Jun 3, 2008

My May Spending Fast - Update

Thanks to Beth Dargis of My Simpler Life blog, I have been on a "spending fast" since May 1st, with the object of not spending any unnecessary money. I thought I'd update on how the month went.

I've actually learned quite a bit this month. First, I have a tendency to order things online -- mainly fabric but also computer games and "gadgets" that appeal to me. I did buy myself two birthday gifts -- first was James Frey's new book, Bright Shiney Morning, but I'm not counting that against my spending fast, since I pre-ordered it last March when I first heard it was coming out in May. On the day of my birthday, I bought myself a computer game for $9.99.

I've really tightened up on my food spending, and have spent this month learning how to work the Walgreens and CVS coupon and rebate/money back programs. At this point I am getting all our personal care items, cleaning supplies and paper goods for free or nearly free. It took me awhile to get this process organized, but I'm feeling confident now and can see the advantages every week when I check my bank balance.

My weakness is yard sales. Last week I spent about $8 at yard sales, for clothes and toys for Brayden. I didn't buy anything for myself, but then again, I didn't see anything I wanted! I think I need to incorporate yard sales into my monthly budget, and designate an amount I can spend and not go over.

Jeff had a week off this month, but we spent all but one day doing yard and garden work. I purchased my vegetable plants at the flea market this year, and saved about 1/2 of what I normally spend. If I was truly frugal, I would have started them all from seed back in January, but it didn't occur to me then. We did take the last day of his "staycation" off and went to a movie (matinee, senior rate (!) $6.50 each) and dinner. However, I used a 60% off coupon from Restaurant.com , so a nice dinner cost us less than $15.00. (I don't think we'll ever eat out again without checking out that web site. I love the fact there is no membership fee. You just go on the site, type in your zip code, pick a restaurant and purchase a "Gift Certificate". The day I checked there was a 60% sale going on, so I paid $4 for a $25 gift certificate!)

I driving far less these days because of the cost of gas. I try to incorporate all my driving into one day specifically for errands. I'm hoping a tank of gas will last me 6 to 8 weeks, since everything I need is within 3 miles of my house... grocery stores, department stores, bank, post office, office supply store, etc. Walgreens is about 1/4 mile away and CVS about 2 miles. Last week I did buy gas but I first used gasbuddy.com and got gas for $3.86 by driving 2 miles, instead of paying $3.99 at the three gas stations closer to my house.

Jeff and I sat down and talked about our budget and about getting prepared for prices of everything to go up even more in the near future, and where we could cut back to prepare for it. Jeff went into work the very next day and approached his boss about working from home 10 days of the month! This would be a tremendous savings on gas, cut down on mileage on the new car, and cut down on buying new clothes for work so often. He's still waiting to hear if they're going to approve it.

We received several checks this month, including our federal tax refund (the regular one, not the stimulate-the-economy check), a bonus from Jeff's work, and some rebate checks. We have decided to use Jeff's bonus to replace the skylights in our master bedroom and Jeff's bathroom with more energy efficient units, plus put a timer on our electric water heater. All other checks went towards the principle of our home improvement loan we took out two years ago to re-do the kitchen and exterior of our house. I learned if I make additional payments on the loan, I need to do it on THE DAY the loan is due, otherwise, part of it will be applied straight to interest, not the principle.

So it's been a learning experience for me. I've always thought of myself as a frugal person, but this month has helped me examine where I can make long-term changes that have a positive effect on our budget. It's been an education!


karen said...

hi Joan,
You'll have to let me know in detail how you work the Walgreen's and CVS deal. I have both right near my home and I would love to get some stuff for free!

Lisa said...

If that's all you spent for the entire month, I'm not sure you can improve much! I know that in your case, you enjoy being frugal and getting good deals on things (and not buying things unless they are an awesome deal), but at some point you DO have to enjoy life. What is impressive to me is that you are still finding ways to enjoy your favorite things, like garage sales and your vegetable garden - but just staying really budget conscious in the meantime.

You brought up a good point about putting in the energy efficient units. Sometimes you have to spend the extra money to save in the long run!

Beth Dargis said...

You have done such an excellent job! And great tips. I added your link to my spending fast update.