Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thoughts on Frugality

Budgeting and frugality are a hot topics right now and our house is no different. It's great that as we dive into these conversations in our house, there are tons of other people discussing the same stuff and posting tips online.

SimpleMom has been posting about budgeting. She says to think of your budget as a way to direct your dollars. I've always thought of a budget as a way to RESTRICT spending, but it's much more freeing to think of our budget as a way to give your hard earned dollars a job to do. We finally put together a serious budget and are approaching our first month of really tracking how our dollars are being spent against the buckets available. This Sunday will be my last grocery visit for the month and I'm excited to check the budet and find out if it will be a scrimpy or a splurgy trip to Safeway.

I also came across this great description of frugality on
"I used to think being frugal was spending as little money as possible — but that’s just being cheap. Now I know frugal is being wise with your purchases and spending money carefully to receive the most value."

I really like the idea of being intentional instead of cheap. I also think that being frugal also gets unfairly lumped with "going without." Instead, I'm trying to think of being frugal as "learning to get by and be happy with what you have." This is a hard concept in our commercial driven, and stuff-based society. How do we shift our perspectives to stop worrying about getting the next, best, new, improved product and instead find contentment in what we have and joy in the ability to make do, stretch, improvise, innovate, and create to meet our needs?*

Of course, it's a journey, but here are the concrete actions I'm trying to take on my quest to be content with what we have:

1. Ditch the catalogs. I've started to make a habit of dropping the catalogs straight from the mail into the recycle bin. It's really hard to avoid the urge to just "see what's out there," but if I don't see that beautiful kitchen table, pair of shoes, fancy tent, or flippy skirt, I won't know what I'm missing. On the plus side, I think the companies may be on to me (or giving up on mailed advertising in general), because the number of catalogs in our mailbox seems to be dwindling.

2. Avoid the urge to cruise the store. This is my downfall in Target. I always want to wander through the furniture area and quickly puruse the clearance rack to check for good deals. You know what's a better deal than an $8 sweater? Spending $0 and wearing the sweater already in your closet.

3. Multi-task with your tools. This is big in the kitchen. I love gadgets! And there's always a specialized tool out there that is the ONLY right way to slice strawberries, beat and egg, or mix your batter. You know what else works? A knife, fork, and spoon. Imagine the confidence in knowing you can be a great cook with simple tools.

4. Reuse, reuse, reuse. I'm trying to embrace an attitude of creativity and innovation. It feels good to find new life in something that would otherwise be destined for the trash or recycle bin. I just wish I was more crafty, so that those re-used things would be prettier...

5. What else?

We try to do things like delaying purchases for a week or a month to see if we really need them and keeping a list by the caldendar of our WANTS and NEEDS, so that we aren't swayed by the fancy advertising... but those things don't really help changing our focus to being happy with what we have. What works for you? How do you cultivate an attibute of contentment?

*Of course, the larger spritual picture is that we shouldn't be focused on our stuff at all and instead find contentment in the life, love, and journey God has placed before us, but my brain isn't going there with this post...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Future's So Bright...I Gotta Wear Shades

Not much new around here, but I just wanted to show-off my new favorite photo. On an exceptionally early morning, Owen was up eating breakfast with Scott, while I tried to frantically shower and get ready for work before Scott had to leave by 6:45. When I came downstairs, this is what I was met with - PJs, trucks, and sunglasses. It doesn't get much better than that when you're 20 months old.

My parents are in town this weekend for some fun in the snow, so Scott and I have a "real" date night planned to celebrate my birthday. Though we've finally found a sitter we trust, we've really just been using her for obligations (i.e. company christmas party), or to get out and ski, ...we're doing dinner AND a movie. Woah! Big deal. Man, has our life changed since having a baby???!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


We inadvertently spent the weekend rearranging furniture and toys all over the house.

My office is in the little landing space at the top of the stairs. It's bare bones, but I've been wanting to get more work space amid the cords, printer, filing, and miscellaneous accumulation. I thought installing a big overhead shelf would solve my problem, but standing in the aisle of Home Depot, we got inspired to re-align the furniture. Now, all the extras are pushed into the corner and I have a full desk to work with. I think a $10 bulletin board is all I need.

Today we cruised all the "going out of business" furniture stores (tough times in Bend) looking for one of those ottomans that can also store blankets and toys. After some sticker shock, we remembered that we already have a standard ottoman and headed home to rearrange our TV room. Our falling apart coffee table went in the corner. It's now providing storage for Owen's toys and may soon get new life as a Train Table. The previous toy storage bookshelf is now filled with the books (crazy concept!) that were hiding under our coffee table. The ottoman that has been sitting in a corner for 3 years (good rest area for the cats), is now propping up my feet. An added bonus is that our TV room looks acres larger.

Both projects started with us wanting to get a new piece of furniture, heading to the store, and then deciding the things we wanted weren't worth the money. Instead, we got inspired to work with what we have. Good for the creative side of the brain and good for the bank account!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lego Creations

Remember those Duplo legos that Owen found stashed in the garage? For several weeks, Owen has been building stack after stack after stack. And getting more and more frustrated that the towers seem to topple for no apparent reason. At 20 months, he hasn't quite mastered basic engineering principles like the need for a solid base or the proper use of support beams. The construction methods also leave something to be desired as one hand usually pushes the tower over while the other hand is reaching to put ONE MORE block on the tipply top of the tower. It's great fun, but the towers are getting old. Two engineers just can't leave those legos alone and more advanced objects - cars, airplanes, boats, etc - are emerging on a regular basis. The other day, I created a pretty sweet helicopter (no photo, sorry) - good enough that Scott asked me if I had looked up a pattern. Ha! Scott's creation below has been Owen's favorite by far.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Recent Adventures

We're still here. It seems like things are pretty low key around here lately, which is nice. I said that I am ready for spring, but still want the chance to play in the snow. I guess I'm getting tired of the constant "hat-gloves-jacket" routine for every trip in the car. It's just not worth the effort for the 5 minute drive to daycare... On the other hand, it is sooooo worth the effort when you actually get to keep those warm, snuggly clothes on and spend time playing in the snow.

Two weekends ago, we had a family sledding adventure. Last year, the forest service opened up this new sledding hill about 20 minutes outside of town. It's awesome. The hill is huge, so you're not running into anyone and there's a large enclosed shelter complete with wood stove and four picnic benches, so you can warm up and have a snack when the cold cranky whining starts. We were shocked at how quite it was...on a beautiful, sunny Saturday. We only really shared the hill with some families doing a photoshoot for How cool.

Owen really did love sledding. I think he was sizing up some nearby kids in this photo and squinting in the sun, but we got lots of "more, more" replies each time we hit the bottom of the hill.

I'm not sure how we got nearly into March before going sledding this year, but we're making up for it. Last Friday, our Mom's group field trip was a snow day back at the same park. There was a TON of new snow - Owen couldn't even walk because he was sinking up to his thighs, but we had fun sledding with Michelle and Piper while a couple other moms hit the XC trail with kids in tow. Fun, fun, fun.

THEN, last Sunday, we all went sledding with two families from our playgroup. The three moms and kids spent the morning in the lodge while the dads went snowboarding. We did a quick kiddo hand-off at noon and sent the guys home with kids in tow in time for lunch and naps. That left the three of us moms to spend the afternoon on the slopes. 12 inches of powder overnight and surprisingly good visibility made for fantastic conditions, and Shannon and Julie wiped me out skiing some tough terrain (including trees!) when my feet haven't been in ski boots for 2 months. Scott and I were both sore, exhausted, and thrilled to have had such a great day with friends who aren't afraid to tackle the logistics and potential chaos of snow adventures with toddlers.

One of the silly little things that make me happy about snow play is that Owen gets to wear his snow bibs, and I think they are so darn cute. We got a size that should fit him through next winter and he was pretty unhappy about wearing them at first, but now he LOVES getting on his pants and boots, so he can get out in the snow. Imagine the fun next year when he'll get to try out the skis!

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Scott's company won their job yesterday! Hooray! Like Scott said, one job isn't going to keep them alive forever, but after all the bids they've put in over the last couple weeks, it's really nice to finally win one. And, of all the projects they've been going after, this was the one that Scott was most excited about from the beginning - a new technology center for the high school. Sounds pretty interesting. The amazing part: They were the low bidder by only $3K on a $4M+ project - that's less than 0.1%. It doesn't get any closer than that. Hopefully this project goes well and it will lead to more work for the school district in the future. For now, it gives everybody a little bit of breathing room and a reason to celebrate.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Independent Play

Owen had a good evening tonight. Not earth shattering news, but important because Scott's been working late it was a much needed relief on my end. Last night I made the mistake of trying to make a quick grocery store stop on the way home from daycare and that pretty much trashed our evening. Owen threw a total fit because I wouldn't let him unwrap and smash his fingers into the sticks of butter. At least the guy checking out next to me said, "rough night for mom" in a sympathetic tone instead of giving me the "can't you control your kid" evil eye.

Tonight was a different story. It probably helped that I didn't hit try to run errands during the witching hour (see, I'm learning) and we took a field trip to the mailbox instead - that kid loves the mail! Owen even played independently for 15 minutes(!) after his dinner without needing any prompting or focus from me. I made my dinner and got a little work-work started in the time before Owen went to bed. Normally, he needs one of us to be sitting within arm distance for him to stay focused on a given task. (And sitting on the couch doesn't cut it - you have to be paying attention.) I suppose I should cherish the fact that he wants us to be close all the time, but I keep hoping for the day when he can play downstairs while I'm working upstairs. I fear that day is A... LONG... WAY... OFF.

On a separate note, I would like to publicly say how much I love the DVR that I resisted getting for so long. Scott finally got home, and we are now sitting on the couch watching last night's Heros episode while recording Biggest Loser. We'll watch the interesting parts of that 2 hour show in just 30 minutes before we go to bed. Beautiful. =)

Okay, I take that back, Owen does have times when he can play independently without one of us in the room, but usually this is what happens:
Think good thoughts for Scott. He's been working late on a bids for new projects and they really need to win this one tomorrow...