Monday, April 8, 2013

Taking April Off... Week 1 Recap

One week in, this is how I'm doing on my Taking April Off... #spendingdiet and better allotment of my time as all outlined previously. I'm thinking that maybe I should have started with a month of just tracking every dollar to see where it went before jumping in to this. Too late now! I did not do amazing this past week, but not too horrible I guess either. Come on Laura, get it together!
(I'm taking applications for budget cheerleaders & accountability buddies... comment below?)


  • $5 — beer out with an old friend that was visiting
  • $50 donation for my Pinups for Pitbulls calendar model application. I'd had this in my queue to do for weeks, and with the deadline approaching, I had to get my application in. Hey, at least it's going toward a good cause. (This is not counting toward that running total since the only reason it happened this week was because of lots of procrastination on my part.) 
  • Stayed up late. 1AM? No good. 


  • ~$9 for a chicken soulvaki (food+tip) at a diner when my groupon dinner plans got squashed by not finding the place after supposedly driving by twice, and not feeling comfortable enough in that area at that time of night to park and wander. 
  • Consequence of staying up late was not running before work, which left my homework run til after work. After the run, showering, and then being so starved for dinner led to the above haste and plan fail. Yep.
  • Skipped going to either of two shows I was interested in, one in Buffalo, one in Syracuse. Never committed to either, wanted to go to both, and realizing that no matter what I'd be disappointed from missing one, why not miss both and be disappointed anyway? I hate my logic sometimes, but at least I didn't spend a couple hours in the car on a weeknight. 


  • Planned dinner ahead of time went well. Though, pretty exhausted after my run & shower. I guess I can't do as much on run days now as I was doing before. Perhaps hitting the 3 mile mark is my ceiling for being functional afterward. 


  • Somehow dinner tv programming still happened, and that was bad for my time budget. Though dinner of leftover Easter ham went well.
    And then of course after that I start feeling like I'm having an allergic reaction and start popping allegra, taking puffs of albuterol and feeling like crap. I spent the rest of the night on the couch until bedtime. These allergy effects need to stop. Glad I'm seeing my allergist soon.


  • $2.25 for a coffee. Running early and trying to start the day off with treating my self a bit. Plus, no need to be the one person doing the dishes/making the coffee at the office EVERY day this week. 


  • Bagel breakfast sandwich & a coffee at Balsam Bagels. Too good, I could eat there every day. ~$7
  • Genesee Brewhouse tasting flight: $2. Decided to walk across the bridge at High Falls before the game, and the flight was kind of a no-brainer.
  • Red Wings Baseball game — The season opener, I'd planned on going to this for months. I bought a special pack of tickets that give me a discount on the price by buying a bunch together. So, I didn't buy the ticket that day, it happened a couple weeks ago. Got a fried dough & a turkey crepe and a hot chocolate, ~ $ 17 ? Kept it under $20!
  • Poster show at 1975. One night only. Old friend in town with this poster tour. Another friend in town that I don't see too often either. Or two. Really hard to skip seeing folks I see maybe once a year because of the spending diet & time diet. And I maybe bought a Tara McPherson poster. $60. Which now looking at her site, this ish isn't available until May! Winning? EDIT: Probably meant last May.
    Current room below, and new poster on right. They're going to be on opposite walls, staring at each other while I sleep. Creepy? It was too good of a fit to pass up. 
  • Dinner with same friends from the poster show at Pomodoro. $17 including tip. I feel like I'm back in college, getting just a water with dinner.
  • Everything Saturday took longer than it could/should have. Totally wiped me out, and I didn't even get to everything I was supposed to. Bleh.
Art for my room... the Gaslight zombie girl is getting a friend!


  • ~$4 for a  Belgian Waffle Latte at Equal Grounds. Needed that after training with the foster and before I plunged in to a huge day of getting stuff done. 
  • $8 for 2 drinks at Lux... went for a meeting, stayed for a hot cider and chat with a few seldom-seen friends.
  • ~$5.50 for a burger at Five Guys. Did a quick grocery run and hadn't had dinner so...

Week 1 Total $ spent on non-essentials: $136.75 (+$50 donation for P4P)

Eeek. If you don't include the TM poster, $76.75... which is ok! But, the TM poster happened. I also need to de-grossify my french press so I don't blow so much on coffee this week. So, for the next three weeks, I've got what's in my wallet + $40 left to take from the ATM to keep on track.

Can I do it? 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Operation Hydration : A mini-case study

If you've been following along with me this year, you may have noticed that I've been working toward getting/being healthier all around. One big thing I knew I wanted to work on that was probably pretty attainable was to stay hydrated/drink more water.

As a designer, I often find myself approaching seemingly small things as full-blown problems to solve. I found that as much as I knew I should be drinking water throughout the day, sometimes the only thing I'd have before dinner was my morning coffee. No good.

So, I took a closer look at what small things may have been impeding my thirst quenching, or what alterations might increase my hydration.

During the workweek, I find myself sitting at a desk, mindlessly reaching for whatever is easily accessible—candy, gum, coffee, whatever I've left on my desk. If I could put a glass of water there, I'd probably drink it. The second part of access has to do with where I'd be getting water. I tried in the fall to bring in a pack of bottled waters, so I could easily grab one whenever I felt like it. This somewhat worked, but then there was dealing with the empties that I of course wanted to collect the deposit on, and the weird feeling of bothering to open a new bottle, or just hold out if I was a little thirsty but it was nearing the end of the day. Plus, the small action of unscrewing the cap made a tiny barrier to drinking, versus just grabbing the coffee mug. 

So, the bottled water was kind of out. My previous job had one of those water cooler things that I could fill up with crisp, cold, filtered water whenever I'd like. It was in the break room, so a small walk from my desk, but totally doable. We've got an assortment of various mugs and cups in our breakroom, so I've given the rather large teal ones a go. They're plasticky, sort of like what you'd expect to be marketed for summer entertaining on your deck. Maybe I'll bring in a pint glass of my own at some point. I also got a water bottle that has a space on the bottom for *infusing* a piece of fruit or whatever in to it. This is good, if I remember it, and if I feel like washing out all the different pieces...

The water itself.
My current job has no such water cooler, at least in my building, so I'm stuck with our break room sink. Which, the water is ... okay. It's not the best I've had but certainly not the worst (sorry Florida, not a fan of your tap water). How could I be more enticed to fill up on a large glass of this stuff? Ice cubes? Maybe, we have some in the freezer in the break room. Citrus? Ooh! I do quite like a lemon or lime in my water, but man, leaving a partial piece of fruit in the fridge for more than a couple days can leave the fruit not so great, and I hate wasting something. 

So ok, even if I do keep a lemon in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap or a baggie, and then just hack off a piece whenever I'm filling up? Do I feel like washing a knife & plate/cutting board every time I get a glass of water? No, not really. Maybe I can just cut the whole thing up at once... but, would that get kind of gross still if I'm only using one piece or so per day?

Waste prevention.
I don't want to be throwing out half a piece of fruit, nor having to replace my stock of limes/lemons constantly. What is a way to prevent this?

When life gives you lemons...

Making my way through all of that, I figured I needed a way to have portion-sized pieces of lemon ready to go whenever, easily accessible, and that wouldn't spoil or have to be thrown away. Pair that with a good-sized cup or glass to hold it all. Enter my friend, the freezer... With the help of a quart-size freezer bag, and a tiny bit of forethought, I realized I could slice up an entire lemon or two in to the size pieces I'd like, throw those all in that freezer bag, and into the freezer to give myself what I've been looking for. I'd have pre-cut slices of lemon, and they'd double as ice cubes. Win! 

After cutting up a few lemons and freezing the pieces this way, I started exploring methods of cutting the lemon to get the most out of it. I tried quartering it, but that was too big of a piece at a time, and half-ing those didn't seem to leave much of a citrus-y impression. I tried rings, which seemed to work better but were harder to cut because the lemon would roll around a bit. Then I got to the half-rings! These have the advantages of the full ring, but easier to cut, and you can get more separate pieces out of one lemon. 

The illustrations bordering this post chronicle how I am, and recommend, cutting a lemon for these freezing purposes.  Start by halving your lemon through its bellybutton, or in technical terms *hot dog* way. Then, place your lemon halves flat-side down, and proceed to make slices going the opposite direction, technical term *hamburger* way.  This leaves you with a bunch of small half-circle lemon pieces that are perfect to throw in to a freezer bag to freeze. When you do freeze them, try to lay the bag flat if possible and avoid having the pieces stack up on each other, so you won't have to work on prying them apart at a later time. 

So, there you have it—a fairly lengthy blog post about putting a lemon in your water. I hope you enjoyed it, and perhaps have gained some insight in to the inner workings of my mind. 

All illustrations in this post are my own and may not be reproduced without written consent.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm taking April off.

(pssst... hi! I know it's April 1st, but this is not an April Fools Day joke...just wanted to get that out of the way. Also, hello & welcome to my new followers from the Coach bag giveaway! I hope you enjoy things here, and stick around. Please say hi in the comments section so I can get to know you, too!)

I'm taking April off.
Not from work. Not from commitments.
But from too much.

Sticking with a budget, a schedule, and listing all the things that I'm holding back that have been holding me back:

  • TV/Netflix/Hulu. Great for background noise, but also great for making small tasks take much longer because of the distraction. Mailing out etsy orders? Eating dinner? These do not take 30-60 minutes.
  • Eating on the couch. This leads to/stems from the above.  And also makes the dogs super jealous of what's on my plate. How about that dining room table, yeah?
  • Going out for meals. Yep. Unless there's a groupon, dining card, gift card or similar involved, it's not happening in April.  
  • Staying up too late to finish things. Face it, I'm never going to finish everything I *could* do. Might as well get myself in bed and give tomorrow a fighting chance. In deadline situations, I'll give myself one late night per week. 
  • Falling asleep on the couch. Direct result of a few of the above—*watching* something while I'm getting tired (staying up too late?!) and then falling asleep on the couch, waking up at 4AM and then going to bed for another hour or two... yeah let's not do that. 
  • Shopping. Not sure I need to even explain this one but shopping costs money and takes time, and gives me more things. I could use more money and time, and less things. Groceries & household supplies will be on a *list only* basis, as well as dog food/treats/etc. 
  • Work distractions. Because when I let myself get distracted at work, I guilt myself in to staying later to *make up* for my distracted time. I'd rather just get my work done and go get distracted at home or at least out in the sunshine.  
  • Cara Box. Yes these are fun, but I end up stressing about them at the last minute, and this falls under acquiring more things and having less money. So I'll be sitting out this month for the Cara Box exchange, no matter how amazing the theme idea is. 
  • Being Overwhelmed. So this is more of the goal rather than a specific action item, but I'd like to be less overwhelmed.
  • Being Social. Sorry, I'm not sorry. I love you all and everything but this is one thing that's going to have to take a back seat this month. Unless, of course, you want to join in on any of the MORE list items below (cooking, dog walking). 
  • Keeping chocolate/candy in reach at my desk. Unnecessary, but so good. So, that can hide across the room or in a cabinet or nowhere. Don't need it. 
Those things are getting cut out or cut back.

And here's the things I will be doing more of in April. 
  • Dog Time. More walks, more training & practice, more fun. Guilty of expecting that the puppy will just want to snuggle up on the couch with me when I'm tired even though she's had quiet time the entire time I've been at work. And the more practice/training I do with the foster, the more adoptable he is! (not that he isn't already super-adoptable, but better manners and more training are only going to make him even more irresistable.)
  • Cooking/Meal Prep/Planning. I'm hit or miss on this sometimes, and if I miss the planning/shopping over the weekend, the whole week ends up a big mess of last minute solutions. I did some good pre-planning this week and I've been eating healthier & cheaper for the most part because of it. 
  • In bed by 11, up and out of bed by 6. Because the sun is getting up earlier, and so should I. 7 hours is plenty of sleep.  
  • Cooking from the cabinets. I could probably live a month off the stuff in my cabinets. So maybe I will. Aiming to empty out much of these, enough so that I don't have any straggler items that live permanently on the countertop.
  • Read books. I don't even know how many books I own that I have yet to read. I was aiming for at least one book per month, which I've hit in January, but not since then this year. Maybe I can read two in April.
  • Getting rid of stuff. I have a lot of stuff. I'd rather have a lot of space, but when the space is taken up by the stuff, both are useless. The plan is to go through boxes, totes, random piles and fill my garbage container that goes to the curb every week. Also a box for selling, and donating items. 
  • Baking. Muffins, bread, whatever. I have a lot of the ingredients on hand, and me making my own is pretty cost-efficient.
  • Setting aside specific time for specific things AND downtime.  Like working on etsy orders. Or grocery shopping. Or meal prep. My google calendar is going to be crazy this month. I've already added Office Hours to my calendar bi-weekly to take care of bills, paperwork, emails, whatever.
  • Make bigger payments on things. I like to keep a cushion in my checking account just *in case* but I don't really need it there, especially when I have savings for *in case*, so taking that cushion lower and making bigger payments on things. Would LOVE to get my car paid off sooner.
  • Keeping flat surfaces clear. Counters, tables, dresses. Clearing these off and not just putting something down because I can. I don't need my life to be a game of Jenga.
  • Pomodoro Method. Using My Tomatoes to work in 25 minute intervals. I've tried it a little and excited to utilize this method going forward. 

As March progressed, I realized I didn't go nearly as cold-turkey on my #nospend as much as I probably should have and wanted to.

On the other side of things, I've also realized that there were lots of likeminded thinkers on board with this idea, I came across Betsy's post Spend Less for March.

and leading me to... The Spending Fast.  Or, The Spending Diet. Both from Anna at And then We Saved, who paid off ~$24,000 in FIFTEEN MONTHS. Holy Cow.

I don't have $24k to pay off (well, not including a mortgage but that's a different story) but could certainly use to catch up on payments, bills, savings, whatever.

I'll go with the spending diet, and giving myself $200 cash for the month for incidentals and *wants*. Credit/debit cards are for needs—gas, groceries, pet supplies, household goods. I know I've already got a few things on the calendar that will be demanding my time, talent, and treasure so it'll be best to work with that budget.

So here goes...

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