Doing My Part One Book At A Time

The nice thing about being a reader is that this simple act allows you to move freely through time and space without leaving your chair.

The nice thing about the internet is that you can shop for books without leaving your house.

I’ve been doing my part to stimulate the economy and to support small businesses by buying books from the website Alibris.com. It’s sort of like Amazon for books only it’s mostly small booksellers. You can buy new or used and so far, I’ve found fair prices on everything I have wanted to buy.

In fact, every title I have purchased so far has cost between .99 and $2.99 for both hardbacks and softcovers. New and newer books obviously cost more. You do pay to ship but it’s typically $3 or $4 and some retailers will reduce your shipping costs if you buy more than one item from them.

You can search by title, author or ISBN. You can also browse by topic or store. The books are listed by the store and include full descriptions including condition and edition. This is helpful because you may want the newer reprint of an older book.

So far, I have no complaints about condition or quality. If you’re accustomed to free and quick shipping from Barnes and Noble or Amazon, this can take a little longer but not by much.

I try to buy from small Ohio booksellers although the only chain stores I have seen listed are Half Price Books.

There are few bookstores in my area and they’re all closed right now. Plus, I like supporting the mom and pop stores. Even though my orders are never for a lot of money, I hope that it all adds up!

Meanwhile, my reading stack is piling up again and I look forward to opening my mailbox every day. And I always say that having something to look forward to is a key to happiness!

Plus, instead of adding them to my bookshelves, the new titles are stacked together in my laundry room and when I’m ready for a new book I go “shop” the new stack!

Money Revelations

There’s this post going around Facebook that asks a very simple question.

What does it take to blow $10,000 a year? Just $27.40 of unnecessary spending in a day.

You probably are saying you don’t blow $27.40 a day and that may be true. However, most people don’t realize how much small purchases add up. Whether it’s buying more food than you can use before it spoils, picking up clearance clothes just because they’re cheap, or eating out when you could eat food from home, most people are wasting at least some money every week.

Those small purchases do add up.

If you shop for entertainment or comfort, your weekly waste would probably shock you.

I did a No Spend Challenge in January and have continued the challenge off and on beyond the original 31 day commitment. This is partly because I’m trying to save for adventure season (which will be here soon!) and partly because it’s become so natural to question spending temptations.

This challenge was designed to reset my spending and consumption habits after the gluttony of the holidays. It’s also great for quieting my mind, fostering a sense of gratitude and for coping with some bad habits.

One thing I have learned is that the more time I spend in a store, the more money I spend.

Case in point – I have saved a ton of money by reducing my Walmart trips to just twice a month. I despise Walmart but have to live in the world I wake up in and that world is a place saturated by Walmart.

It’s the cheapest place around to get Scout’s cat food and supplies so I go twice a month for these things and for a few other items that I can only buy there. But each trip always results in impulse buys and it doesn’t matter if the trips are two weeks apart or two days apart.

In this store I develop a kind of amnesia where I can never remember if I have enough shampoo and where I’m certain the dish soap is nearly gone. And then I notice socks on clearance and that cute Pioneer Woman scoop that’s perfect for my laundry detergent and things fall apart rather quickly. The next thing you know, I have gathered $30 worth of cheap socks, shampoo and pecans that I don’t need.

And I’ve always been ok with this because I believe in having a stocked pantry and in keeping myself in a place that I never have to buy anything. However, you can only use so much stuff.

Guys, $30 will fill the tank of my Nerdmobile and a tank of gas will take this fuel efficient car far from home.

So I’m training myself to ask more questions. Is that lunch out or clearance junk worth skipping an adventure?

Not only that, I want to retire without worry someday. Is it worth working longer just to have that stuff in my cart?

Nope. No. No way. It’s not.

Friends, money is a tool to be used to reach your goals. It’s not just for spending. It’s for making life better, for happiness and it’s for security.

Is there something you habitually spend money on that you are willing to cut for an important savings goal? I would love to hear about it.

Cinnamon Spice Granola

Since realizing how easy it is to make homemade granola, there is always some kind of tasty granola on hand in my house. Most of my concoctions use just a handful of ingredients that the typical home cook has on hand and they always come together quickly.

This weekend I found a recipe that I didn’t care for because it used a lot of oil and a ton of brown sugar but it did contain just the right combination of spices. So I stole the spice idea and improvised the rest. When I make it again, I’m going to reduce the brown sugar more. The original recipe called for five tablespoons and I opted for three but that’s still more than I want to consume.

Nonetheless, friends, it’s delicious. Want the recipe? Look no further!

Cinnamon Spice Granola

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 agave nectar ( or honey if that’s what you have)

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup walnut pieces

Golden raisins (optional)

Mix together the first four ingredients. Then add the maple syrup and agave and mix well. Add the walnuts and oats, stirring well to coat.

Spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes and remove from oven to stir. Bake another ten minutes and remove from oven. I added some golden raisins at the end and gave it another good stir.

And yes, it is as easy as it sounds.

It takes about five minutes to prepare and twenty to bake. I leave mine on the pan for a while to let it cool and become crispy.

In addition to having delicious granola to eat, your house will smell divine.

Not Buying Whatever They’re Selling

Twelve days into my No Spend Challenge and it feels like everywhere I look someone is trying to sell me something.

Advertising is designed to make us feel insecure, to make us feel like what we have isn’t good enough. You’ll look better in these jeans. You’ll be happier if you drink this beverage. You’ll be wealthier if you invest with us. Your house will be prettier if you buy hundreds of dollars of crap at our store. Better yet, buy a whole new house and fill the entire thing with the widgets we sell!

Even the otherwise inspiring podcasters I enjoy are trying to sell their books and consultations.

Satisfaction is a threat to sales people everywhere.

I’ve all but stopped reading women’s magazines, hardly ever catch a tv commercial, am actively unsubscribing from marketing emails, and blissfully scroll past all the targeted ads meant to sell me what I don’t need.

The world claims that my most important value is as a consumer but I’m choosing to go a different route.

This annual No Spend Challenge is a meaningful reminder that my life is good already. I have a nice home, plenty of healthy food to eat and tons of ways to entertain myself that don’t include shopping or buying things.

And by saving my money now, I’ll have funds for adventures this summer! That is worth way more to me than anything the world is selling right now!

No Spend January Is Here!

January is a No Spend Month for me. It’s a fun little game I’ve played for the last few years where I pay for what is needed but there’s no frivolous spending (unless pre-planned), no impulse buying and no shopping for entertainment. Goodbye, antique malls!

So bills are paid and groceries are purchased but I work on using some things from the freezer and pantry. Yesterday, I stopped at the store for about $10 worth of produce needed to create meals for the week using things I already have. If I stop for gas, my reusable water bottle had better be full because I’m not running inside for a drink. Not even for just a dollar.

There’s a gift to buy this month and a planned dinner and movie with a friend that was postponed from the holidays. That’s all the extracurricular spending that should happen.

This month, I will spend a lot of time at home, using what I own, looking for creative ways to entertain myself for free and simply appreciating the life that I have built and all that I already have. The Depression era mantra “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” comes to mind.

After all the excess and gluttony of the holidays, a spending fast is a welcome relief to the bank account but it’s also a welcome break from commercialism.

We spend a lot of time making money to survive and on spending money on stuff to fill our homes but we don’t always go home and just enjoy the life we have.

It’s is an exercise in gratitude as much as anything else.

I wrote a Winter Survival Guide last fall and it’s here in January that these techniques are truly put to work.

Here’s what’s happening in my world right now:

Books are a priority this year and I’m finding that the more I read, the more I want to read. The problem is that there’s a new one that I’m dying to tear into. I usually have three or four going at once but want to focus on one at a time this year. It can be next.

Cooking is more fun. I always enjoy playing in the kitchen but winter is a great time to experiment with new recipes. This year is especially fun as I’m looking for plant based recipes for my new lifestyle. This week I made a potato corn chowder that was divine and the lunch leftovers were a welcome treat! I also made a pumpkin cookie that was disgusting but we’ll just call that an experiment gone awry and move on.

Organization and purging are another priority. I have a list of areas to hit – from the pantry to the sock drawer to the nightstand and all points in between. It’s shocking how much stuff accumulates over time even when you try to be tidy. The goal is to do one thing from the list every day. The purging extends into intangible areas too. One evening was spent purging emails while watching the Closer on TV. Brenda Lee Johnson caught the bad guys and I unsubscribed and deleted thousands of old marketing emails. The above picture represents a new set of Christmas dishes that need to be put away after some rearranging in the china cabinet.

Movie time! I can’t go to the movies but that doesn’t matter because there’s a stack of movies waiting for my viewing pleasure. One day I’ll make some homemade potato chips and hit the couch for a little movie marathon.

Self care is a priority. Outdoor activity is less common because it’s dark at quitting time but I am trying to prioritize some kind of exercise every day. Rest is also important. My philosophy for most of the year is that you can sleep when you’re dead. During winter, these cold, dark nights call for a warm blanket and an earlier bedtime.

Being happy with the Now is a common theme and resisting the urge to adventure plan involves daily internal negotiations. It’s much harder than it should be. However, the theme of this stage of the year is being satisfied with the abundance of everyday life. Adventure planning can wait a bit. I have started a list of day trip ideas based on suggestions from friends but that’s more about being forgetful than about planning. Being present in this moment rather than dream of the next adventure is a real challenge.

For me, a No Spend Month is an opportunity to get myself together for another year, to set new goals and intentions, to stop buying stuff I don’t need, to nourish my mind and body, and to practice gratitude for what I have.

It gets easier every year and, this will sound sound nuts, but I’ve been looking forward to January for weeks.

Want to do your own no spend challenge? You can set your own rules and make it what you want it to be! You might be surprised at how much money and time you save!

Toronto Skyline

Toronto skyline.JPG

Isn’t the Toronto skyline beautiful? This is the view from a ferry ride at sunset a couple of years ago. If you’re visiting a city that offers a ferry – even if it’s really a commuter ferry – take a ride! It’s usually just a few bucks each way but offers you a different view of the city and offers you a fun diversion.

This particular ferry took us to Toronto Island Park which was practically deserted that October evening as darkness had all but fallen when we arrived. But we walked around  a bit before hopping on the next boat back and enjoying the city lit up for the night.

This was a trip of many amazing memories and experiences but this inexpensive little boat ride is hands down one of the best things we did.

Salvaging a shopping mistake

I made a terrible error in my grocery shopping this week, buying 32 ounces of plain yogurt instead of the vanilla I believed I was reaching for. Imagine my surprise, taking a big bite of that nasty stuff at lunch yesterday.

Being my frugal and creative self, there is no way I’m letting this stuff go to waste so I’m looking for ways to incorporate the yogurt into my cooking. I have a terrible sweet tooth so I started out by searching for easy dessert ideas and here’s one I tried last night.

Jello Yogurt

Mix one cup of hot water with your sugar free Jello of choice. Mine was strawberry. When the jello powder is completely dissolved, slowly mix in one cup of yogurt. Whisk really well and refrigerate for two to three hours. It is a kind of strawberry mousse and very tasty. Next time I plan to add some fruit too.

So. One cup of plain vanilla yogurt gone. Three cups to go!

Isn’t it gratifying to salvage a mistake? Especially when it tastes so good?