How to Take a Minimalist Approach to Holiday Shopping

holiday shopping

The holidays are hectic—with everyone rushing to stores and advertisements being shoved in our faces, it can be difficult to maintain a minimalist approach to shopping. Everything is made to seem like the best deal or the next must-have gift. But the holidays are supposed to be about giving and togetherness. We should focus less on the price tag and more on the meaning behind the gift.

Here are four ways that you can reduce spending on holiday shopping while still finding great gifts.

Make a List, Check it Twice

If you create a list prior to shopping, you will know exactly how much you plan to spend and the limits of your budget. It’s when you deviate from this list and start buying unplanned gifts that overspending occurs. As you begin shopping, try to find deals along the way in order to cut costs from your overall budget.

Something you should consider while shopping is tracking your expenses—this way you won’t have any unforeseen expenditures. One way to track all your purchases in real-time is by using an online banking platform with instant transaction alerts. These platforms can send updates directly to your smartphone, that way you don’t need to review your expenditures retroactively.

Repurpose Gifts

While it may seem taboo to regift something, an unopened or unused gift is practically good as new if the person doesn’t know that you’re regifting. As long as you think the recipient will actually enjoy the gift, it’s better to not let it go to waste. Sometimes you can even take a gift and upgrade it into something even better with a little bit of craftiness—like turning books into wall art! Adding your own touch will help make the gift even more perfect for the recipient. 

Give the Gift of Time

Spending time with someone can be more wholesome than any physical gift you could possibly give them, especially if your gift recipient speaks the love languages of Quality Time or Acts of Service. This means you could volunteer to do different chores for the person, offer to take them on fun adventures, or just spend an evening at home playing board games and watching movies. 

You can also spend time together while giving the gift of volunteerism. Plan a day later in the year when you can volunteer together at a local shelter or charity. The holiday season is jam packed with volunteers, so be intentional about visiting during a less-staffed time of year to truly make a big impact on your local community. 

You may just find that the joy you get from helping others can outweigh any physical gift.

Shop for Supplies

One way to cut down on costs is by making the gifts yourself. Rather than spending tons of money on expensive finished products, try spending the money on supplies for do-it-yourself gifts. You can save even more money if you already have some supplies on hand. This will take some extra time on your end, but it’s worth it because the gifts will be heartfelt and unique to the person you are giving them to. 

DIY gifts can include cookie dough ingredients in a jar, paintings, polished river rocks with a word of affirmation painted on them, a printed and framed poem, or anything else your creative mind comes up with!

During the holidays, minimalism can help you save costs and reduce stress. By applying the concepts of minimalism, you can celebrate the spirit of the holidays without getting sidetracked by the message to buy more and more.

Check out this infographic from Chime that can help you focus on your holiday needs while still meeting your financial goals.

chime infographic

3 Ways meal planning improves your life

Scenario 1: You get home from work and look around in the pantry and fridge to decide on dinner. You find a box of pasta and a jar of sauce. There’s even some spinach in the fridge you decide to add to your sauce. And you know you have italian sausages in the fridge from the last time you went to the store. You also plan to make a salad.

While you’re boiling the pasta, you dig out the sausages only to find that they have gone off and smell terrible. Oh no!

Scenario 2: You get home from work and look around in the pantry and fridge to decide on dinner. You see plenty of food but nothing looks like it goes together and you’re too tired to think about it. You throw your hands up in the air and order takeout.

After three days of this, you realize all your fresh produce has started to turn bad in the fridge and is no longer usable. Oh no!

Solution: Meal planning can help you prevent these and other kitchen problems.

I started meal planning in the past few months, and it has really helped me in 3 main areas:

  1. Budget
  2. Health
  3. Sanity

Meal planning for your budget

If you plan out meals and snacks for the week, you have a different frame of mind when you approach your food. You know that there is a plan, so you don’t just mindlessly snack and haphazardly throw a meal together. The plan helps you budget for your groceries and stick to the budget. It is so easy to wander aimlessly through the store and buy whatever looks good at that moment. But that method of shopping is not conducive to a strict budget or to balanced meals throughout the week.

I am a strong believer in the cash envelope method of budgeting, so all of our family’s grocery money goes into an envelope. When I am done spending, I’m done buying groceries for the month, so I really need to make it last. A detailed plan allows me to spend our grocery money in the best and wisest way.

When you plan your meals to help your budget:

  • Review your grocery store’s sales – plan meals involving foods you can get at a bargain
  • Comparison shop – this takes a little more time, but comparison shopping between a few stores can cut down on spending (especially if different stores have different items on sale)
  • Buy in bulk – shopping trips with multiple “staple” items may seem more expensive, but if you stock up on things in one trip you should just have to do a lower-cost maintenance trip the next week. These could be items like oats, rice, beans, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, potatoes, ketchup (yes, in my house ketchup is a staple food and I have made a vow to always have a supply in the house), or even freezable items like meat and cheese if they are on sale. Buying in bulk saves money in the long run and allows you more freedom with your week-to-week ingredients budget.
  • Do the math – Take your phone or a calculator with you and be a grocery nerd. Calculate out the cost per pound of pre-packaged items vs. buying from the deli or meat case. Compare sale prices to bulk prices. I recently opted to buy chicken breasts and legs separately instead of a whole chicken because the sale prices came out cheaper to buy them already butchered – and the whole chicken is usually the most frugal option! It always saves money to cost compare.

I also strategize and review my grocery budget before I even leave the house. Step #1: Meal plan. Step #2: Groceries we need to make the meal plan happen.

I break my grocery list into the following categories:

  • Produce (fruits and veggies)
  • Bulk (rice, beans, seeds, nuts, flour, sugar, refills of water)
  • Dairy (milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese)
  • Meat (Beef, pork, bacon, sausages, chicken, lunch meat)
  • Frozen (waffles, veggies, occasional ice cream)
  • Grocery (crackers, bread, tortillas, condiments, baking stuff)

Then I estimate the cost of each item, add up the total budget, and adjust as needed, removing items if necessary to get to my target budget range.

I know, personally, that if I just go to the store and throw things in the cart willy nilly, I will over-spend and probably bring home random items that don’t make sense to the plan. The plan will save the budget.

Meal planning for your health

When you plan out your meals, you can ensure a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat). I am a person that doesn’t enjoy many vegetables so I have to actively and purposely PLAN for my vegetables. I make it a goal to eat 3 servings of vegetables per day, on top of my morning shake that’s already full of vegetables. Meal planning also ensures that you are set up to create nutritious and healthy meals instead of just grabbing something weird from the back of your freezer that expired in 2007 and throwing it in the oven. Don’t eat mystery meals – planning allows you to cook healthy meals with less hassle.

When planning your meals, consider:

  • Vegetable servings: Try to get a couple different vegetables in with dinner. Bonus points for different colors! Corn doesn’t count, it’s a grain. Don’t just rely on potatoes all the time. Think about broccoli, carrots, greens, mushrooms, onions, peppers, squash, and more. Search for new recipes. Sign up for a CSA to get a share of fresh vegetables in the summer and fall, then plan your meals around them!
  • Protein sources: Be creative and resourceful with cuts of meat that can be re-used for other meals later. Recently, we purchased a pork shoulder roast. We made roast pork with roasted vegetables one night and pork carnitas with the leftovers. You can do the same with chicken – make baked chicken and use the leftovers for chicken salad, quesadillas, or soup. The possibilities are endless. You can also have an omelet bar for dinner one night and allow family members to pick their toppings like mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, crumbled bacon, and more. For a meat-free option, check out recipes for tofu, tempeh, beans, or protein-rich vegetables that can be the focus of the meal.
  • Healthy fat: Cooking with coconut oil is much healthier than refined oils such as soybean or canola. “Vegetable oil” is inflammatory and can do considerable harm to your body over time. Avoid hydrogenated and trans fats as well. To be honest, I cook most of my food items in bacon grease or butter. I also use coconut oil, and we use olive oil for salad dressings or low temperature cooking. Olive shouldn’t be used in high temperatures. I also strongly encourage the consumption of avocado and full-fat dairy if you eat dairy. Just remember: When you see the words “Low cal” or “Low fat” as marketing terms, replace them in your head with “Chemical shitstorm.”
  • Carbohydrates: I generally limit myself to about four servings of carbohydrates per day, things like rice, waffles, tortillas, corn, etc. These are simpler foods that break down into sugars in the body. Too much sugar is a bad plan for your health – it is the number one culprit for weight gain and inability to lose weight. I limit my sugar intake as well (including fruit) because sugar is a dangerous food for me. It can spark cycles of cravings for carbohydrates that are contrary to my goals. Carbs give us quick energy but meal planning helps you to plan out better quality meals so you don’t need a quick fix.

Meal planning also means packing your lunch, which will save you from take-out at your desk during the week. Fast food and restaurant portions are not doing you any favors. Pack your lunch for your health and your budget.

Meal planning for sanity

Before meal planning, we often opted for takeout simply because I was too exhausted to care about cooking. Having a plan is instrumental in reducing the stress of preparing a meal for the day (or the next day’s lunch). Now, when I get home from work, I wash my lunch containers and re-pack my lunch for the next day. I eat the same thing. Every day. Boring? Not really. Predictable, but it’s all food I enjoy so I don’t yet feel the need to change it. I plan out the food that will go in my lunch each day and buy it at the beginning of the week. I could go so far as to pre-pack five lunches on Sunday but I haven’t gone that far yet. Plus I don’t want to buy that many food containers to pack.

Meal planning for dinner allows for prep work to be done ahead of time. Say you’re going to make tacos on Monday and spaghetti on Tuesday. Maybe hamburgers are Thursday. You buy two pounds of ground beef at the store on Sunday, form half of it into patties, and freeze them. Brown the rest in a pan. You now have taco meat for Monday and sauce meat for Tuesday, and you won’t have to cook that hamburger during the week.

Foods you can prep in advance:

  • Wash, peel, and chop or shred vegetables for meals
  • Wash and portion snack items like celery, cucumber slices, grapes, berries, etc.
  • Cook meat for the week at one time and freeze or portion for later meals
  • Create crockpot meals, freeze in freezer bags for easy thawing and pouring into a crockpot (talk about sanity saving, this one cooks while you’re at work)
  • Soak and cook bulk rice and beans for the week
  • Shred or slice block cheese for sandwiches, quesadillas, omelets, etc.
  • Make fridge oats by mixing oatmeal, yogurt, milk, and fruit in a jar, placing in the fridge overnight, and having as a cold porridge (these keep in the fridge for a few days, or you can make a bunch and freeze, then thaw overnight)

An additional sanity saver when it comes to prepping meals? Move your sister into your home and let her mad kitchen skills create culinary wonderment for you to enjoy. Seriously, my sister moved in, and it’s awesome. She has improved my diet so much in just a few weeks of living with us – so many wonderful vegetables and tasty Nicaraguan recipes.

Tell me all about your meal planning adventures – do you meal plan? Would you like to?

Total Money Makeover, Week 8

Week 5 in Financial Peace University was called “Buyer Beware” and discussed the power of marketing and advertising, which are common saboteurs of a healthy budget! Companies want you to buy their product – and they go to great lengths to get your business!

Companies market via…

  • Personal selling
  • Financing and convenient payment methods (store loyalty cards, store credit cards, mobile payment, 90 days same as cash)
  • TV, radio, Internet, and other media outlets (did you know a 30 second TV commercial costs $300,000 to produce?)
  • Product positioning in stores (companies pay to have their product stocked in a particular area of a store)

An important note about the 90 days same as cash scheme – 88% of those are not paid off in 90 days and are slammed with 24% interest dating back to the date of purchase.  Don’t do it.  Save up your money and pay cash.  Nothing is so important that you have to buy it right now, brand new, on credit.

We go through physiological changes when we spend money.  That’s why Dave is such a proponent of using cash instead of cards – so you FEEL the money you are spending.  It’s the same even when we save up and buy significant purchases.  Significant purchases can mean different things depending on your budget, but Dave suggests $300 is considered a significant purchase.

When I was married, we did a budget. For one month. Because it didn’t work and I never wanted to try again. We decided that each of us could spend $100 without asking the other one, that was our fun money fund.  He financed a $1,000 laptop and justified it because “the payments were only $100 per month.”

I can’t even begin to wonder what that marriage would have been if I had discovered Dave Ramsey sooner in my life.  Just as well that I didn’t, though, because I now have happiness, self-esteem, and self-respect.  Can’t buy those.  Can’t finance them either.  #do-over
Dave’s suggestions for purchases include:
  • Sleep on it – wait overnight before making a purchase
  • Weigh your motives and intentions – do not purchase something to make you happy; no amount of “stuff” is going to fill a void
  • Know what you are buying – don’t buy things you don’t understand
  • Consider the “opportunity cost” of your money – you have to give every dollar a place to go; make sure it’s a good place
  • Seek the counsel of your spouse – when you are single, you only have to answer to yourself; when you’re married, every decision you make with money has the potential to impact your spouse.  Always talk about where every dollar will go.

My favorite part of the lesson was the discussion about negotiating.  I really can’t wait until the next time I need to buy something!  Some important tips:

  • Use cash
  • Walk away – they will follow you and make a deal
  • Learn to shut up – they will talk themselves into a lower price
  • Say, “That’s not good enough.”  Also see: Walk away
  • Identify the good guy/bad guy technique – a car salesman goes to “talk to the manager” and regrettably reports that the mean ol’ manager just won’t go for a deal.  Know when to walk away from this.
  • Master the “If I take away” technique – A salesman offers you a TV with a DVD player and surround speakers for $X.00.  Say, “Okay, but I don’t need the speakers or DVD player, if I take those away, what is the new price?” (also useful for car purchases where they want to sell you luxury options).

Confession time

I have a confession – I spent some money on a luxury this month.  I have a Facebook friend who is a coach for BeachBody, and I signed up for an exercise program and nutritional shakes.  There were three outcomes from this purchase:

  1. Best case: I love the DVDs and shakes, I get closer to achieving my fitness goals, and I like the purchase.
  2. Neutral: I don’t love the DVDs or shakes, I return them for a refund.
  3. Worst case: I don’t love them, but I forget to return them in time and I do not get a refund.  I learn a lesson to not buy things like this.

One week after the kit arrived, I’m going with case #1.  I only lost 1.4 pounds in the first week, but I did lose FOURTEEN INCHES over my entire body (measuring bust, chest, biceps, thighs, calves, waist, and hips).  It has definitely been a good purchase, in my case and in my opinion.  It’s easier for me to do the workout at home than to go to the gym.  This is not an endorsement that everyone should go sign up for BeachBody, but it’s my personal experience and I found that it was worth my money in this moment.  We’ll evaluate as time goes on.

Total Money Makeover, Week 4

It’s week four of my Total Money Makeover, and I had my first Financial Peace University class this week.  The class only has three people attending, myself and a newly engaged couple.  The instructors seem very nice!  The FPU class consists of watching a DVD of Dave Ramsey doing the lesson each week, followed by discussion.  We started late this week due to the instructors traveling and being delayed half an hour, so there wasn’t much discussion afterward.  I hope that changes in the future.  I am a little disappointed the class has so few people but I still think it will be a really good resource for me to help keep me accountable (you know, besides my Dave Ramsey friends on Facebook and posting weekly on the blog!).

Week 1 of FPU is all about saving.  DVD-Dave discussed baby steps 1 (save $1,000 for a starter emergency fund) and 3 (save 3-6 months expenses in a fully funded emergency fund).

Some important take aways from the first class:

  • To avoid “running out of money” for savings or giving in your budget, take them out first.  Give, save, and then pay bills.  I used to automatically take out 10% of each pay and move it to a savings account.  I am temporarily not saving so that I can focus all extra money on debt repayment.
  • Money is amoral.  It is not good or bad.  Being wealthy does not make you a good or bad person.  Money is like a brick; you can use it to smash a window or build a hospital.  The important thing is to use money in a good and moral way.
  • Saving money is about emotion and contentment. This is really important to understand and was something that really clicked for me in class.  We save money for things that are important to us.  Consider the analogy of a life-saving treatment that’s a non-negotiable need. If your kid is sick and you need $1000, $2000, $5000, whatever amount – you can save that up.  You might sell everything you own, you might cancel cable, you might get a second job.  GETTING OUT OF DEBT IS JUST AS IMPORTANT – RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.
  • Dave says over and over again… “If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”  Basically, if you’re a 25 year old professional willing to take a weekend job and additional freelance work, cancel internet (haven’t committed to that but I still think about it), and sell your Star Trek autographs on ebay, then in a few years you’ll be able to do whatever. you. want.
  • We should save for three reasons: emergencies, purchases, and wealth building. The emergency fund is important because it’s insurance.  It is insurance that you won’t have to cash out your retirement or sell your home if hard times hit.  And, Dave reports, most people find that when they have a fully funded emergency fund, they stop having emergencies.
  • Always pay cash. Dave’s best example for saving up to pay cash is a car.  The average car payment is $492 per month for 63 months.  If you just put $492 into a cookie jar, in less than a year you can buy a $5,000 car with cash.  Boom.  Then you save up more, trade in your $5,000 car, and you can get an $8,000 car, and so on.  How great would life be with no car payments?  This method applies to every purchase – cars, furniture, appliances, etc., and you’ll be able to save money with cash too.  If you walk in with a handful of hundred dollar bills, you can bet a store or seller will come down on the price and you can get a deal.
  • Start saving NOW. Dave gives the example of “Ben and Arthur.”  Ben starts saving $2,000 a year from age 19 to 26, then he stops saving.  Arthur starts saving at age 27 and saves $2,000 a year until age 65.  Due to the miracle of compound interest, Ben comes out of this with almost $2.3 million while Arthur only has $1.5 million in the bank.  …clearly I need to get me to a bank and start saving ASAP.

Some of the discussion questions from the workbook include:

Talk about one or two things you are worried about having to deal with or something you are looking forward to achieving as you work through the program. I am honestly less worried now than I was a month ago… I have a plan, a real plan.  That does a lot to comfort my fears.  I am looking forward to being able to discuss with the group, and I am REALLY looking forward to week 4, the week of plastic surgery.  (More details later).

In what specific areas could you be more diligent about saving? I want to start saving for retirement and an emergency fund (I know the emergency fund comes first).  Seeing all this information about how small investments now can become millions by retirement really inspires me to start saving now.

Talk about a financial emergency you’ve had over the last few years. How would the situation have been different if you’d had an emergency fund? When I first separated from my ex-husband and lived with friends, I was putting everything on my credit card.  I only made $600 a month from my graduate assistantship, and my car payment was over half of that.  With gas and food to pay for, I had no money.  I put McMuffins on my credit card.  McMuffins.  I am so happy I paid interest on a $3 crappy breakfast sandwich.  Not.  If I’d had an emergency fund, I would have been fine.  I could have afforded food, gas, car payment, everything, without the use of credit cards.

Dave recommends building sinking funds into your budget to cover big purchases and future expenses.  Talk about some expenses you’ve had in the past that could have been less stressful with a sinking fund. Well, my car.  I had $1,000 down and we financed at 7.75% because were NEWLYWEDS and wanted ADULT STUFF because THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO.  At least we bought it used and a couple years old.  But I wish I had had Dave Ramsey in college to teach me these things before I went into into the world and promptly jumped off the plank into debt-infested waters.  I have always saved up for things (mom taught me that saving is important) but it just never translated into the big stuff like student loans and cars.  Probably because my mom also missed the memo that ALL DEBT IS BAD DEBT (except maybe a mortgage, if you do it right).

Imagine yourself debt free with a fully funded emergency fund in place, fully funding retirement and college investments, and writing the check to pay off the house.  What are some things you can’t wait to do with the money – and freedom – you’ve secured for yourself? Well, step one for me will be to afford being a stay at home mom, but that will happen before all of the baby steps are completed (hopefully).  But, say 5-8 years into the future, all debt is gone, there are no payments, retirement and college funds are going strong… I’d like to take a family vacation.  I want to go somewhere awesome and beautiful.  Beyond that, I want to go to restaurants and leave $100 tips, or throw $100 bills into musicians’ open guitar cases on street corners.  And I want a house with land so I can have chickens and a garden. 🙂

Homework for Week 1 includes making a quick-start budget (I already have a detailed budget I follow), complete the Financial Reality Check in the workbook (below), and read the chapter “Super Saving” in Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money (already read the book but I will do a refresher).

Financial Reality Check

What is your total non-mortgage debt? $62,232.51

How much liquid cash do you have available? $2,200 (ish)

How many open credit card accounts do you have? 5 ($0 balance)

Rate the following emotions in regard to your personal finances (scale of 1-10)

  • Fear: 4
  • Anxiety: 4
  • Confidence: 8
  • Hope: 10
  • Peace: 5

Minimize your budget with Gillian

Today’s post is a guest blog by Gillian at Drop that Debt!  I also wrote a post for her blog today, which you can read here.

Hey all! I’m Gillian and I blog about personal finance over at Drop that Debt. It seems that Caitlin and I both started blogging and reading each others blogs around the same time, and I’ve been hooked ever since! Her Not-so-Minimalist Bathroom post was so eerily similar to my own experiences I just had to read more. I graduated school with a college diploma and a university degree like most young people do these days– in loads of debt. After a bit over 6 years in school, I was over $60,000 in debt with no real job prospects immediately leaving school. I was lucky enough to get a job serving a month after leaving school, which is not in my field but it is enough to pay the bills and it will do for now.

I got smacked by the reality train pretty hard after graduation. I realized that no, it is not as easy to pay off student loans as I thought it would be and yes, it will take me years to pay off my loans, even if I put over $1,000 per month towards them. I had been overspending during school, coupled with not earning enough to pay my tuition and living expenses and I decided I needed to finally get real about my finances so that I could throw any and all extra money at my student loans. Over the past 6 months, I have learned a lot about personal finance, what works, and what doesn’t work so well. Here are some things you can do if you find yourself not knowing where to start with getting your finances in order:

Create a budget. This is hands down the most important thing that got me on track when I started. You need to figure out approximately how much income you earn each month. Once you figure out how much you are bringing in, you can figure out how much you can afford to spend in each area. I had a set amount for rent, car insurance, car payments, and student loan payments (minimum monthly payments the institutions require) and everything else was under my control. I started by deciding how much money I wanted to dedicate for repayment of my loans. I decided on about $1,000 / month as an ultimate goal; and it’s slowly been climbing to reach that number.

Pay off your highest interest loans first. Both of my loans have fairly small interest rates. One is about 4% and the other is 4.5%. However, if you have a big credit card debt (18% +) or something else with higher interest rates, pay that off first. Make the minimum payments (or a bit above) and throw the rest of your extra money at the highest interest loan first. Once you pay the first loan off, you can add that payment onto any other loans you have.

Don’t discount anything. Even “fixed” costs can be cut back. It can be tough but often people end up living far outside of their means. If your rent is taking too large of a chunk of your budget, you should find a new place as soon as you can that is cheaper. If your mortgage payment is too big, it’s time to seriously consider selling your house and buying one that is worth less. The same thing goes for cars. It kills me that some people are making car payments that are $600 or more per month! I didn’t have too many high fixed costs but I still cut back where I could. I got my cell phone bill down from $73/month to about $33/month. Every $40 counts and can be used towards loan repayment, savings, or somewhere else.

Think before you buy. There can be many temptations when you are cutting back on spending, especially if you aren’t used to being careful with your money. Cute clothes, new gadgets and the like can be hard to ignore. I don’t deprive myself of anything (within reason), I just make sure it’s really worth the chunk of my budget before I buy it. Many times I’ve tried on clothes, left, then decided I didn’t need them after thinking on it for a day. Occasionally, the item really was worth it and I would go back the next day and make a purchase. Taking that extra time away from the store and the immediate gratification of the purchase often gives you the clarity to see that you don’t really need the item.

Since making these changes, I have consistently brought in far more money than I have paid out. My student loan payments are always high, generally in the $700 range each month and with some work I plan on increasing that number in 2013. These methods are surefire ways to get your finances in order.

If you would like to write a guest post for Born Again Minimalist, or if you would like me to write a guest post on your blog, please contact me via the suggestion box link above, or email  Thank you for reading!

October spending: Week three

For the week of October 15-21, I spent as follows (remembering cash purchases to the best of my ability, since I don’t keep good track of anything that doesn’t just show up in my debit history when I check my bank account!)

Bills: Car insurance (41.35)

Essentials: Gas (32.71)

Non-essentials: Salon (84), Dollar General (cards to send my sister – 2.16), Chipotle (6.73), Contributing to the tip at dinner Saturday (2), food Saturday and Sunday (4.50 hamburger and pop, $15 at Wendy’s)

Grocery: Earth Fare (43.33)

Not bad this week!

Loan update: As an added bonus, I have increased the payment on my smallest loan to $80 instead of the $42-ish it was, so I can pay it off a little faster.  I also have $2,000 in loan award vouchers I will be applying to that loan, so I can hopefully have it paid off very soon.  Once it is paid off, I will roll the $80/mo from that payment onto my $96/mo loan to pay THAT one off faster, and then when that one is paid off, I will add $180 to my final, giant loan (currently $343/mo).

And another update: I booked my hotel for Spain yesterday! It won’t be charged until I actually arrive, so that gives me time to save up the money.

October spending: Week two

I think I did a little better this week.  Remember, I’m using October as my “control group” month so I can see how much I typically spend.  Then I’ll do some cut-backs.  I have found myself avoiding purchases because I didn’t want to have to confess them at the end of the week… but as you will see, that didn’t stop me terribly much.

Bills: Student loan ($343.60), Electric ($30.93), Car payment ($277.06) – TOTAL: $651.59

Essentials: Gasoline ($35.25), Gasoline (27.93), Plumbing stuff at Wal-Mart to fix tub drain ($7.93) – TOTAL: $71.11

Nonessentials: Impulsively purchased CDs that promise to teach me French in ten days ($9.95), Groupon for chiropractor visit ($29), bowling ($5), Chipotle ($6.25), Chinese takeout ($6.75) – TOTAL: $56.95

Grocery: $34.55

  • 10/12 – $5.45 – I forgot my lunch so I bought some apples and peanut butter at the grocery store
  • 10/12 – $21.53 – Earth Fare
  • 10/13 – $7.57 – Earth Fare (fixins for a kale chip nacho recipe)

Look, I did great on groceries this week! And I could make a case that my $29 Groupon is “necessary” in that it’s medical and I’ve been having a lot of back pain lately and I’m not just buying it because going to the chiropractor sounds like a really awesome fun time.  Also, if I don’t learn French in ten days they say they will give me my money back.  I also went to the zoo with my friend, but I have a membership so it was free to get in! I feel like I was more responsible with my money this week, until today when I ate out twice — obviously I got lazy.

How was your spending this week?