Spending Time On Social Media

Posts making your crazy? Folks on Facebook revealing a bit too much about the values behind their facade? Tweets flittering by as if there can’t be content in a few dozen characters? LinkedIn seeming to be so dull that it isn’t worth watching? Yeah, me, too. But what’s really there and why am I willing to spend time, precious time, the most precious resource on social media? I’m a geek. Arm-waving and considering anecdotes isn’t as satisfying as taking data. Here are a few insights into how Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn fit into my life, if at all.

Here’s how I did it in case: 1) you’re curious, or 2) you want to check out the same thing for yourself, or 3) both.

Of the dozen or more social media sites where I have accounts, I only regularly spend time on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You’re welcome to go have fun on Pinterest, Instagram, and others. Similar data can be gathered there, too. For each of my main three platforms I scrolled through four hours of posts (which takes much less than four hours if I ignore the content). Each post or tweet was informally, unscientifically, and rather quickly categorized as social, meme, advocacy, entrepreneurial, commercial, or news.

Social – “Hey, look at what happened in my life.”

Meme – “Hey, this has nothing to do with me, but it is cute, or pretty, or funny.”

Advocacy – “Someone needs to do something about this!”

Entrepreneurial – “You must know me because we’re friends or connections or following each other; which is why I know you need to know about my business. Buy now!”

Commercial – “Hi, I’m a mega-corp trying to look all friendly-like and you should “Buy Now!”

News – “Here’s the news but without advocacy or agenda from trusted sources – as much as possible in November 2020.”

Every social media platform has some combination of these kinds of posts. Your categories and mix will be different. Mine skews towards data and away from politics, until politics begins crashing into budgets. One of my other blogs is Pretending Not To Panic, news that is “for people who are eager and anxious about the future”, news that is significant, based on facts, data, logic, and ideally apolitical. Apolitical. Ha! Several years ago I fed that site a few posts a day. November 2020, zero; none so far this month. That observation helped prompt this study.

How much of what I’m seeing is truly social, or simply news, or highly opinionated, or really just another ad?

So, I counted. And now my eyes are a bit bleary, but I haven’t done this in about three years, and may not feel the need for a few more years. (Wasting Time on Facebook, October 2017)

Here we go. Data. Charts!

Do you want social? Facebook rules. And yet, when I joined Facebook (twelve?) years ago every post was social 100%. As I recall, we couldn’t even include links. Photos were a new thing. In 2017, that was down to 25%. Now, 20%. That’s much more social than the other two, but it also shows that about 80% of the posts have little or nothing to do with being social. It’s now more common to see things created by others and shared. Original content is fading. People are more caring though. Maybe this is a measure of November 2020, but about 25% of the posts are exhorting people to action. Being a moderate with a wonderfully eclectic collection of friends, this also means I see extremes that may only reach each other by meeting at infinity approached from opposite directions.

Twitter has the news, at least in my feed. About 2/3 of what I see is either news or opinion. News plus advocacy pulls in most of the traffic. There’s a great grey area between supposedly academic discourse of current events and how to interpret those events. One handy feature is seeing the different opinions beside each other. Sure, Twitter now runs ads, but they’re only about 15%; more than Facebook but far less than LinkedIn.

Ah, LinkedIn. The most purposely boring of the sites, even though that’s where work is getting done, or at least announced, or where folks are asking for work or trying to hire people. It’s not a surprise that an environment like that is home to ads. The surprise is that so many non-profits are on the site that there’s more advocacy there than on the other sites – at least in my feed.

A few other observations:

Small businesses are busier on Facebook. Corporations are posting more to LinkedIn.

All three are giving voice to advocacy, which can also mean very free and sometimes commentary that is less self-critical.

Four hours held ~180 posts on Facebook, ~520 tweets, and ~53 LinkedIn posts. I’ll leave it to you to decide how to balance quality and quantity.

For me, this is not academic. It cost me a few hours of time to compile the data, but as I’ve said frequently, time is the most precious resource. Why shouldn’t I analyze the way I spend time to a greater degree than how I spend that less precious resource called money? Personal finance in a hectic world should consider both. In 2020, there doesn’t seem to be enough of either.

If I wasn’t working I know I’d spend less time on social media. A double cost or double benefit, depending on my financial perspective. Social media is how I run my business. Social media is a remarkable tool. I make remarks about it frequently, sometimes accompanied by grumbles of frustration. I’ve taught classes on how to use it for business and advocacy. And those lessons continue to change.

Social media is free, at least financially. It costs me time. My activity, all of our activities on their sites make them money. Someone has to pay for the servers, the service, and the updates (whether we want them or not.) Free, as in no fee, however, is hard to ignore for an entrepreneur.

I’m sure this little analysis will trickle through my brain as I ponder options and alternatives. Facebook is adding so many features that it crashes my browser, hence I am using it less; even though it has the largest audience. Twitter is my preferred site because it is easier to get useful news, and occasionally directly contact corporations’ Help Centers. LinkedIn, boring LinkedIn, will stay in the rotation because, while it offers less, it also offers more credible connections. All of them include enough friends, real people, that each has a community worth visiting.

I don’t expect many others to do this. How OCD, anal-retentive, and bored must someone be to do such a thing? I will, but we all that ain’t normal. Maybe about every three years seems about right.

Now, it’s time for me to finish this post, add some links, engaging graphics, hashtags and keywords, and then share it out to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And it all goes round, and round, and round. See you on the feed.

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Help With Social Security

This week I started signing up for Social Security. The benefits are better and not as great as I expected. The process is easier and harder than I expected. I’m not done yet; and I’m sad and glad to be doing it. The train wreck happened when I was asked about my job. Ha!

As I wrote on my Bio page; Real Estate Broker, Consultant, Writer, Speaker, Teacher, Photographer, Engineer, Entrepreneur, etc.

“So, what company do you work for?” Mine? Many? Do you want the biggest one, the one that’s biggest and most recent? Frustration ensued until she checked an official resource she could’ve used earlier instead of asking me. 

Life in the Gig Economy has been strange enough. I think my record before becoming a real estate broker (required disclosure: Dalton Realty, Inc.) was nine gigs in one day. Social Security expects one job, one answer. The IRS is a little more accommodating because each job can ‘simply’ be another set of duplicate forms. Part of the frustration was caused by her use of pronouns. “OK, use that company.” That? We just mentioned several possibilities, which that is that? After several minutes of a conversational round-about she brought up the IRS database, read my tax returns and said to use ‘that’ company – without ever mentioning Trimbath Creative Enterprises. Suddenly all I had to do was list my one company, not every one where I’ve been an independent contractor. Good.

Aside from that sticky set of nomenclature, the rest seems to be remarkably easy. For much of the information they’ll willing to accept my memory: marriage date instead of Marriage License, divorce date instead of Dissolution Document. The one they seem to care most about is my Birth Certificate (maybe because I wasn’t very aware when one day old), which I serendipitously have because I recently had to clear out my safety deposit box. (My local bank was bought out by a larger bank which said it would keep things local – and recently announced they are closing the branch.)

The system is modern enough to be available online. The system is anachronistic enough to assume people have one job. Like many governmental sites, the web sites are accurate and seemingly comprehensive but skip over details like whether a document has to be delivered in-person, by mail, or by email. Just enough answers are correct in ways that aren’t necessarily useful. No system is perfect, especially systems that have decades of history, hundreds of millions of records, and are probably underfunded. 

I expected barely any benefits. One of the consequences of retiring at 38 and being un-retired at about 50 is missing out on 12 years of income and 12 years of contributions to the system. A few years after being un-retired I signed up for a temporary and early accelerated pension from Boeing, where I spent 18 years as an aerospace engineer. That acceleration doubled my pension, but only until – hmm – next year? After that it halves the original value, a quarter of what I’ve been receiving. 

At the start, it took care of my mortgage. Now, the ARM of my mortgage has risen just as the pension will fade. Until Covid hit, it looked like real estate business would more than make up the difference. Maybe real estate will, but I don’t want to live that risky of a life. So, sign up for Social Security at an early date, know I’ll miss out on larger payments later, but fill a gap that’s too drastic to leave unfilled and unprotected. 

The good news is that the reduced pension and the early Social Security will almost cover my frugal lifestyle. A bit more income, or even a lot more income, or maybe an unexpected windfall (hey, it happens) could reduce major anxieties in my life. Social Security living up to its name. 

I’m glad for the benefits, and sad that I have to take them. And I wonder about others who aren’t as fortunate. And I wonder about younger people living with a government that may be so large that it may not change to reflect the way they live, earn, and age.

As I type this, I’m finishing yet another twelve hour work day. As an artist and a real estate broker and a sometime member of the Gig Economy it is common to work hard and maybe get paid eventually. Great exposure! Good work! Keep it up! But books take a long time to write, and may not sell well. Photos can accumulate Likes and Shares, but usually not sales. Consulting is gratifying, but many clients prefer anonymity because they don’t want to reveal the fact that they asked for help, making word-of-mouth a difficult advertising option. And while real estate is crazy busy, not every offer is accepted and not every deal successfully concludes. Another broker commented about a situation I was in. I helped my clients submit an offer on a very nice house. There were about sixteen offers. The seller and their broker had good news. One of the buyer/broker combinations had good news. That leaves fifteen clients and fifteen brokers moving on to the next listing with greater urgency, all good work gone to nothingness. Twelve hour days, working hard, sometimes seven days a week, is no guarantee of earning a living. 

I am fortunate. It took a bite out of my pride to apply for an early pension, to ask for help keeping my house, to accept substantial support in starting yet another career, and to apply for Social Security. That’s a lot of bites. How many folks don’t have an early career to tap, who weren’t lucky enough to find the right phone number when the Default notice is stuck to the front door, and to not have an amazing support network that provides more than nice words? Too many do not have those things.

Old adages like work hard have a good basis, but nothing is a panacea. Individualism and independence are admirable virtues, but sometimes a bit of “We the People” and community help regain self-sufficiency. My business is improving. My name recognition is reaching far beyond family and friends. I have good reason to hope. But first, I’ll be glad, yet again, for a little help.

First, though, I have to put aside signing up for the benefits because a client just made an offer on a house and was accepted! Good news for us. A few more twelve hour workdays, but with more promise. Sorry news for the other offers. This paperwork before that paperwork, and the work continues.

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My Healthcare Plan For 2021

For folks in Washington State (and probably other places, too) it is that time of year to pick a healthcare plan for 2021. At least that’s true for people using the Washington State health insurance marketplace. The entire process took me less than thirty minutes, as far as the state is concerned. Great. That’s the insurance policy. My real healthcare plan costs less and has been far more valuable for several years.

First, don’t make the mistake I made last year that stretched into early this year. I trusted and misread the various emails and letters I received thinking I didn’t have to do a thing because everything would carry over. For a bit of that fiasco, read Health Insurance Confusion 2019-2020-. My personal remembrance was that my mistakes in dealing with health insurance companies and the health insurance marketplace was unhealthy. It was eventually successful, but the extra costs in money, time, and stress were expensive.

This year, selecting an insurance plan for next year I decided to make a change. Ironically, while real estate prices are rising (I’m a broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. – required disclosure), it is because inventory is falling – at least on Whidbey Island. Each sale can be more profitable, but there are fewer sales. Currently, the number of brokers exceeds the number of listings by about a factor of three. Those listings where sixteen offers are submitted mean a potentially good day for the seller, their broker, and one of those buyers and their broker; and fifteen pairs of buyers and brokers who pull back and wait for the next listing, possibly competing with the same crowd minus one. I’ve had a better year than many, but I’m not taking that for granted. So, I must reduce my monthly expenses. The irony is that, because of a health care crisis, I have to cut back on my health insurance expenses.

There’s good news. Changing my insurance plan only took about that half hour I mentioned above, and that included on conversation via Chat and one call to a real conversation at Washington Healthplan Finder. I think, I think, I’ve now reduced my monthly premium by about $300 or $400 per month. That happened by raising my deductible from $1,150 to $6,000, as well as paying out of pocket for more on the copays and prescriptions.

The comparison between the old and the new plans was easy. Thinking back over the last four years, and further, my total copays and prescriptions through the healthcare provider associated with the health insurance company was – let me run the numbers again – zero. Zero. My experiences with that health care provider and conventional health care have been so traumatic that I no longer use their services. I continue to carry insurance because: 1) accidents happen, and 2) insurance is required.

Yet again, another insurance policy that I’m required to pay for but that is effectively useless. Health, house, and car insurance have been a greater expense that what I’ve spent on healthcare, house maintenance and repair, and maybe truck repairs. (That last one is close because the truck is 20 years old, though the house is 56 years old, and I’m older than both of them.) I can’t cut back much more on house and car insurance, but I can at least cut back on health insurance, and that’s only because subsidies will pay the rest. Without subsidies, I wouldn’t have any health insurance.

Over $1,000 per month for insurance is ridiculous. Imagine instead, paying a health care provider that much per month. That would be great health care.

Imagine instead, paying a health care provider something more like $100 per month, getting a professional who spends thirty minutes per appointment or more as necessary, being able to work with them more than once a month, and working on treatments that are specific to my lifestyle, my finances, and my history. That is welcome and healthy considering the rare ten minute consultation when so little background and understanding are available that the main treatments are based generalities, stereotypes, and assuming every patient is essentially the same.

Working outside the health insurance company’s healthcare provider also means eliminating a lot of insurance and corporate paperwork, and the subsequent negotiations with insurance and corporate bureaucracies. Unhealthy experiences, at least for me.

Health insurance is not an insurance of health. Health insurance is not health care.

At least in my experience, conventional health care is centered on how I am going to die, while a more personal approach can be about how I am going to live.

I am fortunate. I’ve mentioned my health care provider before Water’s Edge Wellness Center in Langley, WA. They operate from a business model that sounds radical and innovative, but I suspect it is more similar to the way doctors worked fifty years ago. One difference is that, instead of paying per visit, I pay per month. Because of my financial constraints (and my frugality), we work from supplements and tests that rarely cost more than that monthly premium. Compare that to just the subsidy I receive, which is seven to ten times higher (depending on how it is calculated.)

Water’s Edge’s business model can probably be replicated. That’s one reason I write this post. I think… I know their business model and caring approach are better than any health care plan I’ve experienced in twenty years. Prior to that I had an impressive health care plan while I was an engineer at Boeing, but that was back in the era of personal ignorance of medical costs, and even then the visits were corporate.

I’m glad I live in Washington State because it has such things as a Healthplan Finder, and people who support it well. I’m also glad I live in a state that is taking Covid seriously. Because of Covid and life in general, someday I might need the full suite of services of a hospital and whichever doctor they assign me (my previous preferred provider left them.) That’s why I keep the insurance. But lately, health insurance has become all expense and no benefit; while my health care has been the most beneficial and the least expensive I’ve experienced.

Good ideas happen. Innovations succeed. Such ideas deserve to be spread around. I’m glad someone was willing to try. I’m a lot healthier because of it. (And am also old enough to have had an interesting enough life that there’s plenty to work on. Now, about that hyper-extended knee, and the compressed disk, and pandemic-dictated restrictions on exercise like dancing. Hmm. Plenty to work on.)

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What Has Not Changed

OK, peoples. I purposely took four days off from work, largely for medical reasons (busy, busy); purposely did so over Election Day because I already voted so there was nothing I could do about the outcome; didn’t really get any time off (real estate is that busy on Whidbey Island); and checked back in to social media and the news to learn that we do not know who has won in too many races. The political situation will change. But comparing the news before and after my election hiatus taught me how little has changed.

For those who are late to my blog, it is based on my book about personal finance, Dream. Invest. Live. I should’ve subtitled it something like Personal Finance for Frugal Folk. The book was published as the economy crashed in November 2008. November 2008. The first post on the original blog was circa election night, 2008, the night Barack Obama was elected. I’d like to link to that post but that blog went away when Apple quit supporting the blog software. Allow me to paraphrase a memory of one line;

“And now the work begins.”

Celebrations are great, and change is the only constant; but waiting for the change can take too long.

Personal finance in our economy requires people to make assumptions about the economy, finance, society, culture, and the world in general. Personal finance plans need to adapt to changes in those influences. What has and has not changed since that election twelve years ago, since my ill-timed book was published?

Economy & Finance

The prominent NASDAQ index fell from just under 3,000 to about half that within a few weeks. Now, the NASDAQ is just below 12,000, a four-fold increase. In retrospect, yet again, a simple index fund could have done very well.

Mortgage rates were ~6%, now they’re ~3%; both of which are far lower than the terrible times of the early 80s.

US unemployment went from ~5% to ~10%, during the long recovery gradually fell to ~3.5%, and recently spiked up to then back down from ~15%.

Of the three, arguably jobs have been the most chaotic.

But.

Primarily because of Covid, there are worries that a wide swath of businesses and hence employment are at threat as stimulus packages fade. Increased government debt is worrisome in the long term.

Regardless of Covid, wealth inequality continues to rise, further fracturing society. Several governments and banks are responding to wealth that is being accumulated and kept out of the economy by instituting negative interest rates. In some places that’s led to negative mortgage rates. Negative rates can scare economists that are worried about deflation because deflation is harder to manage that inflation.

Society and Culture

How people live, think, and feel is hard to quantify. Society and culture are basically subjective characteristics of our civilization. It is relatively easy to suggest that progress is being made, most readily visible in the greater variety of people recently elected to office. It is also clear that injustices are as egregious as ever. The main thing that may have changed is the transparency of the situation. Videos may be doing for social justice what independent war correspondent footage did for our awareness of the inhumanity of war.

Technology

Those videos are happening more frequently because we no longer need to rely on a limited population of correspondents. The smartphone, sites like YouTube, social media, and better internet speeds now mean news has fewer gateways to pass through. It also means there’s a lower percentage of fact checking, a decrease in privacy, and a fascinated audience.

People are cancelling their land lines. Cable companies are now competing with free content. And yet, media companies are cordoning off their content behind paywalls. You can watch any movie you want, as long as you can afford it.

The internet has graduated from luxury to necessity.

Energy

Solar panels have advanced from curiosity to inefficient luxury to pragmatic and economic preference. The power grid is decentralizing. It is now cheaper at the utility level as well, to build power plants based on renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.

Electric cars are becoming so common that they don’t grab the attention they did when the industry was new.

LED lights are so efficient that the debate over incandescent lights is being negated by lights that are cooler to touch, last long, and can run off batteries, no wiring required.

Climate Change

The climate continues to change. Sadly, as predicted, the change is accelerated. Also sadly, the conservative estimates discussed over a decade ago proved to be too conservative. It was difficult to discuss nominal or worst case scenarios because they sounded too extreme. Now we’re finding the changes are happening sooner than expected and it appears unknown feedback loops are accelerating the change. Look to Siberia that recently hit 100F. So much for that old stereotype.

The public’s perception of the change has changed. Now that the effects are becoming more apparent, people are beginning to react, but it may be too little too late.

Pandemic

Health professionals around the world have always been fighting pandemics, and were so good at it that few of us were affected or even aware. And yet, a review of the literature reveals their worries that a bigger pandemic was likely. The scary part is that many of today’s defenders fear that Covid-19 is a practice pandemic – serious, very serious, but not as bad as a pandemic that has a higher fatality rate, is more contagious, and is discovered too late. One consequence of having almost eight billion people on the planet.

Me

Me? I’d be amazed at anyone who has read every post in this blog. Currently, that’s about one million words. If you try it, make sure your eyes get a break, regularly.

What hasn’t changed

What hasn’t changed is that change is accelerating, but if trying to understand every shift, retreat, and advance is too difficult, then focus on those things that haven’t changed.

While some of the details I described in my book have changed (hence the sequel that I am working on), some of the frugal elements remain; Spend less than you make. Invest the rest.

While the world is in turmoil, it still makes sense to Thinking globally. Act locally.

While it seems like there’s an infinity of divisiveness, there’s still the Golden Rule; Treat others as you wish they’d treat you. Or as I put it; Treat people as if they are people, because that is one thing we have in common. No other labels need to be applied.

PS

Of those four days I tried to take off, one went to a long list of household chores, one went to a marathon writing/editing session for the sci-fi novel I’m writing; which left two days off, which went to a couple of twelve hour days working real estate as clients try to get things done before the end of the year. (Required disclosure: I am a real estate broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. in Clinton, WA on Whidbey Island.) So, maybe I’ll take Sunday off?

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Do Not Wait Live

Are you still waiting? It’s the week before the US election. There’s a lot of waiting going on. People are waiting for the election, ah, the Electoral College, ah, the start of the new year, ah, the Inauguration, ah, the first 100 Days (assuming a peaceful enough resolution and conclusion to the election), ah… Add them all up and find yourself at April 10, 2021. Look back to April 2020. What were we waiting for then? With infinite time and immortality, waiting forever can work. Mere mortals can only wait a finite amount of time. At some point it makes sense to get back to living.

I can’t say that I’m immune to waiting. Sometimes it is necessary to follow that phrase from Sun Tzu (paraphrased from The Art of War); “Only move when it is to your advantage to do so.” If it isn’t to your advantage, then wait until it is to your advantage. But there are limits to that. If what you’re waiting for is never going to happen, then you’re trading living for waiting for nothing.

Many people are waiting. Waiting for political shifts. Waiting for economic shifts. Waiting for pandemics to shift. Waiting for things to shift or be shifted.

Think back six months. An impeachment had no effective change in politics. The economy was shifting, yet since then the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer. The pandemic, which was hopefully only going to last a few months was now obviously only getting started.

US politics may settle down in a week, but I don’t expect that. The economy won’t stabilize for quarters or years because the pandemic doesn’t seem to be going away, any vaccine seems to be something that will take a long time to administer, and people continue to not wear masks.

Few expect things to get back to normal, but a new normal isn’t going to be delivered on one day in one announcement for everyone. The new normal will be defined by those who do something more than wait – and they may not realize they’re doing it.

For the last six months we’ve been experimenting with new lifestyles. First, the idea of staying home was like an unpaid and uncertain staycation. Now, we’re redefining work, and school, and socializing. A few weeks of adaptations could easily be rewound. A few months have revealed real reasons to accept new ways to work, learn, and meet. Maybe waiting through those times made sense, but those changes happened because some people didn’t wait. Either they couldn’t or they decided not to.

It is easy to imagine almost every aspect of life continuing to change for the next several months, and maybe years. Waiting might have felt fine for a while, but wait too long and it gets to become difficult to move.

Throughout this post I’ve used the word “you”. I really meant “me”. I could argue that I’m not waiting. My work schedule certainly hasn’t consisted of just waiting; neither has my writing routine. But I’m recognizing that I should take some time and consider what changes I have avoided because I was waiting for something to change.

I’m old enough that it is apparent that there are a finite number of seasons left. I haven’t hiked or skied much for the last few years. Not a problem for someone in their twenties. But, even if I live thirty more years, I don’t know how many of them I’ll be able to hike, or ski, or dance, or whatever. My knees are already vetoing some excursions. Rather than waiting for them to recover, I’m shifting to other exercises like walking and bicycling. If finances improve enough, maybe I’ll add rowing and sailing.

It’s happening in investing. The markets are uncertain. Maybe it makes sense to wait for things to settle down. Ah, if you haven’t noticed, the markets are always uncertain. A good investment strategy is probably still a good investment strategy; if not, maybe it is not a good investment strategy.

It’s happening in real estate (required disclosure: I’m a broker with Dalton Realty, Inc.). People don’t want to move until it is to their advantage to do so. But the advantage expected six months ago may never happen. Instead of moving from one house to another similar house, it might be time to consider moving from a house to an RV, or a boat, or to a property that is defined more by what projects can be tackled. Instead of a condo, how about a house with a garden? Instead of a house with a garden, how about a place with room for building things, or growing crops, or tending livestock, or finally creating a personal retreat?

I challenge myself to consider what I could do if I sold my house. At least on Whidbey Island, small houses on small lots sell relatively quickly. Mine even has a view and is in a neighborhood with a marina. As a real estate broker it is easier for me to estimate how much I’d make. With that much, could I try a new lifestyle, one that is better suited for such an uncertain world, or am I already in the right place for such a situation? (A thought work in progress.)

the view from my house – power lines, deer, Cultus Bay, Olympic Mountains, and a bit of the universe

Conventional jobs, in conventional offices, for conventional pay and benefits are no longer conventional. Unfortunately, we can’t know what the new conventions will be. We have to define them, and lives must be lived in the meantime.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Six months from now, most people will be living where they’re living now, they’ll be in the same jobs, they’ll probably be in the same schools. We might still be wearing masks and missing personal social contact. (How long until we can hug each other, again?)

The only constant is change. While many accept that, the rate of change is accelerating, with harder ratchets clicking in behind us as we leave behind conventions that are becoming anachronisms.

Some reasons to change, now, instead of waiting: interest rates are low, there are so few houses for sale that new listings can get more attention, as businesses are disrupted new opportunities are produced, innovation will probably rule over convention, and people are eager for answers.

Waiting is time. Time is irreplaceable. Time is precious. Waiting is spending something irreplaceable and precious. Only move when it is to your advantage; but not moving sometimes means spending something without gaining something in return. Move when it is to your advantage to do so; but keep in mind that not moving isn’t free, spends something valuable, and may miss opportunities that can’t be seen without a change in perspective. Live.

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Friends In Tea Places

It is good to have friends in tea places. It’s also good to have friends in high places, which can either be powerful, spiritual, or recreational (as in recreational marijuana). I do have friends in each of those spheres, but none can frugally deliver a bit of flavor to my mailbox. My supply of loose leaf tea was diminishing. My resupply arrived, just in time. Winter weather is trying to arrive, as well. Forget tea bags. The months ahead are going to require pots of camellia sinensis, black tea.

Why not just use tea bags? They’re convenient, tidy, readily available, and reasonably inexpensive compared to other caffeine options like coffee or soda.

Don’t ask a tea connoisseur about such choices. Loose leaf versus tea in a bag? Leaves of tea that are recognizable as leaves grown from a plant versus something that can look like sawdust trapped in a tiny pouch? Pull up a chair and wait for a long impassioned explanation from them.

I’m not a tea connoisseur. Want proof? I still can’t spell the word without help from spell check. ‘Tea’ I can spell. ‘Connoiseur’? We’ve got to find a better word for that.

I’m a fan of tea, as much from frugality as flavor. Thank Starbucks for that.

Starbucks introduced me to tea in about 1980. Boeing hired me after I graduated from college, helped me move across the country from Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech (VPI&SU at the time). I knew no one. Had nothing else to do. Hadn’t discovered what hiking really could be like. So, bored and curious, on the weekends I’d drive from Everett near the 747 plant to Pike Place Market. There, there was a slice of a store squeezed into a gap between a couple of other stores, their names forgotten by me by now.

Before Starbucks bought Tazo? So long ago.

That store, which is still there, was crowded. Coffee? Sure, but equally tea and spices. Don’t forget the spices.

All I wanted was a cup of tea. I drank a lot of tea in college. Aerospace (and Ocean) Engineering was the sort of curriculum that kept me studying past 2AM with early morning classes a few hours later. Coffee cost too much. Pop (soda) was sticky. All I expected was a tea bag dumped into hot water. Nope. With a line behind me, the person behind the counter (who wasn’t called a barista because no one used that word) explained how to use loose leaf tea, the strainer, the timer, and the counter by the window where I could watch the tourists while my tea steeped. Hooked.

Tea in a bag is also someone’s idea of how much, what kind, what blend, how big your cup should be, what materials you want to dunk into something you’re going to drink, etc. Don’t worry. They’ll take care of you. But, do they know you?

Or.

Loose leaf tea is friendly to frugal people.

Today might need more or less tea. In 2020, cranking it up to almost espresso strength can seem like a fine idea. The amount I use is determined by whether I’m filling a cup, a mug, a thermos, or an entire pot. Adjust as desired if someone else will partake, too.

Then, use the leaves again. Using the same leaves twice or thrice can be just as nice, if the tea leaves are high enough quality. Each steeping means less caffeine, too. A full strength pot in the morning can lead to a bit of less-caffeinated tea in the afternoon. Or, in the right weather, drop the leaves into a jar and make sun tea.

While at Boeing I worked with someone from east Asia. They erased my ideas of how to drink tea. Black tea for 4 minutes or 90 seconds for green? The right mug? Ha! They drank tea sent over by their family from their tea farm (not a plantation). Three or four rolled up leaves, like little green ball bearings, dropped into a glass tumbler of hot water. No dainty little handle. No insulation. Somehow they carried around a hot glass from meeting to meeting. Each leaf eventually expanded into a full leaf a few inches long, not bits and pieces. When the glass was empty, more hot water on the same leaves. Repeat as necessary. Only get rid of those three or four leaves at the end of the day.

Loose leaf tea loosens restrictions. Use as you will. I do.

More than a winter’s supply, I hope

Take a look at the packaging. Five packages delivered in a couple of boxes. No tiny tea bags. No inner sleeves. No tags or strings. No staples or glue. I’ll drop the contents into airtight glass containers that I’ll store in a cupboard. Nothing fancy, yet sufficient. Buy the same amount of tea in bags from a major retailer and watch the postal carrier carry a bigger box that won’t fit in the mailbox and probably also includes plastic peanuts. Tea leaves aren’t that fragile.

Frugality is about choices. Learning more about the things I enjoy and use helps me understand their fundamentals; and also helps me cut away the excess, the unnecessary.

Take a look at what I bought. Three of them are blends (from Joyful Alchemy on Whidbey Island), but two are straight black teas (from Dandelion Botanical in Sequim, WA), something like a single malt scotch (a much more extravagant topic for later). All for about the same price as bags, and maybe cheaper. If you drink black tea you’re probably drinking either or both of those: Assam and Keemun. ‘Breakfast’ teas are usually a blend of those two, each blend getting a different name like English, Irish, etc. By buying both I can blend my own or go full Assam or full Keemun. Control and exploration for a very small fee.

People who sell tea, especially from local shops, typically also understand flavor, and hence, herbs and spices. Remember those spices at Starbucks mentioned above? I suspect the people working in that shop at that time knew about more than coffee. I definitely know that the shops I order from retain that knowledge about tea, and herbs, and how they can also be used for cooking, tinctures, and other things I don’t understand. They emphasize their customer’s needs instead of the brand’s identity.

Tea lovers know about more than just tea – rows and columns of herbs and spices – and teas

There are whitecaps on the bay. Wind and rain came through, making the lights flicker here on Whidbey Island. I don’t want the power to go out; but if it does, I don’t need to worry about coffee roasters, grinders, percolators, espresso machines, and whatever froths those frothy drinks. Boiling some hot water in a kettle on a camp stove is easy enough. Pour into water and leaves into a pot to steep for a while. Then fill a mug (my hands are too big for a cup), let the warmth work its way through, and watch the storm go by.

Cheers!

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Voting And Living Simpler

They looked at me oddly. I didn’t care. I almost danced to the Ballot Box, dropped in my ballot – and then danced a few steps. I voted! And it was a lot simpler than the various media outlets make it seem; and that includes social media. It hasn’t been easy, trying to live simply when simply living can be a challenge, but sometimes the most important things are the simplest, and the simplest become the most challenging.

Three choices: Mail it inside, mail it outside, or drop it in the Official Ballot Box

No. I’m not going to tell you how I voted. As I’ve written before, I’m an extreme independent moderate, or a moderately extreme independent, or an independently moderate extremist(?). Nah. Not that last one. I think the best way to make progress is to understand the extremes, but gather the most support by finding something more moderate. And I’m moderate because I haven’t found a political party that matches my personal platform.

Besides, if we don’t find what we have in common, we’ll no longer be United. The Untied States of America are closer than most realize. (Nods to a good friend who expanded on my observation.)

I’m also not going to tell you how I voted because: 1) the way to protect privacy and the sanctity of the secret ballot is to respect that secrecy, and 2) one way we may get back together is to concentrate on what needs to be done, not on what we did.

I will however, pass along how I keep it simple.

I’m old; or a least old to most people half my age. Most of my friends consider me young, or at least younger, but I know I’ve lived long enough to know the essence and the roll of the political system in my life. Debates, brochures, town halls, information packets, are all things available every election. Rarely are they as important as one document delivered once: the Voters’ Pamphlet.

Hearing all of the discourse for months or even years makes it sound like this is a tough and important decision. Important? Definitely. Tough? Get real. Really. I open the Washington State Voters’ Pamphlet and like the way it is formatted. This side this page. That side that page. Repeat as necessary. Rarely do I see a narrow distinction between the two sides. Usually it comes down to a few key phrases that the person is proud of, something they emphasize for their side. The politicians make the choice simple. It takes me more time to pick between various obscure referenda and non-partisan positions that who wants to be President of the United States. (emphasis because everyone emphasizes it) I wish the media would spend more time on the topics that require a finer distinction. They may not be as pervasively important, but they’re also more likely to have a direct effect on local issues.

For me, it is similar to what I see when I go shopping. Notice how long it takes to decide what to pick from a menu. Give people enough choices and they can spend more time deciding than eating, all for a short term experience that is quickly – passed by the eater. A meal is perishable, temporary. And yet, some will buy a car or a piece of furniture on an impulse. If food is that important to you, great! But optimizing every meal takes time at every meal. How much time do we have?

I enjoy cooking and eating, a dangerous combination when it is more difficult to exercise. (Oh, I miss dancing; and my waistline proves it.) So, I’ll spend more time planning what I’m going to cook; but picking from a menu? A good chef makes anything on the menu taste good. I trust and respect them and let them spend their time. A privilege I (rarely, lately) pay for. At home, I have fun cooking even with it doesn’t come out perfect. (Perfection? Ha!)

It happens in personal finance, too. People commonly spend more time planning a vacation, another temporary event, than they do planning their career or retirement. The classic example (until 2020) has been couples who spend half a year’s income on a wedding. Sure. Have a good party. Make it memorable. But, it is easier for older folks to understand the impact of investing that much more in their mid-twenties. Compound interest rules! Start with a small event, and enjoy many more and larger ones, later.

For most people, investing can be greatly simplified with regular investments whenever income exceeds expenses for long enough to build a cash reserve. Low-cost mutual funds exist because they can be as successful as many other strategies, but take much less time and maintenance fees. For me, it’s like that cooking analogy. I like buying individual stocks, understanding the companies, and trying to find that better balance between risk and reward. Those people that picked off the simpler menu could’ve exceeded my returns many times. (And yet, I continue because I know for my risk tolerance there are also potentially higher rewards. It’s worked before. And neither has guarantees.)

Part of being frugal is being aware of money and time. Frugal is frequently interpreted as cheap, only concentrating on money. Time is more valuable. Important things don’t have to take a lot of time. A quick decision doesn’t negate the decision’s importance.

I voted. Now, for me, the rest is theater, suspense for sure, horror/thriller possibly, probably not comedy, but almost certainly stranger than fiction.

The real question is, when can we get back to dancing? Maybe I should cue up a musical. Dancing down the sidewalk was fun, but it wasn’t the same without a partner or a soundtrack.

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Dueling Printers

Modern challenges. There are enough of those even without the onslaught that is 2020. Amidst the global and national turmoils, personal lives continue. Even with things locked down, change happens. Change is the only constant. Dealing with something as simple as office equipment has its own set of failures, struggles, and occasionally successes. Because of a job change, I had an office change, which meant having to change some hardware, which meant having to spend some money and some time, which is makes it handier to deal with working from home – and was possibly valuable because it provided a real though small personal success, some control in a life in a world that is otherwise seemingly out of control. All because I bought a printer.

Let’s get the career stuff out of the way. It may be the bigger issue, but as much as I want to concentrate on the small celebration, it also makes sense to pass along the background. I changed brokerages. I don’t expect banners or cheering bands. Simply, I moved my real estate license from a national brand to a local firm. Buy local, eh? Besides, I can bicycle to the office in less than an hour, now. That’s not the main reason (that’s a longer conversation that isn’t necessary to have on this blog), but it is a welcome benefit. I am now a real estate broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. a local firm with decades of history on the island. If you’re driving up from the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry, we’re 1.3 miles up the hill and on the left. Look for the historic yellow farmhouse.

The pandemic meant it made more sense to set up a better home office. Fiber-optic internet installed? Yep. Re-arrange the furniture? Done. Lots of stuff stuffed into the attic to make way for more paper. Stuffed. Set up the dusty old printers? Well. Huh. Hmm.

One printer was so old I saw a note that the company doesn’t want to make the ink anymore. Still seems to be available though, so that’s good – for now. I also have another printer that was gifted to me several years ago when someone retired. Amortize the one I bought over ten years and the purchase price comes down to about $20 per year, less than some folks spend on dinner. The other one is a bonus. Thanks, again.

About the ink, though. The ink can cost as much as the printer if the printer is used a lot, or the cartridges aren’t used enough to keep from drying out. This is no surprise to many folks. My solution was to print from anywhere else because using the ink was expensive and not using the ink meant having to buy new cartridges for just a few pages which is expensive. Thank you Sno-Isle Library System for letting me print stuff when money was the tightest. That’s also why I watch many people show up for work simply to use the printer. When I really needed good prints, I used professional services, anyway. (I shopped local for that, too. Fine Balance Imaging now known as Feather and Fox Print Co.)

Ah, but there are unofficial, supposedly generic, print cartridges that should work. A printer is a mechanical device with some logic built in. Why not go discount when trying to build a business and a career? The reason why not is that the companies making the printers can set things up that the printer may not accept the cartridges that aren’t theirs. So much for supporting small businesses. But, money was tight and risks had to be taken.

Something went wrong. First one printer, then the other failed. Help desks, forums, documentation, nothing brought them back. I won’t relay the details because there are too many, and why would I want to relive those anxieties?

A new set of full-price, official, company-approved, printer-documentation recommended cartridges bought and installed. No good. Even the new cartridges weren’t enough to appease the offended printers. Two printers out of commission while the pandemic arrives and emphasizes my need to print.

The total cost of buying ink to try to revive the printers was the cost of a new printer.

Wake up and smell the ink.

My main business computers are Chromebooks. They’re cheap, er, inexpensive; and do almost everything full-service computers can do – as long as the Chromebook is connected to the internet. Handy having that fiberoptic service, eh?

So, I took the risk and bought a new printer, something that is supposedly compatible with something as new as a Chromebook. About $260, with ink. I admit to being anxious about it. Would it fail, too?

The unboxing and the assembly went well enough. Whew. Now, to connect it to…what? Instead of a cable running from the printer to the computer, this one is so new it relied on wi-fi. Cool. OK. How do I type in a wi-fi password on a numeric keyboard? Ah. Lots of hit this button then hit that button while squinting at tiny characters in a dim part of the office. Ten tries later I gave up. Ten minutes later I tried again. Two tries later something, and I don’t even know what that something was, something worked. I sat back, stared at the innocuously correct printed page, and didn’t want to touch anything, not the cables, the buttons, the chassis. A half hour later I printed another test page, accumulated my courage, and slid the whole thing into its place in the furniture.

One way to fix a problem with an HP printer? Buy one from Canon.

That was celebration number 1.

That left me with two questionable printers and a desk at the office with no convenient way to print. They have printers, but sometimes it is very handy to have one within arm’s reach.

I was done buying more ink. If I could get them to work with the old cartridges, great; otherwise, off to the recycler.

One printer had unopened official cartridges. I broke the seal, cleaned and installed them, and got the same error message from before. After more than an hour I realized that the place where the cartridges lived was broken. I’d been spending money by following the documentation, help screens, forums, and whatever because they had a stock, default response. Buy more ink. There’s a good chance I spent over a hundred dollars trying to fix something that not only couldn’t be fixed, but that was incorrectly diagnosed by the official sources. Grumble, to say the least.

This did not make trying the second one very appealing. Set it all aside. Go away for a couple of days, then try again. At the start, no progress. Several tries, no progress. Then, I’ll give credit to HP for having an online app that could try to diagnose and fix this one, too. Success! Now, I have a printer by my desk that works as long as I can connect it to an equally old PC, which has to be balanced on my lap or a neighbor’s desk because the cords were short as if they were going to sit beside each other in some computer console.

That was celebration number 2.

Silly. Such a silly thing, to feel anxieties fade and possibilities open simply by having something work right. Expectations are so low when working with the options available to those with limited funds that simply working can be a surprise. Imagine how hard it is for some people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when first they have to be able to afford bootstraps, and then have the straps snap.

We’re in the midst of great and grand debates. (I just realized the VP debate is going on as I type. I’d rather be doing this.) The world must debate, and more importantly act on the global issues. Take your pick. I also think about kids that are trying to do schoolwork on bad internet connections on old equipment, entrepreneurs saddled with options that are efficient and unaffordable, people living in poverty who are trying to live in a world that requires logging in but who can’t afford electricity. Small celebrations multiplied by hundreds of millions would be considered a movement. How little it would take to make something happen that would be that great?

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What Did You See

I gave up playing Bridge. Bridge was one of the few card games my family would play as a family, well four of the five of us at a time, of course. We played it as a game. I was the youngest by years and decades, but it was a game, not a competition. When I moved out and starting playing during lunch at Boeing, the fun was gone. People would move onto the next deal after three or four hands because they ‘knew’ how it would turn out. They hadn’t actually seen how it would be played; they just ‘knew’ who would win. There’s a danger in such leaps that extend far beyond card tables.

I’m a fan of logic, data, and reason; but those can also become academic. Life isn’t academic. Life is real. I prefer to see how things play out.

During those card games I could follow their logic about why their bid for 3 hearts would succeed. Everyone agreed. Except contrarian me. Sure, if everything was played correctly and no one made a mistake then that was the way the game would go. But we’re humans. Someone could get distracted, or become over-confident, or find a tactic they’d never considered. The game would change.

You know I’m going to expand this to other topics because this blog isn’t about playing games.

I’m seeing this in the news. I’m seeing the tendency to extrapolate snippets into chapters and books. Anecdotes are amplified as if they were massive movements. Sometimes I hear someone reading between the lines when there are no lines. This is worse than during the Cold War when the CIA would try to guess at what was happening in the Kremlin based on which cars were driving around or not. Finance types frequently tried to decipher Alan Greenspan’s intent by how thick his briefcase was as he walked into Congressional hearings to talk about finance. Sure, we have to look ahead, but the Berlin Wall fell because of things that happened outside Moscow and the Great Recession’s main arena was households, not Senate chambers.

It is one reason I don’t pay as much attention to single news sources, anymore. There are things that I can’t experience directly; but I don’t expect one perspective to produce a complete picture.

As a kid in grammar school I happened to be beside, not in, a race riot – or at least a fight in a high school gymnasium between an all-white school and an all-black school. My Dad made sure I was safe. From that one perspective, it looked like a lot of violent people. There were injustices and abuses. But a few years later I worked in a more mixed group in the steel mill without any incident. There was work to be done and we were there to get paid, not fight.

As a teenager in high school I heard the steel industry’s catch phrase regarding pollution, “The Smell of Progress.” About that time is when one of my brothers introduced me to photography. I borrowed his camera, hiked around a polluted hillside downwind of a mill, and saw for myself how discarded steel was flaking away in inch-thick bands as acids in the air corroded the refuse and the street signs and the steel in the bridgework that I walked across to visit the site. It was my first photo essay. Now I get to hear “The Sound of Freedom”, jet noise over 100db from Navy practice flights over Central Whidbey Island. ‘Hear’ is the wrong word. I feel my chest vibrate while I have to cover my ears to stifle the pain takes longer to type, though.

News reports make similar word choices to make articles fit into a few column inches, a web page that isn’t tl;dr (Too Long: Didn’t Read), or at most a few minutes of a broadcast or podcast.

Do not just look for what you were told to find. If it is important, find it yourself. And don’t hurt yourself by trying to understand it all. There’s too much going on. This is 2020. I think it is impossible for anyone to know it all, and if they say they know it all, I know they don’t. Some celebrity that thinks the world is all about them lives in a very small world. I pity them.

Personal experience is valuable. It is why I was willing to attend stockholders’ meetings. Dull? Sure. But personal finance is non-trivial in this society and economy – unless your personal finances are so significant that you can treat them trivially. By showing up I saw who else showed up, whether that was officials, finance types, employees, other shareholders, etc. During the presentation I’d mark which statements made people react during what should be dull and innocuous. Then, if I was interested enough, I could ask them and maybe some others about the same thing. My favorite was hearing the CEO celebrate that a new product generated over $1M in revenue. A sales manager suddenly sat up straighter. Later I asked him about it. He said he was glad to hear about it – because it was his product line and it was news to him. That CEO left soon after, and not just because of that.

Prepare yourself for an understatement. This year has been bizarre. Many of the things we’re dealing with were largely unexpected. Wildfires in the western US. A warehouse explodes in Lebanon. Real life sequels to what we thought was resolved in 1865 and 1945. The pandemic. Yes, each has people who were pointing them out years and decades ago; but I doubt the majority expected them to become so dominant this year.

The smoke is back. Who expected that?

Given the choice, forget the leaders and remember each other. We’re all in this together (until we colonize another planet). We need each other, now. I care more about whether those around me are wearing masks, or recycling, or finding ways to get by without fossil fuels. Of course I want leaders who will lead those efforts, but pronouncements are like bids in Bridge. They describe intent, but can only be proved by action.

I am fortunate. I have friends who have the courage to dive in, to work with the homeless, to grow and buy and eat organic, to work on sustainability, to try to correct injustices. They are the front line people who aren’t hunting for headlines; they’re trying to get something done. I’m also fortunate enough to know a variety of people who represent a variety of perspectives. I don’t agree with them all, but I learn a lot by listening and watching.

Skip the assumptions and the stereotypes. What have you seen, personally? Look around and it is easy to find differences, but we’re all human and therefore have similarities. I look forward to seeing and hearing about people concentrating on what we have in common. Construction is much more difficult than destruction, but is is also far more valuable.

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Thirty Steaks

But it was such a good deal. And it still is. It’s just a bit odd, that’s all. I accidentally have thirty steaks in my freezer. And there’s room for more. Maybe I’ll buy some frozen veggies to go with them. Good deals can me do silly things, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad, just – odd. And in this case, tasty.

Four years ago I wrote about the joy, relief, satisfaction of having a Full Pantry.

“I knew finances were improving the first time I bought enough of something that it was silly to store any more.”

At the time it felt like a luxury, because it was. Too many people barely have enough for a few meals at home. Either they’re too busy, don’t know how to cook, and only make enough to buy enough for the next few days.

This is 2020. My full pantry which was a culinary playground and a part of my emergency preparedness kit became closer to a necessity than a luxury. Remember March and April? I’m continuing to wear a mask (~200,000 dead in the US and ~1,000,000 globally, with months to go unless more people act more responsibly.) But, now it is easier to shop. Fewer shelves are empty. And the grocery store is running sales, again.

On Sale! New York Strip steaks for $5.99/pound. Hello! That’s less than what I spend on the local ranch’s ground beef (#ShopLocal). Life as real estate broker doesn’t mean I have a steak diet. I prefer roasts: beef, pork, chicken, ham, turkey; but my work schedule now means more dynamic meal planning. I continue to rely on cheap cuts like pork chops (as low as $1.29/pound when on a good sale); especially because I’ve learned that a frozen pork chop can be cooked low and slow without having to be thawed. Get home. Pop a chop into the oven, maybe with some veggies to roast, and handle those household chores and possibly work emails while dinner cooks itself. But sometimes an already thawed steak is the better and much quicker way to go, minutes instead of a couple of hours.

I’m frugal. That shouldn’t be news. I cruise the discount meat bin when shopping and judiciously buy discounted meat, sometimes steaks. Even at that discount, $5.99/pound wins.

But.

This is America. The land where the steaks should be big and thick and juicy. And that’s the way the butchers cut them.

This is me. My time in the steel mill altered my taste buds (don’t ask unless you want a very long story about real masks and being surprised by people complaining about a strip of cloth after I spent 100F days sounding like Darth Vader), so juicy can taste mushy. I want well done, which can take a long time with a thick steak. I have more years and pounds so I prefer smaller cuts. Besides, smaller, thinner cuts thaw and cook more quickly.

Good news. They were selling the steaks pre-cut. For no charge, they’d cut to my specifications. The trick, I had to buy a twenty pound slab. Do the math. Gulp. OK. Let’s hope they fit in the freezer.

Pick out the meat. Hand it to the butcher. Tell them what I want. Come back in ten minutes. Such a deal.

When I got home I noticed that they cut them a little thinner, but not by much. Most of them were still about 12 ounces when I wanted about 6 ounces. That’s OK. I have a knife, a cutting board, wax paper, and storage bags. After keeping some of them full-size (hey, celebrations do happen), the rest were cut in half. Twenty pounds of meat becomes thirty steaks, meals almost ready to go.

Ah, but would they all fit in the freezer? All I have is a regular refrigerator, with the freezer on top – which is usually nearly full from shopping for sales. Veggies, homemade baked beans, chilis, soups, stock, maybe some chicken, definitely fish and pork, a roast or two, ground beef – and a bunch of discounted and frozen steaks from before. Oops. I have over thirty steaks in my freezer.

This is not optimum. It is also not something to moan about. Burp? Yes. But not complain. Whine? No. Wine? Yes, in the fridge, on the counter and in the utility room.

Some of my frugal friends are far better at managing meal plans and pantries. I run into Use-by Dates and mismatches (Dining By Due Date), like the one time I had everything I needed to bake cookies, had almost everything mixed and the oven warmed up – and realized I didn’t have baking powder or soda. Oops.

I have enough steaks to have one per day for a month. Like I mentioned above, I prefer roasts, chops, and some fish for variety. Mix it up a bit and I don’t have to shop for steaks for months.

Recently I posted about having More Than Enough, and how that doesn’t always apply to money. Well, I certainly have more than enough of that course – for a while.

Tonight the forecast is for the first storm of the season. I am working from home, which makes it easier to make roasts (though tomorrow’s culinary accomplishment will be baked beans); but if the power goes out, it might be a good idea to have a steak or two thawed out and ready to be cooked outside on the grill. And, if I end up going to the office (I recently moved to Dalton Realty in Clinton, for those who are more familiar with Whidbey Island and real estate), it will be good to know I’ll have a quick meal waiting for me when I eventually get home.

It might be more than enough. It might be a silly thing. It might mean a frozen jigsaw puzzle to squeeze in that frozen whole organic chicken I saw on sale for $1.09/pound, but maybe it’s about time for a little celebration every couple of days or so.

Hmm. With that much red meat I might have to stock up on red wine. There are some slots in the wine rack in the utility room, and maybe a sale coming up.

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