Monthly Archives: May 2008

Daily Accounting: May Roundup

Earned: $3928    Spent: $195    Saved: $76

Hooray! Payday is finally here. My check this month includes the overload payment for the extra class I taught in the fall semester. Still no travel reimbursement. Cross your fingers that I’ll see some of that this month. I did manage to send $1048 to the credit cards. My total debt is now nearing the $5,000 mark. When I get that check from work, it will drop to $4300. It’s interesting how with each milestone, I just look impatiently to the next milestone. I want that credit card debt to be at $0! However, I should stop today and pat myself on the back for the $248 I’ve already accumulated in June snowflakes. I should also be happy that my debt shrank by almost 15% this month. I had a great trip, bought a few new clothes for the summer, and still saw my debt decrease. Compared to my habits one year ago, that is pretty big news.

Yes, you saw a mention of new clothes. Yesterday, the future husband and I went to the mall because I was anticipating payday today. I bought some very cute, comfortable summer sandals for $40 (a much better bargain than the ones I tried on in San Francisco) and two new tops for summer. The future husband was very generous and bought me a hoodie and several more tank tops. He’s the best! Now, I feel pretty good about my summer wardrobe. I could use one more pair of pants, but I may just try to send the extra fun money to the credit cards.  This morning, I sent in a credit card payment equal to what I bought yesterday.  No more interest charges on shoes for me! 

During the week, I also bought gas, groceries, and market produce. I had $56 in my budget for groceries for the week, and I spent $55. I actually would have gone under, but I treated us to some fresh salmon to go with the bok choy I bought at the market. We’ve also been enjoying fresh strawberries; they are pure heaven. My fruit deficit is finally over! This week I tried the “Grocery Game” on my own because there wasn’t a list. It’s actually pretty easy to do once you get the hang of it. I think that I may drop out of the list after this month and go my own way. I think that I may spend more than I need to with the list because things seem like such great deals. If I did it myself, I could include CVS and be sure that we’re only buying things that we really need.

That’s the story around here. I took a vacation from carnivals this week, but I’ll be back in full swing next week. Look for lots of good links too! Have a nice weekend everyone.

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Frugal Souvenirs from the Farmers’ Market

I came across this interesting post on Wise Bread about farmers’ markets. The author wondered how frugal markets are and decided to compare the prices at her farmers’ market and her grocery store. While she found that her purchases were slightly more expensive this week, I agree with many of the comments on the post. On the whole, I save money by buying produce locally, love the quality, and love that I’m doing something to help the planet.

Over the weekend, I found a great new use for farmers’ markets: travel souvenirs! My friend and I spent a busy weekend shopping in San Francisco, but I didn’t buy anything until I got to the market. Since I’m trying to pay off my credit cards, I passed on the the $200 kate spade shoes and the $90 designer t-shirt. Usually, I love buying clothes in other cities. It’s always fun to think of the trip when I wear the item, and it’s even more fun to tell people where I bought the item when I’m complimented. This time, I’m more excited about paying off my debt. By the end of the trip, I realized that I was about to go home empty-handed! Then, on Saturday, I had time to head over to the Ferry Street Farmers’ Market with my friend.

At first, I just bought a cute market bag for $15 to take to my local market this summer. Then, we started wandering up and down the stalls of fresh fruit, cheese, meat, and vegetables. At home in Ohio, we only have asparagus and spinach in our markets. Since I’m eating locally as much as possible, this means that I haven’t had much fresh fruit in months. I was in heaven sampling the cherries and apriplums, but figured I’d have to make do with just a sample when my friend convinced me that I could manage to get them home. So, I bought fruit, dried mushrooms, artichokes, and cheeses, all for $40. It was a perfect gift to bring back to my family, and I was excited to make some new dishes with the produce.

The mushrooms, cheese, and artichokes survived the trip just fine. The fruit had a little harder time but was still delicious. Yesterday morning, we had fresh cherries for breakfast, and then I made a gallette with the apriplums and last of the cherries. The best part was dinner. I picked fresh lettuce from our garden and tossed it with the goat cheese and a homemade vinagrette. Then I steamed the artichokes and served them with some leftover pasta the future husband had made (three cheers for his excellent cooking while I was gone!). When we sat down to dinner, I felt like I was still on vacation! The artichokes were amazing — the best I’ve ever eaten. I was happy to share all that California goodness with the future husband, and we happily chatted about all the lovely food we’ll eat there on our honeymoon.

For $40, less than the cost of t-shirts for all of us, I got to share my favorite part of vacation with my family. Plus, I still have mushrooms and cheese left. I’m making a mushroom soup tonight and homemade bread to go with the cheese. I love markets because the really reflect the place you are visiting.  The Ferry Street Market is right on the bay and just felt San Francisco-y.  In fact, I may start planning vacations so that I can end on market day to bring back more edible souveniers!

Daily Accounting: Trip Update

Earned: $0 Spent: $250 Saved: $0

It’s my last morning in San Francisco, and I’m enjoying a leisurely lie-in before facing the airport. The conference was good; I ran into my old mentor and several friends from graduate school. I also heard some interesting papers and have good ideas for my academic writing this summer. More importantly, I had a wonderful time with my friend. It was like traveling back to my 20s. No household responsibilities, no daily grind. Instead, we shopped, had lovely long lunches, and two wonderful dinners. We both love San Francisco, so we’ve decided to make this conference a bi-annual event. In graduate school, I never really understood academic conferences. Why travel all that way to some event where you don’t know anyone just to read a paper? Now, I get it. After being isolated on your campus all year, it’s great to talk to peers who love the same intellectual work you do. Also, it’s a wonderful way to reconnect with all your friends from graduate school!

On the spending front, I was amazing, if I do say so myself. 🙂 I’m right on budget, but, I’ll have to go a little bit over for parking and today’s travel. However, I could have easily lost my mind. There were the darling kate spade pumps on sale at Nordstrom, a lovely going-out-to-dinner top at a little boutique, and silver Miu-Miu flats that would have been perfect for the wedding. Since we’re probably going with a student photographer for the wedding, I have an extra $300 or so in my budget. Once I remembered that, I asked to try on the flats. I could have been sucked in on our shopping high, but they didn’t have the flats in my size. That little hiccup was enough to regain my sanity.

My new strategy for this shopping trip was not to buy anything on the first pass. If I liked something, I told myself that I could go back the next day or at the end of the day. I also kept focused on a few items that could be justified for the wedding or as sensible summer purchases. That way, I didn’t feel like the poor relation who couldn’t buy anything while shopping. I tried some things on, was tempted as you have seen, but by the end of the day or the next day, I wasn’t so enamored that I wanted to go back. The only thing I bought was a very cute market bag from the Ferry Street Farmers Market. For the family, I bought dried mushrooms, goat cheese, fresh artichokes, cherries, and apriplums. It’s going to be a challenge getting them on the plane, but I can’t think of a better gift than fresh fruit, especially because we’ve gone the whole winter with preserves and supermarket apples.

I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule tomorrow with more about the farmers market. If you love food and get to San Francisco, this should be at the top of your itinerary!

Daily Accounting: 5/19 — 5/21

Earned: $10 Spent: $200 Saved: $56

I’ve had a busy few days getting ready for my trip. Monday was an errand day. You have to love living in a small town; I went to the library, post office, bank, dry cleaner’s, and grocery store in thirty-five minutes. I also stopped by CVS to see if I can score any mad savings on the Extra Care Bucks. I could have gotten a razor for $1.46, but I don’t really need a razor, so it didn’t help much. Toothpaste and toothbrushes were also free, but I’m fully stocked up thanks to the Grocery Game. Alas, maybe next month.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend and stopped off at Hobby Lobby. I’ve decided that I’ll watch the Sunday circulars and hit Hobby Lobby when anything I might need for the wedding is 50% off. I bought baskets for the flowers, our flower girl’s basket, the cake knife, and my veil all for $70. I almost bought more decorations, but decided to heed my own advice and go slowly. I’m going to go visit the wedding site once more before getting any more decorations. I was very, very happy with the veil. It’s lined with satin ribbon, comes down to my waist, and makes me feel like a bride. I was getting so sensible with the wedding that I wasn’t feeling very bride-y. Now, I’m happy with my look for the big day and I only spent $15 on the veil. Hooray!

Today was grocery store day. We actually came in $56 under budget for four weeks of groceries. I can’t believe it! However, since May is a five-week month for me, I’m going to try to squeak by on that $56 so that I can snowflake most of my Week 5 fund to the credit cards. All in all, May is rolling by. I can’t wait to get paid next week for a big pay-off post. I love, love, love those days.

Tomorrow I’m travelling to San Francisco. I started this blog right around my last conference and was all nervous about avoiding the airport temptations. Now, two months into my new frugal habits, I feel like a seasoned pro. I spent $4 of the grocery budget for travel snacks, have a new library book, saved my magazines, and dug out my Sudoku book. I may treat myself to $2 coffees, but otherwise, I won’t spend anything until I land in California.

Snowflake Stress

With my upcoming trip to San Francisco, I’m getting a bit jealous about my projected snowflakes. I’ve got $200 in “fun” money to spend, plus I carved out another $50 from my monthly budget. If I only spend the $250, I’ll have about $100 left in my budget this month to send to my credit card debt. I don’t really want to spend that extra $100 on the trip, even though I know I can afford to spend it. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months as my big shopping reward for being so good paying down my debt. So, why can’t I relax about spending the money?

As I was reviewing my budget yesterday, I was a little sad to see money going for the trip rather than to the credit cards. Originally, I wanted to buy a new dress in San Francisco to wear at the wedding reception. Now, I have that sorted out, so I don’t have any big shopping goals. Part of that $250 will go for shuttle costs, parking, and eating out, but I’ll also get reimbursed some for that. I think I’ve hit that point in debt-reduction where your priorities shift. While I’ll always love shopping, I also really love that my debt is shrinking. I love that I’ve been able to identify some of the triggers that set me off spending on unnecessary stuff. I love that I’m creating new, more frugal habits that will lead to real financial security. I love that I might come up with almost $13,000 for debt and the wedding in six months.

So, I think my snowflake stress yesterday was a signal that debt-reduction has become my most important financial goal.What’s cool is that I didn’t start out that way. I started out with a very modest plan to pay things off in sixteen months with some fun money for myself along the way. Now that it is snowballing and I’m down to one card, the light at the end of the tunnel is bright enough that I just want to wait for the big pay-off. Part of the reason snowflaking works is because it is something small. Once you take a few easy first steps, it really does grow into something significant. I started out filling out a few online surveys and selling some stuff on Amazon.com. Then, I realized I could use the public library and snowflake my $50 book budget. From there, it all added up and has grown into $1000 to $1200 payments to my credit cards when I thought I’d start out with $650 a month. I think sometimes people get the advice that you HAVE to throw all your money at your debt and make it your top priority. I didn’t start out that way; I started out small. But now, thanks to my snowflaking success, I WANT to throw all my money at my debt and make it my top priority. That is a pretty cool feeling!

Daily Accounting: Weekend Update

Earned: $5.90 Spent: $123 Saved: $7

We had a busy weekend with a soccer tournament and wedding planning, but we had fun. I rented the chairs and equipment for the wedding and came in $7 under budget. I was also inspired by Finance Gets Personal‘s Weekend Challenge. She encouraged folks to do one positive thing for their finances this weekend. I decided to list some of the future husband’s old computer games on Amazon. Five of them sold within the day, netting $45 for the TV fund and a $5.90 snowflake commission for me. Along with a cash reward from his credit card, the TV fund is now at $447. That’s the power of snowflaking for ya!

The other highlight of the weekend was registering for wedding gifts. I realized how shopping-deprived I’ve been recently as we wandered the aisles of cookware, china, and sheets. Since I started this blog, I’ve bought seeds for my garden and a new wrap. All other purchases have been the day-to-day food, gas, toothpaste variety. While it was fun to “shop,” it was also very weird. We got a little swept up into the “typical” registry advice from our helper. When we got home and looked at the list, we realized that there was no way we could even suggest $175 martini glasses or $90 place settings to guests of our frugal wedding! After a little more research, we found great porcelain settings on sale for $18 each and deleted the crazy stuff. We did leave a few high-dollar items in case people want to go in for a group gift or a rich aunt or uncle pops up, but now most of the registry has items that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to ask anyone to buy!

A great new carnival is up: the 140th Carnival of Debt Reduction at Prime Time Money. As he notes, today is Circus Day, so be sure to celebrate by reading some carnival posts! I liked Ten Quick Easy Ways to Reduce Your Debt at My Two Dollars and No Credit Needed’s Free Debt Reduction eBook. You’ll also find my post here, “Making the Switch,” which I’m happy to say was an editor’s pick.

Happy reading! Enjoy your Monday. I’ll be at the post office, mailing wedding invitations and Amazon stuff.

Saying “No” to Wedding Extras

The big day is two months away, so now we’re getting into high gear planning for my frugal wedding. So far, I’ve spent $1060 for the dress, ceremony costs, and stationery. I’m feeling pretty good, but we still have a lot left. Next week, I need to address catering. As with the photography, I’m going with a professional/family blend. I’ll hire the pros for the sandwiches and serving help, and we’ll do the side dishes and cake. My biggest advice so far? Say “no” to the extras. . . it’s the small charges that can really blow your budget. How do you know what’s an extra and what’s necessary? Here are four steps for thinking it through.

1. Do Your Homework
Research things a little bit. You don’t have to be obsessive, but at least look at two or three places before you make a purchase. A good example is my wedding website. I almost jumped in and paid $30 for one, but a quick google search found a great free site. In just a few minutes, I saved $30! Under the “do your homework” category, I’m finding it useful to keep visualizing what’s important at the wedding. For me, it’s saying my vows with the future husband and celebrating with my friends and family. So, I’ll want to spend more on the food, but could cut back on stationery costs.

2. Don’t Buy Everything at Once
If possible, space out your purchases. I always find that I get tired and make poor decisions if I’m out on a giant shopping day. Try to take care of only one category at a time and don’t rush into any purchase. I saved $160 on my invitations by deciding that I could print the inserts myself. I’m going to save over $100 by not altering my dress. I bought the dress at a super-skinny moment around Thanksgiving. When I went in for a fitting, the seamstress couldn’t even see where to alter the dress. This was a big warning sign! Of course, she didn’t want to lose a sale, so she did figure out that taking in the back around my waist would improve things slightly. She also pinned up the bottom for a small bustle. However, I bought the dress thinking we’d have an indoor wedding, and I’d be in it for hours. Now that it’s an outdoor wedding, I’ll wear it for the ceremony and photographs and then change into something more comfortable. I’ve already spent $500 on the dress; it seems silly to spend any more for a custom fit. Since I didn’t rush in and alter the dress back in the winter, I can save that money for something more important.

3. Review Your Budget Frequently!
Don’t just set your budget and forget it. I have mine all written out in my planner. That way, it’s always with me when I’m out shopping or thinking about a purchase. Before I spend any wedding money, I look again at the budget. This week, we rented chairs and big serving dishes for the wedding. I knew that I had $130 left in the ceremony budget and $200 in the decorations budget for these items. Ideally, I would just spent the $130, but if something looked perfect, I had wiggle room with the decorations budget. From my research, I knew that chairs were 95 cents each. I also made a list of all the things we might want to rent. On the way there, the future husband and I went through the list and crossed a few things off.

4. Treat each budget line as a separate purchase.
It’s really important to keep the line item amount in your mind while shopping, not the total budget. When you think you’re spending $130, you’re more likely to say “no” to unnecessary purchases than when you think you’re spending $4,000. This has saved me a lot. I think many vendors make their profit off of folks who say, “heck, what’s another $80, we’ve got $12,000 to spend.” At the rental place, there was a $60 delivery charge for the chairs, basically doubling the cost of renting the chairs. At first, we were going to do it. I was just going to put the other items in the “decorations” budget. Then, it started getting complicated about when and where they could deliver. Since my wedding’s on a Sunday, we could pick up the chairs Saturday and return them Monday. Since the future husband has a truck and there will be lots of guys around to help, we didn’t need to spend that $60. In the end, I spent $123, seven dollars under budget!

So, that’s my advice on how to keep your wedding budget under control.  Remember what’s really important to you; don’t rush into purchases; review your budget; and treat each category as a separate purchase.  Next week, I’ll let you know how it goes on the food front!