Archive for July, 2008

Putting my money where my mouth is, unfortunately

I am way over budget for July.

Well, I am using the term budget loosely. The way I have been budgeting up until now was by allocating rough amounts for my non-set expenses. My set expenses are things like rent, transportation, and the amount I put into saving & such.

My non-set expenses are, well, everything else, but I pretty much break them down into laundry, cat, food, and free. I really need to start breaking food down into groceries and eating out, and breaking free down so that I can see what will be easy to cut. However, I’ve been trying to start slowly. I think I am only now moving from learning to write down every penny I spend in my spreadsheet and put it under a vague category. So maybe that should go on my list of August goals.

This month I’ve had a bunch of irregular expenses. I went away for a day, I bought a couch, and I bought a bed frame. However, I really didn’t do too badly with those expenses. I saved on my trip by using Megabus, which I highly recommend. I could have saved even more if I had booked my trip further in advance, which is what I will do next time. I got the bed frame and the couch on craigslist, for $70 and $80 respectively. I overspent on the couch, but the guy delivered it & I figured it wasn’t fair of me to demand that other people do work when I could just pay a bit more. If I were capable of transporting a couch by myself it might have been a different story, but I’m not at all. Still, I feel like I didn’t do to badly on any of those things.

Really the problem was food. I’ve managed to cut back on lunches. I used to buy lunch by work three or more days a week. In July I’ve bought lunch three times total. The problem has been eating dinner out and ordering dinner in. I’ve been doing way too much of it, and spending way too much when I do.

As of about the 15th of August I’ll no longer be sharing food expenses with someone else. While generally speaking sharing expenses saves money on food, I am pretty sure this is not the case with me. First, I don’t eat meat, and meat is very expensive. When none of my food money is going to meat, I will spend less. Second, I am not a huge eater, so I need less food than the person I am sharing with. Third, I think when it is just me I will be less likely to order in. I don’t like using the phone, so I am unlikely to call places. Also, when it’s just me I am fine with having a sandwich, omelet, or mac &cheese or even just cereal for dinner if that’s what I am in the mood for and have around.

My worry is that once I am living alone I will be likely to eat out in restaurants more often for the company. The correct thing to do is to try and make plans that are free or cheap with my friends instead, or maybe invite people over for a home-cooked dinner and hope they invite me back. I’m really going to have to watch it though. I just have to remind myself every time I want to go out somewhere that I need that money for things that are way more important to me than one meal, and try and keep really delicious things in the house. If anyone else has any good suggestions on avoiding the temptation to eat out, however, I’d be glad to hear it.

July 30, 2008 at 6:27 pm 6 comments

New Clothes!

I love new clothing. I love old clothing, too, and sometimes have trouble getting rid of things. However, in my quest to save money every month, new clothing was the real issue. I used to shop a lot when I first got a job, using the excuse that I needed to build a work wardrobe. I got just about everything on sale and I’m happy with the prices I paid, but now I am at a point where I need to just not be spending that money. Clothing and food were probably the two areas of my life where I spent the most. Food I am still pretty bad about, but my food budget is really a topic for a different post.

In terms of clothing, I started by going cold turkey. Nothing new, at all, not even checking to see if there was a sale or what was available. After about two months of this, I was able to check out sales at my favorite places and decide there was nothing I needed for those prices. I even got an email from one online place saying they missed me and offering 15% off. While it is always nice to be missed that emphasized for me how much I really had been spending.

Getting no new clothing at all was not that fun. I love new clothes! Fortunately, my closest friend has come to the rescue. First, she gave a way a bunch of clothing and I was able to claim some for free. The only thing better than new clothing is free new clothing! I understand that not everyone can count on having an awesome friend just giving away clothing. The next two things are things that could work for anyone at any time.

Second, we organized a clothing swap. Four of us got together at one girl’s house and brought bags and bags of clothing we didn’t want. Then everyone held up items, tried things on, claimed things and went home happy. The girl who hosted donated what was left unclaimed at the end to goodwill, and gets the tax write-off as a reward. We will definitely be doing this again, and I highly recommend it. Even if you think your friends are not going to be your size I’d say it’s worth a shot. You have nothing to lose, and cleaning out your closet is just as helpful to saving money as getting new clothing for free, even if it isn’t as much fun.

Front of shirtThird, our next project is t-shirt surgery. When we were getting ready for the clothing swap I set aside a bunch of t-shirts. Most of them are too big, one is too small, and almost all of them have two things in common: they hold sentimental value and I never ever wear them. The plan is to cut, sew, paint, etc until these old shirts I don’t wear become new shirts I’m excited about. More new clothing, free. Friday, I made my first shirt.

Back of shirt
I love new clothes, but I am also learning to love not spending money. Fortunately, it turns out I don’t have to choose.

July 28, 2008 at 7:11 pm 4 comments

Spotting Friends

I’ve been reading about splitting checks. I recently had my own variation on this that I’ve been noticing.

A few times recently I have lent someone five dollars when needed, paid for a meal when someone was short on cash, etc. They’ve all been small expenditures but all of us money-watchers know that five or ten dollars here and there still count. I’ve noticed people usually offer to repay these debts by getting my lunch next time or a similar offer. This was fine back when I used to get lunch several times a week, and I have never been so worried about the money that I would count the exact amount spent on a friend. With certain friends where we still do go out to eat together regularly this method still works fine. Now that I am trying not to buy lunch, though, this method pretty much sucks.

A couple months ago I spent about $10 on a friend that never got returned because instead of buying lunch I’ve been bringing it, and I haven’t been going out to drink. It’s on my expense spreadsheet (yes, I am a big dork about my expense spreadsheet) as money spent, with the assumption it’s just gone. Recently I bought a friend food and he offered to just get me next time for lunch, and I decided to say no. I felt weird about it, but I explained that I was trying not to spend money on lunch, and that if I hadn’t spent the money on him I would have saved it. He said okay, but it made what should have been a casual and friendly exchange feel stiff and weird.

I’ve read tons of articles on money and friends but can’t think of a better way to have handled this. He’ll know for the future, but that’s just one person. I suppose I could just count it as money lost but that’s hard when I am trying to save every dollar. Or I could refuse to spend money on friends, but that’s never been my style. Maybe if I had a few more social skills.

July 23, 2008 at 1:53 pm 1 comment

Introduction Post

I’ve been reading a lot about saving money, wise money moves, getting out of debt, etc. I am starting to feel like I am alone in being in my twenties, debt free, and interested in saving. I know I am not, but most of the advice out there seems to be for people who are either older (or at least at a different point life and career-wise) and starting to save and invest or for people my age trying to get out of debt. I’m smart/(un)lucky/whatever enough that I have no debt and have never had any serious debt. However, I make little money and live in an expensive city, and I want to save. I want to own my own apartment someday and that’s not going to happen anytime in the next ten years unless I get serious yesterday.

I’ve been working on it.

This blog is for three things: one, to keep myself on track and motivated. Two, to keep track of good advice & resources I find along the way. Three, maybe eventually someone will find this blog and find it helpful. If this hypothetical person
is super awesome, maybe I will also find comments that help me on my way.

July 22, 2008 at 9:26 pm 3 comments


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