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Spending Freeze

Eight months down, four to go! I GOT THIS.

(Just in case you’re new, the whole idea here is that I’m spending the year only purchasing essentials: groceries, rent, gas, etc. I have now done this for eight months and sometimes think I deserve a medal for being so awesome. Other times I think maybe I shouldn’t consider my one Dr.Pepper can a day habit to be “essential”…)

August was a really interesting month. I did a few odd jobs to make a little extra cash. I did a little pet sitting and one afternoon of babysitting. It added to my schedule and required a higher level of organization than I am used to, but I enjoyed all of it. Hanging out with adorable cats and funny dogs and well-behaved children (not necessarily at the same time) while getting paid? Yes, please! Easy on me, fun, and great for my bank account. Those are the best kind of jobs. And, as it turns out, it was very much needed this month.

Why did I need extra monies?

Logan’s truck, which for reasons unknown he loves like most people love their first-born, was breaking in half. Literally. I do not mean literally in the new grammatically incorrect sense that somehow actually means figuratively, a habit I find repulsive even though I have been guilty. I mean literally. The frame was rusting in two. The bed was starting to rest against the cab, and it was in danger of falling off. Nobody really wanted to fix it either. They weren’t even sure it was possible, and if it was possible they said the rust will return and kill his truck eventually. Here’s photo evidence so you can see the impending death of this hunk of metal:

This would be the frame nicely cracking in half.

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Is it better on the other side of the frame? Why, no! It’s almost entirely rust.

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We finally found a gentleman who would fix it. He was a saint. I would have asked for his picture if that wouldn’t have seemed creepy. He cut us a deal and gave the truck a little longer life while we save up to replace her. Fun fact: I learned during this process that Logan’s truck is a girl even though her name is Oliver. Who knew?

That repair cost all the extra money I made this month plus a little dip into savings. It was a good lesson for me in having a healthy emergency fund, and I’m thankful we were able to fix this with cash on short notice. No credit cards for us! But it means my savings for August was $0. Disappointing, but I’m grateful too. It would have been so much worse if we would have had to charge the fix or not been able to pay for it at all!

In other August news, I am realizing how lucky I am to live in a place where there’s something interesting and FREE to do every single weekend. At least, that’s how it’s worked out so far! I never feel stuck in my house. There is always something going on (farmer’s market, random little festivals, free music, etc.) or some new place to explore. This little beauty was taken at a local wildlife refuge that we wandered around one afternoon!

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We’ve somehow occupied every free day up to this point, and we haven’t even made it to the mountains yet. With fall coming, it’s moving higher and higher on our to-do list. Anybody know any great places to go?

For the sake of honesty, Logan bought me food at a real live restaurant this month. Twice. I will have to admit, we were like relapsing addicts and may have done it again once in September. Falling off the wagon is so easy! I don’t think he regrets it, though. I can’t say I blame him considering he pretty much cooks all of our (edible) meals. I am the one that actually goes to the store, though. Since neither of us like that chore, I consider us to be even.

Eight months into this little Spending Freeze, and I have started to feel a little stuck. I am still saving, but not as much as I was before thanks to taking a pay cut to move. I have cut out everything I know to cut. I don’t buy new clothes. I don’t eat out (unless someone else buys). I pack my lunch and snacks for work every single day. I have learned to avoid shopping malls and the fun sections of Target. I don’t buy gifts. I run errands logically to save on gas. I’m learning to buy groceries based on sales and promotions. What else can I do?

A friend sent me a link to a website called Mr.MoneyMustache. He is my financial guru hero. Seriously, that little gray underline on his name is a link and you should click it. I put it there because I love you and think you should read everything he has to say. If you are interested in all things frugal and like someone with a little more zest and fewer kitchy catch-phrases than Dave Ramsey, you should seriously spend some time checking him out. I have been reading through all his blog posts for the past month or so, thinking about my financial goals, and realizing that this Spending Freeze has turned into a lifestyle for me as opposed to a year long experiment. (Did I just admit that this project has changed how I look at money? It has. We should talk about that sometime.)

I am trying to soak up what he has to say and am still reading through it, but I did take one itsy bitsy teeny tiny step this month recommended by MMM. (He refers to himself as MMM for short. Since we’re friends because he’s my new idol, I call him that too.) I set up a clothesline in my backyard! I would show you a picture for proof, but it feels weird to literally put my laundry on the internet. Plus it’s dark outside. I built in myself from stuff we had lying around, hung my very first load of laundry, and proudly texted my mother. She promptly killed all my joy by telling me the one and only time she used a clothesline, her laundry came back in the house with infested with spiders. (shudders) My laundry was fine, thank goodness. Assuming I can figure out how to hang a line in the house this winter without damaging the hardwood floors, I’m excited about this money saving domestic habit. Do you have any other ideas? Big or small, it’s crunch time on this Spending Freeze, and I’m willing to try anything!

Next month the savings is going to go up for sure because (drumroll!), I’ve got a second job! An insanely adorable, you’re going to be super jealous job. You’ll have to check back for the September recap for news on that!

P.S. I’m over 50% to my goal! Check it out! :)

I drafted a June recap all by itself, and then… life happened. Sorry folks. I have no good excuse. So here I am, writing about two months in one!

First of all, let me remind you that I am OVER HALFWAY THROUGH THIS SPENDING FREEZE! Holy Hades, who would have ever thought that would happen? In February, I just knew this was going to be the slowest year of my life.

It’s not.

It may be the fastest.

To help keep my head on straight about my wants/needs for the house, I made a list of them to help me prioritize where my money ought to go. At the top of my list: futon/pull-out couch. We really want people to be able to stay with us now that we actually have a little space.

The list has been really helpful. It keeps me focused if I decide to browse Craigslist or stop in an antique store. If I get distracted by pretty dishes or an awesome old crate, I have something physical to look at to remind me where my money needs to be spent. What I’ve allowed myself to classify as a need and not just a want. (Although, pretty dishes might ought to make my needs list. Right now we only own two plates…)

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Our only two plates. His & hers! You would not believe how many times I can wash these in one day.

But in other ways, the list is kind of terrible. It’s this written reminder I glance at ALL THE TIME of things I feel like I need but can’t afford. It taunts me. Oh, you want to buy me? Haha! Too bad. It makes me feel awful. It makes me want to buy a lottery ticket. It makes me want to break out the credit card.

I look at that sneaky little list and feel like I deserve everything on it. I deserve dining room chairs, right? I did buy this chair at an antique store in Clinton, TN. Now Logan and I both have a place to sit at the dining room table! Not that we ever sit at the dining room table. Our two chairs are on the porch 99% of the time. You know, because we’re southern. And people in the South do this thing called porch sittin’ while they drink sweet tea. It’s awesome, ya’ll.

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But back to feeling like I deserve things. My income is tiny right now, and I’m putting it where I really want it to go. First it’s going to pay my bills and put food in my mouth. Then it’s going straight to savings to help fund my volunteer adventure in Kenya. And when I can remember that clearly, I know it’s more important than patio furniture and extra plates. It’s really hard to remember, though.

That’s why I’m working on my “deserve” language. Not to go all Physch 101 on you, but it makes a big difference for me. When I see cute sandals on sale or a sundress on clearance, I stop myself from having a little pity party. I try to stop myself from thinking, “I work hard, and I deserve these sandals” and remind myself, “I deserve to go on this trip”. A little reframing works wonders.

I’m not saying I’m great at it or that I never, ever sink into the “pity mes!”, but I’m getting better.

When things start to get a little rough, something always comes along to help. I’d stopped looking at futon options because I was never finding something I wanted. I would get discouraged, look at what the big box stores offered, cringe at what they cost, and get frustrated. So I gave myself a break. I stopped checking everyday on Craigslist. I would rather not look for a futon and not have one than look daily and feel discouraged. Then, one day, when I was having a good day and not being the queen of my own pity party, I searched Craigslist. I’ve learned not to browse right now – I see too many things I want, and that’s a fast way to throw on my pity party hat.

And I found this:

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I am in love. Does it smell like it’s been in your great-grandmother’s basement for the past several decades? Yes. Yes it does. It smells even after we let it air out in the back of Logan’s truck for a day. If you have tips on how to get rid of the antique store smell, I’ll take them. Otherwise, it’s perfect. (To be fair to the futon, I should mention Logan likes the smell.)

The beginning of June also brought our two year anniversary. We decided the best present for each of us would just be to have a real date where we didn’t have to be all creative and think of something free to do besides sit on the couch and stare at each other. We went classic: dinner and a movie. I bought dinner. He bought the movie. Those were the only gifts exchanged, and it was wonderful. A dinner where we don’t have to wash our two plates? A movie that’s not on our tv screen? It’s not hard to please us these days.

See? This is us being super pleased by a normal date.

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Now, on to the actual savings. The move has really set me back. By February of the Spending Freeze, the money I made one month went to pay the next month’s bills. I was not living paycheck to paycheck for the first time ever. I’ve gotten behind on that, and my savings isn’t growing as fast as it once was.

But I haven’t quit.

In June, I put back $188.

In July, thanks largely in part to an overnight extremely generous babysitting job, I put back $366.

It’s discouraging to not see the big numbers I was seeing at the beginning of the year. That was the risk I took though, moving cities, moving into a house, taking a lower paying job. It sucks sometimes, but I am happier now than I have ever been. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s worth it.

Five more months to go.

Do you remember how, in February, I liked looking at my bank account and daydreaming about how much money I’d be able to move into savings at the end of the month? Let’s just say that did not happen in May. I avoided looking at my bank account almost the entire month.

May involved renting a U-Haul and paying rent at two places. May had us trying to eat healthy meals in the house when we were simultaneously trying to clear out the refrigerator but didn’t want to eat out… which we failed at once. It also had us trying to make healthy meals after the move when we couldn’t locate the kitchen utensils required to eat said food. We ate out once again.

So I don’t need a drumroll for my May savings. The truth is I saved $0. Or at least, I haven’t moved any money into savings yet, and I’m pretty sure everything there (and a little I haven’t earned yet) will be used for June’s bills.

And I am ok with that.

Why? Because except for those two meals out, and maybe even those, all the money I spent was necessary. We moved. Moves are expensive. I did not have to bust into my savings to do it, and at the very least, I am proud of that.

Now, however, I’m venturing into the realm of needs vs. wants for the new house. Our new house is awesome. We have a front porch, something all people who’ve lived in a one bedroom apartment for two years absolutely crave. I love hanging out there. See?

Why yes, that is me sitting on the porch cappin’ strawberries! Why am I sitting on the ground? Because Logan had our one and only chair to stand on and pick mulberries beside the house. But a little thing like lack of furniture isn’t going to keep me from enjoying the sunshine on my new porch! So… does that make porch furniture a want  versus a need if I don’t require furniture to sit there?

Example: I felt like we needed a coffee table. We eat all our meals in the living room (more on that later), so the coffee table is kind of THE table. However, we didn’t want to pay for one. Right now we’re making do with this:

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Why, yes, that is a window pane sitting on two old metal milk crates, thanks for noticing. It works just fine.

Green chair needed a side table where I could sit my Dr.Peppers, so I made up this:

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It’s kind of hard to see… but it’s just a pile of books with an old metal card catalog on top. I bet you’re jealous of my decoratin’ skillz.

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I could still use a side table for my side of the bed though, and we desperately want/need (which is it?!) a futon for the “office” because we want to be able to semi-comfortably host friends and family. Remember how I said we eat all our meals in the living room? Well, that’s partly because we habitually watch King of the Hill on Netflix while we eat, but it’s also because we don’t own dining room chairs. We have the table though! That has to count for something!

That chair I mentioned earlier is actually the only chair we own, and therefore it gets moved around a lot. I love it. I have an excessive fondness for furniture that once lived in a classroom. So far it’s sat on the front porch, in the back patio-ish area, in the kitchen, and in the dining room, depending on where I feel like sitting. Also, it was free, which gives it an even more special place in my heart.

I have curtains for the bedroom, but I have been putting off buying curtain rods because I keep thinking these would be so much cheaper…

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Photo/Idea by AshleyAnn Campbell

Yes, those are tree limbs. Cut, sanded, and spray painted. Frankly, I think it’s genius.

Then one day I got a migraine and needed a blacked out room, so Logan hung up our curtains with thumbtacks. Is it pretty? No. Is it functional? Yes. So I’ve put off buying curtain rods and/or scrounging for sticks in the yard, and I’m still debating between needs and wants for this place.

I’m so determined to save some money in June – pay cut, furniture shopping, moving expenses and all.  So I’m focusing hard on making do with what I have and not buying things unless they are a legitimate need, and I’m trying to make a little extra money. (Need a babysitter? Ask me!) June is going to be a good month!

April recap at almost the end of May! Better late than never, right?

April was hard. Some parts of being on month four of the Spending Freeze made it easier. I’m very used to packing my lunch every day and searching my cabinets for food rather than going out – in that way I feel confident. However, not buying clothes in wonderful warm spring time is not easy. My closet is about 75% spring/summer clothing and 25% winter clothing – I don’t like winter clothes, so I own less of them and don’t like shopping for them. Springy clothes are different. They’re fun and pretty and call to me from the racks. Seriously, they yell at me when I walk by. I also own a lot of them and don’t need anymore, regardless of my Spending Freeze. So when Logan and I went shopping because he needed new shorts, I made us walk a weird and long route to the men’s section just to avoid the sundresses. And swim suits. And skirts. And tank tops.

April was also hard in terms of unexpected expenses. I got a speeding ticket ($105). I needed to take a few surprise road trips that ate up a LOT of gas. I put in a deposit on a new place to live (!!!) that took up a sizable chunk of what would have ordinarily gone to savings, and I haven’t yet received my deposit back from my former residence.

What? you say. You moved? YES, WE DID. I am a new resident of Knoxville, and I love it!

And this leads me to the best thing I’ve learned from the Spending Freeze so far: I can live on less. I had been wanting to move for a while, and then I was offered a position that does not pay as much as where I was. While the pay is not appealing, the position is, and I knew I could live on that salary. So I took it. Freedom!

The move took place the first full week of May, so most of the moving expenses are in glaring red pen bleeding all over my May budget. I’m a little nervous about how that is going to turn out. In the meantime though, back to April savings!

Despite the hefty deposit and all that driving to Knoxville and back to figure out work and living arrangements, I managed to save $435! [Insert ca-ching cash register noise here, please.]

The hard part now is resisting going out to all of my favorite Knoxville/Maryville restaurants and bars. Wish me luck on that one. The other hard part is not buying a ton of stuff for our new place. Anybody have some old patio furniture to donate to the good cause of Rebekah-wants-to-sit-outside-on-her-new-porch? :) Sure, it’ll be tough, but I am oh so excited!

Goodbye March! You were fun and all, but I’m excited to have you done and move onto (hopefully) Spring. I am thinking that not buying things will be a little easier when I can go outside for entertainment.

I’VE GOT CABIN FEVER.

(If you click that link and don’t know what it is, I am sorry for you and your childhood.)

I had a couple of goals for March. I got a little distracted on the first one of finding two ways to make extra money, but it was a worthwhile-in-the-long-run distraction. Hopefully I’ll get to tell you about it soon. My second goal was to celebrate the boyfriend’s birthday cheaply. I did bake him brownies, buuut I think I ate more of them than he did. And I gave him a gift card to Amazon that I EARNED (not bought) by filling out surveys/answering questions/etc. on Swagbucks. BUT I didn’t really enjoy giving it. I really like giving gifts, not giftcards. I especially love finding that perfect item that just makes someone happy. In the end I felt so guilty, I set a budget for a night out celebrating his birthday, which turned out to be a lot of fun. (However, my nieces have already been informed they’re getting nothing but hugs for their birthdays. I am trusting to my siblings portrayal of me as their “super weird, liberal, tree hugging, makes us all recycle aunt” to cover for me. Thanks, siblings. Who knew it would ever be useful for them to think I’m so odd?) My third goal was to resist a haircut, and I’m happy to say I was successful. My short hair is starting to get those weird flip out hairs on the side and in the back, though, so I don’t know if I can last much longer.

So, let’s get to the savings! Reminder: In January, I saved $208. In February, I saved $345 – which, just to brag, was almost a quarter of my income for the month. Who knew that was even possible? Not me! (Also, if you do that math, you’ll realize I don’t make a whole lot for a girl working two jobs.) Well, for March, I kinda blew that out of the water. I would really like to brag about it too, but the truth is March is one of those strange but exciting months where I got three paychecks even though I’m budgeted on two. So the third went straight to savings. (This happens twice a year on my biweekly paycheck schedule, but somehow in the past it never felt like extra because I just spent all my money until I got more of it.)

Drumroll, please:

I saved $865 in March!

I’m not usually one for multiple exclamation points, so please excuse this.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I’m done now.

I’m a quarter way through this thing, and some things have changed these past three months. I will never go back to buying my lunch out every day. I miss Pal’s french fries, but not enough to go back to paying for them. I imagine post-spending freeze me might pick them up as a treat once in a while but not every day. Packing and planning for lunch is now a part of my morning routine that I will keep. I’m really working on cutting down the excess in my life (starting with my closet) and have been reading minimalist blogs and books and articles. I’m thinking about doing Project 333 soon. (Google it.) My favorite, though, is learning how much less I can live on without really feeling like I’m missing out on anything. Cheesy? Yes. But it’s true.

One thing I still consider a bit of a splurge is my Dr.Pepper one-can-a-day habit. It’s my coffee, people, my Starbucks, my sanity. I’m not giving it up just yet, although I have a bad feeling I’ll decide to at some point this year. I did stand next to the end cap full of cases debating whether I wanted the one with the $1 off coupon for the Dr.Pepper or the one with the free Redbox rental code. One the one hand, I need to keep my grocery bill down. On the other, renting movies is a “want”, and I could finally rent “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (which was a great book but I’m not sold it’ll be a great movie). I had a little internal struggle in front of that end cap before making the responsible choice, only to have the cashier inform me a short time later that the coupon was only for Orange Crush.

She wasn’t going to accept the coupon directly on the case of Dr.Pepper that said “$1 off now” that I peeled off and handed to her.

Remember how I said couponers are often rude and that needs to be avoided at all costs? I had an inner battle right there in front of her. I stuttered and felt like the little angel and devil were waging war on my shoulders. I believe this gave me a glazed look because she started rambling. She talked about how the “guys in the back went coupon crazy and slapped them on everything”. In what was actually a nice voice, I told her the Snapple group owns Orange Crush and Dr.Pepper. I love Dr.Pepper enough to actually know that fact thanks to a powerpoint I made on the drink in a computer class in high school. Dedication to my beverage. Pretty sure she really thought I was insane after that, and together we must have looked awkward enough for her manager to approach — who told her to accept the coupon. She actually said, “Don’t you ever listen to anything I say? I told you when your shift started we were accepting these. You never listen to anything.” I’m not even exaggerating. The situation went from awkward to highly tense. However, I got my coupon without breaking my own moral code! Success.

I more than doubled what I saved in March!

I’ve done this for three months and am doing well!

Now onto April!

I find myself talking about my Spending Freeze a lot. I don’t mean to be THAT girl, but if you ask me what’s going on, I end up rambling about it because that’s where my brain and energy and everything is. I’m working, saving money, and fundraising. And it almost never fails that people respond by telling me, “I could never do that” or “I do not have that self-control”.

For all of those people, I am here today to make you feel better.

I give you a list of things I CANNOT do:

  • hang up my clothes/put them in the hamper immediately
  • stick to an exercise routine… or exercise period
  • cook meals that don’t come in a box or frozen
  • send food back in a restaurant when it’s obviously undercooked or not my order
  • be on time
  • remember to wear deodorant (but don’t worry, I carry a travel size stick of it in my purse)

I am stubborn, but I do not have amazing self-control or discipline. I make deals with myself all the time to try to improve. Last spring, when new sundresses hit the stores, I made a “hang-up-your-clothes-for-30-days-in-a-row-and-you-can-buy-a-new-dress” deal. I managed to do it (and still love that dress), but clothes started piling up again on day 31. I’ve made similar bargains with myself about exercise with less success. Much less.

I’m slowly, s l o w l y, trying to learn to cook. (The one meal I can claim with success in in the slow cooker right now! And if you tell me throwing things in a slow cooker doesn’t really count as cooking, I’ll punch you in the face. Give me my little victory!) In February, I chopped my first onion. Seriously, first time ever. I don’t own a cutting board. Or a good knife. And, while we’re on the subject, thank you to the person that sits around and writes articles like “How to Dice an Onion”. I love whoever you are.

The not-sending-my-food-back is part of a larger I don’t like to inconvenience people thing that makes me the best group project partner and very worst delegator. I’ll never be on time to anything ever. And I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember deodorant. It just is. I think because I’m still an awkward pre-teen at heart.

So I am not amazing or have special powers or crazy self-control. (Send me those little Reese’s Cup eggs that are only out at Easter or a case of Dr.Pepper, and I’ll prove it.) I’m able to do this Spending Freeze because I really, really want it.

I’m saving up for KENYA, and I want to go so bad that it’s completely worth not eating out or buying a new shirt even if it is on sale and super cute. I am fundraising for my time there, but I don’t want to use the money from my friends and family for things other than getting to Kenya and being there for three months. So that means that while I’m gone, I need to be able to pay my bills for those three months myself. That’s not cheap. And since I’m probably going to have to quit my job to go, I need a little cushion for when I get back too.

So far I have my $1000 emergency fund and most of one month’s bills! I’m getting there, slowly. Some days it’s no fun, but for the most part… it’s totally worth it.

Two months down! I am officially 1/6 of the way through this Spending Freeze. For some reason putting it in a fraction makes it seem like I’ve gone further and am closer to the end. I’ll take whatever helps me power through.

My only unauthorized spending for the month was the $3.82 I spent on my niece’s gigantic cookie, making the year’s “Broke the Freeze” total — that’s how it’s labeled in my budget software (yeah, I have budget tools now, like a grown-up) — $6.00. I feel really good about that.

I managed to buy groceries at the beginning of the month, for the whole month! No really, that’s a big deal for me. Have I told you grocery shopping stresses me out? So much planning, thought, price-checking. For a while I’d been debating driving to the Kingsport’s (next city over’s) Target – since they actually sells groceries – to see if my employee discount would help overall. It was a good experiment, but not something I’ll do monthly because… my overall grocery expenses for February were a little over $1 less than January. (Dolla dolla bill y’all.) And I spent that driving there. Lesson learned.

However, I will say one thing for monthly grocery shopping — it feels great once it’s over. If you’re like me and hate walking around the grocery store (It’s cold, ok? I hate being cold.), once a month shopping is awesome. As much as I dreaded it, when I realized the second week in February that I didn’t have to spend part of my Saturday at the store… aaahhhhmazing. I’m looking into couponing a little — but as someone who cashiers, couponers are really, really annoying. No offense, folks, I’m sure you’re all lovely and charming to your cashiers, but most couponers lack your exceptional manners. I totally get that those other coupon loving people came to me JUST because they had this awesome coupon to get diapers/formula/soap/detergent/razors for super cheap, but maybe could you teach them to NOT yell at me when the computer doesn’t accept one or two of the fifty coupons?

Back to topic: I did not spend less on groceries, but I will stick to monthly shopping. Another goal for Feb. was to cut my gas spending, but thanks to work that did NOT happen. However, I did manage to claim all those miles so I’ll be/have been reimbursed!

For the 28 days of February, I managed to save a total of….  $345!

To be honest, I am amazed at that. I can rationalize how it’s because February is a short month but I still had the same monthly income… but I don’t care. I’m really proud of that number.

Speaking of being proud, for the sake of honestly, you should know that I log into my bank account/check my fancy budget software these days just to see how much I have in savings. Even though I know. And then I calculate how much I could put into savings at the end of the month if I don’t spend any more money. It’s so weird. I’m pretty desperate for a new pair of black dress flats for work, but when I start to browse, I remember how much I could put into savings if I don’t buy them. (Who am I?!)

March goals:

  • find two ways to make a little extra money
  • celebrate the boyfriend’s birthday cheaply
  • resist getting a haircut because I won’t need one yet – it’s a WANT, even if the $8 Jenny Lea Academy cut I got last month was pretty terrible and I fixed my bangs myself when I got home…

Thanks for the encouragement, friends! You have no idea how much it helps. :)

February is off to a shaky start so far. It hasn’t been awful – and most importantly, I haven’t given up – but it’s been rough.

On the very first day of February, I spent an unexpected day at the ER with one of my nieces. (After a lot of stress, several doctor appointments, a lot of very nice medical professionals and one very rude one, I can say she’ll be just fine.) Somehow I made it out of the door early that morning with crayons and coloring books to keep the munchkin (and myself) entertained, but I didn’t pack a lunch. I even remembered my phone charger, which never happens, but no snacks. Between being released from the ER and a medical appointment, we went out to eat … and I let my brother-in-law pay. I feel a little guilty about that. (Thanks, Travis!)

This whole mooching thing isn’t really what I wanted to learn from my Spending Freeze and actually really bothers me, but I’ll deal with that in a later post.

After lunch we still had a little time to spare, so we went to the mall. Listen, it was conveniently located and the temperature outside was 19ºF. I figured I could window shop and keep my bank account unadulterated. As soon as we walked in, my niece steered our course to the counter at the Great American Cookie Company, and then looked up at me with her big blue eyes.

I sternly explained my Spending Freeze and told her no.

YUM.

YUM.

So I lied. Did I mention she spent the morning in the ER and has gigantic blue eyes? Or that she’s seven and thinks money grows on trees? I let her pick one out, and she chose the largest one she could see.

$3.82

I don’t feel bad about it. Maybe a little, but only because I feel like I should feel bad. Not because I do.

The very next day at job #2, I was offered three extra hours. I took it to make up for the whole cookie buying situation, but I was worried about lunch – I hadn’t brought anything to eat and now wouldn’t be going home till well past normal feeding time. Logan happened to also be working that day and generously bought me something to eat. (He bought a can of soup and spent a dollar and some change – he would’ve happily splurged on something else, but again, I hate mooching, so that’s what I picked.)

And yes, I could have theoretically bought it myself and counted it as “groceries” I guess, but I would have chosen to go hungry just to stick to my plan. I’m stubborn like that. Blame my father. No really, it’s his fault I do this. Hopefully though, I’ve learned my lesson… and will just start carrying extra food with me everywhere. Which I really ought to do anyway for emergency situations like when my lunch is gross.

So if you see a girl with a stockpile of soup and crackers and peanut butter in her trunk, it’s probably me.

For 31 days (and some change now, since I’m late writing this), I’ve been trying to SAVE SAVE SAVE, and I’m proud to announce that I only broke the Spending Freeze for $2.18! Congratulations to me, right? RIGHT?! Part of me is kind of disappointed that I even did that, but honestly I have done very well at making a drastic change in my habits. Plus, the ice cream was delicious.

I avoided all the clearance at Target even though I’m there every week (thank you, second job). One day this literally meant hanging up clothes in the women’s section without looking at the price tags or even paying attention to what I’m touching. Seriously, I tried to stare at the wall/people around me. Not creepy at all.

It’s also meant volunteering to work in absolutely any other section, although I am tempted by almost all of them. One day I saw a set of three blank notebooks on clearance for $3.48, and I managed, painful though it was, to walk away. VICTORY!

I also managed to pack a lunch every. single. day. Even though I haven’t bought groceries in two weeks and the cabinets are seriously bare, and one day my lunch was leftover corn, some cheese, and two rolls. That was Thursday, and as soon as I finished eating I was starving. And the little bit of liquid in the corn got all over the cheese somehow. It was gross. But I ate it anyway. Because I’m saving money. And it’s my own fault for not planning that out better and waking up late and having to rush to get to work on time and packing whatever I could find.

Also one day for lunch I ate a jar of peaches that expired in 2010. They still tasted fine to me, but since I’ve only lived in this apartment since 2011, I really don’t know where they came from. Yum?

And on the days I work both jobs – really long days where I’m on the clock from 8am to 10 or 10:30pm, it’s meant packing lunch and dinner. I don’t know why that is so much harder, but it is. If you pack a lunch and end up dissatisfied, it’s ok because you’ll be home in a few hours. Packing both stresses me out. What if I’m hungrier? What if I change my mind and don’t want this? Plus on those days I walk out of the house looking like I’m taking a mini vacation. Change of clothes including shoes, extra jacket for work #2 because it’s cold there, giant lunchbox, purse, work cell and personal cell. And of course I usually forget something and have to come back. Maybe one of my goals for February should be to actually pack all this up the night before…

ANYWAY, back to how I did on the Spending Freeze in my first month!
For the 31 days of January, I succeeded in saving a (drum roll, please) total of:

$208.66!

Not bad, right? For my first month?

Next month’s goals:

  • cut grocery spending – I’ll be trying out the idea of buying groceries for the whole month, which requires a level of planning I’m not sure I have in me and baffles me when it comes to produce
  • cut gas spending – by being more logical about combining errands, carpooling when possible, etc.
  • actually claim everything I deserve to be paid for at job #1 – I’m reimbursed for mileage but terrible at recording it, etc.

One month down, eleven more to go!
Advice welcome, especially on the grocery spending. Or anything, really.

My car desperately needed an oil change. Honestly, it was actually really overdue for one and I kept putting it off in January because I didn’t want to spend the money on it. Then  Logan told me my car was going to explode (I’m convinced this was an exaggeration), so I decided we would do it as cheaply as possible — meaning Logan could do it himself!

I usually take it to the local Wal-Mart (Does that make me a bad person? Oil changes are literally the only thing I go to Wal-Mart for because they are conveniently still open when I get off work… and also because they’ll balance and rotate my tires fo’ free.) They charge me $31.88 plus tax.

So Logan and I went to buy oil and a filter. Counting the oil tax (that I only learned about while staring at my receipt – I’m learning to look at receipts more on this Spending Freeze), I spent $24.70. I might have been able to save more money on oil, but I’d already made my car wait so long for new oil — I felt like she deserved the good stuff. Also I don’t know anything about oil, so the real reason is Logan picked it. I acted like I approved because I had no idea.

So far, I saved ‘$7.18!

But then we had to drive 20ish miles to  his parents’ house so we’d have the right tools…

And then my car is weird and new and getting the old filter out was a pain…

Somewhere in the middle of it Logan promised he’d never change my oil again…

What should have taken 30 minutes took nearly 2 hours…

And I was kind of wishing we’d let Wal-Mart do it.

But then I wouldn’t have gotten to take this picture, so maybe it was worth it:

IMG_4668 - Copy

After the oil change, we drove to meet my mom to get some things I’d left at her house, and she suggested we meet in McDonald’s parking lot. As soon as we pulled in, Logan said, “I’d love a milkshake, but I won’t do it.” Then when my mom arrived, she said, “I have a coupon for buy one, get one milkshakes, do you want it?” And I thought about the two hour oil change and general pain in the butt my car had been and said yes and treated us to a chocolate shake and an M&M blizzard for $2.18. I’m calling it the “labor fee” on my oil change, and it was delicious.

(Also, while I was that McDonald’s – which is the closest one to work and home – I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to a McDs. So I looked up the last time I’d spent money there on my handy-dandy on-line banking: August of 2011. Crazy. I probably bought ice-cream then, too. Or tea. I’m a sucker for sweet tea.)

Counting the deliciousness of guilt-purchased ice-cream, I saved $5 on my oil change, half of which was probably spent on gas. For next time I’ll be shopping around to see if I can find a local place that’ll do it cheaper than Wal-Mart, and I won’t buy a Blizzard. Even if it was delicious.