I woke up this morning thinking about how little I had to do today. As per usual, I went grocery shopping this morning. I do it every Sunday morning. It’s my release; my time alone and without distractions, and is something that I very much enjoy- I can take an hour, browsing through almost every aisle, even though I have a very specific list and few needs.

After coming home, I looked around my room and realized that it was dusty. So, I swept and dusted. Cleaning always makes me feel grimy, but before I hopped in the shower, I decided to go for a quick run, something that I haven’t done in quite a while. Although exhausted after only a few miles, I felt instantly better afterwards.

I showered and made a quick and easy lunch of leftovers after running. Seeing the clock, and realizing that it was only 1pm and I had about four more hours before I had anywhere to be, I felt rather listless and instantly bored. But then I remembered how full my laundry basket had been when I threw my running clothes in there. I don’t have a washing machine in my apartment and the communal ones are disgusting, so I spent a good hour washing some clothing. This is not a normal pastime for me; there is a laundromat walking distance from where I live, and I usually frequent it 2-3 times each month. Doing some of my laundry by hand will not only give me a way to fill up some hours of my day, but also save me money by saving me trips to that laundromat.

Now my room smells of the lovely scent of air-drying laundry and I am grateful both that I have clothing to wear for the week and that I managed to fill up most of my time on this lazy Sunday. When I finish and publish this post, I will change my clothes, do my hair, and head out the door just in time for my dinner plans. I will come home from my friend’s house both full of delicious food and exhausted from a rather full day. Luckily I will sleep well knowing that I have accomplished plenty for this lazy day.

I hate sitting around and doing nothing – the feeling of listlessness doesn’t sit well with me. It has been an abrupt and harsh change to go from super busy full-time student and extra-curricular maven to someone working only 40-45 hours per week. I like to read, I’m becoming a much more adept cook, I plan on taking up knitting again once it becomes cooler, and I have this as an outlet for my writing. I am also looking for a local community organization that I can become involved in. All of this has served to fill the void that finishing school has left me with.


September 13, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

My coffee shop afternoon

Today, for the first time in about a month, I spent the afternoon in a coffee shop. I am working on my grad school applications, and so my ‘about me’ letter is a big part of those. What I have accomplished thus far is a first draft (and not very good at all) but it was a productive way to spend a gloomy and rainy day.

It has been cool and rainy for the past several days, and I had cabin fever in the worst way from when I woke up this morning. I knew that I couldn’t spend the day inside my apartment. I had to get out. Although I love to sit and read a book, today that would have made me absolutely crazy. I am not much of a movie person, and especially since it was dark and gloomy outside I didn’t feel excited about going and sitting in a dark theater for the afternoon. I have no need to go shopping (unfortunately one of my favorite pastimes) for anything at all; I just went to the grocery store last night. Going for a drive around town or to explore my new-ish neighborhood was not an option with the weather.

Spending my afternoon this way has been especially enjoying. I accomplished what I wanted to (for the most part) and I saw a lot of other people out and about, which I think was exactly what I was craving.

I used to frequent coffee shops often- more than once or twice a week, and I appreciate the concept of making them a special treat now more than ever. The coffee was just adequate because I have become an expert at making my own just to my specifications. Although my four dollar cup of coffee was much more expensive and not quite as good as what I make at home, those three dollars were more for the enjoyable afternoon and the atmosphere than for the coffee itself. Every month or so, I’ll gladly spend a few dollars on an afternoon such as this, especially when the weather turns really bad and there aren’t as many outdoor options easily available.

August 30, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Update on my food budget

So lots of people told me that $20- 25/week (for one person) is not enough for food. And if it is, then that person is eating mostly Ramen noodles.

Well, after living with that much money allotted for groceries each week for over a month, I can say that, although it can be difficult, it is possible to eat on that amount. Since moving out here, I have eaten out exactly once-and was treated to dinner that time, which is a major reason why I have been able to eat for so little.

And I have not been surviving off of Ramen. I did make some mistakes early on though. I ate far too much bread and pasta. Before I had a chance to stock my kitchen with some very basic cooking supplies, I was eating peanut butter and bread for both breakfast and lunch, and then pasta and veggies at night. My poor little belly was not doing very well.

I have not made any major changes to the way that I eat, although I have totally cut out soda. Seltzer water mixed with shelf juices (cranberry and apple are my favorites) has become my replacement for when I want something fizzy and sweet. I have changed the way that I shop, though. I go to grocery stores at night and get most of my bread and some other random items I find from the discount shelf in the back. I used to NEVER darken the door of anything other than a major chain grocery store or a local grocer/market/farmer’s market. I have started going to discount stores and getting some staples there. Just tonight I bought shelf juice for $1 for 64oz (Minute Maid brand), cooking oil for $2, salsa for $1, and a few other things. I will use all of these things and saved several dollars in buying them there. I’m still a bit skeptical though, and stick to name brands that I recognize and would buy elsewhere. I buy rice and potatoes in bulk, and eat them often. Luckily farmers markets are still going strong, and I have easy access to great produce that’s especially fresh and locally grown.

I have also changed the way that I cook, to some extent. I generally make lots of rice and beans on Sunday. Those last me pretty much through the week – I can have so many options simply by adding a few extra ingredients – rice and beans soups, burrito bowls, cold salads, bean burgers, etc. This also saves me time on the weeknights, when all I want to do is come home from work and eat something quickly. It has also stifled my creativity some. I am eating the same things more often and have less room for experimenting with new recipes. To be honest, I don’t know if that’s something I’ll be able to stand for the long-term.

Eating seasonally also makes a big difference in one’s food expenses. Unfortunately I do not live in an especially temperate climate, so we have a rather short growing season. Many things cannot grow here, although potatoes, apples, corn, pears, lettuces, squash, and tomatoes grow quite well. I’ve had lots of corn as of late because it has just come in and was very inexpensive. In just a few weeks it will be the same with apples. In the winter, there will be less fruit and more root vegetables like squash. It makes sense though; fruit salads are much less tempting when you can see your breath in the outside air. Delicious and heartwarming stews become much more tempting during the frigid months.

I plan to continue eating on this rather stringent budget for at least another month. I need to do more experimenting and tweaking around with how I shop and eat. I will most likely have an occasional splurge (tonight it was anise cookies) but I am dedicating to seeing whether or not this experiment is possible long-term.

August 29, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Use things up!

Many people who advocate for frugality will stress the importance of taking good care of your major purchases (homes, cars, electronics, etc.) so that they will last longer and remain in better working condition for longer.

I think there is another aspect to this piece of frugality. Use disposable things up! I cannot tell you how many times a roommate of mine would buy new shampoo or deodorant because she was ‘tired of her old one’. Because they never felt in the mood to return to those cast off toiletries, I also cannot tell you how many bottles were thrown away as we moved out of the apartment.

Not only is this incredibly wasteful and environmentally un-friendly, but it is also an expensive habit over time. If you’re someone who needs to change things up often, then rotate between a few shampoos or toothpastes or whatever, and when each one finishes, replace it with a new and different one. It’s that simple. Boredom is a terrible reason to be wasteful.

August 9, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The beauty of a budget

I have a pretty basic budget.  Although I get paid biweekly, it is easier for me to set it up monthly because I pay most bills monthly.  Reviewing my situation for next year, I was just able to make some adjustments to it that felt quite good.  Both my rent and gas money went down because the apartment I’m moving into is both less than I expected and very close to where I work.  I plan at taking a look at this whole thing again in late September –early October, after I have been situated for a while and I can see how close I am in my estimates.


Rent – $400/month.  (This includes utilities.)  I am moving to a fairly small town and sharing an apartment with a roommate.  Both of these things mean that rent is pretty low. 


Gas – $80/month ($20/week) While it’s nice out, I can easily bike or walk to work.  As the weather starts to change, this might get more difficult.  But even then, it would take an extraordinary week or some sort of emergency for me to need more than $20.


Food – $80/month.  This is the one area I’m most unsure about.  This would have easily covered my expenses in college, but my roommates and I did a lot of cooking together and frankly-there were lots of opportunities for free food.


VISA – $100/month.  Again, this one is harder to calculate since my minimum payment will actually be decreasing (yes!) but until I re-do the budget, my plan is to stick with $100 and get a bit extra paid off.


Phone – $30/month.  I’m actually still on my parents’ plan and it benefits us all if I stay on it, so I just pay them about my share of the bill.  $30 sounded fair to everyone and I wasn’t going to argue about a few dollars either way when I can swing it pretty easily.


Store CC – $15/ month.  I cannot believe that I fell for a gimmick for a store card, especially after beginning to read so many other blogs.  But, there is only a relatively small amount on here ($95) and I plan on paying it off ASAP and then I’ll decide whether or not to close the card.  (It is one of only two cards that I own, so it might be better to keep open with a zero balance.)


A few things might be notably missing from this.  First of all, I have no cable/internet package because I have no television.  I don’t think we will wind up getting one.  I rarely watch television anyway.  Once my roommate and I settle in, we’ll decide whether or not we want internet in our apartment.  My guess is that we will get it, especially because we won’t have a tv – but we’ll see.  Secondly, I’m very healthy.  I’m only on one medication and because of the coverage I have through work, it only costs me about $10/month, which I can pay out of the cash in my wallet.


Also, I currently do not have any type of emergency fund.  I realize this is horrible and I plan to change this fact as soon as possible.  $1000 is my starting goal and I’m going to start saving, but I don’t know how much per month I’m going to be able to stock away until I re-do this in a month or so.

July 31, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

It’s the clothing, stupid

On a drive home from a friend’s house last night, I was musing about the fact that I have already cut out some expensive drains from my budget. Switching to brewing my own coffee took maybe a week to get used to – and now I even prefer it black. Except for when I’m studying and need more space and quiet than I have here at home, I don’t eat out when I’m alone. I realized that I used to eat at home almost always anyway; I was just bringing to-go food home. That was easy to let go of. I cut down my cell phone plan and saved a few dollars there every month.

However, amongst all of these changes, I still find my self lusting after far more clothing than I need. I can’t help it. Well, I can keep myself from spending so much on clothing, but the lust will always be there. It hasn’t helped that I have actually needed to buy clothing for work and have been looking around as a result.

So, as a result. As soon as I have all of the clothing I need (I’m still in search of a winter pencil skirt and trousers) I will NOT buy any clothing for a month. I will not even browse a clothing website, so as not to be tempted. No, a month is not very long – but it is a start. Wish me luck!

July 24, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Emergency Fund, Emergency Fund, Emergency Fund

There. I’ve got it. It took a while, but the importance of having an emergency fund finally set in for me this morning.

I use my bike as my main form of transportation when I’m at home. And, I have a babysitting gig every weekday morning that I ride to. Well, I go outside this morning to grab my bike, and find that the back tire is completely flat. Flat as in it must have a hole, because I just put air in it last night. Wonderful.

I now need a new tire and would have been late for work except that I was able to borrow another family member’s bike.

The bike will have to wait to be fixed, because I’m short on cash right now. Because I don’t have an emergency fund that would take care of this exact issue.

Lesson learned.

July 22, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Expensive Weekend!

I titled this post only slightly shamefully. In all honesty, I spent all three days this weekend (Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday) with three good friends/groups of friends that I will probably not see for another four or five months.

Before more details, here’s the breakdown:

Friday night – concert tickets ($30)+ dinner ($6) transportation ($10)
Saturday – movie ($10) + food ($10)
Sunday – ice cream ($6)

The concert was a band that I absolutely love and the tickets were purchased well in advance. As for transportation, there really was no cheaper way to get there. If we had driven, parking would have been much higher. Dinner that night was sandwiches on the way from the train station to the concert. Saturday’s movie was Harry Potter. I’m not at all a moviegoer, but this was one that I was excited to see. The food was what killed me. My friend and I decided to share something. Then, in figuring out how to split the bill I wound up paying more than my share, which made me a bit annoyed. That really wasn’t worth it and could have been skipped.

Though this wasn’t a normal weekend, I feel like I learned a few things from the experience. First of all, it was interesting to note that the little things I spent money on would not have been a big deal if I had only slightly more money in my account. Secondly, the fact that I could have gotten a better deal on a movie theater snack has really bothered me. It taught me to take a few extra seconds to think about any purchase-and seek out a better deal. Combos or movie theater pairings aren’t a good deal-rather, they’re simply pushed by the theater.

Lastly, I’ve decided that I am someone who needs a fun fund. I am not saving for a vacation or a new car and nor do I need or want anything like a new computer or small appliance. So I think that I can afford myself this luxury. $200 to $500 tucked away somewhere that isn’t easily accessible but that I can draw on whenever something comes up (like a friend visiting me for a weekend or when I come home for the holidays) makes a lot of sense to me.

July 21, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Lessons from my parents

I know that for a lot of people, parents/guardians set an incredibly powerful example on how to handle finances. This rings especially true for me. One of the most important things that they wanted to make sure that they could afford was an ideal home for their children to grow up in.

As I write this, I am spending one of my last few weekends living in my parents’ house. It is a modest but beautifully decorated home that is filled with hundreds of pictures and memoires from my childhood and my parents’ life together. In many ways it is the stereotypical ‘American Dream’ home. We live in a very safe middle-income suburb, in a house that my parents built, complete with a white picket fence (no joke!) and a dog.

I think that for my parents, a home in a safe area with good schools was the most important thing that they believed they needed to provide for their children. Both of my parents grew up in poor and dangerous areas: my mom in one of the worst neighborhoods in a major city, and my dad in a more rural area several miles from that same city (an exurb, in today’s language).

Although this house has been paid off for almost ten years, I know that my parents had to budget and save and cut spending in other areas in order to be able to afford such a residence. Even as their incomes grew, my parents continued to drive old cars into the ground and wear clothing and shoes until they were no longer presentable. We also never took extravagant vacations as a family. We traveled often around the US (by car) to visit our family, but we’ve never been to Europe or on a cruise, something that many of our neighbors have done.

As a result of their prudent decisions, my parents already own (and rent) a second home that they plan on retiring to. They have also begun planning the details of a month-long trip to Europe (we kids will be joining them for a week). I now know that many of our neighbors and friends are jealous of my parents for the supposed ‘windfall’ of money that they have come into. If it is anything at all, this windfall is simply the money that my parents have saved over the years by not being in debt.

And that is a powerful lesson for me, as someone who likes to be able to see the benefits of her hard work and sacrifice. Being careful about my budgeting and spending now (and for the next several years) will lead to big payoffs in the future-like a dream vacation to Europe!

July 18, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Simple Living- Housing

So come August 1, I will be packed and moved to my new home in New England. Although I will be working full time and rent is low, I’ve decided to do something that most people don’t consider past their college days: I’m going to be living with a roommate.

I have never met this girl, although we do have a few friends in common. We’ve spoken on the phone many times and I’m not at all worried about the situation; she’s quite a wonderful person from what I can tell. She’s going to be working as a nurse in the next town over-but not quite at full time. So, money-wise it was smarter for both of us not to live alone.

There are many benefits other than simply paying less rent. It’s not just our rent that is going to be lower. Our utilities, cable and internet, and even some food will be shared. Also, although we both have cars, we can take turns driving to things like the grocery store and church- thus cutting down on gas money for both of us. I have never lived alone in my life and I don’t know how I would have liked living alone in a new city where I know very few people. In college I never had fewer than two roommates, even in the dorms.

We both have similar ideas about just how much privacy we need to be able to live together. My roommate and I realized that we both wanted our own rooms-no exceptions on this. Size didn’t matter; this was more of a privacy thing. We realized that one bathroom would suffice, but that we wanted to make sure that there was a parking lot that we both could have a spot in. Neither of us smokes nor own pets, which would have been a deal breaker for each of us in a potential roommate.

Like I said, we’ve found a great little place for both of us that meets all of the requirements above. I find that a roommate is more of a blessing than a burden. I am very even-tempered, so unless she is quite different than she describes, I cannot imagine us being less than cordial and I likely see us becoming good friends. I felt a bit like an incoming college freshman when we were discussing what we’d bring to the place and what are likes and dislikes were, but after that bit of awkwardness passed, it has been great since then. Neither of us really needs an entire apartment to ourselves (there were no studios in the neighborhoods that we were looking in) and so having a roommate is a great perk for both of us. It would have been wastefully in terms of both space and finances for us to each live on our own.

July 18, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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