Wherein we brag about our successes: MMXX Ianuarius.

I’ll also lament some failures — to be fair.

One tradition I’m carrying forward to the new blog is my monthly wrap-up post where I track spending, several goals, and post my frugal list. All of this is just for me, but I think I stay more honest with myself knowing that I’ll post it in public.

I have some new goals in 2020, which I’m branding MMXX — an affectation I’m stealing directly from Bruce Sterling. Let’s face it: It feels a little “fall-of-the-Roman-empire” out there. Why not use some classy Roman numerals?


Monthly Goals

Send one real letter.
I sent a letter to my Dad and a card to my Aunt Karen.

Sew at least one garment.
I didn’t sew anything in January. It is the busiest month of the year at work, and this year was no exception. I didn’t even have the energy to cut something out!

Send newsletter at least once.
I debated scrapping this goal most of last year, but despite failing again in January, I like the newsletter. I mean, some months I don’t have time, or I don’t have any news. About 11 of my 14 subscribers open the email each time I send it, and most “legitimate” newsletters would kill for a click-through rate of 79% — so I must be doing something right, even if I do it rarely.

Make one “green” improvement.
I signed up for Imperfect Foods produce delivery in January to help reduce food waste. (Truthfully, I also appreciate going to the grocery store less, especially now that I’m not relying on Instacart.)

Make one apartment improvement.
I simplified our recycling storage because our apartment complex finally got a recycling system in place. We no longer have to have dedicated sorting bins taking up a lot of space, which means I may be able to rearrange a couple of things next month, too.

Go on one outing with Lennox.
We went to see a Berthe Morisot exhibit at the MFAH on New Year’s Day.

Read one physical book I already own.
I know this barely counts as reading, but I picked up Strange Planet by Nathan W Pyle with a gift card I got for Christmas and loved it. Sure, it’s a comic. But I read it cover-to-cover, so it’s not sitting around unread — which is the point of this goal.

Ongoing Projects

Combine websites, transfer blog, forward other domains, and install SSL certificate.
I set up this new blog — hooray! This project has been stalled for a long time, and I’m happy to make a little progress on it. I intend to cancel hosting for CodeNameSarah next month, then have the URL forward to the new site.

Tidy and declutter all storage areas.
Although I did the full Konmari process before we moved in 2016 (and whole-heartedly recommend it), I think it’s inevitable that some clutter will still accumulate as household needs grow and change. We renewed our lease here one last time (which is another story), but I have the goal of moving only things we use and love at the end of it. I changed jobs and started working more from home this month, so I completely revamped my office storage. I was able to recycle, shred, and donate so much that we only had to add a 16″ by 22″ rolling cart to handle my work-in-progress files. I never thought I would be able to fit everything in the space that we had, but I did it.

(I will introduce more projects later in the year.)


I’ve been working on a serial novella for a zine that an online friend started, but I’m having pacing problems. I did, however, manage to write far more consistently than I had in months — even if it only yielded two and a half chapters. It was a good start to the new year!

Money Matters

Track personal spending on books, sewing, and clothing.
I gave myself a strict personal budget in January and managed to stick to it (mostly). I was surprised at how well I did if I do say so myself!
Budget / Actual Amount Spent
Books $30.00 / $16.17
Audiobooks $25.00 / $27.60
All Sewing $35.00 / $37.06
Clothing $0.00 / $49.16
$10.80 of my book spending from a gift card, so I only spent $5.37 of my own money on books, which is an absolute personal best. I usually spend around $60.00! I did go slightly over on both audiobooks and sewing, but my book spending more than made up for it. The clothing expense was an eBay purchase I bid on in December that didn’t finish until January 3rd. I had already bid before I decided not to spend anything on clothing in January, but I paid it in January, so it counts. I know that looks like a big failure — spending $50 more than I intended — but the fact that I spent nothing else on clothing after I’d made the goal makes it a success, in my opinion. (I didn’t spend anything close to the amount I did in November and December, so this is definitely a win.)

Track household spending on food.
We have a household goal of saving an extra $5000 over our usual savings rate in 2020, and our food spending was outrageous last year, so this was the area I decided to tackle first.
2019 Monthly Average / Actual Amount Spent
Groceries $565.00 / $489.25
Restaurants $675.00 / $316.87
Savings = $438.88 / Cumulative Savings = $438.88
I don’t expect that it will be this impressive every month. One of the reasons our restaurant spending is so high is because I’m often too sick to cook and we rely on takeout during those times. I’m taking a multi-pronged approach to tackle these costs, and I’ll go into more detail on my process another time.

How I saved money in January:

  • I requested an interlibrary loan for a book my local library didn’t have (despite having most of the others in the series) rather than paying $7 for an ebook. I also put a new release on hold rather than paying $14 for it.
  • I downloaded two Audible Originals and two Prime First Reads. (You could choose two this month. I’ve never been able to figure out why you only get one some months and two on others.)
  • I used $6.90 in eBay Bucks on the infamous two-month-straddling shoe purchase referenced above. At least I saved a little!
  • I downloaded two sets of Creative Market graphics for free.
  • I repurposed a bin I had rather than buying a new one. I’d been using our dishpan as a container for loose laundry helpers (oxygen bleach powder, wool dryer balls, etc.), but I sometimes still wanted to use it as a dishpan. I’d planned to buy another one but had been putting it off. I brought home an ugly orange tub that I used to store a client’s work at my old job, but I didn’t need it in my home office (and it was seriously ugly). I realized — after I’d already headed to the dumpster — that it was about the same size as our dishpan. I ran back inside, tried it out, and it nested perfectly inside! I transferred the laundry stuff to the orange tub, and I now I’m proud that I kept something out of the landfill and solved a problem without spending any money. (A long story for a simple idea, sorry!)
  • I had four pieces of sale fabric in an online shopping cart…and deleted them all. Sometimes the best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place.
  • I saved $7 on an Amazon “Lightning Deal” for glass food storage containers that were already on my wishlist — and used a gift card to purchase them. I love practical gifts.
  • I read six ebooks and one physical book from the library, and two Prime First Read titles. I also read seven Kindle Unlimited books, which works out to approximately $0.05 each with the crazy promotional rate that I paid. I just have to remember to cancel the service before it renews at full price.

Ah, my infamous “frugal list.” I can rename you, but I just can’t quit you!

Next month I hope to do as well on our household food spending and to bill two private clients for their end-of-year work. Onward!