Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Posts Tagged ‘books

How low can you go – week one

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In an effort to keep costs down, I’m continuing to track my spending and now I’m reporting it here.  Basically, I’m trying to keep my variable expenses down as much as I can right now to save for next year, when I may not be earning much.  Rent, utilities, and my one recurring research-related subscription will get added in at the end of the month for the grand total.  I’ll have to see if I can keep track of groceries, since The Boy usually pays for those.

In the first week of my how low can you go challenge, I think I did pretty well.

Friday – nothing

Saturday – nothing

Sunday – nothing

Monday – 6 books for $15 (The Road – 2; The Fiery Cross – 2; The Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – 3; A Minnesota Doctor’s Home Remedies for Common and Uncommon Ailments – 2; Blue Covenant – 3; World Hunger: Twelve Myths – 3).

Tuesday – toilet paper for $12.

Wednesday – nothing

Thursday – nothing

Total = $27

Not bad, I suppose.  In all honesty, as I’ve said before I don’t need more books.  I consider this a birthday gift to myself, though, and I appreciate their entertainment value (in the case of the novels) and having them around for reference (home remedies and organic gardening).  Happily, the ones on water and hunger will be reimbursed as part of a research project that I’m working on.  The toilet paper was found cheaper at a local store than where I usually get it, and will last us awhile.

Next week, I’m going to be more vigilant about staying away from the bookstore (and I won’t have a birthday as my excuse).  I need to get a birthday gift for my mom, and pay for a warranty on my computer (expansive, and totally worth it, in my experience), but other than that, I’m still aiming for reducing costs.  I also have a pressing desire to do some spring cleaning, so I imagine that will keep me busy (and hyper-aware of how much stuff I have), as will all the grading I have to do.

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Written by Jenn

April 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Reference library

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I am my own library.

I’ve always loved reading and having books around.  When I was 10 or so I had one bookshelf, crammed with books, and piles everywhere else for the ones that just wouldn’t fit.

Things aren’t really that different now, although the focus of the books has shifted.

When I started my Masters degree, I realised how hard it was to get some of the books that I needed from the library, if they even had them at all.  I also realised that 3 weeks was simply not enough time for some of them.  So I started buying books.  Not a lot, but when I needed something, especially for my research, I tended to get it so I could have my own copy, always available, that I could do what I wanted with.  This carried through to my doctorate, and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some grant money that has allowed me to buy most of the books that I use for research, many of which are generally good, useful texts that will be handy for a wide variety of academic work in the future (Veblen, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Baudrillard, Bourdieu, de Certeau, and Simmel, I’m looking at you).

Once I became aware of issues around food security, sustainability, and peak oil, I began to see the value in using this approach of making sure I had books on hand that would help me live the life I was increasingly wanting to lead.  And so, with another bookshelf on hand, I started building up a greater selection of books on cooking, gardening, knitting, sewing, preparedness, preserving, food issues, compost, household maintenance, and most recently, raising animals.

Coupled with the fiction that I also kept around, this makes for a lot of books.  Actually, for awhile I considered getting rid of some of the fiction or academic books to make a bit more room (the fiction especially was considered for the shopping block), but then I read one of Sharon’s posts that included a section about buying books and feeling that she should be the local library, and I stopped thinking that way.

While fiction may not be useful in the practical sense, it gives me some very inexpensive, reusable, and lendable entertainment.  It’s an escape, a way to get away from the world for a while.  Sometimes its inspirational.  Sometimes its relaxing.  But I appreciate having books around that I want to read, and so when I see something at the used bookstore for a few dollars that I want to have around long term, it often comes home with me.  At the most recent 50 percent off sale, I came home with John Steinbeck, Eudora Welty, Dostoyevsky, Douglas Adams, John Irving, and Annie Dillard.  I’m still not looking forward to moving them, and I do trim the collection here and there but, by and large, the books stay.

The building of my library has been facilitated in a few ways.  My long-standing love of thrift stores has certainly helped, and I’d say the vast majority of my books have cost no more than a few dollars each.  Back in my undergrad days there was a thrift store where almost every book was a quarter or less – total bliss.  The annual library book sale here helps as well.  Also, everyone I know knows of my love of books, and birthday and Christmas gifts are frequently gift certificates.  I also do a few reward-type programs that don’t cost me anything, but that add up to a bit of book money here and there.  Occasionally there’s something that I want or think is useful enough to buy new, but this is very much a rarity.

Missing from this post: photos of my book-covered coffee table, bedside, nightstand, desk, and dining room table.

Written by Jenn

April 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Canadian Doomer giveaway

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As a result of the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) efforts on Facebook, and the subsequent list of blogs that was circulating, I found a lot more blogs that I’ve started reading on a regular basis.

One of these blogs is Canadian Doomer, who’s running a great book giveaway (I covet all of those books, so I’m super excited about this).  If you’re interested in entering or just reading a great blog (do read – I highly recommend, and her collapse fiction is especially great), the giveaway information is here.

 

Written by Jenn

March 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm

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February shopping and spending

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It’s time yet again for more confessional fun at the end of the month.

Despite being well under budget this month, I’m still not happy with my shopping and spending.

I did well on my plans for TGAAD.  In terms of clothing I bought only a secondhand suit, an item that was on my exceptions list.  However, I did run into some problem areas that are really noticeable now that I’m looking back on what I spent, how much, and on what.  The two big problem areas for me seem to be housewares and books.  Housewares I tend to justify in terms of making home function better and be a more pleasant place to be, since this is where I spend much of my time.  Books, I tend to explain away either as an inexpensive form of entertainment, or as reference materials that I would like to have around, and this month, I got both.

This month, I spent $59 in my play category (the budget is $50) and $52 in my sustainability category (from a budget of $20).  Clearly, the amounts spent were higher than those budgeted for.  I was aware of this as I was going through the month, and knew that I would be saving more than enough money in other categories to cover it, but it’s still not sitting all that well with me.

One of the things I wanted to avoid with TGAAD was spending money in other places instead of for clothes.  I’m not sure that’s quite what I’m doing here, but it might be.  Although I am pleased with what I got and stuck to things that had been on my list for ages and was planning on buying new soon anyway, I don’t want to get into the habit of overspending in my set categories, even if it just means moving money that’s already built into the budget around to compensate.  Part of the point is to consume and have less, period.

So, I’m trying something new for February.

Part of what I don’t like about shopping is that I buy substitutes.  There are certain books that I want, for example.  If I see one used that’s inexpensive and on the same topic, but not the exact one that I wanted, I tend get it anyway.  Eventually, I’m likely to get the one that I want as well, which is a waste of money, as well as a waste of space if I don’t get rid of the first one.

So now, I’m going to focus on getting exactly what I want.  The cost of buying a few books that are kind of what I want could cover, or at least go a long way towards getting a book I really want.  So, this February, I’m making a deal with myself.  No shopping other than the necessities.  At the end, if I stick to it, I get this:

I very much want this.  I love his work, love reading his books, looking at the pictures, watching the shows.  It’s somewhat pricy, even after the discount.  But all the $3 and $4 secondhand cookbooks in the world won’t be this one.  So, rather than buy them, I’m going to get this one, and I will enjoy the living heck out of it.

This will take up much of my combined budget for play and for sustainability.  In fact, if I attend the workshop on starting seeds that I want to go to this month ($30) I could be a bit over (although I do have some gift certificates).  But I will be less over budget – if I’m over at all – than I was this month.  I’ll have the book that I most want.  And I’ll only have one new book to fit onto the shelf, rather than a pile plus a few new housewares too.

Written by Jenn

January 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Full disclosure

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In the interest of full disclosure, on my first full day of TGAAD, I shopped.  Not for clothes – I’m good there – but I happened to be by the used bookstore today.  And they happened to have “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire“, both of which I’ve been wanting to read (and have checked the used bookstore for no less than 12 times).  So, they came home with me, along with a copy of “Trees: The Green Testament” and “The Poems of Tennyson” (I love me some graphic novels and some Arthurian-themed poetry).  $12 for the lot.

Also, in order to get my Christmas gift order of one CD up to the free shipping amount, I finally ordered “Alabama Studio Style” which has been sitting in my cart since before it was released, (I did use gift cards entirely for that, so I’m actually not out any money).  Not a necessity, but I appreciate the focus on homemade things, sustainability, storytelling, local food, and tradition, not to mention the fact that this one has the dress and tank top patterns that I’ve been coveting.

So, more books.  And more shopping, I suppose.  This should be the last for awhile, though, since the two earlier books were the last stragglers on my wish list (although I will likely have to keep my eye open for the third, and it strikes me that I have more gift certificates, and that Ashley English’s books on chickens and preserving have been in the queue for a long time as well).  I’m trying not to be too hard on myself over this, especially on the first day of the diet, and seem to be succeeding.  I’m also trying not to focus too much on supplanting clothes shopping with other forms of shopping either, justified or not, especially with books.  That said, there will be a new focus on reading what I have around here, and I’m still hoping that TGAAD will help change my rleationship to shopping in general, and not just with clothes.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Book sale

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I have, in my infinite wisdom (insert snicker here) managed to buy books not once but twice in the last 24 hours.

First was a visit to the public library’s annual booksale.  Table after table of books for the picking, although I only walked away with 6 books and 5 magazine (uh, yes…only…)  For the books, I got two novels that I’ve been wanting to read, two semi-school books, and two books to add to my self-sufficiency pile on root cellaring and butchering and processing meat (The Boy blanched a little, made a face, and then feigned ignorance for the latter two.)  The magazines consisted of Mother Earth News and Countryside.

And then today I woke up after a lousy night’s sleep (odd dreams about old dogs, dying children, and some seriously messed-up surgery) I went for a walk and stopped at the bookstore.  Two fiddle books, a manual of guitar chords, four children’s books, a John Irving novel, and two other novels I’ve been interested in reading.

Some books that I no longer need are on their way out to make for a bit more room but, in general, I’ve come to terms with my love of books, both for pleasure and for practicality.  I think, anyway.  And for now, I’m going to get some writing done and then sit myself down to peruse a new book on the couch with some tea.

*Edited to add: In case this wasn’t clear, in both cases these purchases were for a good cause.  The library booksale directly supports the public library, and the Goodwill bookstore supports their employment efforts in the community, and  I’m especially okay with purchases that have some kind of community benefit like this.

Written by Jenn

October 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm

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On books

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Awhile back, I’d mentioned that I was a bit concerned about the fact that one of my escapes seems to be heading to the local used bookstore and picking up a new-to-me book or two to read.  I’d found that when things were tough I tended to turn to book shopping as an escape – not something I normally do, but somewhat easy to defend since first, I was buying books to read and, second, I was supporting a thrift store in the process.  At the time, I also mentioned that I wanted to cut back a bit and see if I could reduce that expense a bit more.

Well…at this point I haven’t given up on the books, but I think I’m managing it better.

Although I bought books that I wanted to read, I was buying more than I am now.  While the purchases certainly weren’t indiscriminate, I wasn’t as thoughtful as I try now to be about what I was bringing home.  I’ve found that being aware not only of what I buy but also why I buy it to be very helpful (not just when it comes to books, actually) in planning and managing what I do choose to buy.

I find I buy books for two reasons.  First, I like to read.  Books are pleasurable.  I enjoy finding something that I’ve wanted to read and then actually being able to get immersed and absorbed in the content, whether it’s stories or recipes, fact or fiction.  They’re also an inexpensive source of entertainment.  $4 (and usually less) for a used book that I get to keep is better value, for me anyway, than going to a movie, or out to a bar, or buying most video games.  Beyond electricity to read at night and the odd accompanying pot of tea, the cost is usually nothing.  And, psychologically speaking, I love being cozied up on the couch with tea and wool blankets and a good book to spend an afternoon or evening.

So, to keep the shopping for books a bit more under control.  I have a list of authors that I look for, and a few books in mind.  The authors and books are ones that I know I’ll read again and again, and are worth it for me to have.  John Irving.  Annie Dillard.  Neil Gaiman.  Annie Proulx.  Edgar Allen Poe.  Kate DiCamillo.  Classics of various descriptions.  Barbara Kingsolver.  Diane Ackerman.  Agatha Christie.  Neal Stephenson.  William Gibson.

I also read for reference, and try to keep part of my library as very practical and useful.  When a book shows up on making quilts or knitting sweaters, or goatkeeping, or companion planting, I tend to look twice at it (unless I have one already, a distinction I think I’ve been much better at making lately as well).  I want a library not only of books that I want to read for pleasure, but also ones that will be useful.  In some ways this is actually the broader category as I seek out materials that will be useful and informative for building a life that’s even more sustainable.

Admittedly, I already have a lot of books here, and I have yet to read them all (far from it, actually).  I have everything from cookbooks to the classics, and from guidebooks to graphic novels.  But I appreciate being able to have what I want at my fingertips.  I like being able to loan books out.  I worry that, as with so many of the truly good things that make cities great, that library hours and services will soon be cut.  I enjoy having my own copies that I can fall asleep in bed with, make notes in pencil on, and hide little scraps and bits and pieces in the pages to find later.

One day they will have to be moved.  I know this, and I sort of dread that day, both for the pile that I imagine will need to be out the door, and for the struggle involved in moving the rest.  But for now, I like having them, and I appreciate that such a great source of books is close by, not only for the rough days when I’m out hunting for that one book that I want to read, but for all the others that have passed and that are yet to come where I curl up and have swaths of information and whole other worlds ready at my fingertips.

Written by Jenn

October 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm