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Viewing the '$20 Challenge' Category

Month Five Minimum Wage Challenge Totals

August 1st, 2006 at 07:51 pm

July was an easy month, which I am very grateful for considering I had car insurance due. Budgeting for it each month paid off in the end. Iíve really gotten used to spending so little on a consistent basis.

*ďBankedĒ Total only includes positive numbers: unspent money in each category in prior months.

** Budget includes $1073 income less $89.36 ďoverspentĒ in categories in June

*** August's budget is $1073 income less the $38 overspent (auto insurance) in July

I had no extra income this month: Iím overdue on a recycling trip. My only Challenge income was $1073 (CA Minimum Wage less FICA and SDI). If youíre a new visitor looking for further details on how I arrived at the $1073, and what budgeting methods I use, see prior month summaries.

Eagle eyes will notice Iíve boosted savings to $40 from $39, and also added significantly to my big purchase/emergency fund. Iím expecting a freezer to eat a lot of this money in August or September; it will be nice to make a needed big purchase on The Challenge but I will need to really ramp up my savings to compensate.

My spent of $1073 is $519 less than my average per month last year. (I know have some banked, but it will be spent on non-monthly budgeted purchases.) Adding back in the $40 I put into "savings" under the challenge, I saved an additional $559 for the $20 challenge. This makes for $2791 in savings in five months for my $20 Challenge.

Breaking Frugal Rules

July 30th, 2006 at 11:51 am

Frugal things I do not do:

Iíve never once made bread. Iím intimidated by yeast. It was a big deal when I started making muffins a couple of years ago.

I have not used a single coupon in the last five years. I buy mostly generics and store brands and bulk foods. Iím not unhappy with my $100 a month for groceries, though I know it could be less (witness Boefixpa working on the less than $50 a month.)

I do not own a freezer. I came very close a couple years ago, but was thwarted three times in a row.

I donít clean with baking soda or vinegar. Or lemon juice or Borax. On the flip side, Iíd guess I donít spend more than $10 to $15 a year on cleaning products, excluding dish and laundry detergent.

I just started a price book a couple of weeks ago, and havenĎt used it yet.

I donít garden. My Guy is doing some container gardening this year, but I have to admit itís all him. We might get some veggies out of it, but nothing to be real proud of, and he would get all the credit anyway.

Why do I share these things with you and my future self? Not so much for you to try to sell me on the above, although thatís fine. Iím perfectly willing to be convinced that the above activities will bring dollars and joy to my life.

With coupons and the freezer, Iíve already convinced myself. I have looked at Flashís posts and articles, and I have decided to try couponing for a little bit to see if it works with my lifestyle. I donít doubt it can save me money; my worry is that the time it would take me would not be as fun for me as other money saving hobbies. I am planning on buying a freezer this summer, still staying within the rules of The Challenge.

Another reason to post this, though, is so that beginner tightwads can see that a frugal life can be lived while breaking frugal rules. How? Because there are no Frugal Rules! Iíve been saving quite a bit of money for a long time now, without using the above strategies. Of course I use lots of other strategies. I live simply. I go to garage sales and thrift stores. I cook from scratch a lot. Being frugal does means employing at least some activities or habits.

But itís a big umbrella! I say again, there are no Frugal Rules. To join the frugal crowd means reducing spending in areas where you can get the same value for less, so that you have money for other areas. That is a very personal decision. You can be a perfectly confident Frugal Tightwad even if you donít wash Ziploc bags, or hang laundry to dry. Me, I travel: itís important to me, and I spend over $1000 a year on it, but I certainly understand if another person would find that $1000 better spent on Christmas or children (neither of which falls anywhere on my priority list).

Frugality can fit everyone.

Garage Sale Haul

July 15th, 2006 at 02:26 pm

A whopping $3.30 today.

Four small Christmas Gifts (Ornaments)

A popsicle mold, plus enough ďhandlesĒ for my other mold

4 packets of bath salts

An Index card Holder with Alpha tabs

A bunch of clothes pins

A small ďtravelĒ roll of TP for the glove compartment

A cute burlap bag, filled with
A ton of teabags, various types, plus sugar/salt/pepper packets, and

A bunch of creamer/spoon/napkin packs, perfect for camping

Nothing great, but good. The teabags themselves made it worth it-the tea and other food items were in Free Box.

I also got some Free Food from a friend who was cleaning out her cupboards. One nice thing about being known as frugal is that people know I might be willing to take these types of items. Itís funny; Iím grateful for these hand-me-downs, but I also think that sometimes when I get these items, the people giving them feel good about Recycling. It works for everyone.

Iím making a Clean the Fridge soup. Not as creative as some of my others, but some hand-me-down rice and barley, some almost wilting vegetables, and some hand-me-down green olives that I have been chipping away at for months, it feels like. Iíve got all these saved and frozen and wrapped and rescued foods, and it feels a little crowded. So any soup that empties 4 or more cottage cheese tubs is a winner.

Donít Upgrade

July 12th, 2006 at 06:04 pm

Imagine that your income was going to be cut by $100 a month permanently. What would you cut out or reduce? How about doing it now? You probably thought of things that werenít as important to youÖ.if you love dining out, you might have thought of cutting cable; if you love your TV, you may have thought about cutting out going out to eat. What if you gave up what wasnít super important, and were then able to pay down debt, or build an emergency fund, or fund something really important to you, like a ďrealĒ vacation? Would you be willing to give up the things that you donít need, donít love?

Iím watching the Oprah Debt Diet show, and sheís reinforcing for me a principle that I have been working at articulating. Donít Upgrade. I could lose my job today and take a minimum wage job and be okay, today. That is such a freeing feeling. It doesnít feel deprived or degrading, it feels very freeing.

In all areas, we were very slow to increase spending when we went from broke to doing well. Getting Netflix, at $19.29 ($9.65 each) was a huge decision for us. We have the very basic $9.95 cable; that too was a huge decision for us (somewhat forced by a class of mine having televised segments.) People making half of what we do have ďfullĒ $50 cable.

In so many areas we have either not increased spending, or increased it by so little, that we donít have much to lose. Weíve learned what is important to us, and spend little in areas that arenít important to us.

I have a job I like. I eat a good diet, including lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. My house has plenty of furniture, and we have a wonderful comforter on a great bed. I have a lot of books, and a few magazine subscriptions. We have money to spend on leisure activities that are important to us. I have a great computer and a high speed connection. I have a car with 35,000 miles on it and no payments.

If our spending followed our income, if we had upgraded, and spent more, weíd have so much weíd have to give up. Faced with a downturn, we might have had to give up fancy coffee, full cable, Department Store shopping, convenience foods, fancy paper or cleaning products, new clothes, cruises, timeshares, jewelry, steak, a housecleaner.

By living low, Iíve actually created a better quality of life for myself than I might have if I had upgraded my spending without giving a lot of thought to it.

One Third of the Way!

July 2nd, 2006 at 02:40 pm

Hereís my Month Four Summary on my (Modified) Minimum Wage Challenge. Iím doing well, and can even see buying a freezer later in the summer. My spent of $1073 is $519 less than my average per month last year. (I know have some banked, but it will be spent on non-monthly budgeted purchases.) Adding back in the $39 I put into "savings" under the challenge, I saved an additional $558 for the $20 challenge. This makes for $2232 in savings in four months for my $20 Challenge.

1) My ďsavingsĒ fund has $156 in it; $39 a month for 4 months. My newly started combination emergency fund/large purchase fund has hit a whopping $21.20; what I added to it in June was triple what I added in May, so there is progress there. It shows a balance of zero because itís not in my main ďaccountĒ in my budgeting spreadsheet.
2) My total to spend is less than $1073 (plus $1 extra income) to account for any overspending in any categories from last month. See prior posts or the YouNeedABudget site for more details.
3) $395 is the sum of the positive numbers; thatís the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses.
4) The $983.64 comes from $1073 less the overspending in 3 categories in June, $89.36.

My income for the month included my regular $1073 CA Minimum Wage (see prior posts for details) plus $1 dollar from a survey; no recycling or books sold on half.com this month.

The miscellaneous this month is my half of the Costco membership. Weíve weighed the benefits, and for us membership is worth it; partially because of the significantly cheaper gas at Costco, partially on some computer related items. Iíve also now found that I can get significant cheese savings at Costco, now that Iíve started an official Price Book.

My medical expenses have calmed down and I have been spending less by habit; it takes less and less effort. My grocery average is now down to $93. Iím now using a Price Book, cooking more from scratch, and doing a lot of garage saling and thrift store shopping. Iím also going out much less, and enjoying it more when I do.

Freak Soup

June 29th, 2006 at 06:49 pm

My discovery of blender soups has led me down strange paths. I bought a ten pound bag of carrots because the price was right. I knew I could not eat them all as carrot sticks, so I steamed some for blender soup. When we grilled last Sunday I realized we were at the bottom of the ketchup and mustard containers (we bought more). So I took some water and put it in the ketchup and mustard bottles, shookíem up, and poured into the blender along with some dry milk powder and carrots, blended, and made Mustard Ketchup Carrot Soup.

I tasted it and Iím almost giddyÖÖit tastes great. Iíd serve it to guests as Cream of Carrot soup, though.

LRJohnson's Dirty Laundry

June 27th, 2006 at 08:09 pm

That's a misleading title for an entry that really should be called:
Laundry: Washing and Hanging

I think my method of handling laundry is fairly easy and fairly cheap.


ēI donít automatically toss clothes Iíve worn in the hamper. I certainly donít re-wear stinky or soiled clothing, but often Iím able to wear a shirt or pair of pants more than once.

ēI take off my work clothes as soon as I come home, most times. At first it was just because I liked being in my jammies, but then I realized that it was enabling me to get another wearing between washings.

ēSleep clothes especially can take a few wearings. I even re-wear my "sleep socks," since they havenít been walked around in.

ēI only wash full loads, without over-packing my washer.

ēI used to wash once a week. Now that Iím doing almost all hang drying, I find it better to wash more frequently, so that I have enough room on my line and rack for all the clothes.

ēSince I wash more frequently, I can get by on fewer clothes. I seem to be wearing the underwear at the front of the drawer and not getting to the ones in the back, due to frequent laundry.

ēI use to use the cheapest of the cheap powder. I then got a huge bottle of liquid as part of a product survey, and I kind of liked it. (Donít voluntarily upgradeÖ.you can become discontented with what used to be satisfactory.) Iím now back to my cheapie cheap powder, but I do have a bottle of the cheapest liquid if I feel like splurging. (What a splurge, huh?)

ēThe cheapest powder is actually not hard on my clothes, because I use a half measure. Our clothes arenít heavily soiled: we work in offices. In all my time using less detergent, Iíve been perfectly happy with the results.

ēWhen I use the liquid, I drop the cup in the washer so all the soap is used up.

ēI do sometimes use bleach on my whites, maybe once a month.

ēI never use liquid fabric softener.

ēA couple years ago, the hot water stopped feeding into the washer. It probably wouldnít take too much effort to fix it, but weíve been happy with just washing in cold. Cold wash, cold rinse on everything. If I fixed it, I might use warm on towels. I donít have any kids or immuno-suppressed people in the house, so Iím not worried about germs the way other people might need to be. Colors never bleed, either.

ēI use the short cycle almost always. Again, mostly light wear on the clothes, and Iíve been happy with the results.

ēIf I want to soak clothes, I leave the lid of the washer up and my washer stops part way though. I get to soak without using the soak cycle.

ēDoing the short wash and cold all the time, Iíve found that I donít need to sort laundry. I can wash a blouse with undies with a white towel with a pair of jeans. Itís a madhouse.

ēIíve just moved to line drying all the time, instead of just during the summer.

ēI re-spin clothes in the washer to get extra water out.

ēFor some shirts, work slacks, and blouses, I do use the dryer. This way I donít need to iron. I know I could hang them then use the dryer the last few minutes, but Iím okay drying one load a week.

ēIf I have to choose what to line dry as far as space or time limitations, I always line dry the big heavy items: jeans, towels.

ēI use a half dryer sheet sometimes when I think of it. The last cheapo off brand box we bought has lasted over a year. Sometimes I reuse them. Our clothes smell fine and donít cling without them, so I guess I could give them up. But hey, sometimes I like to live it up. With a dryer sheet.

Line drying
ēIíve been pleasantly surprised at how cool it can be outside and clothes can still dry. Iíve heard over 60 degrees is outdoor drying weather.

ēIíve been pleasantly surprised that clothes can dry in the house overnight.

ēHanging in the house for me means pinning even jeans to a hanger, so that everything is on a hanger, then finding places to hang the hangers. I could get an indoor clothesline; I haven't ruled it out, I'm just not unhappy with the status quo. Shorter items can go on door knobs. I found more things I could put a hanger on than I expected.

ēThe first time I hung clothes it took a while. I can now do it quickly. I worked at being patient with myself.

ēI bought 2 packs of clothes pins at the dollar store years ago, and they are still going strong. I also love them for other uses (closing food bags, etc.)

ēI use a small wooden folding drying rack that I bought at a garage sale years ago; I canít remember the price. This is what I use for socks, undies, dishtowels, and napkins. Line drying has made my underwear last longer-no fried elastic.

ēOutside I have a retractable line: on one side of the house permanently mounted, and can be pulled out and attached to a hook on the opposite side of the yard. Weíll take it with us if we move.

ēI hang t-shirts and knit shirts and nightgowns on hangers; this gives me more room. If I didnít have space considerations, I might hang them by pins upside down (under the arms seems to dry faster that way).

ēI donít mind stiff clothes. If I did, or had guests using the towels, I might throw them in the dryer for a minute to soften.

ēLine dried clothes smell fabulous.

Whew. Iíve mentioned my unmentionables.

I know there are other methods and strategies. This was not meant to be a comprehensive list. This is just what I do, a gal who has a decent income but who has chosen to live on CA Minimum Wage for a year. A lot of things I had already been doing. On The Challenge I have become much more consistent and paid much more attention.

Goal: Less Boring

June 26th, 2006 at 09:01 pm

Iím closing in on the end of Month Four of my (Modified) Minimum Wage Challenge, success in sight. June has been much easier than April and May, actually; Iím very comfortable with my new spending habits. I am more at peace with my money than ever before. Four months will be one third of the year Iím planning to be on the Challenge, which is also my $20 Challenge.

My trouble is that Iím spending very little, but not necessarily explaining how I am spending a little less than $1073 a month and still having a full rich life. I wouldnít be doing this otherwise; frankly my income would accommodate willy-nilly spending, and my belt-tightening is purely by choice.

Iím working on writing down my strategies specifically; thanks to Tightwad Kitty for the idea. Iíve got ideas for breaking down particular areas, such as food, entertainment, and the like, as well as general themes, such as ďBuying Less Means Clutter FreeĒ and ďLowered (Not Low) Expectations Mean Met Expectations.Ē

Not only do I not want to have a boring blog, I want to have a record for five, ten, thirty years from now to keep me grounded and have a base to build on. If I get in the company of spendthrifts Iíll need to remind myself how good it felt to be in control of my spending and be able to put a lot in savings while still feeling undeprived.

(Iím still going traveling in September. As stated pre-Challenge and pre-ticket purchase, the one thing I donít want to pass up is opportunities for world travel. So this is the one area I will spend outside the Challenge. We got a deal to London round trip for $450, so we are flying to Europe. Most of our time will be in Croatia and Serbia, with a little time in London. My friend and I did some planning yesterday, and I am getting pretty excited. I will be tracking all trip expenses, because another thing I do want to convey is that world travel can be done with moderate spending. As yet, the $450 is my only expense. Iíve had no luck searching for recent used Croatian guide books, so my next expense will be a new guide book. Iíll live.)

Pretty Darn Dinner

June 18th, 2006 at 08:43 pm

Here is a picture of my pretty little dinner.

Arenít the shells nice? I use regular tortillas, in my new little molds, $1 at a garage sale. If someone was interested, Iíd recommend maybe just folding an aluminum pie pan into the right shape, or snagging a pot pie pan from a spendthrift bud. Bake at 375 after spraying with cooking spray. Or you could go old school and oil it.

Iím still using canned refried beans. I know I should be making my own from dried beans-Iím getting there. The shredded cheddar/jack was a nickel a pound less than the block; unusual, and good, since I have better luck freezing shredded than block cheese. Iím not interested in making my own tortillas yet, but someday I may.

My Guy set it up so I can download pictures from his digital camera to my computer. Itís a bit too exciting-watch out!