Why I´m a frugal jerk

Something Grasshopper said the other day rubbed me the wrong way. He is one of those people who love to have the perfect clothes, hat, shoes, travel bag, etc. for every occasion. Apparently he´d been looking for a cool overnight bag for some time and last week he found a very nice leather bag with 75% off at 35€.

While I think this is a great price for such a bag, he justified the purchase by saying he wouldn´t get any snacks during his shift for a week, to make up for the money. That is what ticked me off. He doesn´t have a latte factor, he has a sandwich factor at 5€ per day! That´s 120€ per month! On sandwiches!!


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

There I was am not buying things I really really need kinda want and he is spending a fortune on eating out by himself. So I tried to let it go but actually let it simmer for a couple of days before I told him that it bothered me. And even though I thought it was nicely phrased and non passive-aggressive (I´ve a tendency to do that), I was actually being a jerk and here is why:

  1. Grasshopper gets 200€ per month in food checks that can only be cashed at certain restaurants near to where he works. He uses those for his snacks, even though he gives me half to spend with my friends. None of his coworkers do that.
  2. He has constantly talks about all the things he wished he had, but last time he bought something for himself was, um, November.
  3. We have a fully funded emergency fund, that I imposed, saved his entire Christmas bonus, and save a minimum of 10% of our combined income a month.
  4. I´m not really the buying kind, so it´s not like I´m missing out on buying experiences, I just choose not to buy.
  5. I sometimes am an irrational Frugalzilla. Oh yes, and a jerk.

(Sigh), maybe this is something I should add to my list of things I need to improve.

Have you ever blown a little expense out of proportion? Did you feel silly too?


New Year´s resolutions fail

I have a confession to make: I have already failed at my New Year´s resolutions. I know, I suck. I read all the “How to keep your resolution” posts. Most of them were really good and offered solid advice. But I have another confession to make: I actually even failed at setting my resolutions. I sat with my blank sheet of paper and tried to think up of 13 resolutions for 2013, as was fitting. I eventually came up with 7, and most of them weren´t even SMART goals. It was really more of a to-do list. And I suck at to-do lists.


There are many methods to getting things done, including GTD ;), and most work for me when I am motivated to do things. I have found that I have two main problems with my lists:

1.- There are too many things on it, so I can´t get it all done.

2.- Something comes up and I run out of time.

3.- I can´t be bothered don´t find the motivation to do everything I set myself up to do.

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It all comes down to fluctuating energy and motivation levels. When I set myself up to do too much, I feel like I could walk a 1000 miles. I usually do quite a lot of things on list when I´m on top of the owrld. But, other days, I feel completely sapped and just want to lounge and watch tv or read.

I guess there is really only 1 resolution I need to work on and keep:

Do better to-do lists and keep them.

I think that, in order to do this, I need to:

  1. Prioritize.
  2. Chart my energy levels throughout the day and the month.
  3. Get more exercise and sleep.
  4. Make more realistic to-do lists.
  5. Give myself a break.

How about you, have you already not kept a resolution?

On keeping quiet about certain New Year´s resolutions

The end of the year makes people´s resolutions one of the main topics of conversation. It seems common knowledge that the keys are finding the right resolution, making them SMART, breaking them down and making yourself accountable by sharing them with other people. And while I agree with them wholeheartedly, I don’t believe you should necessarily share all your goals with others.

new year 2013

Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All my failed attempts to give up smoking started with a couple of smoke-less days, followed by a spreading the word, feeling empowered, then looking at other people´s cigarettes more and more, until I caved in, when I felt I not only let myself down, but also other people. All those people now knew I couldn’t do it. They all knew I had failed, which made it a lot harder to make the next attempt. I knew I had let myself down, but felt I had also let other people down.

It sometimes started a domino effect. In some groups, smokers try to quit together, or they follow someone else´s lead, and when one of them fails, everyone tends to get disheartened and stop trying.

I have seen it happen with not only smoking, but with fitness, and studying daily or being more positive. I´m sure you have as well. It sucks to be the first to drop the ball, just as it sucks to fail. That is why the last time I quit smoking, I didn’t tell anyone. I have to say that it was very helpful that I had never smoked in my house and that only one other guy in my group of college friends smoked.  Here are the main changes that helped me quit that nasty habit.

Change my own attitude

One day I decided not only to quit smoking and tell no-one, but also to consider myself as a non-smoker. Whenever I felt the urge to light up, I´d remind myself that I didn’t smoke, and thought of something else.  I would ask for non-smoker tables at restaurants and avoided going out for cigarette breaks, staying nice and comfortable inside, chatting between classes. Whenever someone would ask me to join them, I´d say I didn’t feel like it, had just had one or had a sore throat.

Be more mindful

I had been smoking so much for such a long time that many routines were adjusted to how long it took me to smoke a cigarette, like on my walk to university or on library breaks. Sometimes I would fill in the time just puffing away when I was waiting on someone or just plain bored. One of the things that helped me was to leave my iPod at home, and be music free.

This enabled me to focus on my thoughts as I walked, or waited for the bus. The first week this was not too easy. Boredom and nicotine withdrawal are not a good combination. However, I remember that my grandma would always say that “only boring people get bored” and that I was a non-smoker. After that it got easier.

Focus on the improvements made

The main advantage to giving up smoking was the sudden amount of spending cash I freed up for other things. This meant more Christmas presents for my family, more activities with friends and I smelled way better. Of course this didn’t really make up for what I was giving up, but it sure helped on the harder times.

Enjoy the rewards

I used to think that smoking calmed me down and helped me unwind. How could I have handled all those problems without a cigarette in my hand, making me look cool and mysterious (yeah, right)? What I came to realise is that I was constantly thinking about smoking: about whether I had enough cigarettes to last me a day, when I could leave the classroom to light up, and so on and so on. I was effectively thinking about it all day, getting anxious about it, fretting and worrying.

Only after a few months was I able to finally calm down, and enjoy my new non-smoker life. Funnily enough, even though I had told no-one, one day I was greeted with a round of applause from my friends who had noticed that all my efforts had paid off.

All of this can be applied to any area of life that seems daunting and almost impossible to accomplish, from saving more to improving your health or learning a language. You have to remember that you might fail before you finally achieve your goals, but that, in the end, perseverance will get you there.

So what was the hardest goal you have achieved?

How to have a housecleaner

Most of us have never had a person working at home, when we were growing up. Apart from the occasional babysitter or tutor, most of our moms juggled housework and paidwork or were SAHMs.

Because of this, most of us find that hiring and having a person to be in our house a certain number or hours per week is more a source of stress than a way of delegating unpleasant or unwanted work. It´s not just searching for a normal, competent person who will do a certain job to certain standards. They must convey trustworthiness, cleanliness and, most importantly, they must fit into our family dynamics.

Every family has a certain dynamic, a way of relating to one another and coexisting in the same house. Every house has its rhythms and its natural order. Grasshopper´s house, for example, must be pristine at all times. Even if they all work 10-12 hour days, the kitchen must be spotless, no dust is allowed on the glassware and it must be organized in a certain way depending on the number of glasses of each set at a particular time. This is not only a cause of stress for them, because they always seem to think the house is a mess (when it never is, well, maybe on ironing day), but it also means that noone else can help them clean up. I´ve been there every week for the last three years and still can´t unload the dishwasher because I know that his mom will not like how I have lined up the glasses and will have to do it again when she gets off work.

My house is much more chaotic, though we do tend much more towards Diogenes than OCD. This means that we can enjoy our home time as wind down time, but it also means that books pile up on tables and chairs and the floor every couple of days. And we often run out of clean coffee spoons. Maybe not the best system either.

Like many people my mom agonised over hiring someone to do some of the chores. Finally, my mom has decided to hire some help, and we asked my grandma, who has experience in this, for some advice. Here are some of her tips:

1.- Set priorities: decide which chores you want to delegate, how many hours you want to hire the cleaner for and how much to pay them. Decide if you want to be present or if you want to give them a key.

2.- Set boundaries from the start:  establish the chores to be completed and how thorough the work must be. Your bedroom or some work areas might need to be off limits. Similarly, you may not like to have your drawers and closets opened. Say so from the start. Make a point of anything you deem inappropiate or unsafe.

3.- Explain in detail: if you are like Grasshopper´s mom you have two choices: do it youself or explain exactly how things must be done. Maybe you want a specific product on your induction plate, can´t stand lemon-scented cleaners or you favour brooms over vacuums. Say so, make it plain and provide the necessary equipment and products.

4.- You are the boss. You decide how clean clean really is and how tidy a room must be to make you happy. If you need to clean up before the cleaner arrives, or you hate the way the unplug the toaster and hide your trash can, reconsider hiring or maintaining that person. Don´t be afraid to speak up when something is not to you liking.

5.- Don´t pity your cleaner: being a cleaner is like any other job: you need to do it in a set time, to set standards and fit into the company atmosphere. If you find that your cleaner is not in tune with you family´s and your house´s rhythms, simply say that you don´t think it´s working out. I don´t need to tell you that the job market is very bad at the moment. Firing someone is always hard. But you are paying and, therefore, you need to decide if you are happy with your employee or not. If not, find someone else because, I don´t need to tell you that the job market is very bad at the moment and many other great people are looking for a chance.

6.- Be kind to your cleaner: I know this is obvious for all of us, but remember that no amount of money can pay for mistreating your staff, whether at work or at home.

Thank you Ambro and  for the photo.

Have you ever had a house cleaner? How did you decide to hire them? Have you ever had to fire them?

Weekly money check-up 31-01

January has come and gone, too soon. It´s good I didn´t make any New Year´s resolutions this year, otherwise I´d have seriously let myself down.







1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on car insurance. It has to be done.
2. Today I am thankful for having enough money in savings that I don´t have to worry about not being able to pay my bills.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was my new phone. I called my phone company to ask for a free cell phone, which they offer new customers. They politely declined to I politely joined another company that did give me a free phone. A few hours later, the first company called to apologize for the appalling treatment I had recieved and offered me a free phone and a much much better deal. Yay.
4. I will consider this week a success if I finish my coursework and exercise 4 times at least.
5. When I was a kid I wanted to be a mad scientist when I grew up.

Have a nice week!

Weekly money check-up 24-01 and job prospects

Time has definitely rushed these last few weeks! I have not posted a single thing is what seems (and in the blogosphere is) like a lifetime. In my defence I´ll say, though it is not an excuse, I know, that it was one of those periods that can only be defined as SWAMPED. For a few days it felt like the snow sand in the Princess bride swallowed me whole. But I am back now, and full of hope and excitement.

I had a couple of interviews for a position I am kinf of maybe perhaps interested in. It´s not in my field, so that is the main drawback. At this point, I don´t think a good salary is a priority, because there are no jobs that requiere my level of experience, which is, well, lacking. Still, I can´t believe an industry can survive if the new grads in the field have nowhere to go after they get their degree. Because I am living at home until we build up our emergency fund, I would be able to save most of my income, however large, or small, it should be.

Anyways, the company seems quite good and the position is not bad, though I would be overqualified for the job. But a job is a job, so if they offer I´ll accept gladly.







Enough with the rant, and in with the weekly money check up.

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on my car insurance. Ouch!
2. Today I am thankful for being healthy, both physical and mentally.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was exercise, though now I ache all over.
4. I will consider this week a success if I  finish my first piece of coursework for my Master´s and get an A.
5. The craft I am currently interested in right now is making coasters for my friend.


Thank you artemisphoto for the pic. You can see her profile at: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2351

Weekly money check up 12-12

Oh my! Ever since I started doing the weekly moey check up with My pretty pennies, time just flies by. So here´s the money check up for these past days.

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on (surprise surprise) Christmas presents. And more to come I´m afraid.
2. Today I am thankful for long hot showers and curling up with a book.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was lazying with Grasshopper.
4. I will consider this week a success if I buy my family´s presents.
5. One of my favorite holiday decorations is the Nativity scene.

So, how was your weekly money check up?

New and original way of reducing stress

Shh… Can you keep a secret? I just found a new and original way to reduce your stress levels.

Shhhhh… Can you tell what it is?




It is silence. Plain and simple peace and quiet. No, I´m serious. Just take a few seconds to listen to all the noise that surrounds you. try to identify those sounds. Now try to concentrate on you computer again and block them out. Go back to the state where you didn´t notice your neighbour´s wasshing machine, or your computer´s fan.

It´s hard, isn´t it? One minute you are calm and unaware and the next you are battling with all that noise. Where did it come from? Aaarg. It is now quite difficult to get back on track. And think of all the energy you are using to try to block the unwanted sounds. You are in fact wasting that same energy every single day, sometimes even more. That means you get tired for no apparent reason, it is a source of the tension you feel.

Noise has some very bad effects on your overall health. It affects your nervous, endocrine and cardiovascular system, causing:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Head aches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Indigestion
  • High blood pressure

However, it´s not only unwanted noise that negatively affects us; it is also the ones we create ourselves, the computer fan, the TV, the radio, the telephone… The good news is that, because noise surrounbds us constantly, reducing it even for small periods of time represents a HUGE relief. Here´s some things you can try this week to reduce noise and stress:

  1. Switch off the radio/MP3/iPod. When you leave your house don´t plug in the earphones. Don´t turno on the radio in your car. Use that time to think, on your shopping list or on how to deal with a complex work situation.  Look out the window and find a new shop or a cool looking restaurant that you never noticed before.
  2. Turn off the TV unless you are actually watching it. TV doesn´t keep you company. It doesn´t make the house feel less empty.
  3. Watch less TV and don´t use it to fall asleep. The sounds actually make you sleep less soundly and not get as much rest as you would otherwise. Have no TV evenings. Choose a day when there is nothing you like on and simply do other things. You can use that time to read, play a board game, iron or just chat with your family or roommates.
  4. Don´t have the TV on when you eat. That way you will pay more attention to what and how much you eat. You will enjoy your meals, and the company, much more.
  5. Don´t fill in your “dead” periods, like waiting for the bus or walking the dog,  with sound. No music, no phone calls. Just be present.

If you think about it, we sometimes use music or we call someone just to not get bored. As if not being bombarded with sound or conversation will lead to a deadly boredom. It doesn´t. Silence allows us to get to know ourselves better, to take more reasoned and hence better decisions, to get to know our surroundings and to fell more relaxed.

Like my grandma always says, only the boring get bored.

Try some of these tips out this week and tell me how it went.


Weekly money update

Here is my weekly money update for this week. After last week´s spending extravanganza, this week seems a little mild, but surprisingly Christmassy

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on Christmas lunch with my exworkers. $40 was maybe too much.

2. Today I am thankful for having three living grandparents who know who they are and, more importantly, who I am and how much they love me.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was a family get together and setting up the Nativity scene at my grandma´s house.

4. I will consider this week a success if I can manage to find the due dates for my Master´s in the inexplicably complex university web site.

5.  My favorite Christmas gift as a child was any thing that came in a box. Don´t know why it took my parents so long to realize my love for boxes. Oh the possibilities.

Some thoughts from the weekend

This weekend has been quite good: on Friday I had 2 lessons and I got paid. Then I spent that oh-so-recently earned money on a Christmas lunch with the people in the departament I interned at earlier this year. I had some of those conversations that people with a job seem to just get into with people without one.

For example:

Them: I didn´t expect to see you here.

Me: Ehem, I know, Someone called me a few weeks ago to ask if I wanted to come, and it seemed fun.

Them: So, what have you been up to? Got a job yet?

Me: well, I´ve done (insert several big achievements here).

Them: So, no job. Yeah, this economy blah blah blah.

This actually happened more than just a couple of times. Maybe it´s like when you are single and surrounded by married couples and all they can think to tell you is to find a husband and that the clock is ticking. Or when you are married and the child- ridden insist you reproduce. What is with that? Or worse still, do I do that too?

It´s a good thing I did sign up for that Master´s because, not only were they quite impressed, but my boss, who is not only and amazing engineer, but a lovely man, told me to go back and ask for a job directly once I finished it. So it seems like I made a good decision. Yay for me.

Then I met Grasshopper and we thought up of a Anniversary plan. We ended going to a cute apartment in the mountains close to where we live, for 70% off the price and had a very nice time. He even got me a present, which I didn´t expect and which I loved.

Today we had lunch with his family and then I had my nephew and niece´s birthday party. I got them really simple small gifts this year, but it seems I hit the nail on the head, because they ripped them open and started using them the moment I gave them the presents. And they bragged about their new possesions and about the fact that I was the giver of the gifts.

So how was yor weekend?

Thanks to Phaitoonfor the photo.

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