Little Red (mylittleredgirl) wrote,
Little Red

Portland on $5 a day.

I'm realizing that I don't have much control over my finances. I think I've had better training than most (I drew up a budget with profit and loss statements for my first lemonade stand when I was in kindergarten - my parents were "investors" because they lent me $5 to buy frozen lemonade and cups), but I still have a lot of bad habits, and I realize them whenever unexpected expenses (like, say, vet bills) pop up. I've been observing ("analyzing" is too strong a word for something I usually do pretty blindly) my spending habits, and I've been brainstorming a list of ways to spend less, save more, and feel like I've got more control over the situation.

I invite you guys to help me brainstorm ideas and add them to my list, or if you're in a similar situation of throwing checks at the wall and hoping they don't bounce, join me in solidarity for changing spending habits!

(image from: my house)
1. Pay Bills on Time: I'm sure this seems obvious to the majority of the human population, but I am terrible at paying bills on time. It's not (usually) for lack of funds, it's just that I seriously can't seem to get a handle on due dates, because the bills seem to come at random times compared to when they're due. I often pay them as soon as I open them... which is sometimes weeks after they arrive. So I've drawn up a calendar for the days of the month when the bills are usually due, and hung it in my craft area where I'm sure to see it! (It's embarrassing how much money I lose on this every month.) Even better, once I move, I'm going to set up auto-pay for as many things as possible so I'm sure not to be late.

(image from:
2. Cool Off Credit Cards: Credit cards make it really hard for me to keep track of how much money I'm spending, but I'm taking a break from mine because I keep missing the freaking due dates. Even with my above calendar plan, it'll be easier for me to make and stick to a spending plan if I don't have crazy high spending limits (seriously, Target gave me an almost nine thousand dollar limit while I was standing in their checkout line), and paying them off to avoid interest payments is a good goal. :)

(source: LA Times online)
3. Set Daily Spending Limits with Cash: I spend a lot of money on food, snacks, and other random expenses throughout the day. Working where I do (downtown, and an hour from home) seems to invite eating out, not to mention lunch meetings, meeting folks at trendy urban coffee houses (trendy urban beverages can easily cost over $4). The plan has always been to bring lunch every day (cheaply made in our slow-cooker, and sometimes from Trader Joe's ready-made salad aisle), but that doesn't always work. My new cash-only plan: I'm going to go to the bank after my next paycheck and take out $150 worth of $5s. I can take one five-dollar bill with me every day, so on May 1st I have only $5 I can spend, on May 2nd I have $5 plus whatever I didn't spend the day before, etc. This $5 daily allowance is meant to cover non-grocery-trip food, entertainment, any random expenditures and, ideally, to save up for fun things and clothes (I also sometimes get bonuses at work, so I'll probably use that money for larger purchases). We'll see! In related thoughts, it might be a good idea to buy pre-paid "gift" shopping cards to the grocery stores we use. I'll have to check with Gira, who does a lot of the shopping, but if we can come up with the money to pay ahead of time, we can be sure we're evenly splitting the bills and be really aware if we go over $50 per week.

(source: my house)
4. Clip Coupons... A Little: I've never been a coupon clipper. I would clip them, stick them in envelopes, then not remember to bring them (we don't even usually use a list for shopping, because we'd forget to bring it)... Costco coupons are the worst, because they send them to you three months in advance. What the hell? How am I supposed to remember that I need to buy HEPA filters between June 4-6? However, in my quest to save nickels and dimes, I'm going to try this idea of buying things that are on sale, provided they're things I would normally buy. I figure I'll budget one TV show per week to sort through the eight thousand coupon catalogs we get every day to see what I could buy that week and put them in my wallet right away. If anyone gets super into it, check out The Grocery Game - a pay service, but they do all the coupon-planning for you. (keenween, has your mom seen this?)

(source: the intertubes)
5. Buy Fewer Perishable Goods: I love fruits and vegetables a lot... but whenever we buy perishable things, at least some part of it... perishes before we use it. It makes more sense for us to get frozen vegetables for cooking and buy Trader Joe's ready-made salads (only enough for the next 2-3 days, so they don't go bad, and at only $3 a pop, not a bad deal) for when we want raw deliciousness.

(source: wiki)
6. Know Your Balance: I'm going to put a link to my online banking site on my browser homepage as a reminder to check my bank balances and monitor charges. I'd like to actually know how broke or not broke I am on a day to day basis.

(source: ehow)
7. Do (Some) Things Yourself: I love having someone else clip my dog's nails, because she gets to hate someone else, but it costs $6 for the nail trim and on top of that I usually buy her a treat to make up for the trauma. Doing it at home may be harder, but it's a (relatively) easy way to save money. Ditto on hemming pants, for purposes of illustration, and steam-cleaning rugs. The Sister and I are going to paint, repair screens and install some stuff in our new apartment on our own... but we are hiring movers, because the apartment is up some rather confusing stairs and we sort of think we might kill ourselves. So use your own discretion in the DIY department, unless you have lots of Strong Male Friends With Trucks. On the topic of saving money related to pets, I make my own rat food from the bulk aisle of WinCo (we call it the "anything less than 50 cents a pound" mix, with certain concessions made for nutrition!), and I shred used paper from the office (real estate offices generate a LOT of unnecessary paper) to mix with CareFresh shavings and lower rat-keeping costs.

8. Learn Patience: This one's really entirely for me. When I decide I'm going to buy something, even if it isn't an impulse buy, I decide and then want it that day. My patience for research and comparison shopping only lasts a few hours, but more importantly, I have a really hard time with waiting for shipping. It will be a good exercise for me to wait a little.

What are your suggestions?

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