Finance Friday: Week Three

Summer events are slowly winding down.

This weekend looks to be the last in a string of fully booked days off, so my spending should have a corresponding downturn as well. I hadn’t tallied the numbers before today but feel good about my spending choices this week. They were considered and fell in line with Saying Yes to social events, without going too far overboard.

 

Friday I met friends for happy hour and spent ZERO! They very sneakily paid for my one drink and I stuck my one-and-done-no-food guns for the night. Skipped dance night where I’d have spent more money and went swimming while the water and air were still steamy and delightful.

Saturday I spent $75.89 on groceries and $28.80 out and about. I was at a conference for most of the day, eating lots and lots of catered food for free. I met friends for dinner out where they’d kindly ordered me a drink while I was biking there (oops…they’ll learn my cheap ways eventually) and I ordered one appetizer. Topped the night off at another friend’s music performance which was worth far more than the door price we actually paid. SUCH a great night of biking and laughing and singing and storytelling!

Sunday I spent $73 on a long-held-the-money-aside purchase of two floor stools from Ikea. I have no typical sitting furniture in my living room, which I love as does my back and joints, but my son’s friends aren’t as keen. These were their suggestion and so far they’ve worked out great! The cat is especially in love 😉 This has been a delayed purchase for about a year,and totally not a necessity, but I finally bit the bullet because two of my kiddo’s friends are moving in with me next month. I actually caught myself looking at couches on Craigslist but these were a cheaper option that better fit my hate-sitting-in-furniture-that’s-terrible-for-my-body lifestyle 😉

Monday I spent $32.33 on one tank of gasoline.

Tuesday I spent ZERO.

Wednesday I spent ZERO.

Thursday I spent ZERO.

Today I spent $6.10 on cafeteria food after forgetting half my food for a late shift.

Meal planning is back in full swing, but has NOT been worthy of posting here, ha! I am realizing that keeping it automated and boring is the key to losing impulsive behaviors. No more “I feel like chocolate chip cookies! Let’s go to the store!” or “I feel like Pringles! Yum!” when I stick to a boring list of boring food. Weekends have been so busy lately, I haven’t noticed how redundant my overall meal spread is, but true fall brings out the former foodie in me so it’ll be fun to add my favorite soups and casseroles back in to rotation.

How about you? Are you feeling different spending urges now that the seasons are changing? Have a great week!

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Frugal Finance Friday: Week Two

This week feels more like my normal low key money self.

Less outings with new friends, more introspection and gettin’ stuff done around the house. It’s not quite fall weather yet around here so I plan to spend this coming weekend outside in the free hot steamy cloud-lined world.

 

Friday I spent ZERO.

Saturday I spent ZERO. I decided not to see a dance performance and caught up on sleep instead.

Sunday I spent $69.43.  $18 on wine (hmph), $13 on allergy remedy, and the rest on groceries. I purchased a new bag of wheat-less flour and read the price label wrong…. it was $10 more than I thought. I’d better get to baking!

Monday I spent ZERO.

Tuesday I spent $11.83 on one bag of dog food.

Wednesday I spent just under $10 for fancy cheeses to take to a friend’s where we sat in the sunshine and ate yummy snacks and caught up on life.

Thursday I spent ZERO.

Today I plan to spend under $10 meeting friends this evening.

I feel that I’m headed the right direction again, but will likely post here for a couple of weeks to make sure it’s not a temporary blip of mindfulness 🙂

Happy weekend!

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Frugal Finance Friday: Week One

Well. Last week initially started off great.

Saturday I packed food for two meals, and coffee and water for a planned bike ride.

BUT. It turned into an entire day of activities with new friends that ended up at a pub. I spent more there than if I would’ve been purchasing street food throughout the day. So that clearly backfired in a financial way; but was absolutely glorious in an adventure-with-new-friends-all-day kind of way. I definitely spent too much, though: $50!! I haven’t even spent that much on my birthday dinners in the past few years! ((I left that number out until the very last moment before posting. It’s one of the only purchases I’ve made in the last year that I’m embarrassed about! Which is a good lesson!)) Next time I think I’ll leave my card at home and just take $10 cash as late night impulse purchases of $7 zucchini fritters is NOT in my current budget!

Sunday I spent ZERO. Putzed around the house.

Monday I spent $22 on groceries at Aldi and STUCK TO MY LIST. Usually I’ll visit a nearby grocery store for the few things that end up not in stock at Aldi, but I decided I’ll make it work without (potatoes, squash, onion).

Tuesday I spent ZERO. Day off from work; prepped my meals for the rest of the week. Thought about going paddle boarding since this is likely the last hot week of the year, but decided my $50 purchase on Saturday meant I’d pre-spent any fun money for the remainder of the week. I also declined going to a show with a friend for the same reason (also I’m old enough to not enjoy mornings after going out on a “school night”).

Wednesday I spent $46. I realized I’d forgotten to buy cat litter so stopped at Aldi and bought two jugs of litter and potatoes for $13. I had let my gas tank sit at near-empty in hopes of not driving until absolutely necessary, but was on call overnight Wednesday so filled up for $33. 

Thursday I spent $31. I had free biking plans with a group ride and made sure I ate at home first. Per Saturday’s lesson, I had cash to pay for an order of fries and a tip. A new friend asked if I wanted to meet up for happy hour beforehand, and I checked the menu online before leaving my house. When I arrived, my friend had ordered me a whiskey I particularly like that was definitely not on the happy hour menu so I spent a lot more than the $6 I’d planned. I’m glad I had my card on me after all to cover the charge and I’m glad I ate a good meal beforehand. I did stick to my french fry order at the end of the night.

Friday I will spend $0. I’m off work again today (slow week), and have nothing scheduled. Time to make coffee and start a pot of yogurt.

Total spending for the week: $149.

$68 for groceries/gasoline/household items and $81 for frivolity with friends. The latter number is what I most need to focus on – I think my new friendship is established enough now to start avoiding going out to diners and pubs. All my friends are lovely people who would certainly be accommodating if I flat out said I don’t want to spend any money but with new friends I’ve had it backfire a few times where they start offering to pay all the time, which isn’t the point. I feel ok about the why of my fun spending but am not ok with the dollar amount. But it gives me something very actionable to focus on for next week, right? Ha!

from vacation in PA last summer

Frugal plan for the coming week:

Weekend plans: I’m declining attending a performance by a visiting Indian dancer that is very highly regarded in the arts world. I’ve seen her once before and it was incredible. But I pre-spent the ticket price last Saturday and last night. I have yoga in the morning that is pre-paid and will avoid walking by the new location of my favorite neighborhood coffee shop to see if they’re open yet, ha.

I’m going to continue focusing on meal planning, eliminating pub/diner spending altogether for the rest of September, and bike to work.

I have plenty of yard work to keep me busy this weekend as well!

 

How has your week been?

 

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Frugal Finance Friday: Checking In

 

I let mindless spending habits creep back in over the past two months. It’s time for another hard look at what I’m actually spending versus what I think I’m spending.

The budget categories I especially need to focus on are:

  • Groceries/Household Items
  • Gasoline
  • Friend/Family Fun
  • My Spending

 

For the month of July in each category I spent:

  • Groceries/Household Items $388
  • Gasoline $89
  • Friend/Family Fun $260 (dining out, paddleboard rentals, life jacket purchase, several tickets to outings <$15 each, camping trip)
  • My Spending $58 (yoga, paddleboard rentals)

For the month of August in each category I spent:

  • Groceries/Household Items $421 (!)
  • Gasoline $59
  • Friend/Family Fun $110 (dining out, 24 hr community bike ride costs/food, dance night)
  • My Spending $75 (yoga – worked out to $6/class)

 

Meal planning fell by the wayside and it absolutely shows in my budget.

I’ve made progress in expanding my social circle and establishing new friendships, but I’m definitely spending more than I want to on food/beverages during outings.

Even though my gasoline usage isn’t extremely high, I have no good reason to drive to work instead of bicycling. I have a weak excuse about sleeping in now that it’s dark in the morning when I leave. I feel so much better physically when I’m biking regularly so it’s high time to get back in the saddle!

At the end of this month I’m planning to drop down to weekly yoga classes now that I’m starting to feel better about not injuring myself without hands-on instruction. It’s been so good for my chronically painful back and overall stress level so I don’t want to give up the motivation of being in a group class.

My plan to hold myself accountable:

Post here weekly with itemized purchases in each category. I’m hoping that the subtle threat of having to list “$2 coffee in the cafeteria when I had perfectly fine free coffee available in the breakroom” will be the motivation I need to buckle down.

Post meal plans weekly. Don’t get your hopes up for great ideas, though, I tend to be a boring repeat eater and take horrible food photos 🙂 I need to curb the recent development of stopping on the way home for “something I forgot”.

Bicycle to work.

I’m aiming for zero family/friend spending this month. Starting now, anyway – I already spent earlier this week. But I’m attending a festival tomorrow and another Sunday, so it will be a good test of my preparedness and commitment to getting my budget back in the green zone.

 

Do you also find fall a time you need to button up more than just a sweater?

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Finance Friday: a week’s recap

Last weekend I participated in an organized bicycle event where I rode a total of 150 miles by the time I was home. It was a self-supported event with no entry fee so didn’t have the costs associated with rides that offer catered stops, mechanical support, and route markers. I used printed route cue sheets to avoid purchasing a bike computer or GPS and it was great fun – and yep, I totally went off course in the wrong direction more than once, ha!

The whole experience was fantastic! Just over a year ago I couldn’t fathom riding 10 miles, so it felt pretty good to have accomplished a stretch goal. The weather was perfect, the route was beautiful, and I recovered much quicker than I expected. Over-preparedness on the hydration and food fronts definitely paid off.

I have the distance bug now. But I haven’t signed up for other rides in the season, because there are some downsides. I spent fairly minimally throughout the ride at food stops and brought a lot of my own supplies, but it still added up to more than I would spend in a routine weekend. Just the sheer amount of calories compared to a normal day added up fast. It’s also a big time commitment- at least one full day of riding, sometimes more, and I already struggle with feeling like I don’t have enough time to enjoy the summer days.

As a sporting event on its own, it’s extremely frugal – but I think my goals are better served by sitting this season out.

 

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful – took my lunches to work, spent a lovely day with a friend at her house, went on a group bicycle ride and afterward ordered one side of fries. I was debating during the entire ride whether I should stay for the social end. This is another area that is starting to feel less goal-servicing than it did over the winter. I tend to stay up too late and often spend too much money. The flip side is that this is a great group of people that has welcomed me very warmly and I can’t quite tell if it’s just social nerves wanting me to pull back; if so, I just need to work through those impulses. And squash the impulses to buy a beer 🙂

I was going to make dandelion jam today but looked out the window to see my neighbor had mowed my entire yard :/  So a little cleaning and cooking and an evening with a library book seems to be on the docket instead.

Have a lovely weekend, frugal friends!

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Finance Friday: a week’s recap

A little smattering of spending-related choices, listed briefly, to keep my mind on the right path.


 

Riding my bike in a surprise snowfall!

Saturday April 8  🙂

Bicycle ride along the river in spring sunshine. Meal planning in my head during the ride.

 

Sunday April 9  🙂

Meal prep for the week! Free museum entry; bicycle riding. Yep, there’s definitely a theme to the free entertainment and exercise this month!  After all that boss frugality, split a $ pizza with a friend. Ha.

 

Monday April 10  🙂

Bicycle commute to and from work; packed my meals.

 

Tuesday April 11 :]

Bicycle ride and bike rack purchase – have sat on this spend for months, as it’s absolutely NOT necessary.  It is already making a tremendous difference in the ability to pack all my supplies for the day, which will lead to more bicycle commuting and less driving.

 

Wednesday April 12 🙂

Packed my work meals.

 

Thursday April 13 🙂

Weekly group bicycle ride. Ate a packed meal beforehand. Spent $6 on a beverage. Passed on the free beer. My wallet and my body were happy.

 

Friday April 14 🙂

Worked late but still managed to eat packed food!

 


Lots of wins – I’m getting better at maintaining meal prep even during busy social weeks; I spent only the cash I’d allotted for my weekly Thursday outing; and I kept a stash of snacks at work for late nights to prevent vending machine temptation. The pizza was DIVINE.

Kiddo will be in town for a week, which is typically where my food spending goes sideways.

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Finance Friday: a week’s recap

A little smattering of spending-related choices, listed briefly, to keep my mind on the right path.


Oh my! April is 30 Days of Biking and the unusual-for-me busyness has eclipsed other aspects of life. The month is flying by!

sunset view on one of my daily bicycle rides

Saturday April 1  🙂

Kickoff ride for 30 Days of Biking. Great fun!! Two free beers at the end of the ride, and I’d eaten a lot beforehand, so it worked out great for my wallet. Ended up spending most of the day with new friends from the monthly rides, and ended up eating on the way home – spent $7 not in the plan, but wow was that food excellent. I need to start strategizing ways to minimize spending but be flexible in social outings.

 

Sunday April 2 🙂 

Bike ride with the kids to a coffee shop. We’d pre-planned for this and my son offered to pay, but I kept it to my Family Fun rule. Total for all three of us was $12 so not bad at all compared to our usual dinner-when-kiddo-comes-home nights.

 

Monday April 3 🙂

Somehow amidst all the festivities I managed to make my lunches! Big win.

 

Tuesday April 4 🙂

I slept a good portion of this day. It felt amazing. And it was free!

 

Wednesday April 5 🙂

Workday with lunch packed.

 

Thursday April 6 🙂

Biked to work and packed breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bicycle ride afterward with one free beer. I think next week I’ll bring tea – my body isn’t too happy with this frequent beer consumption.

 

Friday April 7 🙂

Workday and (free) plans afterward. Breakfast, lunch and dinner in the bike bag again.


Another strong week – with all the social events coming up this month, however, I’ll need to make some decisions about where to spend my “building relationships” cash lest I slip back into $5 here and there every day. My meal routine has saved me so much stress and money, but I anticipate some hiccups this month without the full weekends of solitude I’ve become used to.

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Finance Friday: a week’s recap

A little smattering of spending-related choices, listed briefly, to keep my mind on the right path.


Sunday  🙂

Bicycle ride with new bicycle friends. One beer and one plate of french fries plus tip. Money well spent, given the exercise, the camaraderie, the beer giving me the ability to talk to strangers, and the amazing seasoning salt on the fries! This is currently a monthly delight but will be weekly in April and I’m looking forward to every week!

Monday  🙂

I knew I was going to be working late, so packed extra food. Hurrah!

Tuesday  :/

The potholder only works on the hand that’s wearing it! This is day 3 and I can finally move my thumb, whoohoo!

 

Kiddo’s birthday, on which I slept in, reflected on being a mama, texted the birthchild off and on, lazed about reading books, wrote notes, and managed to give myself a second-degree burn across a large portion of my hand in the process of starting dinner. Oops.

The fact my dog cannot drive to the drugstore definitely saved me some unnecessary spending.

 

Wednesday :[

Very little sleep overnight and not finishing dinner preparations resulted in buying food in the cafeteria. I’ll be a little bummed to have to record that in my monthly spending, but I was hungry and not able to use my hand. SO WORTH IT.

Seriously. Try eating a banana with just one hand. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Ok with teeth it’s not too bad. Now try putting on socks. Now tying work-only shoes that are required. I cheated and wore my coworker’s Crocs when I got to that point!

Thursday 🙂

Stopped at the grocery on the way home to replace ruined Tuesday-night food. Didn’t buy a single splurge item even though the bandage on Lefty was trying to convince me ice cream and chips are integral to the healing process.

Friday 🙂

Didn’t stop to buy wine on the way home, even though Lefty again was insistent, and the grey skies were also pinging the wine-and-a-book center of my brain.


A pretty good week all around, considering a year ago my injury would’ve given me all sorts of excuses and rationalization for spending. My frugal-fu is getting stronger 🙂

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Finance Friday: Checking Myself

I did great during Uber Frugal January, and even though I’ve eased up a bit this month I’m still on the frugal wagon.

During the end of January I started feeling a little too competitive with myself regarding my spending. I really, really did not want to have to buy more food, for example. This ultimately wasn’t going in a healthy direction.

I am still tracking my spending every week when I check my budget – but the part of UFJ that worked the best, tracking daily, seems to have made a bigger difference in my mental attitude toward spending than I would have anticipated.

In the last week I’ve found myself putting numerous things in my Amazon cart:

  • headphones (I’ve had none for quite some time, so clearly have gotten by without)
  • a cookbook (hi there internet, fancy meeting you here)
  • a metal coffee filter for my AeroPress (I realized I can reuse the paper filters a few times, and have a stash of regular filters I can cut down)
  • an electric kettle (even though my gas stove works just fine and is close in efficiency)
  • programmable keypads with deadbolts (um I should probably not admit I’ve broken into my house twice in the last month after forgetting my keys)
  • a FoodSaver and jar sealers (but then also a manual pump to use instead of the electric FoodSaver, and keeping in mind harvest season is months away!)
  • and bamboo mason jar lids (uh, what?).

Of all those things I wanted at the moment, the headphones were the only thing I could remember. So, REALLY IMPORTANT, those other potential purchases, weren’t they?!

So today, a reminder: 

  • I will not spend any money on anything that is not a necessity: food, toothpaste, bar soap, floss.
  • I will drive as little as possible: yuck. It’s winter again. Let’s try that one again:
  • I will drive as little as possible but will show myself grace for being sick of the cold and dark and wanting to sleep that extra hour by driving to work.
  • I will accept social invitations because it’s cold and dark and community building can be as frugal as I want it to be.
  • I will savor the bit of light in the evenings on my way home — and have been truly awe-inspired by the gorgeous sunsets and fat winter moon hanging in the sky as the sun dips in a fiery ocean of clouds.

Happy weekend, fellow frugal friends!

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January Spending and February Goals

The Uber Frugal January Challenge was a big success.  It was exactly the jump start I needed to solidify my thoughts and habits around money in the direction I’ve been working toward.

I made it the entire month without buying wine, which was surprisingly much harder than I expected. I don’t drink much at all in the summer, so realizing that wine in particular is such a psychological crutch in the depth of winter was quite an eye-opener. The ritual aspect of a drink at night was replaced by tea, but there is some physical component of wine itself (not just alcohol) that my body appreciates this time of year. I toyed with the idea of trying apple cider vinegar instead, but just held out and ignored the sensation.

On to the spending!

  • Fixed Expenses – I had a budget plan adjustment for my gas utility, which gave me a nice little bump to put toward debt.
  • Groceries –  !!!! Wow. I did better than I thought I’d be able to! This could be sustained for several months if I ate less variety than normal and stuck to the basics.
  • Pets – One bag of cat food and two containers of cat litter.
  • Gas –  I didn’t bike nearly as often as I thought I would.
  • My spending – $0! My eyebrows aren’t perfect, but my wallet is happy 🙂
  • Family/Friend Funtimes – One dinner out with my son and his friend, one brunch with friends.
  • Everything elseRoad trip to take my kiddo back to college, including lodging and gasoline during the trip.
  • Kiddo – His groceries, college-related costs, and spending money.

 

The thing I found the most challenging was not putting more toward debt when my overall spending was less than normal. I have lean paychecks this month and next, so need to make sure bigger expenses will be covered (car insurance, annual professional dues, veterinary care, etc). It was also hard toward the end of the month to spend at all, when I knew I was doing so well. I don’t think a challenge mentality would be healthy for me long term.

lazy Sunday in a ray of sunshine

Goals for Mostly Frugal February:

Continue meal planning like crazy — buying ONLY to a list makes a big difference, and buying ONLY during my weekly shop makes an even bigger difference! Not giving myself the option to “just stop for one thing” on the way home saves me money but also helps stop the impulse purchasing habit from resurfacing. I’ll continue to work my freezer down in February- there are still quite a few bags of strawberries from last summer that will make my winter nights much happier!

No spending on anything that is not groceries, toothpaste/floss, bar soap, cat/dog food/litter, or wine purchased mindfully and to the meal plan.

Walk or bike whenever I can. I’m not making as hardcore a goal as I did for January, to bike commute daily, because my lungs are apparently NOT a fan of the subfreezing very dry air. I haven’t been ill yet this season (knock on wood) and listening to my body is a big factor in that. I’ve started walking to the grocery store with my small hiking pack, and it’s been quite fun and helps the winter blahs. Much nicer than having to find a parking spot and deal with weekend traffic! I’m aiming to spend less on gasoline than I did last month.

Utilities – I’ll continue keeping the thermostat at 64, until I can determine how big a difference it makes in my overall usage.

Say Yes — February and March are usually months that I completely hibernate and miss the sun dreadfully, so it is easy for me to stay home and be a miser. I will spend minimally when possible to maintain relationships.

I’m again starting with a mindset of zero spending and working from there. 

 

We’ll see how my not-Uber-anymore frugal ways shake out, and reassess next month!

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