Studies Show Polar Vortex Good for Budgeting

snowy cars on my street

snowy cars on my street

Ok…well the study was only done on me, and I was the one conducting it. But I live in the lovely Windy City…which tonight is the first time I’ve seen temperatures above zero since Sunday. Welcome to Polar Vortex 2014, people.

Now, these temps have made it so dangerous to get outside (10 minutes outside=risk of frost bite). But I’m sure most of you don’t live under a rock, and have already heard of this through the multiple media outlets. Anywho, tangent done–my point is I’ve been working from home the past two days which leads me to my Pros and Cons list of Polar Vortex!

Cons

  • My pipes have froze therefore making it nearly impossible to wash dishes, take a shower, and I have to finagle the toilet to get it to flush, TMI?
  • You all know I’m moving. My 280 square foot studio is filled to the brim with boxes. Therefore, I’m going stir crazy up in here!

Pros

  • Since the PV is forcing me to stay inside, I have spent ZERO real dollars! (I say real because I did order food with a gift card from Christmas. Merry Xmas to me.)

In conclusion, PV is good if you’re on a budget. So look on the bright side people, and just stay away from Internet shopping 🙂

How I Survived, er, Saved, During the Holidays

I’m sorry!! I’m alive and well, I swear! It’s just been SO BUSY!

How do you bloggers do it all?! On top of working, the holidays, and many other changes I have up my sleeve I haven’t had a minute to post here!

Within the past two months that I’ve been MIA I paid off two cards! Victoria’s Secret and Macys! Buh byeee

My Remaining Debt is: $4009.18…so I’ve paid off nearly $400 on my cards since I started this venture in October. Yet, within the last two months I’ve paid $572.68 in credit card bills alone. What a hell?! These interest rates are killing me! This really shouldn’t come as a shock, and I’m sure many of you are going “duhhh!” well, those pesky rates are something that I knew weren’t great… but now I can really see where’s it’s costing me. Three more cards to go…

My No Spend November wasn’t so bad—I slipped once, towards the end of the month I needed a haircut, so I indulged. For Thanksgiving, my parents came to visit—it was so lovely having them here in Chicago! We did a lot of inexpensive activities!

We went to the Thanksgiving parade (free!) and a BIG thank you to my co-worker who let us have her VIP tickets to make our experience that much more memorable and enjoyable!! THANK YOU!

hello there, mr. turkey!

hello there, mr. turkey!

Of course, we had a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner. This year I made a pumpkin parmesan biscuit to add to our menu (thanks to the Food Network for the idea!), which turned out great! Take a look!

homemade deliciousness

homemade deliciousness

Pumpkin Parmesan Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced, plus melted butter for brushing
  • 1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

 

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I used my baking stone). Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk in 1 tablespoon parmesan. Add the diced butter and work it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Mix the pumpkin and cream in a small bowl and pour over the flour mixture. Mix with your hands or a fork to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle using a floured rolling pin. Cut out biscuits (as you can see, I used a pumpkin cookie cutter) and arrange about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parmesan. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the biscuits cool slightly before serving.

After the holiday, we walked around downtown to see the sights, then Mom & Dad treated us to Chicago style pizza dinner and a show at Second City! It was a perfect weekend!

zee bean

zee bean

I’m actually very happy I didn’t buy myself anything in November, because that extra money went to Christmas presents. This year I was an open book with friends and family and set budget limitations and paid cash for all the gifts. Last year I used credit cards for all the presents I bought…surprise, surprise, right?  You’d be surprised how many people are relieved to not have that glass ceiling of high price tag expectations over the holidays. Thanks to Etsy and Marshalls I was able to get a lot of bang for my buck!

Check out this awesome Etsy shop I used for a couple gifts!

Of course, I did give a family member a gift card to a place she really enjoys, so to pep up a typically underwhelming gift, I’ve been making these:

my cute cuppycake gift card holder

my cute cuppycake gift card holder

It’s all about the presentation! You can purchase one yourself on my new Etsy page (see! I told you I’ve been busy!). My shop is called KnitPrrrl. I’ll be posting more items to my shop as I literally tie up some ends on my pending inventory.

Our New Years was very low key with reason. We made a craft beer style cheese fondue that we found thanks to A Night Owl. We paired the fondue with granny smith apples, salami, french bread, pretzels and broccoli. Oh, and you can’t forget the champagne 🙂

fondue for two, for me, for you!

fondue for two, for me, for you!

So why did we keep NYE so small? Well, there’s been a LOT of changes on the home front…JD and I are moving in together! Our weekends these past couple months have been filled with number crunching, apartment hunting, and finally–a lease signing! Trying to move on a budget is extremely challenging. For us, the most frugal option was taking over a sublet that we’ll have until April. Now comes the packing and the headaches that come with a move. Even more challenging—my car and 99% of my furniture is sitting at my parent’s house in Michigan. So there will be some costly road trips coming up as well.

What are some ways you guys cut corners to save money when moving?

Happy 2014, folks! I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on to save money! But let’s get through this move (and paying off another card), first 🙂

Maxed Out

This No-Spend November surprisingly isn’t as hard as I imagined. Maybe next week after I’ll have PB&J and cereal coming out of my ears it’ll be a different story…

Anywho! To find a way to save some money I’ve cancelled my cable, so it’s been out with the Bravo and in with the Netflix. Which lead me to the documentary, Maxed Out.

11.10 maxed_out

I highly suggest watching it! Credit Cards companies are just that–a company. It made me sick to my stomach realizing how much money I am giving them solely in interest rates, and people all across the country are in similar situations. There’s certainly a way to play the credit card game (pay off the entire balance at the end of each statement period to avoid the increasing interest rates…but really, how many people play by the “rules”?).

A frightening statistic they bring up in the doc is there will be more people that claim bankruptcy in a single year than will graduate college, get divorced, or get cancer. It really made me think of how I (personally) have spent so much to ensure that outside looking in I have it all together. And I’m not alone, one quote that stood out to me from the doc was:

“Have you seen the new card that they’re talking about putting out now-where you can get a credit card against your pension account, so that, when you go and charge it, it automatically, if you don’t pay, will be withdrawn from the money you’ve put aside for your retirement? This is one more way that we’re trying to string together with chewing gum and bailing wire to keep the American family looking like it’s afloat long after it is really sunk with debt.”

For so long, I would let a credit limit dictate what I was capable of spending and paying off in a reasonable amount of time. This doc made it very real to me–credit card companies are not financial advisors. We shouldn’t let that credit limit fool us into thinking that’s how much we should be spending.

I. Want. This. Debt. GONE!

Month Two Disappointment and the Birth of No Spend November

Can’t say I didn’t warn you… I did terrible this past month. 

My issue: not saying “No.”

I was able to save $0

And I paid $200.00 towards my credit cards.

My extra income was $26 from Plato’s Closet for returning clothes I no longer wear. Month Two’s results are disheartening. That’s altogether $213 less than September’s savings. 

Let me take you back to one year ago…when I got into a horrible car accident, but the money I received from my totaled car helped me pay off all my credit card debt. I received a car loan for my new vehicle and my credit score sky rocketed so much I received a new credit card with a $2,000 limit. I was going to use it to pay for my move from Tampa to Chicago and pay it off using the money my company gave me for relocation allowances in order to keep that credit score up. And, once the balance was back to zero, I’d have it on hand for emergencies.

Well, old habits die hard. Suddenly I was in a new city, with an abundance of things to do and places to see. I went on a vacation to LA and shopped, drank, and ate my little heart out. And soon, that card was maxed out.

Well, one year later the gravy train really went off the tracks…ya see, that big ol’ credit card had a 0% interest rate (for a year), a detail I forgot about until a YEARS worth of interest was slapped onto that card. My payments have nearly doubled and I’m seeing less of a decline in that balance.

Image

Photo Credit: artemishi.blogspot.com

 

This past month, I went back to my old sneaky habits of sliding some money out of my savings account I worked so hard to grow. I’ll tell ya, it didn’t feel good. I’ll give myself one pat on the back–I haven’t used a credit card since this venture. And last month–I cut up that big nasty card. While it still has the highest balance, it also still has the most amount available for me to spend. 

Now, let’s get back to my “No” problem. My friend Jana recently visited me from Tampa and we discussed the idea she had of doing a ‘No-Spend November,’ I loved the idea! What perfect way to try to make a cushion for yourself before the holidays and learn some self discipline?! However, at the time I wasn’t fully embracing it, I mean, I have a blog about saving money…I haven’t grabbed a ‘just because’ Starbucks in over a month…and at least 4 out of 5 days of the week I’m bringing my lunch to work. Yes, they’re improvements, but it doesn’t matter if I’m blowing money away on tickets, dinners out, and the most terrifying of all–interest charges on those damn cards.

Image

My dear friend, Jana and I 🙂

Taking a step back, I could learn a lot from a ‘No Spend November’, specifically the NO part. Yes, so far this month JD and I grabbed a dinner out before a movie and I paid to have a pizza delivered, but this is going to take some preparation and commitment. I’ll still do the $50/month for date activities…but no shopping. No coffee from the coffee shops. No paying for movies. No dinners out. And my first step–saying ‘No’ to an event at the Art Institute I REALLY wanted to go to. But, I’ll save my $25 for a ticket and Lord knows how much I’d spend in champagne while there…

So here it goes! While the men have their Mo-vember, I have my No Spend November 🙂 Let’s do this! Who’s joining me?! 

Pumpkins, the Film Festival & Rocky Horror, Oh My!

Well first off, I’ve done a terrible job saving this past month. You’ll wince along with me when I do the Month Two results…

Damn you, October! Why does Fall have to be so fun!?

It all started with the bacon and beer tastings earlier this month. I said “Yes” to some fun activities…and I couldn’t stop!

It all started with the Chicago International Film Festival

1031 film festival

JD stroked the chords of my film-geek heart and took me to the Film Festival. We saw Banklady, a German film about the true story of Gisela Werler, Germany’s first female bank robber. I. Was. In. Love! It was just like Bonnie and Clyde–I highly recommend seeing it if you’re given the chance.

Then it went downhill, I bought us tickets to go another night to see the Chinese documentary, Mothers, which depicts China’s one-child policy. And, well, the Film Festival’s website explains it best…

In rural China, the job of enforcing the Communist Party’s one-child policy falls on government bureaucrats tasked with imposing fines, birth control, and forced sterilizations. Xu Huijing documents this process in his native village of Ma, following the tenacious efforts of the local birth control chief during an increased sterilization quota period, revealing the absurd and tragic local consequences of high-level government policy.

If given the choice again, I would still spend that extra $30 at the Film Festival; between both films it was educational, entertaining, and emotional at times. But then I saw tickets for another type of movie…a shin dig that’s been on my bucket list ever since my Aunt Amy told me about the squirt guns and newspaper ‘umbrellas’ audiences experienced at such a thing called the midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Therefore, I checked it off the bucket list, and bought us tickets. With a little help from ‘Glee’ to help prepare JD for the debauchery that is Rocky Horror (he thought it was a horror film based around the Rocky movies…oh was he in for a treat!). So we were off into the night as a flamingo and the Brawny man to join the other cult classic’s followers in Chicago for the live performance. We popped balloons, threw confetti and toilet paper, and yes, we Time Warped! I loved every minute of it…it’ll take some extra convincing to get JD to go again next year.

There's a Light...

There’s a Light…

Annnd then I was back to being poor. So, the remainder of October I baked and the other night we carved pumpkins. I printed off my pumpkin design from a website I found off Google to save on that end. Look how cutesy we are!

xx

xx

So…after going over on all of my expenditures and throwing more money into my Halloween costume than I wished to (JD did great, though… $2 for paper towel and BOOM! He was the Brawny man!), I’ll leave you with some fabulous pumpkin recipes that uses most of the same ingredients to keep the spending low. Both recipes come from a Dutch cookbook my mother and I both swear by. It never ceases to fail 🙂

everyone will be your friend if you make these

everyone will be your friend if you make these

Pumpkin Spice Cookies 

(NOTE: These are not good for the waistline, just good for the soul…and tastebuds)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup nuts. chopped–I used walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins (optional; I think raisins are pretty disgusting so they were omitted in my cookies)
  • 1 can of cream cheese frosting

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon; add to creamy mixture. Stir in nuts (and raisins if you’re into that sort of thing). Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. When cool, frost.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil unsweetened apple sauce (leaves the bread a bit more moist and reduces calories by oh around 1,000 per loaf. You’re welcome 😉 )
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cups raisins (again, I omitted them)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (ah haa see! use walnuts for both recipes 🙂 )
  • rind of 1 lemon, grated

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9x5x3″ loaf pans. In a large bowl mix sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Beat well. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients alternately with water to pumpkin mixture. Fold in raisins, nuts, and lemon rind. Pour into pans. Bake 1 hour 20 minutes, or until done.

 

Welp, that’s it for tonight my little ghouls. I need to finish watching Hocus Pocus before October is gone for another year.