Budgetary Restraining Order part 2: The Budget Strikes Back

The potential reward: I always like to lead with the good stuff. After successful completion of all budgetary tasks- I will get to treat myself to a trip to the City of Sin. No, not Toronto silly–Las Vegas, Nevada. The original City of Sin.

The Story So Far: Create a budget that covers the basics and limits the extras. Increase savings and limit nonsensical spending (i.e. the wonderful, delightful and sometimes booze filled extras).  Spend no more than $599/ month or $149.75/week.

What the heck are you saving for: Bigger and better things (retirement, Australia, whatever)

The Deity-forsaken Rules:

  1. Have fun every weekend (at least one night out) and plan fun, no budget/low budget activities for 2 other nights per week (doesn’t count and would be unrealistic if I became a hermit for 30 days)
  2. Host at least 1 dinner party for 6+ people…keeping the budget in mind
  3. Find money. It’s in the home somewhere. Any money found can be used.
  4. Get creative.  The best things in life ARE free. Find them.

Where our poor (literally) heroine left off: after 17 days of frugal living, the restraints of the budget were starting to take their toll in a big way. An unnecessary and completely uneconomical shopping spree was about to take place (whee!), pushing the mental and emotional boundaries of the leading lady (oh. Booo!).

Week #3: We are living in a material world…

Top Reasons People Overspend  (taken in part from here )

  1. VIP psychology: to feel as successful as or more successful than those around us
  2. Just add credit: one credit card is maxed out? Just get 2 more and keep the spending party going. Pay all the bare minimums and avoid the truth for as long as you can. If you don’t track your spending, then you can’t be overspending (this works for diets and calorie counting too)
  3. But I want it now! Aka immediate gratification. From fast food to ‘buy now pay later’ schemes, society provides easy access to buy what you want now and as quickly as possible
  4. Lifestyle maintenance: regardless of income level, once we become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it can be difficult to cut back
  5. ‘Money grows on trees’ syndrome: Spending money as it comes in with the expectation that more will come along anyway
  6. Power spending: Feeling powerful and getting an adrenaline rush from spending. Actually having the money to spend is a moot point. (This Hello Kitty overnight bag makes me feel like a powerful businessman)

    They'll take me seriously now!

  7. What’s your worth?: Spending money to feel valuable and worthy to the world (think shiny new cars & big screen TVs)
  8. Yes-men (and yes-women): Some people have a hard time saying no, even when they can’t afford it. This results from a need to please and a desire to be well liked by all

Reflecting on this list on my way to the mall made me realize that #4 and #5 applied directly to me. Fine, fine. So I didn’t need to go shopping nor did I have to buy anything. Just the fact that I couldn’t and shouldn’t was enough to make it the most desirable thing in the world. (My single girlfriends and I are now going apply this same theory to men by telling them they can’t have us)

After years of spending money on the little things (gum, lotto tickets, the list goes on) and not thinking about it had become just normal daily expenditures. A lifestyle of ease-and-convenience spending hadn’t caught up with me yet but could easily explode if no action was taken (a take-out steak and lobster joint? What a great idea!). At least the financial experts were on my side and recognized it’s hard (so HARD!) to completely change your life in 2 weeks. Sighing, I turn back to my house whilst turning to my own list and immediately lock in on Rule #3: Find money. It’s in the home somewhere. Any money found can be used.

Find the Money

At home I glance at my friend’s wallet on the table but don’t think the experts meant stealing (or did they?…). As I mentioned last week, the financial recovery show Till Debt Do Us Part always encourages the participants to look through and take inventory of what they already have.

Riffling through several decorative boxes I find the following forgotten properly filed away gift cards:

–          $50 gift card to Blue Ruby (my favourite jewellery store)

–          $100 gift card to HBC stores (The Bay, Zellers & Home Outfitters)

–          $30 gift card to Lululemon

–          $20 gift card to Winners & HomeSense

–          $15 Starbucks gift card

–          $10 in stamped Kernels Popcorn cards (14 stamps so enough for 2 free small bags)

–          $130 value: 10 Famous Players movie passes

Total: $355 in gift cards/redeemable items

Wow. Lesson learned: I really need to clean more often. Oh and probably keep better track of free gifts, etc.

As I continue to peruse my own property (I own camping equipment?? What for?), I find many other items I forgot I had (3 spray bottles and 2 refill containers of Windex, 3 bottles of body wash, 3 packages of tooth brushes, 6 packs of floss and enough razors and shaving cream to de-hair Robin Williams) which should further push my need to spend back by a few months.

Week 4: The longest week ever

Food was running low. You can’t eat at Lululemon and trying to live off Starbucks’ coffees and Kernel’s popcorn wasn’t working too well either. Small daily grocery trips and only using what was already in the house definitely reduced unnecessary spending but at this point I was in need of a miracle, a date (anyone??)  or the ability to make a gourmet meal out of cabbage, mustard and san pellegrino…

Feed me, Seymour!

Final Results

After 4 long weeks, 30 long (so, so long) days and endless tallying, calculating, counting, scrimping and saving, reusing, reducing and recycling, the final numbers are as follows:

Week 1: $200.45/$149.75 = Overspent by $50.70 (Whoops!)

Week 2: $194.48/$149.75 = Overspent by $44.73 (Should have used a calculator…)

Week 3: $72.09/$149.75 = Under spent by $77.66 (??? maybe I lost some receipts…)

Week 4: $150.59/$149.75 = Overspent by $0.84

Loss total:  -$18.61 thus NO Las Vegas vacation.

Yikes! According to the strict rules, I could only book a wonderful and exciting Las Vegas vacation if I stayed on or under budget. Failing to stay under $599 for the month, a vacation would not and could not be allowed. It’s important to be strict with yourself and recognize that following the rules is so very important in life…

Ya right. Viva Las Vegas baby!

The view from Ghost Bar @ the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas

Free and fun activities (The ultimate oxymoron):

–          Window shopping: a great way to do research and to determine if an item you see repeatedly is what you really want

–          Girl’s night in: settle in with friends on Wednesday nights and watch the cat fighting bitch-fest that is America’s Next Top Model. Trust me, watching their ridiculous catty dramas is much more fun than creating your own.

–          Clothing Swap (thanks Aline!): the next best thing to shopping. Someone else’s shopping addiction can result in your new going out top.

Yes that’s right. I could only think of a few ideas.  Gimme a break! This was only my first month. If you can think of some free and fun activities, I’d love to hear em: nelleytimes@gmail.com

Photo source:hello kitty overnight bag from www.HelloKitty.com; Las Vegas Sign