Friday, November 21, 2008

Update on Consumer-Free November

Sorry for the huge lapse in posting! I swear I haven't forgotten this blog! In fact, it's quite the opposite, so expect a bigger better Naked Ledger sometime soon.

It turns out we're doing really well with our plan to just stop spending money this month. Here's the damage, by category, as of today:

Booze $100, spent $168
Clothes $200, spent ($68)
Dining out $150, spent $14
Entertainment $100, spent $71
Food $700, spent $547
Gas $350, spent $196
Household $300, spent $131
Kids $50, spent $0
Other $50, spent $0

Total Budget $2000, Total Spent $1,059

I can't remember a month when we've done THIS well. Of course, we DID go over budget on booze, but let's be honest, this was NOVEMBER 2008, the month containing the most critical election in my lifetime. I'm sure we aren't the only ones who drank a little extra (either in celebration or to drown some sorrows). We actually bought a couple of bottles of nicer liquor for our Election Night sleepover and that right there was $70, so it explains our overage. Booze is spendy in Washington.

I think the big thing I'm noticing is that I don't even WANT to be spending money right now. The simple act of just making up my mind not to spend was all it took to curb my desire for stuff and things. Sure, the Christmas aisles at Target are bursting at the seams with shiny pretty things (like mercury glass, gah!), but since I know I'm NOT buying anything, nothing calls my name when I walk by. I wish I could say the same thing for dining out, but I am REALLY itching for a date night with Dave. I've been trying to perk up our weekly menus with more exciting fare, but still, a night out sans kids is pretty much a requirement for us. I think this weekend we'll go out to a movie together since there's no way I can wait until December to see Twilight.

I should note that we HAVE still been contributing to the economy this month. Dave and I both did our bonus spending and I'm typing this entry from my new MacBook ($1200 after discount and sales tax). Dave ended up spending a good chunk of money at the gun store, which was sadly unavoidable given the massive run up on guns before and after the election. It was basically buy now or forever hold his peace. I'm just glad that we were able to contain our regular monthly spending, so the only hits our savings account took were the ones we had saved for and anticipated. That's what good financial planning is all about.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The little things

I've been noticing lately a few small things I've changed that seem to be saving us at least a little bit of money every month.

1. I stopped buying Maple Syrup. At first my kids, the addicts, were ready to stage a coup and find a new mother, but I've slowly convinced them that jelly or brown sugar is an acceptable toping for waffles. Maple Syrup had a bad crop or something this year and we were buying two bottles a month at Trader Joe's, not even Grade A and they were still $16.99 EACH. Total savings $30 a month.

2. I made two small changes to my beauty regiment that seem to be saving me BIG money. Ever since we moved to Washington, my skin has been more prone to breakouts (I blame AGE more than climate, but whatever). I'd been using Neutrogena's line of Rapid Clear anti-acne products, which magically and immediately cleared up my bumpy skin. (Like magic, seriously.)

But the cleanser is around $8. The cleansing pads are around $6 and I was mixing two lotions, the anti-acne lotion ($7) and Neutrogena's Visibly Even SPF 15 lotion ($14). So my total average monthly cost for everything was around $30. (Most of the items last slightly longer than a month, but not much).

Recently I decided to see if I could go back to using Neutrogena's original bar of soap, the soap my high school Dermatologist recommended when I had real teenage acne. And it worked GREAT. I could spend $1.49 a month instead of the $8 I had been spending on the cleanser.

After I confirmed that my soap substitution was working, I switched lotions, substituting TWO expensive Neutrogena lotions for a bottle of Target brand salictic acid lotion (same active ingredient) that I found on sale for $3.45. Again, it's working fine and my skin looks exactly the same as it used to.

Total beauty savings: $25 a month.

3. Next I was planning to brag that I haven't had a Wyder's Pear cider in over a month, but I caved tonight after swimming class and bought myself a six pack. For some reason it just doesn't taste as good when it's cold and rainy outside, so I definitely see myself drinking less. That could save us another $10 a month if I cut my habit in half.

So, overall these three nearly imperceptible changes are saving us $65 a month. Not a TON, but again, these changes were easy and have mostly gone unnoticed (the syrup did take a little getting used to, but kids are easy to brainwash).

And gas? I filled up my SUV for $40 this week. SHOCKING but true. It's a 2005 and I don't think I've ever paid less than $50 for a fill up. At times it has cost me over $80. (Please don't feel the need to chastise me for my SUV ownership, it was one of my biggest mistakes EVER. I LUST after your mini van and wish I'd been smart enough to buy one. Of course, my car is paid for, so the chances of me getting a mini van any time soon are basically slim to none.)

Have you made any small changes that are saving you big?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

An almost consumer-free November

Since we were so extravagant with our Halloween spending this year, I thought for the month of November, we'd go as consumer free as we possibly can, just to see how much we can save. This means I'm slashing some categories until December first. I plan to not buy any:

- Clothes (I did buy Dave a pair of shoes today, but that was only because his only pair of work shoes BROKE). (Savings: $130)
- Non-essential household stuff (no antiques, make-up, hair stuff, decorations, Target dollar aisle crap, etc). (Savings $150-$200).
- No eating out. At all. (Savings $150)
- Nothing for the kids. Sorry. Christmas is only a couple months away, so I think we can go a month without buying any more toys/accessories/junk, etc. (Savings $50)
- Nothing in the "other" category. (Savings $50)

Basically, we'll be buying food, booze, movie rentals and gas. I'll be decorating for Thanksgiving with whatever I can find that we already own. I'll put off buying a new coat for another season. I'll buy household stuff, but only CONSUMABLES like shampoo, paper towels and zip lock bags.

My guess is that if we stick to it all month, we can EASILY save $500 to $600, so that's my goal.

There is one MAJOR exception to all these rules and that is my plan to simultaneously get all my Christmas shopping done this month. I'll be posting my shopping lists and budget soon, but I'm hoping I can get it all done before we even enter the crazy month of December. I'm hoping that by thinking it all through and being rational and thoughtful, we can save ourselves from our usual last minute spending spree.

So, necessities ONLY. Christmas shopping. Should be an interesting month!