Spending update…frugality, my new BFF

April 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm (overspending, spending habits) (, )

I’m excited for my planned budget diligence this month. I’m raring to micromanage my finances. Strange, but I made a decision about 2 weeks ago to not. spend. ANY. money beyond my current bank account/remaining budget for February, and it’s been really great to have that hovering over my thoughts and consuming me in my spending habits. What does that mean exactly? Well, it meant that after I paid off my previous massive spending on my credit card, I had very little left over. I had a few evenings of planned restaurant/bar spending ahead (happy hour with a free entree coupon from Outback to spend time with a close coworker that’s having a difficult time at work, then drinks and noshes with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks). I put my foot down and decided not to spend anything further on my credit card. I couldn’t spend even $20 to buy “just a little something extra” at the store for dinner. I had just finished paying off my last 3 months of excess spending and didn’t want to hemorrage any more into March. Please note that when I say credit card spending, I mean not having enough in my budget, then spending on my credit union credit card temporarily, and paying it off within the same billing cycle. It basically means temporarily borrowing money before I pay it back in full (ie, it means poor planning and overspending during a single paycheck period!).

So I got to the point that I was forced to eat food out of the house and not buy any food that I craved but couldn’t afford. It meant that I scrounged to find food to prepare lunches. It meant that Il ived within my means. Crazy, huh?! Well, I made it, I got my paycheck today and I have already planned out most of my spending for the next few weeks – carefully, and with much deliberation.

I’m going to be uber-careful about food spending. I’ve noticed a really awful trend. Since being on my own in my new place, I have been a lot more wasteful with food. I have on more than one occasion, purchased some kind of meat, had it in my fridge, not cooked it in time before it expires, and instead gone out to eat with friends. That’s overspending by a factor of 2! And how wasteful! So I’ve decided to ONLY purchase food that I plan on eating in the next 2 days. I drive immediately by the supermarket that I shop at, so it takes no extra time to drive there. I am out of food and plan on stocking up tonight, but in a mini-way.

In the immediate future, I will be purchasing basics to have in the fridge (mostly veggies & fruits, lunch fixings, coffee and milk, and one protein for tonight). It doesn’t mean a full-out $75+ bill of food for the week, some of which has become spoiled before I get to it. It also means that I will not be going out to eat until this weekend. When I do, I will ration myself to ONE trip out. Yes one. If I don’t make it out, great – I have an extra trip out I can use later in the month. I will be buying a full tank of gas. I may go to costco and get the gas and get some cheese (but limit my spending in the store to $30 or less, which is completely insane at costco!). I may buy a bottle of liquor at the store (Apple Jack brandy, my latest favorite). But that’s it!!!

I will not be buying red wine every time I go to the store. In fact, I may specifically not purchase any for a few weeks (even at one a week, that’s $35 for a month!). I’ve been wanting red wine several times in the last few weeks, but hard liquor lasts much better than an opened but undrunk bottle of wine. And a tiny shot is really all I’m looking for. So no wine purchases for a while. I’ll probably make a few pots of soup this week, too, a great way to stretch spending.

I did get my first electric bill. WAAAY lower than I expected. Including a set up fee of $16, and including half a month of turning lights on for an hour during my deliver/unpacking phase before I lifted there, my bill for 5 weeks is $33 (which includes my heat!). So it’s $15-18 (extrapolated) for 3 weeks of use. I had no idea what to expect. A house is much more expensive than an apartment with shared walls and on an upper level! I had budgetted $50/month for electric, but I have already downgraded that to $30/month (and I expect it to be even less in the summer!).

The other major expense I now have to recover from is the purchase of my NEW roadbike! I spent a bit more than planned – I upgraded to the next level, and spent $1000 plus taxes and some service plans. I was able to get some financing (free for 6 months), which will let me pay it off gradually and within budget, with no fees. However, that means that I have much less disposable income for other things for the next 6 months. In a previous post I mentioend having $200 from selling an area rug – I will apply that, and what is left will basically come out to be $150/month until paid off. That leaves me with $50 of extra spending a month for anything not already budgeted for (my “extra” spending catagory is $200/month, for things like haircuts, photography supplies, entertainment, art purchases, you name it). I expect that to definitely be an issue, so I think I may  have difficulty staying on top of my $700 extra payments towards debt. And I still have a bunch of bike accessories that I need to purchase, too. I have made this deal with myself. If I can spend at least $600/month extra on debt, then I can consider buying something beyond the $50/left, but I’d prefer not to.

So. Frugality is going to be my BFF in the next few weeks. I will be very structured (and have been for 2 weeks!) and careful. I’m looking forward to seeing how good I can be!

Happy spring, all,
debtmaven out

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Budget overhaul and spending rein-in

March 16, 2012 at 9:19 am (monthly budget, overspending, things I bought)

March is here and half over. I’ve been thinking a lot about my finances and money and spending in the last few weeks. I’m also ready to recover from my move and all the extraneous spending that I’ve been involved in. I’ve been playing with my personal debt payoff calculator that I built in excel. I tweak it and update it as I send in payments to my car loan and my SBA loan, and it’s really keeping me focused on a semi-daily basis if I’m on track (news: I’ve been slipping, so need to readjust!). I’m also trying to rein in my enthusiasm about spending. Moving is over. No more excuses to eat out so much or have preprepared foods (ie, more expensive, less nutritious). I also have to get myself into a new regular routine, both financially, but also physical and social. In a way, moving was like a blank check – I gave myself an allowance to go out and spend money on food more than I should have. I used the excuse of going out with all my friends regularly (and separately, ie, more often and thus more expensive!) for a bite to eat and to get together. On one hand, it was great, I feel like I am establishing my friendships with people I haven’t had in my life before in this way (2 new friendships developing since the ex left), but on the other, I am not doing it decisively and in line with my budget. So I’ve been overspending.

I also decided to buy myself this absolutely *beautiful* turquoise necklace to the tune of $270. I haven’t bought a piece of jewelry for myself for over 3 years, and the last one was $22! In a way it is symbolic of this time in my life, and I have been wanting to have something new to wear. But again, I have been spending a lot and need to chill out on the spendthrift front!

Because I’ve been spending *a lot* on food and eating out, I decided to really knuckle down this week and use the food I have in my fridge, even if I don’t want it when I’m driving home past the really high-priced/excellent quality supermarket that is close to my place. I also need to decide NOT to eat out unless it’s the weekend. I need to portion my eating out to be once per weekend to keep me in check. Having that as a benchmark/rule should really help me avoid the restaurant overspending and allow it to happen socially as it should be (and not just me being lazy and not wanting to cook).

This coming paycheck next week (I get paid on the 5th and 20th) I have already allocated fully. I realized that I have to readjust how I pay my bills. My old landlord was ok if I gave her rent money after I got paid on the 5th. Then I started paying her online through pop money. That would take up to 4-5 days to clear (if you choose the free/longer payment method). That worked out ok, I was consistent from month to month and she was fine with it on the 9th/10th/or 11th. However my new landlord wants payment by the 1st. Totally reasonable, but I don’t get paid until the 5th.

How to get payment in 5 days earlier? I considered doing a temporary 5 day transfer out of one of my savings funds to tide my checking account over until then, then repay back what I borrowed when my paycheck clears. But then I realized that there was a better option. Instead, I’m going to have to pay sooner, like the previous paycheck. So this coming paycheck (2nd half of March) is now earmarked to pay my April 1st rent. This will cause a little adjustment to my debt payments. I actually calculated what bills were due on which half of the month. I split my regular payments (food, restaurant and gas spending) to be half and half, and realized that it makes the most sense to pay equal payments towards debt on both paychecks. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Paycheck 1:
$225 for food and restaurant spending
$60-$80 in gas
$50 (guestimated as i haven’t gotten a bill yet) for electric
$38.32 for gym membership
$253.11 for car payment
$200 for my car maintenance mini-fund
$33 for my xmas/gift mini-fund
$100 for random spending (housewares, subscriptions, photography spending, extra stuff I want to buy, clothes, etc)
$100 for my vacation mini-fund
$350 towards debt
$18 towards hulu/netflix
Total: $1430

Paycheck 2:
$225 for food/restaurant (same as pc1)
$80 for gas (same as pc1)
$745 for rent (including the $50 storage unit)
$40 for internet
$63 for car insurance
$100 for my SBA autopay to cover monthly payment due
$100 towards stuff (same as pc1)
$350 towards debt
Total: $1703

I usually get paid somewhere around $1500 – $1700.  If I have a smaller paycheck than I’ve allotted for, then I’ll just pay a little less towards debt during that 2 week period, and adjust when I get a higher paycheck. It should average out. In the immediate future, that means I’m going to pay less than I’ve estimated for March, to move up my rent payments.

The other final revision to my spending that I have to take care of in March is paying off the huge dump run fees I incurred when getting rid of ex mr. maven’s treasu..I mean junk. It basically cost me $300. Don’t know if he’ll ever pay me back for it (he’s said he is going to send me money, but that hasn’t happened quite yet). Either way, I need to pay off my credit card before I get charged any fees for it, so I have to bite the bullet and pay it off this month. So due to that, no debt payments for the rest of this month (unhappy face).

I’ll check in again next month or after and see how my budget has adjusted.

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2011 end of year blowout spending recap/2012 the year of change

January 19, 2012 at 8:54 am (credit cards, house, overspending, things I bought)

Warning. You’re about to see what amounts to a TON of excuses. It all starts with a story about changing our living room from carpet to wood floors. Back in the days when Mr. Maven was still in the picture, he had a serious aversion to our hunter green 12 year old carpet. He knew the old 1920s house we rented had hardwood floors underneath. He convinced the landlord (who is pretty nice) to agree to remove the carpet, provided the floors were good enough to be refinished. Part of that process involved moving ALL furniture out of thel iving room into the rest of the house. We live in a 700 sq. ft. house. The living room is by far the largest room.

Ok, that process took a solid 2 weeks. Then since the furniture was out, we used the opportunity to repaint the dingy yellowy-white walls with bad hole repairs done without touchups, and the one dark, wood panelling a bright, fresh white. Trimming, and marking off what not to paint. Multiple coats of primer, then paint, then drying, all with kitties running underfoot. It took a week. I felt like I lived in a hoarder house for 3 weeks. All that climbing over furniture every time I wanted to move around!

Ok, then we moved back INTO the refurbished room. No rug. no place soft to sit on or lie on. All of a sudden, the makeshift furniture I had didn’t quite do the room justice. I ended up buying 2 pieces of furniture. One a really really super awesome 1940s sideboard with mirror. It is soooo pretty. $800. Yikes. Then I replaced a makeshift curio/bookshelf cabinet thing with a better version – it had wide storage underneath to hide some larger art books and music CDs,  and an upper half that was shelved and had doors with decorative glass that kept my prized collection of art ceramics free from dangerous kittens knocking them over. Small antique glass-fronted cabinet? $400.

Oh, and about this time, my computer totally crashed. 3 year old HP laptop, kaput. I had to buy a new laptop, with, ahem, a friendly ex-Microsoft employee helping out with a cheap Microsoft Office (shhh, don’t tell) at seriously reduced costs, for about $750 total.

Add in the absolute craziness of living like a hoarder and the inability to stick to mundane tasks like regularly cooking meals at home because there was NO FRIGGIN’ ROOM to move in the kitchen, and there were some overzealous spending in the grocery/restaurant/pizza front. A few hundred here, surely.

Then finally, oh yes, was a relatively unhappy trip I allowed myself to be talked into going, against my better judgement, and with, unfortunately, a lot of resentment – going with mr. maven to visit his family for thanksgiving. In North Dakota. With our cats, which meant driving, not taking a train. Mr. maven refuses to fly, and no cats on the train, so driving it was. I used 3 days of vacation. I paid for 50% of the gas and motels. I used my car and had to spent a ton of money on maintenance in advance. I had to get an extra oil change, since the whole trip was like 2300 miles (and do you think mr. maven paid for any of the car maintence or chipped in towards wear and tear? I’ll let you deduce that yourselves). Anyway. The whole reason I said I would go, was so that I could meet his mom. His mom lives in Texas but was going to come up to visit the rest of the family at that time. 2 days before we were to leave, we got word she wasn’t going to go. GRRRRR. But at that point, unfortunately, I was committed. And even more unfortunately, I didn’t want to go, didn’t relish the trip, and felt really resentful about spending the money and using my hard-earned vacation time for someone else’s family. Sorry for the big hateful venting here, but I couldn’t say any of this to mr. maven. I can’t say I was a thrill to be around, and you now know how this ends (mr. maven has just moved to ND and I’m now single, which was not because of the trip, but happened chronologically soon after). The cost of this whole trip was about $550.

Anyway, tally up all this spending, and you’ll notice a lot of discretionary spending. This went onto my BECU credit card. I HATED it there. So I paid a ton towards it. I used up my vacation savings. I stripped my EF to pay for it. I used the remaining xmas spending to pay for it (I had a little left over). I also fully raided my kitten fund (at $930) to pay it. I got it down to zero. I was expecting to start refunding the kitten fund, when I he told me he was moving to ND to find work. And taking the kittens with him.

Well, I guess I don’t need to fund for the kittens any longer *sniff*, but you’ll notice, all my mini-funds are fully wiped out. I am starting 2012 from a very low place. Emotionally raw (I’ll get over it), financially drained (at least no credit card debt!), and with a renewed vigor to tackle my remaining debt ( hopefully an average $300 extra per month).

It’s odd to start this year off, when normally you hear people taking stock of their lives, and reflecting. Instead, I’m responding and digging out. I’m gearing up, and figuring out. I have a lot of changes ahead, but I’ll at least be more focused on what’s good for me…and my finances. Maybe that should be my them for the year…CHANGE.

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Frugality slipping with the cold

November 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm (Being Frugal, overspending)

It’s cold, it’s Sunday, and I’ve got a hankering for pot roast tonight. I’m still doing really well eating food in the fridge/freezer/cupboards, but there definitely needs to be some surplus to make everything stretch ’til Nov. 6. I think I’ll go splurge for today and then make do on the rest of the week until Friday, when Thursday’s paycheck clears. I have had such a craving for 4-hour, slow-cooked pot roast, in the last several weeks and I haven’t yet managed to indulge. So I’m off to go buy the roast, some veggies, an inexpensive bottle of red, and then dinner and 2 days of leftovers will follow!

Oh, and I finally went out and bought new shoes, and all the warm clothes I need to make it through the winter. The thrift stores haven’t been providing, and I rarely find good quality, wearable clothes I can wear to work. So I overindulged and overspent on my budget, but limited myself to 2 pair of cheap, sale pants (about $28 and $34), two second layers (one $35 after mailer discount, and $22). I now have enough clothes to not wear the same things in the same week!

Plus, I also bought  dansko shoes, $130. Those are never on sale. But then I get my money’s worth. My current pair has the sole completely cracked through (you can look inside and see how it’s built!), and there’s a big fat hole where my big toe is on the other one (it’s sad, but I made do with it all last winter, but I’m now ready to upgrade). If the new pair lasts anything like the others, they’ll last me 3 years of wearing them every day in the winter (once sandal season is over). I usually wear my clothes into the ground, so as long as they are comfortable, relatively flattering (ie, they don’t look bad), then it’s a good investment. I just read on another blog that a trick to buying clothes is to try them on without looking. If they *feel* good, then go ahead and open your eyes and see if you like the way they look. I tried it and it worked pretty well! There was none of that temptation to get something even if it is ill-fitting (though cute). 

I also couldn’t stand the thought of going into the thriftstore yesterday when it was Halloween. I think it is their busiest shopping day! I couldn’t handle the crush.

So my efforts to not spend ANY money were a bit unrealistic. I have stuck to things I needed to and was going to get anyway, so I don’t feel that bad. I was hoping to push the spending to next month’s budget, but most of it is on a my Macy’s credit card (which I always always pay in full), so it won’t hit until the November budget. I am going to be careful to not spend much at the store on food. Here’s what I’m planning on getting. Let’s see what I end up buying when I get back:

3 lb chuck roast
4 red potatoes
2 onions
1 bottle red wine ($5-7 range)
baguette
lime juice

I do have to say that it’s not that hard being frugal if you have a semi-well stocked pantry. I made chocolate chip cookies last night (my alternte was apricot thumprint cookies, but i’ll probably make that this week with our canned apricot jam from this summer) with split pea soup (the only thing we had to buy was carrots which I’ll also use for the roast tonight). Breakfast this morning was cardamon french toast (we’re now out of eggs and running low on sandwich bread), and scrambled eggs with goat cheese and scallions.  Doesn’t sound that frugal, does it?! I just have to say, if you’re gonna be cutting back, there’s nothing like splurging on a dessert when you normally don’t to make you feel like something special!

Update: I did good! I bought almost everything on my list and nothing else! Total bill: $27. Mmm, only 2 hours to go ’til dinner is ready. I’ll toast (with the red wine I just got) to that!

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