Who Ate My Pie? December Spending Roundup

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Lots to cover in this one:

  • $27.39 – TJ Maxx – a new handbag, after the number of holes in my old one finally became intolerable. I was hoping to wait and find a higher-quality, more “perfect” one, but alas. I used it up, wore it out, and made it do … until it didn’t.
  • $52.80 – Amazon – shower chair (who’s old!) for an upcoming infirmity
  • $37.60 – Chevron – gas
  • $80 – Christmas Tree (also a fundraiser supporting a local HIV testing and support center)
  • $9.99 – Trader Joe’s – holiday wreath to brighten my basement rental
  • $46.49 – Target – two new guest pillows to replace those that now live in my basement, a new body pillow for sleeping, and Oxy Clean laundry powder
  • $68.80 – Superfeet – two pairs of insoles after finally accepting my others (5+ years old) no longer give me the support I need
  • $23.29 – Lowe’s – a large board and supplies for a new Ikea-hack “built in” bookcase and media center for my living room (more on this to come!)
  • $167.49 – Ikea – Three Billy bookcases to make a new media center
  • $59.95 – Footsmart – A fancy pants pair of Keen winter slippers with heavy duty soles. I am going to take good care of these and will only wear them inside and never, ever for walking Cheddar Pup.

Total — $573.80

I don’t typically include gifts in this list, but since it’s the holiday season, I’ll include a Spending Roundup Special Edition for gifts in December:

  • $355 – cash bonuses to a few of the people who help me and deserve a special holiday thank you (support staff at work, Cheddar Pup caretakers, my monthly housekeeper, and yard service)
  • $78.13 – gifts for Sweetie Pie and Roommie Pie (not including a gift of future cake-and-pie baking for Sweetie Pie, which Roommie Pie and I will certainly benefit from as well)
  • $55.62 – supplies for homemade organic vanilla extract, which resulted in holiday and hostess gifts for 20 friends
  • $158.22 – gifts for my family (mom, dad, sister, nephew, close friends)
  • For wrapping, I still have a huge roll of paper and ribbon left from last year that I got at Ikea. I am not sure how much it cost, but not more than a few dollars. I like it in part because it’s plain red striped so I can use it for a variety of occasions, not just Christmas. I also used some existing cardstock and art supplies for tags, labels, and gift certificates.

Holiday Gifts Total — 646.97. Frugal? I hate even asking this question … I’m happy giving each and every one of these and I think/hope I found things that the recipients will use and appreciate. I love giving gifts and so this is always a fun time of year for me.

Is Grad School Worth It?

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I’ll admit I’ve been delinquent in my writing recently. I have a good excuse, though — maybe the best excuse. I’ve been on a multi-week, joy-filled, and overwhelming high after attending my 10-year grad school reunion. It really couldn’t have been any better — great friends and amazing people doing amazing things.

Am I one of those people? Sort of — I work in a related field, but it’s not what I went to school for and I went on to get ANOTHER degree after this one that’s required for my current job. (Yes, I be crazy. Way too much schooling.) So I have a somewhat random Master’s degree on my resume that always confuses people and no one’s quite sure what to make of it. To be honest, neither am I.

But was my two-year academic jaunt “worth” it? Continue reading Is Grad School Worth It?

Budget Basement Reno Rundown!

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Woohoo! I am proud to report that my basement renovation is finally, totally, completely, almost done. There are just a couple of minor repairs (shaving off a door that can’t clear the new, plushy, cushy, awesome carpet and repairing a leaky toilet) and then hanging some pictures on the walls when my photo prints arrive in the mail.

I am even prouder to report that it came in … over time and over budget! Not a surprise, but thankfully the overruns were not too extreme. Continue reading Budget Basement Reno Rundown!

The $50 Laundry Room Makeover

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When I asked my roommate if he could avoid doing laundry last Saturday because I was going to be painting the laundry room, he looked at me like I had four heads. (This is not an unusual occurrence).

“Why?” he said, “it’s just a laundry room.” (Duh.)

I had a moment of frugal angst. It was brief. Yes, it’s just a laundry room. Yes, it works just fine. Yes, I am introvert who loves my comfortable home space, and a tidy one at that. Yes, ever since I left in New York City, doing laundry is my favorite chore and three years later I still can’t believe I have my own freaking washing machine in my very own house. (Yes, I have been known to sit on the porch to watch my laundry dry.) And yes, the dingy dirty yellow walls were streaked with grime and grody and it was the one room of my house, save my bedroom closet, that I hadn’t repainted when I moved in.

“It’s gross,” I replied, “and it’s time.” Done.

Sadly, this is not a home design blog and so I am not organized enough to have a “Before” picture for you. But here’s the “After:”

DSC_1039  DSC_1040

And the final breakdown:

  • New paint on the walls, “Tinsel Dream” from four samples of “this year’s hottest colors” on clearance sale for 99c each at Lowe’s. $4.34
  • New paint on trim and cabinet, from my closet (leftover white exterior trim paint from when I rebuilt my porch last summer). Free
  • New handles on the cabinet, replacing flimsy white plastic ones. I thought these were $2.99, it turned out they were $7.99 and that is silly, so I’m going to return them next trip to Ikea. $7.99
  • Utility cart from Ikea, replacing a plastic tub filled with cleaning supplies and a lot of dog hair. $29.99
  • Total cost including sales tax: $45.93
  • Total time: two hours (not including time spent walking through Ikea as slowly as possible to savor every possible ounce of a/c.)

Not bad, eh? (Hi, Canada!)

And when Roommie Pie got home and saw the final product, “Wow!” he said, “That looks amazing! I guess it was really dirty, huh?” Yeah.

Here’s to things that are unnecessary and anti-frugal, but make me happy anyway. ♥



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There’s a weekend every year when I turn down my frugal sensibilities. It involves what’s probably one of the least frugal places on earth, Dollywood. (Yes, Dollywood.) As someone who identifies as a liberal-hippy-kale-eating Pacific Northwesterner, this always comes as a surprise to me too.

I grew up in Tennessee and usually had a season pass to Dollywood courtesy of my grandparents. They knew a lot of the old timers who worked in the Appalachian artisans’ section and they always enjoyed the live music and country food (my grandmother, who grew up in northern Europe, particularly loved the pickled pigs’ knuckles … ick!). I liked the rides, the carnival games, and the cotton candy. Now my family makes a trip back about once a year to give my nephew the same anchoring childhood experience, one quite different from what he sees at home in the big Northeast city where he lives.

As a kid, I am certain I never once thought about how much it cost to get a pass, a ball toss, a frozen lemonade or a turkey leg. Now, I can tell you it’s insane: $62 for an adult ticket, $20 for lunch, and ridiculously expensive other treats. As an advice-giver, I should tell you to buy your tickets with a coupon in advance, pack your own lunch, and avoid the carnival games that are quite literally the equivalent of throwing your money into a bottomless pit in exchange for, at best, a jumbo plush donut stuffed with made-in-China styrofoam worth at most $2.

I follow none of this advice. How come? I’ll admit, I’m at a bit of a loss. My grandparents, children of the Depression and my frugal muses, followed all of these rules and more, so it’s not like I had terrible role models growing up. I know I’m a victim of the classic marketing ploy of evil corporations from the beginning of time (“spending money = fun”), but for whatever reason, Dollywood to me feels different. There is something about the combination of the being there with my nephew, my sister, and my mom, watching them have so much fun bucking the rules, and wrapping it all in a blanket of nostalgia that is contagious. I don’t care about the absurdity of a two-dollar SkeeBall game, a four-dollar lemonade, or the whole atmosphere of ridiculous overconsumption and absurdity in every form. Somehow, I only feel slightly guilty when it’s over and we’re home with empty wallets and a sugar hangover. This is not like me at all!

So am I telling you to go to Dollywood and spend your hard-earned, hard-saved money on sugary drinks, fried pies, crappy prizes, and neck-breaking roller coasters? No, absolutely not. If you’ve never been to Dollywood or Disneyworld or other American tourist oddities, don’t go — it’s weird, it’s gross, you’ll probably (hopefully, for The World) hate it.

But if this story sounds familiar — if you have a place in your life like my Dollywood, one where you can still find a childish joy as a jaded adult, communal fun with your family amidst the drama and difficulty of adulthood, and the gustatory pleasures of foods you normally snub as off-limits for whatever reason, I encourage you to reconsider your rules and go. Don’t go often, for goodness sake don’t buy the season pass, and maybe even take your own snacks. (OK, yes, you should definitely take your own snacks.) Make it something special for the kids or grandparents in your life and savor every moment while you’re there — there’s a reason the evil genius marketing folks call the moments like these priceless: they are, in my frugal heart of hearts, worth every penny. Except maybe the turkey leg.