It is a game I play lately, to see how cheap I can live without hating how I live. Now that I’m freelancing full time, I am far more watchful of my income than I was for the past year and a half when I worked Not Quite Plush, But Reasonably Padded Corporate Job. My budget behavior far more resembles the four years before that when I worked Low-Paying, Uninsured, Small Company Job with Spunk and Freedom. I was not paid much, but I was happy to simply have a job. I also had $7000 in gallbladder surgery debt, a $2200 transmission bill, and about $1200 of dental work to pay off, all of which I was not happy to have. Back then, I actually went back to a store to get a $1.20 refund on something I’d bought because I desperately needed every penny of that dollar and twenty cents.
The nice thing about Not Quite Plush, But Reasonably Padded Corporate Job was that I did not have to watch my money that closely. I paid all my bills and at the end of the month I actually had money left over! To put in savings! Amazing! Suddenly a lot of stress and anxiety faded out of my life, and I realized the nice part about having money is that you don’t have to worry about not having money. Eventually I decided to leave Not Quite Plush, But Reasonably Padded Corporate Job, so now I’m back to watching my income and expenses very, very, closely.
Last month, I recorded every single purchase and every pay check in one budget program and took a good look at where the money is going. My realizations:
- Wow! Cats are really freakin’ expensive, especially when they both have fleas and are due for their annual exams during the same month.
- Most of my excessive spending is on food. Shocking, I know, that the former morbidly obese woman who likes to cope with her chronic headache with sugar would be racking up the grocery bill. It appears to stem from two issues:
- In my effort to be social and stay in contact with friends and work buddies, I go out to lunch about once a week, spending more than I would eating at home. I’ll also buy a coffee if I’m using free wi-fi and Barnes & Noble or Panera. This starts to add up.
- If I’m not feeling well (which is quite often), or I’m tired from working all day, I rationalize getting a Subway sandwich or the pricey sushi at Kroger. I really like rewarding myself with food, but that’s not great for the budget or my weight.
- I thought my gas expenses would be cheaper now that I’m not commuting to the office every day. However, I’ve been going to visit friends in Louisville, running a race in Lexington, and other such traveling, so my gas expenses are about the same as they’ve always been.
- On the positive side, I under-spend in the clothing and leisure categories. I’ll probably have to buy new clothes in winter, but I’ve made do with what I have for summer and fall. As for leisure, I’ve been using the Internet, the library, and Netflix streaming for most of my entertainment, keeping costs low.
- Other good news is that the total electric bill for the shared 3-bedroom apartment is lower than the average total for my old 1-bedroom apartment. I know! I don’t know what’s going on either, except that the new place doesn’t have as many walls exposed to the exterior, plus we’re well shaded. So my electric bill is now less than half what it used to be after I split it with my roommate.
- And of course, I’m saving $300 a month on rent compared to my old place. I’m making up for it by paying bank cash for my health insurance each month though. Oh well! *cough* It sucks to be a sicko.
So, I’m going to try to stop spending so much money on food. However, I think it would be really rude to use free wi-fi without buying a coffee, so I’m not going to stop that. However, I can try to get my friends to eat at cheaper restaurants. Otherwise, I think I live pretty thriftily.