Friday, December 2, 2016

Welcome to "get your shit together" week

Or rather, get my shit together week. I'm off work, my travel budget for the year is blown, and there are quite a few tasks I've been putting off that would improve my financial situation.

For example:

Negotiate with Comcast because my bill has gone way up
Max out my IRA this year
Downgrade my bank account
Move savings from CD's with terrible rates to an index fund

And so on. So, this week I will throw my energy into as much "frugal stuff" as I can so I don't have to worry about it for a while. And make a bunch of frozen meals again. Surely, it will be fascinating to read as well 😏.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Food Situation: Magic Mac & Cheese

As I have previously mentioned, I regularly feel like shit over how much money I waste by not cooking and wasting food. I have done a lot of thinking about the causes of "the situation" and am experimenting with how to fix it. Perhaps there will be a monthly check in on this topic?

Contributing factors to the food situation include:

  • Being tired and stressed. There are many days when I get home from work and just want comfort food to appear in front of me with no effort on my part. 
  • Food issues. Like many people, and as is expected of women, I have some hang ups about what I "should" and "shouldn't" be eating. There's a cycle of either eating super "good" for a while or eating a bunch of junk. This cycle stresses me out. 
  • Poor planning and losing track of time. Too many lovely fresh vegetables have died an unfortunate death in the bottom of my fridge when I didn't get around to making anything with them. 
Fixing everything at once is impossible. The first goal I picked is simply that I am going to prepare all my food myself. I'm not worrying too much yet about the price of particular products. 

The lesson from month #1 has been that this isn't going to work without self acceptance. Of my strengths and weaknesses and where I'm at emotionally. So what do I need to accept for this to work?

First: How my brain works. I feel like I "should" be able to just spend 20 minutes cooking something healthy every night. Because I really can cook a healthy meal in 20 minutes! Part of the problem is that I lose motivation to do that if I'm tired. But also, I have a really, really, really hard time switching tasks. For me, ADHD doesn't mean that I can't focus--I actually tend to focus on one thing VERY intensely, to the detriment of anything and everything else around me that needs to happen. 

So, in light of that, my plan is to pick a couple days a month to front load food preparation so that I don't have to worry about it the rest of the time unless I feel like cooking. Last weekend, I cooked a bunch of meals that I froze, listing them on a piece of paper like this: 

And crossing them off as they got eaten. I had tons of fun spending the weekend cooking. And those days when I got home and just wanted comfort food to magically appear, well, magically in my freezer there was delicious baked Mac & Cheese waiting for me. I also baked a quiche and made a batch of oatmeal with apples and cinnamon to have on hand for breakfast and came home for lunch every day (when I usually make a cucumber & avocado based salad). And when I didn't want the magic comfort food, I cooked and had a couple nights of roasted brussels sprouts and carrots for dinner. Also, there has been a lot of hot chocolate.

All in all, I feel good about how it's going. I'm realizing that I also have to accept that sometimes I am going to eat "bad" food and it is ok and it needs to be part of the plan (because otherwise I'm gonna throw my money down the drain and get pizza delivered, let's be honest).*

* I have many thoughts about "good" and "bad" food and the subject of intuitive eating. I do not in my actions always live up to these beliefs. If you are interested in this subject, please let me refer you to this post on intuitive eating and the (sadly closed, but fully archived) size acceptance blog Shapely Prose in general. The blog wasn't in any way about frugality but it's a good read. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting a handle on my priorities

I don't have to pore over my bank statements to know where I spend $$$ is not necessarily aligned with what is important to me and adds value to my life. You might be in the same boat, whether your priorities are similar to mine or not.

There are many categories of things I spend money on, but in light of making this not a crazy long post, let's take stock of my housing, transportation, and food situation. Which according to the internet are the big three things most people spend the most money on.


Current situation: I live in a lovely-but-not-luxury little apartment. My building is very quiet, the maintenance staff is super responsive, there are no infestations and everything is in good condition. I pay for electricity (which includes air conditioning and heat) and water. My rent is $1100/month which is less than 1/3 of my salary and I live alone. I can walk to work which is awesome. I have not been paying much attention to how much electricity and water I use or trying to save money there. 

Value added to my life by spending $ here: Huge, totally worth the money, which is an affordable if not frugal amount. I have lived in terrible apartments before: Basement with barely any daylight, ant and cockroach infestations, loud and filthy neighbors, landlords who wouldn't fix problems, less-than-safe areas. This is when I was in school and lived in cities with a much higher cost of living, and the cost to my mental health was significant.  

Where I can change: Utilities! I'm sure I can cut down on those bills if I pay attention and try to conserve. It does not add any value to my life when I have all the lights on or turn on the heat instead of putting on warm socks.  I also fuck up fairly often and don't open my mail or forget what day it is and end up having to pay a late fee, and there's that one time I totally forgot to pay my rent until I got an angry email and I had to go get a money order and it was embarrassing. So, I could change that. 


Current situation: The good is that I don't have a car. (This makes me a total weirdo in my mid-sized Southern city. I've never owned a car, which was perfectly normal in NYC, and to me getting one seemed more like a hassle than the hassle of figuring out public transit, which I'm totally used to.) Also good is that I take the bus and it only costs $1.70 here. Public transit here isn't great but it's slowly improving. The bad is that I have gotten lazy since I got a smartphone and take Uber a lot, rationalizing it by saying it costs less than a cab and I'm still saving money overall by not having a car. 

Value added to my life: I like not owning a car. I like walking places and taking the bus. There's times when Uber is worth it, like the rare occasions when I'm out late and need to get home from a party. But it's not worth it when I take it just to save a little time or not wanting to plan a bus route. I feel lazy, not happier.  

Where I can change: Take Uber less, take the bus instead, walk more; ask myself what the cheapest way to get there is and do that, as long as it's not a tremendous hassle. 


Current situation: Not good, this is seriously one of my biggest sources of shame. It's mental energy and planning thing. Do I go out to fine dining establishments? No. But grabbing a breakfast sandwich at a cafe on the way in to work, getting a $10 lunch out during the day, ordering delivery a couple times a week, adds up so, so much. I just want to get home and do nothing and have dinner magically appear. 

Value added to my life: More like negative value since I feel so shitty about it! Going out occasionally with friends is nice, but that really only happens every couple of months and is not the source of the financial waste. 

Where I can change: Everything. Cook more. Just stop what I'm doing. The "how to do this" is my current major project and assuming I'm organized enough to keep writing this blog, that will be the subject of future posts! 

So, I'm here.

Welcome to my blog!

I have been living a good life for the past few years. I have a job I like, a lovely little apartment, and the best cat ever. I'm very grateful to have what I have.

But I also feel...overwhelmed, guilty, disappointed...about my lifestyle and the state of my finances. It's not that bad, but it's not good. Being a single 31-year-old woman with a solid middle class income, it's more than possible for me to be saving a good chunk of money, but instead I waste money on one little thing after another and turn around and my paycheck's gone. It's getting delivery instead of cooking, impulse clothing purchasing, disorganization, late fees because I forget to pay a bill on time, picking up expensive new hobbies only to lose interest in a few months, and just generally closing my eyes and covering my ears in response to the situation.

(That list could be summed up as "having ADHD." I do and it kind of sucks sometimes and I have to learn to work with it or around it to get things done.)

Recently, reading some blogs in the frugal community has left me feeling inspired about the freedom that can come with living below your means.

So, today I'll start chronicling my frugal journey. I don't have a grand plan other than financial independence, feeling more in control of my finances. and having a hobby that means I spend less instead of more, but I suppose I have time to get there!