How to Be Broke: Introduction (and an update!)

Hello, folks!

It’s been awhile.  This summer has certainly flown by, and it has brought with it a fair amount of challenges.

Our kitty, Popcorn, playing with her best friend, Mikey.  They're kind of like Milo and Otis.

Our kitty, Popcorn, playing with her best friend, Mikey. They’re kind of like Milo and Otis.

In late June, we bought Morning Mist, which gave us some much-needed space.  I’m not going to lie–Breaking Tradition was a little TOO minimalist for me!  I’m glad we did it for a year, but sharing a twin mattress was aggravating an old shoulder injury.   I was so happy to sprawl out in our full-sized v-berth on Morning Mist!

Beanie's birthday party.  Her teacher said it was the social event of the season!

Beanie’s birthday party. Her teacher said it was the social event of the season!

Having a HUGE fridge, an oven, and hot running water has also been amazing.  We’ve even got a shower on the boat, which makes washing Beanie’s hair much easier.

Making green eggs and ham!

Making green eggs and ham!

Then end result.

Then end result.

After we made our move, we stayed on Morning Mist in its slip on West Dock.  We had until August 1 to find a new home for Breaking Tradition, so that we could move Morning Mist into our slip (and not have to pay for two slips).  We had a buyer lined up, so we felt confident heading up to Michigan for our annual trip up north to visit family.

Tropical storm Bill added some excitement to our moving experience.  There was flooding, but not much else.

Tropical storm Bill added some excitement to our moving experience. There was flooding, but not much else.

We tried our best to keep our Michigan trip low-budget, because we owed money to three different parties, in order to buy Morning Mist.  We would be making our first payment after getting back.

Beanie rode her "glide bike" in the fourth of July parade.

Beanie rode her “glide bike” in the fourth of July parade.

Of course, the universe had other plans.  The axle bushings on our car went out while we were up north, so we needed to spend a great deal of money fixing it.  Luckily, it was work that Rob could do, even if we did end up setting the axle on fire in his dad’s driveway!  (We had to, to burn out the old bushings).

So it all went smoothly, right?  Wrong!  On July 31st, the buyer, unfortunately, had to back out.  So we had to pay double slip fees, and we had to get some payments to the people we owed.  And still find a way to eat.

Hanging out with Grandma on the 4th!

Hanging out with Grandma on the 4th!

The good news is that it turns out that Houston is a great place to be broke.  We have eaten well and kept ourselves entertained.  Things will continue to be tight, probably until Christmas, but to good news is that we are making progress toward getting everybody paid off.

And, of course, the experience has been educational.  It’s been a boot camp in how to stretch our dollars, whether we’ve been buying groceries, looking for things to do, or maintaining things at home.  And over the next few weeks, I will be sharing the lessons I’ve learned, with all of you.

Chilling with Grumpa in Michigan.

Chilling with Grumpa in Michigan.

Being broke doesn’t mean that you have to eat beans and rice and sit around at home.  I look forward to sharing some of my strategies with you, so that we can all live frugal, fun lives.

Ready, Set, Go!

We’re determined not to overbook our Jelly Bean.

We make sure she eats her meals at home, has lots of time to play, and doesn’t get overstressed.  She is at a school that doesn’t assign homework in first grade, so she has plenty of time for just being a kid.

However, we jumped at the chance to sign her up for piano lessons in the fall, and this was something she caught onto very quickly.  It seems that she takes after her mother’s side of the family:

And today, Beanie discovered a new hobby.

Daddy was very excited when the flier came home from school, about the “Stampede” race at the school carnival.  Everyone on Rob’s side of the family runs, and Rob still enters 5K’s. 

And so today was the big day…

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Time for some stretching…

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Soon it was time to line up…

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More stretching…

And then they’re off!  Beanie quickly pulled away from the pack (and left Daddy in the dust!)

Beanie stayed well ahead of the pack and ran most of the half mile around the school.  And she finished well ahead of the other first graders!

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Time for some orange juice while she waited for everyone else to finish…

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And then the Bean received her first medal!

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It was a tiring race, but she did save some energy for jumping around…

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And of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without getting a green star painted in her hair!

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Beanie is very proud of herself and can’t stop talking about her medal and how she “beat most of the kids.”  She is a competitive little buddy!  We found some racing shoes for her at Goodwill, and she and Daddy are going to start training at the gym.

10 Surprises About Marina Life

It been 53 days since we moved onto Breaking Tradition full time.  This isn’t the longest amount of time that we’ve lived aboard (that would be 91 days), but it’s the longest we’ve lived aboard while living a daily life that consisted of more than vacationing.  Every morning, I get up and take my turn in the shower, then greet the two other professional women who live on the East Pier, as we head off to work.  After I get home each day, Beanie and I do her homework at the dinette, read her take-home reader, then practice her piano lesson on her battery-powered keyboard, which fits perfectly on the kitchen table.  After that, we either play Wii or head out to the grassy area (our “back yard”) so that Beanie can run around and kick her ball.

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Unlike our cruising days, we have consistent electricity and water, and our stove is dual-powered, so cooking fuel is not an issue.  Breaking Tradition is 6 feet longer than Moonraker (although it has the same beam), so we are living in more than 100 square feet, although definitely not more than 200.  We have about the same fridge space, and slightly less storage area in the galley.  Also, we don’t have a working head in the boat at this time, and we won’t be using the boat’s bathroom for more than emergencies, until we have a working engine and can make it to the pump-out area.  Fortunately, our slip is right next to the restrooms.

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Here are some other surprises that we have found, from marina life:

1.  Daily life is surprisingly “normal.”  When I go to work, it’s like it always has been.  Sure, everyone was initially fascinated by our new lifestyle, but now my focus is on my students, their progress, and the daily reality of teaching seventh grade.  The same is true for Beanie, at her school.  Her school is in Clear Lake Shores, and there are more golf carts than cars picking kids up, but when she’s there, it’s down-to-business.

2.  It’s kind of like living in a floating commune.  Most of the slip-tenants in the marina don’t live there full time.  But those of us who do, have a shared world all of our own.  We don’t own property, we don’t have houses or apartments, and we don’t even have patios of our own. And so we pool our resources and share.  Then men in the marina have gone in together and rented a large storage unit that they have converted into a workshop.  Everything there is for everybody to use!  There is a large vanity in the ladies’ room, and I have claimed a drawer.  I leave my blow dryer out, and everybody uses (and appreciates!) it.  Somebody else has contributed an iron.  There is also a communal grill, as well as lots of coolers.  We often brainstorm ways to create an outdoor eating area on our pier.

3.  Beanie gets her village.  There are only two full-time live-aboard kids in the marina, and only one on the East Pier, so Beanie is well-known.  She’ll talk to our neighbor while she’s on the deck playing under the tarp (her “tent”).  Sometimes, she will hang out by the vending machine, hoping to bum a soda off of one of the live-aboards.  Everybody knows her, and everybody looks out for her.  As a result, I’m able to give her more freedom.

4.  Weird things sometimes happen.  This morning, our dock was blocked by two photographers and two models, shooting photos for something.  Two of my neighbors, one of them in his bathrobe and the other in her pajamas, waited awkwardly by my slip, wondering how to get past them, to the restroom.  Wearing the dress I’d worn the day before, with my hair disheveled, I led the way past them, commenting that I’ve never had anyone have a photo shoot in my front yard.

5.  Having a shared bathroom is worth the inconvenience.  During the week, 5 ladies share the restroom on the East Pier.  Somehow, we all shower at different times.  It gets cleaned once a day.  And I don’t have to do it.  That’s right.  I now have to clean zero toilets.

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6.  Living in a smaller space is not much of an adjustment.  Breaking Tradition is 6 feet longer than Moonraker, so instead of living in 100 square feet, we’re probably just under 200.  And that hasn’t changed our life much at all.  If we’re inside, we’re probably reading, using the Internet, or playing video games.  Otherwise, we’re not inside.

7.  I spend a lot less time online.  And I’m more intentional with the time I do spend online.  I’ve unfollowed a lot of people on Facebook, and just check in with them periodically.  And I hide all forwarded posts.  If doing something online doesn’t enrich my life, I don’t do it.  Instead, I’ve done a lot more reading and writing, and I’ve spent a lot more time with my family.

8.  I’ve simplified our meals.  I also spend less time cooking.  Our kitchen is tiny, and getting our any large appliances is a pain.  So we eat a lot of wraps and salad.  If I do cook, it’s something that requires very little clean-up, such as  quesadillas or pasta.

9.  I’ve overindulged my addiction to take-out.  Since we’re currently not paying any rent, and we pay almost nothing for electricity, I have money to spend at restaurants.  We’ve theorized that there are enough restaurants in Clear Lake Shores for all 1000 residents to eat out at once, with nobody waiting for a table!  At least once a week, I pick up take-out and enjoy a lovely dinner on the boat, without having to cook at all.  So far, we haven’t gotten food from the same restaurant twice.

10.  I have the best morning routine ever.  I shower at night, then wake up at 5:30.  I get dressed, enjoy 15 minutes of coffee and conversation with Rob, then drive over to the island.  From 6:00 to 6:30, I treat myself to a walk around the perimeter, along with all of the islanders.  Not since I moved out of my childhood home (in a very safe, 1950’s style neighborhood, complete with a milk man!), have I lived in a place where I would feel safe talking a mile+ walk before sunrise.  But here, everyone is out and friendly, and all dogs are trained and on leashes.  My walk is the perfect way to start my day!

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I have to say that we have enjoyed our new life, and we love all of the surprises.  I’m sure, as we approach our 92th day living here, we will only discover more!