Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Live like you mean it

I found out this morning that the head of the studio where I have my photo shoots done for work died yesterday, at the age of 59. Quite a shame - Terry was a really nice guy, and widely respected among the art community in Minneapolis. He will be missed.

It got me to thinking about how much time any one of us actually has left (my dad is convinced he is 'leaving the planet' at 84...), and what you choose to spend your time doing until that day comes. For me, I think that means taking a harder look at my job, and figuring out what it is I really want to be doing. It is making sure to let my friends and family know on a daily basis that they are loved, and that I value having them in my life. And it is being proactive about things in my personal life that cause me stress or unhappiness, and getting them sorted out. No more going through the motions - it's time to be selfish, be bold, and start living again.

What I was going to write about, before I heard this news, was that I was weak over the weekend, and went on a little shopping spree. But the majority of my purchases were in preparation for the dogsledding trip I am going on this weekend - necessities for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Where I was feeling a little guilty before, I now view it as a means to an end (isn't that all earning money really is anyway?). So, while I will continue to be conscious of my frivolous spending behavior, I think if spending supports the enjoyment of life, then what's bad about that?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Happiness under $20

I remember getting a handout in college that listed things that made people happy that were free. I don't know if that was supposed to inspire us as poor college students, or if it was some sort of mental health exercise. But I took it to heart, thinking that there were plenty of things under $10 (let's be realistic, $ is essential to survive) that made me happy at the time.

Now that I'm older (and make a little more money), the same holds true - which is why for my experiment this month, I decided to limit non-essential purchases to under $20 per occasion. Case in point would be what I spent on Wednesday, when I wasn't feeling well and just needed to veg out - $11 for organic milk and 2 boxes of cereal (one good-for-you and one kind of good-for-you), and $4.27 for 2 DVD's out of RedBox (yes, I returned them a day late...). Happiness!

Here are some other things that fall into that category:
- Movie tickets for 2
- Bottle of wine
- Chinese takeout on a Friday night watching 'What Not to Wear'
- A new pair of earrings
- Class at our local Co-op
- 3 pitchers of beer after curling
- Tickets to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
- Book for Book Club (only if it's a good one)
- Couple of games of bowling plus shoe rental
- Dessert and Coffee for 2 at Cafe Latte
- 5-6 drinks on Karaoke night at the Uptown VFW (don't even need that much alcohol - it's the karaoke that makes the night! And yes, their drinks really are that cheap...)

So, I'd challenge you, in this economic cesspool, to redefine what happiness means to you, and how much $ it takes you to achieve it. You might be surprised what you find out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Catch up

Oops - how did a whole week go by without a post? Last week was was fairly uneventful, I guess. Couple of lunches out, that was about it. We went to a curling tournament in northern MN for the weekend, so the end of the week was spent getting things together for the trip. Some were a little frivolous ($40 for car snacks - for 4 people, mind you. And there was some healthy stuff in there...), but others were well worth it ($10 for toe warmers to curl in - my feet get horribly cold on the ice). And the weekend was pretty cheap over all, only bought a few meals and didn't drink a ton.

The piece-de-resistance is that I got double-billed for the hotel room, so I called Orbitz to refund my $, and ended up spending $35 less than I thought it would be. Actually, I made about $20, bec our traveling companions had already paid me for the room. I'll buy them beer the next time we are at the club :)

Overall, still not a lot of unnecessary spending going on. Last night I found a meter on the street downtown, and saved $5 parking to go to dinner (also free). I spent $19.47 (under $20!) downloading Motown songs from iTunes to make a valentine's double-CD for Andy (well worth it to listen to good music, imo). Otherwise, just gas and groceries. And $4 today for some drugs - if it cures my supposed job-induced ulcer, that will be the best $ I've spent all month!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

That's more like it

So, as expected, last week was a bit of an anomaly. But I still think I'm doing well. Recap of the weekend:
  • Friday night - Movie and snacks at the movie because I was running late and didn't get to grab something beforehand ($8.50 for a not-so-soft pretzel and a hot dog? Please...)
  • Saturday - Car wash (free, bec I bought a book of 5 last month), filled up on gas, groceries for dinner. I think that was it. I spent the rest of the day cleaning and putting the Xmas decorations back down in the storage unit. I felt really productive :)
  • Sunday - $0, I think. Only had a few free hours, spent most of the day curling, and we lost both games so the beer was free (that is one of the best rules in curling or any other sport!).
Yesterday I bought lunch on the way to the photo shoot that wouldn't end (hopefully soon), which I ate too fast and made me sick - this morning I had to go buy an assortment of antacids (I really think I have an ulcer, but want to be able to cover indigestion off with the nurse when she accuses me of being a hypochondriac and tells me to go chug some pepto). And I bought soup for lunch today, which I was able to keep down. Small wins.

Overall, I feel like I have kept the unnecessary spending to a minimum. No clothes so far this month (yay!). I do, unfortunately, have to pay for 3 separate vacation-type things in February, due to timing - 1) the bonspiel (curling tournament) that we are going to this weekend in Detroit Lakes; 2) the dogsledding weekend at the end of the month; and 3) plane tix for the Vancouver Olympics next Feb (want to buy them as soon as they go on sale to get a good deal). But I think restricting the clothes shopping and other unnecessary expenses will go a long way towards covering some of the travel stuff. And I have been really good about paying with cash for meals, movie tickets, etc. I've only used my credit card for groceries and gas in the past week and a half. Now I just need to bring my lunch the rest of the week, and I'm halfway there!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Frugal Farce? (End of week 1)

So, I've been pretty good the rest of this week. Wednesday saw only a quick bite at Wendy's on the way to curling. Yesterday, I paid $5 to park at target on Nicollet so I could go to an alumni thing (free), and then parked (free - after 6 parking meter) and met Andy and his brother for some drinks and apps (free - gift card) afterwards at Town Hall Brewery.

Today the only expenses I am envisioning are possibly some groceries for dinner, if I feel like cooking, and I will treat myself to a movie ticket to 'He's Just Not That Into You' (it's the only decent thing playing and Andy is in Rochester tonight) - And no, the movie title has no bearing on our relationship :)

All that being said, I think this was kind of an unusual week to start this experiment. I was at a photo shoot all week, where lunch and snacks are always provided. Having said that, though, I am burning through twice as much gas as usual driving 70 miles a day to Edina and back, so filling up my car tonight probably will probably cancel out this savings. And I am stocked up on most necessities (toiletries, breakfast food, etc), so I haven't had to buy those. But overall, I am proud of myself for resisting the temptation to buy. When opportunities presented themselves, I said no. Times were that I used to pop into Target just to see what was new, or go to the mall to kill a few hours. So, at least I have some willpower in that department :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Frugality continues (aka: Days 2 and 3)

I am spending more, but doing well. My only expenses yesterday were the bottle of wine and chips and salsa that I am taking to wine club this evening (paid with cash, since this is an 'extra'), and two yellow peppers, a box of linguine and a packet of gum for dinner (well, not the gum). I already had the onions and the sausage at home. Today I ended up buying lunch running between cross-town meetings ($5). That's it.

I am currently blogging from a Panera while I wait to go to wine club, and I have resisted the urge to buy something (since I always feel guilty about using the wireless if I am not technically a customer, but screw it) - there will be goodies at wine club in an hour, and I have an apple and a leftover cheeseburger in my bag from lunch (it's amazing how well McDonald's cheeseburgers keep... slight paradox in that I am reading 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' at the Panera, as well...).

Today I also resisted the urge to buy a plane ticket to meet Andy in Arizona a few weekends from now (more of a scheduling thing than anything, but still a win!), or kill the past 2 hours at the mall, since I was avoiding traffic and needed to be on this side of town this evening. I so would have gone window shopping in the past. However, I did not resist the chocolate-coffee frosted brownie offered to me at the photo studio. Oops. At least it was free. That's what I'll tell myself when I step on the scale tomorrow morning...

And my last thought today is that I just read on CNN that doctors explanted a woman's kidney through her vagina. Cool.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Frugality, Day 1

So, the first full day of my experiment was relatively easy. Andy bought all the food for the SuperBowl party we were attending, all I had to bring over were some cooking utensils. I had intended to go grocery shopping today, but never got around to it (which is really a good thing, since I am working off-site all week, and won't need lunches or many dinners - so I didn't really need any food in the first place. Grocery shopping tends to be a habit, I guess).

We spent $20 on bets at the SuperBowl party, of which Andy won $10 for predicting the correct score at halftime, and $50 for a pre-determined bet on the winning team (out of the 12 playoff teams). So, I got my $20 back on the ride home.

Day 1 cost: $0. Feeling somewhat in control of my $: Priceless. I don't pretend to think that it will be this easy every day, but kind of a nice way to ease into it. On an unrelated (but fortuitous) note, I learned tonight that Restaurant Week in the Twin Cities is March 1-6. Hooray for the timing on that one, because I will be eating out every night that week, and breaking my $20 rule for 6 consecutive days :)