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Splurge Complete

April 25th, 2007 at 01:54 am

So I bought it. New shiny laptop. Itís replacing my desktop. I can take it traveling for work, or use it in bed, or sit in a cafť and use it. It was getting close to the time to upgrade or replace my desktop, and I use the computer a lot, so it feels like a decent splurge, instead of an extravagant splurge.

Being on Weight Watchers has got me eating really good food. Good in both senses: healthy, and tasty. IĎm eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of fish, even some shrimp. Lots of artichoke hearts, hummus, parmesan. Sautťed zucchini, beans, yogurt, whole grains. Flavored oils, vinegars, tapenades. Iíve lost 13.2 pounds in 7 weeks, exciting enough to be motivating, slow enough to feel solid. Iím also cooking more, and still buying lots of basic ingredients instead of convenience foods.

I host poker Friday. Iíve lost the last two times by playing very sloppily. Then Saturday I drive four hours to my folkís place in Clearlake. So Iíll be social, and productive. Along those lines, I removed the TV from the bedroom. Itís a baby portable, broadcast only, that used to move around, but became parked in the bedroom. I found myself watching bad, bad TV. So much in life to do thatís either fun or taking care of business, and I didnít want to keep wasting time. I still love my Netflix (to get some good TV shows!) and have shows I love, I just want to watch by choice not habit.

My new laptop also doesnít have one of the games I used to play all the time. I always feel good when I take an action to change something thatís been worrying me.

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.

Thrifty Still

April 16th, 2007 at 12:15 am

I made myself some frozen dinners today! Iíve never really been into frozen meals, but now that Iím on Weight watchers I have fallen into the trap, because itís a handy way for me to know how many points Iím eating and itís also handy if Iím pressed for time. I used to not buy any unless they were 99 cents or less and were NOT mainly pasta (I can put pasta and sauce in a cottage cheese tub), but since Iíve been on WW I have been buying $1.99 ones.

Well, I was irritated at paying for convenience, as well as overly processed, probably overly salted, and arguably over packaged food. So today, I took five used trays, and divvied up some frozen shrimp (grocery outlet), whole wheat pasta, steamed spinach, Trader Joeís artichoke heart tapenade, and parmesan cheese. I have five frozen lunches, and not only am I happy with the ingredients, these are much cheaper. Even with the shrimp, I think Iím less than a buck, at the least under $1.25. I told a friend I was planning on doing this, and her response was heartening-not ďI thought you could spend money now!Ē but ďThatís so you.Ē

In other thrifty news, I took an old contact lens case, and put facial moisturizer in one half and foundation in the other, and I am totally thrilled with the portability and size. Iím flying to Sacramento tonight, and anything that makes travel more streamlined is good. Iím also packing my dinner; this time Iím checking my baggage, but last time I packed my dinner I actually put salad dressing in a hotel shampoo sample bottle for my salad. The whole liquid/flying thing could either really irritate me, or I can be creative. Working to make sure oneís meal has no liquids or gels is a challenge. This time Iím checking baggage so I can bring back good Trader Joeís food.

This and That

April 13th, 2007 at 05:07 am


Iíve figured out that in mind, I like being able to buy things more than buying things. In my mind the last month Iíve idly thought of buying some things, and chose not to. Just the lifting of the challenge means I can spend a lot more, but I havenít. The mental freedom, though, is what I like- I could buy a lot of stuff even though I donít.

Broke folks donít have that optionÖeach time a person with every penny of his income spoken for idly thinks about buying something on a whim, he canít even idly entertain the thought. He has to not buy the paperbacks, the trinkets, the fresh flowers, the sushi. Iíve passť don buying so many things recently, but I had a choice. Just food for thought for me...I like freedom and choices more than I like spending. I gave myself permission to spend as much as I wanted on books, and it turns out as much as I wanted was $31. But the freeom, that was priceless.

Iím still doing Weight Watchers, still totally committed, still a slow loser, and still enjoying not overeating.

Iíll be going to Portland in May, for somewhere around a week, and Iím looking forward to it. One thing I could do more of is get out of the house, for sure. Iíve got my health and a car and spending money, and I manage to spend too much time indoors, not hanging out with friends, not enjoying the outdoors, not watching bad TV. So Portland will be good, and last weekend I was social, and this coming weekend I have another social commitment. Man, I would have never thought when I was younger that I would have had to work at hanging out with friends?

My folks are in Fiji-how cool is that? I suppose in a way Iím jealous, but actually itís more something I want to emulate. Iíd love to spend my retirement travelling. Iíd love for the welfare business to be seasonal, so I could travel four months a year. Iíve switched form thinking England in the fall to Mexico-definitely time to start nailing some details down.

So, Itís the Month After

March 27th, 2007 at 12:59 am

This month I have spent more than on My Challenge, yet I have also felt very in control of my spending.

My folks are going to Fiji for a month, New Zealand for three months, Australia for three months, and Bali for three months. There was a big going away party in Novato, so My Guy and I drove down for the weekend. A very unusual expenditure for me, even pre-Challenge, was staying in a cute little historical register hotel. It was very charming, and I really enjoyed it. It was $120 a night after taxes, which to me seemed reasonable for a fancy pants hotel (rated number one on TripAdvisor, which is how I found it). So that was definitely an extravagance, as well as a fancy dinner we went to one night.

On the other hand, when we went to Costco in Santa Rosa to see what was going on, we walked out spending $28, on four items including some fluorescent bulbs ($11.19 for 6, $8 instant rebate-cool craziness). I went to target the pother day, and over and over again saw items that I could buy, and probably were reasonably priced, but I didnít need íem, didnít want íem. I am packing my lunch every day, and I am about to try on a whole bunch of hand-me downs from a buddy. I tried to get bubble bath and all were to overpriced for me, even at TargetÖI could ďaffordĒ an $8 medium size bottle, but I can use homemade bath salts until I find something that feels more reasonable to me.

March is a three paycheck month for me, plus I am getting my tax refunds, so itís a plush month, and my spree money may be around $350, and that includes a really great romantic weekend and some shopping at my favorite thrift store. I am at peace with that. Oh, and I got a bra fitting at Macy*s (somehow that, along with trying escargot for the first time, made me feel like Iím growing up - at 36) and got three new bras. Funnily enough, I was braced to spend a fair amount, but I got three for $66-there was a sale. And the bras are pretty fabulous.

I canít really explain, even to myself, my lack of posting. Clarifying my thoughts around consumption and expenditure is very good for me; I really get a sense of what is important to me, and can spend without guilt. That is so satisfying, spending without guilt.

I go to Los Angeles for work this week, and donít return until late Thursday, so even though I feel posty, I probably wonít get an opportunity.

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.

Busy is Good

March 16th, 2007 at 05:44 pm

Out of town this weekend, out of town last weekend, fun but busy. This week for work I am out of town twice, next week out of town for three days. I get frequent flyer miles, and I get to shop at Trader Joeís, and I get to see my dad, so the trips are all good for different reasons. However, it does seem like Iím away a lot. A good thing, because sometimes when Iím at home I just putter and do actually do anything.

I am still on Weight Watchers, week three. I am a poster child for very slow weight loss, 1.2 pounds week one, 1.0 week two. And I really was going by the book, tracking every single point, eating lots of healthy foods, avoiding processed and crutch foods, drinking water, etc. However, instead of being really worked up-which I was a t first - I did realize that I am appreciating being in control of my eating.

When I quit smoking and drinking, I realize now in one sense I was done the first day. I was an absolute mess, yes, however, from day one I got to be a non-drinker, non-smoker. I didnít know how to be a non-overeater; I have to eat, I couldnít go cold turkey. I kept thinking if I could just lose 50 pounds overnight, then be a wreck internally for a couple years, Iíd like that.

So now, with the point system on Weight Watchers, I do feel like I have a nice way to ďknowĒ Iím not overeating-not over points-until I develop more internal mechanisms to know when Iím hungry for food, when Iím hungry for something else, when Iím full.

As someone has pointed out, the gym might be better for weight loss, and thatís probably where I need to head if I want better, faster with loss. However, I am enjoying food now and feeling much more in control of it, and that is a win for me.

Havenít finished My Challenge annual totals, I know Iím negligent.

Last weekendís trip wasnít much, just gas money, in the way of cost. This weekend I feel a little excited that My Guy and I will be able to stay in a nice charming little hotel; very reasonably priced, but certainly not something I could do a month ago. I am also going to try to get a bra fitting at Macyís, and do a Trader Joeís run. Whoo hoo!

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!

I'm Not a Fan of Whining But Here I Go

February 26th, 2007 at 12:16 am

My body just annoys the crap out of me lately. Iím 36 but sometimes I just feel old. I have had some killer headaches over the last five days, two migraines and a regular bad guy, and it just really saps me of the will to do anything. (On the plus side it meads I donít spend any money.) I plan top start Weight Watchers on Wednesday; a friend of mine is having good luck with it, and clearly I canít make progress on my own. I know that being somewhat overweight doesnít cause migraines; itís just that I feel overall not healthy; I get sick at the drop of a hat and always feel like like Iím getting something over getting over something. I see my doctor regularly, I donít think I have any wild and crazy undiagnosed illnesses, I just believe that if I can be overall healthy: eat right, sleep well, be physically active, donít do harmful stuff, that my body will have to be at least somewhat better.

I quit smoking and quit drinking in the month of February, so I suppose having my first Weight Watchers meeting in February matches a pattern. In fact tomorrow will be my eight year sobriety date. I donít know the exact date I quit smoking, but it was mid-February six years ago.

I know enough about dieting and exercise to know that a person doesnít need to follow Plan X or Plan Y; I know enough about myself to know that my way isnít working and that Weight Watchers is definitely not harmful. I know exercise is important, but I also know that I overeat. Maybe it will cost me $40 a month more than I need to pay, but if it instills in me some sense of structure and accountability it will be worth it.

I donít think Iíve ever gone twelve days without posting before. I think the desire to post varies for me, not in how Iím doing, or how frugal I am, it just varies. Itís funny that I start to feel guilty when not posting, as itís not a requirement or chore.

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?

I am a very simple bather. Sometimes I think I am a little bit of a boy; I just donít get into the beauty routine. I prefer baths to showers; itís my one real day to day luxury. I take a lot of bubble baths. I find it comical when people talk about bath stuff as gifts theyíll never use-I got bath supplies from three sources this Christmas and Iím using it all. I work in an office, so I donít get too grubby; if Iím really dirty, I rinse off in the shower before my bath. I like bath salts and bubbles baths, and bath oils on the weekend (greasier hair). My soap is in a liquid soap bottle-My Guy uses bars of soap, I put the ends in the liquid soap bottle, the bottle has been going for years. Soap, shampoo, and conditioner: thatís it.

I do shave legs and underarms, but not as frequently as some. I very rarely wear skirts, for one. I use my liquid soap, and I do use refillable blades.

I have gotten enough deodorant and anti-perspirant for months in free samples; itís weird how that one product is so available. I am not brand loyal. I normally donít pay more than $1.49 for my anti-perspirant.

I use the cheapest shampoo and conditioner I can find. I prefer to pay no more than $1 for 16 ounces for shampoo and conditioner, but sometimes I do pay more (or less!).
I am pretty lucky in that I have decent hair; itís in good condition and wavy and healthy, and cheap shampoo works fine. I have a big pump bottle that I got as a gift; I keep refilling that bottle; often I am using a mix. I use conditioner maybe half the time; the more recent my last haircut is, the less I need it. I also use a pump bottle, and itís refilled periodically, so again, a blend of cheap stuff.

I sometimes get free samples, but usually I give them away at work for ďClean KitsĒ: grooming supplies for the homeless and down and out.

Iíve never dyed or permed my hair. It used to be a very nice blonde and now itís a light brown; however I am too lazy and/or low maintenance to get better color. With no dying I donít have to worry about roots (I have a laser eye to spot them on people out there) and I donít have to worry about maintaining my hair's condition. A couple people I know who dye their hair have crispy flaky hair that is kinda awkward looking. Plus I never blow dry my hair. I bathe at night and sleep with it wet. Some folks I know who blow-dry have damaged looking hair. I know others who blow-dry and dye and look fabulous, but I am sure they have to pay attention. The less I do to my hair, the less I have to protect it. Iíve already admitted Iím lazy; itís no secret.

I donít get my hair cut enough. I got it cut in April, and again in September, and Iím scheduled for 2/27. I donít like letting my ends to get dry or split; when I get my hair cut I let them take off plenty. I want healthy and Iíll get rid of length to get it. I do spend $35 including tip on my hair cuts; Iím about to jump higher for a woman whoís very good. Iíd like to get my hair cut at least four times a year.

I use little makeup. I am just now trying to remember to use lotion on my face every night and morning. I do like Clinique makeup; I think itís a childhood thing; my mother always got the Clinique special kits at ďBonus TimeĒ and I would get her left-overs. I still spend $25 every couple of years and get the Bonus extras, which tend to last me. (Almost half of my spending for the year is from one Clinique Bonus.) I sometimes use foundation, sometimes eye pencil, rarely shadow, and frequently mascara and lipstick. I have actually been trying to wear more; girding myself, as it were, for certain meetings at work. Itís a form of armor, Iíve discovered. Even when I wear what I think is a fair amount, sometimes other folks canít tell; Iím so used to little or none that I am naturally a light hand.

I wish I was a better dresser. Itís not a spending thing, itís a lack of interest and a lack of innate fashion sense. Left to my own devices I dress like a young boy. I like menís pants-I know a pair of 34x30ís will fit me, whereas with womenís clothes the sizes are all over the place. I worked for a few years at Ross Dress for less, and I bought more clothes than ever-7 years later I still have clothes I bought back then.

I like hand-me-downs and thrift store and garage sale clothes. I have access to so many of these low or no cost clothes that I can afford to be choosy: I only wear them if they fit right, and look good. I donít have great clothes sense, but I am lucky enough to be recently getting hand-me-downs from people who are well-dressed, which helps me out.

I clean out my closet a lot. I hang things like I used to when working at Ross; short sleeve knits, long sleeved knits, short sleeve wovens, and long sleeve wovens. Woven=blouse and knit=stretchy, for the most part. I try to purge anything that is wearing out or isnít too flattering as often as possible. I have zero dry cleaning only clothes.

I do buy my own underclothes. I also will buy regular clothes; Iím not anti-new clothes, I just usually donít need to buy new clothes that often.

Even if I was a better dressed person, more put together, I think I could do it low cost. Two of the best dressed women at work are avid thrift store shoppers; S. always looks fabulous-she is a choosy and frequent thrift store shopper, and her being slimmer helps-she has a lot of good choices available.

I love silver and semi-precious stone jewelry, I admit it. The benefit of preferring semi-precious stone and silver is that itís usually cheaper; I can get pieces from $8 to $25; $50 for super pieces. I donít have a digital camera right now; otherwise Iíd love to show off some of my jewelry. When I travel I always pick up pieces; jewelry is my favorite souvenir. It never gets dusty, it takes very little room, and I wear it all the time. It also lasts and lasts and lasts. This is an area I let myself spend in; I am not interested in spending no money as a goal in itself, I like to spend less in areas where I donít need to spend, to have money to spend in other areas.

So there you have it, how I spent less than $200 in 11 months to bathe, groom, and dress myself. I checked my 2005 records, and I spent $300 on bathing/grooming, $300 on clothes, $200 on shoes, and $300 on jewelry, so it looks like I was relatively low cost prior to the Challenge, too.

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!


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 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.

Thanks, Guys

January 24th, 2007 at 03:59 am

Most of you who drop by and peek at My Challenge are probably regular Saving Advice .com Members. For those that arenít, Well, Saving Advice has a $20 Challenge, and My Minimum Wage Challenge is my 2006 $20 Challenge. (I spent the $20 on the YouNeedABudget spreadsheet to track My Challenge.) You can read more about the 2006 Challenge

Text is here and Link is
here, the 2007 Challenge
Text is here and Link is
here, and the voting
Text is here and Link is
here. I was nominated for Top 2006 $20 Challenge along with 9 others, and I won!

I am very grateful to all of you who voted. The nominees were very worthy, and Iím surprised as well as pleased. I actually get $100, which is kind of a shocker. I wonít touch it until March, I promise!

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.

Discovery: Cold Equals Dirty

January 22nd, 2007 at 01:19 am

I understand a little more how the cold can really affect our lifestyle. We donít clean! When every breath is a puff of steam, and we sleep in two pairs of sweatpants and hats on, who wants to spend time in cold rooms?

We do have a little heater in the bedroom and computer room. Other than that, nothing, because space heaters are ineffective and we rent a 12 foot ceiling Victorian build in 1887. Any solution to warm the house would be a costly investment.

Saturday was sunny, and not really cold, and I looked around and found a crazy mess. Laundry, dishes (didnít help that I couldnít wash with my burned hand), just piles of crud. A little stunning, since we are pretty tidy. Not clean and scrubby, but tidy: piles on flat surfaces are unusual.

So I wasnít upset about the cold, and I have loved the rain, but Iíve figured out a bad side effect from the chill. Besides having ice inside the window, and being scared of the next utility bill.

A Loss

January 18th, 2007 at 03:11 am

I found out today that a woman I work with died on Thursday night. She was alone in her yard, no one at all knew until Friday. Jís desk was six feet from mine. J was a very gentle, very kind woman. She shared my frugal interests: her Christmas present to me was an empty square tissue box, which she knows I use to put TP in, modified for me. She had lifted the flaps and put Velcro there, so I had an easily reusable tissue holder. It was a funny, sweet, humorous, unique, and very thoughtful gift; all attributes that she herself had.

Iím just in a funky, mad headspace. Mad that she died. Mad that she died out in her yard, and was there all night-worried that she may have been cold, or scared, or lonely as she died. Worried about her partner. Mad at how young she was-somewhere in the early fifties. Mad that I came in today and her space was cleared out; I was out of town and felt among the last to know.

Iíve had a lot of death in my life, but most of it was from folks dying of illness. As sad as watching someone die is, at least I always got to say goodbye. Iím mad I couldnít say goodbye. Iíll really miss her.

After being a snappy, cranky, touchy fiend tonight, Iíll crawl in bed, hunker down, and face an altered world tomorrow. Iíll remind myself, again, to be grateful, to tell those I care about that Iím fond of them, to make sure I do my best to live fully. Iíll do these things so that if I am unlucky enough to die so young, that Iíll have a lot of warm memories and loved ones to mourn me, not just a healthy bank account and a tidy house.

Burned Hand

January 15th, 2007 at 11:27 pm

When I get mad, I get stupid. Maybe some of you are familiar with that. I got an e-mail that riled me up, and before I could calm down and realize I could totally ignore it (unless itís from my boss, Iím a big girl beholden to no one) I went a grabbed a pot of boiling water with by bare hands. It burned, of course, so I knocked the pot and spilled it all over my left hand.

Itís the top of my left hand, from the first joint on my fingers, down to two to three inches below the wrist. My palm isn't touched, but the sensitive inner wrist is burned. All first degree-no blisters at all-but very red, very puffy, and very painful. I happened yesterday, and sadly enough intruded upon plans My Guy and I had. We could still open up the living room sofa bed and watch DVDs and eat fun snacks, but my wailing and gnashing of teeth intruded.

I am glad itís my left hand. On my right hand, the forefinger has a welt where I touched the pot; itís the finger I believe knocked the pot over. Sleeping last night was a pain. Tonight I fly in to Sacramento for work;

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.

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