I have been wondering lately if I really qualify anymore to be called frugal.
No, I don't have any credit card (or other) debt.
Yes, I got rid of a bunch of extraneous stuff and downsized majorly in terms of living space and monthly rent costs.
But ... even though I went from paying $660/month in rent to $290/mo ... I'm not really sure where that money has been going each month.
Considering the fact that I am having to chip into my savings, and soon my EF to pay for my school tuition, you would think that there would be NO extraneous spending .. and that I'd be doing my utmost to make my grocery bill as minimal as possible.
But ... that hasn't happened.
For example, the iPhone. I love it. No, I adore it! But ... it is *way* too easy to buy music from the iTunes store, or purchase apps from the App store.
One night I got into this huge spree in iTunes and bought $23 worth of songs. Yes, they were songs that I like a lot, but ... if I would have had a little patience, I could have found most of them on CD's at the library and gotten them for free.
Some of the apps I've purchased, have been really useful. For example I bought one called Pocket Tunes which allows me to connect to my local radio stations. (My car radio is non-functioning. I really missed having local news/weather/traffic.)
But then there's iTreadmill. At first it worked great, but after a couple weeks it started calculating the distance completely wrong. I'd finish up a two-mile run/walk and it would show 5 miles.
And then yesterday I purchased a budget app called Pocket Money. Even though I read on its forums that there was no way to make unused budget amounts "carry forward" to the next month's budget (ala YNAB). And after playing around with it last night, realized that there is no way to add "extra" amounts of income to the budget. So, unless I figure out a fix for this, I just wasted $5.
Then .... there's the groceries. Once a week I go to Walmart and get around $23 - 26 worth of groceries. It is supposed to be for the week. If that was all I bought during the week, I'd be doing really, really well.
But ... then I stop at the deli near the gym and spend $4 - $6 on "breakfast" -- even though I have a canister of oatmeal, Rice Dream, box of brown sugar and butter and Stripples (veggie bacon) at the gym. Sometimes if I'm in a really bratty mood (deciding for whatever reason not to follow NO-S that day) I can spend up to $9 at one shot there.
If I did that once or twice a month, well, not great, but okay. But I've been doing that *at least* once a week, and more than one week, two times in a week.
Still, that wouldn't be so terrible on my budget .... but then there's the stops at 7/11 or the Dollar General. 7/11 is for their egg salad sandwich, and the Dollar General is for their junk food (even though I try to get my weekend junk food at Wal-mart and say thats it.)
Then there's all the spur of the moment spending. Such as buying this ebook on barefoot running which I knew didn't really contain anything new, but I just wanted to read it (it was 9.95). Or, like right now I'm really tempted to buy this extra battery doohicky for my iPhone ($50) so that during Christmas if we're traveling a good distance and I can't get to an outlet to recharge my phone, I have a backup.
My dad has been SO generous with sending me surprise amounts of money - he had told me he was going to only pay for the extra charge on my phone bill due to the iPhone, but every month he's been sending me enough to cover my *entire* bill + a bit more. He tells me to get clothes with the extra money, or go out and do something fun.
The problem is, the extra money is generally going towards paying off my credit card bill each month. Those checks have been what have helped me to stay away from reaching into my EF (until now.)
I feel as though I am still living on the income I had before. That even though my actual living circumstances have changed drastically, my mindset of how much "room" I have to spend each month hasn't really. It's like intellectually I see the fact that I'm having to break into the top part of my EF - and the sick sinking feeling hasn't been enough to wake me up.
Tonight I went to the Dollar General and to 7/11. Between the two places I spent around $18. I walked there, and walked back.
Walking back a young man was coming down the side street. I was more than slightly uncomfortable. He started approaching me and even greeted me. I said good evening to him and hurried on my way before anymore interaction occurred.
But ... as I was going on I started thinking... what if the young man had been about to ask for money for food? I could have honestly told him I didn't have any cash on me ... but to say I didn't have any *money* to help him with ... when in my bags I had $18 worth of junkfood, egg salad sandwich, shampoo/body wash, and a cat toy .. in other words, things I really didn't need ... would be totally dishonest. (maybe a better word would be disingenuous?)
I truly *can't* afford to be spending frivolously like I have been. Not if I want any chance of my savings (EF) to outlast my tuition (and taxes!) Somehow, just knowing I have so much money to draw off of when my spending outgoes my income, has made me not be careful. That was okay when I had enough income to be a *little* frivilous with and still have a good bit left for savings. Not so okay when I don't have much wiggle room at all to be able to put some in savings.
*warning - Religious theme ahead. I understand not everyone has the same viewpoint. Some may even strongly disagree. That's okay, but I am not saying any of this to start a debate on it. Please.
Although I have been feeling kind of hypocritical for a few months, and have really tried to reign myself in a number of times, today in Sabbath School (similar to Sunday School) part of our lesson was on tithing.
I believe in tithing. 100%. The money in my bank accounts, etc. is not mine - it is God's.
However, I have not paid tithe in about 5 years. At least not in the way God really intended. I stopped paying it about the same time I lost faith in the Conference administration. (Our denomination is divided up into regional conferences. Most of Texas is called the Texas conference. There is also part of Texas and New Mexico which is called the Texaco Conference. All the conferences in the US and Canada make up the North American Division. etc., etc.,)
But today, the SS leader said something which really hit me. I had expressed my reasons for not paying tithe. Had said that I had given money to the local church body and to the local schools, etc., but just couldn't stomach the idea of putting money into the hands of some of the people in the higher level administration.
Paraphrasing -- he asked me who's money was it? God's of course. So, if it is God's money, and we are faithful in giving back the 10% portion he asks (as a show of our faith/trust/obedience), then do I think He will make sure it gets used in a good way?
So, this afternoon I took the dogs out for a long walk. During this walk I had a long talk with God. I acknowledged that the real reason I haven't let myself get past my feelings towards the conf. admin. and feel right in tithing really has nothing to do with them, but has to do with a lack of trust on my part.
My fear that if I really take 10% off the top of my already meager paychecks, that I'll have to tap into my EF for more than just tuition and tax bills. That the money will run out before I'm finished.
Then I got to thinking about how I've been spending the money I've been entrusted with. 10% of my monthly income would be roughly $85 - 95 Gross. Net I think would be maybe around $70?
I think I could easily say that I've been spending $70+ month very frivolousy/needlessly. Probably closer to $100 - 120.
So, my choice is to continue to spend 10 - 12% of my gross income each month on things that either add clutter to my life or add unnecessary calories to my body - and ignore the fact that I'm using what I've been entrusted with this way. And probably end up tapping out, or coming close to tapping out all my savings.
Or ... cut way down on the needless spending, and start to give back to God a portion of my income. (Of course then the question is, should that be of Gross or Net? Something I've never been fully satisfied on about the answer.) Doing this *may* help my relationship with God because I'll feel more in tune / in step with His will. And maybe that will help me in other areas of my life / walk which still get me down at times. I may still end up tapping most, or even all of my EF, but ... maybe not.
In a totally unrelated note....
Today we had a Thanksgiving potluck lunch at church. I made my family's traditional corn pudding (aka cornbread casserole). Muy easy and muy delicious. It was a hit. Every bit of it was gone -- and best of all, I had someone ask me for the recipe.
Better yet, the person who asked me for the recipe turned out to be a relative of one of my former students (a real sweetheart of a girl.)
Frugal?? Confession (kind of religious themed, but on a financial note) Long
I have been wondering lately if I really qualify anymore to be called frugal.