Change of Course…

I’ve decided to nix posting my spending diaries on ListfulWistful.  Sure, I didn’t start them all that long ago, but I was intending to keep them going. 

It’s not because I’m embarassed to admit that I spent $45 on dinner for my boyfriend and I on Saturday (though I did, and I am; it was Takosushi, though, and it was delicious, at least!) when I intended to have a miscellaneous spending budget of $50 for the second half of the month, and it’s not because I don’t consider it a valuable exercise.  Tracking spending and paying attention to no-spend days does a lot of good for helping me achieve my financial goals, and it fits with my general stance toward conscious consumption (even when I make mistakes I still like to be quite aware that I’m making them!). 

The thing is, though, that I already track my spending.  I’ve done it without fail for nearly a year.  And I like–no, relish–putting money in all my little savings accounts as soon as I get paid.  So while there are definitely plenty of areas of my spending that could use improvement, I don’t think blogging about my daily spending was helping me grow in the new areas where I want–well, crave–balance.  I’m sure finances will come into play on here (and I’ll always love the personal finance blogs I follow religiously!), but I’m going to try to focus my efforts toward simplifying, finding balance, consuming consciously, and becoming sufficiently (but not excessively!) proactive about fulfilling my responsibilities.

School began this week, but with two classes cancelled and a substitute professor for one, it didn’t feel like the rhythm of the new semester.  I expect things to be in full swing next week.  In the meantime, my boyfriend and I are going to visit good friends in Atlanta for Labor Day weekend.  I’m excited for the getaway! 

I have some goals for the month of September:

  • exercise at least 8x.  That’s only 2x/week, it should be more than doable; the goal is low because I’ve only exercised about that many times this entire year; pathetic!!; I think that as the heat subsides a touch I’ll be more inspired to be active…
  • get my car washed.  I have a coupon that my parents gave me for Easter; I need to use it!
  • get an oil change
  • list 5 items on Amazon. After a long dry spell, I had two books sell in the last week, which reminded me that it could be a nice way to keep decluttering and contribute toward my gum graft & student teaching funds!) 
  • call the consignment shop to see if the rest of my spring/summer goods sold and if there are any items that did not sell that I should pick up
  • take at least 3 items to consign for the fall. More would be great, but I took a good many last year, so I have fewer pieces to get rid of this go ’round.
  • get a haircut. 
  • get rid of at least 30 more things.  That’s one a day.  I’ve got this!

I’ll leave it at that for now–

I hope you enjoy your weekend!

Meg

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August Spending Diary, Part III

August 17: No spend day!

[Side income earned: $70 from babysitting all day]

August 18: I was on track to have a no spend day until I read this post by Girl With the Red Balloon.  In the first paragraph, she writes: “Yes, I’ve totally considered buying something in the past but thought, ‘Eh, I’d have to post it on my spending report, so I better not….”  That struck a chord with me because I had been waiting to purchase something I needed (a cap to the air valve on my tires… how does one go about losing one of those??) until I had a day when I had to purchase something else.  By consolidating my spending, I could have more no spend days!  I started to write a comment about how I was waiting to make my purchase, but I couldn’t think of a single way to phrase it in which I didn’t sound like a doofus.  There didn’t seem to be many potential positive results from waiting, other than having more no spend days.  What if I got a flat tire and had to pay to have my car towed? Or what if it was slowly hurting my fuel efficiency and costing me money? Or how silly was I that I didn’t take care of it when I had the time, all because of my spending diary? The verdict was that I was very silly, so I went to Advance Auto Parts at 8:45 pm and spent $2.11 on a set of tire valve caps.

August 19: $1.93 at Dunkin Donuts.  I had a coupon for a free donut with the purchase of a medium beverage.  I am so spoiled by my dad making coffee in the mornings, that I didn’t realize there wasn’t any coffee today (he’s out of town) until I was packing my lunch and scooting out the door.  [Free, delicious coffee that’s ready when you wake up = Perk # 1,734 of being a boomerang! … I don’t actually mind making coffee, but I sure have loved having Dad make it!]

August 20: $0.54 at Liquid Highway.  My boyfriend is a farmer, and I helped out at the farmer’s market on Saturday.  I purchased a coffee, which is only $0.54 when you bring your own mug!  The early morning was much cooler than normal for this area, and the coffee hit the spot!  After the market, I treated my boyfriend to lunch at an Indian restaurant downtown for $24.99.  It was delicious!  In exchange for working the market I got my pick of the produce that was left… we made a great dinner on Sunday with the goods!

August 21: No spend day!

August 22: No spend day!

August 23: No spend day!

Three in a row was kind of fun!  It was nice not having to check for things to have cleared on my bank website, log things into my spending notebook, part with money, etc. 🙂  And three other days at $3.00 or less!  I don’t regret any of the purchases, either, though  I do wish I had done a little better with side income.  There’s next week for that, maybe!

My Living Space Manifesto

In my attempt to generate more side income to pay for upcoming expenses, I’ve been babysitting a lot.  By the end of the month I will have spent nearly 60 hours in other people’s homes.  I find it fascinating how people choose to live and use spaces, what things they choose to own, etc.  (I love the blogosphere for allowing me peaks into the homes and decision-making processes of others!)  Don’t worry, I’m not a creeper– I’m not opening drawers that shouldn’t be opened or exploring beyond what is in plain sight!  What I have been doing, though, is taking mental notes on aspects I like–and those I don’t like–of how people use their homes.  More specifically, how I would like living in their spaces or trying similar set-ups in my own home.  (Important: I’m not passing judgment on how they live, I’m simply paying attention to how I feel in certain spaces, taking notes for when I’m assembling my next living space.)  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • No candles that aren’t used regularly.  I love having unscented, natural candles burning–for during dinner, to prepare the mind and body for sleeping, to purify the air, etc.  I don’t particularly love colored or scented candles, candles with wicks that have never met a match, or candles sitting in places you wouldn’t likely use them (within inches of heavy drapes, for instance).  Plus wax is a magnet for dust, so candles aren’t ideal tchotchkes anyway.   
  • Consider where you use things, don’t just put like with like.  Coffee filters, for instance, might work best near the coffee maker, rather than in the cabinet across the room with other paper products.
  • Label as few things as possible, as discreetly as possible, and as attractively as possible.  Purchasing another cassette of label maker label tape (what would you call one of those? a spool? roll? ream?) had me itching to label things.  But as nice as it is to know where things go, I don’t find it that peaceful to be in places where everything is labeled.  Unless, of course, it’s in my file cabinet.  🙂  And sure, the “attractively as possible” is subjective (as is this whole list), but in some cases it might be in clean, black lettering on a white background with a utilitarian feel or it could be something more natural and organic-looking.  What I really mean by this bullet point is “MEG, DON’T GET LABEL MAKER-HAPPY AND STICK WORDS ON EVERYTHING.”  I’d rather make spaces that can be navigated intuitively.
  • Decant often.  Just as the labels I put on things count as visual clutter, so do the words that come with things on their original packaging.  I much prefer containers that are glass, pottery, or some other, less-busy option.  One key caveat, though, is to put expiration dates on a sticker on the bottom of the container so that you’re not stuck guessing.
  • Don’t frame collections in only one color of frame (like all white frames or all dark wood frames).  It makes the collection look dated more quickly.  I prefer a more eclectic, acquired-over-time look. 
  • No coffee table books that I haven’t read cover to cover.  I’m not even sure that I’m into coffee table books in general, but I certainly don’t want books that I’m not particularly interested in just for the sake of having a stack of coffee table books.   
  • Let all art in the home have a story.  I like art that has been picked up during travels, or has been made by a friend, or purchased at a local art festival, etc.  I don’t love art that’s sold en masse at HomeGoods or Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I like inexpensive and expensive art, and I’m fine with bare walls if there isn’t something I would love to have hanging. 
  • Put rug pads under rugs if they’re prone to slipping and sliding.
  • Don’t hang on to cookbooks I don’t use.  Maybe the people who own every copy of Southern Living’s Annual Cookbook really use them all?
  • No complicated TV/sound/DVD/DVR system. 

That’s where my list stops for now! 

In other news, I recently found Jill Foley’s blog, Daily Bread, and I am feeling very motivated to declutter–and to post more pictures of the process because I had so much fun looking at hers!

 

 

August Spending Diary, continued…

August 10No spend day!

[Side income earned: $20 for babysitting]

August 11$14.91 at Brixx Pizza Oven with good friends; $8.80 at LOFT (I exchanged one top for three sale tops; this was the difference)

*A restaurant I love with people I love; sure, it’s debatable (or maybe not so debatable) whether I should spend the money on that, given the numbers I just crunched about upcoming expenses.  This was already on the calendar, and I bowed out of going to see The Help after dinner.  What I’m liking about my spending habits these days is that I’m reserving my spending for things I need or really enjoy; there isn’t any mindless spending, no convenience spending (eating out by myself or picking up takeout because I failed to pack a lunch, etc.).  I’ll keep working on trimming back the spending, though!

August 12: No spend day! [And I was proactive about side hustle; I emailed a woman I babysit for to let her know I was free Monday afternoon if she was interested–and she was! Yay for filling in free time with side income!]

August 13: $4.85 at Chick-fil-a; Gas.  [Sadly, I also lost 2 hours of work time because I was sick in the morning; I went by Chick-fil-a to get a soda to settle my stomach and ended up getting a kids’ meal as well… obviously I’ve been updating this spending journal as I go, because the pronouncement above about my newly improved spending habits no longer seems to apply by the 13th! Sigh… ]

August 14: $2.65 at Panera; I took my Littlest Sister to the mall to purchase a pair of athletic shoes before taking her to work.  She wanted to pick up lunch, and I ended up getting a bagel as well.  I also went to Staples to get more filing supplies (I’ve been revamping my filing system–I’ll show pictures soon!), and I spent $6.02 more than the gift card my grandmother had given me a few weeks earlier (tape for my labeler = expensive!).

August 15: $15.89 at Total Wine.  I decided to try Bota Box wine.  The box is the equivalent of four bottles and lasts for four to six weeks, so it’s a pretty good deal per glass.  Plus, they say Cab is chock full of flavonoids that are good for you! 🙂

[Side income earned: $50 for the afternoon babysitting]

August 16: No spend day!

[Side income earned: $25 (for babysitting this evening) + $120 (for babysitting this morning and last Wednesday)]


Decluttering Challenge, Round 12: 204-215

Really, Round 12 was cleaning out my parents’ pantry.  My mom teaches school, and my dad, who is a minister, has been on sabbatical the last several weeks.  They’ve both enjoyed having the summer off, and they’ll be getting back into their routines in the next week or two.  They’ve expressed the desire to cook more at home (which is better for budgets and bellies, as well as general peace–no rushing around town in the evening), so I thought cleaning out the pantry would be a nice little nod to their intentions.  I enjoyed it, didn’t see it as a chore (like my mother probably would have), and did it pretty quickly.  But alas, those things weren’t “mine,” so I’m not considering them for the Challenge.

In my corner of the house, I found some more things to get rid of that do count:

204. A frame. This was given to me as a favor at a bridesmaid’s luncheon the other weekend.  I am keeping the picture, but I don’t need the frame.

205. A koozie.

206. A hanger.  This was a cute hanger where the wire was curled to spell my name.  These were given to bridesmaids for our bridesmaid dresses to hang on for a cute photo op.  They were made by a relative of the bride, and while they looked cute, they fell apart pretty quickly.  I’m worried that this one would pick my clothing, so I’m not going to use it.

207.-208. Two academic journals.  I skimmed these, and I don’t think I’ll actually read them.  There are other things higher on my list of things I’d like to read.

209. A make-up compact.  I’ve loved these colors… since 2006.  Totally expired.  Sigh…

210. A miniature bottle of hairspray.  My mom gave me this in my stocking, and I haven’t used it.  I gave it to her– she’ll use it.

211. Dr. Hauschka samples. My skin reacted to these, so I passed on them.

212. Remote control. To the television my parents accidentally got rid of…

213. A notebook.  

214. A Rawganique catalogue.  I like their things, and I like that they don’t print seasonal catalogues.  Truth is, I won’t be buying anything from them for a long time (years!), so I don’t need to hang onto it.

215. A candle.

215 down, 150 to go!

Upcoming Expenses… wow!

Since I am able to anticipate a need for money during the time while I’m student teaching when I won’t have my primary stream of income (my part-time retail job), I don’t want to plan on using my Emergency Fund for that time.  So, I’ve opened an ING Savings account that (once funded!) is going to serve as “income” for February, March, and April.  Obviously, I’ll still try to make side income during that time, but I can’t count on making a certain amount, so the bulk of it should be in place before February gets here. 

How much will I need in it?

Enough to cover my fixed expenses:

  • $200.04 for health insurance
  • $71.49 for JuicePlus+
  • $9.99 for CreditKeeper (allows me monthly access to my credit report, notifies me when inquiries are made, etc.)

At $281.52 a month, my fixed expenses will total $844.56 for the three months of student teaching. 

I’ll also need enough to cover my variable expenses:

  • gas (the amount I will need will depend in large part on the location of the school I’m assigned to): for now, I’ll say $175 a month, so $525
  • spending money (for entertainment, random expenses, etc.): approximately $100 a month, so $300

Grand total? $844.56 + $300 +$525 = $1669.56

Yikes!

If that were my only big upcoming expense I would feel pretty confident that I could come up with the $278.26 that I would need to set aside each month between now and then.  I’m actively pursuing side income, I’m trimming my expenses, etc. I’m on a roll!

The bummer?

I had my visit with the periodontist yesterday, and I’m going to need gum grafting.  There are two spots that need it, but one side can wait for a while (hopefully a few years).  One area, though, needs to be taken care of in the next six to eight months.  The pricetag? $1367!  My meager dental insurance plan covers routine cleanings, but that’s about it.  There’s a chance it could cover a touch more, but since there is a $500 maximum, I can’t count on it.  I think most oral surgery procedures aren’t included, either, so I’m not holding my breath. 

That’s a total of $3,036.56 that I need to come up with in the next 6-8 months. 

My current plan is that all side income will be split evenly between these two goals.  Additionally, I’ll be trying to maximize the amount of money from each paycheck that can go to these causes, both upfront when I receive my paycheck and with any money that is leftover from my spending allotment. 

I’m going to need to get creative!!

August is Financial Fitness Month (for me, at least!)

We’re nine days into August, and the month is off to a good start financially (measured in habits, progress, and dollars).  There are three key reasons I’m kicking it into high gear:

1.  I won’t have any regular income when I’m student teaching in the spring.  I will still try to squeeze in a few babysitting jobs, and I might get to work a Saturday or two at the store, but I need to prepare for that time as if I won’t have any income.  I have an ING savings account designated for February-April.  So far, I’ve only been making tiiiny contributions, but I’m ready to step it up.  I’ll need to account for regular fixed expenses (health insurance, CreditKeeper, and JuicePlus), variable expenses (gas), and spending money. 

2.  I have had a few health issues over the last few months.  While I’m hopeful that my health concerns can be taken care of relatively easily, the presence of the issues has meant that I’ve:

a) made initial appointments for my specific concerns (one with family doctor, one with a periodontist)

b) scheduled a physical to get a more comprehensive look at my health and body (I’ve never actually had one, I’ve relied instead on my annual OBGYN visit)

c) considered the financial impact of the results of these appointments (maybe just the immediate cost of these appointments if they don’t require follow-up visits; more likely, there will be follow-up visits or treatments)

3. My American Express is expiring at the end of the month.  I have an incredibly generous uncle who gave me an American Express to use for gas and schoolbooks.  It has been a game changer over the last few years in school!  It expires at the end of this month, and I doubt that I’ll be getting a new card in its stead.  I have a flurry of emotions about this.  I feel enormous gratititude for having had the card, even though I’ve felt guilty for having it, too.  I’m eager to be more financially independent (after all, I’m 26, living with my parents, and still not paying my own car insurance…), but I’m a little stressed about the upcoming cost of gas for my commute (even though I think it’s reasonable that I should be paying for it).  So I’m some mix of grateful, stressed, and relieved. 

So, given these three motivators, what am I doing in response?

1.  I’ve rekindled my relationship with no-spend days.  Here’s what the month has looked like so far:

August 1: No Spend Day!

August 2: No Spend Day!

August 3: No Spend Day!

August 4: Gas Only

August 5: No Spend Day!

August 6: $5.00 for a drink and a tip (celebrating with the bridal party of a wedding I was in; I mainly joined the group because a dear friend from Boston was in town; totally worth it!)

August 7: No Spend Day!

August 8: $15.01 for lunch for my boyfriend and I (at our favorite restaurant in Atlanta, LaFonda Latina, while we were in town for the day for his doctor’s appointment; I LOVE their fish tacos!)

August 9: No Spend Day so far! 

(Note: I don’t consider savings contributions or my three drafted bills–health insurance, CreditKeeper, or JuicePlus–as “spending”)

2.  I’ve actively pursued side income.  My most effective means of earning extra income tends to be babysitting (as opposed to Amazon.com sales, consignment sales, etc.).  Here’s what the month looks like so far:

August 1: $100 babysitting

August 3 & 4: $200 for helping my aunt at her school (she’s a principal), $75 for helping my grandmother (we spent 12 hours going through items in her kitchen/desk area)– both of these payments should be considered gifts more than income because they were more generous than they should have been! 

I had another babysitting job for the 8th, but my Little Sis had to take it for me (thanks!!) because I was later getting home from Atlanta than I anticipated.

I have 7 or 8 other babysitting jobs scheduled for the rest of the month.  Some are only for two hours, some are all day.  For three of the gigs I am giving up 3 hours at work to be able to babysit.  In each of these cases, the babysitting job was 5 or more hours, so I decided the trade was worth it.  So that means I can’t consider all of my babysitting income as “above and beyond” my current work schedule, but most of it will be!

I have a few other goals for the month, side-income-wise:

  • take at least 4 additional pieces to the consignment store (and check to see if my couple of pieces from Spring sold; probably not very much $ even if they did)
  • add at least 3 items to Amazon.com
  • let the families I regularly babysit for know my schedule/availability for September

3.  I’ve gotten ready to open a Roth IRA.  The timing (ie, yesterday’s stock market + the recent credit rating downgrade) is throwing me for a loop, but I’m all ready, otherwise.  I’d like to know that even if I have a health setback I have a retirement savings account in place.  I have filled out the application at Vanguard, moved the $1000 from ING to Bank of America… now I’m just waiting to make it happen.  I don’t know what’s best… invest without thinking of timing, wait a couple months for things to settle, purchase while things are low… who knows??

This month has felt good financially because I have been more proactive.  I also feel like the more I trim my expenditures, the more I can save until student teaching AND the less I’ll have to save for while I’m student teaching.  I hope I can ride this momentum for a while!