Monday, November 24, 2014

Spending habits

My first savings bank
I've been thinking recently about the way we spend our money, and how and why we have developed the style we have. This is a huge topic involving at least a hundred years and multiple generations. However, I'm going to try to summarize it in this blog post.

Ward and I both came from parents who had difficult lives growing up. Tragic circumstances as well as effects from the Great Depression often left them wondering where their next meal was coming from and where they would sleep that night. However, through the foresight of their parents, they learned that education and hard work were the way out. How did this translate into how they raised their kids? I'll give you a glimpse through my eyes.

The result of my mother not always knowing where her next meal was coming from was to make sure that food was never an issue. When I was growing up, we always had plenty to eat. We grew most of our food and got our meat from hunting, but there was never any concern about whether there was enough money for baking a cake or making a pizza. My mother had ideas about good nutrition that sometimes limited what we ate, but we were never deprived in any way.

My mother, the 1st one in her family to graduate high school.
Also, self sufficiency and education were top values. Early on, I heard that you should always be able to take care of yourself. You might get married someday, but you should have enough education for a job that can support your family. You never know what might happen. My mother was the fortunate one in her family to get an education and she saw how much better she fared than her siblings. Thus while we worked very hard at home, an extra job outside was not a priority until after our studies were done. And my parents made sure that each of their four kids had a college education. My father worked overtime and my mother worked two jobs to make sure this happened. Because like having enough food, education was a priority.

How did this translate into the way that Ward and I managed our lives? Because we had a good education, we had a decent jobs. However, we followed in our parents footsteps and we were careful with the way we spent our money. We never bought a house that we couldn't afford on one salary. Before I quit my job to be home with the kids, we put all of our new spending habits into practice to make sure that it was what we wanted to do. I knew the savings of our groceries down to the penny. I volunteered in a thrift shop and most of our clothes and toys came from there. We knew every free activity in the area. Ward and I enjoyed game nights and meals with our friends. Our every day frugal habits allowed us to contribute to college and retirement funds and take trips back to see the relatives. It also allowed us to eat out occasionally or go to a special museum or to buy furniture for our house.

Then we made another move to be closer to our relatives which is where we live now. We moved into an area that had a much higher cost of living. Our new house was ½ the size for twice the money from what we left. Groceries cost more, gas cost more, clothing cost more. We were uncomfortable in the beginning, but it was worth it to be closer to relatives. However, we soon adjusted to our new finances. We were still able to grow the college and retirement funds and pay off our house early.

Now we're sitting in a pretty good spot. We have enough money coming in and good benefits to go with that. (However in this expensive area, we're below the median income). Our kids are almost educated (one down, and one almost down) with no student debt. We are in our fifties and thinking seriously about early retirement. We don't have enough money that we can abandon our frugal ways, but we do have enough money to not fret. Life is good. We know that we have been lucky with only minor set backs along the way (especially compared to our grandparents), but Ward often reminds me that we have also been smart with the way we've lived. And that slow and steady wins the race.

All of grandparents are gone now, but I think they were happy that the cycle of poverty was broken, and I know our parents are happy that we learned from their lessons.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thankful Sunday--November 23, 2014

We are thankful for new gloves.

Ward cleaned the gutters and put up some of our Christmas lights this weekend. He got new gloves for the job and is very thankful that his hands stayed drier and warmer than they ever have before. And of course, I am very thankful that Ward does this job for us.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Food Waste Friday and True Food Confessions

It's time for Food Waste Friday, when the Frugalgirl and Jo at Simply being Mum encourage us to post pictures from the previous week of wasted food from our household. This accountability hopefully will help us to be more careful with our food and maybe save some money. Also, I am using this public forum to encourage us to eat out less which includes better meal planning. You can follow how we are doing in this endeavor by reading True Food Confessions. Occasionally, if our eating is going okay, I'll talk about some other food topic.

This Week's Food Waste

Mystery Meat

I've been trying to use up things in the freezer, so I decided it was time to get out a piece of meat that's been in there for a while. Oddly, it wasn't labeled but I thought when it thawed, we'd figure that part out. I told my carnivorous husband that he had a piece of meat to cook for supper and I'd have something else. When he got ready to cook it, he said it was a chicken leg that he didn't like the looks of and didn't want to eat it. Well, we certainly don't want to eat bad meat here, so out it went. However, as I was handling it again, I figured out that it was the innards of a chicken. and it would have been just fine to make a broth with even though we don't like to eat organs. That is if we'd only figured that out before it had spent much too long on the counter.  :( Now, I don't know how it ended up in the freezer without a label, but I'm going to claim that someone else did that. Because you know, that I never make mistakes or at least that's what I tell my family. :)

This Week's True Food Confessions

Imagine that you're also seeing meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, chicken salad,  and pizza

It's week three in our renewed efforts to have more control over meals and all is well--meaning I don't feel guilty when I think about what we've been eating.  This week I had a plan, (wait, yes, I did say that I had a plan!) and after a week of good home cooked meals, we're going to have a nice supper of leftovers tonight. 

Until next time...


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Second Look--November 18, 2014


The cold is finally here. After teasing for a week or so, there is no doubt--it is cold.  It's been very windy and in the 20's F today, so when I went outside to do my Second Look, I only made it part way around the house. Then I decided that it was time to go inside. However, Ward says that weather like this is refreshing, so if he ever gets home from work before it's dark, maybe I'll send him out to see what he can see. In the meantime, I did get a few pictures.

Here's what I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

The view out of my kitchen window. Doesn't it look cold?

I'm going to have to do something about the ice in the bird bath if I want them to be able to use it.

The cold-hardy mums haven't quite disappeared, but they are looking a little scraggly.

The buck visited again this week, but this time he was alone.

The red-bellied woodpecker visited today for the first time since spring.

The downy woodpeckers have also been enjoying the suet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Special Trip to the Zoo--Part 2

The O-line lets the orangutans travel from one house to the other.

Last week, I told you about a special trip we had to the National Zoo. During this trip, we got a behind the scenes tour of the great ape house (orangutans and gorillas). Here a few more details of that tour.

The tour took place in the back of the exhibit. We were seeing the same things that we had seen as regular visitors to the zoo--just from a different perspective. We were seeing the back instead of the front. Speaking of the front of the exhibit, there are several layers of glass there that make things virtually sound proof for the animals. So the bad jokes and gorilla sounds the public are making aren't actually heard by the gorillas and orangutans.  The back of the exhibit is covered by a strong mesh.

We learned during our tour that first and foremost is the safety and well being of the animals. Thus there was a line that we could not cross that kept us an arm's length away from the apes. Also, we had to wear masks so that we could not pass on any colds or other illness we might have. The keepers also have to wear these when they are sick.

Lucy, 41, the oldest orangutan there.
The animals were very happy to see Eddie and us, and as described in the last post, some of them started to show off. Also, they started to push pieces of bamboo out of their enclosures. Eddie said they were tidying up for him. He said that one of the enrichment activities they do is to have them clean up their houses. This included getting rid of clutter. They love to do it because there's usually a tasty treat waiting for them at the end. I wish my kids, or me, for that matter, could be motivated so easily to clean up.

And speaking of tasty treats, they do get some (usually fruit), but their diet is very carefully controlled. Gorillas are herbivores and get a variety of vegetables and fruits every day. They had already been fed that morning and the only thing left was kale. They're just like us. They go for the "good" stuff first and leave the "good-for-you" stuff for last. Also, the day before, Eddie had cooked them some beans with stronger spices in them. The animals also enjoy some spicy food occasionally.  In addition, the keepers use spices sometimes as enrichment for the animals. For example, they may spread some cinnamon around the exhibit just because the apes enjoy the smell.

We also saw how they were training one of the gorillas to be a mother. They wanted to breed her, but wanted to make sure that she was up to the task because she hadn't been raised by her mother. She was improving because she no longer ripped the head off of the doll they were using. However, she still had a ways to go. :)

As you can tell by the way I'm going on and on, I was very excited by this trip. Actually, I could continue to go on and on but I think that's enough for now. Let's just end it with, life is good for both these apes and for me because I got a chance to meet them.

Pictures courtesy of the National Zoo.