Frugal Portland Sunday Deals: Prep for the Holidays

sunday-deals

Please welcome our newest contributor — Pamela from WikiPamela.com! She’ll be posting weekend deals to save you money. Take it away, Pamela!

With November upon us, a lot of us are beginning to think about the holidays and all the things we need to do like send greeting cards, coming up with something unique to give to that person that has everything, or trying to find ways to entertain out of town guests. Well, Frugal Portland has you covered and at a discount no less! Take a look at these amazing deals.

 Holiday Cards

Right now, Vistaprint is offering 50% off on holiday cards plus 35% off everything else! So, get a jump start on your holiday greeting cards while saving a bunch of money too.

Something special for the person who has everything

Trying to find the perfect gift year after year for that special someone can be difficult, but right now Canvas People is offering a free 11×14 canvas (you just pay shipping). Use any photo and have a custom canvas created of it for your loved one to hang on their wall. It doesn’t get any better than that… except that it’s free!

Spend time with family

The holidays are typically a time of year that family comes to visit. Plan an amazing family outing and save 50% at the same time! Use Goldstar to help you find discount tickets to events in your area.

A little something for yourself

While you’re making all these plans of what to get everyone else, why not get a little something for yourself? Register with QualityHealth and get free samples for winter!

Perfect Is Not in Our Price Range

Perfect is not in our Price Range | Frugal Portland

Perfect is not in our Price Range | Frugal Portland

Hey, it’s okay to admit. Perfect is not in our price range, and I’d gather, it’s not in yours, either.

In fact, it’s kind of liberating.

Gives us freedom to find something that is just fine thank you, and not perfect.

See, for us, there is no such thing as a perfect home.

Brent wants to be close to work, I want to live in a fun neighborhood.

Brent does not work in a fun neighborhood.

We both want a yard.

We both want a bit of breathing room.

I want an amazing kitchen, Brent wants a place where he knows how to use the appliances.

I get distracted by Pinterest, but you know what?

Living in a Pinterest-perfect home runs counter to what we want to do with our whole lives.

So, do we remodel an imperfect space?

Or do we make do with what we have, and, crazy thought, replace things when they’re broken?

Let’s go for the latter, to start. Paint? Sure. Update base plates? All right!

But let’s leave the bajillion dollar renovations for another day. Or another lifetime.

Why Save Half? You Have More Options

Why Save Half? FrugalPortland

Earlier this week, Eric wrote that he’d put an offer in on a house in an adjacent neighborhood. He and his wife live about a half mile from me now, so I was both excited for them and intrigued. Where were they going?

Still biking distance away, he assured me.

Neat!

I looked on Redfin to see if I could tell where they were going (I’m a sucker for those photos in real estate listings, what can I say?) and couldn’t find it.

But while I was on Redfin, I thought I would just look.

Here’s the thing: you can’t really just look at real estate. That’s like just looking at a room full of free puppies.

Anyway, that part of the story is still in progress, but the point is, if we wanted to buy something, today, we would have the down payment because we’ve saved almost $75,000.

Now, we weren’t necessarily saving it for a down payment, but our space is a little tight for Brent. I’m happy in a tiny home, but he is not a small man, and would like a little more space to spread out. So we’ve been talking about the next step.

Last week we wandered into an open house, where the sale price was $600,000. That gave us the impression that we’d be in tinyhouseland forever, which made us a little sad.

The point is, though, because we’ve saved half our income this year (!!!), we have more options.

We’d be in a position to move without a contingent “we sell our house, then we buy yours” situation that would almost assuredly mean we’d be the least attractive offer any seller had ever seen.

Why Save Half?

Why, indeed.

When we talk about saving money to our friends who don’t talk about money all the time, they wonder why we’d save half.

I think the answer is pretty simple: the more you save, the more you’re in charge of your own money (and, if you want to go there, your own destiny). If you work for someone else (which most of us do!) and you only save 10-20%, you’re leaving a lot up to someone else.

But if you save 50%, or 60%, or more?

You get to make all those decisions.

Yourself.

There are those who would argue that it’s simply not worth it to scrimp and save in order to shave a few years off retirement, and frankly, I’d agree.

You didn’t land on this blog post to find ways to reuse plastic bags.

Living frugally doesn’t mean living like a monk, though you’re certainly allowed to do that, if you want.

Life shouldn’t be about deprivation. It shouldn’t necessarily be about indulgences, either, except on Thanksgiving, where all bets are off.

Life is so short.

So, so short. Losing my mom before she turned 60 shows that life can be swept away from us even before we knew what we were losing.

But saving half, while still living a life you enjoy (filled with conscious spending, and automatic savings!), will help you hit the sweet spot.

If we end up buying a new place, we’ll have failed at our mission to save half.

But will we really consider it a failure?

I don’t think so.

The new home in question is not perfect. Perfect isn’t in our price range.

I like that. Maybe I’ll make it a quotable.

But it is something we can consider, even though we already own the condo.

What is Conscious Spending?

What is conscious spending? FrugalPortland.com

The Frugal Portland philosophy, in bullet form, looks like this:

  • Save more
  • Spend consciously
  • Take control

And it really is that simple. Order matters, here, too, because you must save more before you can spend consciously. We’ll talk about saving more in upcoming posts, because that topic is very popular, but by now you should be aware that more means a lot more. Shoot for 50%, and if you don’t get there, you’ve still saved more than the average Joe. (Heh, not that Average Joe, he’s a big time saver!)

But what do we mean when we say to spend consciously?

A Working Definition of Conscious Spending

Conscious spending is being mindful of where your money is going. It only happens after you’ve hit your savings goals for the month, but it can happen.

To me, conscious spending is understanding that treats and splurges are part of a frugal life.

That’s right, I said splurges.

Living a frugal life is not all about deprivation. It might be to some, but not me. Living a frugal life is much more about taking control of money, instead of letting money control your life.

In my world, that means the following are allowed in my frugal life:

  • Enjoying the occasional fancy dinner (with friends, when we can) in a restaurant
  • Buying a nice bottle of wine at home
  • Going on vacation, either near or far from home. Expanding horizons gives a different perspective on the way we live our lives, and helps us reevaluate our priorities
  • Having an expensive gym membership
  • Paying for a great haircut (curly haired girls in Portland, go see Michelle at Bouffant Salon)
  • Compromising with my sports-loving husband by agreeing to a cable package
  • Buying real food at the grocery store or farmers market

How do the above fit in a frugal life?

Well, when you start with saving, you have a more limited pool of money to work with. So, necessarily, your available pool of spending money is necessarily more limited.

That means there’s no room for mindless spending.

Mindless Spending

Your definition of mindless might be different than mine, but mindless spending is where money leaks out of your account without you noticing.

To me, that includes:

  • Drive-through food (the very definition of mindless is something you eat while driving!)
  • Daily coffee in a coffee shop
  • Going out to lunch because you didn’t bring leftovers from the night before
  • Not eating leftovers ever
  • Ordering drinks in restaurants (we’ve found that our dinner bills are half (!!) of what they were when we ordered drinks)
  • Buying clothes at the mall
  • Take out when you’re too lazy to go to the store

Or any other of a zillion ways you spend money without noticing, and especially without even enjoying it.

So, if you eat out all the time, you end up eating out just because that’s what you do — not because you like it. We notice this when we’re on vacation. “We’re sick of eating out!” we say after five or six days of restaurant food. But you know what? Restaurant food is not priced on a sliding scale, where it’s cheaper when you don’t feel like eating it.

Restaurant food costs what it costs, period.

So you might as well sprinkle it in your life as a treat. You’ll enjoy it more.

How You Can Spend Consciously

Take a look at Mint.

Where are the leaks in your account?

Now, take those leaks, and turn them into rules.

If, on Wednesdays, you always drive through for dinner because you have a Wednesday night meeting, make a rule that you’ll cook at home. Maybe even a double portion on Tuesday, so you can eat leftovers.

If you slip, then, it’s a treat, not a habit.

If you typically order dessert, restrict it. The cheesecake will taste better if you don’t eat it all the time.

Now, here’s the real plan:

Every time you take your credit card out of your wallet, think about what you’re doing. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want what I’m about to buy?
  • Or am I buying out of habit?
  • Will I really enjoy this?
  • Is it a treat?

Don’t judge. Just think.

That’s what being conscious is all about.

You Can Sell Your Eggs to Pay Down Debt

Please note: the following is a very true, very personal story of one of the craziest things I did to pay down debt. It might offend your religion, your politics, or your general sensitivities about the world. But it’s something I did, myself, of my own free will, and I will be monitoring the comment section very closely to take out any comments that I perceive as even a little offensive. This is a story that has taken me two years to write, so be nice!

Would you sell your eggs to pay down debt? I did. Three times.

I saw the ads everywhere. They were on Craigslist, when I was looking for a new job. It seemed like they followed me around. $6000 when you donate your eggs!

I remembered a girl in college who did it. They only paid her $2000. It sounded like a good deal. So I filled out their application.

I was living in DC at the time, and I can’t remember if I was working or not. Seems like maybe I was between jobs, because the clinic was a 45 minute commute and I had to make it several times a week.

They call it donating your eggs so you don’t feel like a mercenary, but let’s not mince words here: you sell your eggs to a donor. In fact, you fill out your medical history, you get official copies of your college transcript, you even give them the cutest pictures of you as a baby, you do a physical exam, you take a series of quizzes, you meet with a psychologist to make sure you’re not going to become a crazy stalker, then you wait.

Prospective couples come in and go through a binder of women (what’s up, dated political reference! I was in fact in a binder full of women). Most, I have to assume, want someone a lot like they are, or perhaps the way they aspire to be. Similar ethnic backgrounds, similar upbringing, similar grades in college, etc. People pay a lot of money to use a donor’s eggs, so they’re allowed to see all the things they can see. That is, everything except the actual donor.

What to Expect If You Decide to Sell Your Eggs

You can expect to go to the “doctor’s office” (I use quotation marks because this is not your average run-of-the-mill doctor’s office — it’s really fancy) several times a week for a few months.

You can expect to take birth control, then anti-birth control.

You can expect to inject yourself with a variety of hormones.

You can expect to get swollen when it becomes time to harvest.

You can expect to lose all sense of modesty when it comes to the exam room.

You can expect to be a part of actually very interesting science.

You can expect to be compensated.

You can expect to learn a lot about the reproductive cycle, specifically yours.

You can expect to be judged by your friends and family. People who don’t have a similar opinion as to where life begins will call you names you won’t like to hear.

Why I Sold My Eggs

The first time I did it, I was toying with alternative ways to make money. I was in my 20s, and I wasn’t in debt, or if I was, it was that gauzy pre-acknowledgement that there was a problem stage (or step -1 in the “get a hold of your finances, you dingbat”), but I didn’t have a lot of money.

I’d never been paid a lump sum before, and six thousand dollars was at least three months of work.

I was able to disassociate from the “mommy” feelings and could see it as a period. I’ve never thought about the potential kids.

It sounded easy. Like something I could do.

It wasn’t easy, but I understood why I got paid as much as I did. It’s work. I had to rearrange my life for it. I had to miss my cousin’s wedding because of the way the dates fell.

They Pay More Each Time

That’s how they get you. If you think $6,000 is a lot, how’s $6,500?

And you know how it goes already, so you do it. They cap you at a certain point, but that’s not a problem. You don’t want to do it forever. You can’t do it forever.

In fact, if you’re past 30 and thinking that this might be a viable option for you, it’s too late. They want young women because their eggs are healthier.

I donated twice when I was living in Washington, DC, and the way it works is as follows:

  • Recipient selects donor
  • Recipient and donor get on the same cycle
  • Donor takes hormones that make her next ovulation a MAJOR egg drop
  • On specified day, donor and recipient go to the same clinic
  • Eggs (20+) come out of donor, get inseminated, some become embryos
  • Embryos (1-3, or 8 if you’re the octomom’s clinic) get implanted
  • Some become babies, some don’t
  • Some embryos get frozen for the next time (either in a few months if it didn’t take, or a few years if there’s a desire for a sibling)
  • Donor takes the money and moves on with her life, waiting until she’s selected again.

The Last Time I Donated

I moved back to Portland, and realized the extent of my financial mess. Got my head out of the sand, so to speak. I realized I could donate again and that would really be a punch to the mountain of debt I was in.

So, I went through the process again, thinking it would be easier than the first time. However, I was soon to find that this kind of clinic is not like a hospital. They’re private entities that do not have to share information with one another, and because the location I’d used before was in Virginia, near the CIA, they had similar thoughts on sharing information. So I started somewhat fresh. They gave enough information to green light me, and within a few months, I had $7000 in my pocket.

That last time, every last bit of the $7000 went toward my debt of highest pain, which was a credit card.

I had to pay taxes on it, of course. The clinic gave me a 1099-MISC.

Should You Sell Your Eggs?

I can’t answer that question for you. Only you can. I am too old to do it now (and if I keep on this track, I’ll end up on the other side of egg donation, which would only be fitting for the universe to work that way), but I am not sorry I did it.

Had I been more responsible with the money from the first two times, maybe I wouldn’t even have this blog! Because I would have paid off the debt and moved on.

But that’s not the way the story went. I made a terrible financial decision. I got into debt. Then I got out of it.

Would I have donated if I didn’t have a five-figure debt to work myself out of? It’s hard to tell. But at least I know, even if I don’t have children of my own, my genes are moving on in this world.

And that’s pretty weird.

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