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. :)

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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.

I never spent much time looking at how much money I’m spending, so today I spent some time reviewing my bank account. I tracked my purchases for all of 2012.

I’m downright embarrassed to tell you what I found out.

First of all, you should know that my income barely puts me over the poverty line, so remember that when you’re checking out these numbers. I always thought I was pretty good at being poor. These numbers say something else.

Last year, I spent $389.10 eating out at my favorite local Mexican restaurant. That’s just one restaurant. I probably bought the owner’s new dj equipment all by myself. (You’re welcome, Santi.)

Worse, I spent $462.62 at my usual I-didn’t-have-time-to-pack-a-lunch fast food joint.  And I always bring my own drink! (Cause, you know, they don’t sell Dr.Pepper.) So that’s not even a combo!

A whopping $258.44 went to our usual pizza place that’s super cheap. This isn’t the only place we get pizza. Just the cheapest place we hit up most often. Lordy.

I spent $234.13 at my usual liquor store. I don’t drink often – seriously. Social drinker at most. The occasional bottle of wine, and I usually have some mid-shelf rum in the freezer that lasts me two months. There may have been two mildly expensive gifts in that total, but still. Not ok.

I really wish I could figure out how much I spent on clothes. I shop several different stores, for one, and anything I paid for in cash isn’t showing up (which I’m trying to not consider, since it’d make all those above totals even more outrageous). Then there’s Target.

Good ole Target. Now, I love that store. I get my Red Card 5% off, and they actually do have lower prices on a lot of foods. But when do I buy food without also wandering over to the clothes section and checking out the clearance racks? Or walking through the shoes? Never. Seriously never. Which is why I spent a total of $2,139.79 at Target this year. Over $500 was the new tv my boyfriend put on my RedCard (and paid me back for immediately – he just wanted the 5% savings). BUT STILL. That is one giant chunk of change.

There have been times when it’s crossed my mind that I’ve been frugal anyway, and this spending fast isn’t going to make that much of a difference to my financial status. Well, I don’t believe that anymore.

needs wants

About two months ago I the blog And then We Saved, documenting the story of how this one crazily dedicated woman payed off a giant chunk of debt by going on what she called a Spending Fast. (You should read about it. Seriously.)

She only allowed herself to spend money on her needs. Rent. Utilities. Cell phone. Food. Etc. Her wants were not allowed. No new clothes. No cute new purses. No eating out. No cute etsy finds.

I knew when I found it that I needed to do it too. But Christmas was coming. And my boyfriend was about to graduate college. So I put it off and told myself I’d start in January.

Then, wouldn’t you know, suddenly January was NEXT WEEK, and I hadn’t really planned anything out. I panicked a little. I read a year’s worth of her blog to make myself feel better, and when she talked about eating all the food in her pantry and gagging on gross canned chili for lunch, I did NOT feel better. I felt like I should go buy a year’s worth of food I love. A year’s worth of Dr.Pepper. Of Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese. Of Honey Nut Cheerios and of Reese’s Cups.

I managed to put my panic aside and sit down to write out my own list of wants and needs.

NEEDS:

  • rent
  • utilities
  • groceries
  • medical expenses (co-pays, etc.)
  • internet
  • netflix (I’m sure I could live without it, but it’s fairly cheap and will keep me from going to the movies.)
  • haircuts (ONLY cheap cuts and as rarely as possible.)

I have a lot of things going for me: I’m on a family plan with my cell phone that my darling mother pays for. (Thanks, Mom!) I don’t have a car payment. All in all, it could be worse.

WANTS:

  • new clothes (I’ll be following the Spending Fast’s idea of Make Do and Mend)
  • eating out
  • gifts
  • books, including blank books (I’m a sucker for a nice journal)
  • craft supplies (this is going to hurt)

I’m sure there are more, but that’s my list for now. I’ll update you when I have giant internal debates over whether something is a want or a need. Like face lotion. I’m torn on that one.

So far it’s been five days, and I’ve managed to pack my lunch everyday and only eat food already in my cabinets/fridge!

Only 360 more days to go…