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Final Recap: Low Spend January. The End.

Hello Chicks and Chucks. We made it through the last week of Low Spend January and the answer to the question of the last post of whether the last week would be a truly no spend week alas is…NO.

But I was so close.

From Jan 24-28 — five whole days — I spent no coins. And then Friday the 29th happened.

Things were going well. I had even packed my lunch for Friday because I already had it in my head, if I could get through the weekend, on the 31st I was celebrating with a really nice brunch.

Lunch

The Missing Lunch

So, I go bopping off to work, confident in the fact that I was going to make it through the work day without buying anything. Imagine my horror when I reached into my backpack for my lunch and I couldn’t find it.

After weeks of bringing my lunch, this past Friday I forgot it. I was bummed to say the least, and I decided to try Shake Shack’s new chicken sandwich and fries to cheer myself up.

And Friday just got spendy from there. I kept a promise to hang out with a co-worker/friend. I intended to eat before going out, but I didn’t. So I picked up a prepared sandwich from the grocery store. I also took an Uber to the place we were chilling and took one home because the bus won’t let me be great and I wasn’t in the mood to walk home in the dark.

But on Saturday, I realized that this process had changed me.

I stayed in bed late and luxuriated in having a day where I legitimately had nothing that I needed to do. My food supply, however, was getting low. The old me jumped online and set about deciding on what I wanted to order. But it occurred to the new me that I could go to the grocery store and buy enough food to eat for the next three days with the money I was about to spend on one meal out.

The new me and the old me closed the laptop and went to the grocery store.

While I’m not happy that I broke my streak, or that I spent $54.98 in TWO DAYS, I am very happy to report that I achieved my savings goal for the month and only spent $308.75. It would have been nice to have saved that $300 in addition to the other money I was able to save, but it probably wouldn’t have been as much fun.

Would I do this again? Yes, though I think I would torture myself about it a little less. I never realized how mentally taxing not spending money could be. Instead, I think I would stockpile my personal hygiene items and do a better job of meal planning.

In fact, I’m committed to a No Spend/Low Spend Month at least once a quarter because it will help me reach my debt-pay off goals, and eventually my savings goals, that much faster.

And because I am doing it on a quarterly basis I can better prepare for No Spend/Low Spend months. I already know that February and March will be higher spend months because I have travel coming up. I also plan to throw an extra payment at a bill. So neither of those months would be good months to try a challenge. But April is looking like a contender.

So what about you? Want to give it a whirl? Here are my top three tips for a No/Spend, or Low Spend month:

  1. Be realistic. Leaping into a no spend month might make you miserable, so try a no spend week, or pick a day or two each week where you won’t spend money and make sure to save the money that you might otherwise spend.
  2. Pack your lunch. This is where I probably got the most bang for my buck in terms of savings. This month helped me realize that I was being a baby about eating leftovers, and just cooking in general. I like to eat out as much as the next girl, but I have realized I like saving money more. I wanted eating out to be what it should be for me — an occasional treat, not a means for survival.
  3. Make a list. Never go into the grocery store hungry or without a list. If it’s not on the list, leave it in the store. Period.

That’s all I’ve got for now friends. If things didn’t go as planned in January, I encourage you to make this a Fresh Start February. Take a mulligan for the first month of the year, or consider it a practice month. Start fresh on your goals, whatever they are, today.

Happy Adulting!

— Ricks

 

 

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Recap: Low Spenduary Week 3

Hello Too Thrifty Chicks (and Chucks)!

Can you believe that we’re in the last week of this month? I can’t.

But since the calendar isn’t lying, that means we’re in the home stretch of this No Spend/No Spenduary Challenge. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about read about it here, here and here.) As you can also see, I have changed the name of the challenge to more appropriately reflect what has occurred this month. I didn’t NOT spend, but I spent WAYYY less than I usually spend.

Like I said in the previous post, I knew that I would spend money during week three. And I did. I needed some grocery odds and ends, I had to purchase a ticket for my sorority event (which was postponed thanks to Winter Storm Jonas), and I’m having an ongoing battle with fibroids that insists on making my life hellacious on the worst days and really inconvenient on nearly all the other days, so again back to the store for personal hygiene items.

As I was in the grocery store last week, I realized how often I sabotage myself when I go in without a list. I needed flour tortillas and cheese. That’s it. I also had a taste for some chicken wings and since I wasn’t going to order them out, I knew I could get them at the prepared food section of the grocery store, but that was it.

Guess what was in my basket? Peanut butter and jelly, bread and various snacks. I was properly thinking ahead for the coming snow, but I had not initially planned to buy those things. When I realized what I was doing, I put everything back but those things that I had originally stopped at the store to pick up.

At the end of the week, I did go back and purchase the things that I had originally put back. Sure, it added an extra trip that I could have saved, and I forgot the bread. But this whole experience reminded me of how important it is to plan out trips to the grocery store. Planning saves you money and time. On an intellectual level, I know that. But in practice it is often hard to remember.

All and all, week three is my lowest spend week yet. And new budget nerd that I am, I thought you all would like to see some numbers.

Week 1 Total Expenditures: $108.08 on mostly groceries and transportation. These were all allowable expenses under the original “No Spenduary” rules.

Week 2 Total Expenditures: $93.74 on mostly personal hygiene items, groceries and some eating food out. Food out was not an allowable expense under the rules, and I spent about $19.54. Personal care items also were not allowable expenses under the rules, but I spent $36.46. Groceries during this week came to $37.74.

Week 3 Total Expenditures: $51.95. ::pops collar:: I spent $25.12 on groceries. Another $13.83 on personal items (damn these fibroids!), and $13 on my sorority (the ticket to the event was $25, but I had a PayPal credit (thanks, YNAB!) which picked up $12 of the cost).

Already I can see that I would spend far less time in the grocery store (which y’all already know I don’t really enjoy that much) if I really meal planned a little more tightly and made sure that I had the things on hand that I need. Every trip to the grocery store increases the risk of me putting stuff in the basket that I hadn’t intended to buy. That said, this was my best week of meal planning so far and I ate the three things I had on hand all week long without any complaints.

I have to say, not eating out hasn’t been as painful as I thought it might be. Mind you, it’s cold outside and the way the bus system runs in New Haven, I really don’t want to be out in the cold waiting for a bus that 1) might not come on time, or ever, and 2) isn’t going to drop me off right in front of my house.

In this last week of the challenge, my question to myself is: Can I really make this last week a No Spend week?

You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

— Ricks


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Recap: No Spenduary Week 1

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These damn bunnies had me caught up. #nomnomnom

The first week of No Spend January, also known as No Spenduary, was the spendiest week, but I’m not willing to declare it a total fail.

For one thing, 98 percent of my spending was within the essentials category — groceries and transportation. During the winter months, I typically buy two, 10-ride bus passes, which are usually enough to get me through a month of work. I employ a combination of walking, biking and riding the bus to get to and from home and to assignments. It’s not always convenient, but it saves a ton of money.

Groceries, however, are an interesting area of spending on which I’m keeping a close eye. I think I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it again, but shopping for groceries isn’t my favorite thing to do — except when I can’t shop for anything else.

It is amazing how much fun meal planning and grocery shopping becomes when I decide that I will not spend money in other areas. In one week, I made three trips to the grocery store. Three!

One of the trips was for  what I’d call legitimate grocery items; the second for snacks that I didn’t need; and the third to pick up something for a dinner to which I was invited. And those trips are not without consequence. I’m just about $3 shy of having spent the $75 I’ve budgeted for groceries this month.

It’s a good thing I bought that ramen. I will be eating it. I also spent money on stamps, which came out of my “Stuff I Will Forget” line item in my budget because, well, I forgot.

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Impromptu lunch out. #notlovinit

And then the unexpected. I got a worried phone call from my landlord Sunday afternoon, urging my roommate and I to evacuate our apartment. There was a possible gas leak, and the house needed to be vacant until the problem could be solved. Did I have somewhere I could go, possibly for a few hours?

Sure. I had my laptop and stuff to do, but I hadn’t really eaten anything but a banana for breakfast. It was lunch time. So off to Mickey D’s for food and WiFi. Now, my YNAB buffer is $8.39 smaller. Boo! And my secondary January challenge — Brokepedia’s zero restaurant spending — is off to a rough start. Hiss!

There was a time that this kind of “failure” would make me feel kind of crappy and I would just give up on the whole thing. But in the wise and sage words of the late Aaliyah, “If at first you don’t succeed. Dust yourself off and try again.”

— Ricks

Are you on a No Spend Challenge this month? We’d love to hear your progress. Share your story in the comments. 


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OktoberFast: Failing Forward

Yes, I know it is essentially the end of November and this post is going up on THEE most high, holiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.  But I promised y’all an update on OktoberFast.

Two months ago, right on this blog, I repented of my backsliding, wayward financial ways. I had seen the error of my money sins during Splurge September and I was going to “Do Better” this time. Or so I thought.

Yeah…so…no.

OktoberFast was kind of an epic fail, and I’m writing this post as a cautionary tale about budgeting, spending and well meaning but failed fasting.

If you don’t remember the OktoberFast Challenge ground rules you can read them here. But the basics of what I was supposed to do vs. what actually happened are below:

Journal my feelings instead of soothing them with “retail therapy.” I journaled 5 times in the month of October. There are 31 days in October and one thing I’m sure of is that I spent emotionally. That’s all I have to say about that. FAIL.

Save at least $300 by the end of the month. I technically accomplished this goal. But keep reading to find out why it’s not really a success. FAIL.

Go to the one grocery store I like, Trader Joe’s, twice a month. I went to TJ’s once, and looking at my checking account, I didn’t spend much money at any of the local grocery stores. FAIL.

Meal prep food I actually like to eat on Sundays. I didn’t “maintain” my grocery store high because I didn’t go to the grocery store. That means I didn’t cook very much. FAIL.

If I “must” eat out, eat a vegetarian meal at a sit-down restaurant. Lies! FAIL.

Use my library card. *in my whiney in my head justification voice* “You can’t check out coloring books from the library.” I don’t know that. I never checked and bought a fancy coloring book and coloring pencils. FAIL.

Replenish my personal hygiene products as needed. I did this, but drugstores are kind of my happy shopping places in New Haven. Book stores and the Kiko Milano makeup store are my top two happy places in the city. Going to a drugstore for a personal care item, invariably meant buying something more than what was on my list. FAIL.

Ricks, You in Danger Girl…

giphy (1)I am zero of seven on OktoberFast goals and it’s all my fault. I pretty much set myself up for failure.

I already knew that continuing to follow a really restrictive spending fast — no clothes, no shoes, no make up/nail polish, no hair products, no books, no coffee out, no credit card use — with no clear and specific reason, and no reward at the end of it was a bad idea.

I even said so in the post.

I figured, if it got me closer to my big hairy, real goal — being Debt Free by 40 — that would be its own reward. Lies! It wasn’t.

Also, the thing that always happens when you recommit yourself to your finances, but don’t actually do anything different, happened because…life and Murphy’s Law.

Serious dental work is my ministry, and I’ve known I needed some work done for some time. In my head, and on paper, I was putting a little something aside for that.

But in fact, something more immediate would always come up — mostly travel that I had already committed myself to before I had committed any actual money.

Of course, I didn’t want to “hurt” my savings that I had just restarted, so when the two created conflict, I found a “savior.”

‘Oh look,’ I thought, ‘I have this 0 percent interest credit card. I can pay the balance when I am paid for my freelance gig.’ Never mind that I had applied for that card to transfer some of the balance of my one credit card to help pay it off faster. It was an emergency. I should have used the emergency money for that.

Duh.

A Life Line

Though this challenge was doomed from the start, some really good things came out of it.

It reignited passion for Operation Do Better. Reese and I started Operation Do Better to change our relationship with our finances, and ultimately leave a legacy. We’ve had some set backs, but we refuse to give up.

It killed my procrastination disorder and my aversion to planning. I was pretty disgusted with my lack of planning for things that I knew were going to happen. I knew I was going to travel to Atlanta in October. I’d known that for months, but I failed to really plan for it beyond purchasing a plane ticket. That lack of planning ended up costing me a significant amount of money because I simply had not considered the logistics. I also was experiencing some frustration with myself for a lack of planning in other areas of my life and I’m taking a more proactive approach to how I do almost everything.

I reconnected with my accountability partners. Reese, our 5509 roomie Tasha and I  have been about this Operation Do Better life for a while now and the many changes that we’ve all gone through in the last few years — moves and new jobs — have left us all a bit shell-shocked financially. The fog is starting to clear and each month we’re working together to get a better grasp on the situation. We check in with each other periodically and I always leave those conversations inspired to keep going.

I learned about You Need A Budget (YNAB). In the words of the software’s creator, Jesse Mecham, “You need a budget. Yes, you do. We all do.” And boy is he right.

Up until now, I have used Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace and Total Money Makeover to address debt, and to some extent to mange money. Reese and I used it to great success to pay off debt a few years ago because we were (and still are) hyper focused on eliminating debt.

But I confess, the day-to-day management of money always seemed to stump me. I was telling my money where to go, but aside from my fixed monthly expenses, those variable, everyday expenses were like a black hole.

When I started my new job, I had to adjust to being paid once a month. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary and I love getting paid this way. I know up front that I have all the money I need to cover my expenses. It makes me feel a sense of control that I have never felt.

On the flip side, being responsible for managing everyday expenses and planning for emergencies and retirement are anxiety inducing. I often start the month with very good intentions, but ultimately end each month feeling desperate. I needed a practical strategy to manage those very different realities in my budget and YNAB has been that for me for the last 60 days.

(Hat tip to  blogger Dad Is Cheap. I stumbled onto this post where he talks about YNAB and decided to give the 34-day free trial a go. Before the trial was over, I bought the software and, so far, it feels like the best $60 I have ever spent.)

So, with only four days before December, I have money in my checking account and peace in my heart. And, y’all it feels so freaking good! I have laid out a plan and refocused on how I can save for emergencies and retirement, pay off what’s left of my consumer debt in 2016, and manage my daily cash flow throughout each month.

The best part is that it doesn’t involve me eating ramen four nights a week, though I love me some ramen.  It also doesn’t mean giving up the few things I consider luxuries. It’s guilt free, and allows me to savor the things and experiences for which I do spend money.

That feels like failing forward to me and it feels like peace and contentment, something I’ve never felt about money. I’m actually excited about budgeting, and that excitement might be contagious. I plan to write more about it so stay tuned.

Happy #StayInTheBlack Friday people!

— Ricks

 

 


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Operation Do Better: First Quarter Wrap Up

Ninety days of surviving and thriving on the Operation Do Better spending pause train is cause for celebration and nobody gets down like Bro. Franklin Na Wa. Press play. We promise it will bless you real good.

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” — Melchizedek, The Alchemist

Because of our willingness to do better, the universe has been beyond generous. It has sent us a community of support and it has given us all manner of free stuff including treating us to a Sunday brunch, giving us fried chicken, gym equipment, discounted trail shoes and a fully stocked bar. We are grateful and we will continue to pay it forward.

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Ricks reflections…

The Good: I paid off a bill! I am one payment away from paying off another! There is money in my emergency fund! I paid for my trip to NYC with money I saved! There is still money in my travel fund! I am even more motivated to tackle my next debt! *insert cabbage patch, running man and da butt here*

The Bad: I might need a root canal re-treatment, and I’m not sure if my insurance is going to cover the whole thing.

The Ugly: There is a high likelihood that my vintage vehicle is dead, unless I make expensive repairs to revive it one more time.

Life happens. Did I know this dead car thing was going to happen one day? Of course I did. Did I plan appropriately for that day? Nope. The old me would have dove head first into debt and got another car, but guess which thrifty chick is riding the bus? *raises hand* When I think about what I can save in gas, car repairs, insurance and inspections, I am tempted to donate this sucker just for the tax write off. Life happens on vacation. Reese and I thought we were going to be the queens of good times and frugality on our NYC trip and for the most part we were, but gosh darn it, we saved money for that trip and we spent it. And we still managed to save money in each of our pots of savings and pay the extra money we intended. No harm, no foul. Struggle happens. In another life, these big ticket problems would have caused me to lose my head, lose my focus. But having an accountability partner, who has willingly invested in my future’s future, and a supportive community keeps the fire burning.  As fired up as I am about paying off my next debt, it’s bigger and the interest rate is criminally high, so I am trying to be honest with myself about how long it is going to take to pay it.  I’m going to have to remember to celebrate along the way.

Going forward: Because I’m so driven to pay this last credit card off, I’m continuing on the spending pause for the rest of the year. O_O! Yeah, I said it. But of course with slight modifications. I am still allowed to replace things sparingly. Rather than an allowance, I am allowed to plan for one thing such as a brunch with friends, or a Mother’s Day treat for my mom, my aunts and my grandmother within the context of my budget. I am allowed a reward of my choosing when I save a certain amount of money, or pay off a certain amount of this particular debt. But I will still take my lunch every day and eat at home nearly every night.

Reese’s reflections…

The Good: Who paid off 2k in credit card debt in six weeks? ::points at self:: This thrifty chick. And who’s paying the last payment on her one and only credit card bill next week? ::points at self:: Me again! Who has reached 40% of her savings goal for the first half of the year? You guessed it…ME!!! I guess this is the financial manifestation of giving up Chipotle and fancy cheese everyday….and I am sooooo OK with all of this!

The Bad: My current fellowship ends in a month, and I’m waiting to hear about the one I applied for in November. I should hear back this week or next week. I started doubting if  I made the right choice to pay off the credit card, because that is extra money I could have saved. I was really stressed about it at first, but then I had to stop and think about all I’ve been blessed with. I sent this message to our ODB community on Friday:

Yesterday as I drove, I felt compelled to give thanks for the financial blessings bestowed on me during the last four years of my PhD pursuit. In a week or two, my finances will change and there has been a great deal of anxiety about that. But I’m reminded that I survived the first year of my program w/more bills than I have now on a 19K fellowship + babysitting on the side. Then, I was blessed w/a fellowship worth way more than the first with less responsibilities for three years. On two different occasions, friends felt compelled to send $$$ to me in the mail in support of this PhD pursuit. A year ago I received a check unexpectedly from my car finance company for a service charged I’d been paying for two years that I wasn’t supposed to pay. Two years ago I got a year long fellowship that supported my training in public health…I’ve had great luck with families to babysit for to make extra money on the side. I am extremely grateful for the great friendship that was built that led to this current roommate situation that has allowed me to save money in preparation for these upcoming changes. All of these blessings and more remind me that 1) I’ve never been left or forsaken, 2) I’ve always had necessary provisions–even when I was stupid with money 3) I know better, so I’ve done better…that will work in my favor 4) Thanks to ODB, I don’t have to rush to plan for anything, I can wait to hear the next fellowship decision and then take the next step. I can feasibly live through September or longer w/the money I have saved + babysitting (praises!!). I have no reason to be scared. I have what I need, and what I may need in the future will take care of itself. Besides, who among us by worrying can add a single hour to her life?

….and then guess what?

Praises: I received a call today that I have been offered a senior research position I applied for a couple months ago. You see how this works? Worrying didn’t add anything to my life, but opening up space for praise and thanks did….and now i have a job offer on the table. ::bustin’ a Bro. Franklin move::

dancing like Bro. Franklin

dancing like Bro. Franklin

Going forward: Assuming everything is kosher with the offer, I’ll start a new job soon! Yeah!!! Credit will be paid off this month, and then I will tackle the little bit of student loan debt I have. Guess who has plans to be completely debt free by the end of next year? You guessed it? Me! I too am doing the spending pause for the rest of the year. Why not? I haven’t missed out on anything. I still have good health, great friends, and it doesn’t hurt that Ricks and I are pretty amazing cooks. Plus, we started this together, and it’s really important to me that we finish this process…together. I’ve made plans for the trips I need to take this year and this month I’ll buy sewing supplies so I can FINALLY do some of the DIY projects I have lined up. I’ll deal with other things as they come along, but for now, I have no plans for an allowance or anything like that. I’m kinda diggin’ the at home spa treatments and happy hours.

Lessons learned/Affirmations: I can live without a lot (even Chipotle).  Support makes a world of difference. Our friends love us enough to come hang out at our house instead of going out to spend money. I truly do love the simple things in life, and this spending pause has lovingly brought me back to that. When you free up your resources, you can rediscover the joy of giving. The universe provides. Not a single thing is solved by worrying.

We’ll leave you with the words this post began with:

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it

Thank you, universe for helping us achieve our goals.

R&R


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Body Art and Green Jeans: Resisting Temptation

Guest Contributor: Valerie V. Reed

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a fascination with all things involving ink. Yes. I’m the tattoo’d teacher and proud.

Last tattoo...isn't it pretty?!

Last tattoo…isn’t it pretty  I’m thrifty when it comes to almost everything I spend money on. Tattoos are the exception. I have 11 (or is it 12? I lose count!) and they range from $50 for the itty-bitty stars behind my ear to $350 for the cherry blossom tribal on my thigh.

It’s been over a year since I last went under the needle so it’s time for another…*sigh*… but I can’t. What I want is too big, too expensive and simply does not fit in my Total Money Makeover budget. That makes me kind of sad, but I’ve had to keep it in perspective. I could easily take the $400 out of my savings and splurge. I could rationalize the expense and convince myself that it’s something that will last a lifetime (literally), so it’s worth the money. But I’m not going to do that this time. I GOT GOALS! And my goal is to get from under the credit card debt that I’ve been buried in for way too long. But I know me. I’ll obsess over this next one until I get it. So I’m giving myself 6 months. In June I will have paid off two of the cards that I’m taking on in my money makeover. If I’ve met that goal and I still am obsessing over tattoo #12 (or 13?) in June, then I’ll treat myself. Win-win situation for me!

Last big shopping trip before the spending fast

Last big shopping trip before the spending fast

My next tattoo is a big temptation, but there are small, everyday temptations too. A few weeks ago I went into Marshall’s to make a specific purchase. They have earbuds for $3.99, and I needed some new ones. This particular store has been renovated and the bright lights and pretty colors of the new clothes sucked me in. I was immediately drawn to a pair of emerald-green skinny jeans and an animal print puffy vest. I wasn’t in there for clothes though. It was all about $3.99 earbuds, and they didn’t even have any in stock! I had a proud moment though. Instead of doubling back to get the jeans and the vest so I could feel good leaving out of there with a bag, I left empty-handed.

One thing my Total Money Makeover has shown me is that I’m stronger than I once thought I was resisting temptation. It’s only been a month but I’m doing pretty good. I got goals! I keep telling myself that. For the last 30 days I’ve forced myself to think about every single penny I spend. No ink. No green skinny jeans. No animal print puffy vest. I’m asking myself, “Do I really need that?” and often times the answer is “No, you really don’t.”


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Operation Do Better Month 2: Breathe, Prioritize, Evaluate, Keep it Moving!

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Ricks’ Reflections…

I was just looking through some of the older posts on our Operation Do Better Facebook group. One of our contributors posted about some unexpected outlays of money that were going to derail her spending plan for the month of February.  Her comments about her setbacks got my wheels turning and thinking about a conversation I had with Reese about not going into panic mode when everything goes wrong financially in the face of your doing everything right.

I technically was in a similar situation. A trip to the dentist for my six months check-up, resulted in the announcement that I was going to need a root canal re-treatment. Unexpected $1,000 bill? Oh joy.  For months my car has needed a catalytic converter, a $500-$600 repair that I’m going to have to make if I want my car to pass inspections in Virgnia. Cha-ching! Add having my taxes done (I know I can do them for free, but this just works), a blogger conference and sorority dues, and before you know it all the plans that I had to tell my money what to do and where to go, were getting derailed pretty quick. I can’t lie, these kinds of problems give me mild panic attacks. In fact, writing this out made me feel a little light headed. The old me would have just blindly paid all these people and eaten Ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for kicks, or worse, if I had the money on a credit card use that.

But I had to (and I keep having to) step back and reevaluate. I have to say “Self…” my self says, “Hmm?” (lol) “Prioritize!” To reach your goals and not be sidetracked, you have to prioritize, which is the next big lesson I’ve learned in this whole thing. The first big lesson was that I really don’t need a whole lot to be happy.

The big unexpected bill:I had to get real with myself about what needs to be taken care of now and what can wait. Right there in the dentist’s office I decided to take a deep breath, and then pause.  My tooth wasn’t hurting and it wasn’t necessary for me to address it a week after the issue was discovered, so the procedure will wait until my insurance company provides and estimate. Doing that allows me a chance to at least take a look at how I am directing my money around the time that the procedure should occur, what kind of damage I can expect and how I can spread the pain over at least two months by negotiating a payment arrangement with my dentist’s office. Handled.

The not so unexpected car repair: I had already worked out how I would pay for the repair to my car –it will wait until April or May. I realize I’m taking a risk, but I’m also fully prepared to rely on public transportation to get to work if my 16 year old car decides to give up the ghost. I do not plan to replace this car should that happen.  Handled.

Blogging While Brown Conference: This item was an unexpected addition to our travel itinerary, but it also is an investment. If we’re serious about what we’re doing, we believe it’s worth it to put some time AND some treasure into it. Since the only way to save is to pay the early bird fee, I’ve decided to forgo an additional payment on my Bank of America loan and eat this cost. I could take the money out of my travel fund, but since I already have planned trips coming out of that fund, I had to shift gears.

The Aftermath: Changing course for that one additional payment means my payoff date for BOA might be pushed back another 30 to 45 days, and the start of my debt snowball for my Discover card pushed to June, but none of these changes impact my top three  finance priorities: giving, saving and debt elimination. At the end of the day I’m doing the first two at maximum capacity and number three I’m still paying more than the minimum.

The third big lesson I’ve learned in these two months is patience. I didn’t get into this mess over night and I’m not going to get out of it unless I a) hit the lottery, which I don’t really play and b) someone dies and leaves me a lot of money in the near future (too morbid to think about).

If I’m real with myself it’s probably going take me three years to completely eliminate my debt, including my student loan. That is unless I go on an even stricter break from spending that would cut out cable, direct TV, selling my vintage car and not traveling for a year. I don’t think I’m ready for that. But another month of this? Bring it on.

Onward:  March is a month where I’ll get to systematically be allowed to spend some money. This is a planned break, but I’m nervous. And I know when I’m nervous it’s time to plan. I sat down and plotted my spending for the month. I’ll have sorority activities and it looks like my dental insurance will cover the majority of the expense for my procedure.

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Reese’s Roundup…

Here’s how it went down in February….

Debt Reduction: I paid about 1/3 of  my remaining credit card balance. If life goes according to plan, I’ll pay the remaining balance in March (cross your fingers).  Savings: Soooo I didn’t add as much to my savings as I intended, 1) because I put more $$$ toward the CC debt and 2) I decided to do the Ragnar trail run and attend the Blogging While Brown conference (see next note). Unplanned spending: I had originally said I wouldn’t do a Ragnar Relay this year, but I was feeling like I’d regret it if I didn’t. I ran the fall race last year and had a less than stellar experience, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run the inaugural Ragnar Trail race in the Appalachians with the awesome ladies who make up the team. Each of us running 30+ miles over two days, camping in the Appalachians, and sitting around a campfire….that’s what I call perfection. Who wouldn’t want that?! I consider the Blogging While Brown conference as professional development. If we’re going to be serious about this blogging thing, I want to learn from some of the best out there.  Giving: Around mid-month I reconfigured my finances to include more systematic giving. Until this month, I wasn’t focused on charitable giving, unless people asked me to donate to causes close to their hearts. I wanted to change that, so I allocated 10% of what was left of my income to charitable giving, and I feel good about that.

Things I need to work on: On top of the 10% I allocated, I ended up donating more $$$ to charity — money I hadn’t planned for. I certainly want to give myself the space to give as compelled, but I need to remind myself that giving to XYZ cause is going to mean I can’t put money towards debt reduction or savings. I need to be very proactive in examining exactly which pot of money that’s going to come from. Lessons learned: Checking my account, writing down expenses, reallocating when necessary works for me. Legalism or strict rules have very little place in my life, so I’ve learned that while I’m wholeheartedly committed to the basic tenets of this fast — we’re still cooking all our meals, no happy hours, no Chipotle, no mani/pedis, no gym membership, etc.– I had to reflect on the things that are important to me, and in my original estimations, I’d left off one: charitable giving. It means I might have to alter my goals, but I feel good knowing I’m investing in humanity.

IMG_20130223_092642….and now a word about groceries.

Soooo….the thrifty chicks ate like a family of four in January. When I tallied our grocery receipts, the total came to $453.45 (I know, shameful). This month we did WAY better. We spent a total of $286.02, which includes 17.95% savings from coupons and sales prices (yay!). (Note: If you’re wondering why we know our % savings, it’s because we downloaded this nifty grocery calculator/tracker. You can get it HERE). For March, our goal is to come under $250. Do you think we can do it? Wish us luck! And feel free to check in to make sure we’re not spending too much time in the ice cream aisle!

Are you taking a break from spending or drastically reducing how much you spend? Tell us how it’s going!

R&R