Strapped for cash.

It’s Friday afternoon and I have the least amount of money left from my weekly allowance than I’ve had at any other Friday so far this year. During the week, I had to spend money on a small grocery trip I had to make so I could have items to bake bread with (more on that in a future post!) among other necessities that we didn’t pick up during our regular grocery-shopping trip. I spent $22.15 on bread flower, mayonnaise, tuna, milk, and yeast. I didn’t exactly make the best choices: I got Hellman’s mayo even though I’m sure the generic was a few cents cheaper. Same with the canned tuna (I always get Bumblebee brand), but I did buy the generic yeast. (Yay?) I didn’t have coupons this time, either, because I completely forgot to look online before I went. All of this is my fault.

Wednesday, I worked from home, which was nice. I didn’t go out and buy anything, obviously, staying home and making my own coffee, bread, and other foods instead. At least I did some good on that day!

I also spent money in the past few days on snacks, a lunch with coworkers, and tipping a coat check guy.

So…

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $16.85

The week’s not over, obviously, and to make things even more difficult, tonight I have a movie night with some coworkers. I have a few options of what to bring:

  • a bottle of wine that I got during a Yankee Swap in December
  • spend some of my remaining allowance on something else
  • bake something from scratch using stuff I have around the house

I’m hoping to do either the first or third option. I really want to hold onto my allowance in case I need anything on Saturday. We’ll see how this goes…!

Budget make-up?

On Monday morning, something happened… something that I’d been fearing since I began this challenge: my eyeliner ran out.

Make up is pretty damn costly. I usually spent about $7 or so on eyeliner, $10-ish on mascara, and a lot more on my foundation & blush. I don’t gloop on makeup, but I do enjoy wearing it and I own a ton of the stuff. My foundation and blush comes from an online store I’d discovered while dabbling in veganism a few years ago: Alima Pure. Their makeup is fan-freaking-tastic, even in my omnivorous life. But, it’s expensive… about $25 for a container that lasts me a few months. Without being able to use my credit card as part of this little budget experiment of mine, I’m getting anxious.

Yes, the option of not wearing makeup is the cheapest, of course. But, I don’t want to. Plain and simple. Hell, one of my old blogs was actually me challenging myself to not wear makeup for a full year… but I chickened out after two months because I’d been invited to weddings that I knew I’d want to get dressed up for. Whoops.

So, next option: get my makeup for cheaper. I don’t have to worry about my foundation yet (I still have a lot left) but I’m out of eyeliner and I’m running low on mascara. Time to start couponing! Well, I used to be a very good, somewhat obsessed couponer when we lived in Cincinnati. I had a folder with all of our coupons nicely organized and I’d take it with us when we’d go shopping. Though not reality TV-worthy, we would save as much as 25% off our total, which was definitely awesome.

Luckily, I just reactivated my account with coupons.com and discovered a coupon for $1 L’Oreal makeup. This could be a good thing. 🙂

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $51.74

In which I pity myself a little bit.

I’ve just bought over $80 worth of stuff on Amazon. Using my credit card. It felt like old times.

The catch: none of this was taken out of my budget. I mentioned in my last post that my dentist frightened me into submission about how I’d end up like my mother (needing painful and expensive dental implants because of my early signs of developing periodontal disease) unless I buy a fancy toothbrush, among other things. So, I spent about $60-ish on an electric toothbrush and heads. I also spent $20-ish on paint supplies for some wedding DIY crafty stuff which, also, isn’t to be taken out of my allowance.

“Well, why the hell do you care, then?” you ask? Because I got way, way too giddy about shopping on Amazon again as I was making these purchases.

What I used to do with Amazon was the following:

  1. Do a search for the legitimate product I needed to buy
  2. Add the item to my cart
  3. Get sucked into the “recommended for you based on your interests” lists that show up when I add something to my cart
  4. Hunt for those random things that sparked my interest
  5. End up adding at least 2 or 3 other items to my cart
  6. Check out
  7. Feel excited
  8. Feel depressed that I fell for the trickery and for my weakness

The good news is that I only purchased what I needed. I didn’t deviate. Go me!

The bad news is that I so, so wanted to. When I added the toothbrush to my cart, I immediately thought, “Oh, maybe I should be a little corner shelf for next to the sink to put it on since we probably don’t have enough space for it near our faucet!” I was noticeably excited at the idea of getting this glorious plastic shelf. I searched and found one for $28 and was a heartbeat away from clicking “add to cart” before my conscience slapped me in the back of the skull and said, “STOP, YOU CRAZY WOMAN!”

I checked out without buying the shelf, but I so totally want it. The “me” from 3 weeks ago would’ve bought it without hesitation. I wouldn’t have thought, “Hey, maybe I should go home and measure my counter space to see if it fits before I think about buying a shelf.” It would not have crossed my mind at all.

I feel happy that I didn’t buy it, but I am a bit sad at how freaking happy I felt at the idea of buying this stupid plastic shelf. Quite sad, actually. I’m definitely not close to being different in my spending. It’s been less than three weeks – I have a long way to go. I may be successful at sticking to my allowance right now, but my mind is still where it was three weeks ago: buy now, ask questions later never.

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $57.12

J

Money-spending in Boston on my day off.

The good news is that I got lots of wedding stuff done (or at least started) yesterday on my day off! The bad news is that many things on my list didn’t happen or weren’t finished. Let’s review, shall we?

  • Drop my car off for maintenance. So, this one happened! I dropped it off, it was done pretty damn quickly, and my car is back in my possession. It cost $150-ish to do everything (oil, new belt, new bulb) which, as mentioned, does not come out of my budget. However, this morning, the issue they said would be solved by the new belt isn’t fixed after all. Ugh. (Side-note: I totally knew it wasn’t the belt at all, but they insisted. Luckily I have it in writing that if this doesn’t fix the problem, they’re going to give me some money back and fix the actual issue.) On my way back home from the body shop, I wanted a coffee because it was freezing and I had a mile walk after my subway ride. I spent $2.88 on a jumbo coffee at 7-11, obviously to be taken out of my allowance.
  • Shop for wedding stuff. This happened, but wasn’t totally successful. I was able to find some things on my list (elastic string for the garter I’m knitting, puff paint for my shoes) but not others (chalkboard paint, chalk markers). I was able to finish my DIY stuff on my shoes (it’s a secret!) and started knitting my garter. I also begun my DIY chalkboard (after walking to Goodwill and finding an awesome ugly framed print for me to use as my base), but without chalkboard paint, I obviously didn’t finish. Our wedding is going to have lots of Legos in it (seriously) so I spent about an hour soaking and cleaning the Legos we bought off of craigslist. I was definitely productive!
  • Possibly get my hair cut. This did not happen. Boo.
  • Do something fitnessy. This didn’t happen, either. For what it’s worth, I did walk at least 3.5 miles during my trek between Goodwill, the auto body shop, 7-11, etc.
  • Go to trivia with coworkers. I did this and didn’t spend a dime! One of the guys owed me a beer, and I shared appetizers that were offered to me. Done and done.

One thing I forgot to mention in my list is that I had a dentist appointment, too. That didn’t go very well, as I was told that my mother’s genes are continuing to show themselves in me… in the form of periodontal disease! Not fun! My mother has been seeing periodontists since I was a baby (she was in her early 30s at the time) and it got so bad that she had to get 6 teeth (I think!) removed and dental implants put in when she was in her mid-40s. My oral hygienist, upon seeing what she said were “puffy gums” asked about my mom’s periodontal disease history and said, “Wow. I’ve never heard of someone going through all of that at such a young age!” (To compare: my father, who is going to be 70, has one little spot on his gum that is “at risk”. I have at least 3 teeth whose gums are “at risk” and I’m only 28. My mother, who is 58, had six teeth removed and still has disease. Apparently I have the gums of a 100-year-old or something, I guess.)

So, now I have to spend money on an electric toothbrush, special mouthwash, and a prescription they wrote for me for some kind of special toothpaste. This, obviously, will not come out of my allowance because it’s a medical necessity. Ugh ugh ugh. Lesson of the day, kids: floss your damn teeth.

Despite all of the rollercoaster of good and bad going on, my money-spending was totally in control. I honestly didn’t need that cup of coffee, but I really wanted it. I guess it’s the most impulsive buy I’ve done all month, and compared to my usual impulses, this was nothing. A normal convenience store impulse buy would be getting the coffee… and a string cheese… and sunglasses… and some kind of snack for my fiance. I think I did well, right?

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $57.12

J

Quick, no-nonsense update.

Work has been sucking the life out of me lately, so I don’t have much to report right now. Luckily with a busy schedule, I have no free time to dilly dally and impulse buy. I guess all my hard work helps my budget…!

Luckily I have Wednesday off from work, so by the time this post appears on my blog, I’ll be out and about, giving Boston a real try with my budget. My to-do list:

  • Drop my car off for maintenance. (This cost is not getting taken out of my budget/allowance, as per my list of rules. However, in the past when I’ve done this, I usually end up walking around Boston, drinking lots of coffee, window-shopping… sometimes impulse shopping… so I’ve got to be careful!)
  • Shop for wedding stuff. (This also does not come out of my budget, but I have to make sure I stay focused and avoid impulse-buying when all I truly need are things for my wedding.)
  • Possibly get my hair cut. (This will come out of my budget. All beauty-related things will. I haven’t gotten a haircut in nearly a year, so this is desperate. Number one regret as of late: not getting my hair cut before the new year. Ugh.)
  • Do something fitnessy. (If the weather is good, I’ll go for a run. But, I may want to take advantage of my gym membership and the fact my afternoon will be free, so I can go to the gym when it’s not super busy! We’ll see.)
  • Go to trivia with coworkers. (If I buy food/beer, I’ll obviously pay. But, my fiance may come this week and if he does, there may be a chance he’ll pay. 🙂 )

Wish me luck!

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $60.00

J

First full week, in review.

I probably should have posted this yesterday… whoops! But, here’s how my first full week of living on this $60 allowance went.

What I’d Learned
I definitely discovered that I apparently don’t have much need to spend money during the work week. At my office, there’s so much free food that even if I forget to pack a lunch, there’s a 90% chance I’ll find something to eat. In fact, the only time I spent money on food was when out at a trivia night with friends on Thursday, and even then I only spent just over $5.

I also learned I have a really great fiancé. Okay… I guess I technically knew this already… but still! I learned that my guy is so on board with my little challenge that he automatically pays for things he knows are either his responsibility, or that he knows I deserve (for lack of a better term). So far, I haven’t had to ask him to pay for something – this while thing seems very instinctual.

What I’d Struggled With
I definitely had a bit of anxiety when grocery shopping. No longer can I just buy without looking at the prices of things. I also have to prioritize. Not deviating fun my shopping list is also a struggle, for sure.

Where My Money Went
I spent allowance money on dinner at trivia night and at the grocery store. I used my Starbucks gold card once. I also bought gas early in the week and paid for parking using my debit card, which doesn’t come out of the budget.

Where My Money Didn’t Go
I could’ve spent a lot more on groceries, and I had water instead of a second beer at trivia. I cooked on nights when I didn’t feel like it. I ate free food at work the day I’d forgotten to pack lunch.

Total Spent: $23.35
Added to Money Jar: $36.65
Total in Money Jar: $70.65

As of writing this post, I haven’t spent any of this new week’s budget, so…

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $60.00

J

My first “moneyjar” shopping trip.

I finally did it: I spent cash from my weekly allowance.

After I scheduled Friday morning’s post on Thursday evening, I went to the supermarket and bought items with which to make quiche for my dinner guests Friday night. Honestly, as ridiculous as this may sound, it was a huge struggle and an even bigger wake-up call.

The things I had to buy were:

  • 1/2 dozen eggs
  • cream
  • milk
  • onion
  • Gruyere cheese
  • pie crust (or butter and flour to make it myself)
  • balsamic vinegar

The milk, onion, eggs, and cream were easy to buy because they’re inexpensive as is, and come in small sizes (I only need 1/2 cup of cream for the recipe, so the tiny carton of cream I bought was only $1.39). The difficult stuff was the cheese, pie crust, and vinegar.

Pretty much every time I do a random trip to the supermarket on my way home from work, I stop in the fancy cheese section. You know… not where they keep Kraft or “Helluva Good” brands! Pshaw! I don’t need that crap, right? I must have some raw, organic, local cheese! Plus, my quiche recipe calls for Gruyere! Well, I stopped in my fancy cheese section and grabbed some Gruyere (imported from France, nonetheless!), tossing it in my cart. As I walked away I realized, “Crap. I didn’t look at the price!” When I did, I saw… staring back at me… $7.99… for barely a quarter pound chunk!

I truly still wanted that cheese, but I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t spend so much. Are my guests really going to know the difference between this and the stuff from the regular refrigerator section of the supermarket? Doubtful. So, I walked over to the other side of the store, where the word “artisanal” doesn’t exist, and bought the store brand’s “all natural” mild white cheddar which was on sale for 2-for-$5 (though I only bought one). I wasn’t happy about it. I wanted that imported French stuff. Damn.

Speaking of imported stuff, as I had turned away from the fancy cheese, I saw a display of bottles of balsamic vinegar. Perfect! How convenient this store is! I grabbed the bottle and walked to my cart, glancing at the price tag: $19.99! For a tiny bottle! “But it’s from Italy,” my internal voice screamed at me. “You need this.”

Luckily I put it down and walked to the aisle that had the oil and vinegar in it – you know… Heinz, etc. But, what surprised me was this: one lonely bottle of imported Italian balsamic vinegar, all by itself, on sale for less than $3. The bottle is at least twice as big as the $20 one I’d found before, so I quickly snatched it up. I was so noticeably excited about this that it scared me.

Then, the pie crust. While in the inexpensive cheese section, I saw the pie crusts and had a decision: spend $3 on pre-made pie crust, or spend $2 on butter and at least another $2 on flour. I would have future use of the leftover butter and flour if I went with the second option, but I don’t use butter or flour very often, so would I truly need them? I ended up going with the pre-made crusts, also because it’d be much easier for me after work on Friday to make the quiche if one thing was already done for me. (I’m notoriously bad at making pie crust anyway, so I’m glad to have Pillsbury do this!)

I know some folks upon reading this are probably thinking, “Oh, woe is me! You silly little yuppie with ‘only child syndrome’ who was probably raised in an upper-middle-class household! You have to budget when grocery shopping? Suck it up and join the masses!” The point of this whole thing is to change my previous, impulsive, financially damaging ways. The point is for me to grow the hell up. I’m fully aware that people live paycheck to paycheck and always have to buy generics to get by. And, no, I never have had to do that. But now I am. Yes, it’s by choice, but that doesn’t make it less difficult.

Anyway… damage done at the supermarket for my caramelized onion and Gruyere cheddar quiche: $17.90

After I went home and put the groceries away, I went to trivia at a bar with some coworkers. I had an amazing time! Seriously! We came in third place and, thanks to me being the only one suggesting team names, we won the “Best Team Name”! (We were Kim Jung Rodman. Get it? Good. 🙂 )

I was nervous because we went to one of my favorite burger joints in the Boston area. Luckily a friend/coworker of mine wanted to split a burger with me so in the end, my half burger and beer cost just over $5. Fun times + good food + good company + not a lot spent = an amazing night.

On Saturday evening, after my shift at the museum, my fiance and I are going to Costco to get some necessities like meat (now that my meat CSA is done with), canned goods, toilet paper, cereal, etc. that we’re low on and usually buy in bulk. Luckily, my guy buys the groceries when we go on our big trips, so this shouldn’t affect me at all. We’ll also be staying in to watch the Patriots game instead of going out (note: I am not a Patriots fan, but he is!) so that’ll save us some dough. Maybe we’ll buy a ready-to-bake pizza from Costsco for our gameday food! As long as I’m not paying… 😉

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $36.65

J

Out of sight.

In my little “About Me” page, I mention how I’m not exactly the traditional spender. I don’t really shop for clothes… or so I used to claim! As I’ve recently noted in my analysis of last year’s spending, I’ve spent nearly $300 at my guilty pleasure retail outlet: Express.

I used to only go to Express when I’d have gift cards after the holidays or my birthday, buy new slacks for work or some new sweaters, and call it a successful trip. I wouldn’t go buy clothes anywhere else, usually, except for Express and would only go once or twice a year. Period.

But, in the past couple of years, I started getting tons of e-mails and coupons in the mail. I signed up for their rewards program (which is free, at least!). Next thing I knew, I was clicking on every e-mail. “Take 40-60% off fall sweaters until midnight tonight!” Sign me up! Suddenly my small collection of 2 pairs of work pants, 2 shirts, and a sweater turned into a collection of at least 3 dresses, a skirt or two, at least 3 work pants, probably close to 10 shirts, and a sweater or two. Ugh. What happened to me??!!

wpid-Screenshot_2014-01-05-08-47-59.png

Answer: their marketing worked. Hook. Line. Sinker.

I don’t blame Express for this at all. It’s just how things are. Now that I’ve been employed by a consumer goods company for over a year, my eyes are wide open to the tricks that marketers play in their adverts – be it e-mail, snail mail, or other media. It sucked me in. I fell for it. Shame on me.

Again, it’s not Express. I get, in the average week, over 30 e-mails from…

  • clothing stores (Express, Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, H&M)
  • electronics stores (Best Buy, primarily)
  • media (Netflix, Redbox)
  • online stores (Tradesy, Etsy, TouchOfModern, NFL Shop, Sports Illustrated’s online store)
  • restaurants (Starbucks, Panera, Godiva, Coldstone)

I’d say 80% of the time, I’d immediately delete them… but the other 20% of the time, the idea of getting sweaters for cheap from Express became enticing. “I only have until midnight! I must go now!” One sweater turns into two, which turns into a dress, which turns into leggings… you know how it goes.

So, I did something about it. I did something that was always an option, but was never taken.

I unsubscribed. I scrolled down to the teeny tiny text at the bottom of the email and clicked “unsusbscribe”. So far I’ve unsubscribed from every single one, and the time it takes to complete my morning routine of sorting through my two dozen or so e-mails has been drastically reduced, becoming more efficient.

Will this help curb my craving of buying those kick-ass looking running pants from Express? Time will tell. (But I really, really hope it does!)

As of writing this post on Monday night, I have miraculously not tapped into my budget for the week. However, I my first real hurdle is going to happen on Friday: I’m hosting a movie night and need to cook dinner for my guests; thus, a shopping trip may be in order. Eep! Anyway, for now…

Weekly Allowance: $60.00
Weekly Allowance Remaining: $60.00

J