No Spend Challenge Gone Wrong

These days everyone is looking to save a buck anyway they can, which is why I was all gung-ho about doing one of the no-spend challenges that are so hot these days. If you do a quick google search you can read up on how millions of folks are committing themselves to only buying the bare necessities as a way to save money.

So 10 days into this challenge, I decided to tally up what I have spent so far….drum-roll please…..I have spent a total of $613.71 for the first 10 days of the month and that includes the one day I only spent $3 on a Misto with mocha at Starbucks. This figure doesn’t take into consideration our bills just groceries and things that I am now using cash for; we have gone a tad off track since the little one needed art supplies and shoes, plus there is my pesky dry cleaning. I have only eaten out 2-3 times so far, so I can’t even say its eating out that got me off track. My original plans were for $200 in groceries and $150 in miscellaneous costs (excluding gas since that is a different line item in the budget)

Now I will say that this figure is better that what we usually would have spent by now which almost certainly would be closer to a thousand bucks but its still not as good as I had hoped for, as evidenced by the fact that yesterday I had to pull out my debit card.

Turns out my plans for a $400 a month grocery bill as a working Mama is fantasy, I use a few too many convenience items such as canned broth….tried to make pizza crust last night and ended up getting a Boboli crust since the one I made was a tad funky at first. Though I did turn it into a second pizza and it was edible.

So while I am still committed to reducing our spending and working towards truly not spending on anything that is not critical (guess one could say that my $20 eye brow wax wasn’t critical, on the other hand unibrows are not attractive) the reality is this shit is much harder than I thought it would be. The only plus is that I have put more in the savings account that I normally do by this time in the month.

By the end of the month, I will post again on how I wrap up this month’s challenge. As for today, I am grappling on whether or not I should spend $1.50 on a tasty cinnamon roll on my way home from my morning meeting…its these damn cravings that get me every time.

Really it’s fun

So last night I was at home chilling with some friends celebrating getting another year older and the conversation turned to the economy. Long story short, everyone at the table is feeling the pinch these days. Gone are the days of spending money without a second thought, instead its all about pinching pennies and getting the most of what few shekels we still have left.

So when I brought up the fact that I planned to go check out my favorite consignment shop which is having its annual blowout sale, I didn’t think anything of it until my girl gave me a crazy look and said “You mean the clothes are used”. Um….yeah, the clothes are used. Granted this particular shop carries a mix of new, used and vintage stuff and is without a doubt my favorite place to shop.

Well it turns out my girl who is getting a fast and dirty lesson in being broke due to a nasty divorce and a soon to be ex-husband who has decided he doesn’t want to do the right thing, has never been to a thrift or consignment shop. In fact she was stunned to realize I rarely buy anything other than undies, socks, shoes, and accessories new. Well since it was my birthday, I was rocking my favorite skirt, a wool mini skirt picked up at Goodwill a few months ago for a mere $6. When I pointed out that my outfit was second-hand she was amazed…amazed enough that after I explained the difference between a thrift and consignment store that she said she would like to go with me soon when I go make the rounds.

Now, I am still a amatuer when it comes to thrifting compared to my Mom and others I know, but since 2007 when my cushy teaching gig went south, I have become a proficient thrifter. Things I have learned, are that the best times to thrift for me personally are when I don’t have any specific thing in mind. After months of searching high and low for a bread machine, I landed one at the local Goodwill for $4 when I wasn’t trying to find one and yes it works.

In my opinion, thrifting is officially in style these days and gone are the days when you need to feel bad about it, shit I can hit the Goodwill and spend $50 and everyone in the house gets something plus a trinket for the house. Now I take that same $50 to the mall and even with the deals that are being had due to the economy, I don’t make out so well.

Truth is thrifting has spoiled me, I rarely want to buy new anymore as evidenced by the fact that during the holidays I got a gift card and went to the mall thinking I would get a new outfit and honestly I didn’t like anything I saw. I am not paying $40 for a sweater that I can get for $5 or $10, sorry but that is crazy and even more crazy now that times are tough.

Look, I know when you grow up poor and you were forced to wear second hand stuff as a kid that you grow up and want nothing to do with used shit, but really unless you are making a lot of money, have some money saved and are doing well…buying new for the sake of buying new is silly. Plus the upside of buying used is that its good for the environment…really, I am not kidding you. I don’t know about you, but I hate the way new shit smells, nice and chemical like and sometimes even gives you a headache. Well that’s because that new sweater is off-gassing and that shit ain’t cool.

Check it out, maybe you wanna help the environment but money is tight, after all organic food costs 2 arms and a legs but you can buy used and buy local and help in your own way. So if you have never ventured down to the thrift store check it out, really its fun.

Simple Living, race and class

I know, the title is goofy as hell, but right now no sooner than I start feeling better my allergies decide to act up, so back to hazy head. Please bear with a sista.

Anyway this is more of a rant and a chance to stop thinking about the election before I start raising my blood pressure. See, I love looking at blogs and sites that talk about simple living. It always touches that Suzy Homemaker side of me when I visit a blog with some cool ass pictures of some homemade treats. Hell, just the other day I was inspired to make some banana-chocolate chip muffins which I must say were very nice. (sorry no pics, them babies is long gone)

However most of these sweet Suzy Homemaker blogs that go on about the joys of cooking from scratch are written by white women. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but I am starting to think that middle class white woman’s view of inexpensive and my Black view of inexpensive are two different things.

In the crafty Mama circles there is a woman who blogs who is well known, now this blogger lives in Maine, probably about 20 mins from me as best as I can tell plus I know someone who knows her (that whole 6 degrees of separation thing). Now this blogger does a wonderful job of making her little life look cosy and affordable but living here in Maine, I can tell you she is full of shit.

See, every store or restaurant she mentions shopping at, us locals know is not cheap. She often writes about what she cooks in fact she posted an amazing recipe for pasta sauce, she got the tomatoes from her CSA (community supported agriculture) and the local farmers market. Well how come my Black ass spent $21 yesterday buying the tomatoes to make this recipe? Yeah, it came out tasty and shit but 6 pounds of tomatoes at $3.60 a pound ain’t cheap. Shit, I could have bought some Classico for $2.29 a jar and been done with it. Since in addition to the tomatoes I had to get garlic and basil. By the time I was done, I could have eaten out and it would have been cheaper. And, there usually aren’t many deals for organic and healthy; but Kelloggs coupons are a dime a dozen.

I see this sort of thing happen a lot online, where folks are seeking a simpler life and often white folks will say make it yourself its cheaper. Now all summer I have been pricing shit out and the fact is I spend more at the farmers market than when I shop at the grocery store. Ultimately its worth the money to me to eat local and organic since I think in the end the benefits outweigh the costs but lets not lie to ourselves its not always cheaper dollar for dollar.

Take bread, I know all these folks that suggest making your own bread. I almost fell for that until I realized that my bread consumption (low) is not worth the cost of a bread machine or the kitchen-aid mixer I need to make bread. Have you seen the price on these items? Sorry, my local Goodwill don’t ever have shit like that lying around… I know I keep hoping to find em.

No, all this ranting is about the fact that in my humble opinion, to live a frugal, simple, healthy eating style life generally requires you already have some resources at hand. I mean if all you got is $30 to feed you and a kid or two for a week, the reality is eating produce from the farmers market or the co-op probably won’t stave off them hunger pangs. On the other hand some lunch-meat sammiches on white bread and ramen noodles while unhealthy as hell, will keep the hunger pangs at bay.

In an online community that I am part of, someone brought up a KFC commercial that is running that speaks of getting a chicken dinner to feed the family for $10. Many of the community participants said that was a rip off and that they could make a fried chicken dinner for under $10. Damn, well my hat off to you because I will admit I stopped frying chicken because it was too time consuming for starters plus when I buy enough chicken to feed my crew it ain’t cheap. Even in my little hamlet here in Maine, barring a sale on the chicken, a fried chicken dinner with some fresh mashed potatoes and handmade biscuits costs me more than $10. So again, dollar wise that KFC deal would in fact be a bargain, but taste wise cooking myself would be better.

Now I know most folks would say, well you buy when stuff is on sale and stock it up in your freezer. What about if you are broke and don’t have extra money to stock up for the future? See, I been there too. Thankfully I do have a spare freezer that is stocked but again having been po, that wasn’t always my reality and for folks on the financial edge that often isn’t their reality either.

Nope, while I think its great to strive for a simpler life where one can home cook meals if that is what they desire, I think its naive to not see the privilege inherent that makes such a lifestyle not available to everyone. Back to the blogger I mentioned earlier, she is a stay at home Mama but her husband has a very lucrative career. Lets just say she is not married to a freelance writer like yours truly.