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.

Welcome to Goatville

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I went to bed at midnight on Friday night.  And woke up at 3.

Unfortunately, we also had to awaken an angry Bean at this time, and we left a little late on our trip downtown to the airport to catch our 6:00 flight.  George Bush Airport is rather large, and we were dropped off in a parking lot, where we rode a shuttle bus to our terminal.

The bus ride took a little longer than anticipated, and I was starting to feel nervous when we checked our baggage—I panicked when I couldn’t figure out the kiosk, and had to have an employee help me out!  We headed over to the line for TSA, which was also longer than we had expected, because only one line was open.

We took off our shoes, walked through the metal detector, then ran to our terminal, which of course was the furthest one from the door.  Beanie enjoyed the experience of running on a moving sidewalk, and we were panting by the time we arrived at the gate, just in time for last call.

Out of our window, we watched the lights, skyscrapers, and overpasses of Houston fade into the distance, then landed 5 hours later in the middle of a farm field.  Beanie laughed as we drove to her grandma and grandpa’s house, and exclaimed, “It’s Goatville!”  

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Sure enough, the once-familiar farmland and small towns now seemed completely foreign to us.  We laughed, because “Goatville” did seem to be a fitting name. 

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Being back up north is strange.  It hasn’t taken us long to get unused to the place where we have lived most of our lives, to this point.  There were some moments of nostalgia, when I saw robins milling about, everywhere (and even followed one around, photographing him!), and when we took an evening walk amidst the subtle chirping of crickets (we’ve gotten used to the louder “song” of cicadas).

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robin

Mornings are different here.  The air is light and crisp…and cold!  Beanie and I both refused to emerge from beneath of warm covers, for quite awhile that first morning.  I don’t know how I was ever able to take my morning walks everyday, that last summer.

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It takes longer to drive places, because everything is far away.  And I miss the flowers and green parakeets that are so commonplace in Houston.

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monkeyfriend

But the quiet, the open space, and the sky dancing with stars are a very nice break, from city life.

A Tribute to the SL

If you remember from the first story in this post, I got in a car accident when I was pregnant with the Bean.  To get me to work, after that gorgeous red convertible bit the dust, Rob’s parents drove their white Jeep Grand Cherokee to our house, and saved the day.  Later, wanting to do some decluttering of their own, they showed up with the title.

The Jeep, which was fancier than anything we’d ever owned, got me to the hospital when I was in labor, and served us well, carting around Baby Beanie.  Then, when she was 6 months old, Beanie got very sick, with RSV.  We were heading to the doctor’s office, when the Jeep suddenly would not move forward.  The transmission had died.

Don’t worry–Beanie saw the doctor and was fine, with a little help from her Bubbles the Fish nebulizer.  But we were, once again, without a car.  And–once again–the in-laws came by to save the day.  This time they lent us father-in-law’s beloved Saturn SL.  He special ordered it, to have absolutely no extra features.  It had crank windows, manual locks, a manual transmission–the works!  He kept it meticulously clean, with a little bud vase on the dashboard. 

Even after we bought it from them, we were terrified of using it as a family car.

But we had a baby with reflux, so it quickly got filled with spit-up.  Beanie’s most notable puke in it occurred on the way to look at Moonraker for the first time.  We hauled veggie oil in the trunk, and one day it spilled, soaking up through the back seat.

In short, the car quickly became ours.

I commute through the woods, past farm fields–basically through a deer hunter’s paradise.  I hit my first deer driving past the community college campus.  It bounced off my hood, landed on the side of the road, and later woke up and survived.  We bought a new hood, Rob painted it, and soon the car was back in good shape, except for a tear in the bra.

The second deer, that year, ran smack into the front fender, then continued on its way across the road, into the farm field.  There was now a sizable hole in the plastic fender and a dent in the new hood. 

We gave up on fixing the damage.  Rob grabbed a Sharpie marker and wrote “Zombie attack!” next to the hole.  My students loved it!

Rob was at the helm, that same year, when we hit the third deer, as we were driving along US 10.  This one bounced off the hood, just like the first, and, sadly, did not live to tell the tale.  We called the police, let them know, and continued on our way, since we don’t carry comprehensive insurance.

At home, we opened the hood, and Rob had to jump on it to get it to close again.

The car was in sad shape, but it did still have a working gas door.  The next year, a fourth deer changed that.  Now, I have to pry the fuel door open, whenever I fill up.

We’ve kept the car, although we own many others.  We have Rob’s Saab 900 convertible, which we loved, before Beanie was born.  It is not carseat compatible at all–even a booster is a pain to use in it!  The top is broken, the car is now rusty, and it’s been mothballed for awhile. 

After Beanie was born, we decided we wanted a Volvo.  We found a hip, fun 240 DL sedan, which has served us well.  But we picked up the station wagon, when the 240 started getting too rusty.  We thought we would combine the two, but the station wagon can not take the 240’s engine.  So we bought a junk yard engine, and now we have a 240 to get rid of.

The 240 and the Saab will sell, so that really isn’t a problem.  But, with our LeSharo motor home, we really don’t need the SL.  But who would buy such a beat-up car?  And it ran reliably, getting 40 to the gallon.  So we kept it, hoping to run it into the ground.

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Which, thankfully, happened last week.

I got the somewhat happy call from Rob while I was at work.  He had been driving Beanie to therapy, when the SL’s transmission quit.  They were stranded in front of a Ponderosa, so they enjoyed a good breakfast.  Then, they were able to keep the car in third gear and make it home.  With one gear working, we will be able to drive it straight to the junk yard.

It’s always good when fortune smiles upon us, isn’t it?

Camping on the Cheap

We love to travel! There is so much waiting to be seen, to be discovered. We’ve learned rather quickly, though, that it is possible to go broke while traveling. And nothing ruins a vacation like worrying about finances.

Rob and I were camping before we were sailing, and we’ve found many ways to have a fun little outdoor adventure without breaking the bank.

First, our camping rig, courtesy of Craig’s List…

I can’t say enough great things about our Volvo. For $1000, we have a car that is comfortable, cheap to insure and register, gets decent gas mileage, and can easily pull a trailer. It also has a very, very large trunk. We bought the pop-up camper for $150, for our spring break trip to Florida. We stayed in KOA’s on the way down, so the camper immediately paid for itself, since we were not paying for hotel rooms. We do own a motor home now, but in the summer we prefer the open-air feel of the pop-up.

So, now it’s time to find a campsite!

I have always wanted to try this website. Our state has lots of free campsites, that are NOT Walmart parking lots. In fact, I have dreamed of doing a totally free camping trip. We would drive a veggie oil car, stay in free campsites, and find a way to obtain free food as well. Fun stuff!

But, for now, I’ll settle for campsites that are less than $20 a night. Driving south, many state parks are very inexpensive. If we went to Florida again, we would probably stay at these places. In Michigan, state parks are a bit pricey, if you go for the full hook-ups. However, semi-modern and rustic sites are downright affordable–some are only $10 a night! State Forest campgrounds are another option. We have stayed at many of these and enjoyed them.

When Rob and I spent a week in the Upper Peninsula, we discovered National Forest campgrounds. This website is put together by a couple who has visited and reviewed many of the campgrounds. We found it very helpful!

Two of our all-time favorite campgrounds are Alcona Park and Mill Creek. They offer two very different experiences! Alcona is your classic, back-to-nature experience. It’s $12 for a primitive site, or $14 if you want to be on the water. They have coin showers and a laundry room. Mill Creek is a place we take the Bean as a treat, because it keeps her very busy! I’ll be writing more about that place, because we’re leaving to go there today. They just added a new “Super Saver” section, with rustic sites for $13 and sites with electric for $15.

Happy adventuring!

MOONRAKER UPDATE: Well, it hasn’t sunk yet. It’s not been easy, being at home, after spending so much time preparing for the trip this summer. We’ll be closer to Alpena in Mackinaw anyway, so I hope getting out of the house will help.