Monday, February 6, 2012

Intentional Frugality

Lately--given the whole laptop and car thing--I've been thinking about how I'm saving, spending, and consuming, which is a large part of the journey I've been on since October 2010 when I decided to de-clutter my life, apartment, and closet.

For the most part, that work is done. I have successfully donated, sold, thrown out, or given away almost all of the household items, books, DVDs, CDs, tapes, and clothing I selected for those ends. I still have some pieces left, but by summer 2012 the house will be empty of everything save paper clutter, and then I can take that on.

The next phase of this project is going to be tougher, because what is left is still too much, but I am emotionally connected to it, even though some of it is clutter.

But... money. I am embarking now on a three-month journey to change my eating/shopping/cooking habits, for the better. I love to cook, love to eat, and even enjoy grocery shopping, but I waste money and food along the way. Rather ridiculously, for one fairly small woman.

This week I am starting by creating a shopping/cooking menu for next week, built on the things I already have on hand, using the cookbooks & recipes I already love. I am putting myself on a budget:
  • $50/month for the cat's needs (food, treats, & litter)
  • $160/month for my groceries (excluding eating out and liquor)
  • $50/month for health & beauty stuff (shampoo, vitamins, etc.)
  • In May, I'll revisit these numbers and adjust, based on buying/eating/wasting records I'll keep
  • I'll be closely shopping sales, coupons, and using my 3 regular grocery stores, pharmacy chains, pet chains, and big box stores for comparison
These are still big numbers for one person. My goal is to become a better shopper and a better user of bought goods.

Here's how I shop:
  • of my 3 grocery stores, I buy produce, cheese, and organic meat at one, because the quality is higher; the price is usually comparable, if not lower... but not always
  • I prefer name brands in some items, but buy store-brand in most (milk, dairy, beans, frozen goods)
  • I would prefer organic, but the two foodie organic stores in town are quite a bit more expensive, and more for the cachet than the quality, from what I've seen
  • bulk is great and enables me to buy smaller amounts (pints sized jars, remember), and keep them fresher
  • I go to the store once a week for groceries
  • I go to the store once a month for wine, health/beauty, some pet stuff (canned food I buy 2x monthly, because of storage)
  • I am not a Costco shopper any more: the only thing I miss is the salmon, and I can get that elsewhere for nearly the same price, so bye-bye, Costco
  • Two of my grocery stores and one chain offer the best incentives: I'll be figuring out how to use them more, and the others less
A lot of saving money and being frugal is thinking consciously and long-term about your money. Do I spend a little today--and every day--for a Starbuck's coffee? Or spend a lot later for a used car? Sometimes, in my head, the two don't seem related, the $2 today vs. the $10K next September. But $2 five days a week (at the coffee bar at My U) = $10/week = $150/semester, or $300/year. Ok, not a huge drop in the 10K bucket... but something. And if I can save that $2, where else can I save?

Right now I've got $140/month under review: three monthly costs I could cut. That's $1.4K by next September. Nearly $2K with the coffee savings added. See?

This week: groceries were $37, with an additional $18 for flowers, tissues, and a magazine. I'l be finishing up the pork loin, then cooking chicken with goat cheese, red peppers, and capers, scrambled eggs/omelet, and beef with shallots.

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