I spent the last half of this past week wondering what Monday’s post should be about. I had the whole morning Saturday, but no inspiration came. Then I thought maybe something would come to me while Aaron and I chatted/went for a short drive. Nope.
Sunday morning came, and still no ideas presented themselves. I put off starting this post and ran some errands in the hopes that something would strike me.
As you can tell from the post title, it did not.
Running on empty
Between the stress of the election and the rise in new COVID case numbers (both in Arizona and the country in general), I just generally feel empty and disheartened. I suspect a lot of you do too.
It doesn’t help that I felt the need to stock up on food a little in case of unrest after the election results are announced.
Given that people armed themselves and showed up at capitol buildings just to protest the lockdown, I’m a tad concerned what will happen if that particular demographic doesn’t see the election results it wants.
So just in case, I got some extra rice, beans and chips, plus cleaned out the freezer a little in order to fit more frozen meals in there. I’m sure this is pure paranoia (I certainly hope so, anyway) but… An ounce of prevention and all that.
Anyway, since I’ve got no coherent point for an entire post, here are some random bits of frugality/money stuff that have happened recently.
Protein bars deal
I went to reorder my protein bars a little early — again, stocking up a bit — and tripped onto a great deal. I’d get a $10 gift card if I spent $40+ on health items, including my bars. The only downside is that I’d have to pick them up rather than getting them delivered.
Normally, I order six boxes at a time (remember, I eat two a day), but that was $80ish. So I broke it into two three-box orders. Then I decided it was too good a deal not to get even more. I mean, I know I’m going to eat the bars.
I got 12 boxes in all, so I netted myself $40 in gift cards. Honestly, I would’ve gotten even more, but the stores don’t keep a lot of boxes in stock. So as it was I had to hit two different stores. I didn’t have it in me to go to a third one.
Pools are terrible (for money/Earth)
Yes, pools are lovely. I’ve enjoyed my friend Kevin’s pool quite a few times. But I didn’t realize just how much of a water-suck they are.
Apparently, my friend Kevin uses around 10,000 gallons a month. (Which he thought wasn’t that bad, by the way.) I used less than 3,000 gallons a month, sometimes less than 2,400.
Now, to be fair, I take ridiculously short showers, whereas Kevin apparently likes long showers. And unless I have guests over, I use the “let it mellow” toilet system. (When you drink almost a gallon of water a day and have a smallish bladder, flushing every time would be a huge amount of water.) I’m pretty sure Kevin doesn’t.
But let’s face it: Most of the difference in water usage is probably the pool. Even if he were taking 15-minute showers, a conventional showerhead would only (well, “only”) send out around 1,125 gallons a month. So yeah… The difference in his usage versus mine is mostly the pool filling backing up.
Up until that conversation, I’d only ever thought about saving money by not having a pool in terms of not paying for cleaning services or repairs. But it goes even farther, apparently.
Apparently, Phoenix monitors water usage from January to March and sets a sewer fee accordingly. But — and this is key — it doesn’t seem to distinguish between houses with pools and those without. And of course, a lot of water that pool owners use ends up evaporating rather than going into the sewer. Which seems unfair, but on the other hand, I’m not sure how you’d figure out evaporation rate when our temperatures run between 55 and 119 degrees over the course of a year.
Point being, Kevin’s sewer fee is more than $63. Mine is $9.41. In fact, his sewer fee is 118% of my last water/sewer/garbage bill as a whole.
As an aside, I’ve been assuming we’ll face a water shortage within the next decade, given that people keep flocking here. (Please stop, by the way. You’re driving up my property taxes.) But now that I know how freakin’ much water pools use — and given how many new homes are probably being built with pools — I’m shortening that timeline to five years, max, before we’re in southern California’s situation.
More CVS savings
My recent epic deal at CVS turned out to be even better. A couple days after the order shipped, I got a notification that I’d earned $9 in Extrabux. In addition, I got a coupon in the mail for 30% off one item.
This week the store has a 40% off L’oreal Cosmetics coupon plus a $5 manufacturer coupon. I checked, and my foundation and concealer are about half full. So it wouldn’t hurt to have backups, since I’m still at the putting-on-makeup stage with Aaron. And presumably eventually we will have social lives again.
The 40% off plus the $5 off plus the 30% off coupon plus the $9 in Extrabux meant that I got $23.78 of cosmetics for $4.20.
And there was a deal for $5 in Extrabux when you buy two L’oreal Cosmetics. So (assuming I use the Extrabux on something I need), I basically got paid $0.80 to buy makeup.
I’ll just be sitting here waiting for my frugality trophy to come in the mail.
Affordable food delivery
I’ve talked in the past about, while I’m not a huge fan of delivery apps, there are plenty of ways to save with them. So on Friday, when I was too tired to get anything myself, I started perusing deals.
I found a code to get $25 off my first UberEats delivery. I had really only wanted one meal, which was $9.95, but I wasn’t about to waste the credit and added a second meal.
After taxes/fees and tip, I paid $9.70 for two meals. Not as cheap as eating at home but… Not bad.
Since I’ve been able to max out my SEP-IRA two years in a row — even doing it a few months early this year — I’ve decided to open a solo 401(k) through for my company.
I can contribute up to 25% of what I pay myself as an employee, so between that and the employee contributions, I’d (theoretically) be able to put away nearly $34,000 a year.
I say “theoretically” because, while I’m sure it’d be possible to put that much away, I don’t want to lead the lifestyle that would necessitate. I like small luxuries. But it’s nice to have the option to put away more money each year.
But this presented a math headache.
Since every month I have a different amount of money left to contribute, every month I was going to have to do the math for how much the employee should contribute so that it plus the employer match added up to the full total of left over money — and that meant figuring out how much my paycheck should be every single month.
Not hugely difficult, but cumbersome. Then I had a lightbulb moment.
Even if I open the 401(k) this year, my company can’t contribute anything as a matching contribution because it already gave me 25% in the SEP-IRA. It’s an either/or situation: either 25% in the SEP or 25% in the 401(k).
Which means if I just keep maxing out the SEP-IRA first and only then contributing to my 401(k), I never have to worry about figuring out employer matching.
And since it took around nine months this year to max out my SEP, I’d only make 401(k) contributions three to four times a year. Meaning I’d only have three or four times a year where I’d have to do math to figure out what my paycheck should be.
So yeah, I’m gonna take that shortcut.
All in all
Okay, well… That’s about all I’ve got. I plan on stress-eating my way through election night. I’ve also notified Aaron that, his schedule permitting, I’d love a distraction Tuesday. (Okay, I said I wanted to reserve him. But he knew what I meant.)
I hope everyone hangs in there until this is all over. Though I’m anticipating one side or the other demanding a recount, and there’s the aforementioned possibility of civil unrest. So who knows when the actual dust will settle?
Regardless, I hope all of you stay safe. And as a personal favor, please send prayers/good thoughts/positive vibes/whatever to my grandfather. He was diagnosed with COVID last week. He’s not having breathing issues, thankfully, and his fever broke on the second day in the hospital. So last I heard, he’s just very fatigued and experiencing some weakness. They were going to give him steroids in the hopes that would help.
But given that he just finished chemo/radiation for his recently diagnosed cancer (did I mention that 2020 can suck it?), I’d still prefer to not count my/his chickens before they’re hatched.
So I appreciate any of you who keep him in your thoughts.
How’s everyone else handling the election stress? Stocking up on food? Stress-eating? Selling your soul to the devil if you never have to hear even one more political ad?