Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


6 Comments

A Too Thrifty Challenge: No Spenduary

giphy (3)

I’m not going to lie.

It’s about to get crazy up in here.

That’s right. I’m doing it again. I know, I know. You’d think I would have learned my lesson after the epic fail that was Oktoberfast.

And you’d be right. I did learn my lesson.

I learned that financial fasting without purpose and reward is a recipe for failure.

I also learned that challenges help me stay motivated and keep my head in the game on this Free By 40 journey. Even when I fail, I just get back up, re-evaluate and move forward.

If I’ve learned nothing over these last few years of digging myself out of this pit is that consistency and persistence pays off. I am the tortoise, but challenges allow me to also be the hare, too.

Plus, the first month of the year is a good time for a budget reset after the frenzy that often is December.

Thus, we have No Spend January, also known as No Spenduary.

The Mission

Spend no money on non-essentials during the month of January. Pay all fixed costs, but keep the essential spending like groceries and transportation to a minimum. That means eating from the fridge and the pantry, and walking and biking as weather permits. Sell anything that you think might turn a profit and freelance, freelance, freelance. Weekly updates. (Might as well keep this blogging momentum going.)

The Goal

Quickly save a mini-emergency fund. Anything above that will be thrown at my next savings goal: a fully funded YNAB buffer by March 31.

The Reward

Given my mindset right now, knowing that my mini-emergency fund is chilling in my bank account is its own reward. But I think my reward for accomplishing my mission will be spending $100 on anything I want.

Care to join me?

 

 

Advertisements


3 Comments

Food For Thought: A Gift That Keeps On Giving

giphy (2)

How I often feel at Christmas. Sigh.

I was talking to Reese the other day about a mini-revelation I had about Christmas saving and spending.

I got a word of encouragement from Vic over at Dad is Cheap on my OktoberFast post where he mentioned how ultimately YNAB could alleviate the need for spending fasts because it helps you refine your values and spend your money accordingly.

In my response to Vic, I wrote about how YNAB had helped me belatedly set aside money for Christmas for a handful of tiny humans in my life — something I value — and then immediately regretted it. Maybe regret is too strong of a word, but I regretted my response because in my quest to give physical/material gifts to the these tiny humans, I realized that I might be undermining a few things that are more important to me including their well-being.

We’re going to take the scenic route on this one, so hang on.

If you don’t know, I’m single and child-free, so the only person I have to keep alive every day is me. I share a living space, which helps me keep my basic costs low. Aside from my monthly obligations for debt, my money is my own. My favorite thing to do with my money is travel.

But one decision — setting aside money for Christmas gifts — made me question what I value. I’m the cousin and play auntie who gifts books and educational toys. Books have always and still do mean so much to me and I want that for every kid to whom I am connected.

But what I really want is to position myself financially so that when these kids go off to college, they can afford their books without costly student loans. I want to position myself so that if they’re a little short, I can help. They still might need a part-time job, but they won’t need to go into debt AND work five jobs like I did during one semester of college.

The other part of me started to think: if I never received another physical gift, I wouldn’t be sad. And if these aforementioned tiny humans never received another book from me specifically they might not be sad either. As far as I know, they all have what they need and probably more than they could ever want at this super young stage of life.

I personally love make up, nail polish, clothes and shoes because I like to play dress up and change my look. I also like stationery, journals and art supplies because they feed my creativity. While I might be happy to receive any of these things as gifts, I hate clutter. And when I have more than I can use, I reach a tipping point, and will get rid of everything that isn’t nailed down to get my balance back.

I came to the conclusion that while I know these gifts will be appreciated they also might be adding unnecessary clutter to the lives of the families of these tiny humans. I wouldn’t want them to add clutter to my life. That would make the gift feel like a burden.

So Ricks, hold up. Are you saying you didn’t get these babies any gifts?! Slow down. I’m going to get there.

My intention was to take the money I set aside and add more money this pay period, but then the question popped in my head: Why are you trying to spend so much?

As I told Reese, I realized that I wanted to spend more because I felt like the gifts had to equal some invisible standard that I had foolishly set for myself.

Given that I don’t have the added financially responsibility of keeping a whole extra human alive, I believed I should be able to do more. And if I had been a bit more wise with my money in the past, I could do more. But I haven’t been. That’s why we’re all here today.

For some unconscious reason, I believed that my gifts should reflect that I’m That Chick.

But then that would mean that the gift was about the giver and not the recipient. That was about me, not about the tiny humans. Shame on me. One lump of coal.

Though I wasn’t planning to use a credit card to buy my gifts, I was still planning to spend above my means. I was setting aside money in my budget in a way that a) was stretching me a little too far and b) didn’t reflect my values.  Two lumps of coal.

The reality is I’m trying to pay off debt so that future me can help future them. I want to help them not only go off to college, but possibly go on their first international trips, buy their first homes or even start a business.

So, tiny humans the gifts will be small this year and maybe the next few years after that, but I will make it up on the back end. Promise.

— Ricks

P.S. Consider the Four Gifts Rule for Giving that I learned from this YouTube channel Do It on A Budget: Give something the person wants, something the person needs. Give something to wear and something to read.

Happy Holidays!


1 Comment

Food For Thought: Talk Budgets To Me Pt. 1

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year and let’s be honest, it is the time of year where I spend money on other people and enjoy it. It’s never a lot of money because in my former life I was a procrastinator and always failed to plan for Christmas even as the decorations were going up in October.

This year followed a similar trajectory. But in October I got a budget, made a plan and now all my Christmas shopping is done almost done.

And you know what I discovered about budgets? Budgets equal confidence. And confidence is sexy. Therefore, budgets are very sexy.

Wait, let me explain.

I clearly have not always felt this way about budgets.

For much of my life, budgeting was about the pain of discipline and the shame of failing.

Budgeting, at least for me, has always been about achieving perfection, and then feeling guilty when I proved time and time again that I’m not perfect.

Budgets made me feel inadequate and unsure of my ability to adult. Budgets were very unsexy.

Until I met a budget that I liked.

After that, I realized budgeting is a lot like dating. Sometimes you’ve got to kiss a few frogs before you get a prince/princess.

So if you haven’t found “The One,” keep looking. Never give up and think through these three things to recognize “The One”:

  • The right budget doesn’t hold your past against you, supports your present being, but is willing to help you plan for the future. You took out too many student loans. You ran up the credit cards. You don’t have enough saved for an emergency. Retirement? You mean I can’t work until I die? Oh. The right budget helps you start wherever you are and says, “You can do this.”
  • The right budget doesn’t make you feel like you’re always doing it wrong. The right budget says, “We can do this better, together.” You budgeted $100 for eating out. You spent $125. You technically “failed.”  A good budget says, “You spent more than you intended. Adjust and move on without guilt.”
  • The right budget puts you in the driver’s seat and empowers you to prioritize what you really want out of life. You say you value experience over things, but when it’s time to snap up that great flight deal, there is nothing but cobwebs and tumbleweeds in your savings account. The right budget helps you put your money where your heart is instead of just where your mouth and feet are. The right budget helps you set goals instead of just limiting your spending.

The reality is that you have to find a system that works for you. Before the advent of phones that are basically handheld computers, I used Dave Ramsey’s monthly cash flow planning sheets and his cash envelope system. I liked the cashflow sheets and kept a binder full of them, religiously, for years.

(If you read the OktoberFast Update post, you know I now use software called YNAB (You Need A Budget) to manage money.)

But I didn’t last more than two months with the cash envelope system, which was supposed to govern my daily money management. I probably had too many envelopes and I was not the best at always writing down what I spent. I also never felt the “pain of spending cash” as Dave Ramsey likes to call it. The only pain I felt was when those envelopes were empty and payday was off in the distance. Empty envelopes just increased my anxiety because the grocery store money was gone, but there was no food in the refrigerator, and I didn’t know why.

When Reese and I started Operation Do Better we were living and cooking together. We also were overspending on our shared grocery budget. We’re a little bougie. We like good cheese and wine. Having one envelope strictly for grocery money and meal planning helped us rein in that spending area.

And that leads me to my next point. No one thing is going to fix your finances. But a number of specific, very intentional steps might. Reese and I had to budget and then develop a strategy for how we met that budget. We saw spending less on groceries as a goal rather than a limit. We saw occasional spending fasts from things like eating out as a way to realign our priorities and to reach goals faster. Reaching that goal allowed us to reward ourselves appropriately. Rewarding ourselves appropriately encouraged us to keep going.

You might be saying to yourself: Ricks, this is all cute and what not, but why are y’all still in debt?

Fair question.

The short answer: When I quit my job, we also quit the system. Not just the system of regular steady income, but the system of managing resources and managing them well. And honestly, while we’re not out of debt, we’re actually only wrapping up year two of actually trying to get out.

You’ll have to read Part 2 of this blog post if you want a more detailed answer. 🙂

Now that we’ve refocused our attention on slaying debt and saving with purpose and intention, basically Operation Do Better 2.0 (3.0 starts next year), I have been stalking these Interwebs for tips and tricks on how to do better on everything from budgeting to meal planning. And what I have discovered between You Tube and various personal finance blogs is a whole community of folks pushing back against the mass consumption of everything, and opting out of the Cult of Credit Card Debt.

The older I get the sexier financial responsibility gets.

— Ricks

(Hat tip to blogger extraordinaire J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy for inspiring this post.)


Leave a comment

When Less Is More: Goodbye Splurge September. Hello, OktoberFast!

In May, I wrote down a goal that I want very badly to achieve. I want to be Free By 40. Debt free that is. And since that time I have been plugging away at that goal. From May to August, I’d like to say I was pretty frugal. I also felt like I was clear in my commitment to the concept of minimalism (and you can read about that here, here and here), as it had organically developed in my life.

I had implemented a spending fast. No clothes, no shoes, no make up and nail polish, no hair products, no new books, no coffee out and absolutely no credit card use. (And if you know me even a little, this spending fast looks like no fun. I’m a thrifty chick, but this probably was even a little too rigid for too long.)

At first it was easy. I had splurged a little at a couple of thrift stores at the beginning of the summer so I didn’t need any new summer clothes. I’d given up on growing out my hair so I had no real need for hair products. It was summer time and far too hot to wear much makeup and ride my bike. And we have coffee in the office so no need to go out. I also had cut up one credit card and took the other out of my wallet. Out of sight = out of mind, was the way I saw it.

I had even started back cooking more, though eating out and not going to the grocery store enough was/is still one of my biggest vices.

But then came September — my birthday month — and things got a little ridiculous very quickly. To be honest, I went into my 36th birthday a bit melancholy. I don’t feel any kind of way about getting older, but I did feel down.

After working so hard to wrap up everything at work, and to save money so I could pay cash for my trip with Reese to Abu Dhabi and Dubai — a trip that we’d been planning since the end of last year — I was feeling a little flat.

So I started spending to get things I “needed” for the trip. We didn’t do a lot of shopping during our trip, but there was always something to pay for because when you’re on vacation you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to get to places and you’ve got ish to see. I got very comfortable spending money, very quickly.

While I thoroughly enjoyed our trip, that nagging sadness I was feeling before we left was waiting on me when I got back. I came back to a house that had almost no food in it, and since going to the grocery store is not my ministry, I cooked what little food I had (kale, y’all. All I had was kale), and ate out the rest of the time.

Eating out a lot seems to always result in low energy for me, and while I finally dragged myself to the grocery store and cooked some things that made me feel better, I was still feeling down. The alarms started to go off faintly. I was in a rut, a funk. I had to do something. But what?

Instead of spending a lot of time journaling through what I was feeling, I took a different, certainly less helpful approach. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and spent a bunch of money that I hadn’t intended to spend.

Splurge September, as I am now officially calling it, didn’t put me in the poor house, nor did it actually amass me a bunch of stuff that I can’t consume. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t helpful to my goal of being in the “free” house. Hence OktoberFast 2015. No it’s not me giving up beer in October. That would be just plain cruel.

For the 31 days of October I’m going to refocus my energies on my being Free By 40. I’m going back on my spending fast (yes, the one I previously said was too rigid), but this time I want to intentionally focus on what I can do instead of focusing on what I can’t do.

Ricks’s OktoberFast  Challenge Can Dos:

  • Journal my feelings instead of soothing them with “retail therapy.” Shopping isn’t therapy. It’s succor. Therapy is therapy and there is no substitute for that.
  • Save at least $300 by the end of the month. My savings game is off — way off. It’s time to get back on track.
  • Go to the one grocery store I like, Trader Joe’s, twice a month. I like to eat. I even like to cook. But going to the grocery store? Nope. I know I could get groceries delivered, but I actually like shopping at TJ’s. Though it’s in another city, I’m willing to make the extra effort to go there because I actually will eat what I buy.
  • Meal prep food I actually like to eat on Sundays. I usually go to the grocery store on a Sunday so it makes sense that when I get back I should cook while I’m still on my Trader Joe’s high.
  • If I “must” eat out, eat a vegetarian meal at a sit-down restaurant. I like to eat out, but far too often I’m grabbing something quick, made from questionable ingredients. My thinking here is that I will be forced to consider whether I a) have the time, and b) really have a hankering for eating something that I could make myself.
  • Use my library card. I like libraries. I want to get back to being more intentional about using them this month.
  • Replenish my personal hygiene products as needed. There is no need to stockpile. Period.

Reese is in on the OktoberFast Challenge, so look for a post from her about her recent move to Atlanta and how she’s holding down expenses for the next 31 days.

And that’s it.

Well no that’s not exactly it. There are the usual round of spending “no’s” mentioned above, plus no YouTube “haul” videos, but I will evaluate if the “do nots” are too restrictive at the end of the month.

It would be easy to give up on this Free By 40 goal, but I know the keys needed for getting into the free house. Discipline and persistence. I might not always win on the discipline side, but persistence is my ministry. I’m trusting all of you to hold me accountable, so I will be posting an update at least once a week.

Watch me work.

— Ricks

Below are three people I’m watching (instead of haul videos) that are helping me “fall” back in love with my finances. (See what I did there?)

Lydia Senn: I started watching Lydia over the summer. I should have been watching her in September instead of all those haul videos. While I was getting all splurgy in September, she and her family were on a No Spend September challenge. Check out her blog Frugal, Debt Free Life.

Focused Spender: This channel popped up in my feed one day when I was sad and binge watching YouTube videos. This video about the net worth of black women made me want to get back on the Operation Do Better train.

Cait Flanders: Check out her blog Blonde On A Budget because…life goals. She paid of $30,000 in debt, and then decided there was still more to do.


1 Comment

When Less Is More: How I K.I.S.S. & Why I Do It (Pt. 3)

If you managed to get through those two long ass posts (which you can read here and here if this is your first time at this rodeo) about my journey to minimalism and the “why” behind what I’m doing, you might be just a little interested in how I “Keep It Simple Sista (K.I.S.S.)” and why it is important to me.

1) Knowing my reason. I asked myself whether I was doing this to follow a trend. I have friends buying houses, cars, stock options and way more elaborate dream vacations than I can currently afford. I asked myself if I was doing this to make myself feel better because I didn’t/don’t have the same kind of spending power. Was I doing this out of some weird sense of judgement of the choices of my parents? My answer: maybe. What can I say? I’m shaped by my experience.

When I started down the road to minimalism, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing. I was just trying to not spend two grand to move. I had things that were in storage that had been there since I moved to Montgomery. Surely, if they had not seen the light of day in four years, they didn’t deserve to be moved half way across the country.

I also was in a place of trying to look myself in the eye when it came to my finances. I’m still in that place. Dealing with my mom’s stuff just let me know that my personal spending habits had roots in what had been passed down to me about using money and spending it.

I don’t call myself a minimalist because I don’t need the label. I choose to live with less because it suits me and the way I want to be in the world right now. If some day that doesn’t feel like the right choice, I will make a different choice. I also am thinking through how to leave something more behind than just my stuff. There are tiny humans in my life that I want to be able to assist financially with their education, possibly their first house, or starting their own business.

2) Letting it go. Every time I’ve had to move, I haven’t had enough money to do it. That meant I had to cram stuff into a car to get it to its next destination, or borrow money on a credit card. It also meant drastically reducing the amount of stuff I had. Whenever I grab up stuff to take to Goodwill, I must confess, I feel a little silly. If I had known it was going to end up there in the first place, I certainly would not have bought it. What else could I have done with that money?

I work daily to let go of stuff and to let go of the unkind and harmful feelings I have toward myself over purchases past, and purchases given away. Reflecting on the past is helpful for avoiding mistakes, but I must remind myself daily that the opportunity to make better choices is in front of me, not behind me.

3) Getting a new hobby. Some people knit and some people hike. Some people paint and take photos. Me? I used to shop. When I felt happy, sad, celebratory, bored or depressed, I shopped. My favorite things to shop for, even now, are books, clothes, shoes, handbags, accessories and makeup. But through this process I have realized that if you buy things that you can’t use it just takes up unnecessary space and costs you money that you could be spending on something you truly value.

I’ve had more shoes than I could ever feasibly wear; ditto on clothes and makeup. What I’ve always said with my mouth is “I want to travel. I want to have experiences.” But my actions with my finances didn’t reflect that desire. So I started a travel fund and a savings fund, and I am earnestly tackling my debt, including my student loans.

I also am developing interests in other things besides shopping for more stuff. It helps that New Haven doesn’t really have a ton of places for me to spend my money and getting to the stores out in the ‘burbs here without a car is generally a pain in the ass. (Read about how much of a pain in the ass that is here.)

4) Spending fast. Reese and I introduced you all to the spending fast way back in the day when we first started Operation Do Better. Well it is back. As a part of another financial transformation that I am embarking on called Free By 40, I am on a serious spending fast.

No clothes, no shoes, no makeup, no hair products and no books until I’m free. Given all the practice I’ve had, you would think this would be easy, but it’s not because, as I mentioned above, I really like to shop.

Now that I live in New England, and my job requires an active commuting strategy, I am allowed to replace worn items, and add items that are more suitable for the weather, but now I make it a point to interject mindfulness into the practice of buying clothes. I’ll be buying only what I need. And because getting around is so difficult I will try to source thrift stores first, local boutiques next, and though I hate it, online or outside of New Haven as a last resort.

5) Slowing down. As I have paired down my wardrobe to fit my life, I have thought about what it means to buy lots of cheap clothes and goods, or “fast fashion.” And through research I’ve learned that consuming these items contributes to a lot of harm in the world including dangerous working conditions for people in other countries, and the loss of jobs in this country. The consumption of fast fashion also is contributing to the destruction of the environment. I don’t want to be a part of that so I am committed to buying less and paying more for higher quality goods; buying from local vendors and small indie manufacturers.

I was reading an article by Oprah Winfrey in which she closed it with something she tells the girls who have gone through her academy in South Africa when they call her overwhelmed with life. She said, “You must be well in order to sustain doing well. Get the being right, and the living will follow.”

Living my life with less stuff feels like my right being. Because ultimately I hope that shifting my focus away from getting more stuff will mean more mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. Living with less, for me, looks like simplicity. It looks like having more time to do, be and experience things, people, places and relationships, and less time for complication, frustration and anxiety.

I’m committed to finding out if my theory is right, at least for me. Watch me work.

— Ricks


Leave a comment

Snowballing Debt: A Free Tool

It has been a long time since we talked about debt reduction here. Truthfully, part of the reason is because debt reduction took a hard nose dive in 2014 (perhaps more on that in other posts). Now that I’m settled in Memphis, I’m ready to hop in the saddle again. I have had this plan to be completely debt free for a while–2013 produced great strides toward that goal–but I still didn’t have a clear vision. Today I sat down with pen and paper, wrote out all my debts, interest rates, expenses, and planned adventures. 

Seeing all those numbers didn’t mean a thing to me with little idea of how to go about paying debt. I knew I wanted to attack credit card debt first, but after that… ::blank stare::

I thought about trying Dave Ramsey’s snowball tool for a 7 day trial period, but a friend encouraged me to look online for a free one….and I found one! Vertex42 offers many different tools to help people manage their finances and time.  

debt-reduction-calculator_large

For the last two hours I have input my information, played around with numbers, and come up with a plan: I will be completely debt free in three years! The tool is easy to use (formulas for each cell are already formulated) and has instructions and a video if you need additional help. If you have more than 10 creditors, there is an extended version that costs $9.95 that allows you to input up to 40. Besides the ease and cost, another reason I like Vertex42’s calculator is it works with OpenOffice and Google Sheets. No Excel? No problem. 

If you’re like me and need to visualize your plan, this tool might help. Let me know if you use it and how it works for you!

-Reese