Urban Adaptation

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

Posts Tagged ‘consumption

How low can you go – week two

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Friday – nothing

Saturday – rubbermaid tub (bought used for starting a worm composter) – $2.50; 4 books for $9 (The Almanac of Rural Living – 3; Rodale’s Garden Problem Solutions – 3; The Foxfire Book – 2; Last of the Curlews – 1)

Sunday – nothing

Monday – air mattress – $41 (the old one broke, and this is a necessity for nights when I can’t sleep and need to be in the living room)

Tuesday – nothing

Wednesday – packing tape – $4 (needed to pack up box to return old computer to manufacturer for a replacement)

Thursday – 4 books for $11 (The Lacuna – 4, How the Farm Pays – 3; The Trade – 1; a Terry Pratchett for The Boy – 2)

So, this was more or less a week of somewhat unexpected but necessary expenses.  More in the sense that the mattress, as noted, is necessary to my sleep and sanity sometimes, so $41 was well worth it, I think (I got a reasonable quality one this time that I hope will last longer and not lose quite as much air and require so much maintenance).  My computer’s being replaced under warranty, but has to be packaged up in a particular way to ship back, and so I needed to get a roll of packing tape.

The books?  Oops is all I really have here.  I love books, but I very much need to be better about what I buy.  I’m not too bothered by more books on gardening, farming, and sustainable living – they will get used, and I appreciate having them on hand.  The almanac is especially fantastic, based on my intial readings of it, and How the Farm Pays looks great too, especially since it’s a reprint of an 1884 manual and uses older techniques.  The other fiction books, though, are not really so necessary in the strictest of senses.  Kingsolver I love and would have bought new, but held off on until it showed up used (which took somewhere close to a year, as I recall).  The Road is dark, but post-apocalyptic survivalist fiction, which I find helps get me in gear.  The Last of the Curlews…well, that just feeds into my love of reading naturalist fiction, The Trade looked interesting from a Canadian history and wilderness perspective, and I pick up the odd book every now and again for The Boy to read (although I like Pratchett just as much as he does, I think).

The grand total?  $67.50.

I’m not in love with the number, but $41 of that was a new mattress, so I suppose it’s not really all that bad.  And, out of the books, I spent only $8 on non-reference materials (and half of that was on a book that I’ve been waiting quite some time for).  I’m also not sure I’m thrilled with the amount of things – it looks like a lot of stuff when it’s all typed out, especially for one week.  A rubbermaid tub, packing tape, a mattress, and 8 books in just one week is not really that sustainable in this space.  Really, I think that I could be better about spending money, but also about bringing more stuff home, so that’s something to look out for for next week, I think – being mindful of money and of space.

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Written by Jenn

April 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm

February shopping and spending

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It’s time yet again for more confessional fun at the end of the month.

Despite being well under budget this month, I’m still not happy with my shopping and spending.

I did well on my plans for TGAAD.  In terms of clothing I bought only a secondhand suit, an item that was on my exceptions list.  However, I did run into some problem areas that are really noticeable now that I’m looking back on what I spent, how much, and on what.  The two big problem areas for me seem to be housewares and books.  Housewares I tend to justify in terms of making home function better and be a more pleasant place to be, since this is where I spend much of my time.  Books, I tend to explain away either as an inexpensive form of entertainment, or as reference materials that I would like to have around, and this month, I got both.

This month, I spent $59 in my play category (the budget is $50) and $52 in my sustainability category (from a budget of $20).  Clearly, the amounts spent were higher than those budgeted for.  I was aware of this as I was going through the month, and knew that I would be saving more than enough money in other categories to cover it, but it’s still not sitting all that well with me.

One of the things I wanted to avoid with TGAAD was spending money in other places instead of for clothes.  I’m not sure that’s quite what I’m doing here, but it might be.  Although I am pleased with what I got and stuck to things that had been on my list for ages and was planning on buying new soon anyway, I don’t want to get into the habit of overspending in my set categories, even if it just means moving money that’s already built into the budget around to compensate.  Part of the point is to consume and have less, period.

So, I’m trying something new for February.

Part of what I don’t like about shopping is that I buy substitutes.  There are certain books that I want, for example.  If I see one used that’s inexpensive and on the same topic, but not the exact one that I wanted, I tend get it anyway.  Eventually, I’m likely to get the one that I want as well, which is a waste of money, as well as a waste of space if I don’t get rid of the first one.

So now, I’m going to focus on getting exactly what I want.  The cost of buying a few books that are kind of what I want could cover, or at least go a long way towards getting a book I really want.  So, this February, I’m making a deal with myself.  No shopping other than the necessities.  At the end, if I stick to it, I get this:

I very much want this.  I love his work, love reading his books, looking at the pictures, watching the shows.  It’s somewhat pricy, even after the discount.  But all the $3 and $4 secondhand cookbooks in the world won’t be this one.  So, rather than buy them, I’m going to get this one, and I will enjoy the living heck out of it.

This will take up much of my combined budget for play and for sustainability.  In fact, if I attend the workshop on starting seeds that I want to go to this month ($30) I could be a bit over (although I do have some gift certificates).  But I will be less over budget – if I’m over at all – than I was this month.  I’ll have the book that I most want.  And I’ll only have one new book to fit onto the shelf, rather than a pile plus a few new housewares too.

Written by Jenn

January 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm

New year, new budget

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With a new year, I’ve refigured my budget just a bit.  With the current financial uncertainties, being on the job market, and just trying to better manage my resources, I’ve made a few adjustments here and there while also trying to simplify things a bit more.

First, since I’ve joined The Great American Apparel Diet (TGAAD), I’ve eliminated the clothing category.  Only $10 a month, but that still $120 a year.  If I do wind up getting a suit (I’m on the job market, and trying to make sure I have appropriate clothing, so it’s my TGAAD exception), it’ll come out of my education amount for the month.

Second, I’ve raised my automatic savings amount from $125 to $150 a month.  Because it’s buried in the budget, I tend to forget it’s there, and it makes a nice addition to the money that I try to save out of my other categories.  Adding in an extra $25 makes it an even nicer surprise to remember.

Finally, I’ve started recording my spending by rounding up to the nearest dollar.  This way, the amounts I track are slightly higher than what I actually spent, leaving a bit extra at the end of the month – $0.23 here, or $0.71 there.  It’s not a lot, since I don’t spend all that often, and it’s $0.99 at most each time, but even an extra $0.50 on 10 purchases is $5 a month.

And just a note on budgets in general. A few people have asked me if I find my budget very restrictive.  The short answer is no.  The long answer, though, is that although it works well for me, I get that this won’t work for everyone.  Not everyone likes to track in this much detail, or have such strict limits on spending.  For me, though, it works.  It’s interesting, and I see keeping my budget and especally staying within it as a challenge.  This makes it more fun and interesting and less like some restrictive drudgery.  Furthermore, it’s very much a choice.  I don’t have to live like this, but I want to, and choosing versus being forced to do something are two very different things.  In general, I like saving a lot more than I like spending, which certainly helps as well, but setting out the numbers and finding ways to stay where I’m supposed to be feels rewarding to me, and not like a chore, and therefore works quite well.

Written by Jenn

January 11, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Money matters

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Making good use

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As I continue to declutter (which I’ve realised is a complete pain without a car, since now I have 3 garbage bags full of clothes and 100 or so books along with other assorted bits and pieces that stacked around the apartment as I move them one backpack at a time to the Goodwill donation dropoff) I’ve been considering my stuff.

I have, I’ll admit, a lot of duplicates of things, which is easier to see when everything’s dragged out for sorting and relocation.  As favourite things start to look worn, I have a tendency to replace them.  Trouble is, the original very rarely makes it out the door because I like it, which means that I regularly wind up with multiples of things (which may or may not be in the most fantastic of condition), and because there’s a replacement, the originals rarely get the care that could fix or help them to last longer.  So, in the interest of keeping my apartment clean and my wallet full(er), I’ve decided I’m going to keep the best of my things (which was the plan all along) but care for them better, so that there won’t be such an impulse to replace them, and so that they’ll last longer and serve my needs better.

Today, I’ve polished a favourite paid of clogs, oiled my butcher block (which was very long overdue), and fluffed out my down duvet so it doesn’t compress too much.  I’ve scrubbed out the cast iron and will be putting it all in the oven for a good re-seasoning shortly.  Up next, the wooden coffee tables are overdue for a dust and a polish, and I have some beloved shearling boots that could do with a good cleaning at the local cobbler’s.

Sadly, I know this won’t prevent things from ultimately degrading – eventually, everything fails or wears down. Because they’re used, favourite and useful things usually can’t last forever.  But I’m hoping these measures – all of which are pretty inexpensive and rather easy – will prolong the life of my favourite things and, in so doing, also make it less likely that I’ll need to replace them, or wind up with a home filled with duplicates of things that could be better cared for.

Written by Jenn

January 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Full disclosure

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In the interest of full disclosure, on my first full day of TGAAD, I shopped.  Not for clothes – I’m good there – but I happened to be by the used bookstore today.  And they happened to have “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire“, both of which I’ve been wanting to read (and have checked the used bookstore for no less than 12 times).  So, they came home with me, along with a copy of “Trees: The Green Testament” and “The Poems of Tennyson” (I love me some graphic novels and some Arthurian-themed poetry).  $12 for the lot.

Also, in order to get my Christmas gift order of one CD up to the free shipping amount, I finally ordered “Alabama Studio Style” which has been sitting in my cart since before it was released, (I did use gift cards entirely for that, so I’m actually not out any money).  Not a necessity, but I appreciate the focus on homemade things, sustainability, storytelling, local food, and tradition, not to mention the fact that this one has the dress and tank top patterns that I’ve been coveting.

So, more books.  And more shopping, I suppose.  This should be the last for awhile, though, since the two earlier books were the last stragglers on my wish list (although I will likely have to keep my eye open for the third, and it strikes me that I have more gift certificates, and that Ashley English’s books on chickens and preserving have been in the queue for a long time as well).  I’m trying not to be too hard on myself over this, especially on the first day of the diet, and seem to be succeeding.  I’m also trying not to focus too much on supplanting clothes shopping with other forms of shopping either, justified or not, especially with books.  That said, there will be a new focus on reading what I have around here, and I’m still hoping that TGAAD will help change my rleationship to shopping in general, and not just with clothes.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The Great American Apparel Diet

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I found out about TGAAD a few months back, but it didn’t really cross my mind to jump on board. Then, a few days ago, I was thinking about the New Year and resolutions (in the loosest sense) – wanting more time for the important things, thinking about getting my finances tightened up even more, and trying to declutter further – and it hit me that now would be a good time to get on board.  And, after a month of not shopping, this felt at least reasonably do-able as a project, and it seemed to fit well with my hope for a low shopping year. So, no new clothes (or new-to-me used clothes) until the end of August, 2011.

I don’t really spend a lot, mostly because I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. But as a grad student, I’d rather be saving than spending, and given how little I currently make, it’s still a higher percentage of my budget than I’d like. Because thrift stores are cheap, I also have a lot of clothing – nice, good quality clothing, but certainly enough, and probably more than I need – and I could use the room. Finally, I spend more time shopping than I would prefer, looking for just the right things at just the right price.

So, for TGAAD my goals are four-fold. Spend less. Bring fewer things home. Have more time for the important stuff. Get creative with what I have (and get rid of what just isn’t working). Pretty simple, I hope.

When I was considering joining, I found myself nervous. Could I really do this? (As a side note, I think the fact that it felt so monumental at the time is probably a sign that this is a good thing to be doing.) Now? I feel excited – not just as though a big decision has been made, but also as though many months of small ones have too. For the next eight months and change there are no more decisions about shopping or not, buying or not, or even just what to get. It feels freeing, which is a pleasant surprise.

Right now, I’m considering whether I need to plan out an exception or two.  A suit for job interviews is at the top of that list, and my pj pants are about to go, I think (although there’s some lovely flannel and a sewing machine in the closet that could probably make short work of that particular need).

The only other question left, I think, is whether I try to further extend this diet to other elements of my shopping which, while also not hugely indulgent, add to the time, the expense, and the clutter of shopping (books and housewares, I’m looking at you).  While TGAAD is focused largely on clothes, I’m hoping that my perspective not only shifts with respect to this kind of shoppng, but also transfers to other elements as well.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

The Low Shopping Year

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I’m not much of a New Year’s resolutions kind of person.  I do, however, like a good challenge (could you tell?)  And so, with the coming new year, I’m taking on a new one, and one that fits rather well with some of the other projects that I’ve got in the works.

Here comes The Low Shopping Year.

In my efforts to save some money, prepare to move, clean out the clutter, and just generally sort out my life, shopping isn’t helping.  As I’ve said before, I don’t shop a lot, and I certainly don’t spend much, but it still means that things are making their way into my home here and there, money that doesn’t have to is making its way out the door, and the clutter and finances are all the more difficult to deal with as a result.  Also, because I almost always buy used, even spending a bit of money can bring in a lot of stuff ($10 at the used book store is usually good for three or four books).

The original thought was that I would start what I called “The No Shopping Year”.  Unfortunately, “The No Shopping Year” sounds a bit grandiose.  And, given my present situation, there’s no way I can go an entire year without actually shopping for anything, since I like to eat, need medication, and may require an academic book here or there as I plow through the dissertation, so the name’s a bit of a misnomer, cool as it sounds.  So, in the interest of accuracy, I’ve reconsidered the No Shopping Year in favour of the Low Shopping Year.  (More accurate, but sounds less cool, no?)

The plan?  Seriously reduce (my already rather reduced consumption) in much the same way as with my No Spending Month.

The benefit?  Less money going out.  Fewer things coming in.  Less clutter to deal with.  Less clutter to move.  More time for whatever I want.

There are still details to work out.  I need to figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t, whether there should be any exceptions, and if there’s anything else I should be figuring out.  I’ll probably wind up working out a new budget to reflect (and possibly reinforce) these changes.

Written by Jenn

December 15, 2010 at 10:05 am