30 March 2008

So what about when you need something?

I get asked that a lot. First of all, I'd like to define "need." I don't need new shoes. The shoes I have may be old, they may be out of style, but they fit and don't have holes. I don't need a new couch. It actually does have holes, but I flipped the cushions over. I don't need most everything, I have everything I need. So that's 90% of the battle right there.

But today I needed diapers, and toilet paper, and a birthday present, and window cleaner, and I saw some good deals at Target (3 for 4$ Goldfish crackers, minus the $1 off 2 Target printables, making them 4 for $3.33, in case you're wondering) so I went and I spent $50 extra. I used money I was planning on putting towards credit card debt. It's unrealistic to think that I will always be able to stick to my budget. I mean, life happens, birthday parties come up and kids use a lot of diapers. I think the most important thing about my trip, though, is I went in with a list, and 7 coupons, and I walked out with ONLY the things on my list. So, that's what I do when I need something.

29 March 2008

Not that I have any savings or anything

Read in Self magazine (Apr 08):

Optimists save more money than pessimists, a study from Duke Univeristy in Durham, North Carolina, finds. Naysayers may assume they can't control the future, so why stash cash? Think positively!

28 March 2008


For work today, I went to an all-day session on writing web content. The presenters talked about how everything we write has to be geared toward our "customer" to sell them on our product. In addition, they told us about emotional triggers that cause people to want to buy things, such as
* being the first one to have something
* wanting to belong
* that the thing will make you happier/ thinner/ smarter/ richer

So I'm sitting there, and I'm listening to this, and I'm feeling like I'm an Earth First-er sitting in on an Exxon marketing campaign meeting. It's just so blatant how we are manipulated by advertising, and yet we still fall for it.

One presenter said that as we watch tv, we lay there, passively waiting for ads to come and rub our bellies with things we might want to buy. Perhaps that's why its so difficult to resist the temptation to consume, because we're assaulted by these ads when we're feeling passive, vulnerable. In order to stay unaffected, we have to become active when it seems unnatural.

So, I fight the good fight. And I renamed frugal people. No more dorky images of coupon clippers with salvation army clothes. Now, we're frugalistas.

26 March 2008

Jump up, Jump up and Get Down

**Warning** I am currently hopped up on Sudafed. And very excited.

I dug in my garden! I went outside, and I got a rake, and I started hacking away at the dead grass in there (it's like HAY or BEACH GRASS- I have no idea where this stuff came from. Some of it even looks like wheat. I might have grown wheat.) and underneath it all, there was dirt. Not just any dirt, BLACK dirt, that was moist, and heavy and thick, and it smelled like dirt even though the wind was blowing hard enough to really strike up my windchimes. It was beautiful, so I kept hacking away at it, uncovering more and more of the black dirt, and then I got down on the ground and I started ripping out plants- dandelions and grass and things that looked like root vegetables. I found a worm, and I carefully moved him to a place where I was done raking, and then I checked on him a couple of times and whispered encouraging words to him about aerating my dirt, and then I threw a blade of grass at him to see if he would move.

I cannot wait for this garden.

25 March 2008

Sometimes things don't go your way

I'm having a rough week. Soon to be ex husband stiffed me $350, I have yet another cold, and I spent the majority of Easter by myself. I have NO money. I spent some money that is for bills on food, and I even (gasp) used my credit card to charge movie tickets because I didn't want to use my debit card online.

Historically speaking, when things like this would happen, I would develop this "f it" attitude and just start spending. The rationale would be "I already screwed up, I might as well enjoy it." I think a lot of people have this same reaction with food, and dieting. They might think "I already messed up and ate a piece of cake, I might as well have another (or the whole thing)." It's interesting how similar the human reaction to food and money seems to be. The emotional connection to both is striking, and frightening, too.

So I haven't gone on a spending spree. Boy, have I thought about it, salivated about it like that chocolate cake, but not acted on it. I did eat quite a bit of Easter candy, though.

18 March 2008

that's funny...

I realized today how depressing my blog is! I've been taking this project so seriously that I sound really morose all the time. This is strange because I'm actually a really happy, silly person! So, in honor of happiness, here is a list of some of the funnier tips to save money:
1. Don't shave. Works better in the winter.
2. Find out what meetings at work will have free lunch, and sign up for them. Sure, I'd love to learn more about the _____ program. You said lunch was included, right?
3. Put random clothes/papers all over the passenger seat of your car so people don't want to drive with you. Graciously accept their offer to drive.
4. Invite your parents over for dinner often. Don't say no when they ask if they can bring a pizza.
5. Shop at CVS. Read about the deals on message boards and spend hours working out your "scenarios" on Excel spreadsheets. Bargain shoppers are reading this and wondering what's funny about it. Normal people are laughing their asses off.
6. Regift! Regifting is awesome. It saves you money, its good for the environment, and its fun to.swap crappy gifts with your friends. No one will love your mother-in-law's nightmarish gift more than your friend's mother-in-law.

So hopefully that livened things up a little! I'll try not to take myself so serously!

17 March 2008

purposeful purchasing versus emotional acquiring

If you're anything like me, when your stressed or upset, you either shop or eat. I think most women do. Recently I went to target to get some groceries, but when I got there I was upset about something related to my kids (oh, mommy guilt...). My first instinct was to go to the toy department and pick them each out a nice toy "for their Easter baskets"- toys they neither needed nor could I afford. And as I'm doing this, I'm thinking about WHY I'm doing it, but I'm telling myself I didn't care, it doesn't matter and I would feel better if they were happy Easter morning.
As I moved on to the grocery department, I started to feel more upset than before. I stopped and stood in front of the frozen vegetarian foods, trying to figure out what was making me so upset. Was it the kids again, or the buyers remorse I knew I was about to feel after spending 40% of my grocery budget on toys we didn't need. I took the toys out of the cart and tucked them behind some tortilla chips, instantly feeling better.
My kids will get some cool toys from the after christmas toy clearance, and some candy I got for free at CVS. I'd love for them to have that geotrax train, that monster truck from the toys r us flyer, but not this year. I never said this would be easy.

10 March 2008

I love comments

They keep me motivated, on track, and make me happy! Keep them coming!

09 March 2008

PSA: Read your credit card statements!

At the beginning of the YOFL, I did a balance transfer at 1.99% and put the money in my checking account. I had a bunch of debts that were literally keeping me awake at night- 130 bucks to my therapist, little medical bills that were past due, the $500 car tax bill. I was feeling really anxious about them- I'd have this feeling that something was wrong, and I'd realize I was worrying about them . So I decided to take out this loan and pay them off, so that I would start the year off on a clean slate.

Since then, I've been paying $200 a month to this card. Well, yesterday I got the statement for this card and realized that they are applying my payments to the balance transfer in it's entirety- meaning my initial balance is BIGGER than before taking the loan! Most cards will put a large percentage towards the balance transfer and then put what's left onto the larger balance. So I ran over to my excel spreadsheet that I use for budgeting and switched things around so that I'm paying off that balance transfer this month. Yikes!

07 March 2008

Being Lean and Green

One of my favorite parts about the YOFL is how it translates easily into environmentalism and conservation. There are lots of financial incentives to reducing energy usage, consumerism, and waste. I recently read Living Like Ed by Ed Begley, Jr., a book that guides you on making more environmentally friendly decisions but breaks them down by the cost to you. So, hanging up a clothesline and line-drying your clothes might cost you $10 for the line and some hooks, but a new Energy-Star rated washer will cost you a couple hundred. (There are apparently no Energy Star rated dryers- Begley states this in the book and according to energystar.gov, it's true.)

While I obviously can't drop a few hundred on a washing machine right now, there are plenty of things I CAN do to both save money and reduce my impact. I put power strips on my computer and tv (but I don't think I can shut the tivo off during the day- I need to figure that out). I'm trying to keep the heat down and the lights off, which is a struggle at times. I'm not buying as much food at the store, which means I run out before I ever throw anything away now. I remember there used to be forgotten, rotting vegetables in the back all the time- not anymore.

My garden will be financially, environmentally, and emotionally rewarding. I can't wait until my children really "get" where their food comes from. My three year old JUST realized that carrots don't grow in "baby" form. My friend is planning on doing a small garden of her own, so we're going to split trays of seedlings. I really can't wait.

It's not all so perfect, though, and I'll admit it. When you coupon, often the smallest item will get you the best savings, meaning lots of packaging. That really bugs me and will probably be one of the first things to go when I'm back on track and can afford to spend a little more. My kids get baths every other night, that uses a lot of water and there's not much I can do about that right now. And I never remember to unplug my cell phone chargers!

I better go shut some lights off.

06 March 2008

It pays to ask.

I got two medical bills recently, one for myself and one for my son's three year well check. Both were supposed to be covered, so I called the places. Turns out they were both errors in billing or insurance, and I wasn't responsible for either of them. Saved myself $30.24.

Last week I called to order a pizza. I ordered a large with toppings, and a small cheese. I asked if there were any deals for a free small, and the guy said "If you have our coupon, it's free with a large." So, I told him my dad was picking it up, so he wouldn't have a coupon, but asked if I could have the small for free anyway. He said yes!

The point is, it never hurts to ask- in fact, you'd be surprised what people are willing to do. And that's a very easy way to be frugal.

05 March 2008

staying motivated

I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out what my next step is on this mission. Basically, my next card will take me the rest of the year to pay off, which isn't very motivating.I could pay off a smaller balance in about 4 months, but the difference in interest rates makes that an unsound move.

What I've decided is to pay the larger of the two, but do something special each time the balance drops by 1000 dollars. Now I just have to figure out what that special thing will be!

02 March 2008

That's three!

I paid off credit card #3 this weekend. Yay! Like I said before, these were the three store cards I had, all with low balances, but still. It's exciting! Next up is card #4- not so small. I'll be working on this one for a while, so I'll need to find ways to keep myself motivated.