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.
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.
Tonight Iím tossing out some underwear. They are springing little white elastic threads everywhere, and itís time for them to go. I thought to myself, ďI have enough underwear, I can toss a pair.Ē Then I remembered that some of my new underwear werenít black, and that I had a decision to make.
A little too much information, but I prefer all black underthings. They always match. I could never understand the lure of a pretty blue and yellow floral bra, because with pink and black lace underpants they look awful. I decided that I should go black and white, but that didnít look great either, so then I went black. Could be different materials or cuts, but black.
After many years of underclothes harmony, I got a free pair of underwear as a sample: turquoise. I didnít realize it was a harbinger of colors to come.
I decided later that a nude bra would be in order, because nude is the least visible with certain tops. So then there were two.
Then my co-worker opens a pack of underwear, and realized she got the wrong cut, so she kicks them down to me. Now Iíve got freaking white, pink, and lavender, as well as black and the turquoise. And to top it all off, I get a huge back of Freecycle clothes, and shudder all you want, but there was a white bra that fit and I started wearing it.
So now all my underclothes are a mess. And Iím thinking of tossing a black pair of undies? Man. So then Iím thinking, okay, well, Iíll just buy some more black underwear at Ross (usually decent selection and $1.49 to $2.99 a pairÖ.these last ones Iím tossing gave me seven years of good service). Iíll suck it up and toss the beige bra, because itís not worn out but itís just not so great, and Iíll toss the Freecycle bra, because if itís something you donít want to admit to wearing, maybe you shouldnít wear it, right?? And besides itís wearing out.
Which leaves me with the colored underwear. So I think to myself, well, I have sleep socks (anklet socks that are pretty much dead but are good for sleeping,) so Iíll just have sleep underwear.
And where does that leave me? Iím a crazy lady with different sets of underclothes for night and day. I'm also a crazy lady who writes about her drawers on a blog that people she knows in real life reads. Not gonna read this one to your friends, huh, Dad?
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.)
This week I walked to work four days out of five. On Friday I had people over to play poker. Today, I got together with a good friend, and we walked a couple miles and talked, and I even got a fancy pants coffee at a local place. Then My Guy, myself, Ms. Friend and Mr. Friend got together and had a grand time, having a cheese party. Mr. Friend is the cheese manager at the local co-op, and has all sorts of tasty cheese, and I added some. We had an aged blue ďCostello,Ē an aged swiss, a gouda-like ďlambchopperĒ an aged pepper corn jack ďrumianoĒ, and brie, with two rustic breads, a variety of olives, and apple and pear.
I always adore food, and Iíve really been working at being more social, and Iíve very much wanted to walk more, so this has been a great week.
On the money front, a great time never needs to break the bank-a dip into the underused grocery money for some fancy cheese fits in fine with my budget, as all along Iíve been trying to prove that frugality certainly doesnít equal deprivation. The cheese probably was more detrimental to the whole health thing, but man oh man do I love cheese.
I love it when a week goes well.
My Guy has been walking to work, and Iíve been a bit too. We've noticed that there is such a culture of driving that people always ask, ďNeed a ride?Ē ďCar in the shop?Ē and the like. Clearly our co-workers are trying to be helpful, but itís just a little funny that walking is seen as so odd. My Guyís walk is longer, and even I fall into the trap. Mine is one mile one way, his is 2-1/2 miles on way. So on a morning I walk, Iíll say, ďYou can take my car today so you donít have to walk!Ē What is wrong with me? Walking to and from work should be seen as lucky-lucky that a person lives so close to work. It was a little cold today, but it felt a little brisk, and I got to really wake up on the way to work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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
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
My Challenge Blog and the SavingAdvice forums as ways to embrace, reinforce, and champion frugality.
Having so many choices
Being able to learn and use my head
The health I do have, and the insurance for other areas
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 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.
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.
Here I go trying to catch the flight to Sacramento that was cancelled this morning.
I am a little stunned by how lacking in energy Iíve been over the last four days. Iíve done essentially nothing productive, or fun, or anything. Read a lot, had a crazy headache Thursday, a pretty bad one Wednesday and Friday, slept a lot, watched television, slept some more.
I didnít achieve all my goals this week. The best I can do is not regret too much that I became a hibernating bear. Regret can eat more time than being lazy.
It cracks me up that the theme song for the latest eBay commercials is ďNon, je ne regrette rienĒ, the song that is about regretting nothing. I am positive that at one point, someone has ordered something from eBay then sat staring at it, thinking, "I sure regret this purchase.Ē Being glad that Wonder Woman lunch boxes are still out there doesnít necessarily equate to joy at having five of them sitting on the kitchen counter.
I am off work today, but I didnít really get anything done. I admit to feeling completely lazy. I went to the bread thrift store and picked up a bunch of heavy dense whole wheat loaves at 75 cents each. I picked up a couple used books in excellent condition for a friend, for her to give as a gift to one of her family members; for me being frugal means sharing frugality, and doing frugal favors. My friend now has a nice gift to give someone for a total of 75 cents-the books were on an actual wish list! I have also spread the idea of used items, in excellent condition, as gifts. My plan to get everyone in my life idly interested in frugality is working.
The library is having a book sale tonight; itís not a buck-a-bag sale, so I will have to select judiciously. There may be nice books for gifts, so Iíll keep a look out. Iíll have to renew my Friends of the Library subscription but thatís fine with me.
Yesterday Iím driving in my car, listening to the radio, and I flip to an ad for people with money problems. It was taking about credit cards, bill collectorsÖthen mentioned that a person could call to get help from a dead professional. I stopped the scan button to listen more; dead professional? Huh?
It has been so long since Iíve owed money that evidently I canít recognize the word debt anymore.
I love the sound of rain, and how it gets dark and clouds look almost purple, and how it rushes in the streets and makes puddles. I enjoy it when itís crazy raining, at least when Iím not driving; when the rain just falls in sheets and windows have a constant solid stream on them instead of drops. Mostly, I love the rain because it reminds me to be grateful.
I have a house to come home to, where I can have a hot shower or bath, or get into flannel jammies. The house may be chilly-those 12 foot ceilings-but I have lots of warm blankets and sweaters. I have tea and cocoa and popcorn and soup and grilled cheese makings. I have lots of books and I have a television and DVDs. I can come to home my refuge, and I can be reminded how those very small things can be so big Ė for someone homeless, my cocoa and comforter may seem very, very far away.
If I think about these things Iím grateful for, I realize that during not one second of My Challenge have I had to forego the things I love most. Most of my flannel jammies have been a buck or two at thrift stores. (The best were $1.25, thick dark blue, on me right now.) I got a bunch of tea in a free box at a garage sale, but even my purchased teas are pretty cheap-the fancy stuff I spring for is nine cents a bag. My comforters and blankets are years old, my cocoa is homemade from powdered milk, sugar, and baking chocolate, my popcorn is microwaved in a brown paper bag. My hot showers and baths do take some gas, but my utility bill has been reasonable because I scrimp elsewhere. The DVDs are a luxury, but $9.65 for my half of the monthly bill is an acceptable entertainment expense to me-again, I scrimp in other areas. Books? Buck-a-bag book sales! Or the library, or garage sales or thrift stores or hand-me downs. Television? Non-cable channels 2-13 only, and a VCR to tape good stuff for when the networks have a bad night.
I really do think about gratitude in November, because I actually hold Thanksgiving dear; not for the turkeys and pilgrims, but for the reminder that I have much to be grateful for. One thing Iím grateful for this year is My Challenge, which has had, as a happy byproduct, the effect of making me more grateful. So, Iím grateful for increased gratitude. Man, thatís a little mushy touchy-feely silly, but when Iím grateful I am also looking to be a better person. The more grateful I am the more kind I am, and as the years have gone by I am less and less inclined to revere intelligence and more and more inclined to hold kindness in high regard.
IĎm a fan of the 1950 movie Harvey, with Jimmy Stewart. At one point the main character Elwood, says, "Years ago my mother used to say to meÖ'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." I know a fair number of very smart unhappy people; I canít think of any really kind person I know who is unhappy. They may have sad events in their lives or challenges to face, but at heart, they are certainly not unhappy.
So ends my rainy Day Fourteen of Month Nine.
Got back from Sacramento a little earlier, by asking very nicely to take an earlier flight.
Re-discovered for the billionth time that I just adore freeway driving with the radio cranked crazy loud. I walk to work or drive about 4 minutes; thatís good for me and the environment. But I just love listening to the radio (no satellite, no XM, no Sirius, no CD player, no tape player) and discovering old songs I love and finding new ones, blues and country and rock and a little of this and that thanks to the scan button. I just love it. I have so little traffic, that I can look at the redwoods and rock out.
And speaking of wish lists, I wrote mine down during idle moments in trainingÖdoes anyone else have things like silicon rubber scrapers on their long term wish list? Or am I just a tad nutty?
On Monday, I bought a travel alarm clock. I thought and thought about that $3.97 purchase out of my Household fund. A travel clock had been on my wish list for a few months. I hadnít expected to see it in a grocery outlet store, but there it was. I am very grateful that since I keep items on my mental wish list for a long time, and buy items as cheaply as possible, that I rarely have buyerís remorse. I think itís an under-looked bonus of being frugal. I am not a fan of regret, so the more I can avoid the better. When I finally buy the bookcase and shelving Iíve been wanting and looking for, I know Iíll be happy with it, partially because I didnít run out to the furniture store, point, buy, and run home. When the right bookcase at the right price appears, Iíll buy it with confidence.
When I decided to post every day, I had forgotten that I was leaving the house at 4:30 am and getting back at 10:30 at night. Iím flying to Sacramento for work. I wonít be able to bring my own water, which does chap my hide. The truth is I wrote this Tuesday post Monday night. I can live with it, same as I can live with my purchases!
I never really thought about how invisible frugality can be. Iím usually so open and unapologetic about it that lots of people that I know are aware Iím frugal. Today I was at a meeting with a lot of people in the community, from three counties. I was looking around and it struck me funny that there was no way to tell who had bucks, who spent bucks, or who owed bucks.
I was in a pair of Freecycle dark Leviís, with a fifty cent pure wool menís sweater, a $3.97 clearance top, and some thrift store shoes. I felt my outfit was nice, if in my usual more boyish, more casual style (itís a good thing I live in Humboldt.) I knew I was going to this meeting and I felt good about these clothes. (Later on in the day someone said, ďNew shoes? Cute!Ē They were surprised I had bought new (looking) shoesÖ.but less surprised when I admitted they came from a thrift store.) Looking around, I was trying to spot any fancier or funky clothes, and was stumpedÖthe nice Oxford shirts could have been $40 or $2 clearance/thrift store and I wouldnít be able to tell. The flattering womenís suits could have been a few years old and well kept, or brand new, or a hand me down.
In the parking lot, looking at all the sedans and hatchbacks, again, I couldnít tell anything? Some of the nicer cars may have had a lot owed on them. Or maybe not. Iím not in an area that runs to Jaguars and BMWs; and the economical cars could easily have been bought by the more affluent as an ecological purchase (again, I live in Humboldt).
Does this matter? Well, no. If someone asked me, ďDo you hang clothes on the line?Ē or, ďdo you shop at thrift stores?Ē I wouldnít have any objection to admitting it. Iím proud that I use resources wisely and reduce unnecessary spending; Iím proud of My Challenge, as odd as it is. I know, though, that other folks may be tightening the belt out of necessity, or may be new visitors to The Land of the Thrifty, and may feel a little out of the mainstream; some might rather that the newly acquired thrifty habits werenít immediately visible.
Some people I know this year are giving home made gifts because they are excellent bakers, or avid crafts hobbyists, and some folks who are giving homemade gifts because itís easier on the pocketbook-I only know because they felt like sharing the information. (My Challenge brings this out in people.)
Wrapping it up, I couldnít tell who had cable today, who had low utility bills, who had cell phones or used furniture or mortgages or rent. So use coupons, hang the laundry, shop the thrift stores, give home made gifts, watch broadcast network TV...no one can tell. Unless you do.
I canít blame bad spending on my lack of posts. However, I did spend $2.13 twice out of my Entertainment budget. Doesnít sound bad, except it was fast food both times. In some ways I suppose getting two items off the value or dollar or whatnot menu is a good thing, but I really donít want to eat any fast food ever. There are a slew of socio-economic-political reasons I could cite, but Iím not going to, because 1) no one is interested and 2) the fact that Iím chubby and get migraines is reason enough to stop eating fast food right there. Fast food places donít specialize in whole food, no nitrate, no MSG, low bad-fat, high fiber, lower calorie foods.
(Yes I know MSG and nitrates donít trigger all folks to get migraines, and that only 40% or so of folks are food sensitive. Well, my little calendar Iím keeping of food/sleep/headaches/exercise/etc. seems to show that there is something in fast food that doesnít agree with me.)
Iíd just rather spend that $4.26 on something better, thatís what it comes down to.
In other news: small changes, small things can be so great. I sometimes buy the little yogurts, non-fat and low sugar, at the Canned Foods outlet when they are three for a dollar. (I also get large tubs of non-fat plain.) I like them for lunch, or as a snack or dessert. Well, I splurged and spend an extra nickel, 38 cents each, for a brand that has lids instead of just the peel off metal lid. I did this to have baby storage containers that Iím now using for sugar free gelatin. Good for lunches, and cheaper too because the 33 cent gelatin packs make it 17 cents a cup. And I can put my plain large tub yogurt in there, with fruit and home-made granola. Actually, I was surprised to realize that the gelatin wasnít that cheap; I plan to use some Knox gelatin I have to play with homemade gelatin soon.
In further news, this weekís goal is going to be to post every day. Itís not lack of material; every day I think of something related to my habits or the Challenge or frugality or building skills, I just get sloppy and donít sit down and write it. Eat breakfast daily, bike/walk to work 5 times from Monday through Sunday, keep up Calendar, develop a strategy for having more fun outside the house, and post daily. Thatís five goals, but two of them Iím doing pretty good at making habits, and a third is on its way towards being a habit, so I donít think thatís too much.
I have a fair amount of time available to me. Iím childfree. I donít have family that lives nearby. My commute is 10 minutes roundtrip driving, or 40 minutes walking roundtrip. I work a 40 hour week. Sometimes I have longer days or weeks, especially due to travel, but I also get a fair amount of holidays, personal days, vacation days. I keep the house simple and tidy, and while I keep it uncluttered Iím not a big cleaner. I have five bills to pay a month, and I like to shop no more than once a month. No dry cleaning, no manicuresÖnot a lot of errands. I have time.
Iím grateful for the time, because Iím not stressed out. Because I can putter around and drink tea and read. I like it because I donít need time saving gadgets, and because I donít ever need to spend money to buy time: I can do it the long way, cook whatever I want from scratch, wash the dishes in a wash tub, use actual dishes. I always have time for a bath or a book; Iím not deprived of me time. Iím not going out to lunch or coffee and spending money; Iím not spending much on fuel, I. Many people I know seem to complain about the lack of time; some of them sound perfectly happy, but to me they sound uncomfortably busy. (Some parents seem to spend an awful lot of time on child related things, fun or obligation. ).
I should be 100% grateful that my life is not crammed full. What can throw me off is that sometimes I do wish I had more structure, or obligations. Not necessarily chores, but I can be a mighty hermit, and it wouldnít be a bad idea for me to have a monthly book club, or museum trip, or hiking trip. I have all this beautiful time, and I donít always use it as well as Iíd like. Even in a perfect world Iíd still want plenty of ďnothing going on but my slippersĒ time; take away my baths and Iíd be much less mellow.
Boy, sometimes I really have to mull things over before I can articulate what it is I want, and even then itís still a process to work towards it. So now that Iíve put some of my antsiness in words, I know what a goal is: time management. Not the time management of people trying to do it all, or balance work, romance, kids, hobbies, housekeeping, and gardening. Iím just looking to feel more like Iím taking a bite out of life.
So whatís a concrete step I can take? Iím not good at telling myself broad things, like ďbe healthy.Ē I need concrete, like drink a lot of water and walk to work three times a week. The concrete step might not be the final answer, but it will take me there. Iíll further mull. Iím thinking along the lines of: host one game night this month, make social plans one day this month, and make a commitment to see a site once this month (could be a gallery or a hiking trail-but drive or walk to a place for fun).
This may not have been about finances. But I think of it this way: by being debt free and living simply, my biggest problem is needing to have more fun.
(And to be less chubby.)
I did do the exercise bike. I really didnít want to tonight, so Iím even more proud. Considering I decided not to budget any money for working out, since I have an exercise bike and live walking distance from work, I had freakiní better get my exercise. Otherwise, Iíd have that whole regret thing going on.
Thereís a phenomenon that confuses me: Iíll plan to do something, then dread it, then when I do it itís fine. Now, youíd think the next time, I wouldnít dread it, because I know it turns out fine, right? Not right.
This happens to me when I make social plans. I really look forward to them, then as it approaches I balk at the idea of going out, then I go out and have a great time. With exercising: the idea sounds great. Then the time to work out or walk to work approaches and I get all angsty. Then I do it and it feels great.
How come I canít tell my brain, ďHey, you donít need to worry about this. When you do it, you like it?Ē
The only spending this month ahs been on rent, filling the tank (which didnít need filling in October!) and going out to eat once. Iím planning on a low spend month; however, faced with holidays on the march, I can easily see my gifts budget, entertainment budget, household budget, and grocery budget having demands placed upon them. Of course my wild spending equal $75 total; thereís only so nutty I can get on the Challenge.
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.
This is Day Two of Month Nine of my Minimum Wage Challenge. I havenít closed the October Books but I know I came out fine. The extra ninety-five dollars I have to budget each month for taxes I hadnít accounted for hasnít been as bad as I thought. At this point I am so very used to spending little, that it has become a habit. I got a raise last check, about $125 extra net per month, and itís comical to me that I donít actually get the $125 to spend. Well, my savings and retirement does, but not my Challenge Budget.
I believe the rest of the Challenge should be okay; Iím not foreseeing any big bumps. I have enough of a cushion that even if I take a knock or two I can weather it. For me Christmas has never been a budget buster; the only thing I really do is gifts. No decorations, no big travel, no cooking for a dozen guests. My shopping is mostly done for Christmas, because Iíve been shopping all year long and got a few good deals in Croatia and Bosnia.
I love winter and the rain. The north coast is a rainy place, and we just got out first of the season. Itís getting cold, and it gets da5k early. Even though I love it, or maybe itís the reason I love it, I start to cocoon in winter. I know Iím not particularly unique that way. I grab my tea and books, and get out of the hot bath and into bed./ That happens to always be one of my favorite things; I think I feel less guilty doing it when it is cold and dark outside.
Part of me is mildly fantasizing about what I might spend money on post-Challenge. It probably wonít be much; I sometimes enjoy the fantasy of thinking about it enough to not need to do it.
I was going to try and reduce my club soda/seltzer consumption. When I quit boozing a while back I gave myself permission to drink anything I wanted. Iím not interested in drinking calories-I get plenty in my food-but I loves my bubbles. Then I decided during this Challenge that I should make bubbly water a treat. Well, flexibility is a good thing. The bubbles are back, Iím much more hydrated, and I am fine with cutting down on other treats in order to keep my seltzer. I get the cheap store brand cans for travel and two liter bottles for home. I just really love the stuff. It makes for a $10 to $15 a month hit on my Grocery budget, but I am at peace with that.
Two wrenches in my books this month:
One: a friend of mine picked me up some stuff at Trader Joeís in Oregon (grapefruit soda, Pirate Booty, something for my dad, shhhhh!) and I donít know how much it was. I had limited time with them and had to run to work and gave them a blank check. (Yeah, I know, blank check, Iím naÔve. Iíd really rather be naÔve and believe in people, though. I would be beyond shocked if anything went wrong.) Anyway, itís been a week or so and hasnít cleared, so I need to wait or consider it a November expense. Waiting is better but I am sometimes not patient.
Two: The $2.25 I spent on coffee was covered by a friend. I really donít carry cash. So I went to pay her back, and she wouldnít take it, really wouldnít. I tried to intimidate her: ďitís already been put in my challenge budget!Ē She was unmoved-said I needed to buy another one. Well, Iím stuck. I donít want to get another coffee! So that $2.25 will be spent on this friendÖ.just need to work out on what.
Oh my goodness Iím excited. When I made a big batch of combo oatmeal-cream of wheat-apricots the other day, I froze it in a large muffin tin. Now I have a large bag full of single serving breakfasts! I plan to steal the idea for stews and casseroles too, since I often run out of cottage cheese and salsa tubs. This way I know what the item is without marking a bunch of containers. Iíve done a variation of this with ice cubes trays for pasta sauce and apple sauce, but the size of an ice cube ice cube doesnít lend itself to as easy a meal-Iíd need multiple cubes. Also, my 12 cup muffin tin will hold a heck of a lot more than an ice cube tray.
Being a simple gal creates so many opportunities for happiness!
Small changes I make sometimes make my life so much simpler. I used to put all sorts of frozen food in plastic tubs in the freezer. My Guy couldnít effectively decipher which tubs held concoctions, which tubs were leftover meals, and which tubs were prepared, seasoned meat/chicken for tortillas, etc. Frankly, I couldnít tell sometimes either. Well, I bought a bunch of small freezer bags; Iím putting my cooked meats in these bags, frozen and laid flat. (I got the idea from how I pack my cooked down plums for jam.) Now itís simple; if itís in a flat bag, itís an ingredient, if itís in a tub itís a meal for one. An added benefit is the bags take up much less space.
I notice that changes can be so little but so helpful. My tea stash was overwhelming and unattractive. Now I have three canisters: herb, black, and caffeine-free black. Iím not saying this would work for everyone, but it has really pleased me. Another: having a shelf in the fridge that holds lunch or snack items, like hard boiled eggs or slices of cheese wrapped in plastic wrap or pickles or fruit or sandwiches or whatever. Now I can grab 3 or 4 items and Iím good to go.
There are areas in my life where I still need to find a system that worksÖpaperwork flow isnít streamlined. Magazines in/magazines out system is in progress. How/where to store stuff for Goodwill where itís accessible but not obviously ugly is a tough one so far (we donít have much in the way of closets).
I organized our Presents Stash; I had two overflowing unorganized boxes-now I have three boxes, for co-worker gifts, friends and family gifts, and unspecified gifts, plus a list of all these items. This way I know which people I need to keep looking out for, and which folks I have great presents for. Shopping ahead has really been effective; not only have I gotten some very nice items at very low prices, I donít have the pressure of last minute shopping to dread.
I spent some survey points at a couple different sites; My Points for a larger gift certificate for a present, and another target $5 certificate with my Harris Poll Online points; that will give me $20 total for either presents or personal needs. I have only recently started to track these; a few minutes of organizing a few weeks ago have paid off.
I completed an online survey for five bucks; when I get the check Iíll count it as income, which will probably be December.
I did get all my errands done. I spent a lot of money and am a little exhausted, so it could have been better.
On recycling, I got $4.74 cash. I took some books in for trade; only two of many were accepted, so I added $4 to my ďcreditĒ at the bookstore. (I have over $39 in credit; I can get folks books as presents!) On the flip side, I spent over $87.18 in Grocery money at two grocery stores and the bread outlet doing a huge restock, after we emptied out cupboards and fridge. I spent $28.69 in Household Money (tp, detergents, etc.) at those stores, an office supply store, and the thrift store. (I was able to get gift jewelry boxes for the jewelry I bought in Europe for some folks for a dime a boxÖsome nice velvet ones!)
At the bank I deposited some checks Iíd been holding onto too long (September internet survey and a couple work reimbursements) as well as a bunch of rolled coins. I also went out to lunch and spent $6.25 on lunch with My GuyÖI suppose part of me wanted errand day to be pleasant, at the expense of my Entertainment budget.
Thatís over $122 spent in one day; over 10% of my monthly budget. Nine places. Four hours. I donít regret my purchases-all items were on the list or within the budget. I just am not built for errands and shopping. (Hence the undeposited checks I had stockpiled.) I am glad I still have two weekend days.
I was also able to make a batch of crockpot beans and chicken for future meals (two thighs and a breast made tortilla filling for nine meal servings, so I figure that's a pretty good use of meat). I prepped a bunch of plums to make jam. I did a lot of laundry and dishes.
My true treat? I did buy a bunch of club soda with my grocery money...I havenít been drinking enough water lately, and even though Iíve been making a lot of iced tea for home, I have admitted to myself that I love having cans of club soda in my car and at work and in my purse. Iíll be taking a hot bath and drinking my bubblies!
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