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13 April 2008 @ 07:32 pm
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: fourtunewatch.com)
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?
(Deleted comment)
Little Red: lc - super funny - letsey_xmylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
You are so awesome. It saddens me that this is probably an image found on the intertubes and not your actual wallet... but if it IS your actual wallet, HOLY CRAP, YOU ARE SO AMAZING.

... either way, I think I might just do that right now. ;)
(Deleted comment)
Little Red: potential - jacksrubberduckmylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
AHAHAHA your icon rules!

And that idea is indeed rad. I need to decorate my wallet with some reminder things, I think!
~mommy monster~: been there done thatmomm2five on April 14th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
ROFLMAO! Man, I need one of those!!!
stexgirl2000stexgirl2000 on April 14th, 2008 02:49 am (UTC)
Sounds like a good plan. I say that in the food department, frozen veggies are good and frozen fruits can go into homemade smoothies. Budget how much you want to spend of food per week. Make a shopping list and the first time you go, note the prices of certain fresh fruits and veggies you may want to buy if you can't get them frozen. Also, make sure you include some pantry items (canned beans, pasta, etc) for those nights at the end of the month when you have to rely on the pantry and frozen veggies.

I'd say keep one credit card as the emergency card and shred the rest. That way you won't be tempted to use them as you pay them off. If you decide once they are paid off that you'd like to have the card again, call the credit card company and tell them that it cracked down the middle and you need a new one.
Little Redmylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
I have historically been pretty good with credit cards. I don't have very much debt, because I try to pay it off every month (and do so about half the time... but pretty much always LATE). I'm going to go cold-turkey until I trust myself with due dates, though, and if I fail at that... then the shredder it is!
relevance on April 14th, 2008 11:32 am (UTC)
If you shred them, make sure you also close the account! Otherwise your identity could be stolen.
-a.frog/gorf.a-froggoddess on April 14th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
These are all great ideas! I hope they work for you!!

Two books: Suze Orman's Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke; and Your Money or Your Life, by... I forget. Both quite excellent (and I'm kind of addicted to money management books).

Little Red: peanuts - reading linusmylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
I started reading "Nice Girls Don't Get Rich," which makes some really interesting social commentaries about the financial education men are given as opposed to women. So interesting! The book itself is somewhere between really useful and really obnoxious, but I'm going to try to read through the rest of it.
-a.frog/gorf.a-froggoddess on April 14th, 2008 03:25 am (UTC)
Oh, that reminds me -- someone recommended one called _Smart Women Finish Rich_ (I think?)... maybe it's good, too? Haven't read it... :)
Little Red: sga - teyla girls only think - lizmylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)
Sounds like it may be the same author. She has a series of "Nice Girls..." books where she talks about how women need to become Smart Women instead of Nice Girls. Hee. I love that you are also addicted to life-improvement books!
A.j.: ironyaj on April 14th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
Also, if you take your dog outside and walk her regularly on concrete, you don't actually NEED to get her nails clipped more than a couple times a year. True fact, concrete = nature's emry board for pets.

And yes, auto pay for your regular bills (read: water, gas, electricity, rent, etc) would be good for you if you forget your due dates.
Little Red: peanuts - warm puppymylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
Some things don't have auto-pay! It SHOCKS me, I tell you. I'm going to write letters of protest.

I walk Tessie on the concrete a lot, but her nails grow freeeeakishly fast. For a while I was clipping them every four days.
A.j.: hugsaj on April 14th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
O.o You have a weird dog, girl. *offers you hummus and veggies* So. How goes?
Little Red: trek - jc float on - daygloparkermylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)
I KNOW. She's a totally odd dog. Since she's part cat, maybe I should get her a scratching post and see if she uses it. ;)

It's a little up and down these days for me! Work is hard, but we had a day-long retreat on Friday so hopefully things will change. I have a job description now! And I ahd to put down 4 of my rats this weekend, which was woe. But I have a new apartment and we have the keys already even though we aren't moving 'til May, and we're going to maybe decorate in an Old Trek theme!
Kim's Watermelon Gunkeenween on April 14th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
wait, is G staying in Portland?
Little Redmylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
Temporarily. She's going to be staying at least 3 months, so we took a 6-month lease on a place that I could afford alone for a few months if need be. But who knows, she may end up staying. We'll see.
a universal sigh: Misc - Sports - green monsternaushika on April 14th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC)
My rat food mix actually contained a lot of human food leftovers from meals. Usually there was just a constant supply of dry rat food in the dishes, but then every day I would supplement with fruits, veggies, bits of meat (oh how the ratties love bones!), whatever. They also reallllyy love dry pasta. Or at least, mine did. *lol* I dunno.

I definitely encourage you to clip coupons. I always thought coupons were mostly dumb, but you can actually save a LOT of money with them. Also related to shopping, look through your store's weekly advertisement flyer BEFORE going to the store. That's how my boyfriend and I plan out our shopping trips: go through the flyer, see what's already on sale, and purposely include that stuff in our shopping list.

You should really pay off your credit cards and then get rid of them, or at least most of them. You mentioned missing lots of due dates, which makes me sad, because you must have insanely high interest rates on those cards by now! I don't know how much you're putting on the cards, but if it's any significant amount, you're losing tons of cash that you don't have to. Think about that every time you whip out a credit card - how much money you're going to pee away through fees and interest rates!

That's just some of my random advice. Take it or leave it, but it's what works for me.
Little Red: peanuts - cure stupiditymylittleredgirl on April 14th, 2008 04:03 am (UTC)
Thankfully my interest rates are fine (or, no worse than everyone else's), because my late payments don't affect my credit score. Apparently, "late payments" are only reported to credit agencies if you're 30 days overdue -- a whole month. I don't think I've done that more than once in my life -- it's a matter of missing the date for me, not missing the payment entirely. So I'm lucky that way, but I still get hit with lots of finance charges (what I call "stupidity taxes").

Still, I'm not allowed to use them again until I learn to pay things on time! *ties own hands*
spacefiendspacefiend on April 14th, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
A couple more good books - anything written by Dave Ramsey, he has a lot of good stuff about money management. It's mostly focused on getting out of debt, but a lot of what he says about debt can also apply to living and saving. He also has a radio show three days a week that my father listens to sometimes. The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach is also good - my dad gave me that one before I graduated, and it's got a lot of good advice.

I try to keep track of all my finances in computer software (emphasis on try, since I usually only manage to update it every few weeks instead of every day or two like I should!). I use a program called Moneydance, which is really good. It helps me to look at one screen and see all my accounts, checking, savings, credit cards, all in one place. I've found it makes it easy to figure out how much I can afford to put into savings at any given time, since I can kind of put in different amounts and see how much it makes my balance drop and I can take into account how many days until I get paid again and that sort of thing.

Best of luck on all the money stuff!
~mommy monster~: bitch pleasemomm2five on April 14th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this - it's all very good info! I am horrible with money, and that's a BIG problem with 5 kids and a one-income home. I try SO hard to be good, and pay everything on time, but inevitably the little incidentals get us.
The comments up there are great, too. I'll explore some of this stuff further!

YBjusthere1971 on April 14th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
All of those you have listed, I follow. The list was actually freaky to see, because I'd never set out to do that myself. It started w/ the lunch thing. My hubby is still a terrible spender during the work day on lunches. I do have to kinda overlook that, because in his job that's the only break time they really get and it helps him to get away. Still it stings a little when they spend $15-20 on lunch every single day. I don't care how rich a person is, that's just wasteful - not to mention bad for your health.

I allow myself twice a month eating out to bond w/ work buddies at work. This works for me. I also take out $20 week, and once that's gone, that's it for the week. This is for miscellaneous spending, aside from lunch. For girls' night out - I have a set amount spending limit. Since it's only once a month, it's not too bad.

To pay bills, I do all of them online. Through my bank I have signed up for online e-bill (everything - electricity, water, CC, mortgage, Security system, cell phones, cable/internet/phones, car payment - all of it). My bank sends me an email when the bills are due, I go in schedule it online and it's paid automatically. I keep an excel spreadsheet, that includes our incoming/outgoing also, just so I have a backup.

Good luck. Do the best you can to stick to your list. If you get sidetracked, shrug it off, and get right back on the wagon.
ornithoptercatornithoptercat on April 15th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
My bank lets me set up online bill paying for, like, everything. Even my rent with no account number. And you can then set up the autopay on them through the bank! Or at least reminder emails. I am sure there is no PNC where you are, but maybe you can find a bank that does that too.

Also, debit card goooood. No annoying check writing, but no spending money you haven't got, either.
surferartchick: SW Han Solosurferartchick on April 15th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
What I used to do before bill pay is this. When you get the bills, write out the check put it in the envelope (take it out of your register) and on the outside write the date it needs to be mailed. Then all you have to do is leave it in a place that is designated for mailing.

Really though bill auto bill pay through your bank is the way to go. I know through VersaCheck you pay bills via email which is nice.

If you don't do a program though it will get confusing! VersaCheck Smart Invoices and Estimates is 10.00 at Office Max and worth it's weight three times over in gold.