Friday, September 01, 2006

Ah Fall!

I love fall, autumn, whatever you call it. It's my favorite season and my favorite time of year. Since moving to Portland 4 years ago, spring has moved up into second place. Spring is beautiful here, all the trees and roses and flowers blooming. But I don't know, maybe it's because I always loved going back to school, but this is my favorite time.

Money has been really tight here for a while and will continue to be so for a while yet. I've had no luck finding a job. I'm either overqualified (for office work) or under-certified (for computer work). So, I'm doing my best to just make what money we have stretch farther.

Our utilities are mostly as low as they can go. Phone is basic, no long distance (we use a phone card) or caller id or any of that. Cable is basic, and costs $13.50 a month. We do have cable internet, but we've talked about it and we are not willing to a. give up internet or b. go back to dialup. Electric varies month to month. Summer is about $55 per month, up to $100 in the winter (electric heat). My partner and I did have a talk about heat this winter and what temperatures to use to save.

It's funny, I was a kid in the 70s and my father brought home from General Electric (where he worked) switchplates that said something about turning off the lights when you leave a room. I got into the habit of being very conservative about leaving lights on and I still am. I know that helps a little. I'd love to buy those compact florescent bulbs to save energy, but they are so expensive, we can't afford them.

Our rent has gone up $50 in the last year. Still, our rent is pretty low and we have a free storage unit. Car payment has about a year left and our insurance (with Geico) is pretty low. I check around every six months and haven't found anything cheaper. The only problem is to get low rates we have a high deductible, so we hope nothing happens, basically.

The problem is, after rent, car, insurance and utilities, we have about 50 bucks for every two weeks. Gas costs us about 20 bucks every two weeks. We can get bus tickets for 16.50 for 10, but we haven't had the money for that since our last batch ran out. So I mainly try to be frugal with the grocery money, such as it is.

I've been buying frozen veggies from Fred Meyers, that way I don't have the problem of varying produce prices and the problem of us not using stuff up before it gets nasty. I buy eggs 5 dozen at a time, which I get for 7 cents an egg. We buy whole wheat muffins and bread. I buy couscous, brown rice, oats, barley, tvp, and beans in bulk.

I do bake bread sometimes, but I have a problem. My crust always comes out really hard and neither of us really likes that. I don't know how to get it to be at least a little softer.

When we eat meat, it's more of a condiment than a main course. We've started to run into the problem of running out of staples, like mustard or pickles and having a hard time buying more. It's really quite a juggling act.

No real point to this post, except I'd be happy to hear any suggestions you have for stretching money further than we already are.


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