Iíve finally crunched My Challenge numbers. I spent an average of $977.74 on living expenses, after savings and taxes.
Hereís a recap of my income.
Hereís a concise summary of my spending.
Hereís the detail.
For some reason, all my current and prior images show as boxes wiht a little x, although if I click on them I see the image. A quick review of the forums hasn't helped me figure it out. If anyone has hints, let me know. Current and prior images are jpegs from my hard drive.
I spent $1592 a month in 2005. (I have already been saving a large portion of my income.) I wasnít on any Challenge in 2005, and the trips I went to Oaxaca, Poland and Belgium are included in the $1592 a month average.
I spent $978 a month on the Challenge. If I take off, as I should, the amount I spent on my trip to Europe (Croatia and Bosnia, Sept. 2006, $1810) I saved an additional $5558 for the year, for an average increase in savings per month of $463.
During My Challenge, I lived on less than half of my net income. That's just the numbers. Later, I'll post on what the Challenge really meant for me, as far as my lifestyle.
Viewing the '$20 Challenge' Category
Iíve finally crunched My Challenge numbers. I spent an average of $977.74 on living expenses, after savings and taxes.
Some delayed totals, eh? Well, think of it this way; your next recap is close and it will be the final for the year!
Standard Recap Info:
I spent $1592 a month in 2005. My Challenge savings are the difference, $1592-$1026 (see below) = $566 times 11 months = $6,226.
Add to that $303 in ďsavingsĒ and $30.61 in my emergency fund, Iíve saved an additional $6,559.61 over what I had saved before. If I take out what I spent in Europe, $1809.64, which is not part of my Challenge, Iíve saved $4,749.97 living on CA Minimum Wage for 11 months.
*$703.82 is the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses, saved from March 1st through January 31st. This does NOT include my savings and emergency funds. I really needed my banked money this month; but I guess I bank it for a reason.
** My income is calculated as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. I had $10.13 in extra income from recycling this month, $1 from a GoZing survey, and $17 from SurveySpot for the last yearís surveys. This brought my income to a mighty high of $1101.13.
*** When I originally began the Challenge March 2006 I assumed no federal or state tax liability, but Iíd actually owe $47 a month, so I have to budget $95 a month (for the last 6 months of the Challenge) to catch up. So my actual spendable income averaged over each month is my original calculation of $1073 less $47 for $1026.
***** I spent a lot in January, for mainly two reasons. My semi-annual car insurance was due; thank goodness I had prepared and been putting a little away every month. My annual car registration also came due. My Guy had a birthday, and my other big expenses were for his present and taking him out to eat.
***** This money I carry over into the beginning of February.
Iíve written about how I overall keep laundry costs low and household costs low. Prepare to be wowed, or lulled to sleep, or both, by how I keep personal item spending in check. Since February 1st,2006, I have spent $136.88 on toiletries (including haircuts, bathing items, and female hygiene supplies). I have spent $54.35 on clothes in the last 11 months (although I did exchange some clothes I had bought earlier, so I think I got maybe $80 worth total).
I think I have a plain face, but I think I have a very friendly face, so Iím overall not too worried about how I appear. Iím overweight, but not too much so-I can still wear Misses size clothes instead of Womanís Worlds (Misses is "regular"; Womanís World is larger sizes). My one real vanity is that I want to look smart; I don't even know how thatís possible so itís a pretty dorky vanity, eh?
I am a very simple bather. Sometimes I think I am a little bit of a boy; I just donít get into the beauty routine. I prefer baths to showers; itís my one real day to day luxury. I take a lot of bubble baths. I find it comical when people talk about bath stuff as gifts theyíll never use-I got bath supplies from three sources this Christmas and Iím using it all. I work in an office, so I donít get too grubby; if Iím really dirty, I rinse off in the shower before my bath. I like bath salts and bubbles baths, and bath oils on the weekend (greasier hair). My soap is in a liquid soap bottle-My Guy uses bars of soap, I put the ends in the liquid soap bottle, the bottle has been going for years. Soap, shampoo, and conditioner: thatís it.
I do shave legs and underarms, but not as frequently as some. I very rarely wear skirts, for one. I use my liquid soap, and I do use refillable blades.
I have gotten enough deodorant and anti-perspirant for months in free samples; itís weird how that one product is so available. I am not brand loyal. I normally donít pay more than $1.49 for my anti-perspirant.
I use the cheapest shampoo and conditioner I can find. I prefer to pay no more than $1 for 16 ounces for shampoo and conditioner, but sometimes I do pay more (or less!).
I am pretty lucky in that I have decent hair; itís in good condition and wavy and healthy, and cheap shampoo works fine. I have a big pump bottle that I got as a gift; I keep refilling that bottle; often I am using a mix. I use conditioner maybe half the time; the more recent my last haircut is, the less I need it. I also use a pump bottle, and itís refilled periodically, so again, a blend of cheap stuff.
I sometimes get free samples, but usually I give them away at work for ďClean KitsĒ: grooming supplies for the homeless and down and out.
Iíve never dyed or permed my hair. It used to be a very nice blonde and now itís a light brown; however I am too lazy and/or low maintenance to get better color. With no dying I donít have to worry about roots (I have a laser eye to spot them on people out there) and I donít have to worry about maintaining my hair's condition. A couple people I know who dye their hair have crispy flaky hair that is kinda awkward looking. Plus I never blow dry my hair. I bathe at night and sleep with it wet. Some folks I know who blow-dry have damaged looking hair. I know others who blow-dry and dye and look fabulous, but I am sure they have to pay attention. The less I do to my hair, the less I have to protect it. Iíve already admitted Iím lazy; itís no secret.
I donít get my hair cut enough. I got it cut in April, and again in September, and Iím scheduled for 2/27. I donít like letting my ends to get dry or split; when I get my hair cut I let them take off plenty. I want healthy and Iíll get rid of length to get it. I do spend $35 including tip on my hair cuts; Iím about to jump higher for a woman whoís very good. Iíd like to get my hair cut at least four times a year.
I use little makeup. I am just now trying to remember to use lotion on my face every night and morning. I do like Clinique makeup; I think itís a childhood thing; my mother always got the Clinique special kits at ďBonus TimeĒ and I would get her left-overs. I still spend $25 every couple of years and get the Bonus extras, which tend to last me. (Almost half of my spending for the year is from one Clinique Bonus.) I sometimes use foundation, sometimes eye pencil, rarely shadow, and frequently mascara and lipstick. I have actually been trying to wear more; girding myself, as it were, for certain meetings at work. Itís a form of armor, Iíve discovered. Even when I wear what I think is a fair amount, sometimes other folks canít tell; Iím so used to little or none that I am naturally a light hand.
I wish I was a better dresser. Itís not a spending thing, itís a lack of interest and a lack of innate fashion sense. Left to my own devices I dress like a young boy. I like menís pants-I know a pair of 34x30ís will fit me, whereas with womenís clothes the sizes are all over the place. I worked for a few years at Ross Dress for less, and I bought more clothes than ever-7 years later I still have clothes I bought back then.
I like hand-me-downs and thrift store and garage sale clothes. I have access to so many of these low or no cost clothes that I can afford to be choosy: I only wear them if they fit right, and look good. I donít have great clothes sense, but I am lucky enough to be recently getting hand-me-downs from people who are well-dressed, which helps me out.
I clean out my closet a lot. I hang things like I used to when working at Ross; short sleeve knits, long sleeved knits, short sleeve wovens, and long sleeve wovens. Woven=blouse and knit=stretchy, for the most part. I try to purge anything that is wearing out or isnít too flattering as often as possible. I have zero dry cleaning only clothes.
I do buy my own underclothes. I also will buy regular clothes; Iím not anti-new clothes, I just usually donít need to buy new clothes that often.
Even if I was a better dressed person, more put together, I think I could do it low cost. Two of the best dressed women at work are avid thrift store shoppers; S. always looks fabulous-she is a choosy and frequent thrift store shopper, and her being slimmer helps-she has a lot of good choices available.
I love silver and semi-precious stone jewelry, I admit it. The benefit of preferring semi-precious stone and silver is that itís usually cheaper; I can get pieces from $8 to $25; $50 for super pieces. I donít have a digital camera right now; otherwise Iíd love to show off some of my jewelry. When I travel I always pick up pieces; jewelry is my favorite souvenir. It never gets dusty, it takes very little room, and I wear it all the time. It also lasts and lasts and lasts. This is an area I let myself spend in; I am not interested in spending no money as a goal in itself, I like to spend less in areas where I donít need to spend, to have money to spend in other areas.
So there you have it, how I spent less than $200 in 11 months to bathe, groom, and dress myself. I checked my 2005 records, and I spent $300 on bathing/grooming, $300 on clothes, $200 on shoes, and $300 on jewelry, so it looks like I was relatively low cost prior to the Challenge, too.
I got a check for $17 in the mail, a check I can actually count as income on My Challenge, and it is huge in Challenge terms! Seventeen dollars is a lot of money when ďregularĒ income is $1026.
(The money was from SurveySpot, for a variety of surveys over the year that I cashed out. If I get extra money from something I could get if I was on Minimum Wage, I count it-online surveys are okay, because I budget for the Internet.)
Iím feeling a bit of pressure. Why? I just read the SavingAdvice.com newsletter, which listed a link to my page on it, and Iím just a tad nervous about new people peeking in. I hadnít realized theat my 2006 $20 Challenge win might lead to some extra visits. Itís hard to reconcile the desire to have exciting posts all about how wondrous frugality is, when some times it just comes down to: I make do and donít buy.
I get up, pack my lunch, put on my thrift store or hand me down clothes, do some pretty simple hair and face care that is probably not as close to primping as it should be, and maybe walk to work, maybe drive in my car. Work and eat my little packed lunch, perhaps while playing Boggle (scored at a garage sale for $2 a few years ago). Then I walk or drive homeÖstraight home. No errands usually, no shopping, no picking up something. I never shop recreationally (except for garage sales). I try to limit grocery and household shopping trip to one big one a month, though we do a couple fill ins for produce, or a canít miss deal, or a special ingredient for guests or a potluck. (I never run to the store for something we are out of-if I donít have it, it can wait.)
I get home, and enjoy being at home. I read a lot, usually used books from the bookstore (sometimes I get trade credit), garage sales, thrift stores, buck-a-bag book sales at the library, and swapping with friends. Perhaps Iíll hang out with friends; fabulously free. I listen to music; my CD collection has enough of my favorites that I now only buy one or two a year. I watch limited cable channels 2-13; it costs us $10.25 a month, and man, I waste a lot of time watching the limited channels I have-Iíd go nuts with regular cable. I like being on the computer; I do splurge for cable internet.
I can go days and days without spending anything. This week I filled up with gas, other than that nothing. Itís a little boring to talk about, but itís not boring to live, and itís very restful.
Most of you who drop by and peek at My Challenge are probably regular Saving Advice .com Members. For those that arenít, Well, Saving Advice has a $20 Challenge, and My Minimum Wage Challenge is my 2006 $20 Challenge. (I spent the $20 on the YouNeedABudget spreadsheet to track My Challenge.) You can read more about the 2006 Challengehere, the 2007 Challenge here, and the voting here. I was nominated for Top 2006 $20 Challenge along with 9 others, and I won!
I am very grateful to all of you who voted. The nominees were very worthy, and Iím surprised as well as pleased. I actually get $100, which is kind of a shocker. I wonít touch it until March, I promise!
Oooh, a bad, bad title. Itís chilly here on the North Coast, more than Iím used to. Being on the coast, we rarely freeze; even a half hour inland gets much colder. But when I passed my car walking to work today, I was sure glad I wouldnít have to spend a lot of time defrosting the windshield. Anything to reinforce walking to work works for me!
Sometimes I get the ďput your head down and keep goingĒ mentality. Itís not a sad or unhappy place to be, but itís a very determined place. And right now I feel committed to develop some new habits, and in awhile these tasks-walk to work, eat smaller portions, get my workday organized first thing in the morning, etc.-wonít be hard at all, because theyíll just be what I do-my routine.
Until itís a routine, I almost wish I could turn my thinking button off. I can muse for days; pros, cons, ifs, thens. Not necessarily so helpful. I want no distractions, even good distractions. Thankfully blogging is a way for me to stay focused; angst or flightiness can be funneled.
On the financial front, Iíve got 48 days left on My Challenge. All systems seem to be go. Last nightís sushi for My Guyís birthday was not heap but it was anticipated, so Iím good there. Car insurance comes due, but Iíve been budgeting for it, and a bonus is that next month, the last month of My Challenge, I wonít have to budget for it! It almost compensates for the fact that I had to pay the July segment only five months in to my Challenge.
I havenít had to spend car repair money recently, though I did spend $4.50 this month for self-serve car wash and vacuuming. If my car stays true, I will also be able to pout all my banked car repair money into other categories in February. The whole idea that any banked money come 2/28 is available for addition savings as far as Challenge numbers is pretty exciting. Iím very curious to see what my average spending per month ends up being.
My Guy hasnít tried to subvert my Challenge, but he isnít into it. Heís naturally very frugal; frugal enough to be able to work part time by choice. But he does kind of see My Challenge as a bit dorky.
Tomorrow is his birthday. I told him Iíd take him out to dinner anywhere he wanted to go, and he picked sushi (which I expected). It was surprising to hear him say today, after getting a (very sweet) gift of cash from his step-dad, that he could use the money for dinner tomorrow. I replied, ďNope, you get to treat yourself with that money. Iím taking you out to dinner tomorrow.Ē His response: ďWhat about the Challenge?Ē Jaw dropping.
I explained, ďNo, no, Iím taking you out. Iíve made room in my budget.Ē We always take each other out to dinner on our birthdays. And we pretty much always choose sushi, because we love it. Sushi is not the cheapest. But I have organized my budget so that I can fit it in.
Oddly enough, I think what got him thinking positively about My Challenge, in Month Eleven, is how nice his Christmas and (early) birthday presents were. On the frugal side, I got him many, many books using trade credit at the bookstore. I got him a Chť Guevara shirt in Croatia; he has a thing for them. I got an oval shaped desk tray thing, so that he could use the laptop in bed, and that was $1.99 at the thrift store and has been a big hit. I also gave him a 1 gig jump drive, using part money and part gift cards I cashed in survey points for. And I got him a gift certificate at The Gap, also by cashing out survey site points. For the birthday, I got him an MP3 player, an iRiver Clix, which is nicer than he expected. I explained that My Challenge didnít mean no spending, it meant conscious spending, and that I felt the mp3 player was a good value for a great reason and I fit it in my budget.
So I think he is looking upon My Challenge with a new respect, perhaps. In the past months I've sometimes declined to go out to eat or get fast food or take out, and I think that mildly irritated him. Now he might realize more that I wasnít enjoying getting fast food almost alway. I have migraines, Iím chubby, I have issues with large chains; it was easy for me to want to cut out fast food or going out to eat from laziness as opposed to true desire. So he did experience a small amount of deprivation, I suppose, because I wouldnít join in some meals. So the true beauty of My Challenge was unable to shine through and impress him with the fantastic geekness of it all. But the mp3 player has spoken.
(I still say heck, he should go out to eat with the guys, or his sister, or himself if he wants it-Iím not preventing him! Come March 1st I am not going to be interested in a lot of eating out. Iím trying to eat right and work out, and I have to do that way past February! Thank goodness splurging on sushi is relatively healthy.)
The morals of the story: Remain generous while being frugal, and, be patient with men.
There may be more morals here. Feel free to be my Aesop.
In other news, I got a couple pairs of pants as hand-me-downs today. I would almost totally love them, except they are from a person who used to be a few sizes larger than me, and these are now too big for her. Great for her, and a reminder to me to keep focused on getting healthier. Iíve walked to work once and used my exercise bike 3 times this week, starting Sunday. Iíve eaten breakfast everyday, and packed good lunches, and for the most part eaten right for dinner. Working on developing healthy habits just as Iíve developed good frugal habits.
But...but...but...itís not over!
Iíve had a couple of folks ask me if Iím done with the Challenge. Well, if I had been bright enough to start it January 1 2006, Iíd be done. But no, I started March 2006, so I have two more months to go. This is day three of month eleven; fifty six more days to be Wantonly Frugal.
Now, as I wonder how I will react come March, I realize how adjusted I am to not spending. I was telling a buddy I went on a shopping spree, because I had money in my Household account and wanted to treat the house for the New Year. My splurge? Four pillows, which I can kind of see, but also new sponges. Now thatís just nutty. I am currently spending 27% of my gross income, and I was really excited to have new sponges and pillows!
Now, I know Iíve lost some of you, but let me explain why I donít think itís really sad.
Iím not consuming on autopilot.
Iíll grant you this: I probably should have bought new sponges earlier. I wash what I have in the washer, and periodically nuke them, so they arenít infested. But they are worn. But the flip side would be worse to me: blithely tossing sponges, cleaners, paper towels, Lysol/bleach wipes, etc. into my cart every week. I am fine using small amounts of simple items - and that means I will be able to go to Europe again this year, and maybe China or South America or someplace exciting (suggestions accepted). (Now if you love cleaning items, this is not an assault on your lifestyle: If your Swiffer gives you joy, I support your Swiffering.)
I get to spend on what I want to spend money on. I get to spend consciously, getting value for what I buy, choosing what I buy. I know that if Iím bringing something home, itís something I wanted or needed. I bought My Guy a pricier birthday gift for January 10, coming up. Hereís the deal: I spent $160, and I had to pull a lot of money from other categories, and I donít regret it. I very consciously decided what to buy, found the best type and price (thanks, forum posters), and committed, and within my limited virtual means met my needs and my wants.
I just really love not needing to regret purchases. And Iíll loosen up and buy more sponges come March, and replace the pillows more often (how does that happen-you know what I mean-our heads should NOT make pillows look like that), and maybe even splurge on a real splurge-and I wont have to regret it!