Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Posts Tagged ‘budget

In for a penny

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In support of a few November efforts (The Anyway Project and 10×30), I’ve also decided to have another month of no spending beyond the basics.

I hesitate to call this a project unto itself.  While I suppose it is, as cutting back on spending can be a challenge, it’s really to facilitate tightening up my finances a bit more and not bringing anything new into the apartment as I try to clear some things out.  Beyond possibly needing a few work clothes and having my eye on a very few specific books, there’s nothing that I need right now, and working from within a framework of “enough” should help to keep spending and clutter at bay as I work through a few different areas of life.

And so, let the games begin.  The goal?  Basically, no spending on anything beyond rent, utilities, and food for the month.  I’m also looking for ways to reduce these costs a bit more as well, but that’s another post for another time.  I also have more to say about both projects, but it’s late here, and sleep beckons.  So for now, I rest content in the decision to cut back shopping (well, what little left that I do in the way of shopping, anyway) that little bit more, and to hopefully reap the rewards.


Written by Jenn

November 3, 2010 at 2:11 am

Slashing the budget

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With a new month coming, and less money coming in, I spent part of the day slashing my budget a bit – with a Jackson Brown CD and some hot chocolate, it’s not really that onerous a task, especially when working out ways to save a bit more here and there.  While I already have savings worth 10 percent of my income automatically set aside each month, I’d like to increase that amount a bit each month, both to cut back my spending a bit more and to increase my savings and giving by the same amount.

The cuts aren’t big, but they do add up.  I’ve dropped play (which really goes beyond play and is more of a miscellaneous category) from $60 to $50 per month, transportation from $40 to $25 (because of my bus pass it almost never gets used, and I just tend to use it fund other categories if I go over, which I’d like to stop), and clothes from $15 to $10 (now that I have a suit and I think I’m good for interview clothes.)  Given how rarely I’ve used the full amounts, I’ve also dropped health and education each from $60 to $50.  The total?  An extra $50 per month, and more if I don’t spend the full amounts, which I usually don’t (which translates to almost 20 percent of my income saved.)  Of course, if I really need it the money’s still there, but having smaller amounts means having less that I feel like I can spend, and more that I can save or give away.

One thing also worth noting is that these amounts don’t include my university tuition.  This is a lot of money, and while I should probably factor it into the overall equation, I know how much it is and keep it aside as a lump sum payment out of savings.  I can’t decide if this is a practical coping mechanism so as not to panic at the cost of university education every month, or if it’s more of a head-in-the-sand kind of thing, but for now it works for me, and I imagine it will continue to do so so long as living within my means incorporates this amount (which it currently does).


Written by Jenn

October 25, 2010 at 12:57 am

Posted in Money matters

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On books

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Awhile back, I’d mentioned that I was a bit concerned about the fact that one of my escapes seems to be heading to the local used bookstore and picking up a new-to-me book or two to read.  I’d found that when things were tough I tended to turn to book shopping as an escape – not something I normally do, but somewhat easy to defend since first, I was buying books to read and, second, I was supporting a thrift store in the process.  At the time, I also mentioned that I wanted to cut back a bit and see if I could reduce that expense a bit more.

Well…at this point I haven’t given up on the books, but I think I’m managing it better.

Although I bought books that I wanted to read, I was buying more than I am now.  While the purchases certainly weren’t indiscriminate, I wasn’t as thoughtful as I try now to be about what I was bringing home.  I’ve found that being aware not only of what I buy but also why I buy it to be very helpful (not just when it comes to books, actually) in planning and managing what I do choose to buy.

I find I buy books for two reasons.  First, I like to read.  Books are pleasurable.  I enjoy finding something that I’ve wanted to read and then actually being able to get immersed and absorbed in the content, whether it’s stories or recipes, fact or fiction.  They’re also an inexpensive source of entertainment.  $4 (and usually less) for a used book that I get to keep is better value, for me anyway, than going to a movie, or out to a bar, or buying most video games.  Beyond electricity to read at night and the odd accompanying pot of tea, the cost is usually nothing.  And, psychologically speaking, I love being cozied up on the couch with tea and wool blankets and a good book to spend an afternoon or evening.

So, to keep the shopping for books a bit more under control.  I have a list of authors that I look for, and a few books in mind.  The authors and books are ones that I know I’ll read again and again, and are worth it for me to have.  John Irving.  Annie Dillard.  Neil Gaiman.  Annie Proulx.  Edgar Allen Poe.  Kate DiCamillo.  Classics of various descriptions.  Barbara Kingsolver.  Diane Ackerman.  Agatha Christie.  Neal Stephenson.  William Gibson.

I also read for reference, and try to keep part of my library as very practical and useful.  When a book shows up on making quilts or knitting sweaters, or goatkeeping, or companion planting, I tend to look twice at it (unless I have one already, a distinction I think I’ve been much better at making lately as well).  I want a library not only of books that I want to read for pleasure, but also ones that will be useful.  In some ways this is actually the broader category as I seek out materials that will be useful and informative for building a life that’s even more sustainable.

Admittedly, I already have a lot of books here, and I have yet to read them all (far from it, actually).  I have everything from cookbooks to the classics, and from guidebooks to graphic novels.  But I appreciate being able to have what I want at my fingertips.  I like being able to loan books out.  I worry that, as with so many of the truly good things that make cities great, that library hours and services will soon be cut.  I enjoy having my own copies that I can fall asleep in bed with, make notes in pencil on, and hide little scraps and bits and pieces in the pages to find later.

One day they will have to be moved.  I know this, and I sort of dread that day, both for the pile that I imagine will need to be out the door, and for the struggle involved in moving the rest.  But for now, I like having them, and I appreciate that such a great source of books is close by, not only for the rough days when I’m out hunting for that one book that I want to read, but for all the others that have passed and that are yet to come where I curl up and have swaths of information and whole other worlds ready at my fingertips.

Written by Jenn

October 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

September purchases

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With the start of a new semester and the end of a scholarship, I’ve been thinking more about finances recently, and about shopping.  After spending August not buying any necessities (with a few slip-ups), I’ve kept working hard to keep the unnecessary shopping to a minimum.

In my budget spreadsheet I actually record days on which I’ve spent no money.  It’s a nice visual, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.  This month, out of 30 days I’ve had 20 that were no spending.  This is exactly what I was aiming for.  I’m pretty proud of this.

So, what did I spend on?  Beyond the usual rent ($610), electricity ($40), phone ($30), internet ($50), and insurance ($25), I don’t seem to have bought much.  There was a thrifted t-shirt and new with tags pumps that dont hurt my ankle to go towards an outfit for job interviews ($7), plus some new socks that I hope will help to prevent blisters on my longer runs ($10).  There was a whole lot of cough medicine and cough drops to stop the hacking long enough that I could teach the first week of classes when I was oh-so-sick ($30) as well as shampoo, toothpase, and deodorant ($13).  There were thank you cards bought to send out for the wedding gifts that were given to us ($5). There was a plunger and snake for a backed up sink, and a carpet sweeper ($50 – the month’s biggest purchase), a low-cost way to finally keep my carpets clean, I hope (and no, it’s not one of the ones that requires regular purchase of sticky insert things).   There was food – a lot of it – mostly purchased at the local farmer’s market directly from local farmers.  And then there were some used books – $13 for three novels, a textbook, and a book on raising goats.

While they’re not all necessities, certainly, they are things that will be used and kept for a good long while, and the outgoing cash for their purchase was relatively minimal – $251.67 if I include the food (which is, of course, a necessity), and $131.91 if I don’t.

And so, while I’ve actually received three paycheques this month, thanks to an unplanned overlapping of three different jobs, I’ve managed to live this month on just one (with $125 in savings coming out of that one as well), and the extras will go into savings as soon as I take out some money for charitable donations (this, unfortunately, does tend to vary from month to month – some are rather tight, others not really so much).

And that was September.  I’m pleased with how the budgeting went, and while there’s always room for improvement, I think everything went rather well overall.  Next month?  Trying to cut down even a bit more, on electricity, on food, and on things that aren’t really essentials.  The used books are still proving a bit troublesome since there’s so much I want to read (I keep stopping in to look for The Hunger Games), but I’ll be seeing about that a bit as well and working to set more limits on the book puchases both for money and space reasons.

Written by Jenn

October 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

The budget – what’s missing

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The other day, I posted my new budget.

There are, you may have noticed, a few things missing.  While I’ve carefully considered amounts for my budget, I’ve also carefully considered what is included in it in the first place.  While there are many small things that are cut here and there, there are a few relatively large things missing as well.

First, there’s no car, or anything that goes along with a car.  A bus pass is included in my university tuition (somewhere around $50 a semester) and I make very good use of it.  I considered getting a car, but the expense was too great even for the convenience, and I didn’t want the worry and stress – both financial and otherwise – of owning something that would require a regular influx of cash for gas, insurance, and maintenance.

There isn’t an entertainment category.  Usually, what entertainment I do indulge in gets tossed into the “play” category, but that’s fairly few and far between, and “play” is really just money to play with – one month it might be a small concert with friends, another it might be a used book that I’ve been wanting to read.  Technically speaking I suppose it’s still there, but I’ve been trying to find other ways to have a good time without needing much of an entertainment budget to support it while simultaneously limiting myself to a set amount of play money to spend in a month, total.  Friends over for dinner, a phone call to my mom, streaming movies on local TV stations, and playing the guitar have all proven to be excellent ways to stay entertained without spending an arm and a leg.

Alongside no specific entertainment amount, there’s also no cable included  in with my utilities.  I do have Internet access – a high speed connection that I need for work – and so I watch widely available streaming TV rather than paying the fees to have cable.  I get to see almost everything I want while only paying for something that I would need to have anyway, and making good use of it in the process.

Finally, another omission right now is a cell phone bill.  This is because I don’t have one (insert gasp here).  There are a few reasons for not having a cell – from not wanting the expense to really not wanting to be reachable all the time – but my landline serves me perfectly well, I frequently have my computer with me or am near one, and I just haven’t encountered enough situations where one is needed to justify the additional cost.

There are probably other missing things that I’ve…well, missed, but these are the really big, conscious ones for me right now, the ones that I’ve very intentionally decided to keep out of my budget.  On their own, any one might not be a huge deal – except the car, I imagine – but together, they really make a difference to my budget as a whole.

Written by Jenn

September 1, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Posted in Money matters

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September budget, part one

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For me, a new school year usually means a new budget.  I’ve spent some time recently working my way through my budget in preparation for the school year, especially now that a bunch of my finances have changed (new work, end of a scholarship, and so on).

I think budgeting is important for a few reasons.  First, knowing what my budget is means that I can spend below my means.  So long as I keep doing this, I can avoid depleting my savings or going into debt, which is a comforting feeling.  Having a budget also means that I can build in savings.  By doing so, I’m almost always sure – barring an emergency – to be contributing to my savings account on a regular basis, and making sure I’m in good shape should anything happen. Finally, having a budget means I have a really clear idea of where my money goes every month, and being aware helps to keep me even more in check with my spending, such as it is.

I know a lot of people don’t like budgets because they can feel restrictive, and in some cases they really can be – I’m more than willing to admit there’s a huge difference between needing to be on a budget and choosing to be on one.  There are, however, some ways of feeling better a budget.  This may not work for everyone, but in order to avoid feeling this way I try to view mine as a challenge.  I regularly challenge myself to stay under the monthly amounts that I’ve budgeted, or to see if I can save a certain amount above and beyond what I usually save.  The challenge makes it a bit more fun, and really lets me feel like saving is far more rewarding than spending could be.

Given that I’m no longer on scholarship – them’s the rules, and I simply can’t be anymore – there have been some adjustments to my budget.  I’m working really hard to not only live off just my teaching income, which isn’t a whole lot, but to generate some savings from it as well.  I’ll be paying tuition this year as much as possible from a few other income source (as well as a bit from savings, if need be), and the more I can save from teaching, the better off I’ll be in terms of covering and moving beyond what is easily one of my biggest expenses.

While I may go into more detail later (I’m concerned this sounds a bit vague), for now I’ve worked out a budget that incorporates savings and a generous allowance for each of my living expenses, plus a bit set aside for more fun-ish things.  If I spend all of the money I’ve allocated in a month, I’ll still be living under my means and putting away some money for savings.  But, with the cap that I’ve set there’s a lot of room for flexibility, and hopefully a lot of room to save even more – what I don’t spend every month will get put into savings.

I will admit that I’ve been a bit lax in these last few almost-heady days of having a scholarship, research work, and extra teaching at the same time.  I certainly haven’t strayed into dip-into-savings territory – not by a long shot – but I could probably be even a bit more careful.

At this point I’m actually looking forward to having a plan and cutting back a bit more, especially as I challenge myself not only to save money, but to work on finding more ways to creatively avoid spending where it’s not necessary.  This could, of course, be an interesting challenge.  This circumstance is, I think, the closest I’ve ever been to needing a budget rather than just wanting one, which makes me a bit uncomfortable in some ways.  That said, I have a plan for the money that I know is coming in, whetever I can make or save on top that will be a savings bonus, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out and reporting back as I go.

Written by Jenn

August 29, 2010 at 1:07 am