The struggle to become a saver

After a few nights of Nyquil, I seem to be back on the right track. I am starting to think my flu like feeling was less about having the flu or a cold and more my body’s response to the high levels of stress I have been dealing with. I find that sometimes it takes getting sick for me to prioritize and take care of myself, in theory I love the idea of daily self care but at times it’s harder to fit it into the schedule.

This morning found me thinking about money, it has been a while since I have talked money here. I have a confession; I think I am a spend-a-holic. On paper I write the most magnificent budgets, they come across as practical yet in practice I struggle. It seems every trip to the grocery store inevitably costs more than I budget and well an extra $50 here and $50 there starts to add up. I will say though that this month I have accomplished one goal and that is very little eating out. When I feel the urge to eat out I ask myself do I really need this. Will that meal make me feel great or is the bigger issue that I just don’t want to cook? If what I really want is to simply avoid cooking, I have been using up my stash of soups and chowders I keep in my freezer. Tasty, good for my waist line and even better for my budget. The results so far are that I have been able to add a little extra to the savings account and I realized that I have not raided my savings account in several months. Baby steps, that’s what it’s all about for me.

A few days ago one of my employees called me up and decided to forget the boundaries that should exist between employer and employee and long story short, she is grappling with serious financial issues. I had no real words of advice other than if need be I would be happy to assist her with a budget.  Another employee just bought a brand new car that truthfully I wonder how she will afford knowing that she is already tight on cash. Yes a car in Maine is mostly a necessity but a brand new car is not a necessity. Hell, as the Spousal Unit and I are learning even relatively new cars require maintenance hence last month’s unexpected $1200+ in car repairs not covered by the limited warranty we still have on our car.

I work with people who deal with financial scarcity day in and day out; almost 20 years ago I dealt with that same scarcity. The type where you are hoping and praying you can keep the lights on until your next check. While I still have a ways to go financially as far as digging out of debt, I have learned to take care of my 4 walls and keep a little cushion so that an unexpected $100 bill is not a crisis. So many times with the clients that I work with it is truly the little things that take an already precarious financial situation and turn it into a full blown crisis. One of my tricks to building a cushion has been rounding off numbers. We have a number of automatic withdrawals such as Vonage, Netflix, etc. Over the past 7 years I started rounding upwards, a $25.52 bills become $30 and so on, by doing this I create a cushion so eventually you create a decent cushion. I am not by nature a saver and grew up with parents who didn’t teach me about money so I am learning as I go along.

I have also realized that not all bargain style shopping is a great deal. Thrift stores are a great source of savings yet if you go all the time and buy items you really don’t need simply because they are cheap, well you are wasting money. I have taken recreational shopping/looking out of my schedule. It seems to be working. I admit I still struggle with my daily visit to Starbucks or other coffee shops though I try not to frequent these places on the weekend when I have the time to make my own drinks at home.

This past weekend found me dreaming of places I would like to visit, it has been a long time since we have been able to travel anywhere as a family. In part because travel especially from Maine is costly (I swear travel was cheaper in Chicago) the other factor in our not traveling is tied directly to finances, at one point there was no money to travel but also bad spending habits have created a situation where travel is difficult. Yet raising my child in Maine, I see that it is necessary that we travel so that my daughter is exposed to many different types of people and cultures. Much like we find the money to do necessary maintenance on our house, I now feel we must find the money to travel at the very least to see friends and family.

I think having goals with my money makes it easier for me to make the sacrifices necessary to be a good steward of what I do have. Anyway excuse the ramble but with the year soon drawing to a close I am thinking about the changes I need to make when it comes to me and my money. What about you? Do you struggle with money management? If so what are you doing about it?

Last night CNN aired a program Black in America 3-Debt and while I only caught about 40 minutes of the show it was um…interesting to say the least. I think as Black people we get so caught on short term financial goals (new pair of Louboutin’s, etc) that at times we miss the long term boat. I mean if your house is about to get foreclosed on, maybe it’s a good time to downsize your entire lifestyle. Anyhoo, that’s a whole other blog post.

PS: While I am saving, I am still a fair distance away from being able to buy a much needed new computer, consider contributing to the BGIM computer beg-a-thon. It is still happening. At this point if I can raise even half the cost of the computer, I may be able to handle the rest myself.  Just a reminder, as always no pressure.

Saving money…let me share

Time to make a public update on my money situation. In the end, Oct was an okay month with my money, but I think I shared that recently. What I want to share is how I have started saving cash at the store, now for some of ya’ll this is kid’s play but you gotta understand for me this is huge. Like many folks I have always poo-pooed the idea of using coupons after all, most of what I see for coupons is stuff I would never buy since we don’t use a great deal of convenience or processed items. Yet recently I have been reading more and more about folks who shop the sales and combined with some coupons end up saving a great deal.

Well times are tough, money is tight and I have a lot of plans in the coming months chiefly some trips to visit family and friends and since I haven’t seen my raise yet and still don’t know exactly what it is going to be, I know I need to reduce my spending.

So last Sunday, I actually took an hour with the sales papers from my local grocery store along with a few coupons and decided rather than making my usual grocery list that I was going to only buy what was on sale, stock up on those items and plan my meals based off what I bought rather than my usual way. Normally I make the meal plan and shop based off what I think we re going to eat.

Well in changing things up I have saved over $120 this past week and stocked up on quite a few items. Now I mentioned this to a few folks and there seemed to be an assumption that I must have a crate load of junk food. No, darling not at all. Examples of things I bought in volume only using the sales would include 5 lbs bags of King Arthur flour that I got for $2.50 a bag. King Arthur is a decent brand and generally pricier than the cheaper stuff, I now have 15 lbs in the cabinet. I also stocked up on sugar, shredded coconut and other baking goodies. I rarely buy chicken breast but the store had a buy one get one free deal on Purdue Split Chicken Breast, so I stocked up on those too.

The only processed items that I stocked up on were Annie’s Mac and Cheese, the girl child will not eat my homemade mac and cheese no matter how much I try to make it look like Annie’s and frankly there are times I don’t feel like cooking. Also the boy will be home soon, and he likes to snack on these as well, so I took advantage of the 3 boxes for $4 sale.

In the end, I spent maybe an hour and a half poring over the sales and creating my list and clipping coupons for toilet paper and paper towels. (I tried to give these up but it created more laundry and sadly juggling family and my outside job, creating more laundry is not an efficient use of my time)

I even took advantage of the new chain drug store opening up and saved a bit there on items I would normally purchase with their $10 off a $20 purchase coupon. At that store I stocked up on laundry soap (el cheapo brand I use for linens since due to skin sensitivity, I can only use 1-2 brands for my clothes) toothpaste, and other related items. The Spousal Unit has been teasing me that I have become one of those women, but I admit I kinda like getting deals especially when its stuff I would buy anyway. Yes, it took time to actually read the flyers and plan but if saving money and switching up things means I can head home for a visit soon its all good.

I admit, I doubt I will ever be the lady getting $200 worth of food for $5, since unless coupons start coming out for fruits, veggies and meat, there are still only limited items that I can use coupons for. However by shopping the sales it seems I may be able to reduce our grocery bill by at least $100 which is a plus since currently it stands at close to $600 which is a tad insane for 3-4 folks.

So I share this with you to say if this not the way you shop, it might be worth looking into, after all what might you do with an extra $100 a month?

Financial failure

Hi there! My name is BGIM and I am addicted to spending money. Yeah, it sounds like I am kidding but lately as I strive to live a simpler life and get a handle on my finances, I am realizing I have a problem. For the life of me I cannot go a day without spending money. Even the days when I plan to spend it’s not uncommon for me to overspend by a good $50 to a $100.

So what am I buying? Um, food…we don’t do a great deal of eating out anymore but I am a sucker for any and all local foods and farmers markets. I average over $100 a week going to the farmers market. Then there is my coffee stops which while I drink cheaper drinks now (no $4 or 5 beverages) the fact is they add up. Despite the fact they are not daily occurences.

Then there is that thrifting habit, now this is a tricky one, having lost a lot of weight my existing wardrobe is a piece meal operation and there are still a lot of things I don’t have and only realize it when I have a meeting or conference to attend. Yet I am starting to feel, it would have been cheaper to devote $400-500 at one time and hit the outlets rather than the constant thrift shop search for clothes since $20 here and $30 here adds up.

The thing is, I am planning a few getaways to visit family and friends who I have not seen in years and now that girl child no longer goes to the insanely overpriced full-time childcare it is realistic that in the next 6 months we can visit family but only if I am not nickeling and diming our cash away.

Just today, I set aside $50 for the week (house filled with food) yet already I have spent half of that and we have a trip to the city planned later this week which will take the remaining $25. Which means either I have to spend no more money all week or go over budget.

So all you frugalistas out there…how do you not spend money? And no not leaving the house is not an option since I do have to go to work this week. I do pack water and today I even brought snacks for girl child in the car yet still spent $7 buying her and I drinks at the evil Starbucks. Somebody? Anybody? Help me! My name is BGIM and I am addicted to spending money and I need an intervention.

Happy Monday!