My Year of No Buying… April Fools!

Sorry about that. Also, Happy Easter and Felices Pascuas!**

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Last week my favorite puertorriqueño gave me a couple of suggestions, including that I jump on the “Year of No Spending” bandwagon and give details.

“It is going to be very funny if you do,” he wrote.

After considerable thought, I decline. First, I have a tendency to focus on a task to the exclusion of everything else, including sleep and common sense. Second, I foresee having to spend a bundle on certain home replacements in the future.

Case in point: I awoke one night thinking cats were fighting outside my window. No, it was the fan of my furnace screeching. It has subsided, but it’s only a matter of time…

However, I am intrigued by the idea of tracking my expenses. I did that 2013 in order to create a better budget on a “frozen” salary.

I have done a month of low-spending.

And a few years ago I followed a Canadian blogger who challenged herself to live as cheaply as possible. Each month she posted the results as a spreadsheet as well as a tally by category.  As I recall, she ended one year with less than CA$5,000 in expenses. I admired her experiment and wished she’d left her blog up for future reference. She had some oddball tricks that couldn’t be done by just anyone, such as moving across Ontario one summer to an off-season dorm room and being paid in food to babysit a young relative. But she also had great tips on simple one-bowl meals and entertainment.

So maybe I could track my spending and add it to my monthly updates. (And yes, I know the March update is due. But it’s a holiday!)


** Note to anyone thinking of telling me that “Easter” is derived from a pagan goddess called Esther (the nemesis of a god named Fred Sanford):

Everyone knows the English liked to apply their old words to new things; e.g. the North American orange-breasted robin is a delightfully musical thrush named after a shrill, squeaky flycatcher native to Europe and Africa.  (The photo above is of a North American robin’s nest and its distinctive blue eggs. It’s a free-use WordPress photo because the nearest nest appears to be in the upper reaches of my maple.)

Outside the Anglocentric view, the words for today’s holiday are variations on “Passover”,  such as Pascua in Spanish.  Even in English, the Resurrection of Christ is called “The Paschal Mystery.”

If you feel the need to argue, let us focus on food names. We can ramble at length about squashes known as either courgette, zucchini, calabacita, OR zapallito. But do NOT get me started on turnips, Swedes, and rutabagas!

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Ah, sweet filthy lucre!

Money was running through my fingers like water this week, what with the chariot due for an oil change, toiletries running out, and shoelaces needing a replacement.  I found myself grabbing gas money out of the “Stash o’ Cash”.

Some readers may know it by another name: the emergency fund. I learned to squirrel away bills and coins for those situations that require cash on hand. (I admit it began with a gas-and-pizza fund at college.) It’s a kind of running joke among old friends that some of us follow the “squirrel model” too closely and forget where they put it. (Or add to it without using it, like my grandfather who stashed thousands of dollars in a safe over the course of years!) Continue reading

Freebies and Fails

I’m putting the Freebies right here for the TL/DR crowd:

  1. The SFFwaudio Podcast. I like SF and I love G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, so I’m enjoying listening to the audio version and looking forward to hearing the podcast discussing it.
  2. Instant Pot Recipes at Allrecipes.com is giving me an overview of my intimidating birthday gift, which I haven’t used yet.

The recent three days of snow have made me grateful (yet again) for kind neighbors and profoundly covetous of their garages. I have to remind myself that I can survive another winter without one, unlike a furnace or a water heater. Continue reading

Simple living through going cold turkey!

I’m fascinated about how different paths lead people to live more simply. Recently a friend shared a link to the Market Watch interview of Canadian blogger Cait Flanders, who went on a two-year shopping ban.

As longtime readers may recall, I participated in a month-long “no spending challenge” with a friend. Like Flanders and the majority of her co-participants, the friend who initiated the challenge wanted to change her habit of unconscious consumption. Continue reading

The month of low spending

One of my tormenters trendy friends pointed me to a financial guru (whose name I’ve already forgotten) who suggested that in preparation for a downsizing in income,* one should try a Month of No Spending. To which I said, “Ha! May is Mother’s Day, gardening, and two birthdays!”

But my fiend… erm, friend is very insistent on trying new things and dragging his pals along for the ride. So I did a Month of Low Spending.**

Obviously I saved more money than usual. I also observed what I considered “essential spending.” But I also saw how my spending habits reflect my mindset.***

  • Extras Just In Case. I have never turned down a deal on cleaning products, at least until this month. It’s ridiculous because I don’t need them; most grime succumbs to soapy water, a rag, and muscles.
  • Public Library vs My Library. You’d think that after purging my shelves, I’d never want to purchase another book. You’d be wrong, especially since a favorite drugdealer bookseller had a special sale on Stone Bridge Press publications. I literally destroyed one book by emptying an entire cup of coffee into it (super-absorbent, those SBP books!) but at least I didn’t have to pay a fine.
  • Good To The Last Drop. On the flip side, my frugal habits of yesteryear rose like familiar ghosts. I mended an old skirt for the final time – the fabric is literally wearing away. I added water to bottles of shampoo, soap, and make-up. I steered clear of the theatre district, favorite stores, and the Internet – the most tempting spots.

Overall, I think I have a lot of room for improvement.


*According to the Big Boss, a% reduction in pay is coming. At least 10%, but as much as 25%. Excluded in his calculations was the increase in personal cost of health care.

**But first I prepared for my friend’s challenge by paying ahead for nearly a month of cafeteria lunches in April. (It’s not cheating! It’s being clever! I got a discount!)

***What really struck me is how I’ve absorbed certain hang-ups about the proper behavior of white collar workers or people of education. A kind soul gave The Factory workers certificates for free breakfast at McDonald’s. Colleagues gave theirs away, not because they don’t eat fast food, but because McDonald’s is not on par with Panera or Starbucks.  Why not? They’re all corporations serving food-on-the-go.

 

Frugal frills

In response to my recent post about shabby chic (among other things), my friend Jenny e-mailed me a personal story about flea-marketing New Yorkers. She asked me a fun question: “What are your favorite frugal finds?”

So here they are, in no particular order:

  • Turtlenecks for extra layers of warmth (5 for $5 sale at the Salvation Army store)
  • Pork neck bones from a local butcher, perfect for soup
  • A honing steel. Judging by the deep scratches on one side, the previous owner didn’t know how to use it – not that I blame him/her, since I learned from a DVD of Chef Bill Briwa. I’ve straightened blades on a food processor and a blender, prolonging their usefulness.
  • A carafe with glass liner, a push-button on top to open the valve, and a pencil-pattern going all around it.  Its ’80s style caught my eye at a rummage sale, and I was told it works well for both hot and cold beverages. Does it ever! It’s also easy for a child to use without spilling.