Back Up Grocery Day

By Melissa Tosetti

One of the keystone habits of Savvy Living is to have a non-negotiable day to do your grocery shopping.  In fact, we encourage our clients and readers to actually put the activity on their calendar.  Instead of trying to fit grocery shopping in, around all of your other to-dos, you end up fitting all your other to-dos around grocery shopping.

This week I was reminded about the importance of having a fall back day for grocery shopping.  A "just in case your schedule explodes, you have a back up plan day".

I do my grocery shopping at 4:00 pm on Wednesday afternoons, first heading to Costco and then swinging by Safeway.  I can usually get out the door and home again within an hour and 15 minutes. 

For the last 14 days, our entire family, like so many families across the U.S., has been battling the flu.  I don't care how passionate you are about what you do for a living... when you have the flu, you just want to curl up in a ball and whimper.  I only missed one full day of work, but, between that and not feeling up to my usual pace, I've been in catch up mode for the last five days.  

The lesson I was reminded of is that people get the flu.  Schedules go awry.  Things happen.  So it's important to have a fall back day for getting to the grocery store. 

My fall back day is Saturday.  After I work out this morning, I'll swing by Costco, make a quick trip to Rite Aid and then follow it up with a visit to Safeway.  The one nice thing about shopping Saturday mornings is that even at 9:30 am, the stores are still relatively quiet and also they're well stocked.

If you haven't already put grocery shopping as a regular date on your calendar, I encourage you to give it a try.  You also might want to go ahead and pick your fall back day... just in case.

In The Spirit of Bartering...

By Melissa Tosetti

Since we purchased Dante's bunk bed back in September, we've been debating whether or not to get rid of his "train table".  We finally came to the conclusion that it's been used more for storage than play and so we decided to get rid of it.

On Wednesday I posted a notice on and within 15 minutes, I was contacted by someone who wants the table.  He's going to come by and pick it up tonight.  

Coincidentally, later that day I was looking at Freecycle's Redwood City page and saw a post for free fill dirt, including delivery!  Our spring project is to redo our backyard, starting with bringing in a few truck loads of fill dirt.  I emailed the poster and within a few hours she emailed me back and we made arrangements for the dirt to be delivered.  A second load of dirt will be delivered next Wednesday. 

For the "price" of a train table that Dante enjoyed using for four years, I was able to acquire all of the fill dirt I need for our backyard project. 

Because smart spending is my business, I just had to do the research to find out how much money we saved.  I called our local nursery and found out that a truckload of fill dirt (equal to the truck that delivered our dirt) would cost $487 and the delivery fee would be $85.

Now we can focus that $572 savings on the play structure that we're going to build for Dante in the backyard.

Our Free Dirt
Barter, Swap & Trade

By Melissa Tosetti

During my interview with Chef Michael Chiarello a few years ago I was blown away by his money savvy.   Although he is now an internationally renowned chef, and is more than financially secure, he is always mindful that there is more than one way to acquire what you need. 

When he was four years old his dad had a stroke and became disabled. He remembers, "Money was always tight, but we had plenty of good food on the table." Although money was in short supply, it didn't affect the richness of their life. To some extent, money was never an issue for his family or those around them. They created a vibrant, beautiful life with what they had available to them.

They would barter and trade everything. This is a habit he continues today. He told me the story about the lighting he wanted for his restaurant Bottega which was outside of his budget. Instead of going the “American Way” and simply going over budget, he bartered with the lighting guy. He did the same for his outdoor tables.

“In Mediterranean cultures, this is what they do. It's built into them to barter and to make what you have go further,” explained Chiarello.

My friend Carla S., mother of two beautiful little girls, worked full time.  When her kids reached the ages of three and four, she decided that she wanted to spend more time with them and started thinking about converting to part time work. 

She hired me to help her reduce her monthly grocery bill and find other ways to spend less.  With just a few tweaks, she was able to adjust her expenditures and Carla began working part time without having to make any major sacrifices. 

The extra time also gave her the opportunity to trade working three hours a week at her yoga studio in exchange for free unlimited yoga.  This time-for-yoga exchange has saved Carla $180 per month.

The next time something you want is just out of reach, try to barter something you own or something you can do in exchange for what you want.

The Savvy Life Philosophy
Save money on the things that are not important to you
so you can focus your spending on the things that are important to you.


Decluttering That Mental Clutter

By Melissa Tosetti
In a previous article, I talked about mental clutter, the details that plague our minds on a daily basis such as:
  • What am I going to cook for dinner?
  • What am I going to wear to that meeting?
  • Do I have enough gas to get to work?
Having to answer these questions, at the last minute, on a daily basis places us in a loop that keeps us from moving forward.  Our thoughts are constantly focused on immediate needs rather than being able to put mental effort into anything that will help us get closer to our goals.
In order to eliminate mental clutter, you must first identify it.  Your homework was to create a list of the day-to-day details that clutter your mind.

Below are just a few ideas to help you begin to break out of your cerebral loop.   They’re not new concepts and you may have tried some of them before.  The challenge lies in doing them long enough so they become habit. 
As you read through the list and identify ideas you want to implement, write them down and keep the list with you.  Put a checkmark on your calendar for every day you successfully implement the soon-to-be-habits.  After 66 days, the habits will be in place and you will be able to focus your mind on far more important thoughts and ideas!   
Mornings & Evenings 
The key to reducing the mental clutter that hits first thing in the morning is to plan ahead the night before. 
While changing your clothes after work, set aside what you want to wear the following day.
As you make dinner, think about tomorrow night’s dinner.  If anything needs to be defrosted, or marinated, you can take care of it right then.  It’s also a great time to decide on tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch.  Again, anything that needs to be taken care of in advance can be done then and there.
Taking your lunch to work not only saves money, but it saves time as well.  By the time your coworkers get to their destination and order food, you’ll be finished eating and can use your remaining lunch hour to read, go for a walk or even run an errand.  No more “hunting and gathering” your lunch.  
Provisions & Supplies
One of the keystone habits for reducing mental clutter, simplifying the week and saving money is to create a non-negotiable day to get to the grocery store. 
Instead of having to figure out where you’re going to fit it into your schedule each week, fit your schedule around this very important errand.  Remembering that there are no groceries in the house and having to figure out what’s for dinner at the last minute can throw off what was going to be a perfectly lovely evening!
The same goes for fuel.  Having a day, each week to get to the gas station will help keep you from having to worry about filling up before getting the kids to school or that meeting across town.
Weekly Planning
Once a week, ideally the same time each week, sit down and check your calendar for the next seven days.  The idea is to look for any type of occasion that is out of your normal routine, requires running an errand or making a purchase.  For example:
  • Unusual supply purchases – i.e. printer ink
  • Gift Giving Events
  • Baking cupcakes for your child’s class
You can then strategically plan your tasks and errands for the week.  No more staying up until 10:00 pm at night baking cupcakes and then getting up at 5:00 am to frost them.   No more running out of ink in the middle of a deadline and having to drop everything to get to the office supply store.  
It’s helpful to also look at the following 4 – 8 weeks to give you an opportunity to plan as far in advance as possible – especially when it comes to gifts.  The more time you give yourself, the more opportunities there are to purchase what you want to buy at the price you want to pay. 
What Else is Haunting You?
As I mentioned, these are just a few ideas to get you started.  If you’re struggling with an issue that continues to haunt you, consider asking a friend or family member to help you talk out ideas until you can come up with an implementable and sustainable solution.  You can then return the favor! 
If you have questions about mental clutter or would like to share your success stories, write to me at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Mental Clutter
By Melissa Tosetti
Mental clutter.  We all have it.  The details that plague our minds on a daily basis such as:
  • What am I going to cook for dinner?
  • What am I going to wear to that meeting?
  • Do I have enough gas to get to work?
Having to answer these questions at the last minute on a daily basis places us in a loop that keeps us from moving forward.  Our thoughts are constantly focused on immediate needs rather than being able to put mental effort into anything that will help us get closer to our goals.
Mental clutter can also get expensive. By not giving yourself an opportunity to be proactive, being caught in a cerebral loop, you find yourself in a constant state of reacting to the situations and events that arise.
For example, realizing it’s your friend’s birthday and having to run out at the last minute to find a gift, any gift and make the purchase. This habit doesn’t allow you the opportunity to put any thought into what you would really like to give them, let alone a chance to shop around for the best possible price. This results in purchasing a gift you may not be excited about giving and likely having to spend more than you wanted to spend.

Try spending one week identifying your mental clutter and writing it down.  Next week we're going to come up with ideas for reducing these thoughts and questions that continue to plague your mind.  For now, just concentrate on listing them.
Mental Clutter often strikes first thing in the morning, before we even get out of bed - what a terrible way to start the day! 

As we lay there we think:
  • Did I run out of toothpaste?
  • What am I going to wear?
  • Do I have a meeting today that I have to dress up for?
  • What am I going to make for breakfast?
  • What am I going to pack for the kid's lunch?
Instead of having to run through a laundry list of mental worries, wouldn't you rather wake up and think:
  • Tonight I'm having dinner with my friends!
  • I'm so looking forward to a quiet night at home!
  • Just two more days to vacation!
Tomorrow morning, as you get up, shower and dress, be mindful of your thoughts.  Identify concerns you find yourself having every morning and then continue this process throughout the rest of the day and week.
Stuff For Your Stuff

What To Buy In January

By Melissa Tosetti
I was reading the article The Best and Worst Things To Buy in January and something the author said hit me…
Lindsay Saikrada wrote, “…after all that shopping you likely did during the holidays, you may be looking forward to giving your credit card a rest. But January is an excellent month to bag deals like winter apparel or early Valentine's Day gifts.”
Just the other day I told my husband Paul that I had hit buyer’s fatigue and was really looking forward to a break. Between Christmas and my son Dante’s birthday on January 2nd, I was over this shopping thing. 
But, Lindsay is absolutely right. In January, retailers offer some of the best discounts of the year.
What should you be looking out for?
  • Knowing the number one New Year resolution is to lose weight, fitness equipment and DVDs are on sale at 40% - 90% off. 
  • Discounts also begin for winter sports equipment.
  • January is also a great time to purchase furniture with clearance sales at 40% - 70%.
  • As we get closer to the Super Bowl, televisions will be on sale. Just keep in mind that the prices will be even better after the game. 
  • Bedding and linen are a January sale tradition. 
  • Toys are also on clearance. It’s an excellent time to stock up on children’s birthday gifts! 
So, before locking your debit card away for the month, check out the sales to see if there are items out there worth purchasing. 

A Diet For Your Home

By Melissa Tosetti

On Saturday, we celebrated Dante’s 8th birthday. With a second gift giving event so close to Christmas, his room starts to burst at the seams. 
He’s a very lucky kid to have so many toys, but as he outgrows them, we have to make sure they get donated. Otherwise, he can’t see what he actually wants to play with because there’s just too much stuff. 
There are other parts of our house that needed to be decluttered as well. During the holidays I picked up a few new baking supplies. We have a very tiny kitchen and no pantry so everything has to pull its weight. Last weekend I went through and donated kitchen items I haven’t used in two years. I also found 12 empty jelly jars in a kitchen cabinet that I happily gave back to my mom… hoping for refills when she starts making jelly again in May.
The topic of decluttering comes up more than you'd think during my conversations with clients. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by our “stuff”. So many items transition from desirable objects to burdens. 
In January, we have a motivation that we don’t often have the rest of the year. It’s a great time to use that enthusiasm to dive in. Since clutter is an issue that I really struggled with in the past, I’ve learned that some ways are better than others when it comes to attacking it. 
This morning I found the article Put Your House on a Diet: 10 New Year’s Tips to Declutter Your Life by Jura Koncius. It’s one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. 
One of my favorite tips she offers is to identify tiny projects that will give you a lot of satisfaction. When you start to see tasks actually get done, it’s easy to build on that momentum.
Another one of her tips that I just love is to share what you no longer need this winter. It’s so true that many people out there could really use a warm coat, hat or sleeping bag. That’s an empowering mode of motivation to let go of things you no longer need.
The one tip she offers that I haven’t heard of before, but is brilliant, is to schedule a home pickup date from a charity. There’s nothing like a hard deadline to get you moving.
For all of Jura’s tips, you can find her article through this link at The Washington Post

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