I’m one of those people that don’t really notice what the date is. When I’m at work, I read it off the lower right hand corner of the computer screen and absentmindedly transpose it into whatever document I happen to be working on at the time. Holidays and long weekends frequently catch me by surprise. So it was an absolute shock to me when this morning I asked a co-worker what the date was and she replied September the 18th. That’s right, September the 18th. At first I thought she was joking.
I experienced a brief pang of loss for the summer that went by all too quickly, as it always does, and then felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I realized what that date meant to me. To me, it signals the days rolling into the end of September, as it does to everyone, but more than that, it is a harbinger of some costly times ahead.
In just a few days it is my grandmother’s birthday. In less than two weeks it is my boyfriends, with mine following just two days after that, and his parents both in the two weeks following that. My closest friends are all born within three weeks of me and are the types to celebrate everything. And let us not forget Canadian Thanksgiving. Two weeks after that is my brother’s birthday. The next day is Halloween. Two weeks later is my sister’s birthday. And then we get on to Christmas.
I panicked for a moment, but then let out a sigh of relief as I thought to myself, “You know what Mandy, you’ve been doing good this year. You’ve been really cracking down on your spending and you’ve been building up your savings. You’re gonna get through it all just fine!”. And then… I checked my internet banking. No. I have not been doing so fine at all.
It just happened to be my good fortune yesterday that I posted a ‘Getting to Know You Better’ meet & greet type post, and the first responder was Rich from LevelUpStud. I had asked everyone to post a link (preferably of their favourite post) in the comments so I could learn a little more about my readers, and that link brought me once again to his page. Out of curiosity, I visited one of his posts entitled ‘The Purpose of Money (How to Save & Spend to Buy Freedom)’. His use of analogy when explaining spending v saving was quite brilliant. I really recommend to anyone that needs a bit of a kick in the pants with regards to their finances to give it a once over. The basic premise was that debt is the red army and money is the green army, and…. well, you’ll just have to read it.
Anyhow, that one blog post made me pay attention and it discussed finances from a perspective that I could understand and that actually hit home to me. I have over the years become quite a savvy shopper and good at watching my nickels and cents, yet the blunt and effective way he worded his post made me realize that even though I thought I had been doing well, I could be doing better.
So Rich’s blog post, plus the sickening realization that October is almost upon us has me sitting here at home trying to make a plan for my finances, trying to figure out where I can come up with more money, and trying to figure out where I need to tighten up – all without touching my slowly growing savings.
And boy do I need to tighten things up. Even though I rarely go out and rarely make any purchases of note (and I’m usually posting them on here when I do!), think manis and pedis are a waste of time and money (sorry girls), base my meal plan around what’s in season and on sale and only dare to go into the hair salon once a year for my annual overhaul, I still am not doing anywhere near as well as I could be. And I can pinpoint the exact moment that started my downhill progression: Two and a half years ago, I met my boyfriend.
Now, I’m not blaming him in particular for my spending, but things are just straight up more expensive when there are two people eating and not one. Movies are more expensive when there are two and not just one (and we both take turns paying). Sometimes we ‘go dutch’ – but even there, that’s a night out that I otherwise would have spent at home or doing something a little less costly with a friend or family member. He eats differently than I do, and enjoys meat at every meal, whereas if I was cooking for just myself my diet would be borderline vegetarian – which means I now have a freezer stocked full of meat at all times, and my grocery bills have almost tripled. I now purchase beverages other than herbal teas because I know he will be coming over and enjoys a soda or juice. After indulging in his liquor cabinet when we spend weekends out at camp together it is only the right thing to do to pay to restock it on occasion. The tiny splurges and treats I used to make room for in my budget have now been destroying it, because I didn’t consider how much the impact from having another person in my life actually affected my spending and finances.
So what is now on the chopping block? Well, the occasional soft drink or newest aloe vera juice concoction at the corner store I have always enjoyed – gone. That tray of cupcakes at the farmers market every few weeks – gone. I splurge on lunch out with a girlfriend once a payday – gone (for now). Lending friends 5$ and telling them not to worry about it when they need parking change or we’re passing by a vending machine or lotto pool time comes around – well, I hate to say gone, but maybe toned down for now (come on, they all make more money than me and most live in dual+ income homes). And the old trusty standby take-out Chinese for a quick date night out with the man – I hate to say it, because we don’t get out often, but gone (also for now). But honestly, I don’t really do too much frivolous spending outside of those things, pack my lunch 99% of the time, and had already cut out the cable years ago, have my utilities included in my rent, and downgraded my phone plan a year ago, so there really isn’t too much left to cut out.
Which means having to figure out how to increase my income or ‘find’ money over the next few months – since I’m pretty sure my cash calendar from last Christmas is not going to pay off anytime soon, and I’m sure I would have heard already from the work girls when they checked the tickets hours ago if we won the 50 million from last week’s draw.
Well, I’m already working on my bosses to give me extra hours each week. I’ve been keeping up on my meal expenses through work (for travel), so that’s a nice little boon with all of the getting around I do. A quick scan of the calendar tells me that November is a 3 payday month – awesome! My birthday is in October, and based on 36 years and 347 days experience I can safely assume at least a couple of 20s will be falling out of one card from a family member who gave up years ago. I still have my old satellite hardware that needs to be returned for the deposit (it’s 100$!), though returning it requires a trip to the next city over, so hence the delay – unless I can find someone already going that might be so kind as to return it for me. I’ve thankfully done a purge of my home and closets, so have boxes full of old DVD’s that a girl from work wants to buy off of me, and several special occasion dresses and never worn heels and boots that I was planning on posting on one of my local buy and sell groups anyhow.
Insofar as lowering my expenses, there isn’t much I can do with my cost of living, which is fixed, and as I’ve mentioned above, my cell plan is already as low as I can go considering my needs, so the next thing is starting to strategize my shopping so as to hit the best sales, and watching for coupons and rebates for products I actually need. It’s not glamorous, and it’s hard work, but it pays off little by little.
And then when December is just around the corner, I’m going to tally up and see if I can’t put my myriad rewards points to good work. Shoppers Optimum Points, Canadian Tire cash, Airmiles… I’m not sure how I ever got by without them.
So, that is my strategy to get me through the next three months of financial hell.
I know minding my cents here and there may sound beyond frugal and nitpicky, but dollars are made up of cents. Hundreds are made up of dollars. Thousands are made up of hundreds. It all adds up.
Anything you guys and gals may recommend? I’m always up for new ideas and suggestions. Any holes you might see that I do not? Are any of you in the same boat? And if so, what is your plan? I’d love to hear it all!