Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Not Only Cheaper, But Easier

A while back, I wrote about saving money on break time coffee and snacks. I haven't done very well putting it into practice. But a post by James Clear today got me thinking about it again: Warren Buffett uses a two-list system to prioritize things. Check it out--and follow the instructions.

Using Buffett's two-list system, two of the goals I ended up with were taking care of myself and saving $400 more per month than I already am. As I said, I've been wanting to save money, and the system made me really focus on this. I came up with 11 money-saving ideas, six of which had to do with food.


  • Buying hamburger in bulk. Ranch Foods Direct sells one-pound packages of 80% lean pastured ground beef in bundles of 20 for a lot less than Whole Foods. Sprouts only carries super-lean beef that's grass-fed, and it's more expensive, too. 
  • Not driving to Whole Foods. Whole Foods is out of my way, and saving a weekly trip saves gas.
  • Coffee at home, tea at work. Tea is free at work; so is the coffee, but it isn't very good. No more coffee shops unless it's a social situation.
  • Filtered water instead of mineral water. Bye-bye, San Pellegrino. 
  • Buying cases of diet soda instead of going to convenience stores. Yes, filtered water would be cheaper, but I don't want to give up soda. Hey, even Warren Buffett drinks them.
  • Homemade protein bars instead of Atkins. My biggest savings--those things are expensive!

What surprised me is that most of these measures will be less work: one trip to buy 20 pounds of meat, no trips to the coffee shop (unless I want to take my tea down there--it's an open, lobby-type area), no lugging bottles of water home. All that should more than make up for making protein bars.

Now for the savings (click for larger image):


That adds up to $1,788.72 per year. Putting that in a savings account for 10 years at 1% interest, you'd have $18,805.01 in 2024. Invest it in stocks, assuming 10% returns, and you'd have $30,536.90. (See this calculator.) Not bad for taking some steps that are, overall, time and effort savers.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Want a Magazine-Style Kitchen with Plenty of Room?

I have found the secret:


  1. Get rid of everything you don't need. Everything. Toaster? Brown your grain-free bread under the broiler. Countertop can opener? Use a hand-held model--get a battery-powered one if needed. Anything that cuts things? Use a knife. Anything you haven't used in a year? Get it out of there. 
  2. Put away everything you don't use daily. Containerized clutter is still clutter. Clean clutter is clutter. Clever clutter is clutter. Get it? A block of knives, a cutting board, a coffee pot, soap, and maybe a juicer or blender should be about all that's left on your counters. Cookbooks can stay, but likewise, clear out cookbooks you rarely use.
  3. Clean it up. Now that your kitchen is de-cluttered, this should be a snap. You know how it's harder to get ready to paint than it is to actually paint--because you have to paint around things? Same with cleaning: there's nothing hard about moving a paper towel or a soapy sponge  around. The hard part is getting the clutter out of the way, cleaning where the clutter was, cleaning the clutter, then putting the clutter back.

Think you don't have enough room to put all your stuff away? You don't need a big, country-style kitchen to get organized or cook fabulous meals:

Galley of the Orient Express. Image from http://www.pret-a-voyager.com/2011/10/digesting-the-orient-express/.
Galley of the Maharajas Express, where they make...
...food like this. See more images at http://www.the-maharajas.com/maharajas/maharajas-train-kitchen.html
Home cooks in Paris likewise turn out great meals with few gadgets and little space.

It's taken me 45 years to figure this out. Why don't cleaning and organizing gurus tell us this instead of, say, putting on shoes? You can't build an enterprise on advice like this. You can't sell containers if there isn't much to contain. And like a lot of good advice, it isn't easy to take. People would rather hear they can keep all their stuff, shop for more, and still have a place that looks like something out of a magazine.

When is a Farmer a Hunter-Gatherer?

When they're nomadic, even if they grow neolithic crops and have herds of sheep and goats. 

Truck drivers are nomadic, too. So were my parents in the early years of the marriage. Does that make them hunter-gatherers?

A word from someone who knows the difference between farmers and hunter-gatherers is here. Spoiler alert--the farmers had more tooth decay, iron deficiency and starvation than the hunters. Check out the pictures of skulls, tibias and teeth.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Feeling Good on Higher Protein

I normally gather information, analyze things and take measurements. Lately, though, things have been too hectic to go about life like a monk: a deadline at work and family issues that have been...bizarre. Let me know if you need material for a black comedy.

I've been eating on instinct, and instinct has led me to eating more protein and probably fewer calories than normal: mostly black coffee, diet Dr. Pepper (caffeine soothes me), bunless burgers, a little veg, a few egg rolls (they're comfort food), and a lot of Atkins bars. No fatty sauces--they just haven't sounded good, especially in the morning. Result: I'm down two belt holes on my rain coat from a few months ago and my shoes are slightly loose where they used to hurt my feet from being too tight.

Atkins induction made me feel weird for a while, and Body-for-Life made me feel great (in the beginning). BFL is much higher-protein than Atkins induction. I noticed back in my 20s that I felt a lot better when I had eggs or a protein shake for breakfast than when I had cereal. Even as a kid, fatty foods just didn't appeal to me. Higher protein and a bit less fat (but not low-fat) just seems to work better for me. I'm still going easy on the carbs--there are 50g of carb in two egg rolls, but I'm not eating them frequently.

I've been better about taking supplements than I was last summer. I got out of the habit of taking iron and ended up physically weak. Now that I'm back on track, I can lift boxes and furniture as well as the guys.

The point here isn't necessarily that everybody needs higher protein, but that shaking up your routine and eating on instinct, but not to the point of letting yourself go bananas, could be a good experiment to try something new.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We're Having an Estate Sale

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business. -Eric Hoffer


Let you in? Uh, no. Image from http://markaeology.com/2011/09/read-after-watching/
You know how they say that criminals return to the scene of the crime? I thought it was a literary device until today. The relative who stole thousands of dollars of stuff from my mother's garage came back to take  some more, yell at the estate sale people and threaten to stop the sale (so she can steal everything in the house at her leisure, presumably). She was waiting there when Mom got there today because another relative posted Mom's itinerary on goddamn Facebook.

I generally don't like open letters, but I don't have many other ways of communicating with the people involved. So here's the deal:

Mom needs to have this sale. Not having it would be about a $10,000 loss for Mom. If anyone tries to stop it at this late date, it will result in Mom being successfully sued since she signed a contract and the estate sale people have put in two weeks' work to prepare for the sale. Mom might also have a hard time finding another estate sale company later: I can't imagine these people want anything more to do with our family and may tell their colleagues to avoid us. There aren't many companies in the Denver area that can handle an estate sale as large as this one. If we can't engage another company, most of Mom's stuff will end up at Goodwill--unless someone wants to store her stuff and wait for it to sell, piece by piece, on Craigslist. An important condition: you have to give the money to Mom. Any takers? 

Should anyone still think going to the house and causing a stink is a brilliant idea, let me share an email I sent to the estate sale company:


B----, as we discussed, ------- and her daughter ------- are not authorized to be at my mother's house at -----------------. They are not authorized to take anything from the property. There is nothing there that belongs to them or was promised to them. Please do not let them in the house. If they come and refuse to leave, please call the sheriff to report that they are trespassing. Contrary to ---------'s statement, I do have power of attorney for my mother and will forward a copy to you tonight. If you need to speak to my mother directly, she can be reached at my house at (number). Thank you for your cooperation and patience, and please extend apologies from me and my mother to your staff for ------- and ---------'s rudeness. -Lori Miller
 
Mom and other relatives may have bugaboos about clapping a family member in jail, but I don't, and B---- says he's thrown other people's family members out of estate sales before. He has my blessing to do it again.

UPDATE: If you were planning to take Mom to the house today, I appreciate the thought, but please feel free to make other plans.   

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mayhem and Foolishness

I can't keep up with the mayhem and foolishness.*

When my parents went to the hospital, I changed the locks on my parents' house because a certain family member hangs around sick and dying people like a vulture. Over the weekend, my mother let her in and said relative stole about $3,000 worth of belongings out of their garage. Oh, and this person has a key to Mom's storage unit. I urged Mom to call the sheriff, but she won't. It's out of my control and therefore not something I should get upset about.

I should have taken my nephew up on his offer to act as a watchdog while the known thief was at my mother's house. But like Mom, I didn't think she'd rob her blind. Going forward, she won't be admitted to my house if she dares to show her face there. And a CPA I work with recommended some estate lawyers to draw up a new will so Mom can exclude this person from her will. (The last attorney screwed up the powers of attorney so badly I had to redo them so the credit union would accept them.)

My mother and I are getting along well while she's staying with me. (Estate sale people are preparing for a large sale at her house, and she can't be there while they're working.) But the past few weeks have seen plenty of mayhem and foolishness. I think it's what led to my getting so sick recently and I'm setting some rules for myself about what I will and won't do.

  • I'll try to stop arguing.
  • I'll offer advice, but I won't get caught up in whether it's followed. 
  • I'll keep making accommodations for my mother since she's disabled.
  • I'll do what I can without running myself ragged.
  • I'll ask my mother to do more to protect herself, e.g., don't give her credit card number to solicitors.
  • I'll keep taking care of my mother's finances, as she's asked me to do.
Some of my inspiration for taking care of myself has come from a blog I just started following: Living Stingy. It's worth a read.

*"Mayhem and foolishness" is a phrase from Niecy Nash of Clean House. You might have also seen her on Reno 911.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Mom (to a family friend): What do I have to do to get a permit to carry a gun?
Me: Should I get a bulletproof vest?
Mom: If things keep going this way.

Don't worry--Mom was just kidding. Most Americans (us included) would rather sue than shoot each other. Still, I was surprised when a lawyer representing my mother called me today. My mother wanted to delay the estate sale by a month. But the estate sale company is set to start setting up the sale on Monday, and it's too late for them to fill in two weeks with another client. I told Mom the company would suffer damages and they could sue her. So the sale is (still) on.

Meantime, I came down with a bad cold yesterday. The room has stopped spinning and I've stopped shivering in a 77-degree house, but I'm still barking like a seal.

It'll all pass.