Iíve finally crunched My Challenge numbers. I spent an average of $977.74 on living expenses, after savings and taxes.
Hereís a recap of my income.
Hereís a concise summary of my spending.
Hereís the detail.
For some reason, all my current and prior images show as boxes wiht a little x, although if I click on them I see the image. A quick review of the forums hasn't helped me figure it out. If anyone has hints, let me know. Current and prior images are jpegs from my hard drive.
I spent $1592 a month in 2005. (I have already been saving a large portion of my income.) I wasnít on any Challenge in 2005, and the trips I went to Oaxaca, Poland and Belgium are included in the $1592 a month average.
I spent $978 a month on the Challenge. If I take off, as I should, the amount I spent on my trip to Europe (Croatia and Bosnia, Sept. 2006, $1810) I saved an additional $5558 for the year, for an average increase in savings per month of $463.
During My Challenge, I lived on less than half of my net income. That's just the numbers. Later, I'll post on what the Challenge really meant for me, as far as my lifestyle.
Viewing the '$20 Challenge' Category
Iíve finally crunched My Challenge numbers. I spent an average of $977.74 on living expenses, after savings and taxes.
Some delayed totals, eh? Well, think of it this way; your next recap is close and it will be the final for the year!
Standard Recap Info:
I spent $1592 a month in 2005. My Challenge savings are the difference, $1592-$1026 (see below) = $566 times 11 months = $6,226.
Add to that $303 in ďsavingsĒ and $30.61 in my emergency fund, Iíve saved an additional $6,559.61 over what I had saved before. If I take out what I spent in Europe, $1809.64, which is not part of my Challenge, Iíve saved $4,749.97 living on CA Minimum Wage for 11 months.
*$703.82 is the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses, saved from March 1st through January 31st. This does NOT include my savings and emergency funds. I really needed my banked money this month; but I guess I bank it for a reason.
** My income is calculated as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. I had $10.13 in extra income from recycling this month, $1 from a GoZing survey, and $17 from SurveySpot for the last yearís surveys. This brought my income to a mighty high of $1101.13.
*** When I originally began the Challenge March 2006 I assumed no federal or state tax liability, but Iíd actually owe $47 a month, so I have to budget $95 a month (for the last 6 months of the Challenge) to catch up. So my actual spendable income averaged over each month is my original calculation of $1073 less $47 for $1026.
***** I spent a lot in January, for mainly two reasons. My semi-annual car insurance was due; thank goodness I had prepared and been putting a little away every month. My annual car registration also came due. My Guy had a birthday, and my other big expenses were for his present and taking him out to eat.
***** This money I carry over into the beginning of February.
Iíve written about how I overall keep laundry costs low and household costs low. Prepare to be wowed, or lulled to sleep, or both, by how I keep personal item spending in check. Since February 1st,2006, I have spent $136.88 on toiletries (including haircuts, bathing items, and female hygiene supplies). I have spent $54.35 on clothes in the last 11 months (although I did exchange some clothes I had bought earlier, so I think I got maybe $80 worth total).
I think I have a plain face, but I think I have a very friendly face, so Iím overall not too worried about how I appear. Iím overweight, but not too much so-I can still wear Misses size clothes instead of Womanís Worlds (Misses is "regular"; Womanís World is larger sizes). My one real vanity is that I want to look smart; I don't even know how thatís possible so itís a pretty dorky vanity, eh?
I am a very simple bather. Sometimes I think I am a little bit of a boy; I just donít get into the beauty routine. I prefer baths to showers; itís my one real day to day luxury. I take a lot of bubble baths. I find it comical when people talk about bath stuff as gifts theyíll never use-I got bath supplies from three sources this Christmas and Iím using it all. I work in an office, so I donít get too grubby; if Iím really dirty, I rinse off in the shower before my bath. I like bath salts and bubbles baths, and bath oils on the weekend (greasier hair). My soap is in a liquid soap bottle-My Guy uses bars of soap, I put the ends in the liquid soap bottle, the bottle has been going for years. Soap, shampoo, and conditioner: thatís it.
I do shave legs and underarms, but not as frequently as some. I very rarely wear skirts, for one. I use my liquid soap, and I do use refillable blades.
I have gotten enough deodorant and anti-perspirant for months in free samples; itís weird how that one product is so available. I am not brand loyal. I normally donít pay more than $1.49 for my anti-perspirant.
I use the cheapest shampoo and conditioner I can find. I prefer to pay no more than $1 for 16 ounces for shampoo and conditioner, but sometimes I do pay more (or less!).
I am pretty lucky in that I have decent hair; itís in good condition and wavy and healthy, and cheap shampoo works fine. I have a big pump bottle that I got as a gift; I keep refilling that bottle; often I am using a mix. I use conditioner maybe half the time; the more recent my last haircut is, the less I need it. I also use a pump bottle, and itís refilled periodically, so again, a blend of cheap stuff.
I sometimes get free samples, but usually I give them away at work for ďClean KitsĒ: grooming supplies for the homeless and down and out.
Iíve never dyed or permed my hair. It used to be a very nice blonde and now itís a light brown; however I am too lazy and/or low maintenance to get better color. With no dying I donít have to worry about roots (I have a laser eye to spot them on people out there) and I donít have to worry about maintaining my hair's condition. A couple people I know who dye their hair have crispy flaky hair that is kinda awkward looking. Plus I never blow dry my hair. I bathe at night and sleep with it wet. Some folks I know who blow-dry have damaged looking hair. I know others who blow-dry and dye and look fabulous, but I am sure they have to pay attention. The less I do to my hair, the less I have to protect it. Iíve already admitted Iím lazy; itís no secret.
I donít get my hair cut enough. I got it cut in April, and again in September, and Iím scheduled for 2/27. I donít like letting my ends to get dry or split; when I get my hair cut I let them take off plenty. I want healthy and Iíll get rid of length to get it. I do spend $35 including tip on my hair cuts; Iím about to jump higher for a woman whoís very good. Iíd like to get my hair cut at least four times a year.
I use little makeup. I am just now trying to remember to use lotion on my face every night and morning. I do like Clinique makeup; I think itís a childhood thing; my mother always got the Clinique special kits at ďBonus TimeĒ and I would get her left-overs. I still spend $25 every couple of years and get the Bonus extras, which tend to last me. (Almost half of my spending for the year is from one Clinique Bonus.) I sometimes use foundation, sometimes eye pencil, rarely shadow, and frequently mascara and lipstick. I have actually been trying to wear more; girding myself, as it were, for certain meetings at work. Itís a form of armor, Iíve discovered. Even when I wear what I think is a fair amount, sometimes other folks canít tell; Iím so used to little or none that I am naturally a light hand.
I wish I was a better dresser. Itís not a spending thing, itís a lack of interest and a lack of innate fashion sense. Left to my own devices I dress like a young boy. I like menís pants-I know a pair of 34x30ís will fit me, whereas with womenís clothes the sizes are all over the place. I worked for a few years at Ross Dress for less, and I bought more clothes than ever-7 years later I still have clothes I bought back then.
I like hand-me-downs and thrift store and garage sale clothes. I have access to so many of these low or no cost clothes that I can afford to be choosy: I only wear them if they fit right, and look good. I donít have great clothes sense, but I am lucky enough to be recently getting hand-me-downs from people who are well-dressed, which helps me out.
I clean out my closet a lot. I hang things like I used to when working at Ross; short sleeve knits, long sleeved knits, short sleeve wovens, and long sleeve wovens. Woven=blouse and knit=stretchy, for the most part. I try to purge anything that is wearing out or isnít too flattering as often as possible. I have zero dry cleaning only clothes.
I do buy my own underclothes. I also will buy regular clothes; Iím not anti-new clothes, I just usually donít need to buy new clothes that often.
Even if I was a better dressed person, more put together, I think I could do it low cost. Two of the best dressed women at work are avid thrift store shoppers; S. always looks fabulous-she is a choosy and frequent thrift store shopper, and her being slimmer helps-she has a lot of good choices available.
I love silver and semi-precious stone jewelry, I admit it. The benefit of preferring semi-precious stone and silver is that itís usually cheaper; I can get pieces from $8 to $25; $50 for super pieces. I donít have a digital camera right now; otherwise Iíd love to show off some of my jewelry. When I travel I always pick up pieces; jewelry is my favorite souvenir. It never gets dusty, it takes very little room, and I wear it all the time. It also lasts and lasts and lasts. This is an area I let myself spend in; I am not interested in spending no money as a goal in itself, I like to spend less in areas where I donít need to spend, to have money to spend in other areas.
So there you have it, how I spent less than $200 in 11 months to bathe, groom, and dress myself. I checked my 2005 records, and I spent $300 on bathing/grooming, $300 on clothes, $200 on shoes, and $300 on jewelry, so it looks like I was relatively low cost prior to the Challenge, too.
I got a check for $17 in the mail, a check I can actually count as income on My Challenge, and it is huge in Challenge terms! Seventeen dollars is a lot of money when ďregularĒ income is $1026.
(The money was from SurveySpot, for a variety of surveys over the year that I cashed out. If I get extra money from something I could get if I was on Minimum Wage, I count it-online surveys are okay, because I budget for the Internet.)
Iím feeling a bit of pressure. Why? I just read the SavingAdvice.com newsletter, which listed a link to my page on it, and Iím just a tad nervous about new people peeking in. I hadnít realized theat my 2006 $20 Challenge win might lead to some extra visits. Itís hard to reconcile the desire to have exciting posts all about how wondrous frugality is, when some times it just comes down to: I make do and donít buy.
I get up, pack my lunch, put on my thrift store or hand me down clothes, do some pretty simple hair and face care that is probably not as close to primping as it should be, and maybe walk to work, maybe drive in my car. Work and eat my little packed lunch, perhaps while playing Boggle (scored at a garage sale for $2 a few years ago). Then I walk or drive homeÖstraight home. No errands usually, no shopping, no picking up something. I never shop recreationally (except for garage sales). I try to limit grocery and household shopping trip to one big one a month, though we do a couple fill ins for produce, or a canít miss deal, or a special ingredient for guests or a potluck. (I never run to the store for something we are out of-if I donít have it, it can wait.)
I get home, and enjoy being at home. I read a lot, usually used books from the bookstore (sometimes I get trade credit), garage sales, thrift stores, buck-a-bag book sales at the library, and swapping with friends. Perhaps Iíll hang out with friends; fabulously free. I listen to music; my CD collection has enough of my favorites that I now only buy one or two a year. I watch limited cable channels 2-13; it costs us $10.25 a month, and man, I waste a lot of time watching the limited channels I have-Iíd go nuts with regular cable. I like being on the computer; I do splurge for cable internet.
I can go days and days without spending anything. This week I filled up with gas, other than that nothing. Itís a little boring to talk about, but itís not boring to live, and itís very restful.
Most of you who drop by and peek at My Challenge are probably regular Saving Advice .com Members. For those that arenít, Well, Saving Advice has a $20 Challenge, and My Minimum Wage Challenge is my 2006 $20 Challenge. (I spent the $20 on the YouNeedABudget spreadsheet to track My Challenge.) You can read more about the 2006 Challenge here, the 2007 Challenge here, and the voting here. I was nominated for Top 2006 $20 Challenge along with 9 others, and I won!
I am very grateful to all of you who voted. The nominees were very worthy, and Iím surprised as well as pleased. I actually get $100, which is kind of a shocker. I wonít touch it until March, I promise!
Oooh, a bad, bad title. Itís chilly here on the North Coast, more than Iím used to. Being on the coast, we rarely freeze; even a half hour inland gets much colder. But when I passed my car walking to work today, I was sure glad I wouldnít have to spend a lot of time defrosting the windshield. Anything to reinforce walking to work works for me!
Sometimes I get the ďput your head down and keep goingĒ mentality. Itís not a sad or unhappy place to be, but itís a very determined place. And right now I feel committed to develop some new habits, and in awhile these tasks-walk to work, eat smaller portions, get my workday organized first thing in the morning, etc.-wonít be hard at all, because theyíll just be what I do-my routine.
Until itís a routine, I almost wish I could turn my thinking button off. I can muse for days; pros, cons, ifs, thens. Not necessarily so helpful. I want no distractions, even good distractions. Thankfully blogging is a way for me to stay focused; angst or flightiness can be funneled.
On the financial front, Iíve got 48 days left on My Challenge. All systems seem to be go. Last nightís sushi for My Guyís birthday was not heap but it was anticipated, so Iím good there. Car insurance comes due, but Iíve been budgeting for it, and a bonus is that next month, the last month of My Challenge, I wonít have to budget for it! It almost compensates for the fact that I had to pay the July segment only five months in to my Challenge.
I havenít had to spend car repair money recently, though I did spend $4.50 this month for self-serve car wash and vacuuming. If my car stays true, I will also be able to pout all my banked car repair money into other categories in February. The whole idea that any banked money come 2/28 is available for addition savings as far as Challenge numbers is pretty exciting. Iím very curious to see what my average spending per month ends up being.
My Guy hasnít tried to subvert my Challenge, but he isnít into it. Heís naturally very frugal; frugal enough to be able to work part time by choice. But he does kind of see My Challenge as a bit dorky.
Tomorrow is his birthday. I told him Iíd take him out to dinner anywhere he wanted to go, and he picked sushi (which I expected). It was surprising to hear him say today, after getting a (very sweet) gift of cash from his step-dad, that he could use the money for dinner tomorrow. I replied, ďNope, you get to treat yourself with that money. Iím taking you out to dinner tomorrow.Ē His response: ďWhat about the Challenge?Ē Jaw dropping.
I explained, ďNo, no, Iím taking you out. Iíve made room in my budget.Ē We always take each other out to dinner on our birthdays. And we pretty much always choose sushi, because we love it. Sushi is not the cheapest. But I have organized my budget so that I can fit it in.
Oddly enough, I think what got him thinking positively about My Challenge, in Month Eleven, is how nice his Christmas and (early) birthday presents were. On the frugal side, I got him many, many books using trade credit at the bookstore. I got him a Chť Guevara shirt in Croatia; he has a thing for them. I got an oval shaped desk tray thing, so that he could use the laptop in bed, and that was $1.99 at the thrift store and has been a big hit. I also gave him a 1 gig jump drive, using part money and part gift cards I cashed in survey points for. And I got him a gift certificate at The Gap, also by cashing out survey site points. For the birthday, I got him an MP3 player, an iRiver Clix, which is nicer than he expected. I explained that My Challenge didnít mean no spending, it meant conscious spending, and that I felt the mp3 player was a good value for a great reason and I fit it in my budget.
So I think he is looking upon My Challenge with a new respect, perhaps. In the past months I've sometimes declined to go out to eat or get fast food or take out, and I think that mildly irritated him. Now he might realize more that I wasnít enjoying getting fast food almost alway. I have migraines, Iím chubby, I have issues with large chains; it was easy for me to want to cut out fast food or going out to eat from laziness as opposed to true desire. So he did experience a small amount of deprivation, I suppose, because I wouldnít join in some meals. So the true beauty of My Challenge was unable to shine through and impress him with the fantastic geekness of it all. But the mp3 player has spoken.
(I still say heck, he should go out to eat with the guys, or his sister, or himself if he wants it-Iím not preventing him! Come March 1st I am not going to be interested in a lot of eating out. Iím trying to eat right and work out, and I have to do that way past February! Thank goodness splurging on sushi is relatively healthy.)
The morals of the story: Remain generous while being frugal, and, be patient with men.
There may be more morals here. Feel free to be my Aesop.
In other news, I got a couple pairs of pants as hand-me-downs today. I would almost totally love them, except they are from a person who used to be a few sizes larger than me, and these are now too big for her. Great for her, and a reminder to me to keep focused on getting healthier. Iíve walked to work once and used my exercise bike 3 times this week, starting Sunday. Iíve eaten breakfast everyday, and packed good lunches, and for the most part eaten right for dinner. Working on developing healthy habits just as Iíve developed good frugal habits.
But...but...but...itís not over!
Iíve had a couple of folks ask me if Iím done with the Challenge. Well, if I had been bright enough to start it January 1 2006, Iíd be done. But no, I started March 2006, so I have two more months to go. This is day three of month eleven; fifty six more days to be Wantonly Frugal.
Now, as I wonder how I will react come March, I realize how adjusted I am to not spending. I was telling a buddy I went on a shopping spree, because I had money in my Household account and wanted to treat the house for the New Year. My splurge? Four pillows, which I can kind of see, but also new sponges. Now thatís just nutty. I am currently spending 27% of my gross income, and I was really excited to have new sponges and pillows!
Now, I know Iíve lost some of you, but let me explain why I donít think itís really sad.
Iím not consuming on autopilot.
Iíll grant you this: I probably should have bought new sponges earlier. I wash what I have in the washer, and periodically nuke them, so they arenít infested. But they are worn. But the flip side would be worse to me: blithely tossing sponges, cleaners, paper towels, Lysol/bleach wipes, etc. into my cart every week. I am fine using small amounts of simple items - and that means I will be able to go to Europe again this year, and maybe China or South America or someplace exciting (suggestions accepted). (Now if you love cleaning items, this is not an assault on your lifestyle: If your Swiffer gives you joy, I support your Swiffering.)
I get to spend on what I want to spend money on. I get to spend consciously, getting value for what I buy, choosing what I buy. I know that if Iím bringing something home, itís something I wanted or needed. I bought My Guy a pricier birthday gift for January 10, coming up. Hereís the deal: I spent $160, and I had to pull a lot of money from other categories, and I donít regret it. I very consciously decided what to buy, found the best type and price (thanks, forum posters), and committed, and within my limited virtual means met my needs and my wants.
I just really love not needing to regret purchases. And Iíll loosen up and buy more sponges come March, and replace the pillows more often (how does that happen-you know what I mean-our heads should NOT make pillows look like that), and maybe even splurge on a real splurge-and I wont have to regret it!
Standard Recap Info:
I spent $1592 a month last year. My Challenge savings are the difference, $1592-$1026 (see below) = $566 times 10 months = $5,660.
Add to that $263 in ďsavingsĒ and $24.48 in my emergency fund, Iíve saved $5,947.48. If I take out what I spend in Europe, $1809.64, which is not part of my Challenge, Iíve saved $4,137.84 living on CA Minimum Wage for 10 months.
* My income is calculated as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. I had $9.27 in extra income from recycling this month.
** When I originally began the Challenge March 2006 I assumed no federal or state tax liability, but Iíd actually owe $47 a month, so I have to budget $95 a month (for the last 6 months of the Challenge) to catch up. So my actual spendable income averaged over each month is my original calculation of $1073 less $47 for $1026.
***$703.82 is the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses; this does NOT include my savings and emergency funds. It is obviously not what was budgeted less what was spent. Each month I budget for non-monthly purchases; for example, I budget $55 for auto insurance every month, but only spend it twice a year.
Iím spending an average of $979 a month! Whoo hoo!
$3,541.57 for my $20 Challenge-see below!
November figures are here, and Iím alive. You can see why I havenít posted in a week...deep shame at my entertainment spending in November. $36.76! What was I thinking! Well, I kid, itís not why I was gone a week and itís not that bad a total. What is upsetting is not that I spent on entertainment, but that I spent a lot of it on takeout that did not give me pleasure. If Iíd spent that money on seeing a show or something, Iíd be perfectly happy to reduce spending in other areas to give myself pleasure.
Other areas did happen to be low. I spent so much on groceries in October that I needed little this month; the total even includes $25 in treats from Trader Joeís (fancy soda, veggie booty, etc.) Health co-pays were much lower too-I get a lot of prescriptions by mail for three months at a time, so my expenses fluctuate.
The miscellaneous is postage. Long story. Well, no, just an uninteresting story.
I expect electric to jump in December; it has been cold enough in the house to see our breaths with ease, so we are doing some heater usage.
I donít expect gifts to be too high in December; I have $26.25 going in, and I bumped my December gift budget to $40, so I have $66.25 to finish Christmas shopping. I am mostly done but I do have a couple big people left. Weíll see how it goes.
I spent $1592 a month last year. My savings are the difference, $1592-$1026 (see below) = $566 times 9 months = $5,094.
Add to that $233 in ďsavingsĒ and $24.21 in my emergency fund, Iíve saved $5,351.21. If I take out what I spend in Europe, $1809.64, which is not part of my Challenge, Iíve saved $3,541.57 living on CA Minimum Wage for 9 months.
* My income is calculated as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. I had no extra income this month (no recycling) and no overspent categories from last month.
** When I originally began the Challenge March 2006 I assumed no federal or state tax liability. Wrong! Iíd actually owe $47 a month, so I have to budget $95 a month to catch up. So my actual spendable income averaged over each month is my original calculation of $1073 less $47 for $1026.
***$757.87 is the sum of the positive numbers; thatís the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses; this does NOT include my savings and emergency funds. It is obviously not what was budgeted less what was spent. Each month I budget for non-monthly purchases; for example, I budget $13 for AAA and car registration every month, but have yet to spend it because it has yet to be due. Thatís why the balance is up to $117. I pay registration in December-so Iíve been preparing for my once a year $79 expense all year long.
I'm two-thirds through the Minimum Wage Challenge.
I spent $1592 a month last year. My savings are the difference, $1592-$1026 (see below) = $566 times 8 months = $4,528.
Add to that $190 in ďsavingsĒ and $14.21 in my emergency fund, Iíve saved $4,732.21. If I take out what I spend in Europe, $1809.64, which is not part of my Challenge, Iíve saved $2,922.57 living on CA Minimum Wage for 8 months.
* My income is calculated as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. I made $4.74 in recycling this month. That gives me $1077.74 in income; however I ďoverspentĒ $15.14 last month (in the gifts category) and under the ďYouNeedaBudgetĒ system (an Excel-based budget Iím using to track my Challenge Budget) if a category is overspent the money is taken straight out of the next month. Therefore I had $1062.70 to spend.
** When I originally began the Challenge March 2006 I assumed no federal or state tax liability. Wrong! Iíd actually owe $47 a month, so I have to budget $95 a month to catch up. So my actual spendable income averaged over each month is my original calculation of $1073 less $47 for $1026.
***$584.64 is the sum of the positive numbers; thatís the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses. It is obviously not what was budgeted less what was spent. Each month I budget for non-monthly purchases; for example, I budget $13 for AAA and car registration every month, but have yet to spend it because it has yet to be due. Thatís why the balance is up to $104.
I spent $1592 a month last year. My savings are the difference, $1592-$1026= $566 times 7 months, $3962. Add to that my $150 in ďsavingsĒ and my whopping $9.51 in my emergency fund, Iíve saved $4121.51. If I take out what I spend on my vacation in Croatia and Bosnia, which is not part of my Challenge but is certainly spent money, itís $4121.51 less $1,809.64 for a total of $2,311.87. Saving an additional twenty-three hundred dollars in seven months while also taking a two week trip to Europe is pretty exciting.
* My income is calculated as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. This month I had two survey checks, one for $ and one for $10 (!!) and I also did 97 cents worth of recycling. $1073+$11+.97=1084.97.
** I originally assumed no federal or state tax liability; Iíd actually owe $47 a month, so I have to budget $95 a month to catch up. So my actual spendable income averaged over each month is my original calculation of $1073 less $47 for $1026.
***484.59 is the sum of the positive numbers; thatís the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses. It is obviously not what was budgeted less what was spent. Each month I budget for non-monthly purchases; for example, I budget $13 for AAA and car registration every month, but have yet to spend it because it has yet to be due. Thatís why the balance is up to $91.
**** I have $9.51 set aside in by Emergency/Big Purchase Fund, and $150.00 set aside in ďSavings.Ē
I did re-arrange a few categories this month. I had $40 in my work out budget ďenvelopeĒ' I pulled some out and put back into the mix. I pulled some from almost every category to add to the gift category for this month; I certainly do not budget $75 a month for gifts, I just happened to find a lot of great ones in Croatia and Bosnia.
Note to anyone new: yes, a person on minimum wage generally couldnít travel to Europe for two weeks. One thing I said at the very beginning of my Challenge is that the one thing I would not give up is an opportunity to travel. So before I even planned this trip it was a ďcheatĒ I allowed myself. And I have to remember sometimes, that as much as I want to hold myself strictly to the rules, the reality is that Iím the one writing the rules for this Challenge!
I went to Target with my $10 worth of gift cards (Harris Poll Online Surveys) and shopped for an hour and a half and spent $9.37. I just donít have much of a shopping streak. I had originally been worried that I would spend too much splurging for my vacation, but I guess I was wrong.
I am not always sure how to count gift card purchases. I donít want to count them as income, because obviously I couldnít put it towards rent or utilities. However it seems as if that way I could ďspendĒ $10 on clothes or something and not have it show against my clothes budget. Then next year, my clothing total would be falsely low by $10. Well, since itís $10 Iím not gonna worry about it. If it was $25 or $100, I might need to look at a different method (not just for The Challenge, but for me on an ongoing basis. Iím into tracking my expenses).
I did end up getting Nair (will be on the beach), a journal (a must for travel memories), a tiny spray bottle (for Fabreeze) and a pack of disposable razors (vacation and getting pills of my sweaters). This was after looking at many items, and trying on eight bras. I have room left in my toiletries and clothes budgets, so I didnít need to be so restrained, but nothing seemed right. I almost got two pairs of shoes, but the more I looked at them, the more they seemed cheap. I just donít want to buy disposable clothing.
My reluctance to spend $10 on an item probably was enhanced by being at garage sales, where things are such great deals. My haul today totaled $4:
Two gifts - $1
Two wet/dry womenís battery powered razors, with batteries: $1
Necklace, I think itís a silver plated chain, $1.25
shorts, needed for vacation, seventy-five cents
Brush/mirror travel combo-free
With the shavers, Iím planning on being decadent and putting one in the bathroom and one in my travel bag. On the chain, it is heavier than non-silver, but isnít marked 925. I did a Google check and didnít find any good tip to tell if itís real silver. Thatís okay; I needed a longer chain for pendants and I couldnít return it anyway. Itís not like $1.25 for a chain is outlandish!
I did get my hair cut, though I didnít get it washed and wet in freshly showered instead. I brought in pictures of my hair for the hair stylist; dorky but it helped her. It was $18; no Challenge would ever get me to be a bad tipper, and I tipped $6, although $4 of $5 would probably have been just fine.
And the last bit of money news: a whopping ninety seven cents extra income from recycling. (I had a lot of non-money stuff to take in, so it was a full trip, just not the good stuff.)
Iíve been assuming that on Minimum Wage Iíd have no Federal or State Income tax liability. Wrong. I should have verified much earlier; I checked an online calculator and I believe that my Federal income tax liability would be $569 for a year. I think I wonít owe for State, if include the renters credit which Iíve always gotten, but that doesnít help me much.
At $569 it would be a tad over $47 a month. However, since I delayed verifying this until I was freakiní halfway into the Challenge, I have to make up that amount in half the time, so to catch up I need to budget $95 a month.
It should not come as surprise that at $1073 a month, that $95 is going to make a big dent. Iím gonna do my best, and go forward. That sad thing is that this may challenge my Challenge, but real folks working full time in California, where the cost of living is high, would get $1026 a month if they never missed a day of work.
(For those that think public assistance would be available to help, I idly checked and the gross income of $1178 would make the single person earner ineligible for food stamps, as itís over 130% of the Federal Poverty Level for one of $817. Medical benefits would have a $488 share of cost, meaning that all medical expenses up to $488 every month would have to be paid for by the minimum wage earner. Not real helpful with doctors visits and prescriptions.)
But enough on that digression. As I have stated before that this Challenge is not meant to be a political statement about the Minimum Wage, itís to exercise my thrift skills and become more grateful. My succinctly stated opinion is that people need to be paid a fair wage and have affordable health care, and that people need to make better spending choices.
Boy, that additional $95 a month is going to be tough. And itís my fault for not checking. Blech.
My Half a Year totals are ready. On my Minimum Wage Challenge I have spent $5,947.13 in six months. I have $405.96 banked/budgeted for planned purchases. I have $5.54 set aside in by Emergency/Big Purchase Fund, and $117.00 set aside in ďSavings.Ē
My income is as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. Iíve assumed no federal or state tax liability, which I will have to revisit. Edited to Add: I have had an additional $37.63 in income over the last six months; an average of $6.27 from a couple of half.com book sales, some recycling, and a couple one dollar GoZing surveys.
On the Challenge I have been able to buy a freezer (thatís why my ďsavingsĒ and emergency/big purchase funs are so low). I have been able to cover all my needs as well as quite a few wants. Iím getting birthday and Christmas gifts, and have an entertainment budget. Iíve counted every penny of expense since 1998 so it has not been hard to track to the penny how much I have spent. Every dollar counts against the Challenge; the day I picked up the freezer I felt very lucky and ďrichĒ and gave $2 in cash to a person begging on the corner. (She looked very hungry, and here I was getting extra room to put all my food in.) That $2 went into the charity column; I donít let myself cheat.
As far as my $20 Challenge goes, last year I averaged $1592 a month in spending. At 6 months on the Challenge, thatís $519 less spent x 6, plus $122.54 in saved money, equals $3236.54 in extra savings due to My Minimum Wage Challenge.
Any questions on details in any category gladly answered.
What are the odds that people recognized the reggae lyric in the title?
We made three batches of jam today, one plum and two blackberry. I also prepared a batch of plum puree for the next time we jam. Yesterday we went picking again; My Guy pointed out that while there is fruit to harvest, it makes more sense to harvest than can.
My dad wondered if canning jam was really a money saver. I know if I bought all new jars, and bought fruit, and paid full price for the lids and bands and pectin, it would definitely not be cost effective. Even with free fruit and low to no cost jars and bands and lids, itís possible that the cost doesnít beat out the cheapest grape jelly. Iím sure itís competitive though, and you canít really tie a ribbon around a jar of supermarket jelly as a little gift the same way you can with homemade.
For lunch we had a bread thrift store bake your own loaf, with some cheese left over from the camping weekend, and fresh jam. Delicious.
I am rolling in books. A Freecycle guy posted for ďWanted: Mystery Books.Ē I replied back that I had a few for him, and let him know about the buck a bag sale. He wasnít able to make the sale, but he let me know of some authors he was interested in, and I kept an eye out for them, and we did a swap today. I have got a bunch of books to read.
I also have some books that might well be gifts. Iím not fond of hardbacks. I now itís an oddity; at least it happens to be a cost effective quirk. I will put this nice stack of hardbacks by the gift pile. I like how Freecycle Guy and I are both ahead.
I did prepare a gift for a work friend. A very nice flannel nightgown that I have been assured is a "known" brand (garage sale); a good book (garage sale); and a batch of homemade cocoa, made with Splenda because she's doing Weight Watchers right now. The theme is a little bit of "Welcome Winter": here on the North Coast it's getting chilly and foggy.
Iím not sure why I havenít closed out the August/Half Year books yet; I suppose I just havenít been in the mood. The fascinating dollars and cents will have to come later.
Today was a fair garage sale today. I am so spoiled by super prices that regular good deals donít get me excited like they should.
I spent $8.75 total.
For the house I spent $3.25, for assorted canning supplies, frames for my hanging files, and some gift bags. For gifts, $5, I got a lot of unopened bath stuff; some I have assigned to people (their favorite scent or brand), some for miscellaneous. A quarter on bath stuff for me and My Guy. A quarter on earrings.
Iím officially in the second half of my Minimum Wage Challenge. A voluntary belt tightening to live on less than half my net income; California minimum wage less taxes, for a total of $1073 a month. This is a three paycheck month for me in my real life, and in October I get another raise, so I could be living large. But Iíll be working at getting my Challenge Savings and Challenge Emergency fund back up there by trying to spend less than $25 a month in entertainment!
Someone asked me today why Iím doing this. I only had a second to respond, I couldnít go into the whole ďitís increased my gratitudeĒ spiel that I wrote about in April. I simply replied ďitís an extraordinarily cost effective hobby.Ē
Hullo to my folks out there in Nicaragua! May your internet cafes be excellent! As goofy as it is, my folks read my blog and I think itís very sweet. Even though the focus is primarily on frugality, for me frugality is a way of life that increases independence, gratitude, skills, and attitude, so my financial journaling can be personal in some ways and a fair enough way to keep up with a daughter that lives 2700 miles away. Feeling that life is abundant is really about more than knowing that I have food in the cupboard and money in my account. Many families in central and south America would see my life as very rich; endless water, hot and cold; many different outfits; seven rooms for 2 people; groceries stores filled to the brim.
Tomorrow may be the first canning of the season. Since we are eating store bought jam I canít wait to get some of the good stuff put up.
One of the buddies I got some books for wanted to pay me. The reality is that she would have been uncomfortable if she didnít pay me, and I didnít want to push it. So, she gave me a dollar. Sounded really small to her, Iím sure, especially since one of the eight or so books was signed by the author (Zilpha Keatley Snyder! The Velvet Room! A freakiní classic!). However, it puts me in the position of making a profit on being ďneighborly.Ē Not only being neighborly, but introducing a young girl to a fabulous author in the incredible world of books. Such is life; I accepted the dollar gracefully.
That dollar gets added back into my gift fund. Add that to a dime I found on the ground, the gas-less walk I took to work, the plums I picked off my tree, and the great meal My Guy cooked, and itís a positively abundant day.
My freezer is plugged in and humming. I bought a lot of bread that is ready to go in it. It is ďThe time of Many PlumsĒ so those will be going in there. Itís filling up, and it makes me happy. I went to the Buck a Bag book sale after picking up my freezer and got 107 books for 3 dollars, so thatís less then three cents apiece. Ninety-three cents for buddies, and $2.07 for me.
All my categories that are discretional are up this month. No one single thing I did was bad, but gasoline, household, clothing, and gifts are larger than they could be, and itís only the 24th. Iím still well within The Challenge, but itís a reminder than when you are doing well overall, a little extra here and there can sneak up on you. A mango and other large quantities of fresh fruit, in the same month as a Deseret Industries run, in the same month I drive an extra four hours, in the month I do a Clinique bonus, in the month I go to lunch twice? Well it adds up.
Maybe itís comical that I am spending so much less than I could, but am still so very aware of every dollar. I was glad I had extra recycling money, to add to my gasoline budget! This, in the same month I found out that in ďreal lifeĒ I am getting a raise. However, itís only awareness of spending, not discomfort. Not regret. Just an increased mindfulness.
I came in to work today, and found a huge bag of aluminum cans right by my desk. It was so sweet! There was a picnic event, an Appreciation Luncheon that some supervisors put on for Staff, and they brought me the recycling! How sweet is that? Maybe weird, maybe unusual, but sweet! I did recycling today, and Iím donating back to the annual Luncheon Fund half of what I got for their contribution. So I made an additional $4.14 in recycling.
I bought the freezer. I'm using $60 from my Emergency/Big purchase fund, and $120 from my "savings" from March through July. This almost empties my emergency fund, leaving less than $5 in it. It leaves $76 in "savings. (Edited: later, I realized that including August "savings" I actually have $117!) I'll try to build those back, of course. It is satisfying to be able to make a purchase like this while on My Challenge!
I pick it up at Sear's in 3-5 days. I've got big plans, including the march of the plums, a Ray recipe I'm doing (pork, crock pot, chiles...I've gotta do a search), some frozen lasagna and stew for treat food, bread. Exciting.
Well, California's minimum wage is going up to $7.50 in January (and later it will be bumped to $8). I just don't know how to handle it. If I stay on The Challenge a year I'll be doing it in January and February only, since I started in March 2006. My inclination is to stay at $6.75 for my Challenge. In the "real world" I wouldn't see the money right away-if it took place the first, depending on how I got paid, I might not see an increase in my check for up to 3 weeks. So my excitement is short lived.
In my Real World, I'm getting a pay raise in October. I was amused that it is the second raise I've had since March 2006 and I won't be able to spend a dime of it.
I came back to town from the camping trip today, flush with food. I felt like a bit of an oddball, but if two pancakes or a near empty jar of jam are going in that garbage, itís my natural instinct to rescue them. Other foods that I help rescue include some garden squash, a hot dog, a bit of left over steak, hamburger and chicken; some provolone cheese, and some sautťed mushrooms. I also brought back a bunch of the chopped veggies and some of the potato salad I brought.
I did put in $5 towards a gift for the hostess at the cabin, but that and the extra gas was worth it. I did end up feeling mildly punk, but not miserable. Did nap on Saturday in the tent. I would really like to be headache free for a while but I guess Iíll take mild or medium headaches over doozies.
Iím getting close to needing a freezer. The plums are really coming in, and berries will be coming. Iím looking at a Kenmore 5 cubic foot chest freezer for $169.99 from Sears. Maybe Iíll do it next weekend. A lot of thrifty chores coming up: my favorite thrift store tomorrow in Sacramento, the ďbuck a bagĒ book sale at the library next Friday night, and freezer. The ďbuck a bagĒ sale is pretty great; I love stocking up on mysteries. If you pack the bags right, the books are around three cents apiece. Most of the gift worthy books sold at the regular sale, for 50 cents or a dollar, but sometimes there are great finds.
Another 17 hour day tomorrow, leave the house at 5 am and get back at 10 pm.
Today I spent on non-necessities. I even had sort of a spree. What did my crazed self end up spending? $36.21. I love how a binge for me is still little.
My first splurge was getting a $24.67 Clinique item to get the Bonus bag of make-up. I justified it to myself just fine; I tend to get the Bonus once every two years and that meets 95% of my makeup needs. So I got lipstick, mascara, lotion, and three other items. I love Clinique lipstick.
Then I got some bubble bath and two bath pillows at the dollar store. $3.22 on pure luxury. One pillow will replace the kinda broken one in the bath (which will go in my travel bag), and one will be back up for later, so I donít spend more than I want when I need the bath pillow.
I continued to go nuts, and bought fresh fish at the store. My Guy likes catfish, and it was reduced for quick sale, so an $8 something package became $4 something. Weíll have oven fried catfish tonight, one of our favorite dishes, and one that we rarely have fresh fish for. And it doesnít end thereÖ.I got a small bag of fresh cherries! Reduced price, but still, cherries! I only went to the market to get the $3.79 2 pound block of cheese with a dozen eggs free, and I buy fresh fish and cherries.
Iíll have a good dinner tonight, and a lovely bath, and the satisfaction of having nice makeup for a long time. And Iíll have the extra satisfaction of knowing that when I spend like a mad woman, it costs me less than $40 bucks. Whew.
Today was a curl up in bed with a book day. I think I was more worn out than I realized (Iíd gotten over being sick and having migraines and worked a tough week). I am grateful that the simplicity of my needs and wants gives me the gift of time.
Iíve posted about being lazy. Some people claim Iím more efficient than lazy. But either way, having a low maintenance life style and a clutter free house lets me take a full weekend day to myself. I ate a lot of plums, and some ďslugsĒ from the bagel shop. (Long bagelish sticks covered in seeds and garlic and other lovely stuff). I had some ďnewĒ garage sale books. And I made medicinal type tea: two bags strong, with lots of lemon and a lot of sweetener (some Splenda, some sugar).
I thank all of you who have posted words of encouragement. I am not unhappy with my Challenge; I had just been in a bad mood-perhaps due to being worn out? Ėand took it out on the Challenge. I am proud of being able to choose not to spend half of my net income. When I deny myself something, it could really be looked at as denial, because I would have the money to spend on it. But the real thrill is that I am meeting not just needs on the Challenge, but wants, too. My soul is as fed as my belly. And it will be very hard for me to take material goods for granted again. Quitting drinking has already given me the gift of never taking sanity and peace for granted. A day without drama and a day with plums and ďslugsĒ and a book is a very, very fine day.
Big bucks today, but some good stuff. $28.50, with $25 being for 2 items.
Two drawer metal filing cabinet in great shape, along with
A beautiful small oak table, both for $25.
A 25 cent pair of earrings for me
5 little gifts at an average of 20 cents each (including nice garnet earrings)
Wrapping paper, 8 unopened rolls
Glass Canister (that exactly matches another two I have, and was 15 cents)
Ziploc lunch box
The small table is almost like a miniaturized version of our dining room table; same oak cooler, same design. I polished it with mayonnaise; crazy tip, but it works wonders on wood. No it doesnít stink. Let soak, then wipe up all excess, and buff buff buff. I was skeptical, too. I certainly wouldnít call either the cabinet or table a steal, but I feel like I got good value.
And I went with a friend, which makes the whole process more fun. I have another social activity tonight, which is good because I donít get out enough. Our community has an Arts Alive event the first Saturday of every month; businesses and galleries in our ďOld TownĒ district showcase local artists and crafts people, and sometimes have some food. Itís nice to wander our locally owned stores and businesses, enjoying the summer and the sense of community.
In yesterdayís post thereís a bit of the ďpoor meĒ syndrome going on. Not my favorite trait. Iíve shaken that off. How? Well, partially from the very kind comments. But partially because of a talk I had with some co-workers.
We were walking around the block, and laughing because I was tossing grapefruit peel, and admitting that at home Iíd be saving it to scrape pith off, slice, and freeze to make candied peel. So the idea that my snackís peelings could have been my buddies Christmas presents just cracked us up and in particular cracked me up.
Hereís the deal. If Iím in a funky mood I think, well, it's a gratuitous thing, an indulgent thing, to do this out of choice when so many are forced to by circumstance. But then, later, I think, the wonderful thing is that Iím doing this by choice. It is not disrespectful to the working poor to have this as a Challenge, it is respectful to myself and the earth and my fellow citizens. By not talking what I have for granted, Iím not taking what others have for granted either. I can very clearly see the value of a dollar, any dollar: whether itís interest off an investment or from a tiny paycheck, itís still a flannel pair of jammie bottoms from the thrift store.
Itís Day Two of Month Six of my Minimum Wage Challenge. And my inner voice keeps whispering, ďwho caresÖ.who caresÖ.time wastedÖ..Ē What will I have if I succeed in my year? I know, I know, Iíll have a full appreciation, a lot of gratitude, a healthy savings account. But Iím in the mode where Iím thinking that itís just pretty silly.
Itís not that Iím wanting to spend and canít. Really. Itís just the little kid in me feeling bumptious. Iíll get over this feeling, and go back to feeling brave and wise and grateful and complete. Knowing that Enough is Enough, and Money is a Tool not a Goal.
July was an easy month, which I am very grateful for considering I had car insurance due. Budgeting for it each month paid off in the end. Iíve really gotten used to spending so little on a consistent basis.
*ďBankedĒ Total only includes positive numbers: unspent money in each category in prior months.
** Budget includes $1073 income less $89.36 ďoverspentĒ in categories in June
*** August's budget is $1073 income less the $38 overspent (auto insurance) in July
I had no extra income this month: Iím overdue on a recycling trip. My only Challenge income was $1073 (CA Minimum Wage less FICA and SDI). If youíre a new visitor looking for further details on how I arrived at the $1073, and what budgeting methods I use, see prior month summaries.
Eagle eyes will notice Iíve boosted savings to $40 from $39, and also added significantly to my big purchase/emergency fund. Iím expecting a freezer to eat a lot of this money in August or September; it will be nice to make a needed big purchase on The Challenge but I will need to really ramp up my savings to compensate.
My spent of $1073 is $519 less than my average per month last year. (I know have some banked, but it will be spent on non-monthly budgeted purchases.) Adding back in the $40 I put into "savings" under the challenge, I saved an additional $559 for the $20 challenge. This makes for $2791 in savings in five months for my $20 Challenge.
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