Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 30 -- January 23, 2011 -- The Last 24 Hours!

Somehow the last couple of days got away from me, but it doesn't matter because I was working the whole time and didn't buy anything except for yesterday, and what I did buy was necessary. That being, a pedicure and light lunch. Before you think that I blew my challenge, I need to explain. I mentioned early on that memories and friends supersede the no shopping challenge, and this is one of those occasions.

My heart is sad because a friend of mine is facing a health challenge that is making her anxious and worried. I would feel exactly the same way if it was me. Another friend and I took her out to give her a pedicure so she'd have a few moments to relax and let someone pamper (rather than poke) her. It was spa day for us at 675 Nails as we sat together, up in the chairs, and ate chocolate while our feet were sent through wringer. After our pedicures we went to a little tea shop and drank tea with a light lunch. I know my friend felt our love and concern, and hope that she healed and gained strength from the fun we were having. One of the gifts of the day was that my heart healed a little today as we laughed and enjoyed each others company. Friendship truly is a priceless gift, and I am a rich woman because of my friends.

Normally a pedicure would be decadence; yesterday it was a lifeline for all of us.

I began today doing homework and getting ready for work. It's not an easy task to get ready for work when half your beauty regiment is eliminated due to a lack of beauty products! The good thing was it took me about 15 minutes to get ready for work. The only thing that kept me from being frustrated as I said, "Mirror, Mirror, on the wall..." was that at 5:00 p.m., I would reach my 30 days, and I could buy the necessary beauty luxuries that I need to convince myself that the lines of time are not showing on my face. Likewise, I could cover up the blemish that is in direct contradiction with crow's feet. How can a person have crow's feet and a zit at the same time? Old age and adolescence join together to confound this 50-year-old. It defies logic!

Anyway, my plan was to make a beeline to Dominicks after I finished working today to buy some groceries, but while I was driving there I was actually feeling hesitant. Not shopping has become a habit -- a good one -- and I was feeling torn about ending my adventure. Still, my refrigerator and freezer are, for the the most part, bare. Over this 30 days, I successfully managed to put together meals without having to buy more groceries. I really missed salads, yogurt and sandwiches, but I survived. I don't miss Lean Cuisines or other frozen food.

I felt slightly disoriented as I drove into the Dominick's parking lot. I was looking forward to having lettuce, lunch meat and half-and-half in my refrigerator again, but I was determined not to stockpile things I didn't need. It's a funny thing, though. When you eat all the food in your house in the hope that it's going to save you money, you quickly realize that is not the case. Once you deplete everything, you need to replace it. Regular grocery shopping basically supplements what's already in the house and prevents the huge grocery bill at one time. The only real way to reduce one's grocery bill is to be selective, buy things that are on sale, and stay away from the processed food. So that's what I did. I spent $200, even with my Fresh Values card. Seriously, I have no idea what I bought that cost so much money. Maybe it was the Bing cherries. Or maybe it was the shrimp. Pasta was $1.00/box, so it wasn't that. It was probably the coffee or the cheese. Whatever it was, my food supply isn't that grand. I guess if you look at it, $200 for a month's groceries is not bad. Maybe I did save money.

Was I successful in my challenge? Certainly I saved money because I wasn't buying anything else. Remarkably, that part was easy. I simply didn't NEED anything so much that I had to buy it. I think I was true to the challenge: I didn't shop. Couple that with the fact that my checking account has $400 more in it than it would've at this point in the month if I hadn't done my challenge. In that sense I was VERY successful! So I'm seriously thinking about continuing my challenge with a few modifications. Food, for one, will be allowed -- including the half-and-half and Diet Coke. Other tangible things like clothes, and everything else I've pissed money on, can be avoided.

So I'm going to continue my challenge and only buy things that are necessities. When I determine that something is a necessity, I'm going to make every attempt to buy it used or borrow it. Nothing new.

I like this plan. We have too much in this world....too many 'things.' Perhaps I can make a difference simply by not buying any other products that will clutter this world. If I buy used things, they are already existing, so in a sense I'll be recycling.

So Karrie's No Shopping Challenge has a new face and new rules:

  1. Buy used things whenever possible. (New stuff that is a gift for other people is okay. I can't be tacky here.)
  2. Buy only necessities.
  3. THINK about something before buying it -- no impulse shopping or buying.
  4. Do not charge anything -- only pay cash.
That's it. We'll see how this version of the challenge works. I'll check in again soon. It's been fun writing this blog, and I thank you for reading it.

Maybe a little richer,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 26 - January 19, 2011 -- Oh, Crap!

Twelve crappy things:
  1. Last night I got home late from work and had to go to a Board of Trustees meeting for my townhouse complex. I'm on the Board, and it was important missing it.
  2. By the time I got home at 9:00 p.m. I was starving, so I ordered Chinese food. I think I let out an actual moan when I put a piece of General Tso's chicken in my mouth. (This is a multi-layered "crap" b/c I spent money at a restaurant, I ate GT's chicken (fattening), and I ate it at 9:30 p.m. (Not good.)) I don't think I'll even try to rationalize this as a necessity. If I was going to cave, at least it was for something really delicious!
  3. The charge at NLU for $3385.00 has wrecked havoc on my checking account because the credit did not go through until today and payments to my bills did. Overdraft, overdraft, overdraft. Luckily, my bank -- Chase -- was all over it because I alerted them. They kept the charges and overdrafts as "pending" so nothing actually posted. Despite this, I have been on edge since I kept watching 'overdraft' stamp itself all over my account.
  4. The salad Liz brought me is all gone. I haven't had time to go to the grocery store to pick up necessary salad fixings.
  5. I am worried about my son Ellis' survival in this terrible economy.
  6. I'm worried about my survival in this terrible economy because I didn't get the job at Glenview Public Library. They hired a woman with 5 years reference experience, which is interesting because I technically have 15 years of reference experience. Maybe she doesn't have a job and really, really, really (3x) needed one. I have a job and only really needed the job (1x).
  7. I'm sick and tired of the ice because I'm paranoid I'm going to fall (I think I'm too young to worry about this!)
  8. I completely ran out of Touch Base eye stuff, and I want it to keep my eye shadow on for the entire day and night since my days start at 5:30 a.m. and end at 9:00 p.m.
  9. I have completely run out of the spray hair conditioner I use before I blow dry my hair. This is something I can wait for because it's only 4 more days till the end of my challenge.
  10. I was up until 3:00 a.m. last night and my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. I managed to squeak it out until 6:00 a.m.. Numerous students commented on my "new" hairstyle. I call it flat and limp.
  11. I ran out of Diet Coke today. I'm not sure I can wait four days....
  12. Oh, and last night I was desperately seeking chocolate and the only place I could find it was on a FiberOne bar. Like I said....oh, crap.
Only 4 more days....


Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 24 - January 17, 2011 --Angel in Greens

This is getting really hard. I noted in my last entry that I'm out of a bunch of things -- hair goob and touch base for my eyes, for instance. But that is not what's so hard. I haven't had a salad in probably 12 days. I live on salads. I LOVE salads of all types. Simple greens, add chicken or shrimp. Add green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, mandarin oranges, croutons, pecans (the kind Janet loves or plain), walnuts, cranberries, sunflowers seeds, purple onion, chick peas, green peas, mushrooms, crumbled eggs....just about anything you can think of can go into a salad. Different ingredients makes for a different salad. So crisp and versatile.

I've really missed having a salad -- even found myself craving one. I've substituted cooked veggies of all kinds, but it just hasn't cut it. Granted, having cooked chicken, brown rice and Brussels sprouts is perfectly good for me, it just isn't a salad.

Last night, my friend Liz brought over dinner for me: pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes. Her daughter gave me a homemade cupcake for dessert. I've been eating well, but the dinner that Liz gave me was to die for! Why is it that when someone else makes it, the food always tastes better? I know it's not just me feeling that way; restaurants survive for that reason alone, I think. Anyway, I had a delicious dinner last night because Liz is a great mom and needed to drive her son back to school, just as dinner was ready. Lucky me!

Liz works in an office where lunch is brought in for all the employees, and today's lunch was Portillos. At the end of the day, a HUGE green salad was left untouched so Liz got to bring it home, and she gave me half of it. She was barely out the door when I was dishing it up; my mouth was watering just looking at all the bright greens of the various kinds of lettuce and I swear I've never seen more orangey carrots than were in that salad! The cucumbers were chunky and crisp. Heaven...I was in heaven as I ate the delicious salad. Thank you so much, Liz!

I was feeling under the weather today. I was headachy, dragging and sleepy, which isn't my usual state. Granted, doing homework all day when it's overcast and snowing will do that to a person, but I worried all day that I was getting sick. After eating my salad, I'm feeling much perkier. My headache is subsiding, too. Can it be that a salad brings homeopathic relief to make a person feel better? Or is it because I have a friend who is generous and kind in spirit because she's really an Angel in Greens?

Either way, I've decided that salad fixings is a necessity and it won't break my challenge if I go to the grocery store tomorrow and buy the stuff to make a really terrific salad!

Crunching away on fresh salad,

p.s. I've got one more Diet Coke left. I worry I'm about to meet my Waterloo.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 22 - January 15, 2011 -- Reading is FREE!

What an easy day of no spending! I spent the entire day reading. No driving, no shopping, no spending. It was cold and overcast, so I hunkered down under a blanket, drank endless cups of green tea and read. It was the perfect day, actually, and it cost me nothing.

When I got hungry I rummaged around my refrigerator for food -- that was my only challenge today. There's very little food in there, so I'm having to get really creative with fixing things. Late this evening I did manage to create a masterpiece: fresh fruit pie, made with all the random fruit in the frig. The heavenly aroma of blackberry, pomegranate, and strawberry pie filled the house. I took a little taste of the hot, bubbling juices as the pie cooked and it was so delicious! Given that there isn't much else in the house, the pie might have to sustain me for a couple of days.

These are the things I've run out of and haven't replaced:

hair goop
hair conditioner
touch base eye cream
Diamond pecan-pie pecans (my friend Janet loves these so much. I could make a serious argument that they are truly one of the necessities of life.)
lettuce and other salad fixings
tuna fish
english muffins
cream of mushroom soup
and, of course, half and half

I'm almost out of:

fat-free cheese
frozen veggies
beer (left over from New Year's Eve)

The best part about tonight is knowing that I've got 2 more days off of work! I can have a repeat tomorrow and Monday, and there will be only 6 more days of necessity vs luxury. Frankly, I look forward to going to the grocery store and buying the things I love most, like yogurt....and did I mention this? Half and half.

Content and slightly richer,

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 21 - January 14, 2011 Pay Day!

I love pay day. It's my favorite two days of the month. Bill paying days not so much.

On the news today I learned that Illinois is raising taxes for all us working folks, and that our paychecks are going to have less money in them starting at the end of this month. I'm starting to wonder if I'm ever going to get ahead. Over the past couple of years I've had to pay Illinois every year when I file my income taxes. I pay 8.5% sales tax every time I buy something, and I'm sure I'm paying a plethora of other taxes to Illinois that I don't even know about. What am I getting for that? Our libraries are deeply in debt and having to close branches or layoff employees. School lunches are being cut. Social services are being cut and people who rely on the state to help them are sadly disappointed. The list of things that Illinois cannot pay for is getting longer and longer everyday.

So on one hand, I know that taxes need to be raised. How else will we get out of the billion dollars of debt we've racked up? What a vicious cycle, though. If I have less in my paycheck, that's less money I can use to purchase items. My expenses seem to increase, and my income decreases. I'm applying for a 14 hour a week part-time job to help make up the difference. At what point will things even out? At what point will the tide turn and I'll make money again? I used to be so much richer when Bill Clinton was our president. I really wish he was in charge of our economy again, blow job or not. I never went to bed and worried about losing my job or what would happen if I did. I could use some of that comfort right about now.

With this economy and the state of our country, I actually worry about these things now. I'm old enough that an income disaster will be almost impossible for me to recover from. I am holing up, clinging to everything I've got and hoping like hell that I can weather this economic storm. Everything is cyclical. I figure I need to hang on for another 15 years and the economy will be back. Then maybe I won't need to be so concerned with whether I'm spending money on luxuries or necessities.

I worry about my sons and how they are going survive this crisis. They are fighting an uphill battle and they haven't even begun the fight. My older son graduated from college in May and is doing everything he can to support himself. He wants to be a police officer, but municipalities are not hiring officers, just like they aren't hiring librarians. He works two jobs and has no money. I don't have any to give him, regrettably. My younger son is in college, so hopefully the economy will be better when he gets out of college in three years. At least he wants to go into a business that is not supported by tax dollars. Ironically, he'll probably be the wealthiest of us all -- he wants to be a tattoo artist. No matter what state the economy is in, people seem to continue getting tattoos. Lucky him!

Don't mind me -- I've been out of half-and-half for a week and I'm feeling cranky.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 20 - January 13, 2011 - Hemorrhaging

Watching the 6:00 a.m. news is always an unreal reality check. There was a 'professional shopper' woman on this morning talking about the great deals on clothes that one can find on the internet. She was comparing dresses at stores vs dresses online, raving about what a deal you can get at because the little black dress she was featuring was only $250.00.

$250.00!!!! Really? That's a great deal? I've never in my life spent that kind of money on any clothing, including my wedding dress. When I got married I went to a bridal shop in town and emphatically asked to look at the budget closet. I ignored the skepticism of the saleswoman and managed to find a lovely wedding dress for $75.00.

When it came time for me to order flowers for my wedding, I just picked purple roses, and emphatically told the sales clerk that I did not want to talk to the wedding consultant because I knew what I wanted. We made our own invitations, had a friend cater the affair and another friend took the pictures. We spent days putting together music tapes for dancing, had a keg and jug wine, all under a rented tent with tables and chairs. Thankfully my betrothed nixed the wrought iron arch my mom and sister wanted, so we saved a lot of money there. We put on our entire wedding for 100 guests for a grand total of $700.00.
It was a good thing I didn't spend more on my dress because we were married outside and it poured rain the night before. At the end of my wedding night the bottom of my dress was black with mud.

Now that was a frugal wedding! And you know what? My marriage lasted 24 years. That averages to about $30.00 year. Not a bad return, I'd say. Of course our divorce cost us 50 times that in money and a million times more than that in sadness and hurt.

Opps....I was talking about the perky blond wom
an on the 6:00 a.m. news who was talking about the great deals she found online, and I wondered what planet she was from. Honestly, with the unemployment rate so high, foreclosures dotting every neighborhood, and people desperately trying to hold onto their jobs, I couldn't imagine worse timing for a 'news story' about $250.00 dresses. The day before the same segment covered cheap vacations: 4 night cruises for $600/person. Again, what are they thinking? I can't afford a $45.00 night in a Kenosha, WI hotel!

Are people really going on vacations? Do they really spend that kind of money on dresses and other clothing items? Maybe I've completely lost touch with the real world because I've been buying my clothes at Target for so long. My idea of a vacation paradise is to rent a little ramshackle cottage in Frankfort, MI and sit on the beach.

And then there are some days the money hemorrhages out of my wallet. Today was one of those days. In between work and my first Thursday night grad class, I had a bunch of errands to run. First, I needed to buy gas because I was, as Jackson Browne once sang, runnin' on empty. I also had to get to school early because I had to pay my fees so I wouldn't be kicked out of the program this close to the end. I was tight on time so I had to buy fast food. I hated to do it, but there truly times when life just takes over and there's nothing you can do about it. So it was Jimmy John's.

As soon as I got to school I had to pay my fees. Instead of charging my checking account the $60.00 I owed, the clerk charged me $3,385.00. Luckily I caught it and they put a credit through right away.

Keeping perspective on things, I was feeling poor tonight because I paid $28.00 for gas, $6.00 for dinner, and $60.00 for school fees. It's been so long since I've spent money, I felt completely drained of mula at the end of the night. Of course the only thing that made it okay was that these were all necessities.

Let's see what tomorrow brings. I think I have 10 more days of buying only necessities.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 19 - January 12, 2011 -- It REALLY Sucks!

The dog and cat hair in my house has reached epic proportions. There are tufts of fur that should be paying me rent because they are residing on my stairs, under furniture, and all over my couch -- because, of course, that is where my dog sleeps. It's disgusting, and I finally gave in and decided to vacuum. The vacuum bags became a necessity and I had to go into the hardware store to buy them. Old habits die hard, though....the first thing I saw was something that I've been wanting to buy for quite awhile -- a Dustbuster hand held vacuum. I know...the woman who hates to vacuum wants a Dust Buster? You 'betcha, as a certain Alaskan woman would say. A Dust Buster can get a small job done without me having to get out my canister vacuum. If I had a Dust Buster I could just suck up those fur balls quickly and easily. Because I haven't seen one in a store in recent years, I had to restrain myself from buying that Dust Buster. I added it to my mental list of things to buy on January 24th...the day after my 30 day challenge, though.

Canister vacuums are a pain in the ass. They ram into the furniture, suck up the edges of rugs, and make a lot of noise that makes my dog follow me around the house barking manically. My vacuum requires switching the carpet attachment with the upholstery attachment, and then I have to put the top-of-the-ceiling attachment on to get the cobwebs. Vacuuming always reminds me just how gross my house gets.

I should note that my hatred for vacuuming has been a life-long thing. When I was a kid, on Saturdays I was supposed to vacuum my bedroom but I would actually turn the vacuum on and just let it run without touching it. While it was running I would take my hair brush and brush my rug to make it look like I vacuumed! It would take me 3 times longer to brush my carpet than it would've if I had just vacuumed. Surprisingly, my mom always seemed satisfied with how clean my carpet looked. Go figure.

The truth of the matter is that I have a cleaning lady twice a month, so I don't vacuum very often. I'm not sure if I have a cleaning lady because I hate to vacuum or if I hate to vacuum because I have a cleaning lady. In the debate of necessity vs. luxury, I would normally put a cleaning lady in the luxury column. Given that I'm currently getting a masters in teaching by taking classes at night, doing homework every night, working a full-time job, writing lesson plans when I'm not doing homework, and occasionally working a second job, cleaning my house doesn't happen. I don't have the time, and since I don't want to live in a dirty house, I need to have a cleaning lady. This need won't always be there; I will eventually graduate (this June), and I hopefully will get to a point when I don't have to work two jobs (when I retire at 75). Until then, my cleaning lady is a God-send. I worship the ground she walks on, and I will be hard-pressed to let her go. My favorite day comes every 2-3 weeks, always on Thursday. I come home from my night class at 9:00 p.m., walk through the door, and bask in the cleanliness of my sweet little home. Definitely a necessity. Say what you want. :)

The other thing that sucks is that one of my best friends told me that she has cancer. My heart aches for her, and I will be worried about her until she gets a clean bill of health. My friendship with her is an absolutely necessity in my life, and I wish I could take her cancer away from her. We are blessed to have friends over the years who grow with us, help us, laugh with us, entertain us, and remind us to keep perspective on all the weird twists in life. My friend has been all these things to me, and it will be my honor to be these things to her. God-speed, my friend. I'm here for you night and day.

Fur-free but worried and praying for my friend,