Austerity Adventures: June and July 2016

Bwahahaha, Or “Budget? What Budget?”

Budget? What Budget? | Austerity Adventure on Whisper & Howl blog #budget #saving #goals

Happy Fire Monkey Year! Yes, it’s late. The Chinese New Year is during the winter. And no, I don’t know anything about the Chinese astrological system, but I’ll take any explanation (excuse?) for why things are the way they are and this year, my friends, money stuff is hard. Apparently we’re in the year of the Fire Monkey (in Chinese astrology). My acupuncturist, the wonderful Colleen Cole, told me that during fire monkey times, money just flies away. So I’d like to start by placing all blame for my spending last month squarely on the shoulders of the Fire Monkey.

June was fine. I worked way too much and didn’t sew at all. I caught a virus and laid low for a week. I managed to squirrel away some money for my new increased rent and moving expenses. Nothing really important happened. I did a totally okay job with budgeting.

July, though.

It got hot. Fiery, even.

I didn’t even bother with a budget. I just re-prioritized all of my monetary goals and devoted the majority of my savings to Sky House. With all the turmoil in my life, I decided that what I most need is a tranquil oasis of a home. I bought everything I envisioned (on sale! second-hand!)for my new calm island, and I have NO REGRETS. I didn’t use my credit card. I didn’t go overboard with things I didn’t need or that didn’t fit my vision. I scoured craigslist and frequented thrift stores and discount outlets, and I paid all the bills. I am very happy with the results, and not at all ashamed that I threw my savings goal out the window. I needed this.

So, thank you to the Fire Monkey for giving me the nudge in the direction of spending.

Now, I only need to file my back taxes, get a reimbursement from my eye doctor, get some extra babysitting and shop hours, and I’ll be all set to confidently pursue those old goals: building emergency fund to $1000, paying off AYTT and my credit card, and on to the car payment! Oh, and spending a week in Iceland without using the card. Mini-goal. Easy peasey. Oof.

Austerity Adventures: May 2016

In which mistakes caught up to me, and I was not at all austere

This cat is totally judging me. | Adventures in Austerity: May 2016 | Whisper & Howl

This cat is totally judging me.

May, in financial terms, was a bit of a disaster.

I was riding high from April, in which I somehow managed to meet my savings goal, when I got quite a shock: $1000 had disappeared from my bank accounts. That was all $860 of my hard-won Emergency Savings, and $140 from my checking account. Shit, meet fan.

What had happened was: I found a cute little duplex in Durham, where I work, to move into in July. I applied, my application was accepted and I had 36 hours to pay the security deposit. I went to my online banking site and WHAT THE F ALL MY MONEY WAS GONE. How, you may (and I did) ask, could this happen?

Well, Apparently I did not file my state taxes in 2010 (and 2011), and the NC Department of Revenue wanted $1100, and my bank gave it all to them without warning me. Surprise! I may have cried. Fortunately I had about $400 in checks in my wallet so I was okay, and I took a cash advance on my credit card, which is crazy. Several dear friends and family members offered to loan me the money but because of timing, I did the cash advance. I will be paying a stupid interest rate on that for a while, but I got the house! Moral of story: always file your taxes. It’s likely that I will get most of the money back, but that requires some check-writing, faxing and waiting, so…it will be a nice bonus whenever it comes back to me.

On top of this craziness, I failed at keeping to my budget in 3 categories: groceries, restaurant & bar, and clothing. I spent way too much on all of these things. I did try to budget for eating out and getting a few drinks, but one fancy dinner and one night of drinking got a out of control, and hangover afternoons call for delivery. Bad decisions were made, but loads of fun was had. It’s easy for me to go over on groceries. It takes real planning and concentration to stick to my grocery budget, and I lacked both a plan and focus last month. For clothing, there were some things I need for the summer and I got them. Some will be returned, but for the most part they’re things like t-shirts, which need replacing every year, and work clothes such as shorts, sneakers, socks and a modest bathing suit. This will be my uniform as a summer camp manager, and I’m stoked about it. You can read more about my wardrobe soon.

On a brighter note, here are some things I did in May that didn’t suck at all:

  • I went to a magical hostel in the forest of coastal Georgia. It was inexpensive, freeing, fun and healing. The amazing Sarah D. was my traveling companion. We played our harmoniums, bathed in moonlight, slept outside-ish, and got devoured by gadflies.
  • My bestie came to visit for an evening and I got to see lots of old friends who live in NYC. She also gave me a gift/loan that allowed me to refill my Emergency Savings and put some money aside for moving expenses and a washer/dryer. Thanks, T!
  • I took a weekend trip to Richmond, VA to visit some friends who recently bought a gorgeous old house there. I had a chill weekend with some of my absolute favorite humans (and dog) in one of my favorite cities. I was also able to visit my favorite lingerie shop, Fiamour, where I got fitted for and bought new bras. It is amazing to have perfectly fitting bras!

For June, I have lots of plans in place to make it a more financially successful month–although, astrologically speaking, money is a tough spot for me this now, so I’m also trying to roll with the fiscal punches. My goals are to put that final $225 in my Emergency Savings, bringing it up to $1000; stash some cash in general savings for moving expenses and a washer/dryer; and stick to my budget in all categories. I also need to sell my old car.

Meet me back here next month and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Did you file your taxes?! If you skipped a year, you should go back and file them now!

Adventures in Austerity: April 2016

Wherein I did an Okay Job And Also, Lots of Adulting

Austerity Adventure | Saving Money in April 2016 | Whisper & Howl

 

OMG You guys. So much stuff happened last month. So much stuff. All of it good! Some of it, expensive!

  1. I BOUGHT A CAR! After spending $100 on gas in March, I decided it was time to grow some ovaries and buy a car, something fuel-efficient that wasn’t 20+ years old and on its last legs. I got a really good deal on a 2013 Blue Raspberry Honda Fit named Uma and signed the biggest check I’ve ever written! Side win: apparently my credit is fantastic. I had no idea!
  2. I GOT A WINDFALL! This went to my down payment.
  3. I GOT A PROMOTION AND A RAISE! This happened 2 days after I bought Uma, although it must have been decided before. This just felt like the most perfect gift in so many ways, not least being that I can afford my shiny new car (payment) without cutting into my savings goals.
  4. I WENT TO BALTIMORE! Actually, I went to the Pearlstone Retreat Center outside of Baltimore, but I spent just enough time in the city to buy a couple of rings. I buy jewelry every time I travel. I should put it in as a line item in the budget. This one really doesn’t merit the all-caps, but it felt weird to end the formatting at #3.
  5. I FINISHED MY ADVANCED YOGA TEACHER TRAINING! Well, almost. I still have some makeup sessions to do. But I had a lovely little graduation ceremony, and now I have one weekend back every month! This is great since I have to work some weekends for my Big Girl Job, and since I like to make things on my time off. I still have to finish paying for the training, too.

So those are the fun things that happened in April. Here are the less fun things

Lesson #1 –

If at first you don’t succeed…you know the rest. My biggest problem this month was that once I broke the spending seal (first with Uma, then in Baltimore), money streamed out of my wallet. Instead of waiting when I saw something I wanted (sunglasses) or something needed to be replaced but not urgently (like the armband I put my phone in when I run, which is held together by the grace of duct tape), I licked BUY. What I should have done is assessed the urgency of the purchase and added it to next month’s budget. This is a practice that must be undertaken several times a day, and it can be hard. It was easier in March because I was in the habit of denying my fleeting desires. In April it was harder because I had already made purchases I wasn’t planning for.

Lesson #2 – Don’t Adjust the Budget

I spent $500 of my own money on Uma’s down payment, which meant I couldn’t save anything this month. Then I got some money as a gift and instead of putting that into savings, I adjusted my budget to justify buying rings in Baltimore. Then I used the rest of that money to buy sunglasses. THEN I found out I got a raise and adjusted it AGAIN, not thinking that it wouldn’t kick in until my paycheck on April 28th, which I will use for May. Point is, my budget got all screwed up.

Lesson #3 – Don’t Justify

If I need to justify a purchase, I probably shouldn’t make it. Sometimes things call to you, like the rings. I am wearing them all the time. I love jewelry and I like to get it when I’m traveling, and due to the nature of the windfall I received, I considered them a gift. However, things like a replacement arm band for running and sunglasses are just things that I can buy anytime. I didn’t need them and I could have put them off until May. The problem really is that once I start justifying purchases through a careless mental rearranging of budget (“I can afford that now!” or “I’ll just not spend money in this other category!”), shit gets out of control. Again, breaking the seal.

To Conclude…

Like any changes worth making, saving money requires practice and attention. Habits don’t change overnight, and curveballs are thrown all the time. Those sunglasses ended up not fitting so I returned them, which worked out great for my wallet. Cars cost a lot of money. Sometimes you get gifts, or sell paintings. Sometimes the NC Department of Revenue decides you owe them lots of money and you never got any of the notices they say they sent, which would have alerted you to this before your bank decided to send them your entire savings…but that’s a tale for May. See you then.