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Adventures in being frugal

July 29, 2013 - Carrie Olson
I will admit it: We’ve landed on lean times here in NYC. In all of my constant explaining on why and how this happens, I also had to learn to deal with it. Couponing, not eating out for the foreseeable future or spending money on costly activities have all been main goals for at least the next month.

Trust me, this isn’t new to us, we’re not spending our money on four-star restaurants or extravagant trips. NYC is just expensive, in every way possible; but we knew that going in. There have been a lot of crock pot dinners and perusing movies on Netflix happening during our downtime in the city. So in an effort to be even more frugal, we decided to stop by Target and purchase a puzzle. Why not, we shrugged. We both enjoy games, and each of us has put a puzzle together a time or two in the past. The 2,000-piece Las Vegas skyline looked bright and colorful, and for only $9 it would be a cheap, fun weekend activity, so we thought.

After bringing it home, we realized that we needed to transform our living room. We took all the in tables in our apartment and connected them to our coffee table. We used books to make a somewhat even flattop for our massive project. At first, it seemed like fun; we turned all the pieces over while having my beloved Gilmore Girls DVD collection sounding in the background. Bonding time.

The first few days of the week, we spent a couple hours here and there after work snapping pieces into place. Our backs were a bit sore leaning over constantly, but it was enjoyable.

On Tuesday night while Nate graded papers, I decided to watch something new while working on the puzzle alone. I decided to try out Orange Is The New Black, since there seemed to be a constant buzz about it online. Well, I quickly got sucked in to the TV show and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching 50-minute episodes.

On Wednesday, it was more of the same, we worked on it for a few hours and I binged on the Netflix show later (having found that I needed to pay attention and not work on the puzzle while watching).

With very little sleep, we attended a NYC writer’s party on Thursday. Although we could have networked and hung out with friends, we chose to leave earlier to work our obsession. While other people spent time outdoors in the newer, cooler weather, we feverishly continued, having to stretch out our backs and necks every hour or so.

Friday came and went. Yes, I came home from work to find Nate bent over the puzzle with Gilmore Girls buzzing on the large screen nearby. It was starting to be annoying. Our backs hurt, we bumped into all the tables in the living room over and over, and we should have been enjoying ourselves and the fact that it was the weekend. We didn't.

We could have worked on our chores list, our writing projects, wedding planning – but no. We had to keep going on this puzzle. In between Friday night and Saturday morning, I watched the rest of OITNB, so thankfully, that was out of the way (SO GOOD!) But we had a birthday party in Central Park to attend, the puzzle to work on and so many things on our to-do list.

Saturday. Well, we hurried to the birthday party, stayed for a couple hours and seriously, almost jogged back to our apartment after getting off the train. We wanted to finish this puppy. It was taking a toll. The apartment was looking pretty awful, plates were piling in the sink, and we were worse for wear. Our personal hygiene was kind of lacking and while we had every intention of making casseroles and healthy dishes this past week, we found ourselves scrounging for crumbed potato chips and frozen burritos. And while we continued to work separately on our corner of the puzzle, we were snapping at each other constantly. Season after season of Gilmore Girls aired in the background, the theme song sounding more annoying each time. We ended up making coffee at around midnight, hoping to stay up all night through Sunday monrning to finish. Instead, the pieces all looked the same and blurry and we were not making any progress.

We woke up late on Sunday and continued on our merry way. It was about 6:30 p.m. last night that we finished. We hugged and looked wearily around. I was close to tears. My weekend was gone in a flash and all we had was this flashy puzzle to show for it. As we assessed all that we needed to do in a flash to get ready for the next work week, we broke up the puzzle, the masterpiece we had spent an entire week completing. I didn't want to look at it ever agin. I didn't care.

In a couple hour time span, the apartment became immaculate, the living room returned to normal, the laundry pile gone, and we wiped out our weekend to-do lists. (It’s funny what a bit of determination and shame will do.) We didn’t spend a penny, we completed that goal, so in that way the puzzle was well worth it. But we decided never again. There are so many other ways to be frugal, but this ate our time, sanity and our shower time. So if anyone is looking to put together the Las Vegas skyline in puzzle form, the box and pieces are yours. Never again.


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