Saturday, January 9, 2016

What even happened since my last post?

Today is Saturday, January 9th.  A full work week has passed!  Geez.  I had a crazy dream last night that I was teaching a client who was stoned out of his mind... whenever I have dreams about clients, especially "Pilates teacher nightmare" dreams such as this one, I know it's time for a break.  This particular client actually would NEVER come to the studio stoned, he's one of the most responsible people I know.  Yup, time for me to close the chapter on the work week, disconnect, and indulge in some me time.

Recapping last week...

Monday January 4th was a day off, but more of an "getting errands done" day off than a big relaxation one.  I had a routine doctor's appointment in the morning.  Ben gallantly drove me and dropped me off, went to run a few errands on his own, than picked me up to go to a nearby steel plant.  Why were we going to the steel plant?  I had to replace the springs on my Pilates equipment late last year, and the old ones were just sitting around.  I didn't want to just trash them, and I didn't think I could recycle them... I called the steel plant and they said that they could take them.  The manager told us that they buy recycled steel by the tonnage, and that my springs would probably come to about 15 cents.  Ha!  We donated the springs to the next person who came in who the manager deemed in need.

I'm pretty sure the remainder of Monday was resting and getting ready for the week... We roasted a chicken for dinner, which is one of my favorite ways to both eat a delicious meal and have a bunch of ready-to-pack food for the week.  Later in the week, we made a chicken salad for Ben to pack on sandwiches, and used the carcass to make some stock in the slow cooker.

During the work week, which for me is Tuesday-Saturday, I aim to focus on my business.  If I have time off between clients, I'll study or review something which I'd like to understand better, work on marketing or admin tasks, or go for a run or work out on my own.  I either pack my own lunch, or if I have a big break midday, come home for lunch, usually a run, and admin work at my home office.  This means my work weeks are frugal to a T, and that I'm spending my time building my business.  When I start at the studio varies, but I typically work with clients until 7:30 or 8:30pm.  Thus, evenings are short and arabout: cooking, which I love as a de-stressing activity, catching up with my man, playing with the cats (they're super cute), and SLEEP.

Luke and Martin in a nightly cuddle.

So, in that way, Tuesday - now passed.  I got together with my study partner Amos on Friday morning, as we both had the morning off.  I worked on my taxes a little bit more over the week, and I went on a couple of good runs.  It's been rainy and wet lately, which means things are growing, fog rests on the eucalyptus trees, and I feel like the colors of nature pop more than when it's sunny.  While dealing with a mid-run cramp last week, I found some flowering Rosemary.  Picked some to bring home.
Flowering rosemary picked on a run at Mills College.
I'm so grateful to live up the hill from Mills College, which provides a beautiful oasis in West Oakland for running.  I spend most of my mid-week runs here.  

Big news:  I spent some money.  I've been using some running apps - I started with a 5K app, and am now doing a 5K Pacer, which just gives you intervals designed to help you improve your 5K speed.  I've been so inspired by running lately that, on a total impulse, I purchased the 10K app.  While I probably will use it, I still have 4 weeks left on my 5K pacer app, so I probably won't be using it anytime soon, and didn't need to buy it right then!  The good news is, it only cost $3.99.

Today, Saturday, I taught 5 hours, came home for lunch, and am now leisurely unwinding the week and getting ready for a two full days off.  Some things I plan to do to entertain myself between now (about 4pm) and bed:

- I've been baking sourdough bread lately, and it's getting pretty good!  I took the starter out of the fridge this morning, fed it, and am watching it grow.  In the evening, I'll pre-mix the bread to let it start rising over night.  With sourdough bread also comes this "discard" sourdough starter, and I've been making some absolutely delicious buttery yeast rolls with those.  Not the healthiest thing in my pantry, but hey, they are scrumptious.  I've mixed up some of those and will roll them out and bake them after they rise.
Roll dough rising! Sourdough starter doing its thing in the background.
- Run!  Because why not?  Sweating at the end of the week always feels good and clearing.
- Stretch!  It's "Stretch Saturday" on my list of weekly self-practices, so I plan to give myself a Pilates mat session (since I'm at home) focusing on flexibility.
- Bake dinner with my Ben.  We're planning on roasting and stuffing a spaghetti squash.
- Study some NKT.  Certification test is coming up.
- MAAAAYBE work on digitizing my client notes.  I've been wanting to get better at note taking, and I think finding a way to type them might be the way to go, since my years working in admin have made my typing MUCH faster than handwriting.  If I feel so inspired, I'll start on this, but if I'm feeling like I'd just be tempting myself with another dream of a blitzed out client, I'll take a pass on this one.
- I started reading one or Murakami's novels this week, and I'm hooked.  This sounds more fun than digitizing my client notes.

So... basically, a low key wind-down from the week.  Putting things to rest.  Letting my mind settle from a week of clients.

Daily entertainment budget: $3.99
Money left: $96.01
Total Days in challenge: 9

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Days 2 & 3

Today is Sunday, January 3rd.

I work on Saturdays, so yesterday was an easy one to keep my budget tight.  I packed a lunch, including a green smoothie for an afternoon energy pick-up.

I taught one group class followed by 4 clients, enjoyed lunch and some light Facebook browsing, and then took some time to stretch while waiting for my Neurokinetic Therapy study partner Amos to arrive.  We got in a good session reviewing some topics for our upcoming certification exam - finally leaving the studio by 5:30pm.

My brain was feeling pretty full at that point, so I was happy to return home, make myself a cup of tea, and spend some quality time on the couch.   Ben and I were planning a taco night, so I started prepping before he came home, and then we had a good tacos and late-night Netflix binge.  Having quality company to eat tacos with on the couch makes it so much better.  :)

Today was pretty close to a repeat of New Year's Day.  I slept in, Ben made breakfast, and then we both got going on decluttering.  We're going to be downsizing our living situation in late March in order to save on rent, so we're planning a garage sale sometime in late February to get rid of our extra junk, while putting a little in the bank.

I went on a run - this time to Redwood Regional park here in Oakland.  I love this park.  You get striking vistas of the green hills just beyond Oakland, run past Redwood and Oak trees, meet happy trail running dogs, and it's so close to us.  Just a little time in nature restores my need to both get out of the house and feel rejuvenated.

I spent much of the afternoon curled in bed reading a book I've had on my shelf for awhile, just waiting for me to crack the covers... Often, we have many resources just at our fingertips which are free, or already purchased.  The hard part is letting go of the feeling that we're missing out if we don't go out and do the latests thing, eat the hippest food, or drink at the trendiest spots, but once we deal with that feeling, we often discover a wealth of entertainment options for ourselves at home which will cost us little or nothing to use.

Ben made dinner.  My mom told me how lucky I am to date a man who cooks, and while I retorted that I would absolutely not date someone for whom I had to cook all the time, I have to agree that I am lucky to date a man who seriously enjoys cooking, and is happy to cook for me - multiple times a day.  :)

Ben is also a big Star Wars fan, so as one of his Christmas gifts I got us tickets to see the newest film in 3D.  We're off to do that soon!  Since we just ate, we won't be getting snacks at the theater, and the tickets were already purchased.

Daily entertainment budget: $0
Money left: $100
Total Days in challenge: 3

Friday, January 1, 2016

Day 1: New Year's Day

Free fun thing #1 on New Year's Day: sleep in.  Check.

Ben made a great breakfast!  We used to go out to brunch about once a week, but have opted for home-cooked meals (and long mornings in pjs) since we started trying to save money.

I did some New Year's decluttering.  More on where this stuff will end up later!
That's over 8 bags of crap!
I went on a run in Joaquin Miller Park.  Despite living close to this park, I've only been there once before.  It's a gorgeous oasis in the city, and it felt perfect to spend time in nature on the first day of the year.
View of the Bay from the end of my run.
I came home, showered, and started a "home spa day."  I had made some peppermint sugar scrubs for holiday gifts, and had some left over.  Doing a skin scrub felt like a great way to start the New Year.  I put on comfy clothes, gave myself a facial, made tea, and used some coconut foot cream someone had given me as a gift years ago.  It's amazing to me how many luxury beauty products we can accumulate, and how rarely we actually use them.  Home Spa Day to the rescue!

Face mask and tea - starting the New Year off clean!
I started this blog.  I'm using blogger, which is a free platform.  It's now a little after 4pm.  I'm going to get my baking on and make some rolls to have with some reheated soup for dinner, and then I plan to: start my taxes!!! Ok, maybe that isn't super "entertaining," but as a small business owner, the sooner I figure out where I stand, the better, and feeling like I'm on top of my business tasks is rewarding.

Daily entertainment budget: $0
Money left: $100
Total Days in challenge: 1

The New Year's $100 Entertainment Challenge

Yesterday was New Year's Eve.  Our plans to host a poker night fell flat when our couple friends cancelled due to family illness, and our single friend called to say he was getting over a cold, would come, but needed to leave early.  New Year's... unfortunately smack in the middle of cold and flu season.

We didn't make it until midnight, we didn't play poker, but we had fun regardless.  I made "adult popcorn," Dave brought a fantastic beer over, Ben made sliders, and I broke out some bubbly and made sparkling Bee's Knees cocktails.  Yum.

I like New Year's, and I don't need a big todo for it to feel meaningful to me.  I like to spend some time reflecting on the past year, and setting some intentions for the coming one.  And a conversation we had last night has sparked this New Year's blog for me.

Dave mentioned how he and some friends were discussing how much they spend on a weekend - their weekend "fun time" budget.  One friend said he regularly spends $200-$400 on a weekend.  Dave's budget is more like $40-$50.  Each saw the other's weekend entertainment budget as totally unfathomable.

A bit on me and money.
I'm more like Dave than his friend.  I lived as a freelance dancer in the Bay Area for about 8 years, and only about a year and a half ago have started working "full time," but my full-time gig is: a self-employed Pilates instructor and studio owner.  My income varies month by month, and I don't have any benefits like an employer-provided healthcare plan or employer contributions to a retirement account.  I'm all on my own.  I am happily debt-free, but also not so happily low on savings.

However, I am not looking to change my employment situation, or regretting the time I spent dancing, performing, touring, and saving zero money.  Living as a dancer was a one-of-a-kind experience, and being my own boss has a LOT of perks, especially for someone who is self-directed, independent, and likes a good challenge.  Besides the fact that I love Pilates and the work I get to do, I also love being 100% in charge of my own professional destiny.  So, I'm not looking to change that, just acknowledging that I'm trading the security of benefits and a steady paycheck for freedom and for loving my day-to-day work life.

In the past year, Ben and I have discussed the possibility of buying a house.  We both would love to make that a reality, but are not sure how that would work in the Bay Area real estate scene.  Regardless of whether or not we eventually are able to make the leap to homeowners, we've both agreed: saving money now is a good idea.  While we've done a lot to start saving by cutting unnecessary expenses, buying in bulk, packing lunches, and opting for movie nights at home instead of going out, I want to take on the New Year as a chance to up my savings game.

The New Year's $100 Entertainment Challenge.
Ben's Dad likes to give cash at Christmas - a nice, clean, $100 bill to each kid and each kid's significant other.

So, I have $100.

From our NYE conversation, that could either be about two weekends of entertainment for Dave, or barely scraping a day of weekend fun for his friend.

How far can I stretch $100?

Starting today, January 1, 2016, I will tally up all money I spend on non-consumables, eating out, grabbing coffee, bars, movies, events, and entertainment.  How long can I last with only a $100 budget for my own amusement?

Things that I won't include in my "entertainment" budget: groceries, gas (unless we go on a long drive, such as going on a camping trip), and recurring expenses like rent, insurance payments, my cell phone bill.  I've already reduced those as much as I can.

Things that I will include: anything I buy that isn't on the list above. Going out, shopping (including clothes and household items... we really don't need any more of either, so buying them would just be for "fun"), and alcohol (while it is cheaper to drink at home, you can still rack up a bill).

And a caveat:  I do have a couple of gift certificates from Christmas.  I won't count spending the gift certificates on my entertainment budget, but  I will count anything I spend over the gift certificate amount.

Here we go.  How far can $100 take me, and what will it look like to have fun on the cheap?