Friday, January 20, 2012

Spending Diet--Week 2 and 3

This update is overdue.  I know.  But things have been hectic here, to say the least, and I'm absolutely wiped out by the end of the day with no mental energy left for blogging.  I know you've been anticipating an update on our January Spending Diet.

Here's the rundown of costs:

Food-- $52 (week 2), $58 (week 3)
Gas--$46 (week 2), $50 (week 3)
Miscellaneous--$0 (week 2 and 3)

Week 2 Total: $98 

Week 3 Total: $108

For a running total of...$332 (of $450) with one week to go!

What I've Learned...

First, shopping with cash is the way to go.  I will definitely continue that after this month.  I've done it on and off before but always had my debit card in my wallet as a safety net.  I haven't been carrying my debit card for the past few weeks and have realized how much of a difference it makes in my self-control.  I always thought I could be disciplined with a debit card, but it is so much different now that I don't have it to fall back on.  I have found that I think through things more, evaluate and re-evaluate the necessity of that item and how its cost could keep me from buying something else.  When I am looking at something that I maybe didn't plan on buying, or that is more expensive than I had expected, rather than put it directly in the cart I tell myself that if I have money leftover, maybe I will come back for it.  Usually I don't go back, either because I've met my spending limit or I've forgotten about it.

Second, a calculator is a must.  No question. Or a phone app that helps you add up prices as you shop.  I've had to be more diligent about shopping with a calculator to help track my spending in the store, since I am using cash.  I found this great free version of a phone app "Out of Milk".  It lets you make a shopping list, enter prices, and adds the total up as you check items off your shopping list. You can also save the prices to refer to during future shopping trips. It was much less cumbersome than the paper/pen/calculator method, especially with the little guy in tow. And I didn't have to worry about accidentally hitting a button on my calculator and losing the ongoing tally.

Combining or eliminating errands really does save gas.  Before we began, I thought that our fuel costs were going to be the most difficult to cut, but strangely that has been the easiest.  We have just been more focused on driving our hybrid whenever possible, for every commute, every errand, and every family outing.  Errands have been combined much more, and some completely eliminated (since we didn't have the extra cash to spend on frivolous things.)  It has also helped that gas prices have remained fairly steady up to this point.  

And, recipe websites are a great tool.  Food costs have been the hardest to control the further we get into this and as our ingredient selection is being depleted.  Surprisingly, we're not being tempted to eat out.  I don't feel we're eating cheap rice-and-beans type meals.  If anything, we're probably eating better because I'm trying new recipes to utilize our available ingredients.   Recipe websites, such as, have been a great tool because I could plug in an ingredient we have and it will give you a list of recipes that incorporate it.  Especially with fresh produce that spoils quickly (I had a leftover bell pepper from another recipe), this was handy so nothing went to waste and we got the most our of our grocery dollars.

The Plan for the final week...
With one week to go, I know it will be a stretch. 

Our cars both have been pretty low on fuel the past few days--we haven't been filling them back up these past few weeks, just putting in our allotted dollar amounts, which isn't enough to put them anywhere near FULL.  After doing that for so long, they're pretty low.  Time to fill them to relatively full levels.

Our pantry is looking more bare, and our freezer is the emptiest it has been since it was brand new.  We've gone through all but one of our frozen meals and are pretty low on meat and some of our staple ingredients.  We've been grocery shopping weekly, but it has just been to fill in the missing items for recipes which we already have most of the ingredients.  We've also been using those trips to buy fresh produce, milk, bread, protein, and a few snacks.  It is getting more difficult to compile meals using only what we have on hand so we are having to buy more to fill in.  

I am proud of us for doing so well up to this point.  But boy am I ready for this to be over.  I like having choices with my food and the limited budget hasn't allowed for that.  And I want my debit card back.  You have no idea how many times I went to use it for something that wasn't food or fuel, like pet food, and it wasn't there.  One more week.  We can do it.

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