Saving to Buy a House

I’ve written a hundred iterations of this post but never hit publish before.

I shared in this post that D and I were planning to spend 2022 fast-tracking our savings in order to purchase a house. I see a lot out there that talks about how to save money, and a lot that gives unrealistic ideas for how to store up funds in order to do so.

I’m not interested in setting myself up to fail.

So, instead, here’s some of what we’re doing in order to store up money, and how much we’re saving by doing so.

Please note: this is all in the very unrealistic-for-everyone setting of living with my mom and dad. I 100% acknowledge the privilege that’s inherent in being able to safely and comfortably do so for any length of time.


Not Buying “Stuff”

Whenever I go to organize or declutter a space, I pull all the items out and sort them into piles of like items. Inevitably, I end up with a pile of “stuff” – objects that don’t have a category, that I’m holding on to for no clear reason (not even sentimental reasons!) but can’t bring myself to toss. The hard truth is, these items came into my space because I brought them in here.

As a general rule, D and I try really hard not to buy things that don’t serve a purpose. But it happens – you’re walking through the grocery store, hardware store, anything store, and something catches your eye and you impulse-buy it. Those things are typically what make up my “stuff” pile.

We’re avoiding buying “stuff” the surest way we know how: by staying out of stores. This is easier for D than it is for me since I’m typically the grocery and present shopper. Instead, I’m ordering the majority of our groceries online and picking them up (no fee for that at most stores!) except Aldi, where I often find a better deal by going in the store. In Aldi, I stay out of the weird aisle that’s floormats and socks and benches, because I will buy something from there.

The other shift is harder: presents. We have a lot of people we buy for over the course of the year – D and I together have nearly 15 people just in our immediate families. I’d like to say that we handmake all our gifts and wrap them in paper we recycled, but that’s often more costly than buying a pre-made item (we do sometimes handmake items). Instead, I don’t go to a store for ideas. I sit and think about that person – young or old, male or female. I think about what my year with them has been like since the last birthday or holiday, and I take my time coming up – on my own – with a gift for them. Then I purchase that one thing.

Believe it or not, people gave gifts in this way for literally 1,000’s of years before Amazon was invented.

What I’ve found is that when I take the serious time to consider the individual, I’m so confident about what I’m getting, that I don’t feel compelled to buy any more than just that.

I also buy fairly generic paper and use it for all occasions. I switch up ribbons and name tags, etc. to with the holiday. The exception to this is David’s niece. She’s four and could care less about the wrap-job, and we typically buy her one large item. I almost always get a roll of wrapping paper for just her at Dollar Tree. It works out to be more cost-effective.

You may have noticed that I did not mention a strategy for shopping at the mall or department stores. That’s because I’m not doing that for the next six months. That’s it. I bought some leggings, a shirt and a dress at the end of 2021 to make sure I could get through the six months. The end.

A while ago, I went through five weeks of spending and averaged it. The average for five weeks: $152.83.

Our goal is to bring this to $0, but let’s give us $10, for the sake of human error (the reality that sometimes I just straight up forget my lunch). That’s a savings of $142.83 per week.

Eating Lunch for Under $2.00

My mom told me not too long ago that she tried to always make dinner for under $2 per person. I was fascinated by this idea – that she picked what we ate based on money. I grew up eating balanced, delicious dinners and I figured she’d based what we ate off of nutrition and taste. Nope. She set a financial parameter and made it work.

I haven’t gotten there with dinner yet (I’m close!) but I’m there when it comes to lunch. I think I’ll do a whole post on this because y’all over on Instagram seemed to be really intrigued with my lunches when I was working from home. I’m a hardcore meal planner and prepper, so usually, I make myself three lunches for the week, and I bring two days of leftovers (at least). To keep costs down, I eat a lot of vegetables, but when it comes to buying and storing vegetables, I do a lot of freezing. For example, two weeks ago, I bought a head of cauliflower, which will never get eaten if it’s not chopped on the day it gets home from the grocery store. It did not get chopped. So, before it had the chance to get bad (about a week after buying it), I chopped it up, left a little in the fridge (which got eaten), and froze the rest.

This is essential.

I was throwing away a crazy amount of produce, and I’m sure you do too! But most non-leafy vegetables can have the yucky part cut off, and then be stored in the freezer to be roasted, boiled, steamed, whatever! They’re definitely not great to have as an uncooked snack, but they can 100% be used for cooking. So, I stick with veg for my lunch (even for protein), shop my freezer, and bring leftovers.

I went back through roughly six months of lunches (vaguely; I tend to eat pretty similar stuff, so I was able to estimate), including going out to lunch or buying a coffee and calling it lunch and found that on average, I spent $5 per lunch, or $25 a week. My goal is to max out at $2. Even on the high end, that’s a savings of $3 per meal, or $15 per week.

Eating all the Leftovers

See above – ha!

Let me start this by saying that we enter into dinner with the goal of not having leftovers. And that doesn’t mean that we eat mountains. It means that over the last five years, we’ve really worked at assessing how to cut down what we’ve made – maybe there could be less potatoes, or less meat, or even just cooked in a smaller pan. By figuring out how to cut down the meal to be the right size for two people, we limit the number of leftovers that we have to eat in the first place.

Potatoes were the big one for us. I know they’re not super expensive but we eat them often, and leftover potatoes are only good the day after Thanksgiving on a sandwich. Otherwise, no thank you. So we started out with three yellow potatoes for D and two for me when we made mashed potatoes. From there, we figured out that D eats two potatoes and I eat one. So now we make mashed potatoes with three potatoes instead of five. That may not sound significant, but we probably have mashed potatoes twice a week. That’s roughly 50 pounds of potatoes per year, which is about $50. Now, $50 may not sound like a lot, but that’s $50 for one side dish twice a week. Imagine if you did that with something more expensive, like meat, or salad dressing. Or if you did it with every side dish every day of the week. Suddenly, you’ve made a significant dent in your budget. But I digress…

I make a specific point of eating the leftovers if they’re something I like, and if they’re not, I try to repurpose them into something I do like. If you aren’t following @shelfcooking I highly recommend it. It’s definitely changed the way I think about things.

Fridge, then Freezer, then Pantry, then Store

This is another one that I should probably do a whole post on. Fridge, then freezer, then pantry, then store is the order that I “shop” for groceries. So, I make a monthly meal plan, and it’s flexible. There are a lot of repeat items in there. D and I could both eat tacos every day of the week, so it’s on our meal plan weekly. Same with spaghetti and chicken salads. What this means, is that if I open the fridge and discover an overabundance of something, or know that something is about to go bad, I kick out a repeat meal and cook that instead.

But something I didn’t talk about when I wrote about the monthly meal plan is that I make it in order to clear out the fridge, then the freezer, then the pantry. That’s the order that the items are most likely to go bad, based on the way that we purchase. We got a deep freezer about a year ago and it has been a total game-changer in how we operate. I am well aware that not everyone has the luxury of owning an item like that whether because of cost (I got mine during the President’s Day Sales, combined it with a coupon and gift card which made it about $60) or space. BUT, this system follows either way. I keep a list of what’s in the freezer on the actual freezer itself. When the cats inevitably walk on it too much, I wipe it off and start over.

Pro Tip: Wet Erase markers. Not Dry Erase. Dry Erase comes off too easily.

Since a lot of what goes into the freezer has different “best used by” dates, and it’s SO easy – even on the freezer that’s attached to the fridge – to lose what’s in there, I found it was easiest to just sort by date and that’s the order we use it. This freezer is filled with:

  • Meat that was a crazy cheap price
  • Vegetables we grew ourselves
  • Vegetables that were a crazy cheap price
  • Meals for the week that I didn’t eat because I was eating leftovers

So I start by looking at the fridge and seeing what’s going to go bad soon, then follow that process with the freezer and pantry. And THEN I make my grocery list.

By making these changes, and by committing to eating leftovers, our grocery bill has dropped from $1000 per month to $600. My goal is to bring it down to $400. So, let’s do a conservative estimate that we’ll be saving $200 per month. This doesn’t include the work that’s been done to get it down to $600.

Why am I talking so much about groceries?

It’s the most malleable part of your budget. We can talk about this more if you want, but I think it would be better if you tried something. Take out a piece of paper and write down the top five things you spend the most money on. I would guess it would look something like this:

  1. Rent/House payment
  2. Groceries
  3. Utilities
  4. Transportation
  5. Student loans/car payment/other type of debt

Am I close? You cannot change the price of your rent without moving. You can only somewhat control the cost of your utilities without freezing in the winter and baking in the summer. Chances are, you are going to have a minimum amount of you have to pay for transportation, whether it’s gas or bus/train passes. You cannot change the price of your student loan, car payment, etc. without changing your payment plan and even then, that may not be significant.

But you can easily increase your groceries by impulse buying, only ever buying name brands, and cooking for the wrong amount of people. Conversely, you can tweak your groceries to lower the cost of the items you buy and change the way you shop to bring that price down significantly.

Rotating Subscriptions

At one point in time, D and I had subscriptions to:

  • Netflix – $13.99
  • Hulu – $12.99
  • YouTube – $11.99
  • HBO Plus – $14.99
  • Disney Plus – $7.99
  • Audible – $7.95
  • Spotify – $15.99
  • Pandora – $4.99
  • Cable – $80

Let’s add that up, without including cable: $90.88. We started with the easy one: we didn’t need both Pandora and Spotify. We both listen to music pretty much all day at work, and most evenings, so we opted for the service we were using more – Spotify. AND, we discovered that we were on the old plan pricing – we were paying for 6 people when we only needed two. So we were able to bring $20.98 down to $12.99. Over the course of the year, that’s almost $100.

So we did this with everything – are we really using it? We kept basic cable because somehow that’s cheaper than just having internet, but we weren’t using Audible anymore, and we only used HBO Plus and YouTube Premium everyone once in a while, so we canceled those. So now we’re down to, $47.96.

So, where do we go from here: we’re going to pick and choose what we keep. Some months we’ll have Netflix; some months we’ll have Hulu. We’re going to keep Spotify for as long as they’re around, but otherwise, we’ll rotate through Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. That means that instead of paying $47.96, the most we’ll pay in one month is $26.98.

For those of you playing along at home, that’s a $63.90 savings per month. For the year, that’s $766.80.

Total Savings

So, here’s what we have for one week:

Not buying “stuff”: $142.83

Lunch for $1: $20

Changing the way we grocery shop: $50

Rotating subscriptions: $63.90

Total: $276.73

For the entire year, that’s a savings of $14,528.33.

Let that number really sink in. That’s a car. A down payment on a small house. College tuition at an in-state school. And that’s without removing anything significant – that’s still paying your car payment, having cable, using the heat in the winter.

So that’s one piece of the plan. We’re also obviously cutting down some significant bills by having the luxury to move in with my parents, but this alone is something you could do without having to make drastic life changes. I’d like to help you do it, so tell me down in the comments what would be helpful for me to talk more about? How can I best help you?

Looking Forward

The last few months, I’ve been locked into thinking about our wedding. I don’t think I did anything else – which is why I wasn’t doing much writing. I feel like my life went moms heart attack – masters project – COVID – 900 jobs changes – engagement – 900 more job changes – wedding – pass out from too many things. Now, I’m finally settling into reality and trying to get a sense of what is coming next.

D & I have chosen to move out of the apartment we’ve been living in for the last five years. They’re jacking the rent up and it’s just not worth what they want for it. As a result, we’re also considering (he’s sold on the idea; I’m feeling trepidatious) living with my parents for a few weeks to stack up our savings before buying a house.

I’ve been entertaining adding an additional stream of income to my life. I’m contemplating teaching a SkillShare course on either budgeting or sinking funds. Budgeting is my favorite thing ever to talk about, but I feel like sinking funds are easier to grasp. I’m also considering the idea of a little Etsy shop. I have so many lovely little crafty things I make for no real reason, and it would feel so good to share them with the world.

The main thing is that I’m back to thinking about being creative – which is a space I haven’t been in for a long time. I’m looking forward to spending more time making things, and less time thinking about making things. So, subscribe if you haven’t, or join that email list on the side – there’s hopefully going to be an entire moving process, budget updates, cat stories and more.

Shadow Time

About a decade ago, one of my best friends told me about the idea of Shadow Time, which has its origins in Pagan faiths: as the world moves into shadow – the days get shorter, colder, and more overcast – we should also go into our shadow – the darker parts of ourselves – and reflect. It’s in my top three favorite parts of a religion.

In the midwest, differently from where I grew up, there’s a sense of needing to rest after the harvest.

I’ve spent a lot of this summer preserving fruits and vegetables, which is not something I usually do. We dehydrated herbs and teas. We canned pickles, apple sauce, apple butter, tomato jam, apple pie filling, and salsa. We also froze nearly 100 cups of squash(es), six loaves of fruit or vegetable bread, and dozens of fruit muffins

We were under 100 jars of canned foods, but 100 is my goal for next year. It feels silly to say that because we don’t live in the 1800’s, but the food definitely does taste better, and ultimately it will save us money over the course of the year. It’s mostly just the two of us, though we gave away a lot, so my real plan is to alternate crops. So this year, I processed almost two bushels of apples, and I probably won’t have to do that again next year because what we did this year will carry over. So eventually, we’ll reach a variety.

The point of sharing this: we had a busy, pioneer summer – which also included a wedding – and I’m ready to rest. And reflect. And plan.

Lately, I have been feeling like I can’t pull together enough ideas to move forward. And what I’ve been doing is pushing myself to do that. But this morning, I woke up late and it was 33 degrees outside and I don’t have socks to wear with my boots. So I sat down for a minute and told myself, “Just be late to work.” How simple. I just decided I was going to be late. And on my drive in, I concluded that it was time to listen to myself.

If I can’t pull together enough ideas to move forward, maybe I should just sit down.

So, for a little while, I’m not planning. I’m crocheting and watching Riverdale and really emphasizing doing the bare minimum to create space for the future. The silliest, most American part of this whole process is working really hard on not feeling guilty about doing that. Just like you, I get caught in feeling required to be productive. That requirement was made up in my mind decades ago, and so I’m also trying to meditate each day to help remove that.

Mostly, I’m trying not to strategize and instead just be.

Saying Goodbye to my Best Friend

In December 2008, I was a junior in college. I had gone home for Christmas and while I was home, I bought my most favorite item in my entire life: my car, Miss Daisy Mala Junior. We call her Junior, or Junes.

I love her.

I have loved her from the moment I met her.

She’s a 2005 Chevy Malibu. The windows don’t roll down, sometimes; other times they don’t roll up. The gas gauge hasn’t worked since 2009. I blew out a speaker listening to Macklemore. But, the AC is basically ice and she gets 32 miles to the gallon in the city and she just won’t die.

On July 3, I met a new car, who doesn’t have a name yet, and hasn’t told me their gender yet.

It’s thrilling to have something so new, that feels very similar to drive to my old car, but I also feel really sad to let the old one go. She’s actually still with me; I wanted to take my time getting her to the correct new owner.

So, I came to a conclusion about my sad little car. There’s a pretty wide range on what people are willing to spend on a comparable car – $300 – $1200 – since her mileage is surprisingly low for her age. But she’s ugly – the paint is peeling and an entire bottle of coke got spilled in the back seat; she’s been on too many beach trips and too many late nights in the country barefoot.

D and I spent a long time talking about the right choice for her. What we could “earn” from selling her isn’t significant – obviously we did not need that income to purchase the new car. So, we’ll be letting a mom make $25 payments on her; someone who otherwise could not afford to buy a reliable car outright; someone who needs a way to work, particularly in the snow since her tires are basically brand new; someone who needs something to get them from walking to a better car than Junior.

Even though I’m currently holed up in my house with a busted ankle, I found myself, this morning, thinking about how much I have to be grateful for. My ankle will heal. My coffee is hot. My home is full of fresh product from a garden (some of which got canned to be eaten in the winter!) My cats are in good health. In one month I marry the best person I know. The sun is shining.

And so, I’ll cut my losses on the car. It’s worth it if it means that I can help someone else get to a point where they have enough brain space to see what’s good. It’s so easy to tell people to “look on the bright side” or to look ahead to their future when they’re feeling down. It’s much harder to help ensure that people have room in their life to think those thoughts.

What’s that Emerson quote?

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

That’s where I’m at today, folx. And that’s the space I want to be in from now on.

Reflecting on the Last Six Months

Maybe you’re like this – maybe you have this same relationship with writing where you say you’re going to do it but then you don’t. And truthfully, every time you return to it, you make a commitment to write but then you don’t. So it just becomes this cycle of saying you’re going to do something and never really doing it.

Hi. That’s me.

I like the idea of a virtual community, but I’ve never really been that great at being vulnerable, even with strangers. Lately I’ve been feeling a little bogged down by…well, everything. My fiancé got COVID last month, but I did not. So I stayed in quarantine for 20 days – 10 days after his 10 days were up. The isolation was unreal, but also not that far from what we’ve been experiencing for the last year and a half.

My solution: to figure out how to buy a new car, so that we can go further into the world. So for the month of June, we’re doing a spending freeze. In theory, the freeze should give us enough money to pay for 6 months of insurance on a brand new vehicle. I’ve been driving the same car since college, so the idea of a car payment feels really intimidating, and knowing we’re going to have some extra tucked away makes me feel much, much better.

So, the big pieces of this are:

  • Only spending money on groceries, gas and bills
  • Settling our grocery budget for the month between $200-$300
  • Waiting

Waiting is probably the biggest piece of this – if we don’t actually need it, we’ll have to wait, is the idea. Distinguishing between a need a want feels challenging in the moment, but a reset of this kind does make a big difference. If you can wait for it, is it really something you need?

There’s an exception in the idea of groceries which is: The Cats.

The cats have two primary expenses that come from the grocery store: cat food and cat litter. They eat at a pretty consistent rate and their litter gets changed on specific days, so this is counted separate from the grocery budget because I know each month how much I’m going to spend on them.

Also, each paycheck, I set aside some money for them for vet fees, treats, boarding, etc. Cat’s aren’t particularly expensive creatures and the universe has blessed me with two very healthy ones, so It’s really just $50 a month for both of them that goes into a little savings account that’s there if something terrible happens to them. When I was really struggling financially and just had Javier, I could only set aside $5 a month, but it made a big difference when it was time to get his shots.

I make heavy use of sinking funds and if you aren’t familiar with them, I think this video is really helpful.

In some ways, it was good to have been quarantined. It gave me some necessary time to examine things like where our money goes, but also where it comes from – are we happy in our jobs? Do we want different ones? What about bringing in money on the side?

This is the first time in my life that I’ve just had one job. Usually I have two and go to school. It’s kind of boring, and I’m starting to have a lot of questions about what else I might like to be doing, in addition to my job. I’m sure you can relate.

I’m not really willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of “saving” money because when you do that, you don’t save anything.

Maybe I’ll think about writing more consistently. I came back to this space because I like that it holds me accountable – I think I’ll use it to track what I ended up spending, but more than that, it helps me to talk about the decision-making process. We usually spend anywhere from $600-$1,000 on groceries, and so opting for something so low is going to involve a significant adjustment in the choices we make. I think it’s important to write those things down. And maybe you’ll find them helpful, too. I’m not really willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of “saving” money because when you do that, you don’t save anything.

I think there’s something really important about talking about money. I want to keep doing it. I want to fight against the idea that it’s a taboo subject. I love to watch influencers like Jordan Page because they make it easy to forget that there’s a husband making six figures backing her “frugal” lifestyle. But that’s not really attainable for most of us, is it? It’s probably more realistic to think that someday, we might not live in apartments anymore. Someday, we might buy a new car or go on vacation. And maybe, just maybe, someday we’ll have a retirement account.

I’d like to keep it real. And talk about ways to shift from always feeling like you’re one step away from being homeless.

That might be more helpful.

Getting Caught Back Up

I think it’s been 10 months since I put something up here. And that might be a recurring theme.

I don’t know if you’re like this but I feel like I spend a decent portion of my time reflecting on how much time I don’t spend reflecting. I’d like to change that. I’d like to write more. I tell myself those things a lot and I carry guilt about not doing it.

I’m kind of over that.

So, I want to jump back in to this writing space. I want to talk to the same things that matter to me that defined in this post about my 2020 intentions and this post about adjusting to quarantine:

  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Emotional Health

For me, those are best represented by talking about food, exercise, time management, money management and rest. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I just wrapped up a 60 day in a row exercise challenge. It started as a 30 day challenge, evolved to 60 days, and then 100, and now is up to a 365 day goal. I also have started talking a lot about money management and how that ties into food. I have some posts in mind, including a discussion about what it was like to exercise for 100 days in a row. But for now, I think I’d like to get caught back up with you all.

August 2020

In August, I adjusted to life with a new little kitten, Zhooshy. Quarantine is a good time to have a rambunctious baby in the house and it has definitely given Javier some comfort to have him.

D & I took two trips up north – one with his family to a town an hour and a half from here, and one with just him and me, all the way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan! It was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever experienced and I am itching to go back as soon as possible.

September 2020

I don’t know about how it was for y’all but September let me actually forget a little bit about quarantine. The weather was good. I ran a lot. I read a lot. We busted out the bikes. And, I was able to continue to walk to my parents house.

At the start of quarantine, I walked there once or twice a week – it’s about three miles. I started running there in June or July. And in September, I found longer routes to run, but kept walking there at least once a week.

In September, I also committed to a 60 work out challenge, where I worked out for at least 30 minutes a day, something more intense than walking.

And, I started to take a long, hard look at how we spend our grocery budget.

October 2020

The weather stayed warm enough to continue to run, and D and I took his son, L, on a color tour! None of us had ever done this before and it was TOTALLY worth it. And hearing L’s reaction to the first stand of bright orange trees we drove up on was probably the highlight of my month.

I also started to audit us. I don’t know if this is something that other people do, but I’ve taught a couple of friends how to do it and I think I’ll write something up on it. Seems like it could be helpful.

In October, we had a sudden addition to our small space: D’s sister, S & her daughter three-year-old daughter, J. It’s not my story to tell, but essentially, things in their house were not healthy and so they brought themselves somewhere safe.

November 2020

How about I just say, Biden got elected and it made it much easier to appreciate the beauty in the world.

Also, we hosted our first Thanksgiving!

December 2020

We set up our Christmas tree in early December, but there wasn’t any snow, and so it didn’t really feel like Christmas. With the new additions to our house, I was grateful to still be able to run and get out a little.

We also created a great little toy for Zhooshy, that D is convinced we need to sell.

We spent Christmas together, in order to not contribute to the spread of too many germs, and it was our first time staying home as a couple!

January 2021

Our house guests returned home and the snow came. I was grateful to still be working remotely. I started planning out some spring and summer canning projects and finally started putting together some picture frames out of old baseboards.

But perhaps the biggest news of all, is our engagement. After four years of figuring out life together, we’ve decided to keep doing that for another forever. There’s no greater joy.

More to come, folx. Much more to come.

Meal Planning for Two

I’ve started posting on Instagram what I eat each day. I’m learning a lot about myself through this process and I intend to write a post about it soon, because I think it will help me a lot in my quest for balance and understanding.

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I’ve spent a lot of time leaning about how people meal plan for their families, written by parents who work (usually their work is blogging) and raise their kids who are heavily involved in their schools and sports, etc. Two people who work full-time and don’t raise children and don’t play sports have a meal plan that looks really different and so I thought it might help people to see what that looks like.

Why meal plan?

Yeah, I get this question a lot. Especially because there’s just two of us.

What was happening is that I was making our plan for the week on Saturday morning before I went grocery shopping. This resulted in us eating the same 4 meals every week, getting bored, eating out and throwing away what was in the fridge. It was like we were wasting double money because of the cost of eating out and the cost of what we were throwing out.

How I got started

So, I sat down one day and made a google doc of all our meals and sorted them in a way that made sense to me. I didn’t get crazy detailed, I just tried to write down as many thing as I know we like, not including things like Hamburger Helper or frozen lasagna (two of D’s favorites – I promise I’ll tell you why I’m just a second). Then, I grabbed a paper calendar and added five meals for each week.

The reason I only did five is because our life is probably differently spontaneous than the people I was learning to meal plan from. So if our friends called us to go swimming 15 minutes before work let out, then we didn’t end up throwing away a day of planned food by the end of the week. Having two days of wiggle room worked really well for us, and in the summer months I usually only plan four days, rather than five, because we tend to wander to friends houses more or eat a salad or sometimes just have ice cream for dinner.

What do you save?

It’s almost 100% about emotional labor for me. By the end of the work day, I’m so riddled with decision fatigue that I’m like, let’s just eat popsicles because they’re what’s in front of my face. So in addition to not planning well, I didn’t have a ton of mental ability to switch it up when it came time to cook. This way, I make a ton of decisions once a month and only ever take things away – if dinner at a friends gets scheduled, then I take a meal away. That’s it. Sometimes I even make my grocery list while I make the meal plan. When I’m super on my game, I buy all the meat and dry goods in bulk at the start of the month and just buy produce as we go because, again, less thinking.

There’s definitely money being saved. Partly because of the bulk shopping but mostly because we were throwing away about $20 in produce and spending an extra (assuming we’d eat out once a week, pre-COVID) $60 a week. That’s a monthly savings of $320, which is an annual savings of $3,840.

Y’all. That’s so much money.

I also think we eat more vegetables this way (not so much fruit, but I’ve always been a pretty good fruit eater). I feel like I’m more willing to spend money on organic, delicious veggies because I spend a bunch at the start of the month on stuff that isn’t that.

So emotional energy, money & health.

I think it’s true that we don’t need to overthink it. My mom has talked a lot with me about enjoying this age without children and embracing not needing to be hyper organized. I’m 100% with her in that. I think doing this helps me stay calmer because I know what’s coming. So that tense need to fix something means I can just fix dinner.

Do you meal plan? What works for you?

A. Rose (1)

 

 

Life in a Time of Unrest

When we last left off, I had every intention of sharing with you my 30-day gym update. I had started the year talking about my intentions; then my meeting with a personal trainer through my work; followed by my first full week at the gym. And then COVID-19 hit America. I started working and going to school from home. I was a month behind on my masters project, due to my mothers illness at the start of the year, and honestly, not having a commute gave me an extra hour each day that made it easier to complete. It was not easier to try to finish without meeting with my advisor, or to not get to graduate (yet!), or to go from working on a bustling college campus to being alone all day with two cats.

I continued a modified workout routine that includes a lot of walking on the trails by my house, wrapped up my last semester of graduate school and was excited to take a rest but then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. If you don’t want to think about politics or the state of the word, I recommend skipping down to the first heading. I hope that my transparency will be a source of comfort, not conflict.

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I have been working in public education for over a decade, not counting my work while in college. And I have been committed to being an educator in public education since high school. My work is intricately tied to eradicating systems of oppression – my focus is on untying the mental knots that keep us thinking through the dominant lens by changing the way we talk. I try really hard to embody compassion, understanding and joy.

Lately, I’ve been outwardly angry. And disappointed in myself for that.

More than anything, I feel blindsided by my white friends, who simply don’t know that their line of thinking is rooted in white supremacy. I don’t feel blindsided by white supremacy, but rather that they don’t know. That’s confusing to me and it is a good reminder that I carry my own ignorances:  I live in education, where every day people see the impact (good and bad) of systems, where we are nationally criticized all the time and respond by saying “we’ll do better,” and where people critically analyze sources before assuming they’re accurate.

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That’s my real world. But it isn’t the majority. Folx don’t know the ways that they fight against or give in to the system, turn their noses up at national criticism, and assume that something with a percentage is a fact. And that’s fine. It’s actually fine. I hope that I can make waves in education so that individuals moving forward will examine and assess things differently, but we’re all allowed to be different, and hold to different ideals. That is actually the beauty of America.

The shame of America is that its system reflects ideals that injure entire populations – ideals that are held and defended by its people. It’s hard to jive with freedom of thought (which is usually totally my jam!) when the ideals include people being murdered or children starving or one group being privileged over another.

And so I’m worn out. I’m worn out from 100 conversations a day in my personal and professional world that require me to think about what will happen if we X instead of Y. What population is impacted by Z and will that impact be negative? I am finding myself spouting off in small moments because my every day is so wrought with a lack of closure. But the truth is: that’s how it’s been since I picked education and my white burnout doesn’t help anything. And, at the end of the day, I picked it and I’m not going to leave it, so I have to take educations lead and say, “I’ll do better.”

I’m unwilling to agree to disagree (why do we love this phrase so much?) because that’s what got us here in the first place and, honestly, it feels really anti-American when you read our founding fathers. Instead, I’ll do better. And part of how I want to do that is by revising my 2020 intentions.

Let’s talk about doing better

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When I first wrote them, I broke my 2020 intentions up into three categories: physical, mental, emotional/spiritual health. Then, from there I did a breakdown of what practical steps I could take towards those things. I’m going to put them here with some notes about the steps I’ve taken or hope to take:

Physical Health
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Eating more plants and lean protein – Yo, I’ve got this really great lunch I’m going to share with you that’s almost 100% plant-based (the dressing isn’t…and no, it’s not a salad). I’m also opting for vegetarian whenever possible. Meat is nauseating to me lately. 
Walking for entire lunch break – Pretty much every day, unless it rains. If it’s raining during lunchtime, then I walk in the evening.
Gym three times a week – In Michigan, gyms have been closed since March (or April?). I think maybe I’ll do like an exercise week in the life kind of thing to share what I’ve been doing to stay sane while working from home.
Track progress here – totally haven’t been doing that, but get ready, folx! It’s coming!

Mental Health
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Keeping school organized – keeping school organized by being DONE!! I have some steps I’d like to take in my professional career that I’m not sure I’ll share here, but I think I could share how I organize and stay on top of them… We’ll see. This is a tricky spot. What would you like to see?
Managing Expectations – At the start of the COVID changes, D and I decided to do things 3-5 days at a time. We just couldn’t plan for things because we didn’t know what was going to happen and we were both up to our eyeballs in stress (when you’re the operations person and all of your operations go remote…). That’s been the best move for us. 
More-than-a-month meal plan – This is probably a post all in its own. We’ve had so many changes to food since I started working at home. I’ll do that. I’ll write a post on that.
Weekly routine – We’re starting this! D and I finally started talking through our week. We haven’t really been because what even is a week anymore? But, not having the structure was stressing us both out more than we realized, so we’re moving past three days at a time.

Emotional/Spiritual Health
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Embrace the weekly plan – ready for it!
Use the free counseling at work – Telehealth for the win!
Go to church more than twice a year – Y’all. I’m super on the fence about church. I’ve been a long time non-believer who loves to go to church and the general attitudes of Jesus (per the gospels), but man. The more I see people in abusive relationships defending their abusers and then yelling at me (or friends in general yelling at me) for not being more Christian the more I’m like, “effing patriarchy” because Jesus wasn’t about any of that. Do others have this problem?
Meditate – On it. I’d like to share a little about this too, if folx are interested.
Write for fun, not just for school – That’s actually why I’m back here. I hope it will help and keep me from being so angry.

I also have a little mental list going of some projects I’d like to take on around the house. I have really been thinking about where our money goes and who benefits from it and how to change that, but I think that’s probably going to be a different post since this one was VERY long.

Thanks for sticking with it. I appreciate feedback, thoughts and intentional criticism if you have some.

It’s going to get better. Or at least, we can figure out how to be better. That’s something within our realm of control.A. Rose (1)

 

A Week of No Spending

There’s nothing like trying to find ways to save money when you don’t make money. These budget series posts were created out of the desire to share what I have learned about alleviating some of the soul-crushing stress of living paycheck to paycheck – and the things I’ve learned that have helped me move away from that life. Please note that I am not, in any way, a licensed financial professional. None of these tips are guaranteed to make you money or save you money; they’re simply different ways of thinking about and using money that one person who doesn’t make much has learned over time.


I have recently become moderately addicted to Megan Fox Unlocked. Seriously, y’all. She’s so sweet and genuine. Totally worth checking out.

I watched a video not too long ago where she tracked what she spent in a week. I thought I might put a spin on it and try to go for a week of no spending other than groceries and gas. And to hold myself accountable, I’m going to take a picture of everything I buy that isn’t a grocery or gas.

Sunday

Flooring

I talked a little bit in this post about helping my mom redo the floors in my dad’s office. I spent pretty much all day Sunday working on that (10am – 5pm) so it made it really easy to spend.

That said, it was really challenging to resist the urge to say, “let’s go out for dinner” to D. I had planned to be done with the floors on Saturday, so I had a more complicated dinner planned and the idea of cooking after all that work was like… ugh. It ended up being fine and we cooked, but it definitely was a good reminder that adapting the plan can help save money – ex. I knew I was going to be tired by the end, so I should have pulled a crockpot meal from later in the month and used it on Sunday to avoid the temptation to spend money.

Sunday Total: $0.00

Monday

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My parents cat, Frank, is basically a giant teddy bear.

I knew on Monday that I was going to see my parents after work. I stayed there for about an hour and by the time I got home, made and ate dinner and started thinking about homework it was close to 9pm. So, I did some homework and went to bed, which made it very easy to not spend any money.

Monday Total: $0.00

Tuesday

I got a hardcore chocolate craving around 2pm on Tuesday. I usually keep some dark chocolate in my desk drawer, but I spaced at the grocery store this weekend. There’s a little on-campus convenience store so I walked over there and got some chocolate milk & Reeses Sticks (aka deliciousness) for $3.

I also totally spaced when I planned to do this no spending week because I had scheduled dinner with two of my friends a month ago. I wasn’t about to cancel because our three schedules don’t line up easily, so instead, I got a water and an appetizer for a total of $9.53 + tip.

Tuesday Total: $15.23

Wednesday

On Wednesday night, I knew that we needed to pick up D’s prescription, so I made some delicious pot roast in the crockpot and we went after dinner.

Our grocery store, Meijer, allows you to accrue points towards money off. We had a $6 off coupon so when we decided to pick up a few extra things, we ended up spending $0.67. I don’t think groceries fall into the no spending category, but since we also got a fancy drink, etc., I’m going to count this.

This was also the day that D and I decided that we’re going to do this for the entire month of March.

Wednesday Total: $0.67.

Thursday

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Y’all. I was so tired on Thursday night. D has a standing meeting on Thursdays so I headed to my parents directly from work. I was there until 7pm-ish and did homework until 8:15pm, when I promptly got into bed and zoned out with some Desperate Housewives (I’m newly re-addicted). So, a super-easy way to not spend any money!

Thursday Total: $0.00

Friday

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I didn’t get any good pictures of Friday night because I was too busy enjoying myself. D and I went to Chik-fil-a, which is somewhere we went to when we thought all was good with their donating and since the more recent news, we’ve stopped going. But, from before now, we had reward points, so we went and had a free dinner and then to our friends’ house. We picked up the girl scout cookies we ordered in February and a set for my parents. Delish!

Friday Total: $0.00

Saturday

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On Saturday, I spent the most of the entire week! My bff and I try to get coffee once a month, and this Saturday we went to Biggby for basically the entire morning, 7am – 2pm! Seriously everything my soul needed. I’m not even kidding. We laughed and cried and it was pretty perfect and totally worth the cost of three coffees – $16.82. This was an eye-opener for me, y’all. Because, legit, on Tuesday, I spent almost $5 less to go out to dinner!

So, I’m never going to stop getting coffee with my bestie, but I’m definitely going to think twice before getting the sugary kind.

Saturday Total: $16.82.

Grand Total

$15.23 + $0.67 + $16.82 = $32.72

So, in order to figure out what I saved, I had to figure out what I usually spend on things that aren’t groceries and gas. So I went through five weeks of spending and averaged it. The average for five weeks: $152.83

When I found that number I was horrified. If you multiply that by the 52 weeks that are in a year, you get $7,947.16.

Y’all. That’s a car, a vacation, half a down payment on a house. Holy smokes.

With a grand total of $32.72, I saved $120.11, which if you multiply by 52 weeks you get $6245.72.

So, I definitely will be doing this again hahaha. I don’t know that it’s realistic to do this every week – D and I like to go out to dinner. But I don’t seek why I couldn’t be more intentional about saving.

I think I’ll track this for the month of March and I’ll let y’all know what I come up with at the end! For now, this savings is going straight into my savings account and I am thrilled.

For more posts about budgeting, you can find all the posts here.

A. Rose (1)

 

 

How to Budget When Your Income Fluctuates

There’s nothing like trying to find ways to save money when you don’t make money. These budget series posts were created out of the desire to share what I have learned about alleviating some of the soul-crushing stress of living paycheck to paycheck – and the things I’ve learned that have helped me move away from that life. Please note that I am not, in any way, a licensed financial professional. None of these tips are guaranteed to make you money or save you money; they’re simply different ways of thinking about and using money that one person who doesn’t make much has learned over time. 

Like this topic or just want to know more? You can find the full series here


I’ve been thinking lately about the fitness / wellness posting that I’ve been doing and how it’s easy to think that’s my main priority if you don’t know me. I recently told a friend that one of my primary motivating feelings is safety: I do certain things because I want to feel safe – particularly, because I want to feel financially safe. Even exercising and eating healthy is, in some ways, about that: healthy people spend less money on doctors, etc. As I was explaining this to him, I found myself saying that is the topic that I really want to focus on here.

Changing Income

So, a little background about me: I currently am in, essentially, a salaried job. I get paid hourly, but I have enough and accrue enough PTO throughout the year that I haven’t had to go without full pay since I started working here three and a half years ago. I also work Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm. This is really dreamy, but wasn’t always the case.

For the majority of my adult life I was either worked a shift job as my full-time job, or I was working two jobs and one of them was a shift job. So, for nine of the last 12 years, my income has changed week-to-week. When I wrote this post about budgeting when you don’t make a lot, I think that what I really wanted to talk about was how to budget when your income changes. So, let’s get started.

*Quick note: I am using whole numbers because it’s easier. You’ll want to look at your pay stubs to figure out how much gets taken out for taxes. I typically assume that about 10% is being taken out for taxes and that helps me to always come in under budget.

Figure Out Your Minimum

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Let’s say that I make $10/hour.

Usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400.

The key word there is “usually.”

Sometimes, I work as few as 5 hours a day, four days a week. Sometimes, I work as much as 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Track back through the last six months and figure out the week you worked the least amount of hours because that was what you were scheduled for. If you worked zero hours because you were on vacation or sick, that doesn’t count.

In this example, the least I worked was 5 hours a day for 4 days a week. 5 x 4 = 20, so 20 hours a week. I make $10/hour, so 20 x $10 = $200. $200 a week for four weeks, $200 x 4 = $800.

That $800 is what I need to base my budget on.

Fixed rates

From there, I figure out what’s a fixed rate. Usually, rent is a fixed rate, or has a “base rate” if you look at your monthly statement. Some common “fixed” rates are:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Cable
  • Credit Card payment
  • Insurance(s)

For this example, I’m going to use even numbers because it’s easier to do math that way. Let’s say that your fixed rates look like this:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40

If we add those things together, we get $370. So then, we subtract $370 from $800.

$800 – $370 = $430

Variable Rates

With the remaining $430, we want to overestimate the remaining categories of the budget. Those categories might be things like:

  • Gas
  • Food
  • Fun Money
  • Miscellaneous
  • Savings

For two people, we would divide that up to look something like this:

  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

$150 + $250 + $15 + $5 + $10 = $430

Every single dollar is accounted for. That’s really important. When we don’t have things categories, we spend it on stuff we don’t need. I’m sure there’s psychology behind why we do that – and if you know why, I would love to know! I just know that when I don’t have money in a bucket, I spend it, instead of saving it.

I was told that you should pay yourself first, meaning that you should put into savings before you do anything else. I think that’s a great goal to strive toward. I also think  it isn’t always realistic. There have been many times in my life where after gas and food, I had $11 that got swept into savings. I think the important thing is to always put something – even if it’s 50 cents – into savings. This helps create the habit so that when you do have a surplus, it gets put away.

What about when I make more?

Yep. I know. The burning question.

First, it’s important to talk about why it was based on the least amount you made: You have to have a game-plan for those weeks. If you go into a week where you’re working half what you usually work with no game plan, you’re just going to be panicked the whole entire time. But if you’ve got a game plan, you can more forward just a little bit freaked, rather than full-blown panicking. Ya feel?

So, in the example, we said usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400. $400 per week for four weeks… $400 x 4 = $1600.

That’s literally double.

What I did that saved my tail is that I doubled up on the things with variable rates (and actually sometimes quadruple the miscellaneous category) and instead of doubling the fixed rate items, I tossed that into savings. Let me show you what the original budget looked like and then I’ll show you what it looks like with double the income.

Original, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $20 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $250 + $20 + $15 + $5 = $800.

Doubled, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20 + $20 = $40 (I’m assuming $20 is a minimum payment)
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250 + $250 = $500
  • Fun Money: $15 + $15 = $30
  • Miscellaneous: $5 + $15 = $20
  • Savings: $25 + 485 = $510

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $40 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $500 + $30 + $20 + $485= $1600.

So, those may not be super realistic numbers because probably your car insurance is more than $60 per month. And, maybe there’s a month you have three kids birthdays in a row so you need to put less in fun / savings and more into miscellaneous. Also, if you have debt hanging out on your credit score, you may opt to throw money there rather than into savings. Whatever, you do, make sure that money is assigned a name.

Also, I understand that things are not going always be as clean as it just doubling. I recommend adding more money to food first and then adding to the other categories because food lasts the longest (longer than a fun night out, for example).

The trick is to not add too much (so that extra is going into savings) and to spend to your limit.

I know it feels weird to put money into savings when you have a hole in your shoe and haven’t gone out to eat in three months. Your savings account is what keeps you from literally becoming homeless if you get sick, lose your job or your car dies. Your savings account handles the big picture while the rest of your budget is about the day-to-day details.

Hopefully, this process, done enough months in a row will make it so that you don’t have to borrow against the future.

How Can You Possibly Spend that Much on Food?

The answer is: not eating out.

You totally could spend double your budget by eating out, but then when your income suddenly plummets, you and your family will be very hungry.

So, if you all of a sudden have double the amount to spend on food, buy extra of things that go in the freezer – meats and frozen fruits and veggies, not pizza rolls. I also highly recommend that you purchase things like cough syrup and stomach aids when you have extra – those things sneak up on us when we’re sick and so it’s wise to have them in the house. Especially if being sick means you’re not working!

Take stock of your life and figure out what you use often – or what you don’t use often that is a quarter full. Things like salt and spices keep for a really long time, so buy an extra.

Spend ahead as best you can and when you’re maxed out on kitchen space, I also recommend buying for holidays way ahead of time, especially for adults. If you have space, I also encourage you to buy extra shampoo, soap (of all kinds – body, dish, laundry), socks, underwear and even shoes if you have a kind you love. My father buys shirts on sale and saves them until one he’s already wearing has a hole in it. Things like reusable travel containers also help cut down on disposable sandwich bags, etc. The same with washcloths instead of paper towels.

If, at the end of the month, you’ve spent $450 instead of $500, go out to eat if you want. Or put it into savings. Either one is fine – I’m not going to judge you and you shouldn’t either.

This Post Left Me with 1,000 Question

I feel you. I tried to keep this as simple as possible, but I know it’s not easy. I would love to hear questions, feedback and corrections!

You can comment down below, email me at intricatelyimperfect@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram.

I would absolutely LOVE to do an entire post of just your questions about money!

Happy saving, my friends!A. Rose (1)