Maybe a little too much entertainment

On Saturday, I worked all day. I spoke in front of a group of about forty people, then hung out with a group of teenagers and helped me colleagues in between. There was a lot of talking.

On Sunday, I rested. I went for a run (I guess in my life that counts as resting now). I listened to a podcast. I went to dinner with friends. There was more talking and a movie was watched. There was delicious peanut sauce.
hk back turned

On Monday, I worked. After work, I phone banked for Hillary. I’m committed to electing  my cat as president of the United States. She was pretty annoyed though that I stayed away and made phone calls instead of hanging out with her. That’s the price of victory, HK. A lady yelled at me. I wondered why I was volunteering for something that was so much like my job. It’s because the people are good, like at my job. I didn’t write, even though I said I would try to write every day this week.

Today is Tuesday, I worked. I left work early and went to my aunt’s. I brought a new and challenging knitting project. I knitted for probably three or four hours, but I still don’t have the pattern down yet. At last count, I had dropped two stitches. That’s not too bad, in my opinion. I’m hoping that I’ll dream about it tonight and master it tomorrow. When my uncle came home, we made spaghetti for dinner and a salad. I didn’t run. I am writing now. You can be the judge of the quality. There was more talking.

Tomorrow is Wednesday. I might be going to a friend’s house after work for movies and wine. There will certainly be talking. I could bring my knitting. If it is not apparent yet, I’ve done a bit of talking this week, and I might need an evening at home with the presidential candidate. I’m not even sure that I want the talking of a podcast.

Thursday I am back at my aunt’s. I’m happy to go. There will be more knitting, but I don’t think I’ll stay for dinner.

Friday, I have no plans. TGIF.

A look back and a look forward

This was the first week that my Man was gone. The first few days have been rough, but I think I’ve settled in again. The cat seems to love me more, or maybe it’s that I’m even more desperate for her love now that he’s gone. The mornings have been more cloudy, the first sign that our endless southern California summer is shifting (almost imperceptibly) towards fall/winter.

It was a heavy work week. Our major volunteer conference and celebration was yesterday at the San Diego Convention Center, and I worked late on Thursday to help my coworkers get ready for it. For my part, I mostly ignored the session I was running until a few days before, and I felt the difference in my presentation. It was good enough–competent, but not my best work. Fortunately, there are no academy awards of conference presentations, and the feedback I received was positive. Still, the rest of the work to prepare for the conference kept me busy enough, and distracted enough to forget to blog on Friday.

The stress also showed up in the form of birthday cake oreos, a couple of trips to Starbucks, and dinner with a good work friend and her fiance after a stressful day. It was needed, and I’m not sweating the “break” from my “spending fast” (have I even really started yet?).

Good things came from this week too in the form of self-care. I started a new knitting Follow her on insta--@hkforpresidentproject to use up some of the yarn in my yarn box, and I’ve learned some new skills and gained some additional knitting confidence. I drank wine with good friends on Wednesday, something that will become a regular tradition, I hope. I’ve gotten fairly good sleep, and I’ve tried to spend time with the cat as much as possible. It seems like she wants to spend time with me too.

But I’m worn out from this weekend, and I know the slog will continue as we move from August to September and work picks up again. So this week, I want to take better care of myself, especially in the food department. This afternoon (after a long nap) I made a delicious kale and potato salad, based on this recipe from Angela Liddon, one of my favorites. I’m looking forward to eating it over the next few days, and then moving on to more salad in other forms. I bought some cherry heirloom tomatoes that I can’t wait to eat with a little balsamic vinegar.

And I want to take care of my mind/spirit this week. I’m committed to writing at least ten minutes every day to get back into the habit after missing out for a few weeks, and hopefully to prepare for my class that will start in a few weeks. I’d like to get back to a little bit of meditation each day and some Spanish practice, which fell off this weekend as work took over.

Tonight I’m having dinner with friends, something I hope to do regularly as they take pity on me in my single state and feed me the best peanut sauce known to womankind. Then it’s off to bed, getting set for another full week ahead.

Free Ways to Entertain Myself While the Man is Gone

Not that I couldn’t do these things if he was here, but just that I need some more ideas now that he’s not because otherwise I’ll just end up obsessively cleaning the apartment over and over again (it’s already begun).

  • Knit this whole box of yarn.yarn
  • Binge listen to podcasts.
  • Learn to handstand.
  • Write (duh).
  • Learn Spanish (claro).
  • Drink wine on my patio. #winewednesday
  • Teach the cat Ukrainian (step 1: learn Ukrainian).
  • Meditate. Actually go to a meditation studio and practice with other people.
  • Read more books.
  • Wake up at sunrise.
  • Jump in the ocean.
  • Jump in the ocean at sunrise (would be more impressive if I was on the east coast…)
  • Spend a weekend using no electricity (this I probably couldn’t do if he was here. He would not be into this little experiment).
  • Figure out how to become youtube famous and then do that.
  • Explore the independent grocery stores in San Diego and find some new cuisines! This is technically not free, but I have to buy food anyway!
  • Perfect my audition tape for lip sync battle.
  • Dance Party. Pairs well with lip syncing.
  • Make a pillow fort (maybe during the weekend without electricity).
  • See how far I can walk in a day? Could I get to La Jolla? Could I get back? I guess that’s what Uber’s for.
  • Learn a new skill. Like cellphone photography. All the better for taking pictures of my cat.
  • Play the pushup game. Every time you think of pushups, you have to do a pushup. Just kidding, I will never play this game because I don’t know how you could stop thinking about pushups once you’ve started. I would literally always be thinking about the pushup I was doing and then I’d have to keep doing them until I collapsed. Maybe that’s the point?
  • Make more lists of free or cheap things I can do to fill up my time. Making lists is free!
  • Volunteer. #Idothisalready, but also already read and write and also try to learn Spanish, so I guess it belongs here. It is an inexpensive and highly entertaining thing to do.

A Weekend of Wants (the needs were covered)

This is day 2 of an impromptu three day weekend, trying to squeeze as much time in with my man as possible without both of us becoming annoyed with each other before he goes to New York. It’s involved a little cleaning, a little reading, a lot of lounging, and a few beers. Tomorrow promises more of the same.

It’s also involved a fair bit of spending, mostly things related to entertaining myself after my man is gone. And after this weekend, the prices go up, so I figured this was a good time to sign up for the following:

  • Advanced Memoir and Personal Writing (an online class): $425
  • The Carlsbad Half-Marathon: $113
  • A Hillary Clinton fundraiser I’ll attend with work friends: $45

The class starts mid-September, the half is in January, and the fundraiser is next Tuesday, so I have a few short and long distance things to look forward to. I have more to say about Shoe’s suggestion that I have a “spontaneous opportunity fund” line in my budget, and how it relates to these very expensive, and preplanned opportunities, but I haven’t thought it all out yet, and maybe I never will. So there.

The rest of the weekend has been remarkably cheap. We went out for dinner last night, spent $40 on burgers and beers and a last hurrah after a trip to the beach and a long run through Balboa Park. I have not gone grocery shopping yet, but instead have eaten through some of the remaining vegetables from last week’s haul (though I have not made much of a dent in the potatoes), and that is the usual expensive weekend chore. I’ve decided I’ll skip the grocery trip until I run out of fruit for my smoothie, which actually probably won’t last much longer than Tuesday. Cleaning is, fortunately, always free. I finished A Thousand Splendid Suns (free) in preparation for the Adolescent Book Group on Wednesday (more free entertainment if you don’t count the cost of gas). I’ve picked up knitting again, so now that I’m out of books (except for the one in Spanish that I can’t read more than a few paragraphs of at time), I’ll probably spend the evening knitting and listening to podcasts.

Kindness and Breaking the Budget

Well, it happened, basically as predicted. I started the week feeling pretty good, then life got away from me and so did my spending.

On Monday, I went to the optometrist, which I had scheduled but forgot to budget for (I have also failed to budget for the contacts I need to order asap). So that’s $50 that’s just sitting in the red in my ledger right now. I refuse to actually pull money from another line item to cover it, so now it’s just going to sit there, taunting me until next Wednesday when I get paid again and can allocate money again.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had all day conflict training at work, which one of my colleagues described as “a bad group therapy session” which, it not the only thing I would say about it, but it is also not something I would not say about it. I cried both days. I watched coworkers cry. I didn’t leave feeling like we’d really figured out how we would deal with the conflicts land in our inboxes, but I did leave feeling like maybe I had some words that would make me a little stronger in the moment, and that’s not nothing.

So anyway, on Wednesday after work, I walked to Whole Foods and the art supply store and bought presents for some coworkers and one of my friends who is starting school this week. I bought nice bars of chocolate and cute bandaids. Writing them nice cards and leaving the gifts on their desks made me feel better when I really, really needed to feel better, and that’s not nothing either. But I also recognize that I was giving to them to

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Hillary believes she is a present.

make myself feel better, which doesn’t make me feel selfish (well it does a little bit) but it does make me feel worse about spending a bunch of money outside my budget. And I wonder if there were other ways I could have expressed kindness without spending money, or I wonder if this is important enough to me that I should work it into my budget somehow. I think it’s probably the first one, but like I said, I felt a lot better afterward, and that’s worth remembering about myself: I feel good when I express kindness.

This weekend should be better. I still have a lot of vegetables in the fridge that need to be eaten, and plenty of frozen bananas chilling in the freezer, so I don’t think I need to make a shopping run this weekend. I have books to read from the library, including The Spender’s Guide to Debt Free Living by Anna Newell Jones, creator of andthenwesaved.com. This is the last weekend that my man is in town, so I’m hoping that we’ll get to the beach and maybe have a nice meal somewhere (#jointcardforthewin).

Me-Not-Me

I’ve been listening to a lot of Sid Garza-Hillman’s excellent podcast, which introduced me to the Me-Not-Me game. Basically, it’s a tool to help you figure out what behaviors and habits fit with your values and sense of self, and which ones don’t reflect those values. It’s a way of analyzing your behavior without judgement, and then slowly creating change based on self-knowledge. My examples from this weekend:

Me: spending time on the patio, drinking a smoothie and writing my morning pages.
Not Me: turning off my alarm and going back to bed for almost three more hours.

Both happened, but “Not Me” is not who I want to be but who I think I am at my core.

If I’m not explaining this well, check out Sid’s video.

In writing my morning pages this morning, and thinking about the Me-Not-Me game, I realized that my budget is another version of the same game. It’s my way of checking in with myself and determining what spending reflects my values and goals, and what doesn’t (I’m looking at you Iced Grande Soy Chai Latte). I’m really happy right now ynab813because my spending this month has been aligned with my values and goals. I’ve put money aside for the house fund and my retirement, and I already have September’s rent socked away. Sometimes, I’m not as happy, usually when I haven’t been able to put aside money for my goals, but have somehow managed to spend several hundred dollars on restaurant meals and other fun stuff. I’m sure it will happen again (I’m not perfect), and I hope that I’ll feel a little unhappy or annoyed with myself and get back on track.

Actually, being so pleased with myself for how well I’ve done so far this month makes me a little nervous. There have been times where being self-satisfied has led me to reward my good behavior, and get off track. I’m trying to be really conscious of temptations or stumbling blocks, and planning ahead for how I’ll deal with them. For instance, this Thursday I’m going to a volunteer meeting that is taking place at a restaurant. It would be rude for me to go and not order anything, plus if everyone did it, the restaurant might not let us have our big meeting there anymore, so I’m thinking about how I’ll handle it and how much I’m willing to spend (plan: probably a small salad or a hummus/pita option).

I am me when my actions align with my values– the acts of spending, thinking, and treating others maybe most of all. I am most me when I am open, loving, kind and honest–to myself and others. Do I live up to that most of the time? Mmm, I’m working on it.

What about you? What is you-not-you?

haul

What $40 Buys

… at least in San Diego.

  • 10 lbs of potatoes
  • 10 lbs of bananas
  • 4 lbs frozen strawberries
  • 1 watermelon
  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • 3 cucumbers
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 head of celery
  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1 bag of carrots

Ten pounds of bananas is about twice as many bananas as I usually eat in a week, so I froze about half for smoothies next week. Four pounds of strawberries is a few pounds less than I like per week, but I had some left over from last week’s excursion. The lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, carrots, celery and some of the cucumbers will become this week’s salads, and other meals will include potatoes, rice and beans (already purchased–except I forgot I was out of black beans! Fortunately there are so many stores available). Cukes and potatoes will be come snacks, as will the watermelon.

Small successes and small change

Twice this week, I avoided Starbucks. On the way up to camp this afternoon, I skipped the gas station snacks, and ate my sandwiches when we arrived.

In our weekly meeting, I asked my boss how she managed to buy a house, raise a family and travel all on a nonprofit’s salary. “It’s the little things,” she told me, “and it surprises you.”

She told me things I know, things like ‘contribute to your retirement’ and ‘don’t go out to lunch,’ and some things that I didn’t, like ‘look into affordable housing and the first time buyers program.’ She told me not too worry, that it would happen even though you can’t see it coming. But just like she couldn’t quite say how she got ‘there,’ there being the house, the kids, the management position, I can’t quite see how to stop wondering.

Maybe it is because I went to camp today, but I see myself standing at a trail head, knowing a mountain is out there and that, through a series of small steps along a path, I will reach the summit, improbable though it seems at the start.

And after that, there are other mountains to climb.

 

Manifesto for a Spending Fast

  • Pack a lunch.
  • Make a plan. Don’t get upset if life has different ideas.
  • Roll with change. But don’t roll over just because something is tough.
  • Make a grocery list. Remember snacks.
  • Carry your own water bottle.
  • Bike if you can.
  • Take care of Needs before Wants.
  • Know the difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t.’ I can buy a new book, but I won’t.
  • Be honest. coffeecupThe more you say “that’s not in my budget,” the easier it will get.
  • Savor. The contrast of a grapefruit in a green bowl. Sugar in the first cup of coffee. The pleasure of a cold shower after exercise. The familiarity of your day to day surroundings: the apartment, the beach.Avoid temptation. It will find you anyway.
  • Search your feelings (Luke…) before you buy something. Are you hungry? Angry? Lonely? What’s the root cause?
  • Give love. Give attention. Give time.
  • Don’t forget to give love, attention and time to yourself too.
  • Share what you have.
  • Say thank you.

The Rules of the Game (there are no rules)

This week has been all about thinking about money: how to save it, where to spend it, and how the upcoming changes in my life will affect the previous two.

In a nutshell, with my man moving across the country, my expenses will go up. Starting next month, I’ll be responsible for the total cost of our apartment and utilities. In addition, this week we opened a joint investment account in order to begin saving for a house (well, in order to begin saving together for a house—someone in this relationship is already ahead of the game on that front, and it isn’t me). We agreed that we’d each put $250 in this account each month, and hopefully more down the road.

On top of that, I decided I’d like to increase my retirement savings by another $250, mostly because $500 is a nice round number, but also because saving while I’m young is critical. What does that mean? It’s time for a savings fast!

What I can spend on:                              What I can’t:
Rent                                                                Everything else (aka)
Utilities                                                          Restaurants & coffee shops
Gas (some)*                                                 Booze (thank goodness we have all those leftovers)
Food (some)                                                 Books (hello library!)
Phone                                                            Music
Writing classes/submissions
YMCA Membership (#health)
Car Insurance
Medications/Drs. Appointments
Hillary Kitten’s stuff (within reason)

Basically, by only spending on “can” side of the list, and following a fairly close budget there too, I can set aside the $500 I want each month and still have $16 to spare. It’s already burning a hole in my pocket.

But then I remembered the other things I want to do, like attend a friend’s wedding and an HRC fundraiser that I’ve already coerced several coworkers into attending with me, and also buy a really expensive writing class, which I know technically is on my “can” list, but I was thinking more in the $5 or $10 ranger, rather than the $400 range. And maybe an InMotion membership and entry fee into the Carlsbad half, but probably not the InMotion one (but probably yes the Carlsbad one and ugh! Why do I want so many things?). Those are not wants that can be covered by my supposedly $16 per month wiggle room.

It took a couple days, but I can finally admit that my perfect plan, beautiful though it is on paper, is not realistic. And then it took a couple more days for me to realize that means I need to let go of the plan, of perfection. At least for now. I need to be okay with being better, not being perfect.

So what does the plan look like now? Well, I still think it’s possible to put $250 per month towards our house fund, and I think it’s probably possible to put another $100 per month towards my IRA (on top of what I’m already contributing to my 403(b) through work). But that last $150? I think I’d like to leave at as a cushion, or put it towards some of these other wants, rather than going full austerity instantaneously.  And realistically, I think I might need to reallocate a bit of my savings/emergency fund towards attending this wedding. And that’s something I want to be okay with.

Here we are. The basic rules. Spend only on the “can” list, plus maybe a few cheats from the really really really want list.

I think it’s important to acknowledge, right from the start, that this will not be perfect. That I will not be perfect. But I hope that by being better, I can get closer to where I want to be.

*I plan to continue to bike to work anytime I don’t have a meeting so that I can avoid spending unnecessary gas money.