SOCIAL DINING AT HOME
My friends have so far been extraordinarily supportive in my spending fast. Maybe secretly they are bummed, but in person they seem happy for me. I joke! Honestly, I think they are understanding in my decision to not spend money this year and have every intention of helping me along my journey to a debt free life. One major shift in our socializing is that meals have moved to the home. The last time that I stepped foot inside a restaurant was over a month ago, and I can’t say that I miss it. I’ve mentioned before, cooking at home has become one of my favorite activities lately. Combine the flavors of a home cooked meal with good friends, and I really can’t think of a much better dining experience.
Here’s my little list of the benefits of social dining in:
I know the source of every ingredient that goes into a dish
I lean toward adding healthier amounts of oils, sugar and creams - less excess in general
Smaller portion sizes, I eat until I’m full, then save extra for leftovers
Cooking becomes more instinctive the more I do it, and over time, I’ve found it to be quick, easy and hassle free
No reservations required
Food comes out of the oven/stove and straight to my plate
Fluid conversation - we don’t have a waiter interrupting every 5 minutes
We can stay as long as we like - no angry waiting customers glaring at you to hand over your table or restaurant staff eager to get off duty
No worries about offending other diners - we can be as loud and obnoxious as we want
Custom soundtrack to fit our mood
Obviously, saving money - no overpriced menu items or tips
My kitchen is always open for business
My mantra these past few weeks has been “free”. I think “Remember, you don’t have to spend to have fun, there’s so much in life that is free for the taking!” Lately, I’ve been repeating this to myself in more frequent moments of uncertainty.
It’s not that I want to go on a mad shopping spree, but I would like to go to the store and be a little mindless, a few trivial purchases here and there. And realizing I will not be able to partake in certain activities with friends because I’ve vowed not to spend is also making me feel slightly self conscious. I get the sense that I might be “missing out” if I don’t get back into the spending game.
Clearly, I’m winding down from the exhilaration of getting this whole Operation Debt Reduction started, having occupied my mind in the first few weeks of our spending lockdown analyzing our personal finances, laying out the budget and making plans of attack on our debt. “Now what?” I ask.
Something in me says, ”Just be.”
The word has been thrown around the news lately to the point where our ears are tuning it out. Forget the government fiasco. What about your budget? You’ll never get a grip on personal finances until a detailed budget is created. It’s a little tedious and time consuming, not exactly my favorite free time activity. I’ve always hated numbers, and if truth be told, I based a huge part of my decision to go to art college because it didn’t require me to take a math class. Perhaps the beginning of where I went wrong with money management? But with our spending lockdown and new detailed budget, I’m starting to like the numbers game a little more, especially looking at the extra money sitting in our checking account this month. If you would like to create a budget but don’t have a clue where to start, Dave Ramsey offers some free downloadable PDF budget forms with specific instructions on how to fill them out.
Now that I’ve broadcasted all of my husband’s and my monetary grievances with debt totals and frivolous spending that led to Operation Debt Reduction, I’m ready to move forward. We benefited from outing our past errors and reflecting on bad behavior that put us into this financial quandary, but from now on it’s all about progress baby!
This blog has been organically taking shape, even so, my initial objective has always been to give an honest view of how a couple of working artists are living their newly found spend conscious lives in the oh-so-spend-enticing San Francisco Bay Area. This isn’t CNNMoney. Also, I feel it is important to note that we are NOT starving artists - both of us have creative careers that provide us a steady salary. Yet we have a mountain of debt to pay off, so it is still going to be an uphill battle. We’re planning to take it day by day, though, and enjoy our lives.
By the way, my name is Sarah, and today, I’m shedding my anonymity. If you would like to see my random artist musings, check my other Tumblr blog - snippetsbysarah.
What’s draining our bank account every month?
This was the recurring question that my husband and I asked ourselves for the past year when we dealt with our personal finances. Immediately, we would start validating our lifestyle and expenses. We live modestly, right? We may indulge in little perks now and then, but nothing over the top, right? So, WHERE is the money going? We needed to tackle this whole budget thing once and for all.
Yet, before we could even attempt to write a budget, it was necessary that we track our spending for at least a month. Fortunately, I have been good about categorizing our expenses for the past year using a free online financial accounting site (Yodlee). This made tracking 10 times faster, but it was still time consuming. Also, I decided to take it a step further and track our expenses beyond a month, averaging monthly expenses for the past year, and THAT is where I found significant spending patterns. Ultimately, this discovery led us to our year long spending lockdown.
The “perk spending” was the most difficult to confront in our personal finances because it revealed our weaknesses like my obsession with face creams or the hubby’s afternoon coffee shop cravings. But seeing the total monthly averages in our spending categories forced us to come to grips with the excess spending. It was quite simply, eye-opening.
In true We Saved By The Bay fashion, we will be divulging in what we consider our top perk spending from the past year! Fun fun! Tomorrow, I will present our first annual Money Drain Awards. What will take 1st place? You may be surprised…
July 1. The date we will begin tracking our spending and saving for an entire year and hopefully beyond. Are we capable of such a feat living in the expensive bay area? I mean, c’mon, we must spend money to enjoy all this region has to offer in the way of hip restaurants and bars, wine tastings, live music, theater and museums. My motto has always been live for today not for tomorrow - so much to do, so little time, I have to try this, must go there, this is a once in a lifetime experience, I’ll never have another opportunity, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna…aaaaaaahhhhhhh!!! Okay, in all my excitement in embarking on this journey, I have equal amounts of self doubt. We’ve never been great with saving in the past, and truthfully, I’d say we’ve been flat out terrible. Why do we feel that we’re “missing out” if we don’t spend money? I intend to delve deeply into this subject over the next year.
This saving thing is scary new territory. I feel like a pioneer woman facing the wild wild west. There’s bound to be enemies, bumpy roads, bruises and other unimaginable obstacles. I just need to remember to take it one day at a time. I will deal with the unexpected as I encounter it. It’s unrealistic to think I can predict where every penny will go this entire year. And believe it or not, my goal is to have fun - this gal can’t live without it!
Yet, we have to start with some organization and preparation which leads me to the dreaded budget. This past week, hubby and I began discussing necessities versus wants. It’s opened up healthy financial dialogue between us, not to mention a few sensitivity buttons pushed. Even with the touchy subjects, I’m grateful that we have come to a mutual agreement with the parameters listed below. I’m sure our list will evolve over time, but our plan is to discuss with each other before we spend outside of these guidelines. It’s the beginning of our Spending Fast. I stumbled upon this concept after discovering the quirky yet insightful blog And Then She Saved by Anna Newell Jones. She managed to pay off over $23,000 in debt in just over a year!
So without further ado,
We will be spending on:
Dentist/Doctor/Pharmacy - as needed
Basic utilities - limit our energy use as much as possible
Mobile Phone - pared down to the bare minimum - no internet, no email, limited text messaging & voice calling
Gym/Martial Arts - it keeps us sane and healthy
Pet Care - basic needs only
Veterinary Care - as needed
Groceries - cut down to basics - fresh vegetables, fruits, bulk staples, generic brands & only buy as needed
Household - basics & only as needed - i.e. detergent/cleaning supplies/paper towels/generic brands
Personal Care Products - basic needs met - i.e. shampoo, lotion, soap - cheap & only buy as needed
Public Transit - limited trips
Gas - we are going to cut down on driving
Netflix - we don’t own a TV, so this is our little bit of entertainment, but we are downgrading to the lowest price package
Hair Cuts/Color - gotta look good! I joke, but I’ll stick to less maintenance hair styles
Budget Travel - trips that were planned prior to the spending fast, and thrifty weekend trips if the monthly budget allows it
We will NOT be spending on:
Bars and Clubs (unless it’s free and no drink purchases)
Gifts - but I will be gifting just not purchasing
*Driving anywhere less than a mile
Clothes, Shoes and Accessories
Home decor and houseware
Entertainment - Concerts, Movies, Theater etc. - unless it’s free
I Tunes purchases
DVDs, Software, Books and Magazines - unless work related
Name brands - except our cats’ food :)
*Clarification - I guess technically you don’t spend money on driving but rather on gas. So we are modifying our behavior to walk everywhere that is within a mile distance of our home, but unintentionally, we’ve been pushing the distance and have been walking up to a couple miles from home. We WILL drive or use public transit if our destinations are beyond the mile marker unless we feel like walking.