brown baggin it.

8 07 2010

no no, it’s not some sort of sexual euphemism like the  rusty trombone or something. i’m talking about heading back to grade school for juice boxes, kudos, and tiny bags of potato chips (and maybe an embarrassing note from your mom).  well, it’s wednesday, and i’m already down to almost none of my allotted $50 for spending money for the week. shiz. and looking back over the last 2 days, all but $2.50 (spent on a super sweet 80s blouse at goodwill) has gone to food and booze. surprise!

monday morning: too lazy to make and eat breakfast at home, grabbed a bagel $1.99 & $1.79 vitamin water at colucci’s on my way to visit puppies.

monday afternoon: dehydrated and starving: got another $1.29 vitamin water & a $1.49 cheddar bagel twist at dunkin donuts.

monday evening: on the lengthy and un-air conditioned drive back from puppies, the boyfriend and i are overcome with a need for slurpees. really big slurpees $1.69. (i would spend the rest of the day clutching my stomach in agony and regret)

tuesday afternoon: in a heat addled haze, i leave my lunch at home on the couch. i eat some stale office cheerios for breakfast, and mercifully, some friends ask me out for lunch to the public market house. super delicious pesto pasta salad and bottled water from pie in the sky– $6.18.

tuesday late afternoon: pasta salad isn’t that filling, and the stale cheerios aren’t doing it for me. i break down. free iced coffee (i’d been saving a freebie for just this kind of occasion), and a day old bialy ($1.00!) with butter at coffee by design– $1.21.

tuesday after work: motherfucking smothering heat! needed yet another slurpee just to get my ass up the hill. smaller this time, but still sort of a mistake $1.19.

tuesday night: i dutifully ate dinner at home, even going so far as to unearth some ancient faux sausage gravy from freezer. unfortunately, the flask was smelly, and i needed to bust a move to the port city music hall to see my awesome friend make some music. $2 to get in, and instead of getting a $2 beer like i should have, i decided to go for a $6 whiskey & ginger. i’m an asshole.

wednesday night: pub quiz at brian boru. we came in second to last ahead of the team that missed the first round entirely. ouch. two $2 high lifes + $1 tip helped ease the pain. cheap, but still not cheap enough.

grand total: $32.33.

basically, i’ve been eating my money, and have a mere $15 and some change to get me through saturday. too bad i still have burlesque night tomorrow, and then standard grade friday and saturday to get through. either i’m going to have to be turning tricks in the parking lot in between social events, or i’m going to need to use EXTREME RESTRAINT for the rest of the week.

that’s where the brown bag program comes in. this week can’t really be repaired (bring on the backalley hand jobs!). but in preparation for next week, i’ve been doing a lot of thinking about  how much money i spend on eating out, and how much of that is really worthwhile. i’m not talking about a couple of high end monthly dinners that kick you in the groin with their deliciousness. if the money is there, i do think that those are worth it. but i’m talking about the times that i’m too lazy to pack my lunch, or go get coffee and a cookie just to get out of my office for a while. i’m sure i’ve spent hundreds of dollars on overpriced vitamin waters and impulse candy. if i can just get my shit together, i can not only save money by bringing food from home, but i can also have better food than i might otherwise pick up at the corner 7-11.

i worried at first that all my eating out friends would be bummed out about the fact that real restaurants are essentially off the menu for the entire month, but i was quite shocked to find that they all seemed really enthusiastic about it. not just enthusiastic really, weirdly relieved and excited to know that not going out to dinner was actually a viable option. it’s tough living in a city that has so many awesome restaurants and bars and events- too easy to forget that it is possible to have fun with nothing but couch cushion money and little ingenuity.

so let’s do this: home made sangria and crappy netflix movies at home, eastern prom picnics and ultimate frisbee, sneaking into crescent beach from the kettle cover parking lot, and brown bag lunches in hobo park . don’t worry, i’ll bring the tiny bags of chips.

what else can i do no money?

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14 responses

8 07 2010
m

One day I told my mom I liked kudos and so she bought bulk quantities of them from Sam’s Club for the next 8 years. I haven’t had one since but I imagine they would immediately transport me back to watching Charles In Charge reruns after school in 1992.

12 07 2010
bessmarvin

i want kudos so bad right now, you don’t even know. the ones with the tiny m&ms. my dad was a dentist, so we almost never got anything sugary good. kudos were definitely the lunchbag holy grail for me and my sisters. p.s. some charles in charge could go down real smooth about now.

8 07 2010
Amy in Maine

I can relate to everything in this post from the Slurpees (I just discovered them on that hot 4th of July night!) to using the free coffee coupon as a bailout in a broke week, to struggling to keep a social life on a low income.

I’ve been working on strategies to feed myself on less than $30.00 a week for some time, and frankly, I’ve decided it’s sad to have to scrimp on the stuff that keeps you alive. By the way, there does come a time when you have to say “you know, I need to make more money.” I used to have a second job, cleaning offices, making an extra $400.00 a month, I have no idea where that money went! When you have money, that’s when you need to be frugal. I wish I had put it into a savings account, instead of buying vitamin waters, etc. Now I live on one job and things are even tighter. Anyway, I think there is a balance between spending on things that are meaningful, like seeing friends, focusing on bringing more money IN, and not wasting money on vending machine crap. It’s all a balance. Can’t just focus on one aspect.

12 07 2010
bessmarvin

wait, you’ve just discovered slurpees? how is this even possible! needless, i’m glad to hear that you’ve found the path to true enlightenment. wow $30 is tough! but you know, i’m sure i’ve lived on less when i was younger and didn’t even give it a second thought. you’re right, when you make more money, you tend to end up spending more money- and once you’ve learned to live on more, it’s hard to go back in time. i’m hoping that this little diet will help me relearn some of my lost skills!

8 07 2010
blackgirlinmaine

Damn, you sound a lot like me. That is exactly how I get off track. Weeks like this are horrible, too hot to cook you get hot and thirsty and grab something from the outside world. I do find if I focus more on my weight and either maintaining it or at moment dropping the 10lbs I gained recently I eat out a lot less.

My real leak is drinks from Starbucks or any coffeehouse, though I made some ice tea the other day and was quite happy with myself. I am trying to give up the $4-5 money drains instead opting for maybe 1 good meal out this week since if I have one nice meal out in the end that feels more enjoyable. Funny to read this though since I am about to head to work and need to pack some fruit to eat at the office so I won’t run out and spend.

I think your no money options sound cool besides playing frisbee you even get some free exercise.

12 07 2010
bessmarvin

you’re so right! drinks are both the silent diet and budget killer. i’m not even a caffeine person, but i get so thirsty sometimes that i have no choice but to break down and bow to the gods of bottled water and juice. it’s shameful how much money i blow on liquids that aren’t even booze!

8 07 2010
Seth Jacobs

Colucci’s is great. I used to stop there for a Vwater and Bfast sangie on my walk to work back in the day when I lived on the East End.

I remember a cheeseburger plate that came with about 2 pounds of crinkle fries.

12 07 2010
bessmarvin

the crinkle fries are the best- with lots of pepper. colucci’s is both a blessing and a curse. having mozzarella sticks in such close proximity is dangerous. but i also love my sunday jaunt to get a bagel and the paper. and then of course there’s the beer. walkable beer is intensely important.

9 07 2010
amycasey

I read on another thrifty/finacialy blog recently (can’t remember which or I would link) that when you’re trying to make changes (cut back spending, lose weight, anything) it can be most effective to make one change at a time. Then every week, or every two weeks, introduce a new change once you stop missing the first thing you cut, or once your first change has become a habit.

I say this thinking, maybe you are trying to change too much at once? Like focus on the cooking at home first, and once you’ve found your groove there, then start packing the lunch (though I find the more I cook at home the more automatic lunches I have – leftovers). After you’ve got both of those going, start inviting friends on picnics instead of out for a dinner. (sangria is oh so portable for a sunset on the prom).

When I read this it made a lot of sense to me (the author, like you, also stressed that some things are too personally valuable to cut, like a great date night meal out, having a girls night to see your friends, etc). I’m trying it out now. My first change was cutting the vending machine out of my life. I work in the suburbs and don’t have a car, so if I don’t have enough in my lunch box, I turn to the 90 cent snacks. I know its a waste of money, and all gross unhealthy food, but I found over the last few months I kept buying (and then regretting) crackers, chips, etc. I’m happy to report I’ve been able to stay away for two weeks now, so I am ready to make the next change. I too would like to cut my coffee shop expenses in half, from 50 a month to 25, but I’ve realized it will be easier to do that in the fall – I love iced coffee too much!

I’m sure this wouldn’t work for everyone, but it seems like a good approach for me.

(ps, as a dog owner, I can tell you you’ll go out less once the puppy is with you, so I’d make that the last thing you eliminate)

11 07 2010
bessmarvin

i definitely agree with the one step at a time method, and in many ways i’ve been doing it for a while. it started with putting my credit cards in the freezer, then starting a direct deposit from every paycheck into my savings account, and then developing a budget. the unfortunate thing is that i seem to have stalled out at that step. even though i have everything mapped out pretty well, i just can’t seem to stick to it. if we’re using the diet metaphor, think of it like a cleanse. i’m devoting one month to strict and minimal cash-only budget, to try and retrain myself to live on less (which i happily somehow was able to do when i was an office temp living in a cockroach infested suicide apartment). i also hope that giving myself a cash allowance will help me to understand better exactly where my money is going. on a related note, a vending machine would be the death of me. the force is strong with you if you are able to avoid its gravitational pull.

9 07 2010
jjdactyl

SO. Are you ready for this? It’s kind of sick.

I gave my partner access to my online banking info, and he took the time to figure out where all of my money was going. I knew, kind of, theoretically I guess, that almost all of my money was going to food. Food outside of my house. Also, underpants. That’s why I had no money, right?

But when he mapped it out, it was actually really disturbing. I spent more on food than some people make, total. I bought lunch at the store every day, usually more than $5, always disappointing. Then I bought coffee at the store. Then I did a small grocery shop for the night. Five days a week.

I wasted like $3000 on crap without even (really) realizing it. More than that, actually.

We figured out a really awesome budget, super strict, that I’m mostly sticking to. Resisting the temptation to buy food at work is the most major thing. I still haven’t gotten the hang of cooking lunches at home, but I’m SO GOOD NOW at not going out.

And I make really. really. good. sangria.

11 07 2010
bessmarvin

when i signed up for mint.com i realized that i had spent over $1000 in one month on just eating out and snack food (it’s not as dangerous as working at WF, but working on india street between micucci grocery, coffee by design, and two fat cats… i’m a hopeless wreck). mysteriously, i also buy a lot of underpants. i bought 9 pair last week- and then i just unearthed 3 more under my bed still on their plastic underpants hangers. the new cash only thing is definitely helping me stick to my budget (which i always had but boldly ignored), and really making me think about every single purchase that i make. when i know i only have $50 to last me through the week, that $4 coffee store visit seems somehow less appealing. although i still accidentally bought a bagel this morning. p.s. my kingdom for your sangria recipe! it’s my favorite thing ever.

10 07 2010
Pook

I am excited to brown bag it as well. I can never resist an outing with friends, but I can not keep up money wise. I want to start exploring all the free walking paths around Portland, I think they are called the Harbor Trails. Join me!!!

11 07 2010
bessmarvin

i’ve heard tell of these harbor trails, but i haven’t checked them out yet. i definitely need to find more life activities that involve exercise, and less that involve booze and sitting. in the meantime, bring on the brown baggin!

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