Cheap Thrill$ in Omaha

Frugal Living In The Heartland

Money Hit: The Siding And Steps

Part of our Money Makeover strategy for this year was to have the north side of our house resided, and the insulation addressed during the process.  The cheapo panel shtuff is not doing its job anymore, the draftiness is much worse than previous years, and it looks horrible, too.  Unfortunately, it is the biggest exterior wall of our house, and it faces the main entrance street (we live on a corner).  So care in selecting materials and contractors was in order.

This is one of the worst parts of being a homeowner: finding reliable contractors.  Open one web browser with bbb.org/nebraska, and another with Google, begin researching.  Ugh.  I also relied on my observations of contractors in our neighborhood the past few years, and the stash of business cards I’d collected in my file. It shouldn’t be this difficult.

Four contractors did not provide the information I asked for with careful explanation of the project and specific requests for two product estimates.  Loooong story short, I finally found my guy.  Actually, I prayed for it, and God delivered.  The cool thing is that this project will come in under the budget I originally set, which was based on some emergency repairs we had done seven years ago, by another company.  The contract doesn’t include the insulation, but I’ve estimated that, too, and we’re still good.  After all, we won’t know what the insulation situation really is until they start taking off the panels (the point of no return).  It also doesn’t include paint, which I’m still researching, but I can estimate that based on the last time we had the whole house painted. My worst-case scenario is still manageable.

But, there’s a twist.  Isn’t there always?  I originally planned to have the work done in May, so that we could have some additional funds set aside, and so the weather would be nicer.  Well, the crew had a week open.  This week.  Now.  Fortunately, My Guy is flexible on when our payment will be made.  How awesome is that?  We will not have to make payments.  We will not have to forfeit budgeted expenses.  We will be glad to pay for this very soon (anticipating a big check, maybe by the time they’re done).

So they start tomorrow, because it’s pouring rain today.  I’m okay with how the scheduling played out, and am glad for a reason to stay home for a few days.  And I’m glad my little project can keep a crew working!

My research for mudjacking the front porch steps yielded a good deal, too.  The steps have settled 4.5″ and are officially a tripping hazard — I almost took a header on the cement a few weeks ago.  The BBB was helpful again, and the contractor I chose is very professional, with an acceptable product and very doable fee.  I found out one highly-recommended contractor had a minimum job dollar, and that was a huge negative.  Right now, I have certain tasks that must be done, not several just to reach a contractor’s minimum.

In a few weeks I’ll be able to report back on the final verdict and who these contractors are.  Meanwhile, even though I’ll be involved in the insulation consultation, I’m simply trusting that everything will get done, correctly and promptly, and within budget.  There are more important things to think about.

Bottom line: Google doesn’t provide enough reviews, and the BBB is a great resource.  Check it for complaints, violations, and to see if a business cares enough to be registered.  Also, a reliable company will provide insurance and licensing information up front.  Keep looking until you get the service and personality mix you need.  A little prayer helps, too.

 

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Money Makeover — The February Gas Bill Results

Remember when I reported that our natural gas usage was going up significantly for our February bills?  Well, it turns out there’s more to it.

Our February 2014 bill sure shows a huge increase from 2013, because we had a mini Ice Age in Nebraska last year.  (And while most of the rest of the USA is experiencing super cold and super snow volume this year, we are not and feel blessed.  We love ya, Boston!)  Previous years do show an annual usage increase, too.

But this year, we reduced our usage!  Our February gas usage was 185 therms (lift your jaw back up, please), compared to last year’s 225.  A big reason for that is my turning the thermostat to 67 degrees and holding it there.  We bundled up when I was home during the day, and when we hunkered down for the few hours before bedtime.  We slept well in the cooler temperature, also.  In previous years, we’ve either set it at 69 and held, or programmed it to increase and decrease.  What a difference two degrees makes!

I also replaced weather stripping in January. That stopped drafts at our rickety storm door, at the back sliding door, and at the door to the garage, which really helped keep the furnace from turning on as much.  And, finally, we did not use the gas fireplace starter this month, like we usually do in the February billing cycle.

Even better news: the cost of gas went down, too, so the portion of the bill for gas was 33.8% less than last year’s number!  WOW!

Going forward, we need to reduce our energy use further.  Part of that includes adding more, proper insulation.  Since we’re getting new siding on the exposed north side of our house this spring, we’ll be taking care of that side.  Our budget only allows that (huge and important) side of the house to be done this year.  In the fall, depending on the budget monthly rollover amounts, I might be replacing the gas water heater with a more efficient one, as well.  I’ve already got leaks caulked, foam plates behind outlet covers and light switches, outlet covers, and window coverings installed.  The air flow issue was addressed in 2012.  I’ll be working on some other projects in this area, but don’t have much to spend on solutions this year.

Oh, yes.  Creativity.  That Mutha of Invention.

Bottom line:  We’re doing better than I thought with energy use, but we need to be doing better.  Our best available options are now expensive ones.

 

What one thing have you done to bring awesome energy savings to your home?

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Money Makeover Snag — The Furnace

First of all, we’ve been under budget for two months!  (Happy Snoopy dance music here.)

It was too cold to go out much, and I decided on fondue at home instead of a budgeted dinner out.  I made do with a lot of things around the house.  And the more I read about this topic, the less I wanted to spend.  Overall, it was a slow and deliberate month.  The excess funds, along with a little carryover from December, were just the extra I was hoping for. I was planning on sending a chunk to our emergency fund in addition to our regularly scheduled transfer.

That’s when the squeaking in the furnace turned to shrieking and all sorts of other noises.  I’m not kidding, it would start in the morning when the blower kicked in, and get louder throughout the day.  It was no longer an intermittent noise — it was intermittent silence amid noise.

The other day I knew I needed to call, but there was one thing after another, and I didn’t get to it.  This morning my back teeth hurt from the noise, so I made the call.  The company I use (Burton Heating & Air) had a team of technicians here within an hour.  Not kidding!  I’m glad I called, too.

The CO exchange unit motor was nearly shot.  When it goes out, there.is.no.heat.  And, because the motor was going out, the ignition switch was pretty worn, too.  Just kick me in the gut!  The technicians presented me with several (six, count ‘em, six) options, and DH happened to walk in the door for lunch during their presentation.  We made our decision, and with our service plan discount and another miscellaneous discount, the bill came to $825.  They were back with the parts, finished and gone in another hour and a half.

Guess what!  I had more than we needed and did not become physically ill while writing the check!  It was on its way to our emergency fund, anyway, and the emergency fund is for exactly this kind of situation. And boy, is it quiet. God does provide!

Now, I wouldn’t want to do this every month.  Because that would be stupid.  And just too stressful.  But it happened, and we’re good with the outcome.  What a great feeling.

So, while I’m still sitting on extra cash for our emergency fund, our bad luck comes in threes.  Whatever is coming, we’ll get through it.  We’re prepared financially.

I was also able to send a check to Project Hope this month.  Next month, I plan to send a similar check to another organization we support.  It sure feels great to be able to give like this!

Bottom line:  Life is good, and we’re not suffering in our efforts to adjust our finances.  Our emergency was thwarted and we had enough to cover the cost. We have enough to gladly share with others!

 

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Change, and I Love The Free Market System!

It’s not that I hate change.  It’s that I hate the surprise of change.  The “React to THIS now, CT!” attitude that change often brings.  And it’s not like this 54-year-old gal doesn’t know that change happens, or that it should, or that it’s even sometimes good.  It’s just that the change du jour presented so abruptly, so smugly, as if to say, “Too bad, so sad.”

My favorite grocery store is closing.  I found this out quite by accident at Bag N Save yesterday morning.  I asked the Assistant Store Director why the location wasn’t on the web site anymore, and he matter-of-factly stated that the store was closing in about three weeks. Turns out the employees were told a week before my discovery — like most people, I shop once a week. When I asked when they were going to tell people, he smiled and said they should be soon.  What?!  What my mind (and probably the minds of the other customers) heard was, “Oh, we’ll let you know when we’re darn good and ready.  Meanwhile, just go about your business and let us continue to play our little games.” — or, “No groceries for YOU!

It doesn’t matter that the store has to be closed; I know in my head that it does.  I know I’m so blessed to have so many other options for food and sundry procurement in this city.  I know in my heart of hearts that it will all work out for the employees one way or another, because God does provide.

What matters is how Nash Brothers (the parent company of No Frills and Bag N Save chains) handled this last round of closings: their no-notice position, removing of half their stock three weeks before scheduled closing. No tissues! No deli! No bread! Pitiful produce!  With NO signs to alert customers.  AND not even honoring the current sales flyer.  It’s how they treated the customers, not to mention the employees.  (Although I must say, I was very impressed that the Customer Service Manager thoughtfully called the nearby assisted living facility to alert them to the reduced stock before their scheduled shopping excursion for residents.)

What I haven’t told you is that starting a little over a year ago, Nash started reassigning many (but not all) of the best employees from my store to other stores, whether or not they wanted to go.  One employee was given a few days’ notice of their reassignment, and it was so dangerous and drastic that they had to stop working for Nash.  Nash executives didn’t want to discuss any changes.  I asked them last year; they didn’t care about this customer’s concerns.  Here’s the thing: you can’t reasonably expect to improve customer service and profits when you take away popular and high-performing staff.  You can’t reasonably expect to serve a market, a community, when you give up on a location’s operations.

The unfortunate image you project, Nash, to this former customer, is that you don’t care about the people in the communities from which you draw your customers, the very people who make this city tick.  Oh, I know it’s all about the profit, but really, you should probably improve the store and serve your customers rather than eliminate the options for them.  It’s called giving back; you should try it. You might see a positive effect.  But I see elimination of jobs, elimination of affordable grocery options for lower- and fixed-income residents, and the eventual elimination of this entire chain, which could have been a strong community player.

This means I just need to adjust my grocery shopping strategies again (and you will see the progress here on CT). I chose this grocery option for a long time, and now I will choose another. There are so many solutions to pick from!  Indeed, we are all so blessed to live in such a world, where not only is food plentiful and cheap, but also there are many places to get it.  My choices are possible because of our free market system.  Whatever my value system, I can choose if, how, where and when to spend currency in exchange for goods.  Incredible!  And as my value system changes (time v. funds, for example), my choices can change! (Oh, and, Freedom of Speech!)

MERICA!

This was my favorite store, mostly because of the people I encountered there. I am really going to miss those great employees.  I am really going to miss chatting with and helping those senior citizens in the aisles (because store staff was reduced so much).  But change happens.  Usually it’s uncomfortable.  Sometimes it is made more uncomfortable than it should be, by out-of-touch entities.

Bottom line: I’m no longer supporting Nash stores with my hard-earned grocery dollars.  I will find other solutions for our grocery needs. Competition is good and the free market system is awesome! 

 

I vote with my wallet when it comes to business.  How about you?

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Weight Loss and Being Healthy on the Frugal Plan

I am purposely losing weight.  Not that I was unhealthy, but I want to be healthier.  And I want to stay that way for a long, long time. The older I get, the more I realize how much work this takes in our current society.  After 50, it’s so much harder!

Since late last summer, I’ve lost nearly 20 lbs.  (Thankyouverymuch.)  Since Thanksgiving, I’ve lost 15 lbs.  Wow! Over the holidays, even!  I had a target weight for Valentine’s Day, and sadly, I came within 1 lb. of that, but did not hit it.  NO WORRIES!  It was one stepping stone along the way.  I just have to cross it eventually.  The up and down cycles are tiny now, and as long as I keep at it, it works.

Remember how I said I’ve switched to a mostly plant-based diet?  Yeah, that Valentine’s steak wasn’t plan-compliant.  But, “I was on a break!” It’s okay, really.  I’m back to my regular eating now.

The new goal weight marker comes at Easter.  And this I can do, if I don’t plateau.  With Ash Wednesday this week, and Lent for 40 days + 10 Sundays = 50 days, the combination of thoughtfully doing without certain food luxuries and getting out in the coming warmer weather will help keep me on the right courses, spiritually as well as physically.

But frugally?  You betcha!  As evidence, I present that in January I stayed under my grocery budget.  Eating smaller portions of lean animal protein, and aiming for once a day with that, is definitely cheaper than eating a heavy meat-based diet.  There is plenty of decently-priced produce available right now.  Maybe it’s not the fruit you enjoy in the middle of summer, or the fresh Nebraska corn from down the way.  But you can find relatively local (within a few states’ distance) vegs and Texas or Florida fruit, if you eat seasonally.  And my friend The Freezer supplies an abundance of preservative-free, sometimes organic, sometimes local, always delicious foods.  Not bank-breaking.

When I combine my regular thrifty grocery shopping habits with reduced amounts of meat and cheese, and eliminate as much non-food as I can (without mutiny), it is absolutely the frugal way to eat.  I’m looking for those sales all the time.  Price matching saves time and gas, but sometimes I’ll swing by a store with a better price along my travels (so still saving gas).  I always look for markdowns — I don’t always find what I’m looking for, but I do look.  I even find really good, whole greens marked down.

Canned foods don’t have the same benefits as fresh.  But whatcha gonna do when tomatoes aren’t in season?  Look for sales in the canned aisle!  Dry beans v. canned? Whichever is cheaper per serving!  Since dry beans were incredibly marked down in January, I stocked up.

Brown rice.  Reasonable, on sale occasionally, and a key part of my eating plan.  A little goes a long way.  That’s about it.

Exercise, moving around, keeping physically active, are important to this process.  I can blame the cold, but really I haven’t been making it a priority like I should.  In addition to my “walking” DVDs, I need to get outside more, get some sun on my face, put some mileage on my shoes.  The other day, DH and I found a new-to-us trail that goes to a nearby grocery store that I don’t usually hit because it seems silly to drive there for their 1 or 2 coupon deals.  But, with the “two stones” concept, this could be a helpful walk (roughly a 4-mile round trip).

Simple food is my M.O. these days, and keeping my purchases simple helps not only my “bottom line,” but also our budget bottom line.  And moving around is free!  I just need to step away from the computer.

What’s your favorite effective way to stay healthy frugally?

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How Do I Love Thee Frugally?

Many of you know that February 14th marks not only St. Valentine’s Day, but also our wedding anniversary!  There were a few reasons we chose that day.  And while we love to love it, we find ourselves staying home rather than going out to celebrate.

With the budget squeaky tight this year, I wanted to make this a special night at home, a real celebration without breaking the bank.  DH has been working very hard, sometimes missing family dinners, and I miss cooking for him.  We deserve a teeny break from the austere.  So a fancy evening, without a fancy price, would be nice.  I think I’ve succeeded.  Here’s the plan (and I’m not spoiling anything for DH).

The MealWe love a good steak.  I was hoping to catch a deal a week or two ahead of time, keep it in the freezer, and have budget-sized portions for our dinner.  Imagine my Thrill when I found these:

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Can’t beat the price of these luscious steaks.

Beautiful ribeyes for about .75 each!  I know it was a mistake, and the others were marked 9.99/#.  But, I presented them at the register, and they rang up like this, and the cashier saw it.  These will be such a treat for us!  And the leftovers (because I’m not eating 3/4# of beef in one sitting) will not go to waste.  Sides will include the frugal potato, gussied up as Hasselbacks, and crisp Romaine salads.

And we love a good dessert.  Especially when I don’t have to make it. The other day, for another occasion, I bought a Bundlet at Nothing Bundt Cakes.  I had a BOGO free coupon from the Saving Sidekick coupon book dutifully purchased for a fundraiser last year.  How lovely that we will be able to share this:

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Only a bite….or two.

This is massive, folks.  A decadent 3.5″ wide, 3.5″ high mound of red velvety awesomeness.  It is certainly enough for two to share.  And being free just makes it sweeter.

The Wine — DH is drinking reds these days.  For Christmas, I gave him a case of various reds from Wine Insiders.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.  I don’t know which one he’ll select for himself.  I may well skip the wine, or just have a sip to celebrate.

The Table — Now this will be a surprise, so no picture just yet.  I purchased a red satin window panel at the thrift store recently for .99, washed it, and hemmed it into a square.  Layered over that will be a white tablecloth we used at our wedding reception.  Special plates, also purchased at the thrift store specifically for this occasion, and genuine antiques.

I’m always blessed with flowers.  The other night DH brought home roses.  He likes to avoid the last-minute rush and price hikes.  I know where he gets them, and bless his frugal heart, he done good!  These are very similar to the roses we had at our wedding.

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Beautiful!

The Ambience — DH always selects great background music for our celebrations.  We have a nice CD collection already, so we could use what we have.  Maybe we’ll play one of the cable music channels for a little variety.  Candles, soft lighting, etc.  Maybe we’ll even dance!

Part of the secret to making this a relaxing evening, is preparing as much ahead of time as possible.  (And cleaning up all but the last-minute dishes so no one has to be in there scrubbing.) No cost for that.

I’m pretty happy with the plan!  It’ll be just us two, as #2 has decided to spend his day and evening gaming elsewhere.

EDIT 2/16/15 — Didn’t get a full pic of the table, but here are the plates. Those are votive candle holders, not wine glasses.

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What are your frugal, but not “cheap,” Valentine’s Day plans?

 

 

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The Ninja Maker

 

This is not a sponsored post.  This review is based on my own experience with this purchase.

I’m proud to say that my eating habits have improved quite a bit in the last 5 months.  Good news: I’ve been able to adjust my eating this whole time, and now eat a mostly plant-based diet.

So when I decided to combine several gifts recently, I got this:

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Oh, yes.  Nutri Ninja Professional. 900 watts of power!  Four super sharp blades.  Appropriate sized containers. Nutrient extraction. I compared, I researched, and this — this is what I chose.  Not just for smoothies (because I just can’t have one every morning for boredom), but for celebratory first-job milkshakes, trial-and-error salad dressings, and even a soup fail experiment, so far.

It cost $99 plus tax at Walmart (Savings Catcher caught me nothing on this, and we only went there because we were returning another gift).  There were several different kinds of machines available at price points fro $59 to $120.  I’d done my homework and knew I wanted this brand, this model, for its features and price.  I’ve had it for 30 days now.

When I brought it home, DS#2 was there to christen it: The Ninja Maker.

TNM replaced a 30-year-old blender.  Since I was only using the huge, old thing for fruit not-so-smoothies, anyway, TNM was a better appliance for me, and the upgrade in function was a good move.  Love, love, love the 900 watts!  This can zip up my morning drink meal in about 15 seconds, and cleans up in a flash.

And I must say, it makes things so very smooth.  I can live without an ice cream headache — the power blending makes it smooth without all the iciness.  Plus, really, it’s freezing outside right now.

TNM takes up little square footage, so I can leave it out on the counter, which reminds me to use the fruit. I love all kinds of berries!  Even though it’s the middle of winter, there is still plenty of fresh and frozen fruit available at good prices.  Did you know that grocery stores will mark down bananas that are still perfectly good, just because the skins turned a little brownish because they got too cold between the truck and the produce department? A couple weeks ago I found containers of fresh blackberries on sale for .99, so I flash froze the berries then popped them into a freezer bag (not as sweet as late July, but still antioxidant rich).  And if all else fails, there are berries available in the freezer section.  Personally, I like to toss in a bit of orange, definitely in season right now, as well as some apple.

I’ve even experimented with tossing in a leaf of kale.  While they say you can’t taste it, I can.  But I also don’t mind it so much.  I’ve made “lunch smoothies” with assorted bits of veggies and tomato (fruit or veg, you decide).  One such concoction was intended to be a soup, heated up afterward, but, ummm, no.  (I may or may not revisit that.  I’m still recovering.)

There are lots and lots of recipes on the Interwebz, and I haven’t found one go-to website that I like. The Nutri Ninja Professional comes with a recipe booklet, but I really don’t have those ingredients on-hand all at the same time for those drinks.  Maybe I’ll get there.  In the meantime, I’m sticking with my usual morning blend:

  • 1/2 – 1 cup frozen berries in whatever variety and measurements I’m in the mood for
  • 1 medium fresh banana, which is so much better than frozen for texture and taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground golden flax seed for Omega 3 and fiber
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk and I prefer Almond Breeze!

Like I said, I change it up a bit with orange, apple, kale, etc.  But this is my base, and this morning it was enough for me.

The milkshake was for #2, to celebrate confirmation of his first job as a camp counselor this summer!  Chocolate, of course, and in short order.  I tasted a teeny sip, and all the ingredients were well mixed without melting from too much blending.

So, does The Ninja Maker make me a Ninja?  The jury’s still out on that, but I feel healthier, the weight is dripping off as hoped, and I have more energy these past few months. I even feel some relief of my osteoarthritis.  This nutrient extractor is, so far, an excellent value, and I look forward to finding out what else it can do.

Do you have a go-to food prep item in your kitchen?  What thing makes your cooking life so much better?

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Unexpected Money — Yes, Please!

There usually aren’t any significant surprises on our credit card bills.  We use them mostly for gas, an occasional big purchase, and things for which we want the backing of the card company.  Our accounts are paid in full every month.  We try to keep current with Quicken entries.

(Money Makeover aficionados are likely spitting out their morning coffee, I suppose.  But this works for us, and we do not carry long term balances on our accounts.)

About a year ago, we learned that DH’s credit card was offering a credit of 5% of the first $150 of gas purchases each month.  Nice, we’d see what would happen.  The promotion ended with the last billing cycle, and they applied a credit to the account.  It’s enough for three tanks’ worth of gas!

The running total showed at the bottom of each statement, but since the credit didn’t apply, I paid it no mind.  It was to be a bonus, a sort of surprise at this time of year.  We like good surprises at this time of year.  DH didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.  He just filled up as he normally would.  Now, some of those months, he filled up the old gas-guzzling Durango, some of them the high MPG Saturn, and some the Toyota that replaced the Durango.

The credit was, indeed, a welcome surprise!  It will get credited to the proper Quicken account, and we will be under budget by quite a bit this month.  And that’s always good.

What good surprises have you found in your bills lately?

 

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Paying The Utility Bills

Part of our Money Makeover requires getting a handle on the bills.  Not just popping dollar amounts into the budget, but getting to know more about how the billing processes have changed over the years.

Yeah, we’re pretty old school.  Boomers entrenched in ’50s values tend to be that way.  But now it’s time to review and, I can see already, change.

To that end, I am becoming intimate with our accounts again.  (Let me clarify that credit card bills are examined monthly.)

We use budget billing for OPPD (electric) and MUD (gas and water) because we like to know what our monthly expenses will be. We get billed the same amount every month for the whole billing year, regardless of our usage, and  the account is adjusted at the end of that cycle, as a new monthly rate. There’s some Einstein-ish algorithm that magically calculates the new rates based on usage, expected energy costs, long-term forecasts, blah, blah, and I’ve never questioned it.

But I am questioning our usage! For some reason, for the past few years, our natural gas usage has steadily gone up over the previous year’s, every February. Huh! The bills reflect actual usage, not estimated, like they used to a few years back. That was one reason I was no longer examining the bills closely — some months were estimated, some were actual meter readings, with no consistency, and there was no making heads or tails out of the information. It was frustrating and a waste of time. Now that I’m actually looking at the bills again, I see they’re actual readings.

So why the jumps? Well, you can bet I’m going to be quite observant over the next few weeks to try to figure this thing out. While we might use more gas (for the furnace) in February than in other months, I can’t imagine why it would increase substantially each year, over the previous year’s jump.

The game is afoot!

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The Value of Black Pants

I’ve lost 12 pounds since Thanksgiving.  Twelve!  It needed to be done, and still needs to be done.  I’m on a journey here to a healthier, happier me.

So I purged my closet again, to get the ill-fitting stuff just OUT of there.  A few things fit comfortably and looked nice enough to keep.Three things got set aside for altering, and the rest got put in a pile for the thrift store, or listed on eBay.  My favorite pair of versatile black pants, now two sizes too big, sold within six hours.  Goodbye, dear friend.  You were always there when I needed you. Those black pants were worn with blazers for work, fancy blouses for work parties, soft sweaters for date night, and casual tops for day outings. Truly the go-to workhorse of my closet.

I suddenly had no black pants.  But with our financial goals super tight budget, a new wardrobe is not in the plan, especially since I’m still losing weight.  You know me….off to the thrift store!

Do you know how many pairs of pants hang on the racks at Goodwill?  A gazillion, at least.  Among them, a pair of black pants of the same brand and style as my favorite former bestie!  In my current size!  I held my breath and prayed for a red tag (the .99 color of the week).  And we have a winner!  God is good!

It is not trivial to find an excellent pair of well-fitting black pants.  Such a pair is versatile, comfortable, flattering, and esteem-boosting.  I will wear these often, with 70% of my tops, in all four seasons (as long as they fit).  And I simply cannot beat the price.  I can confidently say I will wear them at least once a week, probably more, which will bring the cost per wear down to about two cents if I stay on my weight loss schedule.

I feel so much better knowing that this item is available when I need it.  It empowers me, really.  That’s something money can’t buy.

What empowers you?  It doesn’t have to be a tangible item, of course!  But it shouldn’t be an expensive item, either, or it really doesn’t empower you.

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