My negative balance problem

Well, I put on my big girl pants in the waning weeks of May and decided to try not to spend any more than we had earned for the month.  What an experience that has been!  I feel like all I’ve thought about has been money and how badly I’m failing at my goal and how very embarrassing it is to suddenly find myself seemingly unable to live within my means.  I attended a wedding in my old work clothes (had no other options) and I felt…  how did I feel?  I worried that the couple would think I didn’t realize that a wedding was a dress-up occasion and feel personally insulted by my choice of clothing.  I fretted at how very frumpy (also, fat)  I looked in comparison to all the other put-together wedding guests.  I felt like an idiot for not having planned for any wedding-related expenses apart from Mike’s tux rental.  I felt… cheap.  I don’t often feel that way.

I exceeded our earnings by $100, and we had to work pretty hard at limiting it to that.  I’m telling myself that my problem here is that I didn’t give myself enough time to work out how to limit my spending so drastically.  Yeah, I had 1.5 weeks of expenses to make on 1 week’s worth of money.  I’m going to call it a learning experience.  What did I learn that I didn’t already know?  I’m glad you asked!

I learned that my kitchen and laundry rooms, while seemingly full of food, are actually only full of ingredients.  I have tons of spices, baking supplies, cooking and baking equipment, pasta, oil and breadcrumbs.  You cannot eat that stuff without buying other stuff.  This is a good thing:  I think I had suspected that we were hoarding food like my mother tends to do.  Good to know this isn’t a problem around our home.

We consistently eat breakfast and lunch at home.  Therefore we don’t always have stuff laying around that could be made into an impromptu cheap breakfast, like we could with dinner.  Also, I can’t accurately estimate how long an entree we have never made before will last us.  We made a pasta dish last weekend that I thought would get us through one more day and it ended up being dinner for three days and lunch for one.  So I spent money on another entree that we never even cooked.  It wasn’t much money, but there is the principle that as far as my monetary goal was concerned, we wasted that money.

Sometimes I should sit down and think before I run off and do something “because I have to do it today.”   Liam came down with strep throat and was given antibiotics to take.  They messed his tummy up of course.  When I asked his doctor if there was anything she would recommend to mitigate this, she suggested yogurt.  Yeah, thanks, my kid’s intolerant to dairy.  So my first thought was that this was useless info, and then I remembered that if I drive all the way across town, Earth Fare carries coconut-milk yogurt.  It has the bacterial whatever that real yogurt does, so I thought this would be a good thing for me to buy.  I could only make it out there that day, right then.  Mike seemed to consider questioning the wisdom of this logic, but he thought the better of it.  If Liam won’t eat it by itself, I’ll make it into a smoothie and he’ll eat that!  Umm, no.  My son rarely is up for trying new foods, and I think the drugs put a damper on any enthusiasm he might have had for trying something different.  Also, we haven’t made him a smoothie in months.  He forgot he likes them.  He was completely unwilling to try the yogurt either as it was or in a smoothie.  I wasted $20.00 plus gas.  The thing is, if I’d slept on it, I would have predicted this result.  It was not surprising.

The other thing I learned is that you can’t just decide you are not going to buy stuff.  There are lots of things that you’ll need to replace if you run out.  Drugs are one thing.  Toilet paper, razor blades, contact lens solution, gasoline, all are non-negotiables.  The take home message here is that I need to try to figure out how much of that stuff we need (at least the stuff that costs more than $5) and try to buy enough at the beginning of the month to last all month.  I had tried to do that last month, but since it was my first month of trying, I didn’t have an accurate idea of just how much of this stuff we consume.

The next thing I think I will tackle is trying to see if I can buy some of these money-sinks in bulk online to avoid repeatedly shelling out $10-$20 for things we need piecemeal.  I will be checking out soap.com, Amazon and a few other sites.  I want to see if I can get my coffee, razors, and frequently-used OTC stuff online and in bulk.  Hey, e-Bay has saved  us a ton of money on Elecare (Liam’s formula).  If folks are selling that, maybe they’re selling the other things as well.  Well, now that I’ve made some investigation into this, it looks like I can’t buy my coffee in bulk online.  I will just have to wait until it goes on sale in the store to stock up.  Soap.com has prices comparable to stores, so I guess they’re just for people looking for the convenience of not going shopping.  Amazon does have some good deals, but just like when we bought Liam’s Elecare in bulk, you have to have money available to buy in bulk in the first place.  I’m not going to be able to do that this month, but if I’m able, maybe next month.  And since I can’t typically afford to buy things in bulk, I will give no more thought to Costco.  I just don’t have the cash-flow to be able to make that work.

Anyway, that’s where I am right now.  It feels nice to be able to breathe for a little bit, but the fact is I’ll be out of air by the end of the month again if I do nothing different from before.  I need to save money for an upcoming vacation and I need to pay for my Botox treatment.  By the way, I am starting to realize that while the Botox is helping me feel better, it is not saving me any money.

So how do you manage not to run out of month by the end of the money?  Do you shop at Costco or one of those places and is there any secret to saving money doing it?  What do you do about personal-care or healthcare items that you buy repeatedly?

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