A month ago I decided to stop spending money more-or-less cold turkey. I mean, I still paid my bills and filled up my car with gasoline and went to the grocery store, but the plan was to cut out as much superfluous spending as possible. Overall, I am quite pleased with how I did on this. To recap, I had become very lazy about bringing my lunch to work, making my own dinner, and had dozens of little impulse purchases adding up to a significant chunk of money every month. I was still living within my means, but I was really surprised to do the math and see just where my money was going
In the last month I have not bought any clothes, not even a cheap t-shirt or pair of socks. I have not bought any books, which might actually have been a first for me in many, many years. I did not go to Target to wander and I did not buy any new beauty products to try. I cancelled my monthly car wash “subscription” and also cancelled my monthly massage–both of which I think will stay cancelled. I looked at my cell phone bill and my internet bill and have made steps to reduce the prices on both of those things. I was careful about my grocery shopping and made serious efforts to eat the things in my fridge instead of letting them go bad.
Now, the one area that had been the biggest offender of random purchases was in taking myself out to lunch. I wish I could tell you that I didn’t do that once in the last 4 weeks, but that’s not true. I was a lot more careful, and on the days when I forgot to bring my lunch I opted to get the cheapest sandwich instead of something I would truly enjoy. Not sure if that last part was really necessary, but it made the idea of going out to lunch a lot less desirable, which was kind of the point.
I also wish I could tell you that my bank account has eleventy-million dollars in it now, but, um, that’s not true either. I was able to put some extra funds in my savings account, and pay for some updates for the new house. Moving forward this summer I want to keep some of these changes and I want to be careful not to fall back into old, comfortable habits–especially the ones that involve waltzing myself to lunch five days a week–and I will be more diligent about creating and sticking to a monthly budget to save up for larger ticket items, contribute to my savings account, and generally curb my consumerism. Win-win, right?
So the one positive about both Dutch culture and my grad school poverty has been that the idea of going out to lunch is still very foreign to me. (I mean, right now I work at home, so it would be weird to go out to lunch. But even when I was teaching, I brought my lunch 90% of the time, with the added benefit that going out felt like such a treat, and I got something that I would enjoy.) We’ll see if I can keep that up in post-PhD life.
Taking myself out to lunch is definitely something that came with more disposable income. I don’t mind bringing my own lunch at all, most of my lunch breaks are spent with my nose in a book so really the time I lose in walking to a restaurant, ordering, etc would be more delightful devouring a few more pages. This “buy lunch on the regular!” thing is a habit I fell into unknowingly and would like to shovel myself out of. Baby steps. Taking baby steps.
On Fri, May 29, 2015 at 4:39 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
I get that. Loel and I got into the dangerous habit of grabbing dinner way too often, even though both of us like cooking and what is a meal plan if not another reason to make a list? It took a while to break that habit, too.
Congrats! My savings account is pretty much neglected, so you have my respect.
I hate being responsible. Blergh. But, adulting benefits (cupcakes for dinner) require some kind of adulting responsibility (add to savings account). Lame.
Very nice work, Harriet! 🙂 I am working on creating a budget myself (never had one) and it definitely helps with making more conscious choices and knowing where your money actually goes! 🙂
I agree, I was really surprised at what I was and wasn’t spending money on, it was different than what I had imagined. Yay, spreadsheets!
I spend so much less money AND eat like 1 million times healthier when I bring / pack my own lunch. And I still only manage to do it about 1 in 4 days.
Exactly! I really wish I was better at this whole “lunch” thing. I mean, I eat and read a book and generally have a wonderful lunch hour, but I eat $12 burritos instead of, I don’t know, a $3 salad + veggies from home. Sigh. Adulting is the best/worst.