The easiest way to save money is to not spend it.

Be less than average this year. Spend less than what Americans tend to for the holidays (

Follow all of these tips and not only will you save money, you’ll possibly make a profit (you won’t):

  • Write a list of what you need to buy and set a budget. Then, start or restart a blog documenting how you’re going to stick to it. Plan to fail, but not by too much.
  • You don’t have to do holiday photo cards. I love getting holiday cards. I decorate a closet door with them, and I think photo cards are really cute and sometimes I keep them. I thought I needed to make them. But for my kid’s third Christmas, I ran out of steam and didn’t get the photo cards made in time. I decided not to make them and it was fine and I haven’t done them since. I still usually send regular Christmas cards because I chose to and want to.
  • If you’re making a photo gift, before you go through Shutterfly or the like, check and see if it’s something you can instead make through your local photo shop  or a drug store. The online places have great deals, but the shipping costs basically makes the promos useless.
  • If you can’t afford it, then it’s not a good deal.
  • You don’t have to buy presents for people who voted for Trump.
  • Take people off your list if you need to. In previous years (and also this year) I didn’t have money to buy gifts for some people who are normally on my list, so I didn’t buy anything. And we remained family.
  • Cut out the fritter: gift bags, pricey cards, ribbons, end-cap deals, dollar spots. If the gift doesn’t add value and only serves as an extra object to be opened, it’s not necessary.
  • Avoid Target in general and do all your shopping at a big Kroger. Or whichever are your stores where you spend too much money at and the stores where you can save money on the items you actually need.
  • I’m going to try this out this year: finish shopping early. If you wrap it up with weeks to spare, there is less panic shopping and less “buying one more thing” if you consider yourself done.


I want to talk about money but I’m trying to think of the perfect opener to explain my spending habits and where I am today. I’ll have to settle for a bunch of statements.

  • I don’t like buying things I can’t afford. I save for things I want and if I don’t have the money then I try not to want it.
  • I save money with every paycheck, no matter how little. I’m glad I put away those $10 deposits when I need them.
  • Until last year I didn’t have any credit card debt. I use cards with cash back/points and (ULY, again) paid off the balances every month.
  • I try to spend smartly when I have to buy something.
  • I’m the kind of person who brings $20 to a group dinner and eats $17 worth of food and then dies a little because I have to split a bill and feel terrible and pay $50, or worse, someone pays for me because they know I meant to spend $20.
  • I say “I” but I have roommates. I’m married and we have two kids and two dogs and a cat and we own a house and have two cars. I’m the primary breadwinner (winning bread is a great way to save money on bread). While I can control spending by no longer buying clothes or eating out, I can’t control that people are expensive, and we sometimes have to spend money we don’t have.
  • About last year: I used savings to partially pay for a new roof (ours was both leaking and was a couple years overdue to be replaced). I had to put some of it on a credit card and I planned to pay it off within a couple months. Hey, guess what happened right after that? My car needed about $1000 in repairs, plus we had another unexpected bill, and then it was Christmas 2016. When I got a tax refund, instead of paying off the credit card, I decided to get a minor bathroom issue looked at. And the floor of the bathroom was so rotted the contractor wasn’t sure how the tub hadn’t fallen in yet. We had to have an emergency bathroom renovation, paid mostly by credit card.
  • No big deal. We can handle credit card debt. I was paying $200+ every month to pay off the balance and plan to continue paying that much and –
  • -Oh, shit. That doesn’t work because life costs too much money. We have to keep using the credit card so the regular payments only pay off the debt that accrues each month.
  • Now I hate buying all things, because when you have $10,700 in credit card debt after a decade of no credit card debt, it’s hard to think about anything else.

I think those statements cover it. I’m going to weep into my fleece blanket that I use for crying. The crying fleece was a gift, I didn’t pay anything for it. Stop judging me.

Ok back from the fleece. I ended up doing some light shouting and then I looked at the new tile in my not-rotting bathroom and now I feel better.

I have credit card debt! You probably do, too. Maybe more or less or exactly the same. The same? Jinx! You owe me $10,700! Unsecured debt. More like insecure debt, right? I feel trapped but also know that it will get better or worse, that’s how life is.

I make my monthly payments and then some. Bills are paid on time and we’re well fed, and have all mod cons, and if I save $10 a month maybe I can get a crossbody bag from Awl Snap next year. There is no disposable income when you have that much unsecured debt, but I still save money for emergencies, travel, my kids, and try to donate money every other month to something, in addition to making credit card payments. Because otherwise, what’s the point? Some things do actually matter; I lied when I said before that nothing does.

Also, I save for Christmas spending for half of the year. I have a direct deposit set up for a savings account at a bank that’s not my primary credit union. Ideally for Christmas I should spend zero dollars and put all that I saved to paying off debt. I can’t do that. I mean, I could, but I can’t. Wait, can I? Let’s put a pin in that.

Unless I need it for something else (emergencies happen, y’all), I’ll have $446.04 in my Christmas savings by the end of the year. I’m rounding up to $500 because I’m sure I can add to the pot in the next few paychecks. I have 15 non-roommate family members on my list, plus 7 people in my community of caregivers/give carers that I’d like to do something for.

Here’s how I’m breaking it down:

  • My kids: $200 (total, not each)
  • The 15: $300 ($20 a person)

That math already doesn’t work out. Let’s readjust.

  • The 15: $250 ($16.6 a person)
  • My kids: $180
  • Misc. gifts: $70

The $500 is for gifts only. I’ll have to readjust my grocery budget in December to cover additional food costs. I don’t need to buy decorations, and I can count the Christmas tree purchase as what I budget for school since I’ll get it through a PTA fundraiser)(#supportourschools).

As for the $96,000 (the post title that you read an hour ago) that figure has nothing to do with anything, but now the word “thousand” makes me think of the song “96,000” from “In the Heights,” and that’s been one of my favorite songs to listen to while I run.

$500 is a crazy amount of money. I could put that to such better use, but it’s Christmas. Back to the crying fleece!



This post title is also the password to most of my accounts so don’t memorize it.

I’m dusting off the ol’ bjournal. What’s happening, everybody? I trust that everyone is doing terribly and you fear for the future and you’re sick about how people you once thought were fine and normal are apparently hateful and stupid.

Speaking of the future, you know what else is in the future? Christmas! This is a safe space so although I celebrate the shopping holiday/anxiety creator called Christmas, I recognize that not everyone does and that’s fine. In fact it, like most things, doesn’t matter.

(Moving forward, my dread is implied. Please enjoy or at least read my posts but also call your reps, talk to your awfuls, feel uncomfortable, want better things for people you’ll never meet, and keep good things up because “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Santa said that).*

Where was I? Dread, awful, Santa. It’s November 1 and I’m already bummed about how I overspent money during the holiday season although it hasn’t happened yet. Because I can’t stack debt on top of general hopelessness, today I told myself that I will not go over budget. In fact, I will hold myself accountable by writing about it. And that’s what this is.

Welcome to Burgerphone 2: Didn’t Feel Like Setting Up a New Site or Better Title Because Nothing Matters. Money-saving edition!

*I call Leonard Cohen “Santa.”

My family (which now includes a super healthy and increasingly mobile infant son) and I were snowed in for a few days and we made do with what we had in our pantry after a grocery store run before the storm. My husband (or, my “associate,” as he has been known) made a delicious chicken dinner out of a green pepper, a can of fire roasted tomatoes, spices, and refried beans over tortillas, and I said I was going to write about it for our fake cooking blog. Then I remembered that I actually have a blog.


We all used to have them! And they’re still hanging around, simultaneously forgotten and to serve as reminders for what free time used to look like.

Burgerphone holds a lot of awesome memories for me. I started it in 2005. I was 26, lived alone, already had Netflix, had a cat (RIP Milhouse) cooked a lot, and was single (though I had a host of good friends, including my constant chum Susan, who might still be my common law wife. I have to check up on that). Lots can happen in any ten-year span (or even in a year, see: my life in 2015), but now I have it all (“all” means Netflix AND Amazon Prime, HBOGo, and Hulu Plus). And I love checking back to see what I was doing up to 10 years ago, and to be reminded of crazy things my daughter said, and to either laugh at my old jokes or be confused along with the rest of you. And if you ever go back to read old posts: I didn’t get any better at growing tomatoes, but I have finished a book already in 2016.

Burgerphone filled the space that making a zine (which I had done semi-regularly for at least a decade as teen/post-teen) had used, and social media* and a freelance writing gig took up the space of bjournaling in recent years. Now I have no space and am behind on everything (I’ve been trying to finish a novel for years, and also I need to submit a school application for my daughter, among 400 things). I’m officially closing up shop on this site to remove Writing a Blog Entry from the list of things I’m supposed to be doing but not. Come back inside and get warm, Reminders to Send Thank You Notes for Christmas Presents!

If you ever read this, thanks. Odds are, I read your blog, too. And since this used to be my megaphone for whatever I was into, here’s a quick rundown of what that is now:

  • The Hamilton soundtrack

  • I love Budget Bytes the best of all the food sites I ever followed.
  • Another Round is currently the only podcast I always listen to.

*I’m on the twitter, the fb, the Instagram, and I shout at my dog a lot from the back door of my house when she’s in the backyard. I predict outside shouting as the next level of social media.


I’ve been in the hospital for fifty days. FIFTY DAYS. That’s a lot of time for something completely unplanned. It’s been both as terrible as you could imagine, and also as good as it could be. I’m able to walk around the unit by myself, I’m healthy, and I’m carrying a baby who is doing exceptionally well under the stress, which all makes me feel more like a cat in a bookstore than a hospital patient (I can roll out all the sad stuff, too, but since we’re heading for a happy ending, that doesn’t seem to matter).

Made using stamps that were a surprise gift from an old pal of my husbands (find her at lizardbreth)

Made using stamps that were a surprise gift from an old pal of my husband (find her at lizardbreth)

Our friends and family have been awesome throughout all this. If I could afford it I would take them all out to nice dinners to thank them personally, but I can’t afford anything after living in a hospital for two months. The best I can do is bring home little containers of apple juice for everyone. You know how some people want to fake a funeral to see what they meant to people? Isn’t that a thing? I feel like this experience has been a version of that – I was not expecting the support we got. It’s been very touching and I’m too much of a robot to effectively communicate what it’s meant to me.

It's helpful when your friend co-owns a coffee shop. Go to Perk! in Bon Air.

It’s helpful when your friend co-owns a coffee shop. Go to Perk! in Bon Air.

I know a lot of awesome and thoughtful people, and that must mean that my husband and I are good people, too, for anyone to want to help us. So if you are an asshole, you better make it right. You never know when you’ll need support.

Here are some notes about the past 50 days.

Milhouse in Heaven, thinking about me.

Mother’s Day present: Milhouse in Heaven, thinking about me. Oh, also Milhouse died.

Weekdays go by quickly, weekends feel slower.

How I’ve spent my time: During the week, wi-fi is really slow. I spend half of my time waiting for web pages to load. I’ve finished seasons of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Fargo, and Orange is the New Black. I only read two books: Bringing Up Bebe and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve written a journal entry every day. I wrote several columns and a couple of articles for RVAnews. I watched a lot of Mad Men. I played games including Wordbrain (phone), a cool puzzle that my friend sent me (kind of like a logic puzzle meets Tetris), and for about a week I was into puzzle books (Logic, Crosswords). I’ve read through lots of magazines, and watched lots of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (I like Guy Fieri – deal with it), and other dumb shows. My husband and I watched a lot of the hit movies from 2014, so at least I’m caught up on what everyone was talking about last year. I even played Minesweeper. Remember Minesweeper from when computers were invented? And being able to bank online and keep track of school events helped. Whatever I could to do keep my husband from having to do it helped me feel more useful and less bad about everything.

IQ Twist.

IQ Twist.

How I spent my time with my daughter: I’ve seen my daughter every day while here (with the exception of one day when she stayed at home since she might have been sick. She wasn’t). My husband has brought her at least twice a day (before and after school) and they spend most of the day with me on weekends. Seeing them so much is mostly what has made this past 50 days tolerable. Even though it’s a small room and I’m more aware of them here than when at home (my daughter especially leaves a messy path), at least it’ll make our house seem big when I get home.

Anyway, a big, mushy thank you to my main associate and roommate for working so hard to bring home to the hospital. They’ve both done beautifully with all the adjustments.



As for ways to spend time with my daughter, we play lots of Chutes and Ladders, she works on art projects (my aunt sent us a lot of supplies), we watch cable TV (Clarence on Cartoon Network is a weird favorite now for me, and she likes Teen Titans Go). We got some mileage out of Don’t Let The Pigeon Finish This Activity Book! (although I plan to throw away most of the activities we’ve done). She has also become best friends with all the nurses. They let her check my temperature and blood pressure, and they’re all very sweet to her. My friend Susan (who, among a million things, brought me one of the best meals I’ve had here) sent a stack of books for my kid to borrow, which has been nice for hospital naptime.

I have access to a kitchenette with juices, cereal, little ice creams, crackers, peanut butter, milk, and soda. My daughter can enter the key code to unlock the door and will help herself to drinks and snacks. Even my nephew will go to the fridge and pick out his favorite juice when he’s here (my sister says he asks to visit “the Kelly” a lot, but she’s not sure if he loves me more now or likes having access to the kitchen). Also the ice machine makes the best crushed ice. Drinking a cranberry juice cocktail over a cup of crushed ice is delicious. It’s not unreasonable for a woman to choose where to deliver her baby based on the crushed ice availability at the hospital.

There is a nice courtyard area outside, and also a water fountain and a little wooded area. I’m impressed with how well my young visitors have made do with this as a play area. I guess I don’t give kids enough credit. Plus, there are at least two red-tailed hawks that live around the hospital, and they’re fun to spot. It stinks that I missed spring weather, but I at least got outside on some nice days.


Birds of Prey: They’re Just Like Us!

I normally would never buy watermelon pieces because it’s too expensive. A whole watermelon cut up and sold in packages would cost at least $50 (a pure, uncut watermelon is about $5). But I have been craving watermelon and asked several times for people to bring it. I feel bad because I know it’s so expensive, but it’s all been delicious. No regrets.

My husband hates grocery shopping and it’s one of the normal-life things that I miss the most.

My friends’ photos online have made me miss getting a garden started, and want to eat a dozen King of Pops popsicles and go to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

I’ve gone back to being a night person. As a single gal, I woke up earlier than my friends (like, 9 AM). When I first moved in with my associate, I started to get up a little earlier and go to bed earlier. I felt like I owned my day more if I could be up to do something other than get ready for work. Now I would prefer to sleep in every day but can’t, and still stay up until 1 AM. It’s a terrible balance but now that Letterman and Saturday Night Live are done, I have no real reason to stay up late.

Since I’ll be out of here in the new few weeks, I’ve been packing up and throwing things out. Days are less sad. I’ve gotten over my lack of accomplishments (I did organize a photo album for 2013 and 2014 – though that unfortunately sets me up for needing to create photo albums every year). I didn’t work on my novel or start any new stories, but this is basically my maternity leave, and I wouldn’t have done any of that anyway. I have time to think about the new baby for real. This pregnancy has gone on forever, although it’s ending a month earlier than it could have. I sometimes lose focus that the end result is a new child but now I’m in preparation mode (or as much as I can be without having any hand in getting the house ready) and excited to get started on our next phase in life.

Nothing about this year has worked out as planned (bed rest isn’t the first of it). I won’t have much time at home – I was hoping for 12 weeks but I will get just 6 or maybe 7, and with a NICU stay, I don’t know when the baby will be joining us for that. But since I’ve not been able to do much for the last two months, I hope that I make the most of the time I do have at home with the baby. I don’t care about being tired or sad or frazzled or in pain – I just want to be there.

Ultrasounds have gotten very specific.

Ultrasounds have gotten very specific.

Also, my nurses have been amazing – both here and the hospital that I transferred from. And red-tailed hawks are cool. And it’ll probably be another year before I update Burgerphone again.

check out my boy @trashpoems on Instagram.

check out my boy @trashpoems on Instagram.

Before I was put on hospital bed rest for PPROM (don’t bother reading up on it if you don’t need to know — but it’s a thing), I finished the first episodes of season seven of Mad Men on Netflix. I knew the last seven started the next weekend, and I asked my dad to DVR them and I had a plan to somehow get to my parents house and spend the weekend binge-watching it before our new baby came. I didn’t want to wait a year until the rest came on Netflix, because if there was a surprise ending then I could only keep from finding out for so long.

Mad Men has been a show I’ve always liked (though seasons five and six weren’t as interesting to me, Don-wise). I’ve only watched it on Netflix. My husband stopped watching it with me after a few seasons, so I would watch it by myself. I never thought it was that great when there weren’t new episodes for me to get through, but then while I was watching it, all I wanted was to start the next episode and I wanted everyone to be a year behind with me so that I could talk about it.

One of the first thoughts I had when I was hospitalized — after I started to have thoughts that weren’t panicky and sad — was that if I stayed in the hospital as long as I was supposed to, I could finish Mad Men. I could watch it live on cable TV like a rich person, not like the can-of-beans-eating-Netflixer that I was. Mad Men would get me through most of my bed rest.

peggySo Mad Men became more important than it normally would have. I enjoyed watching it on Sundays, talking to my dad and other people about it, and reading all the recaps I could on Mondays so I could get another take on what I watched (the problem with a show like MM is that it’s been stretched out so much that I don’t catch all the symbolic call backs).

When the marathon started last Wednesday, I watched as much as I could between hospital interruptions, visitors, and seeing my family, and it was nice to go back and notice things, including how much Megan was in whatever season she showed up in (I don’t think I noticed her until the episode when Sally is at the office, but she was in the background or being talked to in lots of scenes before that), how lucky the show was with Sally’s casting, how the characters talked to Peggy and Joan in season 1, knowing how they turn out, Stan’s changing hair, and the friendship between him and Peggy. And Pete Campbell has always been terrible.

I kept making the joke “I just want to make it to the last episode of Mad Men, then I don’t care what happens,” which is true because I wanted to see the show end, but also because the finale coincided with the weekend I turned to 32 weeks — which is a basically full term for a premature baby.

Now that it’s over I don’t want to go into labor yet, but I don’t feel like I have anything non-baby to talk about, and even that news hasn’t been refreshed in a week (I have told everyone a story about a hawk and a squirrel that I saw that I’m not even sure is interesting). I’m going to think about baby stuff and make sketches of what Stan’s facial hair will look like throughout the ’70s until I have the baby.

I liked the ending, though. I’ll talk to you losers about it in a year when you catch up on Netflix.

I’ve flipped through a million magazines during my time on bed rest. My horoscope in Glamour magazine that I read on my first day of bed rest — when I knew I could be here for two months — was:

“Restless much? Change things up a bit by planning a mini road trip to try a new out-of-town restaurant or check out that art gallery that just opened. Whatever you do, ‘I’m bored’ is off-limits.”

aprilYeah. Shut it, Glamour magazine beauty issue. You don’t know me.

My May horoscope from Marie Claire was more relevant to my situation:

mayThat’s better. Though I hope that “power day” is powerful because I finally figure out how to change the cable channel that’s a webcam in the hospital chapel back to Comedy Central, which it should be according to the TV channel guide.

I don’t think about astrology unless I’m reading my horoscope, but I don’t consider it completely baseless. I am a classic Virgo. Mary Anne from the Baby-Sitter’s Club and I have the same birthday, and she and I were very similar (minus the being good at babysitting part). I’ve wondered before if babies who are born at a scheduled time and not when they naturally would have arrived grow up to be more complicated people if their star signs were manipulated.

Our child is going to be born more than a month before his/her due date, putting it under a completely different sign in the horoscope. I liked the original due date, as he/she would be in birthday company of some of my favorite people. Now I don’t know what to think. I’m guessing I won’t think too much about it. Unless this one turns out to be a sociopath and when I tearfully talk to the police after an incident, I’ll remember this.