Friday, August 19, 2011

GPS Money Management

Well, we're back from our year abroad, ending with the Big Trip from Budapest, Hungary, to Rome, and then across southern France to Barcelona. Then Kent and Steve left for home from Barcelona, and Kathy and the kids and I drove back through Italy to Venice, then back to Budapest.

Here's what it looked like.

It came to over 4700 km, not counting the side trips to various points of interest, and a few times we got lost and had to back track.  Thanks to the GPS, we didn't have to do that too much. We named our GPS Helen, for the the Paul McCartney song "Helen Wheels". When we made a wrong turn, or got off on the wrong exit, Helen would patiently say "Recalculating." Then she would get us back on track, either pointing to another route which we could take, or helpfully suggesting that we should "Make a legal U-turn when possible." At one point in Genova when we ended up in what can best be described as an alley, hemmed in by parked cars and stone walls, Helen gave up on us and said, "Please drive to highlighted route." We knew we were in trouble then.

Now we're back at home, digging out from our year of Too Much Fun. We could use a little input from the "Money GPS" I think.  Can you imagine it?  Just as you're about to make an impulse buy, Helen would weigh in, telling you proceed to the next exit, abandoning your cart full of frivolous purchases.  And if your credit card was swiped at the high end boutique, or Cole Hahn, or Williams Sonoma, or Abercrombie & Fitch. (pick your poison) Helen might helpfully point out that you needed to make a legal (and fiscal) U-turn. The GPS could be attached to your wallet and would monitor when it got opened, and the location of your spending. Market Basket supermarkets? Good choice; spending wisely. But open your wallet at Whole Foods (aka "Whole Paycheck")  Helen would weigh in with "Take next exit to responsible spending."

I'm working on developing my own internal "Fiscal GPS" this year. We are shopping at Market basket, not Whole Foods. We're going to the local farmer's markets for "seconds" or things that the farm stands call "utility" vegetables, like tomatoes for canning. They don't look pretty but they taste good and they're half the price (or less). We're eating vegetarian meals, and trying to move beyond pasta and tomato sauce in the vegetarian column. Two nights this week we ate vegetarian- one admittedly was pasta and sauce, but one was one eggplant Parmesan and corn on the cob. High summer has its benefits.

In terms of furnishing our temporary home, I'm going to use websites like "Freecycle" and Craig's List which has a "Free stuff" category. I've seen a couple of "curb alerts" on Craig's list where people leave an address and a description of what they're giving away. I haven't bit yet, but am on the lookout for some book shelves and will cruise the curb on trash day here in town as well. Some of my best stuff came from the curb! I found a couple of 1950's lawn chairs out in the trash one day and took them home and sanded and painted them. They're amazingly comfortable. My husband thinks I've gone around the twist, but then I see the exact same stuff in catalogs from Pottery Barn or other fancy home furnishing places. For example, several years ago I picked an old window out of the trash and put mirrors in the panes. No need to buy something with a trendy "distressed finish" to make it look old. It really was old.  There's one selling on Ebay now with a starting bid of $90.  Mine? Around $5 for mirror panes.

I'm linking up this weekend for the Weekend Rewind, the frugal living edition. I'm looking forward to reading other people's ideas about how to save money. In the meantime, I'm working on hearing Helen's voice in my head. "Recalculating...."   I'm recalculating how much I'm spending and driving "to the highlighted route."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lying in Bed

This is a post for my dear friend Melissa and I'd really like your help. Whether you're reading this regularly, or just stumbled on this page or something in between, please read on and contribute your ideas or prayers or good wishes or whatever else....

Melissa is in the hospital on bed rest for potentially the next 12 weeks, until her baby is born. She's nervous, worried, as well as capital "B" Bored. Any ideas about:

  • A Good Book to Read
  • A Good Use of Time for Long Afternoons
  • A Calming Meditation
  • A Laugh Out Loud Movie
  • A Soothing Tea (since margaritas seem to be off the list of "doctor approved relaxation methods")
  • A New Band not to be missed

Have you been in this position? What helped you?  I told her she should start a blog, but who knows where that may lead! Please post your ideas; I'll share them in a Top Ten List (I'm optimistic if nothing else-- maybe a Top Three List)

Thanks for your input!