Friday, August 5, 2016

5 Ways I've been succeeding and failing at my own spending challenges

In April, my last post, I wrote about my obscene credit card balance and ways I'd been trying to make that ish GO AWAY.  I had pledged that by July or August I'd have the credit card balance down to or close to $0.

And my result--total fail.

I've gotten it down by a little more than $1k, and mostly it's because I didn't anticipate a few things in my plan.

Plan re-cap:
1. Not shopping anymore.  No clothes. No shoes.
2. Bank account consolidation.  Big guy and I weren't understanding what the other was doing and where money was going to pay for what.  It was confusing and we just didn't handle it.  Now all of our accounts (his, hers, and ours) are at one bank and with only a few weeks of this, it's made everything a lot easier.
3. Tracking spending.  Sounds rudimentary, but to force myself to look at statements, copy down what I spent and where (and the anticipation of having to do this later) is really helpful.
4. When I feel the need to buy something, I've been checking to make sure I don't already have an acceptable alternative.  Especially with clothes that I haven't been able to explore in 5 years, I'm finding that there are things that got shoved to back of the closet that are in great condition and I can wear them again.  It helps that I'm Kon-Marie ing my clothes--if it doesn't bring me joy it goes to someone that will find joy in it.
5. I'm doing my damnedest to use all the leftovers.  For all of us.  I found that even if I'm really good at bringing my lunch, there's one guy in our house that was spending lots of money on lunch ($~50 a week).

Some successes:
1 .Consolidating the bank accounts at one institution is still a thing and has been working well.
2. I've also done okay at tracking my expenses, but I've been referring to my statements more than writing things down (I'm not much of a cash person).

1. Not shopping.  Total fail.  Clothes all over the place.
2. Leftovers.  Lots of food waste at our house lately.
3. Take out/ordering in/eating on the fly.

So why the fails?

A bit of an announcement--we're unexpectedly expecting BickerBaby #3.  And since I gave all my larger clothes and maternity clothes away during the spring, I've spent a lot of money buying things that will fit over this large belly.  I've been fortunate that many friends have also been offering their clothes (or my old clothes back), but as we all know, sometimes the things don't fit or aren't your style or aren't existing (T-shirts, I mean you!) when you borrow things from someone else.

Same goes for the Little Lady, in that a lot of her clothes are hand-me-downs, so I've had to fill some gaps for her, too--mainly shorts--and little girls clothes are obscenely expensive.

We also discovered that all of my husband's shorts were literally falling apart, so I bought him a few new pairs and some shirts that didn't have holes/covered his belly. Luckily, Little Man was pretty much all set, but I bought him a new bathing suit (a size too big so he can *hopefully use it again next year, too).

BickerBaby #3 also means I've been dog tired and not feeling well, on top of having the oddest "needs" for certain cuisines.  So meal planning, lunch packing (for me), and creativity with left-overs hasn't been a priority.  Coupled with taking two night classes over the summer, and I'd say we were ordering out for dinner 3 times a week at one point.  The vast majority of spending has gone to take-out/food.

Some good news in all this doldrum:
- I've fallen in with a group of fellow MBA students that is totally keen on book sharing and swapping, so I've saved a few hundred dollars on course materials over the last few months, and will continue to do so in the future.
- My energy and normal appetite have returned, so we've been doing better at cooking/packing/re-using meals.
- I planted a garden, y'all.  And all that awesomeness is finally starting to come to fruition.  Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers (bell and hot), as well as a ton of herbs are being brought into the kitchen daily so it's helped to off-set our grocery bills and will continue to do so even into the fall and winter (canning, freezing, fingers crossed for an extended growing season).
- People have been supremely generous with giving us gently used baby items.  We literally gave away ALL items suitable for a child from infancy-18 months old, including car seats, strollers, carriers, clothes, boppies, etc. and friends and friends of friends have really heeded the call for "stuff" (once they stop laughing at our news).  So far, we've been lucky enough to get two convertible car seats and an infant seat, a boppie, some clothes, and a bunch of random doo-dads to help usher this child into his or her first months of life.  I've also been terrible at writing the thank you notes...

So some new goals for the next few months:
- Start packing lunches and snacks again.  At least 3 days a week, better if I can do 4.
- Stop buying clothes.  I should be good for fall with the maternity stuff and both the Little Lady and Little Man should be good to go for fall.  I'm praying that the grandparents are as generous with the call for clothes as presents at Christmas this year as they were last year.  It was really awesome, and they smartly bought clothes in the next size up so I know they'll be good through the fall this year.
- Can, freeze, dry, pickle, etc. all I can from the garden until it stops producing.  I'm hoping to keep the grocery bills as low as possible for as long as possible.
- Use what I have already in the freezer.  I KNOW there are a bunch of sausages, kale, peas, chicken parts, etc. that are buried in the bottom of our freezer that I really just need to inventory and use.  Again, helping to off-set the grocery bill, which when paired with take-out (which will hopefully be eliminated) is by FAR our largest expense after mortgage and daycare. 
and finally...
- I pledge to cut down on my visits to Dunkin' Donuts.  It's only $12 a week I spend there, but that's almost $50 a month that I would be putting toward this debt that I couldn't otherwise.

Wish me luck, and let me know your pointers for staying on track.  I obviously know what I NEED to do, but help me do it!