Quantcast Finally Frugal: February 2011

The bumpy road to financial independence. . . .


Monday, February 28, 2011

How to get a pair of designer jeans for $6. . . .

Awhile back (early December, in fact), I took a bunch of clothing to two local consignment stores. Last weekend, I finally had a chance to visit one of the stores to see if anything had sold. As it turns out, I had $90 in sales! I could either choose 40% in cash or 60% in store credit. I was leaning toward the cash until I found a pair of designer jeans that *almost* fit me - luckily they're a brand (Joe's) that stretch and stretch and stretch, based on past experience.

So I bought 'em and only had to hand over $6. Granted, I 'spent' an additional $54 of store credit but that was based on the sale of clothing I hadn't worn in years. So I consider this to be a good deal, especially since the length of these jeans is perfect and being rather petite (5'4") that's a definite plus! And, after two days of wear, they've already stretched out to such a degree that I don't feel like they're too tight in the waist or hips. Begone, muffin top!

I still have to make a visit to the other consignment store; perhaps I'll that next weekend and see what's on the books for me there. . . .

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Frugal fail. . .

Back in November, I wrote about my new commitment to use cash for many purchases. It's been working well for me - I rarely go over my budget and it's been a great way to keep a handle on my 'miscellaneous' purchases. In addition, I know how much I've spent because I can monitor how much is left in my envelope as the end of the month nears.

This month I was reminded of what a great system the cash envelope system really is because I actually failed to get my cash budget at the beginning of February. I went to Target as usual (they have an ATM from which I can get cash without a fee) and stood for five minutes in front of the ATM before asking a nearby employee whether the machine was broken. She confirmed that it was (WHY she didn't mention this to me during the five minutes I was waiting for my money or actually put a sign on the machine is beyond me).

Frustrated, rather than find another no-fee ATM in the area, I used my debit card for my Target purchases and bought my groceries with my debit card as well. Why I didn't get cash back from either of those transactions is a complete mystery to me. I have continued to use my debit card for all of my purchases this month.

Which, unfortunately, means that I have overspent in the 'miscellaneous' category on items that I wanted but didn't necessarily need (wireless mouse for my laptop? Check. New flashdrive for my teaching resources? Check).

The rather expensive lesson here is that I need to keep up with my cash envelope system until such a time that my financial goals are met. That means keeping a list of no-fee ATM's in my purse so if my go-to ATM is broken again I can easily find another source of cash.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Best laid plans. . .

The month of February was shaping up to be a relatively good one, financially. Meaning that I was going to send more of my hard-earned dollars to pay down my student loan and/or my second mortgage.

Then on Friday, I ended up spending over $500 at the vet with a sick cat. After tests and more tests, they still don't know why she was power-vomiting last week. However, after purchasing some really, really expensive food, I think my allergic cat is finally on the mend. Unfortunately, my credit card bill has now expanded to match the frustration I was feeling last week as I cleaned up the floor multiple times.


I know that I did the right thing since my cat is like family. Where's the limit, though? If she were still throwing up (and I don't know yet if we're really out of the woods), I'm sure the veterinarian would have suggested even more expensive tests (an ultrasound was next on the list). I love my cat, but I'm just not sure I'm ready to spend thousands of dollars on tests and treatments that may or may not be helpful.

I've been feeling sorry for myself for several reasons lately, and this last weekend just about sent me over the edge. Then this morning I listened to an incredibly upbeat woman on the Max (yes, I eavesdrop regularly) talking to an acquaintance about how she's been 'clean' (i.e. off drugs) for six months, she has a job, she has a house, she's taking care of a family member, and she's trying to get her child back. And it hit me that even though I'm feeling overworked and underpaid and like I just don't have enough time for fun, my life is fairly cushy. I have four jobs. I can pay all of my bills and then some. I'm healthy. I can afford to pay $500 at the veterinarian because I still have an emergency fund.

Time to stop whining.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Frugal tax filing. . . .

For the first year EVER in my adult life, I haven't yet submitted my tax returns. I'm usually the person who sends in an electronic return on January 31st at midnight (after all of my W2's and associated documentation has arrived in the mail or in my email inbox). I can't WAIT to get my hands on my refund each year!

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that my refund would have been spent on shoes, or clothes, or trinkets, or, yes, more shoes. For the past couple of years, my refund has gone straight to debt repayment. And that's exactly where this year's refund will go, just as soon as I'm able to file!

Although I'm finding nothing about this on the H & R Block website or even anything recent on the IRS website (the last press release was dated January 7), I remember reading that I needed to wait to file, since the tax changes late last year are not yet reflected on certain forms (Schedule A) that I need to complete. So wait I will. While twiddling my thumbs and wondering how much ole Uncle Sam will give back to me this year. Hopefully enough to make a smallish dent in my student loan debt, since I was only able to send $950 in that direction last month.

One day I'll be able to count my tax refund as a nice little gift, to be used for travel or other fun experiences. For now, that money is needed to pay down the 'stupid tax' that I owe to the U.S. Department of Education. . . .

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Frugal wardrobe. . .

As I continue to cast a critical eye over my belongings (how did I get so much STUFF?), I keep coming across these projects that are designed to remind us how little we actually need!

First, I read about the Six Items or Less project, in which participants pledge to choose SIX items of clothing (not including undergarments, outerwear and accessories, of course) from their closets and wear only those items for an entire month. The idea is to emphasize how much we already own versus how much we really need. I'm embarrassed to admit that there are clothes and shoes in each of my three bedroom closets, and I STILL feel as if I don't have anything to wear! I considered joining Six Items or Less, but I really don't feel that I could create a work-appropriate wardrobe out of six items.

Then I saw this: Project 333. In this project, you choose 33 items to be worn over a period of three months. This is more like it! I already use about 20% of what is in my closet, and a project like this could help me to cull the items that are simply taking up space. I did take some clothing to consignment shops in December (ack! It's time to find out if they sold anything!) so I'm making a dent, but I want to try to create a more minimalist wardrobe with quality items that I actually like and will wear.

I'm not sure when I would have the time to go through my closets and find 33 items; I'm thinking in the spring, because I am almost positive that I will try to work less than I am now, even if it slows down my debt repayment. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Finally back. . .

Sheesh! Being sick just about knocked me flat! And, unfortunately, sapped some of the motivation and joie de vivre from my life. I don't know if it's because I'm coming off of an exhausting cold and am not yet feeling 100% again, or if I need to readjust my work life (and debt repayment plans), but I feel as if my debt payments are just a drop in the bucket.

When will I start to see a real difference in my student loan debt? Granted, it's a huge balance (in my own mind, anyway) and it IS going to take awhile, maybe longer than I originally planned. At the beginning of January, my balance was $59,689. After sending about $1,000 to the U.S. government last month, the balance is now just above $59,000. All that interest is killing me!!

Of course, at least I'm making payments, right? I'm not just ignoring the fact that the interest is accruing and digging me deeper in debt, as I did for the ten years after I graduated. You have to start somewhere, I suppose, but perhaps my 'plan' is a little bit too optimistic, given that I need some time to relax, socialize, sleep, and importantly, exercise.

I am hoping to have my gung-ho motivation back by the end of February, if not sooner. Until then, I'm going to keep plugging away and start thinking about how I can rearrange my work schedule(s) so I'm not overwhelmed. . . .

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