Sunday, May 5, 2019

Frugal Entertainment ($0 a month budget)

One of the main ways we save money is by spending almost nothing on entertainment.   That does not mean we don't do things for enjoyment.

We don't have a television set (and thus no cable bill).  We do have a battery operated weather alert radio that is only for emergency use, i.e., when the power goes out in a bad storm.

Videos:

We have Amazon Prime and I use it to watch videos for now but we will be cancelling it in September when it comes up for renewal.   We probably will not renew it until we are 100% out of debt in 2021.

Google Opinion Rewards (app is available from the Play Store) gives me regular surveys to fill out and pays me immediately for each one.  Thus far I have used it only to make purchases in the Sims Free Play mobile game but since this money can only be used for Play Store items, I may eventually use it to do something like purchase a season of something I cannot watch otherwise since we don't have a television.

YouTube is a major source of our free entertainment.  I love YouTube as it is also where I am able to connect with so many members of the frugal community and get great money saving ideas.

I also watch some of the free video that some of the networks, such as CBS.com, make available online.

Games:

We each have our own games that we play.  One of my favorites is Virtual Villagers 5.  I purchased an electronic copy of it years ago from Amazon and still play it.   I also have an almost complete set of the Sims 2 which I play from time to time.     As noted above, I also sometimes play Sims FreePlay on my phone.  I only spend money on it though when I have money from Google Opinion Rewards.

Jamey here:  Like Doreen, I come cheap to entertain, other than the unlimited Internet.  Like her, I spend quite a bit of time on YouTube.  I also play a variety of idle clicker type games such as Cookie Clicker, resource management games such as Seaport (also available on Google Play), and I read quite a bit of fanfiction.  Fanfiction, for those who don't know about it, is stories written by fans of a book series, TV show, movie, etc.  Some of them can be quite imaginative, funny as rip, or heart breaking.  Some of the fandoms I follow include Harry Potter, Naruto, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Daria, Young Wizards, Vorkosigan Universe, original Battlestar Galactica, Calvin & Hobbs, Witch Mountain, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (big fan of Super-Xander stories), and a lot more.  I also follow a wide selection of webcomics, from the geeky such as XKCD and Freefall, to the sarcastic such as Dilbert and Two Lumps, to the sweet like Questionable Content and Between Failures.  There's even one, Scandinavia and the World, that opens my eyes to how other parts of the world view the world in general (I need to find a few more of these!)

Books (physical, ebooks, audiobooks, podcasts):

Overdrive is another major source of free entertainment for us.   Simply by having active library cards, we are able to use Overdrive to borrow ebooks, audiobooks and even some videos for free.

Jamey reads out loud to me on a regular basis.  We pick a book series that we both enjoy and Jamey reads to me for a little while most days while I am doing chores.  There is also a podcast, Talking On My Morning Walk (TOMMW), that we listen to regularly from one of our favorite authors, Nathan Lowell.  He walks on a somewhat regular basis while discussing what is going on in his life and the status of his works in progress.


Internet:

We do pay for unlimited internet usage as it is how we do our work from home jobs to earn the supplemental income that pays for necessities including our food and medical costs.   (I am on disability which covers the cost of the basics such as our rent, utilities and insurance but is not enough to cover food and medical needs.  Before he lost his job and then our car died, Jamey's check used to cover those things.    Please see Who We Are for more information.)

Finally, there is social media.   For example, I follow James Breakwell, Xploding Unicorn on Twitter.   Some of his conversations with his four daughters and reports on the antics of their two pet pigs literally make me laugh-out-loud.    He is just one of many I follow on various social media streams who provide a source of free entertainment for me.   (Jamey has his own folks he follows who entertain him.)


Laughter:

We also make each other laugh, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.  Other times I have "brain hiccups" that cause me to laugh until my stomach hurts when I realize what I have just done.     Then, there are our cats, who can do the darndest things at times.

For example, Night loves to sleep on my bed while I am working on my computer or doing chores.  Recently, I went into the bedroom to put socks away after having done laundry.  Night was up on the windowsill but as soon as she saw me come in, she immediately jumped down and ran over to my bed to stake her claim on my pillow.  As far as she was concerned this was her time slot to have my bed and she was not about to give it up.  (Given that when I first met Night she was a terrified feral cat, I love to see her so self-confident now.   Over time I will write more about the history of both of our rescue cats.)

Night laying claim to my pillow
My cat, Night, staking her claim to my pillow



Last, but definitely not least in the laughter category, is someone that Jamey and I both enjoy, comedian Jeanne Robertson.  For now we watch her only on YouTube but after our debt is completely paid off (Dave Ramsey step two), six months of savings built up (Dave Ramsey step three)  and we hopefully have a car again, we would love to go see her in person someday if she comes to a place within a reasonable traveling distance of us. This would be a very, very rare treat for us.

We each have our favorite Jeanne Robertson videos, so I will embed one here and give the links for a few others we really enjoy.  Note that "Left Brain" is her nickname for her very literal-minded husband.


  • "Men don't know the style in NYC!" (Pashmina Toss Flip story) is one of Jamey's favorites.   He is not above telling me "I don't know the style in NYC" when I ask him why he hadn't alerted me to something that was not as it should have been in what I was wearing.
  • He also enjoys "Don't send a man to the grocery store!"   It may look like she is putting her husband down, but as you watch a lot of her videos, the loving bond between them is very clear.    
  • My own favorite Jeanne Robertson video is a two parter.   I have to confess that there are times when I am in a public ladies room that I think of this video and have to work to keep myself from starting to laugh-out-loud.    You'll see what I mean if you watch them.   Part 1 of "Don't Line Dance in the Ladies' Room"  and Part 2 of "Don't Line Dance in the Ladies' Room"

Beaver is the nickname of her son.  He is an adult now and can be seen in this video sitting in the audience next to her husband.







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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Frugal Food Tips From Others

I love the YouTube Frugal community.   I learn so much from others on it.   I have far too many favorites to list them all in this post so for today I will highlight three of them. The first two do videos on frugal meals.  Note:  None of the links on this page go to affiliate marketing data for us.  They are all just informational.

In future posts, I will mention other frugal YouTube channels that I watch regularly and discuss some of the things that I have learned from them that we have applied to our own frugal lifestyle.

I only found Penny Pinching Granny's  YouTube channel in the past month but I watch her regularly now, not only for her money saving tips, but for her wisdom and humor.   

One of her videos that I definitely plan to experiment with is




as Jamey loves asparagus and we are trying to batch cook and freeze as many foods as possible.  This save us so much money over buying the frozen dinners that we used to get.  I do have to compare the price of fresh asparagus to the canned asparagus we get for him now.


A second YouTube channel that I watch a lot is Living On A Dime.   While they are mostly food based, they do have other types of frugal tips.    Their Living On A Dime website also has a myriad of ways to save money.   

Tara's mother, Jill, lives on a very limited income and their YouTube channel includes a variety of videos on such topics as

The channel also includes biographical data on how they survived hard times growing up with very little money when Jill was raising three children as a single mother.    If you are interested in these look for the  34 part "Penny Pinching Mama" series on their channel interspersed among their other videos or in their playlist for the series at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw--z6CubB_xVcJnWunbdTYiqy7JB93G6.   

Jill is a very impressive woman.  From the web page for her book Penny Pinching Mama: 500 Ways I Lived On $500 A Month:

As a single mother of two, best selling author Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. 
She then raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Now she is one of the best known money saving moms on the Internet.

Tara also does collaborative frugal visits with others, sometimes going to visit with them in person.  I have been introduced to some other very useful YouTube channels that way.   I definitely suggest keeping an eye on this channel if you are looking for ways to save money.  Just be prepared to be told "get it together, people" on a regular basis.    (There are regular viewers who think that Tara should run for president as they say that what this country needs is a good dose of her "get it together, people" philosophy.)  


This last video is frugal food related but along a different line.   Kate Kaden is issuing a challenge (based on things learned from another frugal YouTuber) for people to eat for a month on $100 per person plus $100 more.  So Jamey and I would need to spend only $300 a month on our groceries, whereas a family of four would spend $500 for the month.   This includes not only food but toiletries and is based on using up all the food you have at home.

I am including the video here if anyone wants to try it even though this wouldn't work for us for two reasons:
1) I definitely don't want to use up all of our food as I am intentionally building up a three month working pantry since without a car, it is difficult for us to even get next door to Walmart to stock up on things.  Plus, we never know when I will be sidelined for several months with fractures due to my osteogenesis imperfecta
2)   It is not uncommon for us to have to spend an extra $50 - $75 (sometimes more) a month on medical products ranging from Jamey's diabetic supplies to bandages for his leg wounds.     

We are trying to reduce our budget in as many ways as possible.  I will be doing other posts on many of the things we don't have in our lives either for reasons of personal preference or solely to save money.   We cannot go without our medical supplies though and will not cut our cat budget so far back that they threaten to disown us.    In fact, that is why we started this blog - to bring in a little extra money each month to help with the cost of these supplies.







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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Some Of The Ways We Earn Income Online

Since I handle the majority of the housework and cat care, Jamey usually brings in most of our income from his online jobs.   Our daily goal is to earn about $25 a day between the two of us combined.  There are many days when we don't reach our $25 goal for a variety of reasons, including each of our disabilities.    That, however, is the good thing about each of these work from home jobs - we are not required to do them on any set schedule.   We can choose to work on them when we are in good shape (sometimes for as little as one to 5 minutes at a time, depending on the job) or completely take a day (or more off) when we are in rough shape.


One of the main things that Jamey does is transcription on Rev.    Actually, we both do that but Jamey is far more advanced on the platform than I am.  I am still slowly working my way through the paid training transcriptions.  The work is challenging but it is a good way to learn new things while being paid as you can end up transcribing material on any topic.  Rev pays through PayPal.

We also both leave User Crowd (formerly Usability Hub) up on a tab on our desktops while working on other things.  This way we can see when a notification comes in that we have a job for them.  Most of their jobs take between 1 - 5 minutes to do and pay between 10 cents to 50 cents.    You may get four or five tasks a day from them some days and other days, not get any.  They also take at least 30 days to pay (via PayPal) once you reach at least $10 and submit your request for payment.   As the screenshot below shows, they are most definitely not a way to get rich but for us every little bit of extra over time does help.

Money I have earned from User Crowd
My earnings from UserCrowd since March 2018



Another thing we both do is Amazon's Mechanical Turk (Mturk).  There are actually people who do make a full time living off of Mturk, but most days, we don't earn more than $2 - $5 a day from it apiece.  (I will discuss an exception to that below.) 

The thing with Mturk is to use Hitscraper and Turkopticon (there are many YouTube videos to show you how to do that and check the Turkopticon ratings before accepting hits.    Between doing your best work on each hit and the Turkopticon ratings, you should be able to keep your rejection ratio low.  That is very important as the more hits you do while keeping your reject rate as low as possible, the better quality of hits you will be offered over time.   For example, I have recently qualified for a weekly series of hits that pay $16.00 apiece, i.e,. the aforementioned  exception.  Those hits come in just once a week but I am thrilled to have them because since I started doing them in early April, they have almost doubled my weekly earnings from Mturk as the screenshot below shows. 

The money from Mturk can either be cashed out to your checking account or sent to Amazon and added to your gift card account.   It is a great way to pay for things on Amazon without using credit cards.

Below are my total earnings from Mturk (including bonuses) since the beginning of 2018.  It also shows how many hits I have done overall and my rejections.   I am sharing this to show that even though (other than the recent weekly $16 hit), my daily earnings from Mturk are not usually very high, by working at it consistently, over time it does add up. 

My Mturk dashboard
My Mturk history, including earnings and rejections, since the beginning of 2018


I am going to add one last work at home job for today.  Jamey and I both use this one also.  We installed the Qmee app via the Google Play store and use it to do surveys on our android phones.  The Qmee link in the preceding sentence is just for the Google Play store which we are not affiliated with.   I do have an affiliate link for Qmee though:  http://qm.ee/2K2E2FMVNDFQY

If you chose to click on it and sign up with Qmee through it, I will earn 50 cents and you will earn 50 cents.   Qmee has an interesting set of options for their affiliate links.  They pay $1.00 for each person who signs up via your link.  You can choose to keep the whole $1.00 for  yourself, share it with the person who signs up through your affiliate link or give it all to them.  I have chosen the share option.

So far, I have earned $6.73 via Qmee.  I could have earned more if I used it more often but the important thing to note is that I have been paid by them (via PayPal) so I can verify that they are legitimate.  In fact, I really like the way they police their surveys to protect their users and do plan to start doing more of their surveys.


Doreen working on her desktop
Jamey and I each have our own wheelchair accessible workstation
where we work on our online work from home jobs most days.

Our frugal lifestyle is a mix of saving money in as many ways as we can, such as the things I wrote about in Saving Money on Food and How We Save Money On Laundry and bringing in income from our various work from home jobs.   We are signed up with a variety of platforms in addition to the ones that I wrote about here.  I will write about some of the others in the future.   I will only list ones that we have actually earned money from ourselves.   While Jamey and I don't earn a lot of money from these due to our health issues, it is possible for someone who was able to do more than we can to earn significantly more than we do from these "side hustles."


Please note that, except for Qmee where I have provided an affiliate link above, none of the other links on this page are affiliate links.   If you wish to click on the links and sign up, we will not receive any compensation.  We are providing the links for informational purposes only as we have been paid by each of these platforms and know that they are legitimate.  We cannot guarantee what your experience will be with each one.  We can only state that these are work at home platforms that we have had positive experiences with ourselves.


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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Saving Money On Food

We are now living on about $20,000 a year for the four of us (two humans and two finicky felines) so stretching our food dollar is very important to us.

We are getting much better at it.   Since Jamey lost his job on February 2, 2019 (which cut our monthly income by almost 60%), we have only thrown out human food twice.   (Cat food is another matter but that is why we started this blog - to find ways to keep our pampered felines living the lifestyle to which they prefer to remain accustomed.)

One of the first things we did after our 2000 Chevrolet Impala died on March 2, 2019 was dip into savings to make two purchases (both of which we got on sale) as we knew that even getting to the store to buy groceries was going to become difficult for us without a car.

We purchased a  7.1 cu foot Thompson Chest freezer online from Sam's Club on March 12, 2019

7.1 cu foot Thompson Chest Freezer
Our new freezer allows us to batch cook and store plenty of food now.
We store our dry goods (such as rice and beans) in pails.

and an Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker and Warmer from Amazon. 

7-in1 Multi-Use Instant Pot
Our new Instant Pot makes it so much easier to batch cook large amounts
of rice and dried beans so that we can make 6 - 8 freezer meals at a time.


Having the two of those has allowed us to start doing bulk purchases of things like rice and beans online and batch cook them and freeze them.  That is saving us a lot of money over what we had been doing before - buying a lot of frozen dinners.    Since Jamey eats meat and I am vegetarian and prefer not to touch meat, Jamey has started to learn to cook.   I do things like prepare batches of rice and beans or potatoes and beans and keep a portion aside for myself.  Then Jamey adds his meat and seasonings to the rest of it and makes stews for himself.

Jamey adding spices to his meat stew
Our kitchen is very wheelchair accessible. 
There is nothing under the sink so our wheelchairs can easily fit under it and we can maneuver around
in it as needed to cook.  Here Jamey is adding his spices to the Instant Pot to make his meat stew.

I label them all so that we know both when they were frozen and when they were taken out of the freezer and put into the refrigerator to thaw.  We are very careful to monitor what is in the refrigerator at all times so that other than one banana that went bad on me and one container of his rice, beans and chicken that ended up out of sight in the back of the refrigerator, we have not wasted any human food at all since Jamey lost his job.   (We were wasting very little before that but with an almost 60% income cut, we are being even more careful now.)

Some of our freezer meals
Each batch cooked meal is labelled with the date when it is frozen. 
When it is removed from the freezer (see the center one in front) a second date is added so that we know when it was put in the refrigerator.  Monitoring this date, allows us to make sure that food is eaten before it goes bad. 
Not wasting food is a crucial part of our frugal lifestyle.

Yes, we follow much of Dave Ramsey's advice including "living on rice and beans and beans and rice" while getting out of debt. (Although we also batch cook things and freeze things like spaghetti too and I eat a lot of oatmeal, also purchased in bulk.) In future posts, we will also be updating our journey to get 100% out of debt while living on a limited income. 


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