Friday, August 17, 2012

Seven Quick Takes: Budgets, chores, and children's books

--- 1 ---

For the past week and a half, I have been Doing The Budget. Scott will fetch me receipts and bill stubs and pay stubs and things, but I don't let him help enter the numbers, because he is crazy.

Exhibit A (which is actually my only exhibit): Let us say that we have an electric bill. The electric bill deals mainly with electricity which was used in the month of July. We receive the bill on perhaps the second or third of August and pay it a day or two later. (It is due on August 16, but it is easier to pay all the bills at the beginning of the month rather than paying the rent on the fourth and the student loans on the fourteenth and the electric bill on the fifteenth and the phone bill on the nineteenth.)

Scott, because he is crazy, thinks that the amount of this bill should be entered into the "Gas/electric" line for July's budget. (Our electric bill is actually a combined gas/electric bill, but it would have been cumbersome to call it that in the previous paragraph.)

I maintain, as any sane person would, that it should be entered on the appropriate line in August's budget, since the money actually leaves our account in August.

(Similarly, if Scott receives a paycheck on August 1 it is entered into August's budget, not July's, even though he did the work that earned that money in July.)

Even if you don't side with the sane on this, you can certainly see why it is better to have only one person entering the numbers. Otherwise there would be all sorts of horrible inconsistencies.

--- 2 ---

For the first eight months of my marriage, my approach to cleaning was to think, "I should clean something," clean the most offensive mess, and then get overwhelmed by the five million other messes. This worked okay, but certain chores never got done, like vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom. (Well, the bathroom would get cleaned once a month or so when I ordered Scott to do it.) 

So about a month ago I divided the apartment into four zones. Monday is "bedroom," Tuesday is "bathroom," Friday is "kitchen," and Saturday is "living room." I have to spend at least 20 minutes cleaning every day; within those 20 minutes I can pick whatever zone-related task I please. (20 minutes is my magic number; even if I'm bored out of my skull I can focus for 20 minutes.)

(Wednesday is "making the grocery list," Thursday is "grocery shopping," Sunday is, obviously, "resting.")

(Doing the dishes does not count as "kitchen." For it to count, I'd have to clean out the microwave or toaster oven, mop the floor, reorganize the fridge/pantry for easier food access, that sort of thing.)

Sadly, so far this means that my bedroom is kind of clean and the rest of the apartment is in disarray. Particularly the dining room table, since I haven't decided yet whether the dining room counts as part of the kitchen or part of the living room. I did make a valiant effort to clean the bathroom at one point. The tub is still grungy because I seem to be fundamentally incapable of cleaning a bathtub. I have managed the toilet and sink, though. And I vacuumed the floor and the rug at least once. I haven't mopped the floor yet. The other zones have been spot-cleaned according to the old method because I've been busy on the weekends and thus never actually get to them in the rotation.

(I am thinking of doing a rolling rotation wherein if I clean the bedroom on Monday and the bathroom on Tuesday and then don't do anything else, the next week I clean the kitchen on Monday and the living room on Tuesday. But I am worried that would be too hard to keep track of and I'd fall back into the old method.)

This isn't really crowdsourcing; I'm just talking this out so I feel semi-accountable for discovering workarounds to my laziness.

--- 3 ---

Am I the only one who only realizes she's sick in hindsight? I mentioned last week that I was feeling under the weather, but secretly I thought I was just being whiny. Now, though, I feel SO much better it's obvious that I was actually sick.

(This phenomenon is about 1/3 of the reason I never go to the doctor. The other 1/3 is stubborness/stupidity and the other other 1/3 is paralyzing terror of condescending attitudes and needles, both of which I associate--fairly or not--with doctor's offices.)

--- 4 ---

This post by Simcha Fisher reminded me of my own very favorite children's book, Charlie the Caterpillar.

Quick summary, composed by myself: Charlie is a caterpillar. None of the other anthropomorphic animals want to play with him because they think caterpillars are ugly. Charlie is, of course, very sad. Later, he turns into a butterfly, and suddenly everyone wants to play with him because he is SOO BEAUTIFUL! Charlie says, essentially, "Why would I want to play with you losers?" and flutters away. (At some point he also befriends a little girl caterpillar who got picked on by the anthropomorphic animals too.)

I LOVE this book, possibly because it is one of the few children's books that doesn't end with everyone joining hands and singing Kumbaya. I am not sure if that makes me a bad person or not. (I loved this book when I was about 7 years old too, by the way, though I doubt I could have articulated why.)

Relatedly, this is the best version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer EVER. Make sure to listen all the way to the end.

--- 5 ---

After Doing the Budget (yes, these Quick Takes were written over the course of several days), Scott and I decided we should try to cut back our spending a little if at all possible. Right now I am working on two main areas:

A) The Grocery > Other category. This is for all non-food items purchased at grocery stores--usually things like Ziploc bags or toothpaste, but I've put other things in this category too. (Sometimes thank-you notes and such are in this category and sometimes they're in the Miscellaneous > Other category. Consistency is for tiny minds, not creative geniuses such as myself.)

Anyway, I arbitrarily decided pre-marriage that the Grocery > Other limit would be $50. I have never actually been under this limit. In June I spent about $92. (I got a really big package of AA batteries! And other stuff!) So this month that's going to change. I will probably start including a tally at the end of my grocery posts, though I doubt I'll post pictures because who wants to see other people's toilet paper?

B) The Gas/Electric subcategory. (I forget what its parent category is called. Something clever like "Bills.") Our spending in this subcategory has almost doubled since May. This is unacceptable, so I have been setting the thermostat a whole 2 degrees higher than usual. (And then I complain a lot, because I am not very virtuous yet.) I've also been turning off lights when I'm not using them and hibernating my computer at night instead of leaving it running. (This is safer for the computer anyway, if there are thunderstorms.)

(Just now, I turned off the air conditioning entirely and opened the patio door because somehow it is 13 degrees cooler outside than it is in my apartment. And now my apartment smells like the woods after rain. Win all around.)

--- 6 ---

I have been having a hard time with the whole food measuring concept this week. First, I decided to bake a cake on Saturday. Because I'm a grown-up and can bake cake whenever I feel like it. The Devil's Food Cake recipe in my cookbook was for two 9-inch round cakes, and I wanted a 13x9 rectangle cake. So I doubled the recipe.


My 11x7 pan was occupied by leftover cornbread, so this is what I ended up doing:

Take note of the fact that the cake is *THISCLOSE* to overflowing from the smaller pan. Here's another picture just in case that one isn't clear.

I somehow still managed to put frosting on top without making a huge mess. The little cake is gone now. (It lasted a surprisingly long time, considering that my mom had a piece, my older sister had a piece, I had a piece every day, and Scott had a piece every day he remembered. He actually likes it, even though his first comment on the frosted cakes was "Those look WAY too chocolatey." Silly boy.) I am going to break into the larger cake as soon as I do some dishes.

Then on Tuesday or so I decided to make sausage egg muffins. I normally make 2 dozen muffins with 1 pound of sausage. I had a pound of sausage, but only one clean muffin tin and I didn't feel like washing the other one. So I figured I could freeze half the sausage.

And then I forgot and just distributed it all among the 12 little muffin cups.

I'm not going to lie, egg muffins with double the sausage are pretty delicious. But I have a feeling routinely doubling it would damage that whole "cutting down on expenses" thing I'm trying to do.

--- 7 ---

Before he left for work this morning, Scott said, "Remind me to clean the bathroom when I get home."

Me: "You don't have to tell me twice!"

Scott: [laughs]

He is the best husband ever, am I right? Even if he does turn up his nose at my attempts at cleaning the bathtub.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


GeekLady said...

1. One 9x13 rectangular pan is roughly equivalent to two 9" round pans. If you're ever wondering about pan sizes, Joy of Baking has a great pan size chart. Just remember that the pan size listed is the total volume and you can only put half that much cake batter in the pan.
Alternatively, you can use the volume of a cylinder formula to determine the volume of your pan. V=(d/2)^2*h

2. It sounds like you're conflating budget and household accounts. A budget is just a divying of money over a period of time. You might budget $50 for car reparis every month, and if you spend $300 in January on car reparis, your budget balances, even though all the money was spent early in the year. Household accounts is the balancing of the actual inflow and outflow of money/linens/booze/jam/whatever. Budget making usually only needs doing once a year, or less, but household accounts are balanced at least once a week.

The Sojourner said...

1. I actually found that page when I was thinking, "Huh, this looks like WAY too much cake batter for the pan I have." It saved me from just dumping it all in the 13x9 anyway. :)

2. Yeah, well, you obviously knew what I meant. And I know what I meant, which is the really important part.