9 days to holidays and reflections on finances

Counting down the days till holidays 🙂

I started cleaning my office yesterday, my traditional activity before the holidays. I am 1/3 done and would love to complete it sometime soon. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Friday, but maybe next week. But I will be doing it 🙂

I also started thinking about my budget and life-style for the next year. I can see that unless I become more careful I may not be able to save what I want to save. Last year has been a great teacher for me in terms of finances and my own attitude. 

I learnt that:

1. if I do extreme budgeting I get unhappy and all I think about is spending money. I know that because I tried a pantry challenge or something early in 2017 and restricting my shopping experience was unpleasant and expensive :)))) So I should not restrict my already tight budget

2. Work stress makes me feel like I am entitled to make unnecessary expenses, such as on junk food. This is very silly and I need to work on this

3. I need both short-term and long-term financial goals. My overall calculations are for the entire year, but I would feel much better if I can have a soon-to-be-completed goal so that I can keep my eye on it, strive for it, and eventually feel the satisfaction of completing it. I think I will have to work on this idea to keep me motivated. After all, we can aim all we want but unless it is realistic or reachable, we will lose our hope first and then the intention to reach the goal.

4. While I can spend on junk food and rationalize it, I also continue not to over-spend on grocery or other things, which is strange… This must tell me something. Why do I turn blind to unnecessary expenses, which are often much more than my grocery bill? if I can figure this out, I can figure out many other things…

5. I continue to be not cheap when it comes to socials. I notice that many people do not get that generous with me when I host them, so I want to opt for a smaller thing to take with me to socials; a loaf of bread, a jar of pickle, a baked goods are good options.

6. I stopped picking my colleagues’ bills when we go out together, which is awesome.

7. I still treat my team members with lunches or so time to time; this was 2-4 times a year so far. I think I will make it once year now. I will have to really work on this because I really like celebrating their accomplishments. 

8. It is great to be taking advantage of the sales for items, such as clothes, required each year. This occurs often during October-December. I think one thing I should aim for is to save this money way advance; whether it is thru my fun funds or savings from the expenses that I could easily make but do not (like picking up others’ bills). 

9. Talking about the fun funds, I have never been clear about how to use them last year (fun funds are the money left out of my weekly allowance). I think it is time that I handle this better. I think this year I will replace the term “fun funds” with “weekly savings” and I will use these savings as mortgage pre-payments.

10. I will be on shopping freeze for trousers and jackets this year; the only place to shop for blouses/shirts will be thrift stores. I will continue to buy items that are supposed to be personal, like socks, from regular stores.

– to be continued –

 

complete frugality

Is it possible for me to be frugal 100% of the time?

I have been thinking about this since yesterday. You know I take the cab sometime and then usually (not always – sometimes I like pampering myself) I resent it the rest of the day.

It is one of these activities that works against my frugal and effective budgeting activities; a ride to office costs around 10 buck – considering how much effort I put to save 10 bucks each week, it is understandable that taking the cab is quite counter-intuitive and counter-productive for me. 

I thought about it and I know there are three other areas in my expenses that are against my frugal life-style;

  • social treats to cheap friends/colleagues (these are the ones that would let me pay for everything, rather than putting their hands in their purses!),
  • gifting (new year gifts, kids, house-warmer gifts, etc.), and,
  • social treats/donations that I must do because of my work place seniority. 

Some of these I can handle better I guess.

First thing first, those friends/colleagues who take advantage of my generosity: obviously I am pissed off by them! Next time I can try to be assertive with them!

Gifting: when I bought my sewing machine I thought I could sew gifts, but now I can see that this is not gonna happen anytime soon. So, I better start shopping for the new year gifts while there are sales. There will be other gifts that I will have to get along the way, like a birthday gift I probably will need in two days  – these I guess can be purchased when they are needed. I am afraid I have nothing additional to do about these expenses.

And social treats/donations that I must do at work: This is also an area of expense that I can hardly limit…. We have annual contributions for recognizing some of the employees’ work with us, which is perfectly fine and I am happy to do these (they so well deserve these). I am often asked to donate to causes that we all care, which I am again very happy to contribute to. And I usually take my team out for lunch several times a year, which is also great because we usually do that to celebrate a significant achievement or a life-event such as a wedding. It is also a great team-building activity. So other than choosing affordable places for lunch, I cannot see much of a thing to change here, either.

Alright. And the rest of my expenses seem to okay (not including the trips I pay to visit my family).

When I look for an opportunity to see whether I can further reduce my spending, I see that this may be possible.

But things that I can do are really small; like making my own detergent (which I do not want to), cutting my hair (which I do not want to), stop dyeing my hair (which I do not want to), buying grains and beans in bulk (like 10 kg bulk) and making them my primary staple (which I do not want to – I like grains and beans a lot but I want to eat fresh produce more), reducing the heating really low (which I do not want to), canceling my cable and risking the good price of internet-cable-phone plan (which I do not want to), not buying occasional awards such as a bar of chocolate or a drink/meal/breakfast for myself (which I do not want not to), and occasional waste like a bad apple here and there.

So, looks like for now, I am at a good shape and have a plan to tackle some of the the unnecessary expense areas. And who knows, once I reach the next level of frugality I may come up with new ways to cut my expenses and become more self-sustaining and resourceful 🙂

After all, there is always a chance of surprising ourselves – just like this bird/crow(?) in the gif below! What a smart animal! 🙂

Food GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

gif by:https://giphy.com/gifs/closer-level-3O5ihx3odCq76

 

 

 

 

weekly budget check

Yay! The second week on minimal spending plan has been a success 🙂

————————

expenses related to weekly allowance: $38.25

funds left from weekly allowance (re; fun funds): $81.8

total fun funds accumulated to this day: -$44.5 (it is still on the negative side, but it is getting closer to $0 at least. Considering that just 2 months ago I had -$300 in this funds says a lot, does it not?… I hope to make it positive till new year and hopefully really use these funds for something I can really enjoy 🙂 )

other expenses: $203. This included a set of plates I ordered (I love them; the set I have has been with me for 15 years. It was time to retire it. I am not sorry for this expense; rather I am pretty much delighted…) and an expensive dinner I had had with my friends last weekend.

———

This “minimal spending” plan aims to limit my weekly allowance expenses (transportation, grocery, weekend breakfast etc.) till the holidays season so that I can save  funds to use during shopping during the holidays 🙂

As part of this plan, I walked everywhere this past week and saved my transportation funds. The number of days this week in which I did not spend any money was 4. I also am trying to consume what I already have, so my grocery expenses are pretty less than before and I had no breakfast-related expense this week. While I have lots of food and each week also buy fresh produce, I am not sure how long I can keep going like this (I am especially fond of my breakfast at the weekends), but I am making a great progress towards saving for my shopping plans 🙂

How to maximize the value of grocery funds


I am not an expert; but I have been making effort to save from grocery budget and limit food waste. These two goals together have helped me to try and find out ways that were useful in my journey. Here what I found are useful practices:

DO:

1. Follow the sales: Take advantage of the flyers that appear at your door steps. If that is not an option for you, do not despair – the majority of the stores have e-flyers that can make this exercise quite easy.

2. Shop at variety of places: I am not saying go travel 30 min to a store just to pick up a cartoon of milk. But if there are items that are on sale at different stores and if they are practical options to do so, you may want to consider visiting them. Often times, different stores have different items on weekly sales.

3. Buy bulk: Consider this if you are certain that you will consume the product. Dry food, like rice, pasta, legumes, and canned goods are good examples. Fresh produce usually does not last too long, unless they are dried, frozen, or canned.

4. Use coupons: Whether they come in the inserts, news papers, or apps, you can use coupons to save a dime or two.

5. Use loyalty cards: Many stores offer their own or main stream loyalty cards to their customers. The points accumulate and can give you a free item or two.

6. Freeze food: You can freeze almost any of the veggies or fruits with some practice. Blanching is a good way to preserve veggies, for example.

7. Freeze meals: Freeze extra portions of meals for future consumption.

8. Take an inventory of your fridge, freezer, and pantry: Know what you already have. This helps you to not only appreciate what you already have, but also to identify what you really need.

9. Make your own pickles, jams, peanut butter, sauces, etc.

10. Prepare meals from scratch

11. Bake your own bread: this may be intimidating to many, but it is a lot of fun! It is quite affordable and healthy too 🙂 Expand it to pizza and noodles

12. Opt for un-cut/unprepared meals, veggies, and fruits to save instantly

13. Use your own shopping bags/totes if your store charges for nylon bags

14. Have a meal plan and make an effort to stick to it

15. Take advantage of holiday sales

16. Use left-overs as lunch the next day or to prepare soups

17. Use bits and pieces of veggies or meat in hearty soups

18. Share what you have, especially if you think that you will not consume the food. Family, friends, neighbours, soup kitchen, and food banks are good examples

19. Buy frozen veggies

20. Keep a good stock of regularly used items so that you will not feel deprived

21. Know your coupons and their characteristics (e.g. expiry dates, brand/model they are eligible for)

22. Be grateful for what you have and try to appreciate your efforts

23. Shop when you need, not when you think you should shop

24. Check your bill at the cashier and correct or remove items if their price is not right

25. Change your habits; whether it is the food types, stores, or shopping habits, give a better habit a chance

26. Try new recipes and improvise

27. Learn from others: there are many blogs out there that gives good tips to reduce the grocery bill and the food waste.

28. Monitor your savings 🙂 whether you saved by following the sales, using coupons, or loyalty cards, once you realize how much you do save, it will make you feel great and motivated to keep going!

 

DON’T

1. Buy things only because they are on sale or you have coupons for

2. Care about peer pressure; rather focus on your own needs and goals

3. Get crazy about saving all the time; everyone deserves a nice treat every once a while

4. Buy suspicious food from dollar stores or from the stores’ sales rack

5. Sacrifice your health and well-being by under-nourishment or by consuming limited types of food

6. Forget to celebrate!

 

*In my experience using my credit card works for me (I pay the full balance at the end of each month and I do not buy things that I do not need) – so I cannot solely recommend using cash.

**I am not very familiar with price comparisons – if that works for you, go ahead.

***I am not into using food that are beyond their expiry dates

 

 

weekly budget check

It has been a great week in terms of how much I did not spend 🙂

—————————–

expenses within the weekly allowance (grocery only): $35   🙂

funds left for fun funds: $120 – $35 = $85

total fun funds: – $126.5.. ahem.. negative balance…

total savings from purchases I was tempted to but did not (like not taking the cab); use of sales/coupons; kindness of people: $278 (this also includes a brunch which I was not let pay = kindness of people)

Other expenses: $278, including ordering the sewing machine and some accessories, taking the cab and some food to friends who invited me for dinner. That is a lot of money, but all is well.

———————–

This has been the first attempt of mine to have a minimal spending week and so far it seems doable; I have a lot of food in the fridge. Freezer has many bags of frozen veggies, meat/chicken, and breakfast pastries (to be consumed at the weekends), as well as frozen soups with chicken or bone broth. My pantry is also in a good shape with lots of dried veggies, pasta, rice/bulghur, lentils, and canned beans. I think I will be able to stick up with my minimal spending aim till New year 🙂

I am continuing to buy perishable essentials, such as milk, yogurt, and fresh produce. So no unreasonable sacrifice here.

I continue to walk in the morning and evening, rather than taking the cab or bus; I hope to keep doing that as long as the weather permits.

I will focus on consuming the food I already have rather than buying new ones. I kind of hope that before and after the holidays, there will be good grocery sales; I may be able to stock up/freeze again at that time.

I only let myself to stock up durable items, like paper towel, if the sales are really attractive. Otherwise, I am good with waiting till the holiday season.

I had decided to let go my weekend breakfasts and rather use that money to finance my sewing machine and supplies I will need. One wonders whether $7-8 a week (my breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday, consisting of a bagel and a cup of coffee) can make a positive difference…. Honestly I have mixed feelings about it myself (I am so fond of my weekend breakfast…); at one hand, yes I may be able to buy small sewing supplies, like thread and scissor, with these savings. But then, is it really worth it, considering how much I enjoy my breakfast?

I guess we will see how it goes 🙂

no spending day

I just realized today was a no-spending-day since I do not know when…

I am so excited about this.

I walked and did not pay for bus and I absolutely bought nothing today; no coffee, no treats, no grocery, no nothing….

I remember last year when I first aimed to have a no-spending day it was so difficult…

I feel like I am coming back to my lean budget as of this week and it is making me feel very empowered and abled. This has nothing to do with my accidental no-spending-day today, but both are what make me excited in terms of achieving my goals.

It is interesting that spending less money can make one that excited about herself 🙂

I am grateful for my financial choices

I have chosen to do something about my finances last year as the weight of home-ownership as well as negative chequeing account made me depressed, hopeless for my future, and hugely anxious.

I knew that unless I have had a hard look at my finances, these feelings would continue and I would experience further financial hardship.

So I made the choice of doing something about the situation and started a budget, where I calculated and monitored my fixed (e.g. mortgage, bills, etc.), flexible (grocery and other purchases, entertainment), and savings and investments for my retirement. I failed many times to keep up with my budget but eventually it stabilized. My spending was more conscious and wiser. I have had shopping freezes for items like books. I took advantage of loyalty points and followed sales. I still was taking the cab and wasting money, but hey, that was what I could do best at that time. Eventually things got better, but not perfect. Nevertheless, it was a small victory.

Then, I decided I could do way better. In the new year, I have aimed for a tighter, smaller budget that forced me to be better with my spending and better with my choices. I started price comparison and followed the sales more closely. I designed my meals around the produce on sale. I stop taking the cab and started taking the bus almost all the time. I traded one expense/product for another, more enjoyable or useful alternative. I never, even once, forgot to reward myself. I listened to my feelings and saw I was happy and excited. I saw that I was able to save way more than I can imagine with the new budget. I decided I liked savings and I paid my gratefulness everyday. For some miraculous way, I never felt deprived. In contrast, I have been feeling empowered, abundant, free, and able.

My choices and feelings have a huge role in my current financial status. I cannot know what the future will bring, but I know whatever I am doing it is working for me so far. I have wiser choices and more satisfaction, and less anxiety over the finances. It did not come with occasional fails, but that is a part of any journey. What matters is that I have seen my own progress and it made me excited and more motivated.

I think it is important that we find ways that work for us. I think it is also important to record and monitor our goals and our progress.  Additionally, I think it would be dry and somehow demotivating if we have not rejoiced our progress or achieving our objectives. So, give yourself the chance to celebrate your financial choices and progress.

I am lucky that I have a simple life, I am not materialistic, I do not bend in the presence of peer pressure, I do not have a car or wishes for luxurious items or vacations. I do not mind shopping items at thrifty stores if they are in good conditions and in good hygiene. I do prefer to shop whenever I visit another city or country, where things are cheaper than where I am. I am lucky that my feelings give the motivation I may need to keep going. I like these about myself and my life.

Maximizing the value of our dollars is a very valuable choice. I do not use coupons (I am not against them, just cannot have time to find and use them), but sales, price check, and the loyalty points all made it for me. Would it not be wonderful if we had bought the laundry detergent half of its price? It would be. So if I can, I stock pile durable items while they are on sale. I cannot believe how much I am saving this way. In terms of food, the pantry items and dry food proved to be awesome (i.e. much cheaper than prepared meals), and so did the frozen meals and veggies I learnt to prepare myself. I regularly freeze my extra meals and consume them later when I do not feel like cooking.

Freezing food and being conscious about my spending also helped me to limit my food waste, for which I am extremely grateful.

And over time, I noticed that I did not need to spend money to feel good. I rather felt good with my choices, the funds accumulated, and the hope and empowerment I have got as a result. This requires a daily reflection and being in touch with my finances and feelings. A good way to spend 5 minutes each day to monitor my finances and a good way to calculate the increase in my net worth every two weeks on the day I get my salary.

I am extremely grateful for this new found freedom and appreciation I have. Like any other achievement, it started rough and was somehow as a struggle at the beginning, yet keeping going seems to be the best way. I also appreciate and am thankful for all the fellow bloggers who support and share useful tips and experiences that made this journey a pleasure.

I also thank myself for being candid with my financial situation, for writing about my journey in my blog, and making my finances, savings, expenses, and budgeting a daily, organic, evolving, and pulsating part of my life. I hope I will be able to go ahead like this for some time and keep these positive feelings towards my financial situation.

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