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Getting Ready to Splurge

April 20th, 2007 at 02:43 am

In March I didnít spend as much as I thought I might have. My big three day weekend trip to Santa Rosa that included rack of lamb, escargot, and a historical register hotel was $420. Other than that, I spent $1140. $84 on dining out, the first month off The Challenge (not including the rack of lamb!).

After all that moderation, itís time to buy a laptop.

Man, my home-made frozen lunch ended up being great. I will definitely continue making them. I think the next batch will be the whole-wheat pasta, with chicken thigh meat, artichoke & red pepper tapenade, and green beans.

I spent $977.74 a Month

March 25th, 2007 at 09:11 pm

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.

Just Checking In

March 5th, 2007 at 12:18 am

March 1: did I go crazy and buy lots of stuff? No, not really. I did feel a sense of giddiness, but I didnít go shopping. I made a $50 donation to charity; that solved the money burning a whole in my pocket issue. I took My Guyís car to the shop for him on the 2nd and Iíll be paying; it needs work that wasnít a priority to him, but now that I have more room to spend, I knew Iíd feel more comfortable if the work got done. Itís a nice gift to My Guy, too, in that he has lower income right now; although itís by choice so that he has extra time, he does still need to watch his money.

I joined Weight Watchers on 02/28/07 (yes, my $39.95 membership is coming out of Challenge money), but I was thrilled to be able to discover that it is not nearly as restrictive as I thought, and I was able to take My Guy out to Mexican food, and I spend a whole $21 total. I know thatís not a whole lot, but on the Challenge it was almost an entire monthís dining and entertainment, so it was a spree of sorts.

Other than that, no crazy spending. I have bought a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and other foods, but I am looking forward to see what happens to my grocery budget; Iím really curious how much it goes up past My Challenge average of $97 a month. I think that a lot of my spending habits are with me to stay.

Am I a Freak?

February 28th, 2007 at 02:12 am

Okay, so I just put it together. The first day after My Challenge is the first day I am planning on being a Weight Watchers participant. MeaningÖ.I canít go out and have a ďItís Been a Year and Now I can Spend Like CrazyĒ amazing Sushi and Tempura Dinner. You think Iíd have allowed a week of freedom, except that I really like the idea of February being such a start month for me . I quit drinking eight years ago, quit smoking six years ago, both in February, and Iíd like February to be the month I stop overeating, too.

I did get my hair cut today, $55 including tip, very expensive, but I love the cut and really like the woman who cut it. I knew it wouldn't be cheap. She cuts a friendsí hair and does a really great job, and I had been meaning to find a good person to commit to. I like being able to trust someone. Like my auto mechanic; I could probably find cheaper, but he is solid and honest, pays his men a fair wage with benefits, and never takes advantage of my lack of car knowledge. Quality can be worth paying some more for. Scheduling the hair cut was the expense that made me realize I was committed to not cheating on the Challenge; I could have gotten a cut two days later and had it not affect my Challenge, but I didnít want a big change in spending post-Challenge.

I also made a Costco run yesterday, filling up with gas and getting some other goods. Again I could have waited three days but My Challenge has not been about not spending, itís been about not unconscious spending, and I bought good solid stuff. Broccoli and TP!

January 2007 Month 11 Totals

February 14th, 2007 at 04:53 am

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.

No Posts Because

February 12th, 2007 at 09:12 pm

My folks are in town!

D & D are visiting prior to leaving for Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, and Bali. My travel bug was definitely caught from my dad; he was born in East Africa, and has traveled many continents for various reasons; missionaries' child; Air Force; wandering hippie.

My dad just retired at 69, and if all goes well he and D will be world travelers for the next few years, spending from a month to many months in places, depending on the cost and how much they like it.

That is a dream retirement, for me. A goal to work towards; they arenít doing this rich, just very focused. I will meet up with them in a couple places; unfortunately I canít follow them everywhere.

Also I am managing to almost catch a cold, or to catch a light cold. I*t gets a little tedious.

Nothing much on the spending front; entertainment will be a little high due to visitors, but Iíve got excess in other areas.

It is really very odd that I have sixteen days left on My Challenge.

Cost of Bathing and Dressing

February 4th, 2007 at 09:10 pm

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).

Overall look:
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?

Bathing:
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.

Hair:
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.

Grooming:
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.

Clothing:
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.

Jewelry:
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.

25 DaysLeft; Wow

February 4th, 2007 at 03:44 am

I was in a hotel room for work, last week, and for fun I was writing up a wish list of things I wanted or needed to buy. Well, I had a hard time thinking of things. A few items I got for Christmas-a kitchen rug, silicon rubber scrapers, so they were off the wish list. So now, I want a bookcase, another bookcase or cabinet, an mp3 player, and thatís it. I actually have nothing else I want. No clothes, no personal supplies, no kitchen items, no other furniture. (I want a bra fitting; I suppose Iíll get a bra at the same time.) Going with little has made it not so that I want more, but so that I want and need less.

Iím in my last month, but hardly aware of it. Despite my grand plans to not be sick or have any migraines in 2007-ambitious, I know-I came down with a bad cold Wednesday. I have managed to fend off 4 migraines so far this month by taking my medication very early on, so I still feel like I am having some success. But Thursday and Friday I was home in bed, pretty out of it, and today I just am sorta peeping my head out of the covers.

I wonít be closing my books until at least tomorrow if not later. It does feel odd that February will be my last month on the Challenge. The Challenge has really been such a gift to me. I am so much more at peace with my money and my spending.

Used Clothes and New Fruit.

January 28th, 2007 at 07:50 pm

An underrated plus of thrift store, garage sale, or hand me down clothes: I know how theyíll hold up. With new stuff, sometimes Iím surprised at how things that look like they have solid construction pill, or dry permanently oddly wrinkled (collars!), or fade, or somehow fall apart. With used clothes, I can tell the clothes can take a wash or two.

Results of recent (2007) hand me downs:

Flannel old-school nightgown

2 sweaters

A dress

2 pair sneakers

1 pair shoes

A skirt

2 pairs corduroy pants

3 or so blouses

Bathing suit


Plus, in a ďpossibleĒ pile: a bathing suit, a dress, and 2 pair pants. I keep a ďpossibleĒ box; I try on the items every six months or so. If it doesnít fit or I donít decide to wear it after the item has been in the box 6 months, itís gone. This way I donít have to decide immediately, and I donít end up with things in my closet Iíll never wear-too tight, too loose, or just isnít a color or style that floats my boar.

Yesterday I bought grapes-red and green, strawberries, and cherries. Even though itís January and the fruit wasnít perfect, it was all very good, and I at it in the bathtub and watching some record TV. Such a small thing can bring so much joy. Post-challenge I plan to allow myself to spend more on fruits-getting some organic stuff sometimes, and also, getting the fancier stuff. Right now I buy a lot of apples and oranges, pears and sometimes grapes. I plan to be a pineapple queen.

Today I drive to Sacramento. I donít have to fly, thank goodness. I donít mind flying, but the cost, even though it doesnít cost me directly, always irks me-we have a small airport up here in Eureka (itís actually a half hour north of Eureka in McKinleyville). Plus, a huge concern, I kept getting fogged in (or out)-itís annoying to miss an important meeting that way. Itís a 5-1/2 drive, but that can be soothing-the scenery out here in Humboldt (to Mendocino, to Lake) counties is incredible. Iíll be back Monday night. I plan to eat a lot of fruit on the way! Itís also nice to be able to take a bunch of food-I donít like checking baggage for a one day trip, but it does drive me nuts to not have my 12-1/2 cent cans of club soda.

Oh, and I got $10.13 from recycling yesterday-my biggest run yet! Whooooo!

Rich!

January 27th, 2007 at 02:40 am

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.

A Good Sign, & Hand-me-down-downs

January 25th, 2007 at 03:00 am

Iíve got an indicator that my spending patterns wonít change much. How do I know? I made an appointment to get my hair cut February 27.

Now how in the world does this mean I wonít change too much? My Challenge is over 02/28/07. The person I made my appointment with is pricier than Iím used to; even if it wasnít, itís still an expense that I could easily postpone 2 days. But nope, I donít want to save any expenses up for after Challenge; it would feel like cheating. If I want to fill up with gas or buy some groceries come the end of February, so be it. I might need to maybe spend less in some areas to make room in others, but I donít want to adjust any ďregularĒ spending post-Challenge to make my numbers look good. Iím willing to take a $60 ďToiletries and Hair careĒ hit in February, because thatís when I could get an appointment.

So I am feeling like I wonít be a wild and crazy splurger. I donít feel as if Iíve been starved let loose in a grocery store. Sure my spending has been arbitrarily restricted beyond my usual frugality, but it hasnít been unpleasant. I know I have the benefits of being fully abled, child free, and debt free-Iím not saying low income is easy peasy-but I have been having a very full, rich, undeprived life here in Humboldt.

Unrelated side note, I am getting mountains of hand-me-downs. My co-worker buddy who is losing a ton of weight (actually we determined she has lost 4% of a ton) kicked down even more clothes. She passed along some hand-me-downs she got-what would I call them? Hand-me-down- downs? Anyway, two nice sweaters. Tonight I picked up two bags full from another friend who is purging. I know many wonít survive the trying on process, but Iíll get at least ten items out of this, I bet. This will reinforce my position that being unabashededly unashamedly frugal reaps rewardsÖ.not only do I not have to tiptoe, I get swag.

Unrelated side note two: I am making progress walking to work and riding my exercise bike. I am not making the progress I had hoped, but I need to be happy with any progress.

Unrelated side note three: Iíve decided to go fast food free in 2007. Not an original idea, many others do it, and credit is due to MarianneJ for directly inspiring me. I have discovered an additional alternate. Besides stocking the freezer with pre-made meals, and stocking cans of soup, etc., for emergency lazy meals, I also rediscovered a local taco truck. I can get 2 Baja style tacos for $1.65 each, or a great burrito for $4, assuage a desire for a little greasy goodness, stay local, and stay reasonably healthy.

I like having an ďoutĒ as it were. Iíve wanted to avoid chain fast food, but miss the option of indulging angst with hot salty fat. Huh? Iíve used many other vices in the past, and Iím a good egg now, but sometimes I treat anger or sadness with grease. Most of the time I am a big girl and deal with my emotions, every now and then I want to stuff my feelings with greasy goodness and I allow myself. Taco truck it will be.

Boring, Thankfully

January 22nd, 2007 at 01:28 am

I have nothing to report on the money front. Why? Nothing is happening. Iíve made some small grocery fill in runs, and ordered some prescription refills. I think my most powerful saving tool is just my non-buying habits. Makes my reporting less exciting, but my January wrap up should reflect some savings despite My Guyís birthday, so it ends up being exciting.

Ice! Ice! Baby, it's Cold Outside

January 12th, 2007 at 02:35 am

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.

Never At The Expense of Others

January 10th, 2007 at 04:33 am

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.


An "Aha!" Moment

January 9th, 2007 at 04:28 am

I realized tonight why I donít use coupons. It was an eye-opening moment, finally figuring out why, why, why.

Iíve been like Amy Dacyczyn (Tightwad Gazette) in some ways regarding coupon use. I felt that by cooking from scratch and buying bulk and buying generic and buying low cost items I had a very reasonable grocery budget. I was like that for years. Then, from being at the SavingAdvice site, I became intrigued by the idea of using coupons. Some people were savings serious amounts of money, and not just on junky convenience food. I won a batch of coupons from Flash, and I signed up for a Coupon Train.

I got the packet, and opened it up, and did not get excited. I felt overwhelmed. There were a ton of excellent coupons in there, but I just didnít get into it. I pulled older coupons like I was supposed to, filled it with the ones I got from Flash and a few I had been savings ($5 Citrucel, the like) and sent it off. And didnít use a single one.

I was puzzled. Here I am all into savings, and frugal activities, and I just couldnít get into coupons. I forgave myself and moved on. I decided that coupons were an excellent way to save money for many people, but that I was fine with my grocery bill (average $96 a month) and made peace with not using coupons, though I was still puzzled as to why.

Tonight I was getting into my bath and I brought a Costco booklet with me. The booklet contained a ton of manufacturerís couponsÖ.and they all say how much off but donít say the actual cost. And I realized thatís why I have been unable to get into coupons. I need to know the price I am paying. The amount off doesnít really matter.

If I skip the majority of items in the booklet which Iíd never buy (facial tissues, fabric softener, paper napkins, DVDs, vitamin water, instant oatmeal, Pringles, Folgers) and look at the items I might buy, I see things like ď$3 off Playtex 88 count.Ē The $3 means nothing to me. I know my bottom line is that I prefer paying a dime apiece or less for tampons; $4 a forty pack. (Yeah, this might be too much information, but dagnabbit, thereís not much I would buy from these coupons.) So I need to know whether, after coupon, the box will be $8.80 or less. Without that information, the coupon means nothing to me.

Now there are super organized people who can keep these organized and go to Costco and be able to quickly check and use the coupon if it is a savings. But this isnít a skill I am interested in gaining. When I find tampons at the right price I can stock up and call it good. I do other frugal activities I enjoy more.

It makes sense now that I do look at Safeway Club card mailers or any inserts that refer to loss leaders. I am on the look out for good deals- itís not that I am uninterested in getting the best deal; it's that for me, I need the bottom line to have it make sense. If the flyer says ď2 for $3Ē I know the item is $1.50, and can decide, sitting in my chair at home, if itís a good deal. With the cents off coupons, I have to take the coupon to the store to know how much I could potentially save, and even then, the savings could be nothing for a particular coupon.

Itís just nice to finally understand what my block was. Iím still at peace with not using coupons, but now I clearer on why.

Sticker Shock

January 7th, 2007 at 11:57 pm

My Guy went to the mall to do a little shopping; he had a $25 GAP gift card I gave him from cashing in My Points. He came home and was sharing some of the prices ďout there.Ē He saw sweatshirts for $50. Now, I think that a $50 sweatshirt just isnít right. It doesnít matter if Iím earning millions and am debt free, I donít want to wear a $50 sweatshirt.

Maybe I do want to wear a high quality sweatshirt, sure. But it shouldnít coast that much. Between thrift shops, garage sales, clearance rack shopping, and off price stores, I'm sure I can find great sweatshirts for much, much less.

I feel this way about items all the time. I see Coke on sale for $1.99 a six pack, and that seems so weird because I wonít pay more the 99 cents a sic pack for soda. How can $1.99 be cheap? I found out a matinee movie is almost six bucks-that seems like a lot.

Sometimes I see higher priced stuff I might be interested in, and even buy. Organic veggies come to mind, or recycled paper for the printer, or something made by a local craftsman. Iím not always looking to spend the lowest amount no matter what.

But jiminy Christmas, $50 is crazy for a sweatshirt!

I did lose at poker, $9.75. Not bad for a good 5 hours of playing; and I lost $14 my first hand with pocket aces, so I was down within minutes. The house was full and it was fun. Now my poker jar containing my winnings is down to $38.50. (I was up $73.25 but I lost $25 a couple weeks ago.) My only spending this weekend was some groceries for the guests; I should have known better, everybody brought something.

Thursday Night is Usually a Good Night

January 5th, 2007 at 04:28 am

Friday I go out to lunch, and host poker at night. Thatís good, for me- I want to be more social in 2007. Iím looking forward to a good year; I have a lot of goals, and that can be daunting, but many of my goals are very manageable, and some are even ones to look forward to. Such as hanging out on a Friday night laughing and winning other folks money.

Blog Abuse: To My Folks: I think I lost the phone numbers you left on my voicemail today. Please call again! We want to see you too!

Right before Christmas, someone in the building went unit to unit at the end of the day holding a ďliquidation saleĒ on left over baked goods from a charity bake sale held earlier in the day. There was a lot left over, and it seemed sad, and it was a good cause, so I gave them some money and gave the baked goods to co-workers. The check cleared for $5 not $7. So now I have to hunt down someone who might know who was organizing the fund raiser, to give them $2. Itís funny that a rare impulse what-the-heck purchase ends up being inconvenient.

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

January 4th, 2007 at 02:20 am

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!

Not Dead

January 2nd, 2007 at 08:56 pm

Iím not dead. And I donít have any good reason for not posting for three weeks. No good reason, no interesting reason. My Christmas Season was fine; Christmas day was bad, but just the one day. My co-workers loved the presents I got for them, and friends enjoyed their presents as well. Plus, Christmas does not have a lot of personal meaning for me, so having a bad Christmas Day is okay, actually. My actual two favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and New Yearís Day: being grateful and new beginnings.

So, anyway, I am back, and I did not stop doing My Challenge. I spent a bit extra in Groceries (treats), entertainment, and gifts, but it was because of the holidays, not because of not posting.

After my weird little lapse, I do now plan to get back on the posting wagon. Itís the New Year, and itís month eleven out of twelve months-Iím pretty thrilled that it looks like I will be able to definitely complete the Challenge.

My Challenge Total So Far: $4,137.84

January 2nd, 2007 at 08:54 pm


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.

More Random Than Usual

December 18th, 2006 at 03:58 am

Yesterday I went out into the frenzy, and made it home alive. I went to the mall-gasp!-but bought two pairs of undies, deposited a bunch of checks at my credit union, and made my getaway. I stopped by the bread thrift store, and spent $5.99, including $1.99 for 8 very nice looking croissants. Third stop, used bookstore, brought a bag in for trade, and with that bag and some previous trade credit, bought some books as presents and some books for me. Last stop, grocery shopping at the Canned Foods outlet. A lot of other shoppers didnít look too happy, so I didnít feel I was missing out on a festive vibe.

Iím working right now on round two of present wrapping. I did a big binge a week or so ago, and wrapped around ten or fifteen. (In getting lots of gifts at garage sales and the like, I have more medium and small gifts, and fewer large gifts. Thatís okay with me.) I need to wrap all the gifts for work folks early, so that I can bring them in this week. I find wrapping presents very satisfying, fulfilling even.

Nothing more to report on the weekend, except that I made two batches of plum jam. My Guy isnít into giving gifts with work folk, but since he likes them I have talked him into bringing in a little half pint of jam with a ribbon. He made the last round of apple jelly, and we did the plum and blackberry batches together the time before that, so itís not as if heís taking advantage of my labor.

This week will be busy for me at work. I know many people are off, and fore many others itís a pretty loosy goosey time, but Iíll be hopping. Itís good for me.

Budgets Keep Coming Up

December 12th, 2006 at 04:14 am

I am using a budget on My Challenge, because I do need to monitor spending pretty closely to achieve my goals. The mentions of budgets on other blogs and posts have interested me, because this budget is the first time Iíve used one, and I feel like Iíve been able to peek over the fence from No Budget Land into Budget Forest.

I track every penny I spend. I have done so since April 1998, so I can see that I had $10,304 in income in 1998, or that I spent $248 on auto service in 2002, or $225 on Books in 2004. Itís all there, every smart expense and every dumb expense.

Iíve never budgeted, though. My goal has been threefold: to always get a good deal on what I do buy, to avoid buying things that I donít need, and to always put as much in savings as possible. In the eight years I have almost always saved much, much more than ten percent of my income; the times I havenít have been when Iíve worked part time at minimum wage and had debt.

Iím not sure if Iíll keep budgeting after My Challenge is over. To be honest, I donít need to. I donít need to, as in, even pre-Challenge I was living well below my means. I donít need to, in that Iíve always had a cushion and never been unprepared to pay a surprise car repair bill or the like. My income has gone up quite a bit over the last few years, over 300%, but my spending hasnít even begun to approach that increase. Thatís the benefit of being frugal. I could afford to buy coffee everyday now if it was important to me; I still brew my coffee at home on a free coffeepot with Grocery Outlet whole beans and stick the coffee in my beat up Stanley thermos I got for $5 at a garage sale. (Yeah, $5 is a lot for a thermos, but it was a Stanley so I went for it.) I get maybe 3 to 4 fancy coffees a year and enjoy them as treats.

Iím not anti-budget. I know some people who are spending more than they make, or getting unpleasantly surprised at Christmas or when other large expenses roll around, would be better off budgeting. I suppose I have a decision to make come March!

(For My Challenge Iím using the YouNeedaBudget spreadsheet (youneedabudget.com) that I bought from a savingadvice member. If I keep budgeting, Iíll stick with this program, because I like it.)

Not Stopping for Shopping

December 6th, 2006 at 05:52 am

My wild spending this month is $400 rent, a $5 burrito, $7.82 on groceries, and $79 for my car registration. I am not sure how people spend so often. A large part of my ability to live on a small income has got to be to be my lack of desire to shop, to run errands that require expense. The burrito My Guy picked up, and the car registration I paid online, so only the $7.82 was spent ďoutside.Ē

How do people get coffee and soda and an item here and there all the time? Forget the cost; even if I had a gift card, Iím just not into going and buying. On a Saturday I can enjoy garage sales, but other than that, shopping is more of a chore. Being at airports lately has reduced me to the ďbuy a single beverageĒ state; my norm is to have club soda in my car, at work, and in my purse. A large part is the cost, but there is also the convenience...I donít want to be bothered stopping by the store or vending machine if Iím thirsty. Beverages are a big part, but not all of it. A run to Walgreenís for just nail polish? I use the stuff (toes) but I would not use my work break to run to the store for only that item.

Why am I riled up? Dunno. Just saw a lot of single purchase store runs going on today. If you stopped and got a coffee today, relax, Iím not against it, I just really donít understand it. You are a more patient and less lazy person than I.

My Average is Low!

December 5th, 2006 at 02:48 am

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.

Wrapper's Delight

November 29th, 2006 at 04:38 am

There is a little something about the excess of the season that is sometimes overwhelming. Iím getting flyers in my mailbox offering good deals on things that I just canít see anyone ever needing or even wanting. Some are items Iíd be hard pressed to pick up at a garage sale. Iím a minimalist, but even so, some of these items Iíd have a hard time buying as a gift for people for $1. I donít want to single out any particular item, because one, there are so very many, and two, it may be something you bought today.

Oddly enough, the part of Christmas I like best is the gift giving. I was raised secularly. I am not from a large or close family, so the holidays are not a reunion time for me. I am not into entertaining, or cooking, or decorating. I find a lot of Christmas decorations tacky. I just love the excuse to buy people gifts!

Iím perfectly aware that my preference is just that. I know people who are absolutely giddy with the joy of decorating, but think the gift giving is commercial and best avoided. I know others who find the cooking the most fun, producing cookie after cheese ball after cookie. Others I know focus sincerely on the spiritual aspects of the holiday, and gifts may be tolerated and understated, and certainly secondary.

As long as someone is enjoying the holiday, I support it. It bums me out when someone is getting overtired or expects herself to produce The Perfect Christmas or tries to cook a seven course meal for ten people without the ability or desire. If there is a part of Christmas getting someone down, I think they should let it go! Get Chinese takeout! Make the kids do all the decorations! I think things that should be optional and not forced include gift giving, and that a person should be free to not do it, or scale it down to a place that feels right. Iím glad that I get to buy gifts for fun, and Iím glad donít have a bunch of forced expectations and a list of people I have to buy a gift for. Iím perfectly happy giving gifts to people I want to give to, and that includes folks I know are not gift givers.

A benefit of being thrifty, and being so very open about it, is that I donít believe I am generating the forced reciprocity deal that sometimes happens when a gift is given and the gifted didnít see it coming. If a co-worker finds a little something on their desk, since they know it probably cost me less than a couple bucks or maybe even just some time, Iím not worried about them having to run home and come up with something to give me in return. I know a lot of people who arenít into the co-worker gift thing. But they seem able to see my jar of jam or good condition used book or little trinket as a nice gesture, without strings attached. Itís an odd but very pleasant side effect of frugal giving.

This year Iíve been even more frugal, and that has opened my eyes to being on the lookout all year long...I was Christmas shopping at garage sales in May, at thrift stores, in Europe in September. That was another benefit of My Challenge-by thinking of people all year long, I was able to get some very nice gifts, some exceptionally well suited gifts, for very low prices.

People also know I get a kick out of getting frugal gifts. Last year, a buddy was having a financial rough patch (bought second home and first home didnít sell for a while). She mentioned all the purging she had done moving from a big house to a little house. Well it turned out she mentioned having too many pizza roller/cutters, and I told her that I would love to get a pizza cutter and that I had been having a hard time spotting one at a thrift store. I got a roller, used but awesome, wrapped for a Christmas present and I loved it. I got the perfect gift and she saved money and all was well with the world.

Random Notes

November 26th, 2006 at 05:45 am

The library alternates the Buck-a-bag sales with regular sales, where the paperbacks are all a quarter and the hardbacks are all fifty cents. I spent a whopping $4.50. It strikes my funny bone that some of the books seemed overpriced at those prices. I understand that for convenience itís much, much easier to have one price, instead of individually pricing, but Iíd grab a hardback and think, ďfor a quarter, Iíd think about it.Ē

I did eat a traditional turkey dinner, but it was not at my house so I donít have any leftovers. For me thatís a good thing: I can overeat if it is in front of me. However I did grab the turkey carcass, which was in pieces, and a bunch of the juices. I boiled the carcass and juices with some water, and have three quarts of incredibly rich broth, and two pints of shredded turkey with broth, in the freezer.

I made an odd concoction again. I took chicken thighs and split peas, and added some last bits of leftover pesto, and some mustard. The spicy brown mustard was almost out, and I wanted to clear out the fridge, so I put hot water in, shook, and put it in crockpot. I decided to finally get rid of a Ĺ gallon of pickle juice Iíve been saving for a year, because for me itís not frugal if I donít use it. However I did put a couple cups into the crock pot. Surprisingly, the chicken-split pea-pesto-mustard-pickle juice thing is quite tasty.

Sometimes I get frustrated that I donít post enough, or that I donít post enough of the details of my daily finances. Frankly, part of that is so very often I am not spending any money. But anyway, what I have to tell myself is that itís not posting that is as important to me on My Challenge as actually living the Challenge. Rest assured that I'm living on less than $1026, with all purchases recorded and no fibbing. November is looking really good, except for the bloated Entertainment budget. The huge shopping tip in October really stocked me up, and other discretionary areas like gifts, household, toiletries, and clothing are low. For gifts, thatís good, because it would really help me to carry some gift money over to December.

I have a conundrum with a budget item. In late October a friend near a Trader Joeís picked up some items for me. I gave her a blank check due to time constraints, which I later found out she tossed. I closed the October books reluctantly without know the exact amount, and expected to be able to post it in November. I saw her tonight and she would not accept any money at all. Not at all. So, what I am going to do is use my guesstimate of $25, and hold that money in a jar, and use it to take her or her aunt out to lunch at some point. I just donít feel good about not having it as an expense.

When Itís Over

November 25th, 2006 at 07:58 am

Iím thinking about whatís going to happen post-Challenge (March 2007), and though Iíve got a couple of wants, I think that I really want to keep a lot of the habits Iíve developed or strengthened.

I want to continue to go to garage sales and thrift stores more often; I have been re-reminded how much good stuff is out there. Along with that, I want to continue to be on the look out for great gifts all year long. Some of the best presents I have for this year were super cheap at garage sales, and normally I wouldnít have been thinking of Christmas in July.

I want to continue to go out to eat less. I am really intrigued by enjoying it more when I do it less. Thatís actually dining outÖ.Iím not happy with take out, and am not feeling like I get value there. For dining out, I want to make sure I do it because Iím spending real quality time with friends or co-workers over lunch or dinner, and that if Iím the one who instigates it, I want to go because I want that special food, not because Iím lazy. I may spend more than now, but nowhere near what I was spending ($100 a month). Iím thinking $50 a month average will work. (Now note that Iím debt free and putting a pretty fair chunk in savings; Iím not advocating that $50 would work for everyone!)

I want to continue to be more creative in the kitchen, so that I can make tasty, simple, low cost meals that are good for me. Discovering that chicken thighs that have been put in the crock pot de-bone like a dream was a life changing experience for me. Buying and using a freezer has been awesome, and Iíve been able to be very consistent about packing a lunch and eating breakfast, partially due to new tricks (freezing oatmeal being one).

I want to remain ever vigilant in the face of lattťs and manicures Costco runs and window shopping. I like that I donít spend out of habit. I like that I know where I get a big bang for my buck. Iím not anti-lattť; Iím anti lattť for me. If I am going to treat myself, even treat myself super frequently, itís going to be on the gas for a hot bath, and bubble bath and bath salts.

I want to continue to avoid clutter; appliance clutter, knick knack clutter, any unused item clutter. The less stuff I have the more I like the way my house looks.

Things I may spend money on in March, or sometime after the challengeÖ.

Iím thinking about a laptop. As itís a big purchase, Iíd want to think on it a long time before buying, Challenge or no. I think Iíd use it travelling for work a lot-and the airports seem to have free wi-fi. March happens to be a three paycheck for me, so it is tempting.

Iíd like a nice jewelry stand (earrings and necklaces) and jewelry box. I have a fair collection (semi-precious stones and silver, mostly-no big money, but souvenirs from my travels and gifts, that I wear daily.) I know what Iím thinking of, and I think that I may have to spend a fair amount. Iíll be on the look out.

Iíd like to be able to spend a little more on My Guy for the holidays. This year will be fine; Iím not thinking it will be bad. And what Iíd be looking at spending post-Challenge, maybe $150 total for all gifts large and small, isnít too extravagant. Itís just that a lot of things he would like are not apt to be found used or at garage sales: such as 1 gig flash drives, or original art by certain local artists, or other computer related items.

Iíd like to do more weekend trips. Iíd like to every couple months go up to Oregon or down to Fort Bragg and stay in a cheap hotel for a night or two.

Iíd like something I can put pod casts on. Maybe an iPod, maybe not. I love certain radio shows like Wait, Wait, Donít Tell Me and This American Life and others, and Iíd like to be able to listen ďon demandĒ as I walk to work and back.

Iíd like to get a bra-fitting, and buy one nice high quality bra. It may sound silly, it may even be silly. However Iíve been thinking about this a long time, and come March, itís happening.

What I wonít be changing is my lifestyle. I may have a laptop, but Iíll be hanging laundry and washing dishes by hand and making crazy blender soups. I might have a super supportive brassiere but Iíll still be buying used tops, bottoms, and shoes, and getting buck-a-bag books.

Iíll Say it Again

November 25th, 2006 at 04:05 am

Iíll say it again, I Love the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Not for the food. Turkey and potatoes and stuffing and pie are all very good, but I have mixed feelings about my ability to overeat, and I always wonder why we donít eat turkey and stuffing and yams more often, since they are good. Maybe I wouldnít gorge (along with others) if we got the good stuff more often.

No, what I love about the holiday is the reminder to be grateful. My Rain on Me post on 11/15 was focused on gratitude, but I thought Iíd also like to list for myself what Iím thankful for. I began this list in a forum post in early November.

I am grateful for:

Having more than sufficient food, shelter, safety, and warmth

Having no debt

My Guy, and for him finding the perfect part time job to give him enough money and free time

My dad's health and his being able to retire

My Folks being able to travel the world!

Having the introspection and patience to identify areas to improve

Having a job where I make a difference

Having a job that challenges me

Having a job where Iím paid to think!

Getting a fair wage and benefits

Being sober

Baths. Clawfoot bathtubs and bubble baths as a bonus!

Having my vision and being able to read

Being able to travel

Being able to vote

Coffee (with milk)

Cheese, fruit, sushi, and all the other foods that give me great joy

The weather in Humboldt

My warm bed and comforter and all the parts of my house that are cozy

Having a car that's paid off and runs well

Having co-workers who support bettering the agency and are a team with me

Having the right and desire to exercise my freedom of speech and dissent

Frugality

My Challenge Blog and the SavingAdvice forums as ways to embrace, reinforce, and champion frugality.

Having so many choices

Music

Being able to learn and use my head

The health I do have, and the insurance for other areas

NPR

Mystery novels

Friends, and their well-being

Being kind (it may sound like an odd thing to be grateful for, but every year it becomes more dear to me)


I have so much, so many I know have so much. I believe that the more grateful I am the more compassionate I am. One day a year we are reminded, again, to give thanks. I do.

I Have a Thing

November 23rd, 2006 at 08:09 am

I have a thing about containers, I think. I was tipped off recently when I bought a pump bottle of hand soap, even though I didnít need it. The deal was: the container was a perfect ball, clear, and had no label. Essentially I bought the container to use to put in my soap bits, and the soap inside is a bonus. I love the idea of my miscellaneous soap bits being in this cute little label-less ball. The soap was ninety nine cents, no splurge, but since I didnít need soap I had questioned why I had bought it.

I hadnít really fully thought out how much I love reusable containers. My shampoo and conditioner are in nice thick plastic well shaped pump bottlesÖI periodically refill them. Itís not at all about looking like I have a certain brand that I donít, though I suppose that some people may think I actually buy fancy shampoo. (I got it in a gift basket last February.)

My favorite, cheapest dish soap comes in a screw top bottle. I pour it into a nice old squeeze top bottle.

Most of my dry bulk foods are in Red Vine licorice tubs, big peanut butter jars, or canning jars-depends on size. I like this for consistency-a nice simple look. I prefer bulk buying for these items (flour, milk, nuts, so forth) not only because they are usually cheaper, for less packaging. If itís not packaging Iím gonna cherish, I donít want it.

If Iím looking at getting salsa or ice cream or something, I actually take the packaging into account-not whether itís eye-catching, but whether it comes in a nice reusable plastic tub with a lid that seals well. And lately, clear is also a bonus-cottage cheese tubs can make things harder to see in the freezer, so Iím always on the look out for clear. Best is when the label on the clear tub is one that will peel off easily.

I spent an extra nickel on a bunch of yogurts just to get the cup with a lid, so I could reuse for gelatin and other lunch snacks.

I got really excited about a free sample of hairsprayÖbecause it meant a free small pump bottle to put Fabreeze in for travelling. Another free sample hair spray actual contains hair spray that I refill periodically.

At work a lot of people know I like Red Vine tubs, the big ice cream plastic tubs, and other large tubs. I don't stock pile tons of them, but it's nice to be able to grab a new one when an odl one wears out.

(There were some mini-ťclairs at Costco for a while that came in a tall, square white tub. I loved them for potlucksÖ.a nice deep container that held plenty of food, used fridge space well, since they were square not round, and could be left at someoneís house with no worry of how to get it back.) I accept them all to keep them coming-some things I do just recycle right away, so the only benefit is to the landfill, and thatís fine with me.

There were some envelopes at work that came in ďgoodĒ lidded boxes, then we started getting ďbadĒ flimsy tear open boxes. It really threw me for a loop. The nice black boxes with white and black lids were so handy, for gifts and other things. Iím not sure anyone else noticed the change.

A small bottle of conditioner caught my eye recently...fifty cents wasnít a great deal on the conditioner, but along with the perfectly sized travel bottle (larger than sample, much smaller than regular) that seals perfectly I felt good about it.

This container fetish has clearly been building over time. My plan is for this to be good resource use, and not a weird creepy habit, as I grow older.

It's So Cheesy

November 21st, 2006 at 02:02 am

Sometimes I think people think I am depriving myself. However, the times I am most unhappy about the Challenge is when I spendon Entertainment.

I budget $20 to $25 a month on entertainment; thatís mostly eating out. (I do have a separate line item for Netflix, for some reason, and my 12 channel cable too). Well, when I go out to eat, I usually feel good about it. But when I spend that money on take out, itís rarely a feeling of relief or luxury or a treat; itís usually a sign that Iíve just gotten sloppy. Besides the Challenge, I happen to be chubby, out of shape, and prone to migraines, which may partially be triggered by a number of foods more likely to be found at a restaurant than in my fridge (nitrates). So what the heck am I doing ordering pizza last night?!?! Iím spending out of my overspent category, and Iím not getting joy. Iím getting crankiness and bloat and a feeling of letting myself down.

I would have been so much happier having an omelet or bulgur or spinach. Spending money resulted in less happiness, not more.

In month nine, Iíd have thought Iíd have figured it out. But no, I had to give up money and self-esteem for fifteen minutes of pizza love.

Meh.

Here I go trying to catch the flight to Sacramento that was cancelled this morning.


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