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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How budgetting helps me figure out my spending trends

March 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm (budget, spending habits) (, )

I have a budget. I’ve had one for over 3 years. Sometimes I think it’s more a spending ideal than an actual set of rules to follow. At least, that is how I’ve used budgetting. Sure, it lets me figure out how much money I have and when to pay bills. It lets me be aware of what I need to save up for (uh oh, my timing belt is coming due in 2 months, better save up extra!). However, I’ve never used it as the final authority of when to cut off my spending. Maybe that’s my problem. I’m a wishy washy budgetter and don’t always take it seriously.

I’ve really been focused on my pending habits and trends, and figuring out how I spend my own money, now that I’m single. I have a big excel spreadsheet that I use for my budget, and then at the end of every month, I “hide” all the details and just show the bottom line for each catagory. Basically, I can look at the totals for all months side by side, and really compare month to month my spending habits. In other words, I can recognize trends.

So what did I determine? Since December (before that, I lost a lot of data when my previous computer died and haven’t spent the effort to redo my budget before Dec 2011), I always overspend in the same 2 catagories: food and extra purchases.

I’m supposed to spend $350 on groceries, and $100 on restaurant spending. Nuh uh. Never happens. The best I do is about $500, my median spending is about $550 and at my very worst, it was $650. Keep in mind during this last 4 month period, I *have* moved, so I had a lot of too tired to cook nights, too busy moving and cleaning nights, and a lot of connecting with friends after my breakup nights, so I spent a LOT more than usual. I also bought a lot more premade foods (a precooked chicken, a bottle of wine, and salad make a great meal to give someone when they donate their time to help – how cheap is it to make them work and not feed them?).

My restaurant spending is often more $150-$200 typically. I’ve been evaluating how $100 is spent. If I go out, it’s often $20 for breakfast or lunch, and $25-$35 for dinner. If I only eat out 3 times a month for dinner, and not do any lunches or meals out when I’m out and about, then I can stick to that $100 budget. But I really think that’s unrealistic. If I truly had gazelle intensity to my debt payoff, then I would eat out less. Heck, I’d make lentil soup and rice all the time, but I don’t do that. I’m not trying to out-frugal-ize the personal finance blogosphere. I’m trying to live within my means, live responsibly, pay off my debt, and be sane.

It means that I don’t go out for weekend getaways, or go out drinking at bars regularly. Or get really expensive dinners, with appetizers, 2 drinks AND dessert. I typically get a meal and a drink, that’s it, and tip well. I use meals out as a way to connect with my friends, and be social, and get out of the house. I’m ok with spending more, and I think $150 for restaurant spending per month is realistic. For me. And I’m ok with that.

I think my “food” spending is higher because I’ve been buying more wine when I go to the store. I also have been shopping at higher quality places, that are more community owned and responsible. Quality is higher, but so are the prices. And if you’ve ever shopped in Seattle, you know how expensive it really is! What i don’t do is splurge on expensive cuts of meat (I can’t remember what filet mignon is like!!) or fresh king salmon (like i used to). But I don’t buy cheap meats either. I always do free range, natural, hormone free. Free range, cage free, organic eggs are $5/dozen. I could do eggs that cost half the price, but socially, I won’t go there.

I rarely buy clothes (I shop a lot at thriftstores) or shoes. I don’t buy books at all (yeah libraries!), and go to the movies about once every 3 or 4 months. But. I seem to be spending a LOT of extra money. The last few months I’ve been wanting to dress a little more girlie. I wear jeans, clogs, t-shirts, and fleece pullovers every single day. I work in a warehouse, so I can dress super casual. I wear this stuff on the weekends. I wear it out. I have 4 pairs of jeans and that’s all! But lately, I’ve been wanting more nice accessories. I’ve worn the same necklace for the last 3 years, every single day (just about). I wanted a new necklace. Then I found it. Turquoise. An eagle, articulated, cool, brightly colored, and strong and perfect for me, and this new phase in my life. So I bought it. $270! Then I bought a few other things this month, a drapey triple chained necklace with a big jewel stone, and a gorgeous pair of velvet gloves, all significant things I can use for years, but still! I’ve definitely overspent this month – instead of $200, I spent $565.

Last month was $324. January was $544 – I had to replace some furniture pieces when mr. maven moved away. I bought some significant things, and I bought them on craigslist, used, but they still cost money. A $200 8×10′ rug, a $100 floor lamp (it was mid-century and I love it). In December I bought myself a $240 ceramic sculpture by my favorite artist for a whopper of a budget buster total of $522.

So there you go. I spend a lot on food. I have rationalized that it’s ok what I’ve been spending eating out (within reason), and I realize that I have GOT TO GET MY EXTRA SPENDING UNDER CONTROL. There. No more art purchases. No more jewelry. No more furniture. If I want it, save up for it. But no more just go out and spend.

I’m going to really really push to not use my credit card at all. I am going to leave a cushion in my checking account, and not spend all my money the day after I get my paycheck. I need to leave myself my budgetted amount for food, eating out, gas, my $100 “extra” per paycheck, and be ok if I run out by not spending anymore. For real this time.

See how great budgets can be? After 3 years of this, I’m pretty good at it, but I’m still not perfect. It is really helpful to see where I need to be vigilant (and always!).

I’m going into April in a good place. I’ve figured out how my paychecks are to be spent, with enough room to cover small purchases. I’ve finally fully paid off my credit card (and no more “borrowing” from my mini funds to pay it off so I don’t get charged fees, and then in the next paycheck have to payback my “loan” from the mini funds, which makes me not have enough money, and have to use my credit card again – downwards spiral, you see?). I’ve finished covering debts to clean up after mr. maven’s departure, moving expenses, and deposits on my new place. Everything is now refunded, paid up, and starting at a zero balance (when it’s supposed to be at zero). My taxes are completed and my refund has been spent (on debt of course!). It’s back to normal. I still have to adjust my new budget, but I’m ready!

Happy spring to you all!
debtmaven out

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What to do with my windfall

February 26, 2011 at 8:16 am (spending habits)

So my settlement check (between $7K-$8K) will be arriving soon and I’ve been pondering receiving this unexpected windfall. I knew I’d probably get something out of this lawsuit, but never planned on receiving the money, nor expected anything out of it. I am doing fine on my own, paying down my debt, keeping to a budget, and minimizing extraneous expenses. There’s a part of me, and quite a sizeable part, that wants to use $7K to go straight to my debt (which would bring it into the $19K range!!!), and then use whatever was leftover to splurge. On something.

But what? I’d like to take mr. maven out for a nice dinner in the city. Maybe this amazing tapas restaurant with a good stiff single malt scotch (or two) and their el diablo chocolate desert (it looks like the borg cube). With a movie and popcorn afterwards. Or maybe a dinner at Jazz Alley? Jazz entertainment up close and personal, a bottle of wine, dinner… For me, splurging on a meal is like spending $100 for 2 people. If I make it something special, I could see spending $150-$200. But beyond that? I have no idea what I’d want to use the money for! I’ve gotten pretty much all the stuff I really need.

What do I not have that I’ve been salivating over? I have all my expensive cookware (le creuset pots ain’t cheap!) and kitchen motorized tools. I did talk about getting a $350 ice cream maker, but since I’m now in dietmaven mode, I’m not really wanting to have a machine that makes fatty non-nutritous, weightgain-inducing indulgent food! How about some nice new clothes? Um, I have enough jeans and shirts for work and home. I have all the exercise clothes I currently need that I am willing to purchase, and to be honest, I expect to be losing 5+ lbs a month for quite a while. Clothes are a poor investment right now! I could use some expensive workout bras ($50 a pop), but I have 2 that I am currently not using since they are just a “tad” too small. I will lose weight and fit into them soon, so spending more is a waste.

I do need some new sneakers. That’s $100, but there’s room in my budget for that. Hmm. Art? Nothing that I currently want by my favorite sculptor (she’s between clay firings right now anyway). A trip somewhere? I suppose I could afford a trip up to Whistler up in BC for several days of snowshoeing and hiking. I need to renew my passport though, it expired on my birthday last year.

So the things I am already planning on spending money on in the next few months:

Renew my passport: $75-100? (no idea on cost, but need a new photo, too)
New sneakers: $100 (in March)
New jeans: Planning on going to the thrift store this weekend ($30 or so) – I just got rid of 2 pairs that were serviceable but fit me poorly and didn’t look all that attractive. They are hanging a little too much now that I’ve lost about 10 lbs, and it’s time to get rid of ’em!
Fixing up my old all-purpose bike: $60 (new tires, new inner tubes, probably nothing else but elbow grease) – I’m comfortable on this bike, and I want to go for some big rides this summer. If I have something I’ll ride, I’m much more likely to go out for a 2 hour ride on the weekend than without it. It’s part of my exercise goals to have more non-gym activities to do.
Fixing up my “new” roadbike: I got my first roadbike (used from the ’80s) 2 years ago and have been too scared to ride it! It needs new handlebars + moving the brakelines up to the handlebars from the riser (reaching down to shift gears when I’m really not very stable or comfortable on the bike is really scary – it’s an oldschool bike!) – this will make me able to use it safely and confidently. Whether or not I can adjust to the position of a road bike is yet to be determined. But once I get in shape and lose some in my belly area, I hope it that hunched over position becomes more comfortable. We shall see!
New tires for my truck (2 front ones) – already in the budget; I’ve saved $300 for it already, need to do in the next few weeks

Hmm. It’s wierd. When I don’t have money, I want all this STUFF. If I wait and think about it (since I don’t have money for it, as all my income is already earmarked until the last week of the month), eventually the desire wains and I realize that I don’t really need it. But then when I have money, I can’t figure out what to use it for. If I can think of something, I feel like I’ve been working at trying to spend money I don’t need to spend! Does that make sense?

What would you do if you came into a windfall?

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The journey continues…

November 20, 2010 at 10:17 am (spending habits)

While I haven’t been posting regularly to this blog, I am still fully committed to my debt reduction journey. If you visit regularly, you will notice that I continue to update my stats monthly and keep trying to pay $500-$700 beyond the basic interest charges.

I had been hoping to just magically pull out enough money (from somewhere, I don’t know where) to pay off all my non-SBA debts by the end of the year, but that was not based in reality, it just seemed nice and neat – only one debt left at the start of the new year. Since last summer, I have plotted payoff of all my BECU debts by February 2011, and I am on track to do that. (You’ll note that my BECU debts are only from rolling over debts from my higher rate debts to zero-interest cards, which then ended, so I opened even lower normal loands/cards at my new bank). All of these fussy “shuffle-debts” as I think of them, will be eliminated in just 2-3 months!

I haven’t consciously been doing my budget in a spreadsheet, but I still stick to it. I get paid bi-monthly. The first paycheck goes to rent, and my mini-fund savings (car expenses, pet expenses), and a few bills. The second paycheck I immediately make a several hundred dollar payment towards whatever highest interest rate debt I currently have, and pay a bunch of bills due at the end of the month (internet, netflix, gas, cell phone). If there is extra money left over at the end of the month, I may pay additional towards debt. I still avoid buying big ticket items (which are ones in the $100-$200 range) if I can help it, or at least spread them out so they are not all in the same month, and try to limit my “art” buying to $100-$150/month. I haven’t travelled anywhere, nor made vacation plans.

What I have bought continues to be part of my budget. I have been buying more clothes in the last 3-4 months than I have in a long while, but I typically go to Macy’s and get items ONLY if they are heavily discounted or on sale, or wait to use an in-store discount card. I have also made the rounds of thrift-stores lately, supplementing my wardrobe as needed. I even found an amazing consignment store that has items that fit me (I am just slightly larger than the “normal” sizes, so getting good quality items that fit my style and size can be a most difficult challenge, when not shopping new). I don’t feel like I have been shopping extravegantly. I finally have enough clothes to wear more than the same 5 outfits every week at work before having to do laundry, which *feels* extravegant, but is simply wonderful and reduces a basic stress.

I am an avid and heavy reader and I continue to not buy new books (I do occasionally break down and get one if I’m going on a trip and need something to keep me company), but not very often. And as always, food is my biggest downfall. I eat out more than I should. I don’t scrimp when it comes to shopping – I get quality ingredients, often natural meats and sometimes organic produce. I rarely get packaged food.

So. What I’m trying to explain is that while I may not be visible on this blog as much as I used to be, I still follow the spirit of my journey. I feel like the cost-saving daily acitivities are more instinct now and don’t need as much conscious thought. I may be spending a little more than I should in some areas, but I feel comfortable with my progress and when I’ll get to the end of the road, being debt free!!!

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Brand loyalty & buying a car or truck

February 18, 2010 at 10:48 am (Being Frugal, spending habits, truck) ()

I’ve been thinking a lot about brand loyalty and cars lately. You can’t escape the issues with the Toyota recalls right now and the tarnish to their reputation. NPR had a recent story in which they interviewed some Toyota retailers to see how it was affecting them (if you guessed “badly”, you win a gold star!). One thing they discussed was that first time Toyota purchasers were the ones most upset. Repeat buyers were ok with the hit to the car manufacturer’s image. They were still loyal, and able to overlook this little “bump in the road.” It seemed to me as though their critical thinking was clouded by brand loyalty.

I’ve also been reading a bit of The Millionaire Next Door. There was a whole section (way too long and involved in my opinion, but still educational) about the habits of people that were considered millionaires and their car buying habits. It was broken into those that bought new cars vs. those that bought used cars. The question of loyalty came up a bit there as well. Some were loyal to a particular dealership (in part due to networking and returning business to their own clients that were dealers, or family members that owned dealerships). This held true for both the new car buyers and the used car buyers.

Then we come to me. I have very little brand loyalty. I would never ever purchase a new car. To prove my point, here is a list of all the vehicles I have driven:

  • 1989: Nissan Sentra (my only new car, but it was a gift from my parents, and I didn’t own it; this lasted for 18 months when my parents sold it).
  • 1991: Toyota Tercel hatchback (bought used at a dealership – this was before craigslist)
  • 1995: 1995 new Toyota Camry (leased; the tercel was traded in; I didn’t want it, but my husband of the time wanted me to have one, and I didn’t know any better).
  • 1996: 1986 Saab turbo hatchback (I had an accident and totaled the Camry – the Saab quickly became my favorite car ever, I still miss it).
  • 2002: 1997 Subaru outback (my beloved Saab was stolen, I upgraded to a more rugged off-road vehicle since I was doing a lot of wilderness hiking down long, unpaved sketchy roads)
  • 2007: 1998 Nissan Frontier truck (yet another accident, not my fault, and the Subaru  was totaled)

As you can see, I’ve run the gamut of vehicles. Other than leased vehicle, every car/truck I’ve purchased I have bought outright, with cash, and with no accompanying car payments. I can’t see dropping $20K+ on a vehicle, only to have it drop in value right away. I also hold the belief that all the new-fangled electronics on cars make it more challenging and expensive to repair, and less reliable when it comes to needing mechanical attention.

When making my most recent vehicle purchase, I will admit that I tried getting a replacement Subaru outback. However, the value that the insurance company gave me did not quite equal the value of what it cost to get a similar Subaru (they are the de rigueur in the Pacific Northwest). Rather than pay more out of pocket, which I couldn’t afford to do (please note that this was before I discovered living within my means, frugality, budgeting, and the importance of having an emergency fund), I began searching for a slightly less expensive option. Based on my needs (cargo space, camping, rural driving expeditions, plus sleeping in the vehicle on occasion), I ended up looking for a pickup truck with a cab. I was open to a Toyota, Nissan or other similar reputable option that had good safety and repair records. I will also admit I’m still a little biased against American vehicles.

I’m happy with my Nissan Frontier. It’s a good basic vehicle. It doesn’t have the most amazing power (I drive in the right lane up hills and little old ladies pass me), it doesn’t get nearly the gas mileage that J’s Honda does, but it’s reliable for its age, it does what I need it to, and best of all, it’s Paid in Full.

What kind of vehicle will I get next? Who knows. I might go for gas mileage, or maybe go for a vintage cool car with a rebuilt engine (J wants to get an old 50s GMC/Chevy/Ford truck and refurb it, which is still way cheaper than a new inexpensive car). We’ll see, but either way, I’ll still research safety & repair costs, troll for deals on prices, and make sure I have enough to pay for it all up front in cash.

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Stuck to my xmas budget

December 27, 2009 at 8:43 am (spending habits) (, )

Well, it’s the second day after the  biggest gift-giving day of the year, and I’m happy to report I stuck within my $500 budget, just barely!

At the beginning of 2009, when I thought about saving up a gift/xmas budget, I didn’t really consider that I would be buying a big tree, a tree stand, lights for the tree and outside decorations, nor all the ornaments (we had to swap from traditional delicate things with hooks to kitten-safe things with string). I didn’t know that I would have moved from my artist studio to a house. Even with all of that, and a few small gifts I got for friends, I still managed to stay within budget. No need to go extravagent! I got a few smaller good gifts and one larger $100+ one. It was even enough to pay for shipping my big box of gift to my east coast family.

I think next year, however, I need to increase my budget a bit. I think I need to put away $50/month. This expense catagory should also include all gifts I give all year, for birthdays, etc. I don’t get a ton of stuff, but I’ll probably spend about $100 on J’s birthday, plus a few smaller $20-30 gifts for 2 or 3 friends.

I’m behind on budget keeping for December. A big problem is buying a bunch of stuff with cash – I had difficulty getting to the bank the past week, so had to relie on cash for some of myitems, since I didn’t have time to cash my 2nd paycheck, and gift-giving money was a wad of cash tucked away. I will definitely be addressing this this coming year by opening a credit-union account with multiple savings accounts! That way I won’t have to worry about big wads of cash at home.

I also recognized that as xmas got closer, and as I was involved in the shopping experience with the crowds, and being around my co-workers and friends as they were getting ready, I felt more generous and less thrifty! Bad bad bad! It was a difficult feeling to handle, sticking to a budget, and not going whole hog on things. I had to give myself extra time at shops to talk myself out of purchases. Doing a bunch of online shopping comparisons also helped – it reined in impulse buys, since I needed to do research (sometimes over multiple days), which stopped that immediate “pay now” response.

Overall, I’m pleased with my shopping and spending performance. I fit a few extra purchases in that I hadn’t really been thinking about; I wasn’t a scrouge; and I still managed to get lots of good things, at some of the best prices in and out of town.

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Equality of gift giving?

December 2, 2009 at 9:00 am (spending habits)

Growing up, my extended family was generous with the gifts I received (must have been the fact that I was an only grandchild for 13  years). I worked throughout my teenage years and had a lot of disposable income. I guess I got in the habit of buying nice gifts for family. Fast forward to my current relationship.

Last year J and I exchanged limited gifts; we kept the spending down since we both had limited funds. I was in poor financial straights, coming to terms with my debt, putting a rein on my spending, and beginning the budget process. This year isn’t too much different – I still am maintaining a limit to my spending, but the big difference is that I have been budgetting for a full year and have put money aside for the holidays. For J, it’s no different from last year. He is still living paycheck to paycheck, and with an increase in his bills (rent at our new house), he is sure to not have lots of disposable income available.

We’re both mad about cooking and kitchen stuff (only the useful things, not the gadgets). There are a lot of things that we both want and need that match up. There are also a bunch of things I know he needs and wants that I could get him, but they are a little extravagent, compared to what he’ll get me. Should I just limit myself to smaller gifts, or should I splurge on something nice (he’s been desperate for an external hard drive, about $125) plus a few assorted other things?

Does anyone else weigh the disparity or equality of the gifts your partner will be giving in making your gift choices? Am I callous to even consider limiting myself to matching his budget? I think I already know what I’m going to do, but I’m curious how any of you might be handling this…

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Update on last 3 months

October 22, 2009 at 2:42 pm (spending habits)

I have gotten off-track the last 2 months, not having paid anything extra towards debt in August or September. But I’m making up this month with a relative vengeance. Oh, and my current debt totals are up to date on the side-bar.

August I bought a semi-expensive digital camera for $600 and went on a mini-vacation/photo trip to Montana. Spent about $1200 total including film (much of it left over), food, motels, and of course, gas! I used part of my (previously paid-off) Personal Line of Credit to pay for this, partially to keep the account active so they wouldn’t cancel it or reduce the limit.

September saw me buying some clothes. I *finally* found a winter coat I liked; I’ve been looking for 3 years. Grand total, $311. I didn’t quite have that money in my mini-funds, so most of it is being paid off by me not paying towards my debt.

October didn’t start so well. My boyfriend had a big birthday. A friend made plans to go to a nearby city and have a big weekend (plans made and agreed upon between them, before I even got involved). I couldn’t not go, and truth be told I wanted to, but staying in an expensive hotel, going out to eat/drink all throughout the weekend, and the gas, completely didn’t help. Since it was the beginning of October, it falls into my September budget (which goes through Oct. 5, the day I get my first Oct. paycheck). So the crashing and burning only went for 2 months, and didn’t get extended into October! Small mercies, right?

Which brings us to this month. I lost a full paycheck day to being sick (my sick leave is now kaput) with a nasty 5-day flu. There are some short 10-day paycheck periods coming up, and I am trying to hoard my vacation time (it’s now about 36 hours). I have been trying to keep from going food-shopping all the time. That has been a downfall in the past. You know, the quick trip to pick up one item that turns into like 5-10, and that $5 purchase balloons into $30. A few extra of these every week and Whoa! Nelly! What a huge ding on your food budget. Well, at least that’s how it works at my house.

So I’ve been sticking with the food I have purchased. I tend to get bored with the same food over and over, but it’s a habit I’m trying to deal with. I ran out of goat cheese. Rather than go to Costco to buy more (it goes great on salads), I’ve been doing without. I’ve been making a little bag of baby cukes go into 4 side dishes rather than go buy something new. I’ve been foraging out of our p-patch garden for things. If I’m out of fresh bread, I use crackers as a snack instead. So far this month it’s been working really well. It’s something I definitely need to keep on top of regularly however.

I’ve also been curtailing the restaurant spending at night and cooking at home. I haven’t gone out for lunch in quite some time. I did buy a bunch of cheap frozen meals < $3.50, which I supplement with a piece of fruit, oatmeal as a mid-morning breakfast, nuts, that kind of thing. I still get a hot chocolate or other coffee beverage, but that’s really gotten cut down. I do this maybe 2-3 times max per week. I wish I could cut this more, but I’m at least going out less to coffee shops on the weekend. Coffee at home has definitely been the savior.

So I’m getting back on track. I avoided tracking money since I was doing so badly at saving the last 2 months, but I’ve at least gotten everything put into my excel spreadsheet. I’m doing really good this month! I’m proud of myself. Now, if I can only keep on track. Where are my blinders?

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Gotta get serious again

May 3, 2009 at 9:22 am (budget, spending habits)

I think I’m getting lazy and resting on my laurels a little too much lately. I’ve recently posted about a bunch of big purchases ($200-$600) that I’ve needed; those I don’t regret purchasing. But I’ve noticed that I’ve been easing off the debt/budget bandwagon and spending more than I ought to. I haven’t been getting serious about prepping food in advance for when I need meals outside of home. I’ve been splurging too much at restaurants. I’m buying more stuff than I need when I go to the grocery store.

My budget for the past 2 months definitely reflect that. I’m over, not a ton, but enough where it impacts how much extra I put towards debt, probably about $100 or so. A comment on a recent post about being ok taking 5 years to pay off my debt chided me for not needing quite that long, and ya know, they’re right!

If I think about every day, no, I didn’t have to buy that $4.75 (tip included) mocha when I got up late and didn’t have time to make coffee at home – I could have sucked up the semi-bad (but free) drip coffee at work and dealt with it. No, I didn’t have to go pick up a fast food burger and fry. I could have had something small, carried it with me, gone to my photo lab assistance gig and come home at 9:30 and had a late dinner.

I’ve got to tighten up my minor spending habits – I’m doing ok on the bigger stuff, but the small stuff, yes, I need to sweat it more than I do! I think this is going to be my biggest hurdle in following a budget – I don’t really. I use it as a rule of thumb and then oh well, I’m over this month. That has to change. It will be hard, and I guarantee you’ll be reading more about this in the future.

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Marathon, not a sprint (my extra monthly spending)

April 21, 2009 at 8:22 am (spending habits) ()

I have bought things  in the past few months that I haven’t budgetted for. Really, it’s not surprising. Prior to starting my debt payoff journey in October, I had spent most of last year denying myself things and saying I couldn’t possibly afford to buy things. So I didn’t!

Since December, however, along with thinking carefully about my spending habits, and being so focused on spending and saving, I realized that even though I was trying to save, there were things I really did need to purchase. So I spent lots of time researching how to extend my buying power, which is something I never used to do.

Almost every month I’ve spent an extra $200-600. In December I finally replaced my 5+ year old clunky half-broken computer ($615). In February I bought a used road bike ($200). Last month I signed up for an art class to help push my photography in new directions (tuition cost: $0 – I am doing work trade for the $630 cost). The class materials will be very high, so I expect to spend $250-300 by the time the class is over.

Mixed in with that, my art show spending has been significant. Framing costs for a show in March ($200), postcards ($50), and an upcoming show, $330 (I overspent this month due to an unexpected 15% coupon for custom framing – I’m buying everything I expected to buy during the summer now to maximize my savings) for matting for some frames I’ll be using this year. I expect this will continue to be a high expense and I have recently upped my budget to $100/month for photo spending. I should probably make it $200.

Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and ordered Photoshop CS3 for my new computer. I have a really old version, but I can’t load it on my new computer, since the OS is too fancy. I had been avoiding the purchase, since a new copy costs about $650, but now that CS4 is out, there are deals to be had. I bought a copy for $146! This is on my credit card, since I purchased it on the internet and I refuse to use a debit card there. That expense will hit the May budget.

As for future spending, the only thing I can foresee is a trip to Alaska ($300-400 max), but I’m trying not to do that to save the money (I’d like to go, but it’s more my bf’s family obligation).

Is my spending out of control? I don’t think so. I guess I look at this debt payoff journey as a long, maintainable system, rather than a sacrifice everything and live on the minimal edge to pay off debt as quickly as possible. You know, a marathon, not a sprint. I am still paying $400 extra a month on debt, beyond the minimum payments. I am going to try and bump it up to $500 this month and going forward. I still think I will beat my deadline of May 2014, but I won’t sweat it if I do it slowly.

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