Don’t call us, we’ll call you

February 25, 2014

The 50-cent knife

Filed under: Family, Personal, Personal Finance — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 5:15 am

“Hey Neal, what was that 73-cent charge for?”

“It looks like you spent $1.35 yesterday. What did you buy?”

“I can’t account for about 29 cents — have you bought anything lately?”

Seven years later, it’s almost hard to believe how frequently I asked Neal to account for 73 cents here and 8 cents there in the first few months of our marriage. I had been tracking every penny I earned and spent since I was 17 years old, and I didn’t see why that had to change just because I was adding another designated user to all my accounts. He’d usually chuckle a bit, but still patiently answer my questions. I was sure we were on our way to minimizing the seemingly mindless 89-cent purchases that were showing up every 5 or 6 days.

Until the day.

He’d dropped by D. I. (a thrift store) after work, as he always did (read: he must have stopped by there after work at least 7 or 8 times in the 4 years we lived in Utah — that’s like twice a year, guys!). Minutes after he walked through the door I gathered up the receipts as I always did. D. I. receipts were particularly cryptic and maddening:

  • Merchandise — small         $0.70
  • Merchandise — large         $4.00

Small merchandise. Large merchandise. That seemed to be all the specificity D. I. was equipped to provide, which is totally useless when you’re trying to figure out which budgeting category each charge should be most accurately assigned to.

Was the latest purchase a dish rack? Household — Cleaning Supplies — Durable 

A new pair of church shoes for Neal? Personal Care — Clothing — Neal

A skirt that I would begrudgingly try on? Gifts — Clothing — Attempts to Make Lindsay More Presentable

Between D. I.’s vague labels and Neal’s spotty memory, it was almost impossible to keep useful records. It was as if D. I. was purposely trying to create confusion and ambiguity so that you would feel the need to buy more things just to reestablish some sense of control in a chaotic world. (I never did buy anything there, though; I won’t play their sick game.)

On this particular day, there wasn’t much to puzzle over on the receipt. “What small merchandise did you buy for 50 cents?” I asked.

Neal, totally nonchalant: “Just a knife”

“But we already have knives. Where is it?” I started looking around, less nonchalant.

“I put it by the dishwasher.”

I picked up the knife for examination. It looked average enough. Short. Black handle. Decently sharp for a thrift store find.

“We have knives just like this. We don’t need another knife.” I opened the knife drawer just to verify. One, two, three . . .  yep, at least three nearly identical knives.

Neal, bored with the knife interrogation conversation, had casually walked back to his bedroom and was checking email. I followed.

“Why did you buy that knife when we have others just like it?”

“I just thought we could use it,” he replied, eyes still fixed on his computer.

“Well, we don’t need it. You should return it.”

“Well, D. I. doesn’t do returns. ”

“WHAT?! You’re going shopping and making impulse buys at a store that doesn’t even take returns?” I step closer just to make sure he can hear my disgust, since his back is still turned toward me.

He finally cranes his neck to look at me. “Seriously? It cost 50 cents. It’s not a big deal.”

“But 50 cents spent on something we don’t need is still a waste of 50 cents! If you spent 50 cents needlessly every time you went to the store that would add up . . . ”

“To like 50 dollars a year! Gasp!”

“Do you know what 50 dollars per year FOR THE REST OF OUR MARRIAGE would add up to?”

“You seriously need to get a grip,” he concluded as he turns back to his computer.

After the incident, I knew I had to curb my obsessive financial tracking. It seemed the rest of our marriage might not be as long as I was planning if I kept asking him to account for every penny that left our account. Some men might find it emasculating; he just found it freaking annoying.

Initially the realization that I couldn’t track every cent was so depressing that I stopped monitoring our finances altogether for several months. (Crazy, I know!) It was strange that one of my favorite pastimes (financial monitoring! with spreadsheets!) had so quickly lost any pleasure for me. Neal, feeling for my frustration, even helpfully offered to take over the finances: “I’ll do it, as long as you’re okay with imperfection and losing track of a couple hundred dollars here and there.” (Um . . . thanks? as I dry-heave at the thought.) No, I had to find a middle ground. I had to accept that marriage means giving up obsessive control over many things, not the least of which is cheap knife purchases. Peace was once again restored to our home and financial planning.

Until the summer of “WE’RE BLEEDING MONEY,” of course . . .

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February 24, 2014

January: Organize

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 1:45 am

Despite Neal’s continual claims that we need at least 2 or 3 more months devoted to organizing, I’m quite pleased with what I accomplished in January. Often after we put Addison to bed, I head right back to my bed. But for most of the month I resisted that urge and stayed up. Talk about the heart of a champion!

Over the course of the month, I organized:

  • the car — don’t worry, it’s filthy again already!
  • Cub Scout awards, plans, achievement charts — have I mentioned Neal and I are Cub Scout leaders in our new town? The organizing = the easy part.
  • the closet at my parents’ house — that we basically shoved a whole lotta stuff into as we were moving out.
  • 3 untouched boxes from our move — 3 probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but it yielded us at least 4 or 5 more square feet of usable space, so that was nice.

But by far my greatest accomplishment was a flash of inspiration I had to both Organize and close out my year of Thanks in a big way. I had just thousands of pictures scattered through various boxes and I thought, What if I go through each one and send prints or doubles to the friends and family in them? I sent off no less that 30 envelopes and small packages with copies of photos that were at least a decade or more old. I have 10 more still at home (some of these will need to wait for in-person visits because, dang, postage gets expensive!), along with loads of pictures I hope to scan, but it felt great to make so much progress. And while I didn’t write “Thank you” on each one, I hope that the message came through:

Thanks for being a part of my life. You still have a place in my heart.

Oh yeah, and thanks for overlooking those hideous bangs I used to have. That means a lot.

Hideous Bangs: Exhibit A

Hideous Bangs: Exhibit A

Hideous Bangs: Exhibit B (this pic may not represent an exclusively bangs issue)

Hideous Bangs: Exhibit B (though this pic may not represent an exclusively bangs issue)

February 10, 2014

It’s that time . . . HELP!

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 6:01 am

February. Time to Cook.

I still need to write about Stronger. And Thanks. And January’s Organize theme. But there’s no time now! It’s already the 9th! And I’ve got people coming for dinner on Saturday! And I’m starting a second job in less than 2 weeks! And . . . this is the real kicker . . . I’m beginning to tire of tacos, which I’ve been eating for about 85% of my meals since August. Never thought that day would come. *wipes away tears*

Based on Neal’s and my initial conversations, coming up with a mutually agreeable meal plan is going to be tough. He wants it to be cheap. I want it to be tasty and somewhat varying. I’ve made some compromises over the last few months — for example, replacing all ground beef I used to eat, which wasn’t much, with cheaper black beans — but if I have to continue to rotate through the same 4 cheap meals every week (3 of them containing black beans), I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose the will to live.

This is where you come in with your great ideas! What are your easiest go-to meals? If they have 5 ingredients or less, you’ll get a gold star. I’m especially interested in:

  • Freezer meals, especially ones that don’t require meat
  • Crockpot meals, especially ones that don’t require meat
  • Recipes with quinoa  or sticky rice (we bought both of these in bulk)
  • Recipes in a jar (that’s a thing, right? Something that could be mixed up ahead of time . . . )
  • Add-ins to add variety to salads

One thing: I’m not a big soup/stew fan. Neal bemoans this fact every. single. day. as if all our problems would be solved by me liking soup more. Alas, it has to be pretty spectacular soup (like Safeway’s Loaded Baked Potato) to interest me.

Help a sister out over here!

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