/ avocado!).

 I’ve also enjoyed making leftovers really interesting during this time period. What was last night’s roast chicken will become tonight’s chicken soup and chicken stock for a later use. I used the duck fat we collected over the holidays to sauté some potatoes (manna from heaven, I tell you!). Instead of tossing that last bit of steak out that no one wanted, I turned it into a steak salad for lunch the next day.  One serving of chili left became a topping for nachos…mmmm!

DH and I are going to keep up this lifestyle, using cash more and credit less. It really helped us to watch what we spend and stop spending on things that we don’t really need, no matter how cute or cool they may be. You should try it too, even if it’s only for a week. You’ll notice a difference in your spending habits and in your checking account!

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Helping Out Our Haitian Neighbors

YIN:

With the events in Haiti that took place this week I’ve been doing a lot of praying and being thankful in the past few days. I live in South Florida and work with a lot of Haitians who have family members who have nowhere to live, are missing or are dead. I can’t imagine how traumatic it is for them not to know what is going on and being in limbo with the inability to do anything for their own people.

A lot of times in life people will complain about things or be mean to each other. People get angry at each other over the most miniscule reasons. But I’ve seen the true spirit of our fellow Americans in the past few days. People who have no connection to Haiti are raising money, collecting supplies and comforting those who are in need. It’s a wonderful thing to witness, especially when we as mothers and fathers can feel the pain of the parents in the wake of this disaster.

However on the other hand I’ve seen and heard things that are truly disgusting and insensitive. Posts on the internet that say Haiti wouldn’t help us or they didn’t do anything for us during Hurricane Katrina are selfish and/or ignorant and I can’t believe they come out of people’s mouths. First of all the residents of Haiti live on something like $2 per day so who is to expect them to help an affluent nation like the United States? Yes people here are out of work and homeless but if you have a cell phone, cable, a car, a safe place to live or one solid meal per day then you’re already better off than most of the people living in Haiti. Second it shouldn’t matter either way. I wonder how many of these people are aware (or even care) that Haiti helped the colonies fight the British in the Revolutionary War? Pretty amazing and selfless on their part since they had nothing to gain. Why can’t we do the same for them?

I’m not saying that everyone can afford to donate to an organization to help with every national disaster. Nor am I saying that we should ignore the plight our own country is going through. But if you feel like your efforts are better spent at home then go volunteer in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr Day tomorrow. Or simply keep the Haitians in your thoughts and if you know a Haitian person let them know that you’re thinking of them and their family. A little compassion goes a long way and it can make someone feel oh so very good.

Mommy New Year’s Resolutions

Yang Mommy

I, Yang Mommy, in no particular order, do formally resolve this year to:

  • Not freak out so much when my toddler makes a mess–she’s just exploring the world around her
  • Teach my daughter to clean up after herself, especially when she makes a mess
  • Read a lot more to my daughter, even when I’m dogged tired
  • Expand my daughter’s diet and taste buds (and not to get frustrated when she doesn’t eat her broccoli; I’ll just find new ways to serve it or hide it ;> )
  • Check that the diaper bag is well-stocked for all essentials prior to leaving the house
  • Clean out the car seat, car floor and stroller on a more regular basis (who wants to sit on Cheerio crumbs?!)
  • Recycle, regift or toss toys that are no longer played with (husband’s video games included)
  • Have more tickle fights and games of tag with my family
  • Support my husband in keeping his resolutions; after all, I gave them to him 😉
  • Take better care of myself so I can take better care of those I love
  • Finally, to not berate myself when I feel I’ve broken a resolution. Rather, dust myself off, forgive myself and try, try again.

YIN:

Ditto. Especially about the Cheerios in the car : ) Happy New Year everyone!

The Debit Diet

Yang Mommy

The other morning I was flipping through the paper when I came across a very interesting article in the Business section, a section that usually hits the recycle bin immediately without even a cursory glance. But the front page headline caught my eye. It was highlighting a new book and a few families that have chosen to go on a “financial fast.” Essentially, purchasing only the…well, essentials, such as food items, medicine, toilet paper, diapers, etc. Some of the rules to this 3-week fast include:

  • Using only cash–no credit or debit cards
  • No fast food or jaunts to Starbucks
  • No mani/pedis or hair cuts/color
  • No shopping online

Inspired by the article, my husband and I are going to do the financial fast this month. We’re already on a monthly budget, but we know we can cut down on some “want” expenditures vs “needs.” We’re going to eat everything we already have in the pantry and freezer, only buying fresh produce when needed (no more pizza deliveries either, even when we’re too tired to cook–yikes!). We’re going to eek-out the remnants of what wine and beer is left over after the holiday parties, which isn’t much, but our waistlines will appreciate it. And we’re each going to use a pre-determined amount of cash for the next 3 weeks, because as we all know, using debit and credit cards we tend to spend more than doling out the hard-earned bills.

We know we’ll save money by the end of the experiment. In fact, I’m hoping to make this more of a lifestyle change than just an experimental period. It is after all, a lifestyle that I essentially grew up with–paying with cash for everything, doing the weekly shopping with a set amount of cash in my pocket, etc.

Yet as I enter what will no doubt be a somewhat trying period at times, as is any period where one changes habits, I think how luxurious it is for us to make such a change. Far too many American families today are already on a financial fast due to necessity. They have no other choice but to cut out certain luxuries and for too many, omit necessities. And just imagine for one moment, if those who have no financial woes were to to take this experiment up as well, and to give what they save to the poor…it could very well change the world.

It will be good for us to cut back on our frivolous spending and I look forward to seeing how much we’ll have saved after 21-days. I’ll sock the money away into our daughter’s college fund and one day, tell her how Mommy & Daddy had the opportunity to fast on luxuries.

PS Thank goodness I received a box of chocolates from Yin Mama for Christmas that I’ve yet to open!

YIN:
Hmmm. Yang Mommy not buying extra wine or beer for 3 weeks. Maybe I should have sent her a bottle of Cab Sav for Xmas instead to tide her over : )

All kidding aside, being on a financial diet is no fun. My family’s been on one for the past 2 years. Both by choice and by fate. When I transfered jobs so we could be closer to family I took a minimal paycut but my husband had to change jobs. With his job change he took a massive paycut when he took a basic job to help with the bills. We were okay with that because we assumed that it wouldn’t last because surely he’d find something better paying in a few months. And then the economy tanked. And his new job was partially tips. A bad economy = very little tips. Did I add that we live in a state that relies on tourism, which there wasn’t hardly any of.

Oh and we had a baby : )

It’s been rough. I got my yearly Social Security statement recently and found that last year I lost almost $20k from the year before due to non paid maternity leave, no raise, and my pay cut. My husband last year lost almost 50% of his salary. I really don’t know how we’ve survived. Part of it was on credit cards while on leave (which wasn’t ideal but I wanted to stay home 12 weeks with my daughter), some savings, luck and literally the grace of God.

If you read the post I wrote a few months ago you’ll know that I enjoy finding ways to save money. So I had an idea of what to do. But even with my usual thriftiness I’ve learned some things. One of those things is to be thankful for what we have. We owned a condo 2 years ago we sold in 6 weeks – which we were and still are so thankful for, especially in these times. And I recently read an article in the New York Times about the number of people on food stamps who don’t have any income coming in. It was truly depressing and sad. So I’m thankful we’re working. I’ve also begun praying more and attending church again. It helps me get focused and feel a little calmer.

Do all of these things mean that I don’t desire new things? Of course not. I really, really want a Wii : ) But I have never been one to have to have the latest and greatest of everything and over the years my husband has gotten out of the habit of having to have the newest things, thank goodness.

I know things will get better. My husband recently got his certificate in Waste Water Management, which he needs to work in our local municipalities. So hopefully he’ll find a new job soon. And I can’t give up. To do that would be horrible. So we, along with all the other Americans we know are in the same boat as we are, will be okay.