Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I always wait until pretty much the last possible minute to get gas. I figure that when my gas light goes on, I still have at least 35 miles left in my tank. In fifteen years of driving, I have never run out of gas. That is, until last week.

The kids and I were going out to lunch, and my gas light came on right before we got to the restaurant. After we ate, I had to run Emma to summer camp, which was probably a good twenty miles away from the restaurant. Once I had dropped her off, I drove past a couple gas stations in Kansas in order to get to a gas station in Missouri, where gas is cheaper. Just as I was pulling into QuikTrip, my car died. I felt pretty silly, sitting there completely blocking traffic into the parking lot. Luckily, several strong and helpful bystanders helped push my car up to one of the pumps. Embarrassing, but certainly not the hassle it could have been, had I been any farther away. I was sort of surprised that I had run out of gas, but I just chalked it up to waiting too long and resolved to get gas in a more timely manner from there on out.

Fast forward to today. This morning when I was running errands, I noticed that my gas was getting pretty low. We were all getting hungry for lunch so I headed home, but resolved to get gas later that afternoon on my way to pick Emma up from camp, in order to avoid another embarrassing experience running out of gas. I was totally patting myself on the back for planning to get gas before my gas light was even on. When we went to get Emma, in addition to getting gas, I had to run by my brother's house (which is about a mile past the gas station) and drop off a vase of roses as a congratulatory surprise for my sister-in-law, who is taking the bar exam this week. The gas gauge was low but not too low and the light was still not even on and I had plenty of time, so I decided to pass the gas station and drop off the flowers first. As I was sitting at the stoplight next to the same QuikTrip where I previously ran out of gas, in my attempt to drive past it and on to my brother's house, my car died. Wonderful. The light turned green and I was just sitting there, completely blocking the lane and feeling helpless and ridiculous. Could I possibly have run out of gas again? Luckily, I was on a slight hill, so I shifted into neutral and sort of coasted off to the side and partway into an empty parking lot that is across the street from the gas station. Being slightly distracted, I momentarily took my hand off the vase, causing it to immediately fall and empty itself all over the floor of my car. Lovely.

I was hoping that I was really just out of gas instead of something worse being wrong, but it seemed weird because, like I said, my gauge showed that I still had plenty of gas to be driving around. There was only one way to find out so I unbuckled Noah and Allie and carried them across the busy street to QT. I bought a small (and ridiculously expensive) one gallon gas can then went outside to fill it up. I was nervous that Allie and Noah would be trying to run around the bustling parking lot while I was filling up the can, and in my haste to get it done and make sure they were safe at the same time, I managed to spray huge amounts of gas all over myself and them. Nice. Because of that, and because I was trying to hold on to the kids at the same time, I ended up not filling the can all the way, because how much gas do I really need to drive across the street anyway?

Thinking that the ordeal was almost over, I carried Allie and the gas can and held Noah's hand while we again crossed the busy street with no crosswalk in the sweltering heat, and hoping that no one I knew was driving by. I buckled the kids back into their seats, poured the small amount of gas into the tank, and was ready to go. The car started, drove about two feet, and died again! GAH! Apparently driving across the street uses more gas than I thought. I think because I was parked on a hill that my gas tank was tilted in such a way that that gas I put in did me absolutely no good. So. Unbuckled kids, schlepped back across busy hot street again, put more gas in stupid small gas can without dousing anyone in the process this time, and trudged back across the same darn intersection again. I know I was hot and sweaty from the heat, but I think humiliation played a big part as well.

Finally it worked and I was able to drive across the street to fill up. Hooray! After all this, I have come to a pretty obvious conclusion: my gas gauge is broken.

I am glad that I left early enough that I was still not late to pick up Emma, even after all the gas shenanigans. I am also happy that it happened right across the street from the gas station instead of somewhere farther away, which would have been much more unfortunate, especially considering that Steve was in Tulsa at the time, and therefore pretty useless in such situations. The kiddos were in good spirits, despite the fact that they were also hot and sweaty, so overall I guess I should be thankful that the whole experience wasn't much worse than it actually was!
P.S. I think I have a number of run-on sentences in this post, so well done if you read it all and understood what I was trying to say.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sometime in May, I decided we should institute a No-Buy June. Other than our mortgage, we don't have any debt to worry about, but I figured there is nothing wrong with trying to be a little more mindful of our spending - eating out, in particular. We eat out a ridiculous amount. We've attempted to cut back in that area a few times in the past, but we never really stuck with it for any amount of time. So, I figured the best way to really make a change was to go cold turkey: absolutely no purchases other than groceries, gas, and bills for an entire month. (This was mostly for me and the kids because Steve wasn't willing to stop going out for lunch every day. I suppose he was still sacrificing by not going out in the evenings or on weekends, but since he was still eating out five times a week, he wasn't experiencing nearly the same level of deprivation as I was!)

To go with the money-saving theme of the month, I decided to read The Total Money Makeover. I had never read any of Dave Ramsey's books before, but I know a lot of people like him so I thought I'd give it a shot. I actually found it really interesting, and I sort of had this epiphany that I should start trying to live a more frugal life. For continuing encouragement, I added some interesting personal finance blogs to my Google Reader and soon was on my way to living a more thrifty lifestyle. Woo hoo!

A lucky bonus is that being thrifty often goes hand in hand with being more eco-friendly, and I am certainly all for that. I'm continuing to try to make small changes that will save a little money and help us be more green as well, and there are several about which I am particularly excited.

All the pants Steve wears to work need to be dry cleaned, so we get at least one big plastic dry cleaning bag every week. I have always wished there was some way to avoid using/wasting those bags, but couldn't come up with anything, so into the trash they went. BUT, I recently read a suggestion somewhere on a blog to use them as trash bags. Genius! I tie a hole in the top of the bag, flip it upside down, and voila! It doesn't hold as much trash as a regular bag, but otherwise works great. I snapped this picture of my first dry-cleaning-bag-as-trash-bag experiment.
(As a side note, this picture reminds me of something else. We don't have curbside recycling here - despite my calling the city and the trash pickup providers numerous times to harass them about it - and it bugs me. I bring our paper and glass to other places to be recycled, but does anyone know where I can take cans and plastic? Am I just out of luck with those?)

Another thing I have started to do a little differently is the way I'm setting the thermostat. We've always kept it on 73 because that's where we thought it needed to be for us to be comfortable. I started to bump it up, one degree at a time. Turns out, we are just as comfortable at 75! Seventy-six is pushing it, but I am happy that we made a change of two degrees. Also, I started closing the blinds and setting the temperature even a few degrees higher if we are going to be gone a long time. Now it seems wasteful to me that I wasn't doing those things all along!

This post is getting long, so I'm just going to mention one more thing. Several weeks ago we were pretty much at the end of a tube of toothpaste. Emma couldn't get any more out on her own and since it was basically gone, I was about to toss it in the trash. Before I could, my new little thrifty alarm went off in my head, and I got out a new tube for every one else, but set the almost empty one aside for myself. Every time I brushed my teeth, I squished and squeezed that tube until I got some toothpaste out. After awhile, I had to set my toothbrush down and maneuver the tube with both hands to get every single last bit of toothpaste out. It kind of became a silly little game - how long could I possibly keep using that toothpaste? And guess what? I used it for over two weeks before I was finally satisfied that every bit of toothpaste was out. Yay!

I was going to talk about my experience trying out coupons too, but this post is already too long so I'll save that for another day. I'm sure you are on the edge of your seats!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I've sort of been missing this little old blog lately. There are a lot of things that we do that I'd like to share, and intend to, but then a week goes by and another week passes and I never get around to posting it. Before I know it, it's three weeks later and whatever it was doesn't seem nearly as interesting anymore.

I've also realized that when I'm not posting regularly on this blog, I don't take nearly as many pictures. Because I want to have a lot of pictures to remember these years when my kids are little, and also because I want (and need) to practice taking pictures anyway, I'm going to attempt to reinstate the blog in an effort to motivate myself do these things.
Last night Steve and I had a date night (!) and to get the ball rolling, I used my phone to snap a few pictures during the evening. We went to The Drop for drinks and amazing bruschetta, and then onto Pierponts for dinner. Seriously delicious.
We both had our phones with us, of course, and while we weren't talking on them or browsing the internet independent of each other, it is amusing to me how often we pulled them out to look on the internet to answer some random question. It sort of seems like speculation, at least about past events, is obsolete. For any question that arose in our conversation, we knew the answer in seconds. No need to wonder how many kids the average family had in 1950 (3.37) or how old Jonathan Lipnicki is now (19) or which movie won best picture in 1997 (Titanic)... Pretty crazy, I think.