Frugal Idea #11

Got Pot? A Crock Pot that is. 

It is quite amazing what sun can do for someone. Daylight Savings/Spring Forward has arrived. As I scrolled thru my Facebook News Feed, I couldn’t help but notice the comments and #hashtags on sun & light. A miracle has happened!

“The sun is still out on my way home from work! #Blessed

“I am taking advantage of the sun #SunglassesOn

“The sun feels so good on my skin #FlipFlopsAndTanks

It went on and on. For those with a long commute (raises hand) and only hope that you get home before 6pm (again, raises hand) to see the sun, a Crock Pot is a must have. Living in Uptown Tenderloin, I am surrounded by scrumptious & affordable cheap eats. To my right, we have Little Saigon, where I can have Pho or even better, Bun Rieu. Or how about Lee’s Bun Mees. To my left, I can get a piping hot Indian plate of Saag Paneer & Lamb Curry from Lahore Karahi; and just at the bottom of my stairwell, I am forever tempted by Lil’ May’s Gumbo, Lobster Mac & Cheese, & Ribs served at her infamous and award winning Hyde Away BBQ. I remember when I fist moved here, I was dropping money literally at every corner (for food). Not very FrugalNev is you ask me.

To understand where your money is dispersed, you must pay attention to your spending habits. I was typically exhausted from work and the last thing I wanted to do was pull out a pot & pan to cook. Take out dinners became the norm. I had to change my habits. I became obsessed with the idea of the Crock Pot. I watched YouTube videos, searched recipes, inquired ideas from co-workers, and after I jotted down a few ideas, I purchased my Crock Pot at Target for $29.99. Believe it or not, that was 50% of what I spent in one take out dinner! I guess you can say my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

To master the Crock Pot, I needed to be realistic of what I would eat as leftovers and what veggies I would really want to eat stewed vs. steamed (my preference). Explore and practice. Find out what works for you. So far, my favorite has been buying a whole chicken on sale (I got one for $5 recently). I seasoned it well and turned on the Crock Pot before bed. In the morning as I brewed my homemade coffee, I pulled the chicken out and placed into tupperware. I now had lunch AND dinner ready. I am a dark meat kind of guy, so the white meat (which can be a bit dry) became soup in the next two days.

Of course, as a self-proclaimed Foodie, I still enjoy trying food outside of my home. However, I am focusing on limiting eating out for time with friends, birthdays, and family time. With all of the money saved, you can be rest assured that your meal at Gary Danko or any other Michelin rated restaurant is something you truly can afford …. and enjoy. While you are at it, go ahead and ask for that dessert menu. Who is with me? (raises hand).

Picture: Crock Pot cooking beef stew, potatoes, and carrotsImage

Frugal Idea #10

Over an amazing Thai dinner in the SOMA district of San Francisco, a group of friends caught up. As we paid our bill, it was time to split up.   We embraced each other and said our goodbyes, stopped to take one group picture, and then we walked in groups to each parked car (safety first!). No one walks alone. I happened to be the only one in this group who currently lives in San Francisco and rode the Muni bus. Kindly, everyone offered me a ride. I had my clipper card ready to be used and the bus was coming in 7 minutes. No need to have anyone go the extra mile.

As I walked with two friends to their car, I was telling them that if I did not have to commute to work, I would sell my car. My car has been paid off, but yet I still have expenses:

  • Monthly parking
  • Gas
  • Insurance, tires, oil changes, maintenance, car washes, etc. etc. etc.

I remember someone telling me that they bought a new car and when I heard what the monthly payments were, I had a feeling this person could not afford the car. I remember having monthly payments of $283. I made every payment on time, but what I realize now, is that I never calculated the TRUE value.

The true value of your expenses should always be calculated. Our monthly rent is not the true rent cost. Keep in mind of your PG&E bill, cable, internet – all of the little things that add up to just LIVE there. I now evaluate my true costs to my purchases.

If I had a car payment of $200 per month, I need to change the fact that I can afford $200 to this true amount:

  • Insurance: $60 at 12 months = $720
  • Gas: $50 at 52 weeks (1 year) = $2600
  • Oil Changes: $50 x 4 (Quarters) = $200
  • Car Washes: $20 x 12 (Once a Month) = $240
  • Registration: $250
  • TOTAL:  $4010
  • $4010 divided by 12 months = $334.16 + $200 = $534.16

The true cost of having your car is about $534.16! So, the question should be can I afford $534.16? And not a response of “I can afford a monthly payment of $200.00.”

This can be used in all aspects of your life. List all things related to the house (furnishing, cleaning, light bulbs, etc).  List all annual events you know you have to spend to realize what you really can afford (anniversaries, birthdays, employee recognitions, baby showers, weddings, etc.). I have also realized that I have shorter legs, so the true value of the pants I buy come with the costs of hemming!

Being true to your spending habits can take you a long way. As I waited for the #47 Muni bus to arrive, a car full of 20-something year olds stopped for the red light. They offered me a beer. With a smile, I declined. The bus came and on the bus ride home, I stared out of the window along Harrison and up Folsom. We routed back onto Van Ness and in 10 minutes I was home. Thankful to have my car in the secured parking structure and that a $2 bus ride can get me back so quickly.