Clothing Budget: Q2 2016

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April: I spent $30 on a pair of Converse sneakers that I purchased from Amazon. I’m so excited!! I’ve lusted after Converse for a long, long time and I’m happy to say that they were worth the wait. I also visited the outlet mall and snagged a navy work dress for next fall for $5 and a fisherman knit sweater for $6….sadly I was able to wear the sweater a few times this month. Happy Spring?  In total I spent $41 in April.

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May: I bought a bag I have wanted for quite some time off of ebay when I saw it for under $70.   I also brought a lot of clothes back with me from our trip to Chicago.  When we moved last fall we left some of our non-essential items back home (like summer clothes) and so we brought most of that back with us this month and it felt like getting a ton of “new” things without spending money.:)  I also found an older Anthropologie skirt on ebay for $10 including shipping and a $6 pair of cherry red denim skinny jeans at a thrift store.  So an expensive month overall at $84.

June: One more Anthropologie skirt from ebay came home to me this month.  This one was silk (the other one is cotton) and was $28.  And that was it for June.

So I spent a total of $153 this quarter. Halfway through the year, my spending is at $403 with my goal being to stay under $600.  I bought a lot of clothing in March, and have been filling in around that since then.  I’m glad to see that I’m at just under half of my budget for the year.

In retrospect, I dislike doing one big shop (like in March) because I always wind up with a “loser” piece or two that I just don’t wear that often.  So I don’t think I’ll do that for winter clothes.  Even though it means I spend more time browsing, it’s time I have and I would rather get a lot of wear out of everything that I bring home.  As for next quarter, I have my eye on a pair of new boots which would basically eat up the rest of my budget for the year.  I’m undecided on whether that’s worth it or not.

Anyone else get anything good lately?

Traits, habits and quirks.

I am not artistic. I was recently dragged to one of those wine and painting classes that were super popular a few years ago and it was awful. I hated every second of it. Do you know that everyone is given the same colors for their canvas? Where is the creativity in that?

I am creative. I think analytic-minded people are too often told that they lack creativity. I disagree. While there may not be anything beautiful and lovely that comes about from my creativity, I do pride myself on being able to come up with new solutions to problems and find unconventional ways of attacking rote tasks in my work. So there.

I follow rules.  Speed limits, recipes, assembly manuals, due dates, you name it.  I don’t cut in line; I’m not pushy at the grocery store and I follow training plans exactly as written.  Liam and his mother like to joke that this is my Midwestern side coming out.

I prefer to use up one bottle of nail polish at a time. I also only watch one television show at a time. But books? Give me three or four simultaneously or I won’t read any of them. Go figure.

I do not move or make a sound when sleeping. I lay flat on my back at the very edge of my bed. This is a thing that has freaked people out in the past. Not too many though, because how many people actually see you sleep?

I like to speed shower. Yes, it’s weird. Water-saving effort on my part though, non? In reality this is how I wake myself up in the mornings: I set a timer and attempt to be done showering and getting dressed by the time it goes off. I take about ten minutes when I wash my hair and 3-4 when I don’t.

I won’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Someone once told me they need to breathe and that has stuck with me.  I also don’t eat the very bottom of a banana because bugs.

Black licorice > chocolate.  Always.  I love black licorice and anything anise flavored.  Liam makes the most delicious anise cookies that he found in some really old Italian cookbook.  Most people I know can’t stand anise which works out really well for me.  Can I trade you my chocolate easter bunny for those Good & Plentys your misguided aunt got you?

Things I am into right now

As I put my flip flops on before heading out the door this morning it struck me that flip flops and I are having a moment right now. After eschewing them for most of last summer in favor of more fashionable sandals I have realized that I enjoy my flip flops after a week of office-appropriate footwear. It’s also highly likely that part of my renewed appreciation for my footwear has to do with the fact that we still haven’t had consistently warm weather where I am. We’ll have one day that hits 70 every week but for the most part it has been in the high 50’s.  On the topic of attire, I’m also very into cardigans right now. Probably due to the weather situation described above.  But I am also into non-apparel  things too.  To wit:

Tea with coffee creamer

I still love coffee best, but I’ve realized that adding creamer to tea makes it a lot easier for me to drink in the mornings. I eat breakfast relatively late, which means that I drink my morning beverage on an empty stomach. Black tea is delicious but it’s also a bit harsh without any food, which is where the creamer comes in. I like the individually packaged hazelnut creamers that don’t need to be kept in the fridge, which probably means they aren’t real food or very good for you.

Freezer meals

I have been on quite a cooking kick lately. Specifically, I’ve been very into preparing meals for the freezer. For the past several Sundays I’ve had the crock pot, stove and oven simultaneously prepping our meals for the week. On that note, we have been eating our biggest meals in the middle of the day and have switched to having sandwiches for dinner most nights. We haven’t yet bought a microwave for our current place so this is working well.

Craigslist

There are certain things (beds!) that I refuse to buy on Craigslist, but for most of the furniture in our new place we’ve been looking to Craigslist. Right now our place is a mishmash of styles and colors, but when we finally have a warm weekend our plan is to paint some of what we’ve gotten so that some of it matches.  We have spent just under $100 and have everything we need except for a bed.  *Right now we have a futon that’s doubling as our couch and our bed.  L is too tall to sleep on the frame so we’ve been sleeping on the mattress on the floor and it’s so extremely comfortable that we aren’t rushing to acquire a bed!

Craftiness

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This one amuses me to no end.  I have a Pinterest account, but that’s only because my sister sometimes sends me recipes from it and I found that it was impossible to look through without an account.  I never go to  crafting parties, have no artistic bone in my body and my rudimentary knitting is really my only “making” skill.  So it is anybody’s guess as to why I am suddenly very into crafty projects and why I am currently debating turning some old t-shirts into a braided kitchen rug or a reusable shopping tote.  (We now pay for plastic bags in my city.)

My necklace holder is my newest project.  I realize this is not a “new” idea but I made it last night so it’s new to me.  And by “I made it” what I really mean is that I bought all of the supplies but Liam insisted that he do the cutting and final assembly because I’m me and he didn’t think my mom would approve of me using sharp knives.  He is not wrong.  I know most versions of this cover the cork with fabric and I might add some later but I’m happy with this for now.  And as it stands this project cost me $4 before tax because I found both the frame and a massive cork board (that Liam was able to pop the frame off of) at Goodwill.  The blue in that frame exactly matches a few other accents we’ve put up to try and distract from the weird nursery-ish yellow that’s on the walls.

 

New and now

Much like my few attempts at keeping a journal, I find that putting together a coherent post gets increasingly more challenging when the timeframe between posts increases. But it’s a Friday night where L is working on his final projects and where I need to (quietly) entertain myself so putting together this post sounded like a solid plan.

Earlier this month we moved to our more permanent apartment in New England. The place we rented over the winter was the nicest apartment we’ve lived in together but it is used for short-term rentals over the summer so we knew we had to be out by spring.  The best part about it was that it was completely furnished, which meant that we didn’t need to bring any of our furniture with us when we moved out here.  Unfortunately that meant that we had no furniture to our name when we moved to this new place.  We have been here for about three weeks now and I’m typing this from the futon mattress that doubles as our bed each night. Put another way, we’ve got a lot to do in this apartment still to make it feel more like home.

I’m going to attempt to hand sew some curtains for our family room this weekend. The owners of our building think that it dates to about 1820, and while not a Colonial style it is still an all-brick building with big, prominent front windows.  We have had a lot of luck finding furniture on Craigslist this time around.   The unit is far from barren and I’m finding that I sleep quite well on the floor.

Since I’m talking about housing, I’ll also say that our house downpayment fund is going strong and that barring something unforeseen we’ll be hovering around the 25% mark at the end of our lease.  At this point it is not looking likely that we will buy in New England because I expect to have to move for work about 18 months from now.  The nice thing about planning a down payment around a New England purchase is that homes are very, very pricey here right now so with few exceptions we will be ahead of the game after we move.  Having a plan to put 50% down on a house might seem nutty at first blush but it’s our way of making sure we stay disciplined with our saving.

Speaking of expensive purchases, I still haven’t bought a new laptop.  A while back I got it in my head that I didn’t want to spend any of my “regular” money on something like a new computer.  It’s technically not a necessity now that I’m not in school and have an iPad.

And speaking of extra money, I’m sad to report that I’ve had a terrible go at finding a part-time job!  We would like to use the extra money for our Christmas travel (which is extended and expensive on account of a family wedding), my new computer and to add to our emergency cushion.  While a bit dejected I’m not yet defeated so I’m going to shoot off another round of applications this weekend.

Now that applying is on the forefront of my mind I’m going to put together my to-do list of places that I want to send resumes to in the morning.  Thanks for reading and I hope you have/had a lovely long weekend!

Seven Snippets

Whatever blogging muscle I had has gotten completely flabby from nonuse.  I had several posts started and waiting on my dashboard but could never manage to finish any of them.  So I’ve condensed them in list form below.  Even this list took multiple attempts which is why #1 is probably no longer timely.  But I didn’t want to change the title to Six Snippets, so there you go.

1. Taxes.  We’re done!  And, heaven help me, we’re not moving states mid-year again if I can help it.  January start dates are going to be our new jam because that was way too many W-2s and calculations for my liking.  Because of the move we got a nice little refund that went right back to the government in the form of a student loan payment.
2. Travel.  March was nutty.  I am back from a work conference and boarding a plane again in just a few hours.  Literally hours after that plane lands our visitors will be disembarking their own flight to New England and staying for the holiday weekend.  And after four quiet weeks at home we’ll travel three more times this spring for commencement ceremonies.
3. I’m old. I think I experienced “throwing my back out” for the first time. It was awful. Forget the gray hair I’ve found. This was the worst part of ‘getting old’ yet.  I could pathetically be described as an amoeba-like creature on the couch for most of last weekend.
4. Snow.  This is a thing that seriously impacted #2 above.  Gotta love the unpredictability of March. It didn’t help that the places we were traveling to/from had crazy winters.  I’m not normally a nervous traveler but something about snow just makes me extremely uncomfortable with being away from home.  However, now that it’s mid-April I think we might actually be able to say that we’re done with all of this nonsense for another year.
5. Moving.  We are!  Most of my free time lately has been spent laundering, cleaning, organizing, packing and hunting for things that we need for our next apartment.  I actually do have a longer post penned about why we’re moving but it can be summed up by saying we’re downsizing to increase our rate of saving for a down payment.  We are those oddballs who want to put down a very large downpayment (at least 50%) so it will still be a long while.
6. Health and wellness.  My main resolution/goal for this year was to really focus on my health because it’s something that I’ve taken for granted for far too long.  I was never a sickly kid – I was either perfectly healthy or needed surgery/immediate attention and so I’ve been lucky (?) enough to get by without any focus.  I’m really trying to change that because, to be blunt, my health is a really dumb thing to take for granted.  I still sometimes have coffee and cookies for breakfast, but I have established care with a primary provider, have had blood work done (all good!), set up an appointment for a precautionary skin check with a dermatologist, and have joined a gym.  I still need to find a dentist and an eye doctor but it’s only April so I’m feeling pretty good about my progress thus far.
7. Books.  I have been in such a reading slump this year.  I have given up on every single fiction book that I’ve started.  Have any good suggestions?  Right now I’m reading Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com’s book and while I’m positive that plenty of it is going over my head I’m finding it a fascinating introduction to Big Data and the analytics field.

Clothing Budget: Q1 2016

In January bought five items and I spent $79 of my $600 budget. Everything was from Gap, and has been perfect for work.

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I bought this lace-sleeved top in both black and white for $12 each.  They just work really well for my office paired with pencil skirts or dress pants.  As of this writing I’ve already worn the black one several times!

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1969 Resolution pull on legging jeans.  These were $14 and I loooooved them right out of the bag. I have a feeling that these are going to stretch out and become totally unwearable after six months – but for the price I’m okay with that.

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Merino wrap cardigan in beige and black.  $18 each.  (I grabbed the screenshot of the gray one because it shows the cardigan the best.)   Reviewers don’t seem to like these but I love them!  I bought them because I wanted something more casual to wear over dresses in my office.  I have a few shift dresses that would work better with something soft and flowy topping them.  I was initially just going to buy the black one but thought that might be too wintry for the warmer months, so I got the beige as well.  The beige is also going to help me wear a summer-weather dress for Easter this year.  I was going to buy a new dress but then everything I liked wound up being very expensive.

In February, I spent $0.  This was the first month that we went back on a strict budget and I knew there wouldn’t be any extra money being added to it (no overtime this month) so I held off.

Last year I recapped January and February together here. I wore that trench coat all spring and fall and can’t wait to pull it out again. That navy dress is now sitting in my mom’s closet because she wound up liking it a lot more than I did.

In March, I spent $170 of my budget on five dresses and two skirts. Last year’s recap is here. I wore that dress into the ground and am sad I don’t have it anymore. The ring gets worn lots as well, but only during warmer months because it gets stuck in gloves and scarves. This month I bought three dresses and a skirt from ThredUp, an Anthropologie skirt off of eBay and a dress from Gap.  And while that did come out of my monthly spending money, I was called in to work extra hours this month so there was a nice boost to my spending allotment.  Here’s the dress from Gap ($20, after a gift card) which I’m completely in love with even though this picture made me nervous before it arrived.

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After the first quarter of the year I’ve spent $250 of my $600 budget.  That’s high, but we generally have such cool and short summers that I don’t anticipate spending very much more for quite some time. I do “need” a pair of chino shorts, as I don’t have any at the moment and maybe a jersey dress for the few uncomfortably hot days but that’s likely it. I’ll be back in June to let you know whether that was the case.

Thoughts on the quarterly recaps ?

Meal planning and budgeting

Our budgeting system has been all over the place since we relocated.  In order to get everything back in order we have been focusing on one or two categories each month that we try to keep tight control on.  This month we tackled food and spending money.  Here is a rundown of how the food category went.

We are a family of two adults with no known intolerances or allergies. I’m not a big meat eater and L prefers to go easy on pasta.  Other than occasional alcohol, we drink water, coffee, tea and seltzer water. Seltzer water is definitely an unnecessary indulgence, but it’s better than regularly buying pop or sugary teas, which we try to avoid.

Liam loves shopping and cooking, but he also makes very expensive and elaborate meals. When we’re more conscious of our budget I’m the one that does the shopping and planning because I rely on simpler foods that we like just as much. $50-$60 per week is not impossible, but it does require a fair bit of advanced planning and number crunching. I generally shop only at our regular chain grocery store, but occasionally I’ll also need to drop by Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s for the odd ingredient. Trader Joe’s is both a money suck and saver; I have to be really careful to go in there and stick to a Very Specific List otherwise I completely blow the budget.

With a few exceptions I stick to the store brand variety of most things I’m buying. Liam is very brand loyal, which is another reason why I take over the shopping when we lower the budget for the month. Admittedly even I stick to a certain brand of milk and eggs though. I toyed with the idea of shopping at Wal-Mart one week this month for the price comparison. Wal-Mart was late in coming to New England and the grocery sections were especially late, so I don’t know whether they have bothered to be competitive on groceries up here.  From what I heard from coworkers, the food selection is really poor and quite expensive so we decided not to visit this month.

Our first week of groceries was actually bought in January, but we spent $155.  $155!!  Because we were shopping for two weeks I was hoping that would be more like $110-$115.  But again, I brought Liam and he is impulsive.  At that point I was pretty confident that there was no way we were going to come in under my goal of $300 in groceries for the month.

Another bad sign for our budget was that for the first time in forever we tossed out a several servings of a meal.   It wasn’t a particularly expensive soup, but I hate wasting food so that was really disappointing.  We got pizza on a night we weren’t planning on doing so but in the end everything wound up working out just fine.  We did go slightly over budget ($303.45) but I’m considering that a success for our first month of our new budget.

Week of February 1st: Ignoring the ill-fated soup, our meals were pizza (takeout), salsa chicken and rice (x2), and Italian sausage with macaroni and cheese.  We were away from home the first weekend of February and because we bought several meals for other people I don’t count that in our normal budget.

Week of February 8th: We ate spaghetti and meatballs, a Southwest-inspired “lasagna” (meatless),  a meatless pot pie, baked chicken and roasted broccoli, and more takeout pizza because somehow Liam had a free one.  Oh, and we had Indian takeout one night.    Total spent on groceries $3.50 (milk).

Week of February 15th: We ate a ravioli lasagna that was totally inspired by something in the ready-made section at Costco (that fed us for three nights!), shrimp with roasted potatoes and broccoli, and another meatless pot pie.  Total spent on groceries: $78

Week of February 22nd: I made a chili that we ate over egg noodles one night and baked potatoes the next; red beans and rice, and another pot pie.  We also had salmon and green beans one night.

The cool thing was that after the first week’s huge shop we were able to work around what was in the pantry for the most part.  The salmon and green beans was the one meal where both of us were not feeling anything that we had in the house.   I should add that my breakfast was always baked oatmeal and that Liam had either hardboiled eggs or toast.  I always have peanut butter and jelly for lunch, and L will either have leftovers or I’ll make another meal for him to have at lunch all week.  While it’s so hard for us to say no to dinner out, we never have a problem with bringing lunch.

I had to buy most of the ingredients for the ravioli lasagna, but that was on the menu because we had an open jar of sauce from the spaghetti and meatballs.

March is going to be an insane month in our house and for our budget.  I’m traveling for work, we’re traveling together, and we also have family coming to visit.  Excluding when family visits, I’m going to try to stick to under $300 again.