life: headspace and budgets

Howdy y’all! So I’m in a weird headspace… literally. Feeling tired, wired, and spacey all at once. In short, I am a squirrel. Kind of manic, but lazy at the same time. Could be hormones, could be the weirdness that comes before a migraine… could be both (probably both). Anyhow, it’s going to be a week.

But back to real talk… I’ve been adulting. It’s been a while since I took a good, hard look at my finances and spending habits. I’ve gone through at least one raise and one rent hike, so it’s about time I take a good look at where my money is going. After several failed attempts at using a cash budget and an online tracker, I’ve decided to just keep a written log of my spending—keeping my receipts, tracking my purchases, and just reviewing where my $ is going at the end of the week, when I’ll pop it into a spreadsheet and tally up the amount. I tried tracking in my bullet journal, but that just didn’t work, so I’m using a dedicated notepad just for spending.

I’m fine when it comes to money, but I would like to scale back and take better control of my spending. Mostly impulse buys… and coffee. That’s kind of a problem, but one I hope to address by building better habits. We’ll see.

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living thriftily, the latest

I’ve always been the frugal sort, and I always will be. Being moneywise is as much a part of me as my love of reading. Though I live comfortably, it’s definitely a life lived within my means. Last year, I took the 52 week money-saving challenge. I didn’t quite make it to week 52, but I did get pretty close. I thought of that money as an extra fund to use for a special splurge (maybe a trip or some high quality shoes). I let it go and didn’t count the amount when the challenge ended, letting it stay in my special jar until needed.

On Tuesday, my cat needed surgery. It was time to break into the jar. I counted out the bills and they were just enough to cover the procedure. Sometimes, life happens, which is why I always like to have a buffer. I’ve been poor. It’s always in the back of my mind when I make a purchase that feels wasteful (even if I can afford it). I’m going to pay off that bill and start a new jar… just in case I do get the chance to do something special.

This year, I’m also trying to stick to a “shop your own closet” plan. I have more than enough clothes to see me through the next few seasons, and my style tends towards the classic, so I needn’t fear outdated trends. I’m trying to be more appreciative of what I have and keep only those items that I really make use of… there’s no sense in having a closet full of clothes if I don’t wear any of them. My plan is to rotate and cull as I go… making way for only those items that fit well and look good with anything. Makeup and accessories go far in adding some variety to my look, but my look still has a slightly retro feel to it–red lips and ballet flats tend to be the standard for me. I was trying to do a selfie-a-day thing to keep track of my outfits, but I’m too impatient and quick to give up on regular posting. I’d rather just remind myself to add some color and call it a day.

In the meantime, I’m trying to find a way to sell my old silver rings for cash. I’m clueless when it comes to selling silver for scrap, but they’re too big for me and I’m over having a pile of unused jewelry sitting in a box.

A monumental sort of moment… kind of

After 3 very long years, I am finally debt “free”. Hospital bills and credit cards have been taken care of, and I’ve learned how to steer clear of purchases I can’t pay off in one go. Though, to be honest, most of the charges were cafe and coffee orders made during my first stint in grad school. I learned the hard way, but those little $4 charges really do add up and interest will rear its head in a terrible way. What a relief to finally see a $0 balance.

I have to enjoy the feeling while it lasts… my student loans will appear in about 9 months, but that’s worthwhile debt, I suppose.

what I’ve learned

The recession (and not having a proper job for about a year) has taught me a bit about money and how not to spend it.

These are a few of the things I’ve learned, though I learned some the hard way:

  • You really can control your spending if you can see what you’re spending. I made a spreadsheet to chart what I earn, my monthly bills, what I owe, what I have saved, and what I can consider “me” money. It’s really helped me become aware of my spending habits.
  • Don’t charge it unless you can pay it off. An easy one, so why don’t more of us follow this rule? I’ve learned that if I can’t pay cash for my tall chai at the Starbucks at school, I shouldn’t charge it. As it is, I will be paying off my tea and coffee habit for the next year or two… so much for the caffeinated grad student lifestyle.
  • Simple meals can be filling and cheap, and cooking for my b-chan makes me feel incredibly creative in the kitchen.
  • Some things really are free… free entries to parks (my camera thanks me for these), free entree when you buy two, free mini facials at a training school, free cake (at least where I work, I try to steer clear of these lest I give in to my sweet-tooth).
  • Libraries have books! I love books! I can’t afford them all! OMG I can go to the library! Yes, I’m in library school, but until last year, I never really visited any of my county libraries. University libraries also have non-academic treasures for some light reading.
  • The right accessories can spruce up your wardrobe. Scarves, pins, and faux pearls can go a long way to creating some neat outfits.
  • The bank is not here to help you, no matter how often they say that they can help you figure out your finances if you give them a call. My current credit rating does not thank me for that call. I’m more than a little bitter about what they did when I called about adjusting my interest rate and/or minimum payments.

where’s george?

In January I found a dollar with a link to the “Where’s George?” currency tracking project, so I entered it and found that I was the first person to register the bill (it looked really crisp and clean, so it must have been fairly new). Yesterday, I received an email letting me know that my bill had been entered again, this time in Louisianna… It traveled 649 miles to get there, I wonder what happened in between, that’s quite a few states that it had to cross. It’s kind of neat 🙂

no job. lots of bills.

Not only is it worrisome enough to think that I will be entering the job market during an economic crisis, apparently Florida (and esp. South Fla) is one of the absolute worst locations for potential employment in the country. So, a) I am out of a proper job until I finish my thesis, b) I may not find a proper job for some time to come, c) good thing I live with my parents or I would be evicted. And… because as a TA I made squat this year, my earnings were too small to merit an economic stimulus. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Couples, as usual, are rewarded for being married while singles only receive a bonus if they earned enough to begin with?! Shouldn’t this boost go to people who really need the cash (like impoverished students with ridiculous tuition fees, attending a school that is sinking under its own economic crisis)?

Bad situation all around.