I know I’ve talked about it before, but I really don’t enjoy how dark it gets so early in the evening this time of year. But once Thanksgiving happens and the Christmas lights go up, it feels not nearly so bad because it isn’t nearly so dark outside. Maybe not the best use of electricity to be lighting up the night, but at least with LED lightbulbs it isn’t so bad (and mental health is obviously worth some use of resources also, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is definitely a real thing, especially in this time of year when the days are SO short; sunrise is currently at 7:15am and sunset is at 4:30pm).
Once the Christmas lights go up though, nighttime feels festive and joyful instead of just dark and cold. Which is why no matter what, we put up lights every single year (or, my husband does because he knows what a big deal it is to me). So while I’m not thrilled about the shorter days, I do love the holidays, and that helps the winter not feel so bad.
Friday’s Frugal Five
1. After having a group of personal finance bloggers over at our house for a dinner last month, it made me realize that I’ve missed having gatherings at our house on a regular basis. Before we had a kid, we had parties at our house (often with a bonfire in the backyard) maybe once a month or more. Since having said kid, we’ve gotten out of the habit and have them maybe a few times a year. Part of that is because we travel on the weekends so much these days, but another part is just that we got out of the habit of planning them.
All three of us really do love to host parties though, so we had a bunch of people last Saturday night. My husband smoked a large pork shoulder, we had some wine and beer, and then otherwise told people to bring something to eat and drink to share. That has been the way we’ve done it since we were all straight out of college and equally broke, so our friends are used to going the potluck route any time they come over to our house for a party.
We had six kids over for the evening, all eleven years and younger, plus about twelve adults. Since we had a group of kids, they all ran around and played and the parents got to relax and hang out instead of just having to watch the kids, which was great. We also have quite a few childless friends, but everyone hangs out together and can enjoy the time, which I very much appreciate now that we’re on a wide spectrum of life stages And lifestyles at this point. Our son woke up Sunday morning asking where everyone went and when we were having another party, so I’ll take that as a sign that we need to have them more often.
2. We usually just shop at QFC because it is a short walk from our house, but it doesn’t have the best prices (but really a great selection of local and specialty stuff). This past week we made a stop to a Grocery Outlet a short drive from our house after a stop to drop books off at the library, and I was reminded of just how good their prices all. For those of you who have an Aldi near you, it’s similar to that store, though instead of their own store brand stuff, they carry a rotating selection based on overstock / overbuy of other grocery stores.
They had a ton of good local beer, wine, and cider as well as a random selection of canned and fresh groceries that we needed, and I’m certain we got a good 50% more food than we do when shopping at our local store. I don’t expect us to fully switch over to shopping there because the variety isn’t there, but I’m reminded why we used to shop there more often and why we should now. Going forward, I think I’ll be making at least one monthly stop there to supplement our regular grocery shopping.
3. We had $61 in REI dividends from 2016 (when we purchased the roof rack for my car), and they were set to expire at the end of this year. We had been planning to buy our son a pair of snowshoes this winter with that rebate, do when we got a flyer in the mail advertising 20% off snowshoes plus a coupon for 20% off one regular priced item, we decided it was time to finally go buy them (my husband and I already have our own snowshoes).
We also decided to look at snow boots for the kiddo since his current pair are no longer waterproof, as they found out while camping a few weeks ago. With the 20% off coupon, we decided to splurge and get him a nice pair from REI because buying a pair from the thrift store like I’ve done in the past is so hit or miss when it comes to shoes being absolutely waterproof. Since it’s key that he has boots that are warm and dry for snowshoeing, we decided it was worth buying quality new boots. With the coupon, they were $40, so not terrible, but probably more than I’ve spent on his clothes and shoes in the last year (and obviously more than I’ve spent on myself).
4. My mother offered to watch our son for the evening on Tuesday so we could go out to celebrate our ninth anniversary. Not only do we save money by having family watch our son three days a week, but we don’t pay for babysitters because he gets to stay and hang out with one of his grandmas or his “uncle” any time we go on a date night. I realize we are so, so lucky to have them, and our son doesn’t feel like he is missing out on a fun evening when he gets to hang with Nana instead.
Instead of going to the pricey restaurant we for considering since we got too late if they start to go for happy hour, we decided to go to a brewery and have a few drinks and their complementary popcorn before having dinner afterwards.
We then picked a more reasonably priced restaurant and shared a couple of different smaller plates off the menu since we had already been snacking earlier in the evening. That, and drinks at a brewery are pretty much always cheaper than at a restaurant. Well skipping the drinks all together would obviously have been the most frugal option, we do enjoy our local craft beers and the bear opportunity to go somewhere that is 21+. (And our food budget is much smaller than last year, but it still allows for quite a bit of splurging – mindfully – from time to time.)
Well not overly cheap, this definitely kept the price more reasonable, and the food itself was really very good. And of coarse I made sure to let our server know that we were celebrating our anniversary, and they brought out a free ice cream for us at the end of the night to celebrate. Just like birthdays, most places do throwing something in if you let them know you are celebrating, so always make sure they know.
**for those of you in the area, the restaurant was Barkada, and I would absolutely recommend it.
5. My sister is in town for Thanksgiving and so was around on Wednesday to help my mother while she watched our son on Wednesday like normal. He doesn’t get to see his aunt very often and he was stuck like glue to her all day, even as she made dinner for everyone in the evening. We would have gone home, but he begged to stay and eat with her, so we got a free meal that evening, but the bigger part wasn’t the money saving on food; it was letting our son have more time with his aunt.
6. I had already laid out this post with the frugal five this week, but I had one more that I just needed to add, so this week it’s going to be Friday’s Frugal Six. Thursday afternoon I had a work meeting scheduled later than I typically get off work, and my mother in law has to leave by a set time (before my husband gets off work), so I had to call on our community to help with childcare for the intervening hour.
I’ve talked any number of times about how great our neighborhood is, but once again, I have a reason to about it some more. Instead of having to do some fancy dancing around to either have to pick him up from my in-laws or find another sort of stopgap childcare option, my mother-in-law just walked him down the street to our neighbors house and he got to hang out with them and their kids until we got home.
We may not have searched out such a community when we were looking to buy our home seven years ago, but I now can’t imagine our lives in a different kind of neighborhood. It was great to have before we had a child, but now that we do, it’s been that much more valuable.We are so lucky to have such great friends and neighbors that I feel comfortable calling on when we need a bit of assistance. And of course, it goes both ways.
I managed to squeeze in a short run on Monday, but nothing more because it was a different looking day than normal. Preschool was closed due to observing Veterans Day, but my husband and I both worked, so my mother-in-law watched our son in the morning and then they went over to my parents house in the afternoon. I lucked out though and got there during naptime so fit in a short run after all.
Since we went out for our anniversary soon after dropping our son off with my mother, I didn’t get to run on Tuesday, but since we walked to dinner I still ended up with over 18,000 steps for the day. Not the same as breaking a sweat, but at least I got a bit of a run in.
Wednesdays are harder these days because I’ve been having to drive my son both to and from my parents’ house, but he was content to hang out while my sister and I did a very relaxed bit of weight lifting. Maybe it was only ten minutes, but that’s a heck of a lot more than zero, and I’m happy that I’ve gotten past the block of feeling that it isn’t worth it to start if I know I won’t have time for a full workout. Multiple days this week I could have told myself I didn’t have enough time, but I did it anyway, so I ended up with a good half hours of exercise more than I would have otherwise.
Do you have any family in town for Thanksgiving? Is it a big holiday for you? When do you think it’s acceptable to put up Christmas lights?