Buying


I’ve lived without a car before, and I’ll admit that given the choice I’d rather have one. But we don’t really want to rush into buying one down here until we find “the one”, so our search has been casual at best.

Shopping is… interesting. Especially when on top of groceries, I’m trying to buy things like dishes and other housewares for our new place. Each purchase, even something seemingly small like a set of sheets, has an impact on my journey home.

Stan is comfortable enough with his masculinity to endorse those pink striped sheets. Am I a lucky gal or what?

It’s probably good for the ol’ budget to go grocery shopping on a bike, because I can only buy what I can squeeze into my messenger bag. (But boy do I test its limits!)

Sure I could get panniers or a basket or something, but then I’d have to get an adorable dog wearing a beret to ride around in it.

Here is a pile of stuff I bought in two trips:

You might notice that there are some heavy items in there. Like the mortar and pestle. I don’t know of any of you have ever hauled a hunk of granite 2.6 km under the antipodean sun, but let’s just say there was no guilt over that ice cream float I enjoyed. None whatsoever.

Of course, hilarious as it might be, I’m not about to try and push a fridge home in a stolen shopping cart or dolly, or hitch a ride with a stranger in a truck with my couch. We have some big stuff to buy, and that’s why today I’m renting a “ute”. For one glorious 24-hour period, I will be able to drive to my heart’s content (well, within a 150 km limit) and stock that thing to the brim. (BTW, ute = pickup.) I’m a little terrified of the fact that my first driving experience in a new country on the wrong side of the road is going to be in a rented ute, but let’s just not think about that.

My cheaponess can’t handle even Ikea prices, so I’ve already arranged to buy a bed and a washer off of Gumtree (the Craigslist equivalent). I’m hoping we’ll be able to score a couch and a fridge as well, and maybe some night stands and/or a coffee table if we’re really lucky.

I’ll share the full list of what we need to buy, as well as our budget, in another post. In the meantime, wish us luck!

(PS- My brother-in-law Alex has helped someone move using only bikes. We’re not that hardcore.)

Well hello there. Today I’m reviewing a canvas from Easy Canvas Prints. As is probably pretty obvious, this company puts your pictures on canvas.

When they contacted me, I knew right away which photo I wanted. We’re not really ones to put pictures of ourselves up all over the house, and especially not a bunch of staged wedding pictures, but there is one favorite that I knew I had to have. And since I was only getting the 8×10, I figured it wouldn’t scream “WE GOT MARRIED. SEE? SEE THE PICTURE OF US GETTING MARRIED?” (Although I may change my mind and start becoming one of “those people”, because this I love this one so much.)  I put this photo at the top of this post, and here it is on canvas:

I love this photo for a few reasons. One, I love the colors and how the light and shadows go across the path. I also love how there are potted plants, and if you look closely you can see some price tags and plant info sticks. I’m not really sure why I like that detail; I guess just because how how casual it makes our wedding feel. It’s almost like we were going there to pick up some plants and happened to get married! (Heh… okay, maybe not really.)

But my favorite part of this picture is  that I remember this exact moment so well. I remember a lot of moments from that night, but for some reason this one sticks out to me. This photo was one of the first ones taken of us after the ceremony, and it was more spontaneous than some of the others (although I loved those too). I remember feeling a little rushed to take the photos and not keep our guests waiting too long (the were starting to trickle outside when this one was taken) and also surprised that it ended up being my favorite one. I think this one captures the whole evening the very best. Just two people, wandering around a garden after getting married. Which is basically what we did for the rest of the night; this one just captures the two of us before we were swept into the loving congratulations of our guests.

Jeez Amanda, get back to the review! Okay. So I thought Easy Canvas Prints did a great job. The colors are good, it was true to the preview and it’s good quality.

One thing I will mention is that you probably shouldn’t get a print where your faces will be so small. Canvases are bumpy, so it kind of makes your face look weird when you look up close:

But since we will likely not get closer than a foot or so, I think it’s fine. I will say that I have two canvas prints from (gasp!) a competitor, and they are shinier and maybe a little smoother. But I kind of like the natural texture (it might depend on the photo, too).

The other thing I liked was that the wrap is a mirror image, so the sides of your photo don’t get cropped and used for the wrap. See the mirroring?

Although that’s personal preference, I think. Below are the canvases I already had, and I can’t decide if I like how the photo continues onto the edge or if I’d rather it be a mirror image.

Either way, the Easy Canvas Print site was easy to navigate and use. I love our print. Stay tuned to see where it will go!

Have you guys ever been embarrassed by your thrift hunting, garage sale-ing, or side-of-the-road scavenging habits?

I have.

Sure, we all have to swallow a little gulp of pride when pulling junk off the side of the road or digging through someone else’s castoffs (well, I don’t think I have an overabundance of pride, so my gulp is pretty manageable).

But have you ever been really, truly embarrassed by it?

I have.

This happened a while ago, and for some reason I just thought of it recently. I was running, probably training for a race, when I ran by this awesome looking yard sale in the Avenues, which is a fancy, historic neighborhood where there are bound to be treasures. When I’m running hard to Daft Punk or Ratatat (or fine, I’ll admit it- Britney) there is little beyond oncoming cars and grossly protruding sidewalks that can break my concentration, but yard sales are up there.

Sweaty and panting like a malamute in Mississippi, tunes pumping in my ears, I stopped to admire all the fine wares. I was impressed at how nice all their stuff was, and spent some time wondering why the ratio of cool stuff to junk was so high.  I was about to look around for someone manning the sale, when I saw it.

A moving truck.

With people hauling stuff out of it.

This is not a yard sale! This is not a yard sale! RUN!

I had intruded on someone’s goods whilst they moved into their new probably awesome eclectic and historic apartment. Inspected. Gazed. Maybe even touched- I can’t remember.

To this day I don’t know if they said anything to me, thanks to my earphones and quick escape.

Does anyone else have such a story of mortification and woe? Do share!

Aah, the power of one word.

Today’s word in question is this: Only.

There’s something funny about the word “only”. When our wedding was featured on glamour.com, the headline was “Amazing! This gorgeous wedding only cost $8000!” I know that the writer was comparing it to the average cost of weddings, which is somewhere around $25,000-$30,000, and in that way, the word “only” makes sense.

A couple of instances where the word “only” might not make as much sense are:

  • $8000 is only <insert large number here>% of my annual salary!
  • I only have $8000 of credit card debt!
  • It will only take us ten years to pay off that wedding!

You get the point.

A few people commented on that post that $8000 was still a ridiculous amount to spend on a wedding.

Hey- I totally agree! Sort of. Well, do I? I thought I did, but now I’m not sure.

I started out wanting to spend $4000 on a wedding, inspired by our beloved John and Sherry. But our budget was, shall we say, flexible, and in time we decided that since we had the means, we’d rather pay more and do less work (and make our loved ones do less work- although don’t get me wrong; everyone still did a ton of work).

After the wedding we let ourselves play the “What else could we have done with $8000?” game only a couple of times before snapping each other back to reality. It’s not worth it! Sure, we could have installed an automatic sprinkler system, or built a new garage, or started finishing the basement. But our lovely parents didn’t just give us that money* and say “Here, go nuts.” They gave it to us for a wedding.

*Yes, our parents covered the cost of our wedding. I’ve seen commenters (I spent way too much time on wedding boards) say that it’s wrong to “make” your parents pay for your wedding or “expect” them to. Well, we did neither. But when they did, we gratefully accepted their offer and tried to put on an event that everyone could enjoy.

I really had to come to terms with spending that kind of money on an event that would have the same outcome with just a $50 marriage license fee. But with each “Yes, I’m coming!” I got from friends and family, I got more and more excited and realized that hey- this is what life is about. It’s about getting people together for special events, and feeding and entertaining them if you have the means. People from out of town stayed for a few days, and it was so nice to have everyone pitch in to put on the event. It was a blast. This, my friends, is quality time:

However, life is not about going into debt so that you can have the most breathtaking cake or the most stylish dress or Wilson Phillips as your band (although that would be pretty sweet). It’s not about impressing everyone with every detail or having every single hair on every single person’s head in its perfect place.

Cool, but probably not necessary.

To continue the soap box, life is not about keeping up with the Joneses, period. If you buy a new boat because the Joneses did, you are dumb. If you buy a new boat because you can afford it and it will bring you and your family lots of happiness, fun, and memories for years to come, you are awesome. It’s the same thing with elements of your wedding. If you’re trying to show someone up by buying a dress from Kleinfeld that you cannot afford, I feel sorry for you. If you buy a super expensive dress because, hey- you can, and it makes you feel like a fairy princess and the most beautiful woman on the planet and that’s important to you, then go you! (We don’t have that priority in common, but still- go you!)

I know we hear this all the time, but it’s so beyond easy to compare ourselves to each other that it’s almost comical. I’ve talked to people before and thought, “What do you do, sit around and make lists of things that other people have gotten and haven’t, and things you’ve gotten and haven’t, and then assign them scores and add them all up to see who should be/is further along in life? Come on! Live your own life already!”

It’s even easier in a way, and less fair, on the internet. When I first started reading home blogs, I hated when people would say things like “This lamp was a steal at $75!” Are you kidding me? I’d think. That’s half of my grocery budget for the month! But you know what? It’s their blog and their life, and for them, $75 is a bargain for a lamp. Get over it, Amanda. It’s like when my friend (Hi Remmy!) says something like “These jeans are only $150.” I just smile and move on to the clearance rack. Remmy always looks fabulous, by the way. That’s a priority for him, and I love having an opinion that is different from my own. And who knows- maybe one day he’ll get me to splurge on (after saving up for, of course :)) a pair of awesome, life-changing jeans.

I guess that the point of this post is that budgets are an intensely personal thing. And I don’t mean that it’s something that must never be talked about. On the contrary, I believe that you should talk about personal things with people you trust, and perhaps in a more general way, with people who read your blog. It’s a great way to grow and learn (as long as you do learn and resist the temptation to simply compare). 

But when it comes to specific amounts, only you can decide if $150 is a good deal for a duvet cover, or if $250,000 is a good deal for a starter home, or if $8000 is a good deal for a wedding.

Since there is no wedding-related debt, our parents were willing and able to help, and it turned out fantastic and we loved seeing everyone, to us $8000 for our wedding was worth every penny.

PS- If anyone is curious what we would have done without our parents’ help, here it is: We would have had a simple ceremony up in a canyon with a very small number of people, and then taken people out to dinner (a much smaller group than attended our wedding). I would have worn a cheaper dress and we wouldn’t have had any groomsmen/bridesmaid/kids’ attire, no flowers, half the invitations, no decorating, etc. It would have been less stress and really fun, but we’re really glad that we had the opportunity to put on the event that we did.

So, did anyone make it through that whole post? Do you guys struggle with comparisons like I do sometimes? How do you keep society’s “only” in perspective with your “only”?

Does anyone out there use mint.com? Anyone? Bueller?

Well I gotta say, I think it’s pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’ve tried to budget before using Excel, and I always get really excited about it at first, but then I realize that it’s not fun to look at all your transactions from your bank statement, decide which category they all belong in, then type the amounts manually into the spreadsheet.

Mint does it for you! It knows what most of your transactions are for; if you go to Mae’s Diner, it automatically puts in it “Restaurants”. If you go to Shmo’s Market, it automatically puts it in “Groceries”. How smart! (Sometimes I do have to go in and manually correct it- since I get my gas at Smith’s it thinks it’s Groceries, but I can easily change it to Gas/Fuel, for example.) And if you’re not organized enough to make separate budgets for “Personal Care Items” and “Random Crap I Want To Buy” and “Oil Changes”, you can totally make a budget for “Everything Else”- Mint won’t scold you for it!

I feel a little weird sharing how much I spend on stuff with the whole Internets, but I really want you guys to see how easy it is. And besides- what would blogging be without a little oversharing?

Green = Yay! You can still spend money on this this month!

Yellow = It’s okay, you haven’t gone over yet. But no more spending!

Red = Bad Manda! You spent too much on this! Cut back in other ways and try harder next month.

And since it syncs automatically, you never have to bounce back and forth between your statement and your Excel spreadsheet. You can see where you are with your spending in real-time! You can create budgets for anything you want, and if you go over, they let you know (if you want). They also alert you when those sneaky banks try to pull a fast one on you by charging some ridiculous “Account Management fee” or something.

I have every account on there- my mortgage, 401(k), student loan, checking/savings, credit card…  anything you have a log-in for, Mint can sync with it. It’s pretty cool to be able to see it all in one place.

Some people are worried about security, but honestly, I’m not any more worried about it than I am with my Amazon account, or my regular ol’ bank log-ins. I just chose an extra super tricky password for Mint, and this is pretty comforting.

No, I’m not being compensated by Mint for this tout- I just wanted to share because it really has been life-changing. I can log in so easily to check my budgets, and being able to see everything in real-time has really altered my spending habits. I just wish I’d had it sooner- I’d probably be richer!

PS- I can’t not mention how awesome you guys are for being understanding about my being in a blogrut (that is now a word). You really helped take the pressure off! And just as I predicted, after posting that I we finished a couple of projects. Ain’t that life?

A friend of mine posted this story on facebook about a family who generates very little waste, and now I feel guilty as I sit here looking at my full recycling bin waiting to be picked up. While I don’t think I could  be quite as diligent as they are, the story offers some good tips for cutting back on everyday trash and packaging. Check it out!

On a completely different note, I wanted to give a quick shout-out thanking Kasey and all of the participating Etsy sellers for doing the giveaway (way back in November). I was the lucky winner, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the gifts arrive at my house, many of them with handwritten notes. (And yeah, I’m cheap/somewhat eco, so I saved a lot of the boxes and envelopes to reuse for my own mailing purposes.)

Kelly helped me dress up my New Years cupcakes- (deliciously vegan, to boot- and this is coming from someone who normally prefers mountains of butter and cream- seriously, do yourself a favor and check out that cookbook even if Peta gives you hives).

I received two paintings from Kim (won one and purchased one), and aren’t they just the most delightful things ever?

Jesse and Blanche were impressed, too. I have yet to find a permanent home for them (the pictures- not the pets).

These are the two gifts I won from the giveaway that I have already snapped pictures of, but that doesn’t make any of the other ones less awesome. Please check out their Etsy shops!

Effie Handmade

Colie’s Crafts

The Shop at No144

Yellow Brick Home- The Pet Shop

RJ Charms

Lisa Samartino Atelier

Tearing Up Houses

Our Humble ABowed

Alouetta

Shop Houndstooth

A big fat thank you goes to Kasey and all of these sellers, and though I am aware that Christmas is over, my appetite for Etsy has been whetted! (Yep, whetted.)

…who puts pepper spray in my pocket when people come over to buy my Craigslist stuff?

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