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Ten Rules/Goals for my Spending Diet December 31, 2012

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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What’s a diet without rules? Or goals? OK, I’m sure I could think of something else to call it rather than a diet and forget about those things. If I did that, I seriously doubt I’d be very successful. It would last about as long as most diets do… until a bit of temptation showed it’s ugly head.

1. Spending money on needs can and should be done guilt free. (Observation the first… I’m way too good at guilt. I often feel guilty about things outside of my control or responsibility. I’m working on that one. Observation the second… Thinking about Wants vs Needs in December, the most commercial, consumption driven month of the year was darned inconvenient. A very good exercise, but inconvenient. Most definitely my Christmas shopping was influenced by that mental exercise.)

So what are those guilt-free needs?

  • Housing costs (rent, utilities, renters insurance, etc)
  • Car expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance, etc)
  • Commuting (train and bus ticket)
  • Food
  • Planned purchases
  • Charity/giving
  • Medical expenses (c0-pays, prescriptions, vitamins, etc)
  • Planned trips (church related retreats, visits to kids, etc)

I may add additional items to this list,  but this is it for now.

2. Only buy good coffee. This means freshly roasted, fair-trade coffee. If I can find it locally, great (I haven’t been successful so far but I haven’t looked as hard as I maybe could either… if anyone local has suggestions, I’m open.) Since I haven’t found it locally, I generally order from Deans Beans. My preference is his Mexican Chiapas and I often order five pounds at a time. Hey, I like coffee and go through it fairly quickly. Now that I’m an empty nester and there isn’t anyone here regularly to share my coffee, I may order smaller quantities. Going forward I would rather drink no coffee at all (perish the thought!) than poor quality coffee.

3. No new clothing. OK, my first caveat… if it’s purchased using my “Free Spending Money” and it’s a really good deal (super clearanced) and I have an honest need for that item of clothing and I have already made or repurposed at least three items of clothing since the last new purchase. I’ll expand on this rule in a later post.

4. Work gifts and work-related charity donations have a $10 limit. In 2012 there were three babies born to my Team members and one wedding. Plus there are often fund raisers for different charities (bake sales and/or 50/50 raffles). While I am not obligated to put anything towards anything, I generally do pitch in towards group gifts. I can do so guilt free while on this Spending Diet.

5. Spend as little as possible on groceries while maintaining healthy eating habits. I have a tendency to over buy food. Some of that comes from having a household of six plus frequent guests for meals and some from learning to shop sales and loss leaders. With only one person to feed most of the time now, I need to re-learn how to shop. I can still shop the sales and loss leaders but maybe I only need to buy 3 or 4 of an item to stock up rather than 10 or 15. The healthy eating habits is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the spend as little as possible part. Sometimes the cheapest food isn’t the best for the bulk of the diet. Rice and pasta is great, but as a side dish, not the main one. I need to make sure I’m also eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

6. All alcohol purchases come out of my Free Spending Money rather than the grocery or household budget. At the risk of sounding like a real lush to those who don’t know me well, I really don’t drink all that much. Especially now that I’m living alone, I am very aware of the dangers of over consumption and bad habits. But I do enjoy a drink now and then. Maybe a glass of wine a couple times a week, or a splash of homemade coffee liquor in my cocoa or coffee. I do realize however, that this is definitely not a Need but a Want and as such, I must treat it that way. I will also admit to stocking up a little during December. I bought a few bottles of my favorite Moscato (three bottles for $10) and made a batch of homemade coffee liquor to get me started. I’m thinking this should get me through the first half of the year.

7. I’ve mentioned the Free Spending Money. I’m setting aside $50 out of each paycheck for “free” money (every other Friday if you’re wondering). This will need to include any food at work (incentive to take my lunch), personal treats, new clothing, thrifting, music, etc.

8. Figure out how to lower what I’m paying for those things considered necessities. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ll be cutting out  cable (or at the minimum going to a less expensive plan). I’d also like to see how much I can cut my electric bill. I wonder how long I can make a tank of gas last in my car.

9. No eating out alone. I won’t say no eating out at all because this is the only way I am able to connect with some friends. We don’t see each other often and when we do we meet for a meal. I’m ok with spending money on that. I’m not ok with going out to eat simply because I don’t want to cook. Or because “I deserve this.” Ugh, that may be my least favorite phrase. It’s too easy to stop and pick something up on the way home rather than fixing something when I get home. No more.

10. No new yarn, fabric or crafting supplies. I have an extensive stash of all of those items, more than a reasonable person could use up in a year. Or five. And yet too often I succumb to sales or impulse shopping. The only exception (and I throw it out there just in case it happens because I don’t want to feel guilty about it) is if I am making something commissioned (and I don’t do that often because “have to” knitting or crafting takes some of the joy out of it) and need something specific to finish the job. I honestly don’t expect this to happen because as I noted, I do have quite an extensive stash of supplies. I also should note that that extensive supply isn’t very organized (as in, not at all) so a side goal is to organize said stash, culling out items I’m likely to never use.

This is definitely not a complete list but it’s enough to get me started. Some of these will get their own post in weeks to come. Anything major you think I might have missed?

Wants vs Needs December 27, 2012

Posted by phoenixhopes in Finances, Spending Diet, Uncategorized.
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1 comment so far

In a few days I’m starting a Spending Diet as explained on the blog AndThenWeSaved.com. I’m both excited with anticipation and nervous that I’ll fall flat on my face. Excited because I know I can do this and because I know I need to do this. Nervous because, well… I don’t have such a good track record when it comes to money. I feel a bit transparent about putting too much personal detail out in the impersonal internets. I don’t think it’s important to tell the world how much debt I have or the size of my paycheck. Suffice to say I have more debt that I want to have (I’d like to have none) and my paycheck generally lasts until the next one (sometimes barely lasts). My bills are paid but I’m not getting ahead. I’d like to get off the paycheck to paycheck cycle, build some savings and feel more secure about my finances in general.

The first exercise when starting a Spending Diet is to make a list of WANTS and NEEDS. Too often those two get intertwined and we (and by “we” I really mean “I”) can’t tell the difference. I WANT chocolate and so I think I NEED chocolate. The logical part of my brain knows I don’t really NEED it, but man, it sure feels that way sometimes. It was a challenge to draw the line between the two and commit my list to paper.

First there are the absolute essentials, without which I literally might not be able to survive.

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Healthcare

It is not necessary to have the biggest house, gourmet food or the latest fashion, but some sort of food, shelter, clothing and healthcare is necessary to live.

Next come those things that are not essential in the sense that I would literally die without them, but are essential in that they add meaning to my life. I need an artistic outlet of some sort. At times that has been writing, knitting, sewing, quilting, singing and various other crafts. I need meaningful relationships with others in my life. I need to give — to my church and other charities, gifts to my friends and family. I need to be stretched mentally, learning new skills, reading, challenging my opinions and philosophy of life. And last but not least, I need to feed my spiritual side. These needs require time and thought but, for the most part, do not require a financial commitment.

There are some things that could be considered wants or luxuries, but in this society fall more in the “essential” category. I may be able to think of ways to cut these expenses, but I don’t see that they can be eliminated from my spending plan.

  • Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Transportation (Car and related expenses)
  • Insurance

The tricky part are those expenses that could be considered luxuries but do add enjoyment to my life:

  • Cable TV
  • Netflix
  • Eating out (including lunch at work)
  • Sewing/Knitting/Crafting supplies
  • Books

I’ve decided I’m turning off cable and keeping Netflix. I watch Netflix much more than cable and it is so much cheaper. This will probably mean the internet part of my bill will go up a bit as it is currently bundled with cable, but the overall bill will be less. I have other plans for ways to cut expenses on the last three on the list and will share those in my next post.

To keep myself accountable, I’ll post something about my journey each Monday. My first post will be Ten Rules for this new journey.

Anyone want to join me?