The 4-Hour Workweek

I’m reading an exceptional book right now, Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.

It’s kind of mind blowing to be honest. And it makes me a little sad. Because Jay and I are the people who’ve lived the kind of life he advocates escaping – the life of 9 to 5 with a “big” retirement at the end. Jay especially. And his union job isn’t one that lends itself, in any way, shape or form, to the telecommuting strategy Timothy describes. Besides, we’re almost at retirement age whereas this book is most valuable for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Despite this, there’s still a ton of value in reading it. It’s not too late to implement some of his plans/strategies even if I really like our “small” life. There’s no question that it can be improved and I agree so wholeheartedly with many of his observations and opinions. I feel like a kindred spirit, which is hilarious as our lives couldn’t be more different.

Plus, he’s funny as hell.

I’m getting it for my brother. And probably for the kids for Christmas. They’ve already made it clear they have no intention of following in our footsteps! 😉 It makes me a little nervous, because the lifestyle Ferriss advocates is SO different from ours and I’m not sure how achievable it actually would be.

Vacation Mail and Newspaper Hold

IMG_1273We recently got back from a week in the Florida Keys. Great trip, great weather, must find way to spend January and February in a warm climate!!

In our old neighborhood, we would have paid one of our friends’ kids to pick up the mail and newspaper. We knew the kids and the houses were closer together.

Lately, however, I’ve been putting holds on the mail and newspaper delivery. It’s very simple to do online. Saves us $20. And we don’t have to go over to pick everything up after we get home.

For USPS: https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/home.jsp

Digital Calendar

online calendarMy transition to a digital calendar is complete. It’s easy to maintain and update by simply copying and pasting entries from one week/month to the next. And it’s going to be a useful memory jogger. For example on Presidents’ Day I noted two things I often wonder about – it’s a holiday for Jay and the trash does get picked up. Next year, I will transfer these reminders and, hopefully, we’ll remember to put the trash out on Monday rather than Tuesday. 😉

I also like the following:

– I won’t be buying calendars any more
– I won’t have to keep old ones in a drawer
– I won’t have to wait until stores deem it necessary to finally stock next year’s calendars to get one. In the past, they are never in stores as early as I’d like.
– it doesn’t take up any space on my already messy desk, just my “desktop”

Return Envelopes

return envelopeI’ve found a good use for those return envelopes that come with bills. (And, yes, I still get paper bills unless the issuing company charges me for them. I keep them on file for tax purposes, for comparison purposes and, no, I don’t want to use my own paper and ink to print them off.)

Since I pay virtually all our bills via online bill pay or auto pay I used to throw the return envelopes away. But I’ve started to use them for my grocery lists, tucking the coupons I plan to use inside the envelope.

Very handy!

Know Local Mailbox Locations

mailboxDo you know where local mailboxes are located? Not necessarily at the post office, unless that happens to be as convenient location as any, but mailboxes located near businesses/places you regularly go to.

Years ago I put a check in our mailbox, setting the red flag up for our mailman. Then we went on vacation. By the time we got back someone had stolen the check out of the mailbox, called our bank to verify funds (possibly numerous times), “washed” the check and rewrote it to themselves for as much money as possible ($5,000).

It took weeks to get resolved. An investigator came to our house. The bank at first “loaned” us the money before making it official. Our account had to be closed and a new one opened. It was a massive pain in the butt. And, ultimately, the bank took the hit on the $5,000.

Since then, I’ve rarely put mail in our mailbox, especially if it contained a check. Luckily, with online bill pay, I rarely have to write checks anyway. I now try to pay attention when I notice a mailbox somewhere on my regular route. There’s one at the library. There used to be one at the rec center I go to (and now work at), but that disappeared last year. There’s one a mile away that I pass almost every day. And I noticed last week that there’s a new one outside Costco, somewhere I go almost every week.

Knowing where a number of convenient, easy-to-access mailboxes are means I don’t have to put mail out for our mailman to get. And, based on what I’m doing on a particular day, it’s easy for me to plan where to drop it off at.

Going Through Pantry, Fridge and Freezer

januaryAs part of my January “purging” spree, I’ve already gone through my pantry, fridge and freezer and thrown out expired food.

Now I’m on to stage two, where I’m eating, using up or giving away the remaining non-expired food we’ve somehow acquired. This includes the half box of graham crackers and the Hershey chocolate bars left over from a summer camping trip. (I’ll probably throw the opened bag of marshmallows away.) When I was a kid, I used to love graham crackers with milk for breakfast. So, I’ve had this for a snack or lunch a few times. Yummy and nostalgic, it’s also like a shot of insulin – so it’s a good thing they’re all gone! The chocolate bars I’m eating a piece (or two) at a time. They should be gone in a couple of weeks.

I’ve accumulated many boxes of herbal tea over the past couple of years. Some came in a gift basket from a friend when my Dad died. I’m trying to drink a cup of tea every afternoon or evening – either peppermint or Sleepy Time. But I can’t stand spice teas or Chai tea or vanilla flavored ones. So, all those went to our son’s girlfriend this weekend.

Soon, everything in the pantry, fridge and freezer will be “staples”, items we eat regularly, things I use in my tried and true recipes. Over the course of the year, when trying new recipes, or when the kids are staying with us, or as the result of entertaining, I’ll accumulate extras and, next January, I’ll do the big purge again.

Checking Expiration Dates

expiration dateHaving just returned from a visit home I am, once again, reminded to check the expiration dates on the food in our pantry. This, after finding that the mushroom soup I planned to use in a recipe I was making while up there expired in 2011.

I’m not saying that food has to be thrown out the second it’s past the expiration date – like at least one of my kids seems to feel. 😉 However, I do not want any of them to stumble upon cans that expired four years ago, let alone four decades ago – something my friend discovered last summer when clearing out her father’s house.

I don’t like waste. And we waste very little. But I did find, and throw out, a can of beets and a container of beef stock. Other than that, everything is well within its expiration date, and are all items that I will unquestionably use in the coming months. My pantry does not overfloweth, something I may regret it in the event of a nuclear war…

New Year, New Spreadsheets, New Lists

net worth spreadsheetI’m such a nerd. I have spreadsheets/lists for everything. And every new year I create new ones for all the things I measure:
yearly medical expenses
credit card activity
net worth
yearly goals
entertaining details
recreation reimbursement program

As I’ve posted before, you manage what you measure. Without my lists and spreadsheets, I’d be much less on top of our finances. I wouldn’t be nearly as informed about what a change to a High Deductible Health Plan will mean for us (something Jay’s company is hinting at). I wouldn’t be on top of which credit cards are the most valuable to me. I’d forget who we had over for dinner or a party and when and what I prepared. And I’d definitely forget a lot of the good ideas for things to do that I come up with or hear about.

I like order. Many things are out of my control, but being able to exercise a decent level of control over certain things empowers me. It saves us money. And it routinely makes my life easier. I consider it one of my hobbies and that way it doesn’t seem nearly as nerdy. 😉

Good Use for Old Stationery

stationeryOver the years I’ve gathered a collection of stationery – for Christmas letters, graduation invites, dinner party invites, etc. With the advent of Shutterfly and Evite, I no longer need the stationery and it sits in my desk, unused.

Until now!

It finally occurred to me that I could use it for much of my printing needs. I just make sure it’s inserted face side up in my printer tray, so that whatever I’m printing prints on the blank back of the stationery.

So far, I’ve used it for shopping lists, recipes, coupons, a Groupon, and a ticket to the Cartier exhibit at the Art Museum. At this rate, it’ll all be gone in a year or so.

Target Gift Cards 10% on Black Friday

targetI was on Facebook on Friday and saw that Target was selling up to $300 of gift cards for 10% off. I often use them to tip our cleaners, or newspaper delivery person, etc. Or just to shop. I can’t think of another way to save 10% at Target. Their RedCard saves me 5%, but it doesn’t apply to gift cards.

Shipping was free. 😉

And I paid with my MileagePlus card to get miles (something I don’t get when using my Target card).

I’ll make a note of it in my filing system and hope they have the same offer next Black Friday!