Resolution Update #2

I got paid today. Since my biggest resolution is to create a budget and stick to it, I logged in to my account and starting paying bills, knowing that after paying everything I’d be broke again for 2 weeks. Now suddenly I’m frozen. I just can’t make any decisions, even though the bills I have to pay are all mapped out for me in an Excel document. I know it’s just a matter of visiting some websites, typing in some numbers, and sucking it up, but when I think about another two weeks with no chance of a social life or a meal I truly salivate over, everything tenses up. Still, this is just me being extremely spoiled. Think about all of those people who neither make enough money to pay bills nor eat at all. Think about all the children going hungry, the families being kicked out of their homes. Think about what it would be like if I suddenly lost my job and was in as much debt as I’m in now. Truly unpleasant, as upposed to just a tad unpleasant. Got to do this. After all, it’s my own damn fault that my CC’s are where they are, and that I’m having cravings for food that I could never actually afford, anyway. What a horrible little brat I am.

Off to delete my paycheck. I’ll check back in later.

A Preliminary Attempt at Making New Year’s Resolution(s)

It’s almost that time again, time to make a list of goals both fantastically unattainable and laughably simple, and attempt to make some or all of them stick. I do this every year, along with about 100 million other Americans. Sometimes my ideas work out, like the year I made it my goal to make a different goal every month and stick to it. That was awesome, actually. I took a month to be more feminine (some of which rubbed off in the long term), among other goals that I know I kept but honestly can’t remember right now. I kept track of those goals in a blog, but sadly I accidentally erased it in a technical mishap at some point last year. So much for the memories.

Along with Compass & Quill, I’m also keeping a blog right now (Twenty by Thirty) about one goal I’ve been slowly and not so effectively working on since last summer – losing weight. I’m always halfheartedly working on losing weight, though, so guess it’s nothing new. I started out needing to lose about 20 lbs, and so far I’ve kept 5 lbs off, though at one point I only had about 8 lbs left to go. Hopefully I’ll be back to that spot soon.

But since weight loss is always on the docket, I’m not making it a proper New Year’s Resolution. So what to choose for my big potentially life-changing list of efforts for the year? Well, there’s the obvious, like:

Rajan the Elephant Swimming

Courtesy of National Geographic Magazine.

1) Learn to Swim. I started swimming lessons back in November, and now I can float on my stomach (easily) and my back (kinda – still need help getting relaxed enough in the position), and I can kick and use my arms. I can swim the entire way across the pool; unfortunately, I’m still not coordinated enough to get my head up to breathe during this process. So I’m going back to my lessons in January, with the goal of being able to swim well by the time I go to my friend’s wedding in Croatia in June.

Tortoise & Hare

2) Start Running 5K Races Again. I’ve run a few 5K races, and a marathon, and lots of training runs leading up to the marathon, of course, but nothing in between. I can still run 2 miles with no problem, which leads me to believe that I can work my way up to 3.1 miles (which is 5K) with just a little effort. If I can get back into running races on a regular basis, it will force me to run at least 3 to 4 miles every day or so. This will not only help me get fit, but will also give me something to be proud of, and that forces me to keep to some sort of schedule. Schedules and lists are good for me, since once on schedule with at least one plan, other plans just sort of pop into place. Telling myself that I’m training for a 5K will put me on some sort of schedule, making it that much easier to pretend I’m a grownup.

Arranged Vegetables Creating a Face

Courtesy of the Indiana Department of Health.

3) Budget Food Expenditures. It’s funny, really, given my affinity for material goods, but I don’t spend that much money on stuff. I don’t own a car (never even thought about being able to afford one, actually), don’t own a house (or plan to any time soon, though that’s on The Man’s resolution list this year, I believe), don’t buy movies or music (unless you count a $8/month Netflix subscription – no discs by mail, only online viewing). In addition, I haven’t bought a stitch of new clothing since September, when I bought a dress that cost $15. Before that, my last major expenditure for clothing was for a t-shirt about a month before, and two pairs of jeans sometime last winter when my last nice pair wore out at the seams. I love dressing well, but haven’t done so in years, much to The Man’s dismay. I just can’t afford it. There is some credit card debt still lingering from tough times when my paycheck was slashed in half for about a year during the last recession, so I try not to buy too many pointless things, in hope that I’ll get out of debt before I die of old age.

That’s not happening quickly enough, however, and after going over my budget yesterday I came to a striking conclusion. There are a few major expenditures that are holding me back, but the biggest problem is the amount of money I’m spending on food. I simply have no control when I’m in the grocery store. I don’t buy soda or chips, and I don’t like candy, so that’s no biggie. I don’t buy freezer goods or crap food like ice cream or snack cakes or boxed cereal. My weak points are wedges of brie, dabs of blue cheese, smoked salmon, imported dried meats from Italy, and decent bottles of wine for pairing. I’ll go out to get groceries and pick up everything I need for two weeks for around $70, then spend another $40 on one night’s nibbles. But no more.  Neither my pocketbook nor my tummy can afford this kind of excess, especially given that both meat and dairy do tremendously awful things to my digestion (though I adore them so!). From now on, I’m on a more reserved bi-weekly budget, with a goal of going underbudget and saving the excess. Also, no ordering take out, getting fast food, or eating bar food. And NO PO-BOYS!!!

I’m going to have to come up with a bi-weekly menu, do some online shopping to find deals, and budget out by the penny. It will be boring, but by the end of the year I anticipate that it will have saved me around $1,800, if not more. I’ve also been looking around for a way to save even more money by eating simply and trying to live on less than $3 a day. Not sure if I’ll put this into action or not, but I’ll let you know.

4) Put Money in my Savings Account. I do this anyway, but it never stays there long, and this year it’s more important. Two friends are getting married, which gives me a bachelorette party and two weddings to attend, both of which require travel out of state (luckily the bachelorette party is in New Orleans, which will be helpful). One of the weddings will require a pretty nice chunk of change, since it’s in Croatia, and I’d like to make the trip a bit of a vacation as well as a social call. If I’m saving money on food and keeping track of every spare penny, I should be able to put a bit of money away for the trips. In addition, I’ll need to make some other changes, like finding cheaper prices for the one prescription medication I take, getting a couples’ deal on my gym membership when The Man joins this month, and riding my bike instead of driving The Man’s car whenever possible, to save on gas money. Since I’ve been paying The Man back since September for the money I borrowed from him to pay for our move to New Orleans, I haven’t been able to put much money away. However, I’ll be done paying him back with my next paycheck, and now I see that with that extra bit per month, as well as the amount I’ll be able to scrape together by making more cuts, I’ll also be able to…

5) Pay Off my Credit Cards. Finally. After which, I plan to have a massive party to celebrate and toss them in a bonfire. After they’re paid off, I am allowed to buy new clothes with my next paycheck. Again, finally. I’ll be 31 by then, and will be thoroughly deserving of new clothes and maybe even the luxury of thinking of perhaps even buying a new (to me) car. That’s still a long way away, though I intend it to be within this next year, and no longer.

Courtesy of Aubrey London. Click through to read a great article on flapper culture of the 1920s.

6) Be Happy and Have Fun. Find ways to enjoy my life, even on a budget. So yeah, I might not have money for new clothes from the mall, but what about building a vintage wardrobe? Maybe I can’t afford to go out on the town, but I can definitely afford to go to trivia nights on Wednesdays with my friends, sip a beer, and enjoy kicking the other team’s butts! And how easy has it been to laugh, smile, and make new friends when I’m singing with a band? Easy peasy. Time with the girls is a given now that my girlfriends have put together a craft night where we all get together to gossip and make things, too. I can even learn to knit or start quilting by hand, which I’ve been interested in for quite some time. All great ways to be happy, have fun, and stay young at heart and strong in mind.

Writer's Block by Tom Gauld

Courtesy of Tom Gauld.

7) Finish Writing at Least One of my Books. I’ve got three mapped out. It’s not like I don’t know what I want to write. What’s the hold up?

8) Create a Schedule & STICK TO IT! I’m awful in that I write lists, make plans, have great intentions, then while my days away, wasting opportunities. I could get so much accomplished if I just stuck to some basic ground rules, like waking up at 6am, going to bed at 12am, taking vitamins, drinking only water, avoiding meat and dairy, running 3 miles a day, going to the gym every day to work out or dance or something, having a set writing/work schedule. These are all very basic ideas! I can do this!

I still have a week to get everything sorted out and planned more properly. I intend to make this stunningly easy on myself. For instance, I spent all last night mapping out an Excel document that explains every expenditure over the coming year, by month, with each month broken into planned and actual expenditures to allow for comparison and improvement at the end of each month. In order to keep myself honest, I’ll post each month’s budget on the fridge so that The Man can act as a referee if necessary.

Also, I suppose in order to get my grocery budget back into some semblance of affordability, I’ll need to create a plan for creating foods to freeze and eat later, like the vegan burritos I used to make that cost less than $1 each and are perfect to microwave for lunch time. Breakfast can be oatmeal and an egg, or yogurt and fruit, and dinner can be soups and salads, or I can mix and match at any point. I’ll need to collect prices on everything first, then get back to you. Maybe I’ll become a coupon shopper – who knows?

I’ve got to get going. There’s a lot to take care of today, starting with doing some writing for my boss, then to the gym, then to do some price checking on prescriptions. Catch you later.

In the mean time, what are your New Year’s Resolutions?