Monthly Archives: March 2013

Happy Birthday Hubby!

Since it’s 12:40 am, it’s already my hubby’s birthday! We celebrated with my side of the family earlier and we’ll celebrate with his side on Sunday.

Today, we’re going to see a movie. I’ve been torn about the movie because of my new found motivation to get my finances under control, but I eventually decided to go for it. Mostly because we have gift certificates for three different theaters laying around. The gift certificate may or may not cover the entire cost of the outing, but it will help. I’ll also eat something before we go out, so that I can skip the expensive snack food.

I was so thrilled with myself this week for enjoying a trip to Starbucks with hubby and skipping the drink. It was fun simply being there with him and out of the house, and I didn’t miss having a drink at all. I’m sure that won’t be the case every time we go, but it’s definitely a good way to save!

Yesterday’s spending:

$29.95 on a copy of CMUD, a software program that lets me play my favorite video game much more easily. Considering how many hours I spend on the MUD, I consider this well worth it.

$11.75 on cat litter and bird food. Since it was my decision to have birds at work, I pay for their food. I might look into a cheaper option down the line, but for now I’m content with what we’re feeding them.

Being kind to myself

Looking back on my previous attempts to frugalize and get my finances under control, one thing that happened consistently stands out to me very clearly: when I made a mistake or a bad decision, I berated myself terribly for it. I gave myself no quarter, and when I looked back on my day and realized that I had not made the right choice, I said all sorts of hideous things to myself. This did not lead to successful long-term habit building. Rather, it led me to periods of depression, which led to feeling hopeless about the situation and giving up.

This time, I’m trying to be kind to myself. Shortly before I started this blog, I tore a pair of jeans irreparably and realized that I only had one remaining pair of pants suitable for work. I am impatient and dislike clothes shopping, so I stopped in the first store I came to and spent $99 on three pairs of pants. Not long after, I realized that I could have gone to any number of other stores and spent half that amount. The pants had been worn, it was too late to return them, and I caught myself beginning to beat up on myself for not looking for a better price.

No. The mistake has been made. I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience, and next time I need new clothes I’ll start with the Goodwill next to my work, which often has BRAND NEW Target surplus clothing at unbelievable prices. Most of it is a little out of fashion or season, but perfectly nice clothing.

Side note: shortly after, Hubby found a $50 Old Navy gift card that I had misplaced after Christmas and forgotten about, and I had to stop myself from berating myself ALL OVER AGAIN. Sigh. Being kind to myself is going to be a challenging habit to get into, but worthwhile.

Yesterday’s spending: Nothing!

Today’s spending: Nothing! Hooray!

Plans and goals and…hope

I had today off and I’ve spent a lot of the day reading back through http://www.thesimpledollar.com absorbing all that I can. Thanks to Trent’s advice, I have a tentative plan for the next year or two. It starts with getting rid of my credit card debt. I currently owe around $5500, and the card is fairly high interest, so that’s top priority.

Next, I need an emergency fund. I’ve always made the mistake of thinking of my credit card as my emergency fund. Ha. Not only has that not worked out for me, if I WERE to have an emergency pop up, adding an extra load of debt on top of whatever the emergency is would be…unhelpful. I don’t have a specific number in mind at the moment, but I have some time to think on it since the credit card balance won’t be paid off right away.

Once the emergency fund is established, I need to start making out my IRA contributions and do the math to figure out how much I need to be saving toward retirement. THEN I can think about saving for a down payment on a house. WOW that feels like a long ways off, and it is. That’s why I’m doing what I can now to make it happen.

The most important thing I’ve taken away from reading The Simple Dollar so far is…hope. Hope that I’m not a complete financial failure, doomed to poverty in my later years thanks to my stupid choices. At one point today, I just stopped and cried because I was so THANKFUL to see a dim light forming at the end of the tunnel.

In 24 hours I’ve gone from intense anxiety/dread reading a financial blog to wanting MORE. I’m also proud of myself for skipping Starbucks tonight. Hubby’s drink costs $1.65 with free refills…my drinks, more than that. So hubby went, and I got some cherished alone time.

Today’s spending:

$1.09 Rite Aid. We needed dish soap.

$10.00 Tip at dinner. Hubby found a gift card from Christmas for a nice Italian restaurant by our home, so we went out to dinner since my attempt at dinner tonight didn’t turn out. The gift card more than covered our meal, but I hate to tip a server with a gift card so we used cash.

$10.85 Starbucks. This should go MUCH farther this time since I’m going to be passing on coffee night more often. I like alone time at home just as much, and I get very little alone time  anyways. Besides, if I go to coffee only occasionally, it will feel like more of a treat!

Facing the fear, and understanding it

I’ve mentioned the panic that sets in when I start to think or talk about finances. Today I was linked to http://www.thesimpledollar.com from a forum I follow. It’s a well put together blog with sound financial advice written in a friendly, approachable fashion.

When I opened the link and started reading, I quickly became INTENSELY uncomfortable. I started chattering at hubby, flipping through a book I hadn’t been reading at the moment, flipping browser tabs, and almost just clicked out of the blog immediately. I stopped myself, thought about the anxiety I was feeling, and decided to keep reading through the blog.

As I read, part of me tensed more and part of me started to relax. Eventually, I started to realize that most of the fear is due to the fact that I don’t KNOW anything about what needs to happen for me to meet my goals. In fact, I don’t have clearly outlined long-term goals. Thinking about it completely overwhelms me.

I think right now it’s not unreasonable to have “become debt-free and develop mindful spending habits” as a goal. Once the debt is paid off, it will be time to focus on an emergency fund and saving for the future. Once the emergency fund is established it will be time to look at longer-term things like buying a home.

This is frustrating because I’d LIKE to be looking at getting out of our shared living situation ASAP, but really…in our area, a studio apartment can easily go for over $1000/month, and a nice rent-free living arrangement is a BIG DEAL. I need to use it to my advantage while I can.

Today’s spending:

$15.85 Brunch at a diner with some friends. I don’t spend much time with friends, and this little weekly get together means a lot to me.

$3.99 Hubby had a Swedish Fish craving. He so rarely treats himself and spends so little, I’m not going to object. I DID resist the urge to ask him to get me a chocolate bar while he was out. Yay!

Recurring Payments

I tend to forget that those payments that need to be made on a regular basis exist. I don’t MISS payments, but I will get down to the wire and realize “OH!  That’s due TOMORROW!” and suddenly my hopes of having a big chunk to put on the credit card that week are dashed. As far as monthly payments go, we don’t have a lot going on. Car insurance, my cell phone, and the produce boxes are the only ones I can think of right now, and they add up to just over $300.  should leave me a fair amount to put on my credit card every month, but somehow I always wind up going just a little bit over the minimum payment.

I’m already seeing a trend with this blog as far as where my money is going…and I pretty much already knew it.  Fast food and Starbucks. I passed on a Starbucks trip earlier in the week, stopped going back for second drinks, and gave up their pastries entirely. (Except when they put out the plate of freebies at closing time!) I’ve also been VERY good about bringing food to work and snacking throughout the workday so I’m not OMGSTARVING when closing time hits.

It’s not enough, long term, but these little changes have made me feel motivated to do more. It dawned on me recently that I CAN go to Starbucks just to hang out with hubby, and not order a drink at all. What a novel idea! Sometimes something quite obvious like that hits me and I’m left thinking “Gee I’m a dork, why didn’t that occur to me months ago?”, and I definitely had one of those moments when this thought occurred to me.

I’m dwelling on my failures too much this evening, so I’m also going to mention one area where I’ve been very successful in cutting back my spending. Books. I am a fiend for reading. I read a LOT, and I read VERY quickly. I can easily go through a novel a day. This can be an expensive hobby, especially since I got my Kindle and I can download almost any book in seconds. I spent $140 in ten days when I discovered the Dresden Files novels. I would finish one, and download the next immediately, at $10 a pop.

Now I’ve discovered E-books at my public library! I log onto the website, browse around until I find something I want to read, and download it to my kindle. The best part? When the book is due to be returned, it simply vanishes off of the device. No late fees, no last-minute scrambles to find the books, nothing! I can apparently check out up to 100 at a time (Wow!) and thus far the selection seems to be excellent, so this is going to be a MAJOR money-saver.

My spending yesterday: Nothing!

My spending today:

Car Insurance: $138.44 For two older cars, not too bad.

Chipotle: $13.58 I know, I know, fast food. I tried to minimize the damage by ordering the cheapest meat and drinking water. Still, should have eaten at home. I need to go out for some more convenience food ASAP.

Starbucks card: $10 ….already? I had not realized how quickly these little card refills added up.

Some days need a ‘Do-Over’ button.

I’m a little short on energy today, so just a spending summary. I got an email at work today saying that the checking account was overdrawn, as the CSA I get produce from charges an entire month’s worth of veggies at once. Ooops, I thought they charged weekly, and I had not checked to confirm. Unfortunately, I had to do a small advance from the credit card to cover it.

Sooo, today:

$100 Farm Fresh To You. We get a HUGE box of produce once a week, and without it being dropped on my doorstep I just don’t buy produce. I love FFTY.

$48.56 Gas.  The car needed it. ‘Nuff said.

$15.28 Groceries.  We were out of coffee and milk, and we go through both at a tremendous rate.

$10.00 Starbucks.  It was hubby, not me!