Wants vs. Needs

Now that I am making roughly 25% of my income from last year, I really have to know the difference of needs vs. wants. It’s a necessity for me to be able to make this distinction, not a luxury. I know the four walls concept of needs: food, shelter, transportation and utilities. But of those, what is really necessary? Read more

Setting Priorities and Goals

I promise this entire post is not about food. But I have clarified a few things in my head over the past few days.

1) Watching the movie Cowspiracy really hit me hard this weekend. Until now, I’ve found it pretty easy to not eat any meat products for the past few years. Whenever I felt like “oh, that meat smells good….” I would then remind myself of why I don’t eat meat. Not because I don’t like the taste, but because I don’t want to be part of anything that involves an animal being slaughtered. But I couldn’t give up the dairy quite so easily. Maybe because I’d been brought up to drink milk as if it was water – literally, we used to go through so many gallons of milk every few days in our house. It was nothing to have a few glasses of milk at dinner time. It didn’t matter what we were eating. Spaghetti with milk? Sure! (I know, gross, right?) And it wasn’t skim milk we were drinking but the whole vitamin D milk. Yep. (Let’s not even talk about the powdered milk we drank when times were tough, money-wise. Eeww.)

Even when I was married, when I went to the store, I would buy skim milk for my husband and whole milk for myself. Eventually, he talked me into trying 2% and I noticed I didn’t have as many stomach issues as I used to have. So I slowly worked myself down to where I was drinking skim milk. And now I only use almond milk or coconut milk and I find that I don’t miss regular cow’s milk.

I believe I have mentioned I have fibroids, and that’s why I will be in surgery just three weeks from today. I didn’t realize until watching that movie over the weekend, that dairy products can contribute to fibroids. Now, while I will be having my fibroids-producing organ removed (ahem, uterus), I still want to continue not drinking cow milk. The movie showed how many acres it can take to feed a vegan per year vs. just a vegetarian. The difference was astounding – .6 acres to feed a vegan, whereas it takes 1.8 acres to feed a vegetarian. Imagine what I might be able to do with my own garden! (By the way, I love gardening, getting out there and getting my hands dirty, watching something grow from my own labor, and that tastes amazing!) So, priority #1 is to no longer bring dairy products into my home (I’m going to probably still eat the chocolate yogurt I have in my fridge until the next grocery day, just because I love chocolate and I already bought it), but after that, no dairy products enter my doorway.

2) Priority #2,  I set over the weekend was to save even more from each of my paychecks. I’ve been putting away $750 out of every paycheck since last summer. Before that, I was definitely saving but not at such a rate, as my focus had been more on paying down my private student loan, whose balance sits at $12,777.97 as of today (just checked.) As of this weekend, I decided I would start trying to save $835 from each paycheck. That may not sound like a lot more – it’s $170 but I’ve already been cutting down my expenses as much as I can. So this means really tightening the grocery budget and keeping the pet expenses in check as well. I have to admit, looking back at what I’ve spent with Chewy.com (a company I can’t recommend enough, and one, who when you call their number, you get a real live person on the other end, imagine!), I’ve been doing pretty good. I’ve been planning budgets for pet food, etc., for about $180 per month and I’ve actually spent more of an average of $130/month, so I was feeling pretty good about that. That’s just for their food and litter, pee pads for Osito, etc., no vet expenses.

My take home after savings is now about $2460 a month. I budget it like this:

  • $1050  – rent
  • $55 – internet service
  • $35 – cell (with Cricket Wireless, I get 2.5 gb of data/month, suits me just fine.)
  • $25 – electricity/gas (this goes up a bit in summer, with the AC, but not too much.)
  • $167 – private student loan
  • $538 – interest only payments on federal student loans (yep, that only keeps the loan from growing, folks)
  • $250 – food
  • $160 – zipcar (this is to get back and forth to volunteering with the livestock animals.)
  • $150 – pet food, etc. (still gonna budget higher because some months, it’s higher than others, etc.)

I totalled this up and it comes to $2430. So as you can see, I need to be frugal and keep an eye on these expenses, as there isn’t much room for error. I’m considering it practice for when my life plans change.  Not drinking coffee, and not eating a lot of processed foods should help a lot with the grocery budget. Plus, soon, I can start riding my bike more regularly and going to my local grocer guy who only takes cash for payment but offers produce at an amazing price, and always with a smile.

And yes, I do plan on including personal care items more and more into the grocery end of the budget, such as toilet paper, the occasional need to buy shampoo and conditioner, get a hair cut, etc.  I buy some things in bulk, like toilet paper, paper towels, pee pads, from amazon, so the cost is defrayed over a few months. I also don’t cut my hair that often (it’s below my shoulders) and when I do color it, it’s done at home by me. I take care of my eyebrows mainly by myself. It’s amazing what you can save when you take care of things on your own rather than paying someone else to do it. (Speaking of, after my surgery, I will continue using instacart for my groceries, but once I’m healed, it’ll be me going to my grocer guy.)

You’ll notice I don’t really have laundry expenses added into all of that. That’s because I use a Manatee portable washing machine for almost all of my laundry (blankets and towels, excepting), and a spin dryer (mine is similar to this one on amazon) and then air dry most of my laundry.I used to spend upwards of $10/week on laundry. The cost of the two portable machines has more than paid me back over the past year or so.  Here’s a video of how to use the Manatee on youtube. I just keep mine in the tub and fill it from the tub directly and then let the drain hose go right into the tub drain.

3) Priority #3  – Don’t let up on the downsizing. I need to sell my scooter which will soon be coming out of storage, and also other items in my apt that generally just take up space. I have some items from my grandmother I will likely sell – I have realized, if my apt were to catch on fire, I wouldn’t rush to save them, but I would rush to save the photos of her I have on my bedroom dresser. That tells me what truly holds meaning for me where she is concerned.

4) Priority #4 – this one is still being defined in my mind but it involves making some changes in this world, becoming more involved with causes I care about. The environment. Animals. When I watched that movie, I saw all these people who were so passionate about a particular subject.  I’m going to start researching groups in my area now and in NC and learning ways to get involved. Start reaching out to people now and learn how I can be of help. See if they need someone to help with preparing any written materials for them, on the web or in some other form of media (especially when I won’t be able to do much physically after my surgery.) So maybe it’s more like a goal right now than a priority as I need to make it clearer in my mind. I’ll keep you updated.

I’m home today trying to get rid of a very stubborn cold that came back with a vengeance this past weekend and is totally pissing me off. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and am going to ask them if I can take an antibiotic of sorts, to get rid of it. I need to be done with it for my surgery! Coughing after abdominal surgery – yeah, not something I want to do!

Anyway, sorry this post has appeared to ramble a bit, but I felt the need or urge to write today and put some of these things out there. I like the accountability aspect.

If you’ve liked this post, please hit like or subscribe or drop me a line below. And thanks, as always, for reading.

Defining (and choosing?) priorities

I just had to snap this photo of little Osito when she wore her new parka for the first time. She seems to really like it as it keeps her ears warm!
I just had to snap this photo of little Osito when she wore her new parka for the first time. She seems to really like it as it keeps her ears warm!

Editor’s note, written a few hours after the post was first published:

I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor’s office to see how I’m doing and feeling with cutting my Wellbutrin dosage in half. I’m happy to say, I’m doing pretty well, I think. And having cut out the Singulaire I take for my allergies-induced asthma, I’m breathing really well and clearly. Even ran outside yesterday and didn’t experience any wheezing afterward, like I used to do.  There is a medical student working there now, and she is from Seattle. She told me I can definitely can get work out in that area, and that yes, it really is possible to find a place to live there for about $700. She said things are definitely cheaper out there, and after having talked to her, I’m so jazzed, and leaning toward the PNW again. But I know, I need to keep an open mind and think everything through.

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So, one thing I have learned over the past year or so is that I change my mind. Sometimes a lot. Enough that I am now somewhat making fun of myself when I tell my friends what my “newest” plan for next year is. I go from wanting an RV, to just having a tiny apartment, to wanting an RV, to wanting a tiny apartment or small place to rent. And well, after I put my post up about so many RVs to choose from, I spent a good week or so watching my animals, and I mean really watching them. Watching how they interacted with each other, when they seemed to be the most content, and how far apart from each other they might be at that time. And I realized a small travel trailer just isn’t going to be enough room for them. Not if I don’t want them to be in a constant state of stress, and if I don’t care to alleviate that, it makes me quite selfish and a horrible fur mom.  Two things I never want to be.

I’ve changed my mind about what I want to do with my life a few times – for about two years,  I thought I wanted to be a personal trainer. Enough so that I took two certification tests (the second being known for being extremely hard.)  However, I have realized that while I do like working out, and occasionally helping out friends, I don’t think the lifestyle is for me. It would have me inside all the time (or a majority of the time) and it can get kind of boring to do just do one-on-one training all the time. I see that in the face of my gym’s trainer.  (He’s a great trainer, don’t get me wrong, but I can imagine it gets boring to work with the same types of problems day after day.) Plus, I find it hard to justify spending the money myself for the sessions (and I get them at a discount) when I’m trying to save money and pay off debt. So how could I then be asking people to pay for my services?

On a sunny day like this one, you just HAVE to be outside even if there is a brisk chill in the air!
On a sunny day like this one, you just HAVE to be outside even if there is a brisk chill in the air!

I was interested in going to an outdoor awareness school at one point (in the PNW) but then, of course, reality started to set in. The program was $10K or so, and involved a few trips that would require me to leave the animals for at least a week or more. That, and while I love the outdoors, I really do like some creature comforts, like, a warm bed. One that doesn’t involve sleeping on the ground, constantly worrying about bugs crawling over me as I try to fall asleep. You get the picture. So that idea went out the window, but the one thing behind it stayed the same – I love to be outdoors, and it would be awesome to live in a place that values the outdoor lifestyle. And if I could find a place to work where I could be outside, or teaching others about nature, so much the better.

So my thought is now to work with animals. That’s always been part of my plan – to do more to help them, but now I want to make it part of my future career, to the extent I can. I have been researching into what it takes to be a veterinary technician, if I need to have an associates degree, etc. I’ve been looking into the various AVMA accredited programs and their locations, cost of living, etc. Still have a lot of research to do on that, but hey, it’s what I do!  If I do go that route, I want to cash flow it as much as possible and would plan on applying for as many scholarships as I am able to do.  And I hope that I can start to volunteer at either a vet’s office or clinic or even work with the livestock that the Animal Rescue League of Boston have at their Dedham location, so I can see what it might be like to work as a large-animal vet tech.

I’ve thought about living in the southwest, like NM, and the Pacific Northwest, and just last week, Colorado. What do they all have in common? Yep, the weather is better than in the northeast, and they all value outdoor lifestyles.  The weather is certainly different in all three places. But one thing I have held fast to, and even more so, as we have just changed our clocks back to not be on daylight savings, and as I saw *snow* flurrying this past Sunday along with 40 mph wind gusts, is I’m DONE with the New England weather and winters. DONE. When I rode my bike to work that morning (it’s either that or walk since the buses don’t run early enough), it was sleeting outside. It hurt my face, not to mention the wind was out of this world, making me very glad my bike has a motor and is a bit on the heavy side. And I thought to myself, yep, I am DONE with this weather. It’s way too early for this crap.

So, here are my priorities:

  1. Live simply. Regardless of what the home looks like, it’ll be just what I need and nothing more. It’ll be a lifestyle that allows me to take care of myself and my animals, and pay off my debts (eventually).
  2. Live someplace where an outdoor lifestyle is valued and desired. And where winters don’t force you inside for months on end because the weather is so miserable and nasty cold. There are so many things you can do for free in the natural world, hiking, running, biking, etc. Why sit inside and stare at a TV or computer screen when you can experience all of that?
  3. My animals need to be happy and have enough space to be so. I have found that most of the time, we are all within the same room and a half (my living room and bedroom alcove), with usually 4 of them being within arms’ reach of myself. So I think a place that is about 400-500 square feet is going to do us just fine. Maybe even someplace smaller.
  4. Find a community of like-minded people. People who are somewhat liberal minded and don’t care so much about appearances or that the almighty dollar is the thing to be worshipped. Living in the NE, I think it’s hard for some people to understand why I would leave a good paying job to do something that makes so much less, especially with all of my degrees. I don’t want to constantly feel like I have to explain my decision to do so.Around here, and especially where I work, I work with very driven students and people who have always strived to be at the top. Many are proud of saying the name of our institution and hearing people go “oohh, and aaahhh.”  The name of my employer means nothing to me. In fact, I even ask people to not hold it against me sometimes, as it can also have a negative connotation, at least in my mind. It can conjure up images of wealth and prestige and power. All things that I simply could care less about.

So, these are my priorities, and while I may change my mind about what I will ultimately end up doing, and where I may be, from time to time, I’m holding fast to them. If anyone knows of any places that fit the bill, I’m all ears, so please drop me a line or comment below.

And, as always, if you have liked this post, please hit like or subscribe! Thank you for reading.

Oh, and just one more pic of Baby O below because she is always just too cute for words, and really makes everyone smile when they see her on our walks.

This is her "old lady" red sweater, complete with flowers and everything. But, it's the perfect weight and thickness for the mild fall days when there is a brisk chill in the air.
This is her “old lady” red sweater, complete with flowers and everything. But, it’s the perfect weight and thickness for the mild fall days when there is a brisk chill in the air.