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Not Stopping for Shopping

December 5th, 2006 at 09:52 pm

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

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

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

My Average is Low!

December 4th, 2006 at 06:48 pm

Iím spending an average of $979 a month! Whoo hoo!

$3,541.57 for my $20 Challenge-see below!

November figures are here, and Iím alive. You can see why I havenít posted in a week...deep shame at my entertainment spending in November. $36.76! What was I thinking! Well, I kid, itís not why I was gone a week and itís not that bad a total. What is upsetting is not that I spent on entertainment, but that I spent a lot of it on takeout that did not give me pleasure. If Iíd spent that money on seeing a show or something, Iíd be perfectly happy to reduce spending in other areas to give myself pleasure.

Other areas did happen to be low. I spent so much on groceries in October that I needed little this month; the total even includes $25 in treats from Trader Joeís (fancy soda, veggie booty, etc.) Health co-pays were much lower too-I get a lot of prescriptions by mail for three months at a time, so my expenses fluctuate.

The miscellaneous is postage. Long story. Well, no, just an uninteresting story.

I expect electric to jump in December; it has been cold enough in the house to see our breaths with ease, so we are doing some heater usage.

I donít expect gifts to be too high in December; I have $26.25 going in, and I bumped my December gift budget to $40, so I have $66.25 to finish Christmas shopping. I am mostly done but I do have a couple big people left. Weíll see how it goes.



I spent $1592 a month last year. My savings are the difference, $1592-$1026 (see below) = $566 times 9 months = $5,094.

Add to that $233 in ďsavingsĒ and $24.21 in my emergency fund, Iíve saved $5,351.21. If I take out what I spend in Europe, $1809.64, which is not part of my Challenge, Iíve saved $3,541.57 living on CA Minimum Wage for 9 months.

* My income is calculated as follows: CA minimum wage of $6.75 for 40 hours a week, at 4.33 weeks in a month, $1178 total. Iíve taken FICA and SDI (CA State Disability Insurance) out for a total of $1073. I had no extra income this month (no recycling) and no overspent categories from last month.
** When I originally began the Challenge March 2006 I assumed no federal or state tax liability. Wrong! Iíd actually owe $47 a month, so I have to budget $95 a month to catch up. So my actual spendable income averaged over each month is my original calculation of $1073 less $47 for $1026.

***$757.87 is the sum of the positive numbers; thatís the amount I have banked and unspent for non-monthly expenses; this does NOT include my savings and emergency funds. It is obviously not what was budgeted less what was spent. Each month I budget for non-monthly purchases; for example, I budget $13 for AAA and car registration every month, but have yet to spend it because it has yet to be due. Thatís why the balance is up to $117. I pay registration in December-so Iíve been preparing for my once a year $79 expense all year long.

Wrapper's Delight

November 28th, 2006 at 08:38 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random Notes

November 25th, 2006 at 09:45 pm

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

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

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

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

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

When Itís Over

November 24th, 2006 at 11:58 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iíll Say it Again

November 24th, 2006 at 08:05 pm

Iíll say it again, I Love the Thanksgiving Holiday.

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

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

I am grateful for:

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

Having no debt

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

My dad's health and his being able to retire

My Folks being able to travel the world!

Having the introspection and patience to identify areas to improve

Having a job where I make a difference

Having a job that challenges me

Having a job where Iím paid to think!

Getting a fair wage and benefits

Being sober

Baths. Clawfoot bathtubs and bubble baths as a bonus!

Having my vision and being able to read

Being able to travel

Being able to vote

Coffee (with milk)

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

The weather in Humboldt

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

Having a car that's paid off and runs well

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

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

Frugality

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

Having so many choices

Music

Being able to learn and use my head

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

NPR

Mystery novels

Friends, and their well-being

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


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

I Have a Thing

November 23rd, 2006 at 12:09 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Sacramento Monday and Tuesday

November 19th, 2006 at 04:13 pm

I am a little stunned by how lacking in energy Iíve been over the last four days. Iíve done essentially nothing productive, or fun, or anything. Read a lot, had a crazy headache Thursday, a pretty bad one Wednesday and Friday, slept a lot, watched television, slept some more.

I didnít achieve all my goals this week. The best I can do is not regret too much that I became a hibernating bear. Regret can eat more time than being lazy.

It cracks me up that the theme song for the latest eBay commercials is ďNon, je ne regrette rienĒ, the song that is about regretting nothing. I am positive that at one point, someone has ordered something from eBay then sat staring at it, thinking, "I sure regret this purchase.Ē Being glad that Wonder Woman lunch boxes are still out there doesnít necessarily equate to joy at having five of them sitting on the kitchen counter.

Not Very Productive

November 17th, 2006 at 04:47 pm

I am off work today, but I didnít really get anything done. I admit to feeling completely lazy. I went to the bread thrift store and picked up a bunch of heavy dense whole wheat loaves at 75 cents each. I picked up a couple used books in excellent condition for a friend, for her to give as a gift to one of her family members; for me being frugal means sharing frugality, and doing frugal favors. My friend now has a nice gift to give someone for a total of 75 cents-the books were on an actual wish list! I have also spread the idea of used items, in excellent condition, as gifts. My plan to get everyone in my life idly interested in frugality is working.

The library is having a book sale tonight; itís not a buck-a-bag sale, so I will have to select judiciously. There may be nice books for gifts, so Iíll keep a look out. Iíll have to renew my Friends of the Library subscription but thatís fine with me.