Total Deprivation Mode: mid-year evaluation

WOOOOOAAAAH WE’RE HALFWAY THERE.

WOOOOAAAAH! 

Okay, sorry that was a bad joke probably only my boyfriend will get.

ANYWAY:

It’s halfway through the year which means it’s time for some painful self evaluation. There was a good bit of this with my last budget post too, mostly just acknowledging how much change has happened and how that’s wrecked my plan. And some of that is circumstantial, some of it is completely on me. I ended that post stating that I need to update the plan because of said change, but that I still want to tighten the belt as much as possible. I didn’t really break things down based on my original list though, so I’ll do that here.

  1. Nix Netflix: I’ve been Netflix free for about 7 months now and, although I sometimes miss it, I’m completely okay. I’ve been using the free Hoopla digital service provided by my local library and diving into the rabbit hole that is YouTube. My proclivity toward binge-watching still surfaces when I’m on YouTube, but not with the same ferocity; I’m more likely to put on some 2-3 hour debate or podcast discussion and watch/listen while I do other small tasks or chores. It can still be a time-suck, but it’s at least a little more intellectually stimulating.
  2. Simplifying my routine: simplifying my beauty routine is easier said than done, because I’ve already done a good bit of simplifying over the years. Like I stated before, I already have my “everyday look” down to mostly basics; I tried simplifying it further, but the thing is I like my current routine. It’s what makes me feel confident when I look in the mirror, and it’s certainly not breaking the bank. I also tried switching some of my toiletries to the store brand, only to find that the name brand I had been using worked much better for me; but hey, at least now I know. Lastly, regarding face masks: I bought large containers of two face masks that I know I like, and haven’t bought any extra, unnecessary skincare products.
  3. No thrift shopping: I’ve completely failed with not thrift shopping since I started my new job, mostly because I really needed more office-appropriate clothes and some things for my desk. But I think my wardrobe is about where I need it to be, and I can go back to putting thrift shopping on hold (at least until I move and need furniture and housewares…).
  4. No new clothes, books, craft supplies, etc.: I’ve been pretty good about not buying books or craft supplies, except for craft supplies to use with the kiddos I work with (but I don’t count that).
  5. No online shopping: Springtime seemed to hit me with some kind of mania-induced online-shopping frenzy… I ended up returning a lot of stuff, but I’m seeing a pattern every time the weather gets warmer…. And again, as stated above, I was in need of an updated work wardrobe. My biggest Achilles heel in this area is the online consignment shop Thredup. It’s just so convenient for an introvert like me who hates crowded shops.
  6. No purchasing alcohol: I’ve definitely dropped the ball on this one; I just really like whiskey, guys. I’ve only purchased it once since starting this plan, and it’ll last me a while, but still.
  7. Pack lunch: this has been difficult just because I’m trying to move, and convenience is king right now. I’m trying to buy more frozen meals to leave in the freezer at work, because that’s at least a little better than getting Wawa or fast food for lunch. My trips to Wawa have decreased significantly though.
  8. Limit going out: I’m kind of a homebody, but eating out is what trips me up because I really like it.
  9. Unfollow/unsubscribe: I’ve actually subscribed to more people on YouTube… but this has led me to spend less time overall on Facebook, which is probably an okay trade-off; I’m spending more time listening to people’s ideas and less time worried about what they have or how they look. Things have been beyond crazy lately, so I haven’t really taken the time to reflect on my social media use or time spent on-line. It’s definitely on my to-do list, but moving and getting a few other things settled have taken precedence. And actually, having real-life things demanding my time keeps me too busy to dwell in online spaces much, so I’m probably not doing too badly in this area.

I definitely did better in June than I did in May, but I also didn’t have car repairs or a wedding to worry about this last month.

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Looking ahead, it’s going to be much harder to re-vamp the budget than I’d anticipated, mainly because I don’t know what my housing expenses will be just yet. For now the main changes I want to add are a little wiggle room for clothes and shoes (because I really need to replace some of my shoes, holy crap they are so busted) and a little extra space for the miscellaneous things that come up, whether that’s getting Applebee’s with friends or purchasing something for my (eventual) new dwelling place. This is still going to require me to really consider how much I actually need something versus just wanting it, but will accommodate some of the big changes that have been happening.

Note to Self: Check the Dollar Store First!

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Guys, I could seriously smack myself right now. How could I be so negligent…?

I recently started a new job doing psychiatric rehabilitation with kids; to grossly oversimplify, I help them with emotional intelligence and building up coping skills as a supplement to individual therapy. I finally have my own desk to decorate and organize, so naturally I went a little bonkers with my spending because I love both decorating and organizing. This being an extra, unplanned expense is not in and of itself a bad thing, considering the income increase that came with the job. Spending some extra money was not my failure; not doing my homework on where I spent my money was my failure!

Going to Staples was my biggest mistake… I don’t know why I even bothered going there… I guess I thought it would be convenient and I’d find everything I needed in one place, but guess what: I didn’t! I only found maybe a third of the items on my list. And don’t even bother with Target if you just need the basics: Target is for the extras, the fun, decorative, cutesy things (soooooo many cutesy things…). Even Walmart kind of let me down… there just weren’t as many options as I was hoping for, although it definitely was the cheapest out of the big-name stores I went to.

But the other day I stopped at the dollar store to pick up some supplies for the therapeutic activities I do with my kiddos. And y’all… I could have died.

There is SO MUCH at the dollar store for SO CHEAP. How could I forget this? And sure, it’s not stellar quality, but the things I was looking for don’t necessarily need to be. Some of the things I found were:

  • Three-ring binders (even ones with the clear outer pockets for putting in pictures)
  • Cute folders, mini file-holders, and pencil cases
  • Craft supplies! So much craft supplies…
  • Small bottles of Mod Podge, perfect for if you only need it for one project
  • Office supplies: scissors, paper clips, push pins, magnets, binder clips, rulers, etc.
  • Organizing bins and containers, including a super cute tiny trinket box I bought
  • Really cute, on-trend party supplies. I’m not kidding when I say I’ll be checking the dollar store when I have a wedding to plan one day…

I could keep going with this list, but really there was a little bit of everything from every category and I was amazed. Household supplies, kitchen supplies, decorations for every event under the sun, toys and games, office and school supplies… you name it.

I found some good things at the local thrift store too, namely a cute turquoise file organizer. Although I don’t recommend thrift stores when you have something really specific in mind (because they are so hit-or-miss), they are a great place to check just to see what deals you can find. There are also usually a lot of binders and unused notebooks and folders whenever I go. And my last resort for the items that just eluded me at every stop… Amazon. Not the cheapest option, but the best option for getting something very specific without blowing your last paycheck.

So, to summarize, when looking for office/school/teaching supplies:

  1. Check the dollar store FIRST for your basics. 
  2. Avoid the big-name stores! Avoid Staples, Office Depot, etc. (unless you have some amazing coupons, I guess).
  3. Check the thrift store if you get a chance; you may find some good deals on new or lightly used supplies.
  4. Next check Walmart or comparable stores for any basics you haven’t found yet.
  5.  Save Target for the cutesy, fun things. Target is a “treat yo’self” kinda store, and it’s dangerous…
  6. Use Amazon.com for those things you just can’t find IRL, for those last few things on your list that have eluded you (for me, it was a desk drawer organizer).

I’m sure a lot of this is just a big “DUH” to anyone who’s already reading blog posts on being frugal, so this is just a reminder to myself: CHECK. THE. DOLLAR. STORE. FIRST.

Total Deprivation Mode: February through April Round-up

I was doing pretty well… but it seems I’ve fallen off my own wagon. And there are some good reasons for that, but I definitely wasn’t keeping the goal in mind some other times. Anyway, let’s break it down:

February:

I actually did way better in February than I thought I would have. Despite being in a play that kept me out and about and eating on-the-go a lot, I spent a little more than $100 less than I did in January, and was overall $50 under my budget! This baffled me at first, but I realized being busy meant I had less idle time to shop or meander around Walmart longer than I need to. I even curbed my food expenses by purchasing microwave dinners ahead of time that I  took to the theatre with me, instead of buying fast-food every night.

My takeaway point from February is this: Keep yourself busy with enriching activities that don’t require spending! Find a hobby that requires very little monetary investment and connects you with other people. Over the entirety of my life, there’s probably been quite a bit of money spent on character shoes, makeup, etc., but year-to-year I spend very little on my theatre hobby, and it’s connected me with a really great group of people. If you need ideas, the local library often has a multitude of different clubs that meet throughout the week, everything from comic book lovers to Spanish conversation hour to bird-watching.

March:

March is where I started to slip, and the reason is really silly: I found the best lipstick ever and maniacally thought it would be a great idea to try to buy it in a bajillion colors. Seriously, this lipstick is great, and maybe I’ll review it later, but it looks very different on the cartridge than it looks when you actually wear it. So I ended up buying a bunch of colors that look terrible on me because the container was pretty… womp womp. I did end up with 3 or 4 that are good colors though, and it lasts all day.

So my springtime makeup mania put me over budget by about $110. Not horrible, but not great. And I still ate food on-the-go way more than I needed to.

But then something amazing happened… I got a new job! I finally landed a position that pays enough for me to support myself and start getting somewhere financially, and it puts me directly on my chosen career path.

April:

The only downside to now having a professional job is realizing how much I look like a total scrub. I hadn’t realized just how beat-up some of my clothes were, and just how few office-appropriate items I had. Just out of necessity, I had to go shopping for work clothes, and ended up spending six freaking hours in the Salvation Army thrift store just to find a few things. And it wasn’t fun; it was straight-up work; I was hunting. I’ve also resorted to some online shopping for work clothes because it’s slightly less exhausting than going to a real store. So… there go two of my rules for this year.

Just in general, I was enjoying the freedom of knowing I had a little extra cash too much and lost sight of my goal. I bought some stuff to decorate my desk (I have my own desk!), ate out a lot, and just wasn’t as careful as I had set out to be at the beginning of this year. That being said, I was just as frugal as I’ve been in the past, but this is supposed to be a challenge, and I didn’t rise to meet it. It’s pretty embarrassing how much over-budget I was… all you need to know is that it was a lot. (Although my tax refund helps to off-set that difference… right?).

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Since May isn’t quite over, I haven’t finished calculating just how much I’ve spent this month, but I know it’s well over my bare-bones budget. I’ve needed to update my wardrobe way more than I anticipated, had a bunch of car repairs to pay for, and various birthdays, weddings, and events that require gifts. Adulthood is expensive. I’m just so grateful to have landed this job when I did, because life just got turned up to 11.

Going forward, I’ll need to adjust the budget I had set at the beginning of the year to better reflect what my needs are currently. I still want to keep everything as low as possible, but things are already pretty different from January, and they’ll continue to change.

Total Deprivation Mode: January Round-Up

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A few weeks ago I posted about Total Deprivation Mode, my plan for this upcoming year to cut down spending as much as possible, as well as trying to change my mindset concerning money and material things. This is by no means an easy task, so to keep myself accountable I’ll be posting updates, probably around the end of each month, to track my progress (or lack thereof).

I’m not off to a terrible start, but I definitely could have done better in January. For this first update, I’m going to make a number list that corresponds with the numbered points outlined in the original post.

  1. I had already canceled Netflix prior to starting this budget, so that’s taken care of. A subscription of sorts I forgot to account for was Ancestry.com… this was the primary thing that put me over my budget. I’m hoping to get all my research done in the next month so I can cancel that one and be free of unnecessary subscriptions.
  2. This is one I could have done better… I’ve already switched many of my cosmetics to E.L.F. to save a few bucks, and switched some toiletries to a cheaper brand, but I haven’t really worked to remove products all together. I haven’t tried ditching eyeliner or the brow pencil yet… I did, however, make it out of Walmart without picking up any new face masks! It was ridiculous how difficult that was.
  3. Despite January being a prime thrifting time when people are cleaning out their closets post-holidays, I managed to not go to the thrift store! I had a planned trip that fell through, but that’s probably for the best.
  4. I did buy one single pair of leggings… and this was because a friend who sells LulaRoe is closing shop and everything is marked waaaaaay down. I’ve been wanting to support her business, but couldn’t afford the prices before now. And I did buy some craft supplies… oops. But, except for a $1 thing of yarn, they were needed to finish a few projects. So, overall not too bad, but I can do better this next month.
  5. There were a few times I found myself scrolling through online shopping platforms, but caught myself and thought, “Why am I here if I know I’m not going to buy anything? That just makes me want things I can’t have.”
  6. I don’t believe I purchased any alcohol this month, so no problems there.
  7. Y’all, Wawa is my achilles heel right now. Oftentimes this is because there is nothing at home that is “packable” for lunch without needing a microwave. I also didn’t buy many groceries, so Wawa made up most of my food budget. This upcoming month, my schedule is going to necessitate that I get food on-the-go more than usual, so I may have to just focus on getting less each time I stop at Wawa.
  8. January has never been the most social month for me, probably because this crap weather makes me want to hibernate, so limiting spending on going out wasn’t an issue.
  9. I’ve already done a good bit of unfollowing and unsubscribing in the last year or so, but I could do more. I definitely was on social media, just scrolling really, more than I actually need to, so that’s something to tackle more intentionally this upcoming month.

Overall, I don’t think I’m off to a terrible start. Getting used to life without Netflix is a hurdle in and of itself, so I’m just going to acknowledge that for the accomplishment that it is. Maybe I’ll pick “unsubscribe and unfollow” to focus on for February. I was about $50 over my super-strict budget for this month, but because I tracked my spending like a crazy person, I was able to identify where that came from (*cough* Ancestry *cough*) and even identify other places I could cut back. So it’s back to the crazy money tracking and lunch packing for me.