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Posted on Jun 7, 2012 in Dear Diary, Food | 23 comments

Will Spend for Food

Y’know, for someone who is constantly complaining about being broke, I spend a LOT of money on food.

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What can I really say? I love eating out, I like to cook with high-quality ingredients, and, in general, I just love food. So it’s a pretty natural place for all my cash monies to flow to, right? Granted, I’m spending less on food now than I was when I was regularly shoveling $17 worth of Taco Bell’s finest offerings down my gullet, back in my not-so-glory days, but still. With quite a few things in the works that have begun to seriously cripple my spending habits (a stellar vacation, starting classes and needing a new car, just to name a few), I’m trying desperately to tighten my proverbial belt.

Of course, with my history of being a bit of a spendaholic, this is easier said than done. I’ve since eradicated the credit card debt that had shamefully plagued me since graduating from college (w00t!), but I’m still not very good at saving. I mean, sure, I contribute to my 401(k) and I’m not literally living paycheck to paycheck anymore, but my savings account is still rather sad, really. The few dollars I do have in there are probably quite lonely. It’s not that I haven’t tried! I’ve created numerous budgeting spreadsheets, reconfigured my Mint.com account at least a dozen times, and have subjected myself to lectures from my frugal sister. After months of continuing to fail at putting any significant chunk of my paycheck into savings, however, I think that some of the lessons are finally starting to sink in.

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IMG_1400.jpg Grrrrapes!

One of the biggest things that has been saving me money over the past few months has been bringing my lunch to work. Obviously, I’m a huge proponent of this for health and weight loss reasons, since it’s a lot easier to count your calories when you’ve brought your edibles from home. Beyond that, though, I am saving SO much money. The savings come two-fold:

First of all, I was easily spending anywhere from $8 to $12 (or more!) on lunch when I was buying it. On the low-end, maybe I was just picking up a sandwich from the deli downstairs, but if I was getting something from the weighted hot bar, or going across the street to Potbelly’s, Roti, or Au Bon Pain? Double digits, my friends. So, on my worst weeks when I was buying my lunch every single day, that’s at least $50 that was going straight down the drain. $50 a week adds up fast, and before you know it, that’s hundreds and hundreds.

The second way that bringing my lunch helps save me money is that it actually discourages me from eating out for dinner so often. See, I actually am not the biggest fan of your average lunch fare. Sure, I get the occasional craving for a turkey-on-white, but for the most part, I would much prefer to see a repeat of dinner come noontime than have to scarf down a PB&J. I LOVE having dinner leftovers as my lunch the following day. So knowing that I’ll need something to bring for lunch helps ensure I’ll be cooking something delicious for dinner. When it’s time to pack up the leftovers, I just portion them out into the appropriate Tupperware (okay, well, technically it’s Rubbermaid), and then in the morning I just grab a couple of containers out of the fridge, toss ’em in a bag, and voila!

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As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t do very well with trying to follow a specific set of rules. You know, things like “Only eat out once a week!” or “$100 a week on food, and that’s it.” For whatever reason (my brattiness, most likely), I’m just not very good at sticking to ’em. So I just try to set myself up for success as much as possible by being proactive: I don’t wait until I’m hungry to go to the store, because by the time I do, the likelihood of me caving and purchasing 3 boxes of Velveeta Shells & Cheese is like, 450% higher. Instead, I go grocery shopping on my way home from work. I cook more than one or two people could (should?) eat, so that I know I’ll have plenty of leftovers to last through lunch.

I’ve been doing really, really well with bringing my lunch almost every day for the past couple of months, and I can already tell the difference. The burden of my credit card bill each month is just that much lighter, you know? Hopefully, this new(ish)found initiative to budget, save, and finally start moving forward with my sort-of-grown-up-maybe life will stick. I like the feeling of having money in my savings account, after all. It makes me feel much more prepared for the inevitable zombie apocalypse that is right around the corner the future. I’m sure I still need to work on being a smarter grocery shopper, because I’m probably leaking all sorts of unnecessary money when it comes to that, but progress is progress, right?

What are your tips for curbing your food spending?

PS: Episode 3 of the Reach the Beach video is up! Check it out:

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Posted on Oct 25, 2011 in Dear Diary | 53 comments

The Worst Four Letter Word

I have what one might call an indulgent personality.

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Er, to say the least.

While we already know where that particular personality trait (flaw?) has landed me when it comes to the food side of things (does 246 lbs ring a bell?), what I don’t often touch on is how being self-indulgent has affected other areas of my life. I don’t like to talk about finances because I come from a very fiscally responsible family, and it’s embarrassing to admit how far I let myself slide. But hey, I figure if I can post pictures of myself at my highest weight in a bikini on here, I should be able to openly discuss what is probably the most taboo term in the Powell household: credit card debt.

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(source)

I’ve talked about my issues with disordered eating many times over. What many people may not initially realize, however, is that beyond the physical, emotional, and mental toll that binge eating takes on a person, it takes a huge financial toll as well. After all, it’s not like “binge food” was an item on my grocery list. No, instead I would drop $15 a pop at drive-thru windows (give yourself a second to calculate just how much fast food $15 can buy), charging pizzas and chinese delivery to my credit cards, and the costs, just like my weight, simply continued to rise.

Mo' money, mo' problems

Of course, while I spent a lot of money on food, that wasn’t the only culprit for my unabashed spending. Unfortunately, gluttony begets gluttony, and it isn’t just reserved for things of a culinary nature. Once I was out of college and making my own money, food therapy ceased to be enough to fill the emotional void on its own. Between going a little crazy with my holiday gift-giving and my obsessions with Sephora, pedicures, and designer shoes I never actually wear… Well, suffice it to say, retail therapy became the name of the game.

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Yes, you’re reading that insole correctly. These have gotten one wear. ONE.

Seeing several of my fellow bloggers be so honest about their sordid financial histories convinced me to do the same. After all, I’ve always said that honesty is what you get here whether you like it or not, haha. So I’m going to stop beating around the bush: I accumulated over $6,000 in personal credit card debt before I could even begin to admit that it had become a problem. It’s okay, family. You can judge.

Now, I realize that compared to the kinds of debt that many others are dealing with, $6K may be a mere drop in the bucket. That being said, I hope that everyone realizes that carrying ANY credit card debt from month-to-month is too much. After all, we’re not talking school loans or mortgages here. This is not good debt. This is you’re-throwing-your-money-away-kind of debt. This is the kind of debt that comes back to get you. And I can tell you now from personal experience that being stressed over credit card debt is not exactly what I would call a boon to weight loss.

I'mma getchu!

Fortunately, not too long after I made the decision to salvage my physical health, I resolved to do something about my rapidly declining financial health as well. Unfortunately, life did not take a break while I was getting to that point. In order to leave my horrible, soul-crushing post-college job, I actually had to pay the company in order to quit before my 2-year contract was up (can I get a “WTF?”). Daxter had a life-threatening accident when he was 14-weeks-old, putting him in the doggy ICU for three exorbitantly expensive days (and of course, I hadn’t gotten pet insurance yet. Fail.) My father generously loaned me some money to help me out in the interim, so that’s an entirely different debt that I’m working towards paying off.

While these things may have slowed down my progress slightly, I am still moving forward. Er, downward. My credit score is still high, since I have never defaulted or had a late payment, and I’m continuing to whittle down at the balance I owe. It’s taken a while, but over the past eight months I’ve managed to reduce my credit card debt by two-thirds. By the end of 2011, barring any surprises, I should be free & clear of all non-mortgage debt (holy crap, just typing that out feels amazing!) And that’s all in spite of my lingering penchant for purchasing unnecessarily expensive things, haha.

Froofy
Because we all know they aren’t buying their own sweaters and designer dog beds.

Okay, okay. I jest, but believe it or not I really am trying harder than ever to stick to an actual budget and watch my spending. I use Mint.com to track my purchases and accounts, and have the app on my phone as well. I’m also tracking my debts and payments in an Excel spreadsheet to make sure I am not overspending the funds that I need to keep in my checking account for things like, oh, my third of the mortgage. But it’s difficult. Not only is it hard to restrain myself from spending mindlessly, but it is challenging to maintain my healthy lifestyle while on a budget. Eating locally, organically, and/or healthily is relatively expensive. Race registrations are expensive. And let’s not even get started on my sushi requirement. I know that I don’t really NEED to buy organic apples or new running shoes or my own juicer, but it doesn’t mean I don’t WANT those things. And that whole indulgent personality thing? It just makes it hard to tell myself “no”.

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I’m working on it.

Do you feel that a tendency to overindulge when it comes to food sets you up to overindulge when it comes to spending? Please don’t feel pressured to share, but if you feel comfortable doing so, I’d be so, so interested to hear from others who are going through or have gone through anything similar when it comes to debt.

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Posted on Aug 4, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food, Pup Posts | 18 comments

Healthy Eating on the Cheap

You know, temporary unemployment really puts your budget in perspective. Who knew that I’d be paying such close attention to my own advice when it comes to food and finances so soon? After Monday’s pizza pity party, I’ve made it my goal not to spend money on food until the weekend. So all week long, we’re going to be playing my favorite game: pantry roulette!

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Start with an on-its-last-legs zuke from the fridge (purloined from your sister’s CSA share), add a kajillion knife cuts (I really need a mandolin) and some fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and set aside.

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Meanwhile, cook up some whole wheat pasta and stare longingly at the beautiful label on the newest kind of spaghetti sauce you’re trying from Trader Joe’s.

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Add in zucchini “noodles”, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, whatever, and shake it all about.

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Garnish with a random cherry tomato you found at the bottom of the produce drawer and some fresh basil from the plant that you still can’t believe hasn’t died on your windowsill. Eat.

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Another way to save the cash monies when you’re trying to scrimp and save? Eat dinner at the parentals’ house! 😀

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My mom and I made a decadent and delicious meal together for the fam that consisted of creamy mushroom risotto (O.M.G.), chicken, salad, and whole wheat bread for EVOO dippage.

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And fruit for dessert! Crazy exotic fruit, that is.

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Papaya and “dragon eyes” (related to lychees). Mmm.

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The only not-so-economical part of my day? Paying for the mutts to be transformed from their previously shaggy selves into this:

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Worth it. 🙂

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