Urban Adaptation

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

Posts Tagged ‘savings

How low can you go – week one

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In an effort to keep costs down, I’m continuing to track my spending and now I’m reporting it here.  Basically, I’m trying to keep my variable expenses down as much as I can right now to save for next year, when I may not be earning much.  Rent, utilities, and my one recurring research-related subscription will get added in at the end of the month for the grand total.  I’ll have to see if I can keep track of groceries, since The Boy usually pays for those.

In the first week of my how low can you go challenge, I think I did pretty well.

Friday – nothing

Saturday – nothing

Sunday – nothing

Monday – 6 books for $15 (The Road – 2; The Fiery Cross – 2; The Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – 3; A Minnesota Doctor’s Home Remedies for Common and Uncommon Ailments – 2; Blue Covenant – 3; World Hunger: Twelve Myths – 3).

Tuesday – toilet paper for $12.

Wednesday – nothing

Thursday – nothing

Total = $27

Not bad, I suppose.  In all honesty, as I’ve said before I don’t need more books.  I consider this a birthday gift to myself, though, and I appreciate their entertainment value (in the case of the novels) and having them around for reference (home remedies and organic gardening).  Happily, the ones on water and hunger will be reimbursed as part of a research project that I’m working on.  The toilet paper was found cheaper at a local store than where I usually get it, and will last us awhile.

Next week, I’m going to be more vigilant about staying away from the bookstore (and I won’t have a birthday as my excuse).  I need to get a birthday gift for my mom, and pay for a warranty on my computer (expansive, and totally worth it, in my experience), but other than that, I’m still aiming for reducing costs.  I also have a pressing desire to do some spring cleaning, so I imagine that will keep me busy (and hyper-aware of how much stuff I have), as will all the grading I have to do.

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Written by Jenn

April 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

How low can you go?

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It’s three days into April now, but at the start of the month, I decided that this will be a month where I see how low I can get my budget to go under normal circumstances.

The goal?  To spend as little as possible while I live like I normally would.  No eating strictly from the pantry, no putting off things that I need until the next month to skew the spending lower, no making The Boy take on more than he normally would to cover for me.  So, normal life, just with less spending, whether that means buying fewer things, or spending less on the things that are necessities.

Seems simple enough, but I suppose I shall see.  I’ll update as I go with weekly spending reports.  Three days down, 27 left to go.

How low can you go?

Written by Jenn

April 3, 2011 at 4:06 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

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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

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