Monday, August 31, 2009

I don't need to spend....

I don't need to spend $100 or more on a new coat. The one from last year still fits, and now that I've had it cleaned, it looks new again. I'm going to dig through the vintage button box and add some buttons to give it a little pizazz.
Money saved: $97.65 ($100- dry cleaning bill)

I don't need to spend $200 or more on a new Blythe doll. I love Can Can Cat's lovely blue hair, but an etsy seller has great wigs in exactly the same color. My Junie has almost exactly the same makeup as CCC. And I put the black wig on my Jacinta and whoa she looks fabulous!!
Money saved: $180 ($200- blue wig + shipping)

I don't need to spend $100 or more on new shoes this fall. I bought two pairs last fall, and I have a pair from the previous fall that are still in great shape. I have a pair for dressy work and I have a fancy pair for dressy-dress. I have a pair of snow boots, a pair of running shoes for the gym, and a pair of combat boots for crappy weather.
Money saved: $100

I don't need to spend $300 and more on a new Kate Spade handbag. I fixed my own!
Money saved: $300

I don't need to spend $90 a month on my cell phone. I don't need to be that connected! And I certainly don't *need* to be surfing the net all day. I got a Tracfone for only $25 and need to pay, at minimum, $20 every three months.
Money saved over the next 8 months: $475

I don't need a ton of new clothes. Wise, careful buying and the ability to make minor alterations to clothes I have that are too big is giving me a fabulous wardrobe!

Black pants, turquoise ruffle blouse, pink bra: $60 at JCPenney
Dark denim skinny crop pants, sky blue tshirt, purple tshirt: $40 at Target
Black skirt with flared hem, purple shiny blouse: $50 at Kohl's
Gray pants, purple 3/4 sleeve blouse, blue bra: $52.00 at JCPenney
Undies: $26 at Kohl's

So for a total of about $230, I have a great new wardrobe and I feel fab!

I don't need to spend money on manicures. I can learn to do my own nails.
Money saved: $15 every two weeks

I don't need to spend money on pedicures either. I can do my own and E's foot massages are better than theirs.
Money saved: $30 a month

We can still go out for breakfast on Saturday--we just go to McDonald's instead of the local family restaurant. We don't have to tip, we don't have to wait, and Maggie can bounce around a little rather than being stuck in the booth.
Money saved: $16 a week

I don't need to spend money on buying books. What I can't get at the library I can get for just a few bucks from the used bookstore. Plus, I usually have credit there from trading in old books.
Money saved: variable

I don't need to spend a lot on holiday presents this year. I can make them from my fabulous stash!
Money saved: $200 at least

I don't need to spend a lot on entertaining friends. Potluck is fun, and everyone has something to eat that they will like. I don't have to spend half the evening in the kitchen, either.
Money saved: $40 per bash

Friday, August 28, 2009

Your Money or Your Life

Our society tells us that money is for spending. That we are "worth it". That having the things we want is worth whatever it takes. That "making do" is NOT good at all, you'll never be happy.

While in some cases this can be true, our society does not encourage us to think about how much money we are spending on disposable things.

I always figured that once you paid the bills, the rest of the money was for "fun:--life's little rewards for putting up with the daily grind.

What I had never stopped to think about was that you can REDUCE the daily grind by spending less money on "fun", and even on some things you thought were "necessary".

For example, although I never claimed to NEED a Blackberry, I had one, and paid the whopping monthly fee for it, and figured "hey, I like keeping in touch with my friends". That's still true. I do still love doing that. However, what I never stopped to think about was that, in spending almost $100 a month on it, I was trading "getting together with friends" for "chatting sporadically with friends". It was nice to be able to text on that nice QWERTY keyboard and have all those fun games and things. But I could go out with my friends at least 2-3 times a month for that same money--and I haven't had money to go out with friends in a long time!

I used to think that buying a new handbag was always "worth it" in terms of it making my life easier. A little less frustration in the morning = worth the $$. But I realized that I was trading certain kinds of frustration for others. Some days I want to carry just my wallet and phone, and on those days the big bag seems cumbersom. And other days I have just the wallet and phone and a handful of other stuff and wish I had my big bag. No bag is going to be both small and large and perfect all at the same time. So I decided I'd have several, and just live with that, and know that I would be switching them from time to time. By making this realization, I have saved myself a lot of $$ that I would have spent in purses by now. And it's only been a few months :-)

I was going to buy a new coat too. The one I have was a hand-me-down from a friend and I've had it for 4 years already. I used to get a new coat every year, or every other year, and so compared to that, it seemed perfectly reasonable to invest in a new one this year. But there really isn't anything WRONG with the one I have! It's in good shape, it fits, the lining is fine, the buttons are all still there....so I took it to the cleaners and spent just $2.50 getting it cleaned. When it comes home, I'm going to sew on some fancy new buttons and call it money in the bank.

I am working on making holiday presents from my stash--even with all the stashbusting I've done over the past few years I STILL have enough to make pressies--and I'm hoping to actually reduce the amount of stuff I have. I already have a number of pressies done already!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Baby, a good scarf can hide a multitude of sins

Meet kate. How lame, right? I named my kate spade handbag kate. ::eyeroll::

But I love her. She was a 22nd birthday present from my husband. She's accompanied me through some difficult times in my life, and though it seems grossly materialistic, knowing I have her on my shoulder with her lovely little black tag just gives me a little boost.

I love her perfect little size, her pretty standy-uppy shoulder strap, and of course, her little black tag.

A few years ago, I noticed to my chagrin that kate's handle tab was pulling away from the hardware. I didn't know how to fix it, and I didn't think the leather repair shop would be able to do it, as she's not leather. I put her in my closet with an apology, and kept on with a succession of new purses that I didn't love as much (of course they weren't as expensive either!).

A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was better to have a repaired kate than no kate at all, or a kate who sits in a plastic box in the closet. I took my toughest thread and a sharp needle. I stitched it in as best I could; having to go over the side of the bag towards the inside because the ravelled tab wouldn't hold if I put it just back where it was supposed to go.

And then I dug out a scarf, a pretty colorful pink & red & leopard scarf, in a square size that I could never wear, and wove it through kate's handle hardware. I kind of dig that floaty little burst of color. And since it's rather the fashion to have a scarf tied around your handbag, no one suspects that little amateur repair job, as it is completely covered up.

kate, my friend, I've missed you and I'm so glad you're back!

Total repair cost....FREE!

I am learning to be a grownup.

Seems like the sort of thing that would happen before 31, eh?

I've recently realized that I base most of my decisions on either 1) someone else's decision or 2) completely reactionary impulses.

For example, if I have a decision to make, and I'm not comfortable with it, I will ply it off on someone else in the guise of 'needing advice" and then do whatever they say. Then, I tell myself, if the solution doesn't work, or turns out to be a bad solution, then it's not really *my* fault, it was the other person's decision!

As to the second possibility, I'll decide that I want to embrace, say....green/environmental/hippie ethos. Suddenly, EVERY single decision must be made through the lens of that viewpoint. I can't wear my sleek work pants because hippies like free flowing things. I can't read Stephen King because hippies would not read Stephen King. I need to shop at Whole Foods and pretend to be *very concerned* with the origins of every single grape.

Then one day, I'll realize that certain aspects of the Hippie Ethos just aren't cool with me anymore. I LIKE my sleek work pants (and wearing all free flowing things makes you gain weight! trust me!) Stephen King is FUN to read damn it, and when it comes down to it, I get exhausted trying to make ordinary buying decisions based on some complex theory I don't really understand.

And so my whole life I've ended up bouncing around from place to place on the spectrum, and usually spending a LOT of money to support these philosophies. Thus I've always felt unsettled, like there isn't really a "me" it's just the "philosophy of the month" in human form.

I also tend to abdicate responsibility to keep people's expectations low. Doesn't that sound awful? But it's true! Long ago I realized that, since I'm a pretty capable person, I can achieve a moderate standard with hardly any effort at all. In high school I never quite understood why anyone would actually WANT to take Honors English when you could just take regular English and excel without lifting a finger. Sure I could track my expenses and balance my checkbook but if I just put on my "lalala" act then no one will EXPECT me to, and other people will jump in and take care of it for me.

I don't want to raise my daughter this way!

The Doctor's Office
Unfortunately I find that I do it with her as well; rather than finding a way for her to learn to cope with difficult situations, I simply avoid them and it's easier on both of us. I go to a chiropractor, and at this point in the treatment I'm going 3 times a week. It was getting really hard (and stressful) trying to figure out who would take care of Maggie. My mom had surgery on her feet and while she was still taking care of her while I was at work, I hated asking for an extra 3 hours a week. Mr. Knitty doesn't always get home at a reliable time, and besides, I don't really want to drive in rush hour traffic all the way back across town--I'd like to have dinner with my family!

Doc kept telling me to just bring her, and the secretaries would watch her. I felt like I was burdening them or leaving Maggie open to thousands of unnamed dangers by doing that. Then I realized, should I burden THEM for 20 minutes (when they volunteered for the burdening) or should I burden MYSELF for 2 months of worrying when I could make appointments because I needed to find care? And so I began bringing her. I make the appointments early so that she is in a good mood, and I ask them to close the outer door so she can't run off, and they DO in fact follow her and watch her closely. She runs back a couple of times to see me and make sure I'm still there, and then she runs off.

I feel so incredibly grown up by this. I'm securing my own treatment and care for her without begging a favor from a family member. I'm learning that it's okay to let someone else watch her for a few minutes. And it's okay to speak up and ask about things like leaving the outer door closed so she can't run into the parking lot. AND it's okay to take people at their word; Doc said bring her, I'm paying him the big bucks to twist me like a pretzel, and so darn it I'm taking him up on it. This way I can make my appointments when they're convenient for ME, not Mom or E or Sammy across the street.

The Blackberry
About a year and a half ago, I was a mess. I had tried many ways of keeping my shit together; calendars, date books, a Palm Pilot. Nothing seemed to work. I would write down all my appointments and everything neatly in a calendar and then lose it, or forget it at home. I would forget the Palm Pilot and not charge it and then have to sync it again and lose all the information I had recently entered.

So I figured I'd try getting a Blackberry. Sure, I'd still have to charge it, but because I'd be using it for things OTHER than appointments, like playing games and calling friends, I knew I'd be more likely to actually check it!

And for a while, it worked. My friends had also recently gotten them and so we were texting each other constantly. I'd enter appointments into it and then have it give me an alarm and also put it on my daily agenda. It was good! The only really BAD thing about it was that it cost $90 a month to keep active. Oh, and also, I'd check it 8 bazillion times a day just to see if any of my friends had a new trivial thing to share. People joked about it being my "appendage" and I thought it was cute. It was my lifeline, the way I connected to the world.

One day I realized though, I didn't want to be connected to the world via a little pink box. I wanted to have REAL friends and go out for REAL dinners and play games, like soccer and basketball, that had some REAL benefit to me rather than some lame Tetris clone. I didn't want to feel compelled to check my messages 300 times a day; I wanted to be playing with Maggie and enjoying JUST that moment, rather than figuring out what I was going to do 10 minutes from then.

Plus, I had just kind of counted that $90/month as "money I don't really want to spend but I need it so oh well I'll just forget it". And then I realized, maybe I don't NEED it. Sure it's fun. Sure I feel sorta classy with my little friend dangling from my wrist. But I don't know if I need that badly enough to spend $90 a month. And it was nice being INSTANTLY reachable for a while, but frankly, sometimes I resent it. I resent being constantly on call for everyone's daily drama.

I bought myself a refurbished Tracfone. I was even able to find a pink one. It will call and text. No montly service fee. I can use it as much or as little as I want. And I can end it whenever I want too. I'm not held over a barrel by a stupid contract. I can't wait until it comes and I can cancel this contract. I'll pay the fee! I don't care. It's LESS than 2 more months of service.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


New "skinny" (!) crop pants, indigo, Target: $24.99
New blouse with buttons (!), turquoise, JCP: $19.99
New bra on clearance, Bali, JCP: $10

Finally fitting back into my old size after 3 years.....Priceless!

Those hours on the treadmill and burning off laps in the pool have paid off! I dropped 2 top sizes and 1 pants size. The pants I was wearing had a size 14 tag, but they were really size 16, I haven't been able to wear a "normal" 14 since pre-baby. And I haven't had a top that wasn't either an XXL or a plus size top in the same. This new top is a REGULAR ladies large and the pants are a REGULAR ladies 14. And both suit my new goal of being able to wear actual clothes and not stretchy "forgiving" clothes.

I also bought a pair of nice work pants (I don't think I even had those BEFORE the kid!!). They look fab and I feel like a million bucks.

Total for blouse, pants, crop pants, and bra was just $75 (including the pair of flip flops for Maggie :-) And I had the cash. And after I shopped I went and walked for an hour on the treadmill (nearly 3 miles). GO ME!!!!!