The Last Days 28-30

Nov. 28 & 29 – zilch
Nov. 30

  • $108.90 – Car insurance
  • $5.70 – Brick literary journal + absurd shipping
  • $3.99 – River Teeth lit journal kindle edition
  • $39.67 – Beers and pizza with a coworker to pump her for work information (no joke) (kind of a joke).

I’m somewhat worried about December. My rent goes up, but that’s not really the reason. It’s not really the holidays either; I’ve bought enough “gifts” for other people to cheer myself up over the last few months that I have a pretty good stockpile.

I suppose it is that reporting my spending “every day” didn’t really seem to do much to reduce my spending in November (okay, it’s down by $363 compared to October). And I suppose it’s that the numbers I really look at–food and drinks out–are basically unchanged. Gifts spending was down significantly in October. Travel spending was up. I am certain that all of these will increase over the holidays (except maybe travel) and that stresses me out because I’ve got an essay that’s ready for submission so I’m spending more on submission fees and also back issues of literary journals to see if it is appropriate. And I’m just sure that all these things will put me into negative territory (which doesn’t mean debt for me, just that my monthly spending outweighs my monthly income). Plus I am due for an oil change soon and the 90,000 mile check up for my car.

So I’m feeling the pressure and I’m looking for ways to decrease my spending an increase my income. My ideas so far:

  • Sell my plasma again. Not ideal. It takes a long time and lowers my iron count over time, which then means I can’t donate until it’s back up to a certain level. Plus it’s a pain to go to. But it can be up to another $200 per month.
  • Eating lots of chili. My groceries normally aren’t very expensive, and now that it’s colder I can basically just eat chili every day all day.
  • Bike to work. It’s not much because work is less than 2 miles away, but it keeps me from going anywhere else during or after work.

I probably won’t sell my plasma. I might think about some other things that I can do to earn a little more, but I also might just try to keep my costs down and see if I can make it work. Because that has gone soo well in the past.



Day 4: Ugh, TGIF (but also more work)

There hasn’t been spending yet, but there will be.

Today at work I facilitated a workshop with another coworker and two volunteers that took up most of the day, but was really successful and well received. It was stressful to plan and execute, and I’m happy with how it turned out. I’m also exhausted! My coworker and I got a beer afterwards, which I was expecting to pay for, but which she generously picked up. I will get the next one, and am grateful to work with people I like to get beers with.

Tonight’s other spending will be dinner with another coworker/work-bestie/regular-life-bestie because we haven’t hung out much outside of work lately and also… because we’re holding an overnight tomorrow that we still need to put the final details on. And obviously we couldn’t work on  it today during actual work because I was running a workshop. And it’s just too much to think of trying to continue to work on work stuff (fun stuff! but still work stuff) and also put together dinner, and also show up at work tomorrow unless we get some yummy Thai food as well.

It sounds like I’m complaining, but I don’t mean to be. Of all the ways I can spend my work time,I prefer hosting workshops and overnights more than anything else. The past few days (or the past two weeks…) I’ve been pretty grumpy about work. I’m managing an event I don’t really like right now that doesn’t culminate in any girl contact for me at all, as well as handling some conflicts that I’d rather not, and on top of it all, I’m missing my man. For two weeks now, I’ve felt over committed and under prepared,so much so that personal care falls to the wayside, and that when I finally return to it, I am shocked to find out how much better I feel after a run and a shower (my coworkers probably appreciate it too). Last week, I vowed to remember, and this week… I vowed the same thing. Guess it takes a little while to sink in.

On the plus side, I have a hard time envisioning much extra spending this weekend?

Off the Rails

It started last Friday with a couple of margaritas. Then a quick trip to the yarn store, which turned into a trip to the bookstore next door for some gifts (gifts are good right?): a book I will read before giving away and some cards for friends far away. Then a trip to the studio up the street–another present, local art is the best art, right? And I was going to buy something eventually anyway right?

Then a weekend of being sick and watching movies and not buying groceries or preparing food for the week led to dinner with friends on Sunday night and lunch at work yesterday, both delicious meals at places I’ve been craving since this whole “spending fast” thing began in August, a whole month ago.

Then there was an evening soy chai latte while volunteering (it’s rude not to buy something right?) and a quick and dirty trip to Trader Joes–hello corn nuts, fig newtons, chocolate covered almonds, falafel wrap, tofu spring roll and grapes (grapes are healthy).

Add to that the normal, but thus far theoretical, utility bills and increased rent, plus a quick trip to the vet for our favorite presidential kitten, and you have quite a pricey past five days. Thank Maude tomorrow is payday.

I’m trying to remember that this is not my most of the time, that this spending–at least the food and the Starbucks–is a stress response. And the presents? Well that’s a margarita response. And if it seems like I’m being extra hard on myself, it’s because I’m trying to remember that I don’t want this to be my most of the time.

Last night, after a long day at work and a few hours volunteering for the presidential who is not a cat or a demigorgon, I came home tired. I ate my falafel and my spring rolls. I listened to a podcast, and I started some soup, for which I had defrosted the stock two days ago, so hopeful was I that it would be made. I roasted some butternut squash, and put my trusty blender to work. In thanks, I have four servings of butternut squash soup, enough to take me solidly into this four-day work weekend at camp, where I will spend exactly nothing.

It’s good to have soup. It’s good to reset.


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.

Welcome to February… Boom!

If January was marked by frugality, February 1st has been the feast after the famine. For the last week or so, I’ve avoided certain expenditures (all wants) in order to keep my net income for January high, but all that money has blown away with last night’s wind storm.

I exaggerate slightly, but only just. In one day, I have spent the following:

  • $33.71 – groceries this morning: peanut butter, oatmeal and coffee. The coffee was on sale, so I got three bags.
  • $77.12 – entry into the Hot Chocolate 15k. Turns out the chocolate is vegan!
  • $19 – entry into a children’s poetry contest that my mom sent me. The poem I wrote is not particularly geared toward children, but it’s not inappropriate for children, and the contest did say “poetry for children up to age 18” so I did it. I’d love to know more about what constitutes “children’s” poetry.
  • $250 – flash nonfiction class with Creative Nonfiction magazine. It’s a month-long class online and I hope it will help me get a feel for what a low residency MFA might be like. I also have wanted a subscription to CNF for forever, and now I have one.

Things still to come tonight:

  • $10 – Practice (and I owe $10 for the last time when I came late)
  • $? – More groceries because woman cannot live on peanut butter and oatmeal alone. She also needs bananas.

August Numbers

August was the month of $200+ expenses.
$213 for Hillary Kitten’s vet appointment
$243 for plane tickets to H’s wedding
$349 to give a mattress to my sister as a moving/early birthday/early Christmas/maybe next year’s birthday? present

There were some $100+ expenses too.
$125 for new glasses
$107 in DMV registration fees

It stressed me out, especially toward the middle of the month because I had this great new “save $1,000 a month” goal and I was definitely not going to achieve it. To be honest, I thought my expenses might outpace my income, and I’ve been on a pretty good streak. Plus, I was/am just stressed about life in general so big money costs (even ones I planned for like plane tickets) made me feel worse.

What’s funny to me now, looking back on the month as a whole (and at my trends overall) is that high ($100+ is when costs start to feel high to me) ongoing expenses don’t stress me out. Consistently paying $100-$200 in gas doesn’t fit with what I want for my life. Grocery bills around $300 (not this month, but in several months past) is ridiculous for a single person. When my spending is out of line, my life is usually misaligned too. 

On my August goals:

  • Groceries: according to my records I spent around $180 on groceries. No $150, but better than the $300 months.
  • I worked out consistently, probably close to 5 days a week, but as stress levels increased, tracking decreased, so I
    can’t really say for sure. Gretchen Rubin’s questions definitely helped.
  • I wrote poems consistently for one week out of the month. The rest of the time… not so much. Writing is usually the first thing to go and the last thing I do.
  • Save $417: check! I did not save $1,000 this month, but I could have come fairly close. I transferred the $417 into my savings account today, and I’ll probably try to write a bigger check for my car with some of the rest.
  • I stayed pretty thorough with my monthly tabulation, and it helped! My final tally was only off by $0.91 which is the lowest it has possibly ever been.

September goal: survive? It is possibly just survive. We’re trying to keep expectations low around here.

August Goals Update

My August goals fell by the wayside the last two weeks. My mom came to town, and then work/life/derbs was stressful afterward, and it showed in my ability to keep up with what is important. Isn’t that always the way it goes? Some little unimportant thing happens and it derails the really important aspects of your life. But anyway, here goes:

  • Groceries: I’m currently at $132.37 for the month, and that includes a couple of coffees, dinners out, and some movie snacks. I don’t think I was originally planning on counting food out (not technically groceries) but whatever. Including only food bought at a grocery store, I am at $93.37, safely under budget for the month with a week to go. Some proper planning on today’s grocery run and I should achieve this goal. 
  • Exercise: Doing fairly well there. Four to five days a week average. 
  • Writing: Hah. Here’s where it goes downhill. None? Zero? Zip? All true. I’ve done none, and it shows, maybe not to anyone else (not even sure if Boyfriend notices) but I can feel myself tense up. I’m a little more on edge, a little less happy, a little less patient. Because I know I’m not doing what I’m “supposed to” be doing (what I want to do too, but it’s the supposed to that kills me) and I don’t know where to find more time. It’s there of course, somewhere, maybe underneath the couch. I’m returning to an old strategy this week. Get up early and write one bad thing before work this week. We’ll see how it goes. Failure seems imminent. 
  • Saving. Miraculously, it seems somehow still conceivable that I could save $417 this month. This has been the month of big spending. Most months, it is a little here and a little there–dinners and coffees and Hillary Kitten treats, the occasional book. This month it has been Hillary Kitten’s vet bill and medication ($232), the gift of a mattress for my sister ($347), new glasses ($125), DMV bills ($107), the ominous threat of new tires, etcetera. Still, it is conceivable that my savings is not completely haywire this month. 

As for that fun goal? Well, fun seems to be mostly a state of mind. I’ve had fun. When my mom was in town, we went to the beach and made dinner and drank wine, and that was fun. I’ve had dinner with friends and that’s been fun. I’ve read a couple of deeply interesting books. I’ve eaten very good meals with good friends. Overall though, I’m not sure that fun = happiness. It seems like happiness has a little bit more to do with what I’m not doing than with what I am. I’m happier when I’m not dealing with people who annoy me. Or working. Or maybe it’s just that unhappiness is easier to remember and its causes are easier to attribute. 

August Goals Update

  1. So far, I have spent $54.61 on groceries in the first ten days of the month. I have eaten very, very well, especially last night when we had friends over for dinner and I made a bean salad, quesadillas and stuffed jalapenos. Fortunately there is a ton of the delicious bean salad left, so that will be lunches this week.
  2. I had derby on Monday and Thursday, ran on Tuesday and Sunday, walked on Friday, so I made my exercise goal for this week at least.
  3. Writing every other day didn’t really happen in the middle of the week. I posted a blog on Sunday, wrote a little on Tuesday, wrote on Friday, Saturday and today. So I guess I only really missed Wed/Thurs.
  4. Saving is on track, though right now my spending outranks my income. It’s early in the month. Rent and taxes have been taken care of. I finally bought plane tickets for H’s wedding in October, which I half-count as spending and half-don’t because I’d already set aside the money for these tickets, so I don’t really feel like it should count against my goals.
  5. Updated the tabulation today. Somehow I am missing 54 cents. I’m going to have to check my car.

It’s very tempting to online window-shop, but pretty unproductive. I see dresses and pants that I want to buy, but don’t actually need, so it makes me feel dissatisfied and distracts from my actual goals (saving $417 – $1,000 per month). So I’m trying to avoid it. It’s also time wasted when I could be writing or playing with H.K. But it is a struggle.

This afternoon I’m volunteering with G.S. then a friend and I are grabbing dinner and seeing a movie. I anticipate spending a little bit of money, but I also have a gift card from one of my aunts that has just been hanging around, so I’ll probably make use of it to lessen my costs.

July Spending & A Possible New Goal?

I revamped some of my spending categories this month. They felt cumbersome and seldom used. Do I take public transit so often that it needs to be its own line? Unfortunately no. Do I really need to differentiate trips to the doctor, dentist and optometrist? Given that I basically never see them, no.

The categories feel a little lighter now, a little more accurate. And Hillary Kitten has her own category, which is good because after rent, she’s probably the biggest expense this month (it’s that cat tree, you guys).

I still ended the month with income above expenses ($3,044.15 to $2,671.95 if you want to know) but it’s a far cry from my best months when my expenses were below a thousand. In almost all major areas (except Hillary Kitten’s category), I felt I hadn’t received fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy (aka money) spent.

Some major spending this month:
Groceries – $293. This does not include other food like restaurants, or coffee shops, but it does probably include some alcohol since I didn’t really separate my receipts. Still, way high relative to previous months.

Gas – $165. Probably actually not extraordinarily high, but I really hate buying gas.

Rent/Joint Account – $595. Boyfriend and I pay $900 total in rent, so I’m actually dropping a fair amount extra into this category, which also covers our utilities (never more than $100 a month). We’ve started using it for going out to eat or to pay for joint house purchases. But I think mostly it just accumulates.

The cat tree – $345. Hillary Kitten’s beautiful cat tree. It’s expensive, but she enjoys it and it looks way better than the carpet covered ones. A one time durable expense I can live with (though yes, I am a little embarrassed by the number).

Derby Equipment – $182. I bought a new bag, some new tights, new wrist guards and elbow pads, etc. this month. I’m really pleased with the bag and the gear was a long time coming. That said, I’m feeling low when it comes to derby lately (not that I’ve been to practice in a week or so), so the money adds to that dissatisfaction/melancholy.

I didn’t put any money toward my car this month and I didn’t put anything toward H.’s wedding. In fact, I just bought plane tickets so my H’s wedding pot is about to decrease. I guess this is what it’s there for.

When I was on vacation last week, I pondered what it would be like to be on vacation all of the time, financial independence basically, a common fantasy in my world. But I started playing around with the calculations, and realized, “hey! I could save $25,000 in five years if I just put aside $417 a month!” Which, I realize is not enough to retire on, but it would be $25,000 more than I’d have otherwise.

With this little financial goal (because $417 should not be hard to save with what I’m bringing in each month) I perked right up again about YMOYL and frugality and all the good stuff. Suddenly, it seems worthwhile and productive again to track my spending and keep it in line.

I talked to Boyfriend about it, and he had a radical suggestion. Why stop at $417? Why not make it $1,000? Which really sent my mind racing. Saving $1,000 a month would be a big stretch goal, definitely requiring some belt tightening (which my nurse practioner suggested anyway, ugh) but it would be wildly exciting at the same time.

$417 seems easy, in my sleep easy. $1,000 seems like climbing a fourteener hard–doable with the right equipment if you’re in reasonable health and the weather holds, but a little bit intimidating. So what will probably happen is something in between. Which is better than nothing.

Out of the hole in my pocket

Today I really wanted to go to my new favorite coffee shop, Krakatoa. I was hoping to go work there for awhile, but by the time I finished up at the office, it made more sense to just go home. Boyfriend had bought some muffins and I made a pot of tea, so theoretically it was the same thing… but it wasn’t. It was the frugal-pretty-good-not-quite-as-good alternative. 

Since it’s the last day of July and I know I need to balance my accounts now, I deposited a couple of last minute checks this afternoon, which led me past the bar across the street. So of course, since I wasn’t going to my favorite coffee shop, I wanted to go inside and have a glass of wine and a sandwich. I even saw one of my friends inside working! 

I resisted. I went home and kept working at my dining table, which is pretty great as far as dining tables go. When I finished working, I switched to looking at clothes online. There’s some nice stuff out there! Pretty dresses, adorable shoes, practical pants–stuff I could buy since I just deposited two checks (conveniently ignoring the bills that are literally piled up next to me). 

Still I resisted, kind of. I finally bought a new pair of glasses to replace the ones I had in high school (several prescriptions out of date). They were $95 and should get here in a couple of weeks. It was probably unnecessary; I’d been getting by without new glasses for the past eight years. Somehow glasses are harder to justify than a sandwich or a cup of coffee. 

I also wrote a check to my grandma for my car. Not a big check, smaller than I was hoping, but I still wrote it. $100 closer to paying off the car. 

I’m not paying the other bills sitting beside me yet. I’m waiting until tomorrow so that I can count them as part of August’s bills instead of July’s. I play these games with myself. But in case you were wondering, one is a $75 bill for my renter’s insurance and the other is my DMV renewal fee, $107. Theoretically, I might be able to write that off on my taxes if I ever figured out what an independent contractor can deduct. 

Not to mention the new tires I probably need to buy since I think mine are probably what my parents would call “bald.” I think they only have a receding hairline. It also doesn’t include the plane ticket’s home to H.’s wedding that I still need to purchase. Orr the check I still haven’t sent to H for the dress. 

I still want a sandwich or a glass of wine. I still have half an hour before Krakatoa closes. I know that Boyfriend and I are going out tomorrow, but that doesn’t really make a difference. Or that I’ll probably go out for happy hour with some friends next week. The money still wants to be spent.