Posted by: alphafemme | July 10, 2009

in which I sound like a spoiled brat

I am no good with money.

I am not in debt, with the exception of my monthly orthodontic payments (I mean, $3,500 is a lot of money to pay all in one lump). And I am not in danger of being in debt. But, I am very bad at saving.

I just finished poring over the last three months of my bank and credit card statements, trying to figure out what on earth I spend so much money on that I never end up being able to keep my spending within the limits of my income. Somehow I always end up dipping into my savings, rather than adding to them.

The main thing is, I spend WAY too much money on food. Way, way too much. Of all shitty things to spend too much money on, food is probably among the shittiest. Obviously, I need food. But what I don’t need is to spend the majority of my food money on eating out. I’m just really, really bad at planning ahead, and so most work days, I end up buying breakfast (ca. $4) AND lunch (ca. $8). I only eat dinner out about once a week (ca. $15), usually with mi’lady on some sort of date, or with friends who are visiting from out of town, or for some special occasion or other (someone’s birthday, special excursion, etc.), or because I get home from work late, don’t have enough to cook with at home, and order take-out. So if you do the math, that’s about $300 a month on food, and that’s not including my grocery budget. THAT IS WAY TOO MUCH MONEY FOR ONE PERSON FOR FOOD. I could probably cut that by about two-thirds if I really committed to 1) cooking every night, with the exception of dates and special occasions, 2) cooking enough so that I have leftovers to bring for lunch on weekdays, and 3) getting up early enough in the morning to have time to make breakfast!

Really, none of that should be too hard. When I move to the Mission next week, which will be a 20 minute commute to work, door-to-door, rather than the current 55-minute commute, I’ll be much more likely to get up for breakfast. And really, all I need for breakfast is a piece of toast and a fried egg — hardly difficult. The hardest part of it all is that I spend approximately half my time at my girlfriend’s house, and so the cooking and bringing leftovers is a bit trickier (though still entirely doable), and she doesn’t like eating breakfast that early, so the breakfast thing will be a bit harder. But… I think I can do it.

Other ways to cut food expenses:
– buy fresh produce from the farmers’ market, but don’t let my eyes be bigger than my fridge! I want to be able to actually use everything I buy
– avoid buying frozen prepared food as much as possible, because that shit’s expensive — almost as expensive as take-out
– plan menus in advance so that I can be more efficient when shopping and cooking. Cilantro, for example, is sold in HUGE bunches and so in order to get my money’s worth on cilantro, I should really plan dinners that use it all week.
– don’t buy coffee and tea! I get really great quality coffee/tea for FREE at work.
– don’t shop at small corner or convenience stores except in dire emergencies, because everything is way more expensive there. Obvs I support local businesses over places like Safeway, but the corner stores will survive even if I only rely on them for my emergency 2-pack of AA batteries ($4.29!!) or pound of butter ($5.29!!!).

Other notes to self:

– try doing LAUNDRY more regularly, rather than just buying new underwear when you run out
– you really don’t need two new pairs of shoes every month

I’m extremely lucky to have an income in the first place that even grants me the privilege of having horrendous spending practices like those above. Trust me, I know that. And mostly it’s that knowledge that’s motivating me to rein in my spending, because honestly, what if I lost my job (there was a huge round of lay-offs in January, which I survived, but would I survive a second round of cuts? debatable)? What if I got hurt or sick and had to live on disability or unemployment? What if something happened to someone in my family and they needed me to help support them? Yeah, I really need to treat my money like the precious commodity it is, rather than like something to just throw around.

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