Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spending Hiatus: March and April Update / Simplify My Life

Thanks to the amazing, I know exactly what I spend money on every month. I actually know how much I've spent on what as far back as June 2009, so that really puts things in perspective when I compare the numbers for the different months, and to see how I'm improving, or even if I'm improving on my quest to be debt free and frugal. Pretty much, I've felt like I've done a poor job since reinstating the Spending Hiatus. Really, I forget about it every time I'm making a purchase, but remember every single day how I'm broke and shouldn't be spending money. It's funny how that happens, right? I can talk myself out of things, and convince myself the next minute that I should probably get whatever it is that I don't have, or that I have my eye on.

I've been pretty convinced this month alone that I need an Eames rocker (I don't), a new dining room table (along the lines of what my Grandma had, which my parents now have), and basically just all-new furniture and things. Really? I've been spending too much time on my new favorite website, which makes me feel totally and completely intern
et-organized, Pinterest, obsessing over the most beautifully decorated houses, and wishing that I had things. Just things that I don't have. Different things than I do have. And I'm conflicted between the vintage/retro things that I love and wanting everything to be Southwestern, which I also love, love, love and feel at home with. I know that there's a middle ground there somewhere, but all distractions aside, I want to CONSUME. Much like my eating habits, there is 25 years of only-child, get-what-I-want bad habits that I'm trying to change to new and healthier (not spending) habits, and it doesn't happen over night. My debt won't go away over night (unless I win the lottery, but I'm too cheap to gamble! ha!), so I should probably start somewhere. Not looking at those pretty blogs that make me want things? That's probably a good place. Not walking into a Goodwill? That's a better one. I'm pretty good at not buying expensive things, but plant me into a thrift store, and it's game on. Everything I find is cheap, cute, or useful. But do I really need anything? No. I've got three sets of dishes, loads of clothes, and tons of supplies to be productive and make things.

So, what have I spent my money on since the last update? Well, we did move, and used part of our emergency fund to pay for the deposit, dropping it down significantly. And we made our first very adult purchase together and bought a used washer and dryer. After visiting the thrift stores almost every day for the past month (what was I thinking?), I found a used elliptical machine and took it home this past Friday (at 40% off, but still). We spent some hefty money on rain boots, waterproof clothing, and camping supplies for Joel, justified as a school expense for his Marine Biology class to trudge around in tide pools for a week while camping on the ocean, and we ate out as much as we always do, though we have been pretty good about making more meals and stretching them, ultimately stretching our
groceries out longer. Let's face it -- the weekly food budget of $22.50 was kind of ridiculous for two people, and a total bust. Duh. I am upping our monthly budget to about $240/month, which is about $60/week (still possibly a little low for what we're used to? I wish we could be like these people here!), but we've got some wiggle room, so this is a good starting point to shoot for. A realistic starting point.

We're trying,
kind of. Since my last update though (at the end of February), we have put a whopping $2,000 towards out credit card (a little bit more, actually), basically cutting it IN HALF. We're still plugging away at paying off our car, putting a lot of money every month towards my student loan (and ignoring the part of me that wants to try to reduce my current payment), and have officially cut out all but the last one of our reoccurring bills (goodbye, Netflix and Weight Watchers . . . thanks for staying with us, internet!).

Since we've officially put in a full month at our new place, we've been able to compare our monthly expenses f
or the new place vs. the old one. We have a recurring savings of $65/month, since our new place's rent is cheaper (and did I mention that it's huge?!), our energy bill has been lower for the past month and a half (down by $42.00, and expected to keep dropping as the weather warms up), and the big (and semi-surprising) one . . . our gas bill is down by an average of $210. SERIOUSLY. Since I'm only a block to work, I rarely drive, and Joel has gotten in the habit of taking the bus to school or carpooling with our neighbor every single day. Plus, we're not paying for parking at either place, which isn't factored into any of our numbers. Who knows what those savings are? Another exciting thing is that since Joel works at the college, he is eligible for a discount on our telephone bill, so of course we took it! It's not much, but we're paying about $6 less than we were, and I'll totally take that any day.

My ONE goal for the month?
Quit shopping! Quit going to thrift stores. Do something productive instead.

I would love to see what we can put away this month on our measly budgets.

I seriously feel like my life revolves around debt reduction and weight loss, so I'm taking it upon myself to also clear the space in my mind spent on stupid tasks, or thinking about the internet. These are the steps that I've taken so far, and what I'm pledging to do to simplify my life.
  • unsubscribing from spam emails (urban outfitters, living social, old navy, oprah, etc.).
  • deleting all facebook updates/comments. i should actually just delete it, but it's connected to my tumblr, so it doesn't hurt to have it up.
  • deleting myspace and livejournals. (do i sound paranoid?)
  • unfollowing all tumblr friends.
  • unfollowing all flickr groups (except two!).
  • decluttering my house (giving away anything i don't love/want/need to someone who can use it).
  • organizing and backing up all of my computer files (flickr backs up my ftp, youtube backs up video files, double back-ups for all other files on hard drives).
  • reorganizing our kitchen cabinets, closets, and furniture for easy access, so that we know where things are, and so that everything is obvious. we're also trying to build up our own food bank.
  • finishing setting all monthly payments up on auto-pay. i don't want to worry about missing a payment! also auto-transferring a small amount to savings every month. luckily, my work takes out 5% of my paycheck automatically for a retirement savings account and doubles it, so i am technically good on the savings front, but i really would like to build my emergency fund.
  • clearing my inboxes/deleting unneeded email/labeling and organizing.
  • unsubscribing from a tons of blogs on google reader. too much time and energy to keep up with.
  • limit my television intake. i watch so much tv, it's not even funny. s o. m u c h.
  • canceling netflix - this goes hand-in-hand with limiting television intake.
  • canceling two credit cards.
  • starting an etsy. i finally did it, but i'm having a hard time deciding if i should just really put everything i want to sell up, or make things. i was originally going to just get rid of all of my fabric, but it looks like i'll be collaborating with two sweet artists/screen printers a little bit, so this may wait. but, keep your eyes out. i will be listing other things (like polaroids, cross-stitched pillows, and polaroid film!).
To extend the topic of canceling credit cards, I was always under the impression that your credit score would be lowered if you did that, and that it would be better to just cut them up and not use them. Well, when I wanted to buy a laptop in 2006 (?), I applied for a new credit card, for some reason not wanting to use the one that I had. I had to wait, and ended up using the card that I had, but later on was approved for the one that I applied for (confused yet?). Basically, I never used the new card, and had forgotten about it until last week when I read this article. Since it had been about six moves since I had been approved for the card, I figured I should probably change my address on the card in question, and called to do so. While on the phone with whoever was helping me, they asked me which card I wanted to change my address for, since I had been approved for another card since I had moved to Olympia. Basically, I had two credit cards, one of which I hadn't ever applied for. I changed my address, stressed out about it for about five minutes, and called to cancel both of them. At least if they're closed, I can put it out of my mind and never have to worry about identity theft or any of the other weird things that happen with credit. It doesn't really matter since I never used the card(s) anyway. Simplifying my life, dudes. How messed up/scary is that, though?

I'm four days into the month right now . . . no money has been spent yet! Now to get Joel on board . . . :)

Any ideas on other ways to simplify my life/head space/debt? Are these posts totally boring? Thanks for bearing with me documenting my progress!



P.S. It felt weird to have a really long post with no pictures, so I've included a few of our sweet and adorable cat, Baby Girl, and Joel - "No pictures, please!" :)

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