Happy Memorial Day! To all of the veterans

Happy Memorial Day! To all of the veterans , service members, and families of the same, thank you.

We spent the day in typical fashion by driving upstate in our Subaru Forester (just paid off, boo-ya! One financial misstep cleared) with the family, the dog, and Mr. Frugalacupunc’s brother. As city dwellers, we crave outdoor space, especially outdoor space that doesn’t cram us up close to other families and their music and noise and litter and other assorted bullshit, so we made the drive up to Clarence Fahenstock State Park in Putnam County to grill, hike and relax. This was easy because we almost always have a “go-grill-pack” including a hibachi, charcoal, lighter fluid, and barbecue utensils stashed in the back of the car.

So, two things about that, as pertain to our new goals of frugal living:

1) Why the hell do we own a car in New York City? Well, a few reasons. For one, at the time we were feeling flush, had 2 dogs and a tween, and gas prices were a lot lower than they are now. That made sense in terms of travel for vacations or visiting family – what’s cheaper, maintaining a vehicle and driving 300 miles a few times a year, or paying boarding fees for two dogs and buying 3 sets of round-trip air fare a few times a year? I’m not actually sure if this math works out, but it’s what we thought at the time. Given that we still commuted via mass transit and used the car exclusively for this sort of thing, it would have made more sense to use Zipcar (if you’re not familiar, it’s a by-the-hour rental service to which you subscribe for a monthly fee in exchange for the use of a car for a few hours whenever you might need it), but I think the massive quantities of cheaper groceries we’ve been able to buy and transport with our little Forester have chipped in to the overall value of owning a vehicle in a city with the best utilized public transit service in the U.S. In any case, it’s ours now, and if we’re headed upstate we’re going to need it (and probably another).

2) We narrowly averted crisis when I sent Mr. Frugalacupunc to shop without a list. See, where I prefer and feel most secure with some tight controls and like having a number in mind when I head to the store (otherwise, I’d probably get lost in Fairway and come floating home on a raft of out-of-control groceries) my better half gets focused on a “go big or go home” mindset and thinks a lot about everybody having plentiful food and good times when we stage any sort of event, even something like driving up to a park to grill some burgers. Therefore, between the regular groceries and the cookout groceries, he came home with almost $200 worth of foodstuff.

This was an issue. For one thing, I’m trying to hold us down to $600 a month or less in groceries (that sounds high – that IS high – and I’m working on paring it down a lot further. However, when you account for general NYC inflation, the fact that we cook the vast majority of our meals from scratch using whole foods with maybe two or three takeout or restaurant meals a month, and the fact that one of the mouths we feed belongs to a 16-year-old black hole, I’m alright with how we’re doing for now). Also, he just bought too much, so there are now hot dogs and hamburgers for daaaayyys.

Whereas this might have caused a fight in the past, this time it was an opportunity to get on the same page regarding our future goals and what we need to do to get there. Mostly, I sit down and try to figure out the budget and the bills, and he listens an absorbs but has a real block when it comes to prioritizing our finances. But today, I think it got through that paying attention to what we spend now is a way of being kind to ourselves and providing for our future.

To that end, I’ve got to figure out how to incorporate random picnic salads into our meals all week… the hamburgers and hot dogs will freeze for the next cookout, we had an awesome time, and we took one of the first steps of many toward a sweet place upstate. Excellent start!