Category Archives: Just Blogging

Magical Thinking

Here was today.

It snowed and sleeted in Indy, but not so much that I missed my routine weekly doctor’s appointment. While listening to the baby’s heartbeat, my doctor got that sort of unreadable concerned/thinking look doctors get. He said the baby’s heartbeat was very rapid, but he’d check again in a few minutes. A few minutes later, same look. So I had to be hooked up to the fetal monitor for half an hour to see if maybe her heartbeat would naturally come down. Which it didn’t.

So I got sent to the adjoining hospital, registered, braceleted, and set up in a “family room” where the baby’s heartbeat would be monitored for the next two hours. I was fortunate enough to have in my work bag a half-knitted sock I keep for flight delays, as well as my Blackberry and some articles to read. So I cancelled my meetings for the morning and early afternoon, called my boss to say I would either be very late today or possibly having a baby, and hunkered down.

This is when I learned that my baby apparently practices Tae Bo early-ish in the morning, and proceeds to spend the next several hours drinking herbal tea and catching up on her Jane Austen. Because as soon as I was hooked up in the hospital, her heartbeat settled way down, sluggishly down, and stayed that way for the entire two hours. Let’s hope she follows this same pattern when she’s out and about.

So while the morning wasn’t what I expected, it had a couple highlights. Such as that she’s just fine. That I wouldn’t be delivering her that day.

And that while I was relaxing and checking my Blackberry, I received an e-mail from my friend Carla asking if I was going to Michael Pollan’s free lecture this Monday. Michael Pollan. Free. Surely you heard my girlish peals of delight. I feel like somehow I willed him to come to the midwest by writing about him this week.

Which leaves me in a panic about what to wear, as these days there’s really only one honest answer to the question, “Do I look fat in this outfit?”

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The Birth of the Amateur Tightwad

Call me a tightwad dabbler.

Back in my 20s when I was single, childless, and saving for a first home, I subscribed to The Tightwad Gazette for a few years, tried tactics like making my own granola (which I found to be a *lot* of granola for one person to eat), and honed my DIY skills. There were still splurges, mind you, but I happily drove my Geo Prizm for eight years, balanced my checkbook weekly, and rejected what I considered needless expenses like cable TV.

A couple years later I married, and with the infusion of a second income into our Midwest household, we relaxed the rules a bit. We got cra-zay and started subscribing to cable, went for frequent martini nights with friends (this was the 90s, after all), and felt comfortable buying all the new music and books we could handle.

 About six months after the wedding, my husband Phil and I moved to New York City.  We lived in a great brownstone in Park Slope, a fun and gentrified area of Brooklyn, and our financial status can only be described as hemorraging money; I’m fairly certain some kind of fiscal hoodoo literally hooked a siphon to our accounts. Despite the blood-letting, when I discovered I was pregnant and we decided to move back to the Midwest, we had saved enough money to buy a house in a comfortable neighborhood. We set about raising our little boy, Max in comfort, albeit with fewer $100 Tuesday nights out with friends.

A few years after that, we had a second baby — our boy Tommy — and were ready to close the door on family-building and start focusing our energies elsewhere. Maybe we’d actually get around to the home projects we’d let go, we dreamed. With Max about to start kindergarten, meaning we only had one child in daycare, just *think* of all how much money we’d have, we said. We started planning in earnest for the next stage in our lives.

This all took a U-turn several months ago with an unexpected extra pink line on a white stick. After the shock and panic settled into the excitement of watching our family grow (as well as scheduling an appointment for minor surgery to ensure that this would truly be the end of the growth), I took inventory of what our next several years would look like. I’d given away all of my maternity and baby gear, so much would need to be replaced. Neither of our paid-for cars would accommodate two car seats and a booster seat, so we were looking at a new vehicle. We were back to having two kids full-time in daycare, never mind the summers when three would need full-day accommodations. Our house was perfect, if a little tight, for four; would we need to look at upgrading — and upgrading in the worst real-estate market since the 1980s? Suddenly, I was lightheaded and woozy from more than the pregnancy.

To steel myself, I dusted off those back issues of The Tightwad Gazette for inspiration. I find, though, that as a dabbler, I have some ideas, but not nearly as many answers as I’d like. I’m still a bit lightheaded and woozy.

That’s where I’m hoping The Amateur Tightwad can come in. I want this to be a forum where I can share ideas and thoughts and discoveries that have made our financial road easier — or didn’t work so well and will never be repeated — and also get ideas from readers about what they’ve discovered. This isn’t about finger-wagging or judging others’ thresholds; it’s about sharing what has worked and hoping others can glean some great information in the sharing.

I hope you’ll stop by often and pick up some ideas, and also share your thoughts about what you’re finding.

Welcome to The Amateur Tightwad!