20 days in - 2/3 of the way through Essentials Only Month

Monday, July 30, 2012

Well, here we are. Another 10 days of Essentials Only/No Spend Month have passed. I've got to say that it is (surprisingly) flying by, but that's good, right?

Our total spend during these 20 days is now at $139.04, which is just over the 2/3 mark of our $200 total budget. We're doing pretty well in terms of money spent.

The big money-suckers of the last 10 days were gas, groceries, and a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy K-cups (hey, coffee is totally, unquestionably an ESSENTIAL! Plus, I always have BBB coupons floating around). I did have to take a short trip out of town for work, so that took a chunk of my gas: although I will be reimbursed for it, it was still an expense I made up-front, so I'm counting it for now.

For meals, we have done really, really well! I menu-planned the last two weeks and we made an efficient use of things we already had in the pantry, freezer and fridge. It sooooo helps to have all the meals for the week planned out - I love it. It makes life so much easier. I like knowing exactly what I'm going to make for dinner and about how long it will take so I can plan other things around dinner prep, like getting on the treadmill or running errands after work.

Eating out is a sticking point for us, but we ate out as a couple only once - last night - and a friend graciously and unexpectedly picked up the tab, so I guess that didn't count!

I will say that eating cheaply has cost me some precious calories: it's hard to eat well on a tight budget. We haven't had as many fresh fruits and veggies this month, that's for sure. And I much as I LOVE it and it's cheap, pasta - a staple lately - is not good for the waistline, generally speaking. [Side note: I have been tracking my calories in an attempt to lose a little weight since May. Prior to EOM, I had lost 11 pounds in 8 weeks! But I have now gained back 2 of those lost pounds, likely kick-started by our beach vacay over the Fourth of July and certainly not helped by EOM-style eating. Anyway, I'm still truckin' along! I hope to be at my goal weight - which would be a total of 16.5 pounds lost - by the end of September. Slowly but surely!]

Emotionally, it's a little draining. I still feel like Alex and I are doing this for different reasons: I am doing it to use up what we already have, save money, and try to change our spending habits. He is doing is because I am making him (kidding!!) - no, I think he's doing it simply to save money. I accused him of "cheating" one day last week because he picked up fast-food and used his business account, when he could (*should*) have used his EOM cash. But that's just me trying to challenge ourselves a little more! I guess it really doesn't matter, as long as we're both on board the same ship. And we are.

We have $60.96 to last us the next 10 days - can we do it? Well I'm going to go ahead and tell you...no. Not technically, anyway. I am getting a much-needed haircut tomorrow, and that is going to cost around $50. Yes, I could wait until after August 9th to get it done - but that's kind of cheating, right? I mean, I am going to spend the money anyway, and after consulting my calendar and my stylist's availability over the next few weeks, it was a now-or-never move (and for the record, I haven't had a trim since March. March!!!). In an effort to be fully transparent, that $50 expense will not be coming from our EOM cash and will be paid for by a swipe of the ole' debit card.

I am looking forward to EOM's end, don't get me wrong...but I have already sensed a change in how I think about spending, the things I buy, and my habits. I'm excited to see how those changes develop even more over the last 10 days of EOM. Change is a-comin'!

Penny is not losing sleep over Essentials Only Month and our limited budget.

A Golden moment

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A typical Ellie face..."Please throw the toy...please throw the toy...PLEASE throw the toy!!"

Love her.

10 days in - we're 1/3 of the way done!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Soooo...Essentials Only Month is 1/3 of the way through. Our money is almost exactly 1/3 of the way gone. Wow, how is that for being spot-on?

We started July 10 with $200, and we've spent $65.72. So far, we've spent money only on food and entertainment (I will admit I ate lunch out one day and saw a matinee with some girlfriends...). However, I will say that we are in great shape food-wise for the rest of the month and I am optimistic that we'll only need to buy perishable items, like milk, eggs, bread and fruit/veggies from here on out. We have plenty of meat in the freezer, and lots of pantry items like canned veggies, cereal, pasta, etc. I will need to gas up my car soon, but I have been really diligent about not using my car on my lunch break and instead just walking around downtown and getting fresh air. It's been good in more ways than one. 

Alex is doing pretty well with it. He was gone the first few days of EOM for business, and when he travels for business he uses another account, so I joked that he was "living like a king" while I was brown-bagging it and eating Lean Cuisines from our stockpile for dinner. But once he was home, he was thrust into the middle of EOM and I think he was a little scared. He even asked if he could have seconds one night at dinner or if we needed to save the leftovers for dinner another night. Now if that doesn't make you feel like a horrible person....anyway, of course I told him to have seconds and I reiterated that we. are. not. starving. This. is. self-imposed. This. is. a. good. exercise. I'm hoping he gets into it soon, poor guy.

Now I will admit: it hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows for me, either.

Let's talk about the not-so-fun elements of this little experiment:
  • Not shopping is hard. I really thought it would be easy not to shop. I didn't realize what a habit that spending money really was for me: it's sad! I also didn't realize how often I use shopping as entertainment. I always thought of myself as a savvy shopper who can find a good deal. That may be true, but spending money on something you don't need is not a good deal, no matter what. I have tried to combat temptation by immediately deleting all emails that tout a store's sale or includes store coupons (which is 90% of the personal emails I get). I am not visiting some of the blogs that I typically frequent that provide grocery store and drugstore sales and coupon match-ups. I constantly have to remind myself that I don't need to go to this store or that store: I have more than enough toiletries, make-up, clothing, shoes and yes, even groceries. I'm good. 
  • I don't like saying no. Aside from being pulled away from all the ah-mazing end-of-summer clothing sales, the hardest part is saying no. Saying no to friends, to myself, and to my husband. No, I can't go to lunch; no, we can't go to dinner; no, we can't get frozen yogurt. Obviously, I have said yes at times - to a movie and to lunch (which I will probably be kicking myself over in a week or so!). Saying no kinda makes you feel antisocial because you basically can't hang with friends for a month since 99% of social get-togethers involve spending money. But hey - we knew there would be sacrifices.
BUT - there are some things I'm enjoying:
  • I like paying in cash. I like how it feels to pay with a couple of bills and coins, and knowing that money is already out of my bank account - anything left in the bank is literally money in the bank. Cha-ching.
  • Planning out our meals is a great feeling. I have also been more thoughtful about each dish and the night I plan to make it. For instance, if I know I am going to open a package of shredded cheese on Monday for a recipe, I will try to use the rest of it the following night in a different way so we're not wasting anything (I hate letting food spoil! And unfortunately I've done that too much!). There are some items in my pantry that have been there for months, untouched - random ingredients that I have on hand but obviously don't need or I would have used them already (example: a 15-oz. jar of cheese sauce. Why in the heck do I even have this??). I have found some creative ways to use those items and so far, the results have been pretty tasty. Plus, it makes life easier to have all the meals for a week planned (I write them on a chalkboard in our kitchen as a reminder of what's coming up). I know when I leave the house in the morning what we'll be having for dinner, and that makes my job as a wifey that much easier.
  • It makes you think twice - or three times. I am naturally a money-conscious person (just ask Alex!). But this is taking it to another level, and not in a bad way. I am giving myself choices - "If I have X, I can't have Y." Simple reasoning, toddler-style. I think adults often forget that we can't always have it all: just because we can buy it or want to buy it doesn't mean we need it. In the first ten days, I have already conditioned myself into these either-or scenarios: if I eat lunch out today, I can't eat lunch out tomorrow. 
We have 20 days left, which seems like forever in some ways. But I am encouraged by the lessons we're learning so far. I hope to break some of my bad habits that I just learned I have, like recreational shopping, and begin filling my time with things that don't cost money.

Feeling crafty...but it's Essentials Only month!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I was feeling crafty today. And hours on Pinterest over the weekend had pinspired me to make a new wreath for the front door. But these projects cost money, and with it being Essentials Only month, I couldn't justify a run to Michael's or the Hobster Lobster when we really aren't even spending money on food at this point in the month.

To stifle my crafty feeling, I started cleaning out my closet, which is something I've been meaning to do anyway. I tossed aside a couple of items that had tiny stains on them that I was planning to donate. Three of them were solid white: a pair of pants, a shirt, and a t-shirt. Just like that, inspiration struck!

I took the three items, a wire hanger, some ribbon, and a wooden "H" that I had bought for another project but hadn't used, and voila! New late-summer wreath for the front door. BAM. No money + an hour of time = mission accomplished.

"Essentials Only" Month - let's see how this goes!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I was recently inspired by a pin I saw on Pinterest that mentioned a "No Spend Month." The pin linked to this blog, Small Notebook (that I have been loving ever since discovering a few weeks ago! So many useful tips on simplifying life). When I read about No Spend Month, I was intrigued - and a little scared. But I wanted to challenge myself...and my husband. :)

The premise of a No Spend Month is this: designate a month that you want to get back to basics and cut out extra spending. Take a set amount of money - in cash! - out at the beginning of the month. That cash is to be used for all groceries, gas, dining out, entertainment, clothing, and random purchases (hello, Target) that you would normally spend money on in a month. Not included in that cash is the stuff you have to pay monthly (mortgage/rent, car payment, utilities, etc), healthcare bills/prescriptions, gifts for others, and the like. The idea is that you will resist the temptation to whip out your debit or credit card, stick to your cash allotment, and therefore cut out the non-essentials while cleaning out your (no-doubt full) freezer and pantry and eating stuff that is already in your house.

When I mentioned this to Alex a few weeks ago, he was hesitant. "NO spending??" he said. Well, okay, I guess that's a slight misnomer - you do have to spend money to survive, that's just life. So I renamed it "Essentials Only Month" for our household. It gets the point across.

For us, starting this the first of July wasn't ideal, since we'd had our beach vacation planned for over the Fourth, and I really didn't want to eat Ramen for our romantic first anniversary dinner. So we decided it would be a 30-day period, going from July 10 - August 9. And hey, what better way to kick off Year 2 of Marriage? Yeah-yuh, get excited!! Ha. But really, it is a good exercise for us to engage in together as a couple, although Alex still thinks he is going to starve or worse, run out of peanut butter.

The allotment we are going with is $200 for the 30 days. Again, this is for gas, groceries, eating out, entertainment, toiletries, etc. Let's hope the dogs don't run out of food this month, or they are going to be mighty hungry...kidding!

You think I'm crazy, right?

I know it's going to be a challenge. We are already pretty good about our grocery spending: I use coupons for some items we purchase normally, like peanut butter (cough cough, Alex), coffee creamer, bread, frozen veggies, yogurt, and cereal. And I usually fill my car up twice in a month, so there goes $100 right there (Alex's gas is a business expense, so it's kept separate). Where we struggle is going out to expensive dinners with friends and mindless spending, like at Target or TJ Maxx, where I may not spend much at each time, but it adds up.

In addition to the $200, we started the 30 days with my car full of gas, a reasonable amount of fresh groceries, and a deep freeze full of random frozen foods and about half a deer (no joke).

My hope is that at the end of Essentials Only Month, we will have saved the money that we would have normally spent eating out, or on a round of drinks, or on a dress from the clearance rack and be able to put that toward something more important, like tithing or in savings. Plus, my pantry will be rid of all about-to-expire misc. foods that I bought for one reason or another and our freezer will be deer-less.

I'm actually pretty pumped about this. No doubt it will be hard, but it will feel so good to have a little extra at the end of the month that we can put toward something that matters.

One year as Mr. & Mrs.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I cannot believe it's been a year since I walked down the aisle to my groom, wearing the most beautiful dress I will ever own, nervous but excited, my dad by my side and my mom watching me at the front of the church. The look on Alex's face when I was finally close enough to see it was priceless. It was, as they say, a walk to remember.

Our entire wedding day was wonderful: from the minute I woke up, thinking, "I'm getting married today," to the salon where my girls and I got all prettied up, to the limo ride to the church, to finally putting on my dress and veil for my big walk. It's the stuff dreams are made of, and yep, I'd had many a wedding day dream before that day. Someone had told me to take deep breaths and try to remember to live in each moment leading up to the ceremony, because from the time I would leave the bridal room to head to the sanctuary, the day would be in fast-forward. And she was so right. The rest of the day really was in fast-forward, but I tried to still take little snapshots in my head of the moments that were passing quickly. Some of my favorite moments of the day:
  1. Having a very grown-up conversation with my 5-year-old flower girl in the bridal room before we put our dresses on. I can't even remember what we were talking about, but she was so darn cute. 
  2. My dad seeing me in my dress for the first time, and feeling like his little girl in that moment. 
  3. Hearing "Canon in D" begin on the organ, and walk through the church doors. 
  4. Kissing Alex as my husband for the first time, and lifting my hand to his cheek as we kissed.
  5. Hugging and kissing my mom outside the Sanctuary moments after the ceremony - I think she was the first to tell us "Congratulations"
  6. Snapping photos on a bridge downtown, my girls and I with parasols - the pics turned out adorable, and it was so fun!
  7. Waiting in the back hallway behind our ballroom at the Westin, knowing the DJ was about to introduce us and I was about to see the ballroom all decorated - my hard work on display!
  8. Our first dance - Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight" - hearing the words and feeling like every one of them was spot-on. Oh, and being twirled in my ballgown. 
  9. Tasting our cake when we cut it - so yummmmmmy. Buttercream on white cake, a classic. Then there were the chocolate/peanut butter and lemon/raspberry layers too...
  10. Alex's dad's toast, which he began by simply saying "Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton" to a crowd full of cheers. And then he went on to wish us a life full of children, "sooner rather than later" - ha!
  11. Doing the Gator chomp with my dad right before the father/daughter dance. 
  12. The Couple's Dance, where all the married couples dance and the couple that has been married the longest is the last one left - both sets of my grandparents were the last couples dancing, at 59 and 63 years of marriage.
  13.  As I was about to toss the bouquet, my videographer realized my photographer was outta site - she was with the groom and groomsmen snapping some shots outside - so the flower toss song that I had chosen had to play twice. Good thing I liked it!
  14. Leading a conga line around the ballroom (things you think you'll never do...but it was fun). 
  15. Looking around the room and realizing that all of our favorite people were under the same roof, probably for the only time ever. And feeling so loved. 
  16. After the last song ended and we were heading downstairs to make our exit, I was so sad our wedding day was over. But as we were making our way down the stairs, Alex gave me an awesome surprise: he had booked us First Class seats on our flight to Jamaica the next day! Perfect timing, hubs!
  17. Getting into Alex's car to leave the Westin, and waving goodbye to the faces of family and friends all around. 
  18. After our exit, we went to the Westin rooftop for some photos, and that's where we both really started to crash. It had been a long day. The moment we got into the elevator, alone, just the two of us, husband and wife...it was okay that it was all over. It had been a pretty perfect day. 
Here are just a few of my favorite pictures, so wonderfully captured by Olivia Griffin! They really sum up the day perfectly. 

This year that started off with our wedding and reception had been a wonderful one, and full of lessons, too. We have come so far in just 12 months. I love Alex more now than I did on our wedding day, and will love him more tomorrow than I do today. Cheers to our first year, and here's to a lifetime more. I love you, Alex!

Patriotic & proud

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

As I write this, I am sitting on the beach, a cold drink nearby, sand beneath my toes, husband and pups playing in the sun. I am feeling blessed to live in this country and have all that I have. I'm thankful for the freedoms we enjoy, which of course are not free. And I'm thankful for the bright sunshine, ocean breeze, and salty air that do wonders for the soul. Back home, our flag is flying on our front stoop, as it does nearly year-round, displaying our patriotism.

So proud to be an American and loving this Independence Day.

Theme created by SWEET LEMON GREY