peligro! : why i can no longer go to whole foods.

31 01 2011

i rarely plan to go to whole foods. as a relatively new vegetarian still vainly attempting to recreate meat on her dinner table, sometimes i do find myself needing to get a specific item or two that i can only find contained within their four posh and perfectly manicured walls (have you seen their produce displays?)… but very rarely. usually, i find that i end up there accidentally (usually with a wealthier and far more health conscious friend), as a victim of  a “do you mind if we pop into the whole foods for a sec, i just need to grab some tomatillos and a cask of bulgur?” situation.

yet however i wind up there, the result is ALWAYS THE SAME. i can literally not enter through those sliding doors for more than 1 minute, without spending at least $20 (usually, on a single 10 lb. salad). like somehow, $20 is the cost of the ferry ride to get to the other side of the pricey health food river styx. as my ENTIRE GROCERY BUDGET FOR THE WEEK IS $30, this is clearly a problem.

well, that problem occurred yet again today. after a fantastic coffee date with my friend rob, he uttered the dreaded ” just need to pop in and grab a few things!”. in theory, i was supposed to drop him off there and keep on walking toward home base, but it was cold… and we were still talking… and ooh are those blackberries on sale for 2/$5? just like that i was in the door with a stack of produce in my hand grabbing whatever else seemed like a good idea at the time: seaweed & tamari rice cakes? faux buffalo wings? strawberry soy protein shakes? certainly nothing that would pass as a meal or that even have any real nutritional value.

today’s damage- $31. SURPRISE!!! MY ENTIRE FUCKING GROCERY BUDGET! and save for two bags of fake beef tips intended for making stroganoff, everything else was completely unnecessary.  in my universe, that whole store is just one big ass impulse buy. Read the rest of this entry »





less is more.

11 01 2011

so i was reading this weird article last week about a restaurateur in new york who is opening up a temporary fine dining restaurant (in a building that will either be demolished or sold within a year). it was sort of an interesting read in and of itself, but about halfway through, i ran directly into this quote:

“sometimes no money is better than money.”

in the scope of the article, they were talking about how the budget forced them to make creative design choices. but in the scope of my life, i think it might be my new mantra.

in my past, i have lived comfortably with less (much less). in fact, in my very earliest years on welfare with my mom and sister, i don’t even remember being poor because my mom was a magician. she made quiche out of government cheese and picture perfect little bo peep costumes out of our bedroom curtains (just like scarlett o’hara!). she taught me that being broke doesn’t mean not having what you want. it just means being resourceful with what you have to create what you want. dear lord, how did i forget?

though it may provide a momentary jolt of pleasure and feeling of fullness, there isn’t a whole lot of satisfaction to be had in going to the mall and buying a sweater. knitting a sweater on the other hand is a triumphant experience. for example, my brilliant friend cindy unraveled a damaged cashmere sweater and made it into the most stunning pair of cable knit mitts ever. an amazing and thoughtful xmas gift that i’ve been wearing like crazy, and that cost her virtually nothing (except time, and of course, love).

true ingenuity comes from necessity, and when we’re broke, we’re forced to be creative about how we use our resources. buying stuff is my crutch. it solves the problem in the moment (although it often creates greater problems down the line), but i feel like my “makin do” muscles have atrophied. i may not be as broke as i once was (but worry not, i still have like $16 in my bank account right now), but that doesn’t give me an excuse to forget the value of maximizing what i already have.

10 days ago, i made a resolution to PAY ATTENTION! to how i spend my money (and my time and my calories…). i also declared that this would be my only resolution this year. well, i lied. sort of. technically it isn’t new year’s anymore… so consider this to be a mid-january resolution addendum.

number 1 will still be PAY ATTENTION!, but 1a will be BE INGENIOUS. if my mom managed to materialize a fantastical christmas out of food stamps and home made barbie clothes when i was 5, i can certainly figure out how to reel in the excess and stop solving my problems with my bank account.

i need inspiration! tell me how you have been creative with limited resources, so that i can try to outdo you.





resolved.

2 01 2011

i was lucky enough to come into a bit of an xmas windfall this year. nothing earth shattering (most of it went to bills and to my saving’s account), BUT i decided to give myself a small allowance to spend on whatever i wanted. DANGEROUS. it could have been anything, or everything… i have a bad habit of burning through cash without really paying attention to where it goes, or really caring too much when it’s gone. i’m all like “oh, that’s was fun”, instead of feeling the intense sense of guilt and shame that keeps most people from getting in financial trouble.

the last year has overall been a good one for my financial evolution. this was the first year in over a decade that i didn’t use my credit cards even once. i also managed to have a savings account with actual money in it for more than 15 minutes. on the other hand, i didn’t pay off my credit cards as much as i would have liked, i didn’t manage to keep the majority of the money in my savings account, and i still didn’t start an HSA.

so for 2011, i have only one resolution. it isn’t to save more, or spend less, pay off the credit cards, or even open an HSA… (although all of those things are certainly worth keeping in mind). my resolution this year is just to PAY ATTENTION. wherever my money travels should take me this year, i would like to be watchful and be thoughtful about every dollar i spend. i’m thinking about leaving my debit card at home, giving myself a cash allowance, being more careful about monitoring my mint account… but it doesn’t really matter what i do, as long as i’m being vigilant.

i decided to lube up my resolution and get started a little early with the aforementioned windfalll. instead of just throwing the money into my checking account and going apeshit on whatever i happened to find first, i sat down and really thought about things that i wanted, needed, and would generally be too cheap or too broke to afford the rest of the year. here is what i came up with: Read the rest of this entry »





the chopping block.

19 11 2010

so after spending some time rolling around with tuesday’s therapy musings, i got to thinking about how i use shopping to ease my anxiety. any time i’m about to make a life change, or do something that is stressful to me, i make myself more comfortable by assuring that i am wearing an impeccable outfit. new job= new wardrobe every time, assuring that even if i do make more money at said job, i won’t actually ever get to see any of it.

as many of you know, i’m about to embark on yet another crazy performance opportunity in the form of the burlesque nutcracker.  generally, this would mean several hundred dollars in new lingerie and dancewear, but i’ve decided to try and fight the power. for the snowflake number, instead of getting this (which i really really want to the point where i’ve convinced myself that i NEED it), i will borrow something completely cute and serviceable from someone who was in the number last year. not mine, not perfect, but so far more painless than spending $68+ shipping on something that may or may not actually contain my boobs, and that i will likely never wear again.

well, as i’m thinking about the HUGE (and potentially) lingerie sacrifices that i’m about to make, it made me start thinking about what would happen if i lost my job or got sick and had to make some real sacrifices- what would  be the first to go?

1. as much as i hate to say it out loud, my $100 a month cell phone bill is LUDICROUS. goodbye iphone, hello virgin mobile pay as you go… could i get by with no phone at all?

2. goodybe dr. shrinkage. $300 a months for therapy is a lot. i find it hugely beneficial, but i could survive without it if it meant being able to make my mortgage payment.

3. my student loans are steadily shrinking, and i get to write off the interest every year on my taxes. but if i had to make some cuts, these guys speak the language of need based deferment, which is a blessing indeed.

4. those are the big ones (and we all know that i can’t stop paying my credit card bills- as much as i would like to), but then there’s all the little bits and pieces like neftlix ($17), my gym membership ($10), and non-specific spending money in general ($75). i don’t have cable, and i would have to be in pretty dire straits before i let anyone pry this internet connection out of my little clenched fists.

5. i can’t weed out things like medication, but i do think that if i was really proactive about it, i could axe my food budget down to $15 a week. although i might have to get over the ick factor of shopping at the save-a-lot or the dollar store. hey, at least i don’t eat meat.

still, as it turns out, i need at least $1,200 a month to get by. it’s a lot. it’s scary. it’s exactly why suze orman recommends 6 months worth of expenses in the bank for everyone.

is there anything you wouldn’t be willing to cut?





getting to the mailbox.

16 11 2010

i pay my therapist to give me advice. that’s the way it works, right?  but today we talked about something we had never talked about before- MONEY. which is a little bit surprising that it took us this long to get to it… but what wasn’t surprising is that just like everyone else in my life, he gave me unsolicited financial advice. which is not what i pay him for.  and it made me really agitated for a minute.  i got a little sassy. there may have been some eye rolling…

but then, back to the part that i do pay him for, he made me talk about it.

step 1 of the 12 step process is admitting you have a problem, and i’m really good at that. probably too good. at the crazy doctor this week, i realized that I AM STALLING. i’ll admit my wrongdoings up and down and all over town, but i use my transparency as a shield to draw attention away from the fact that i’m not actually doing anything (other than making my slightly more than minimum payments), and i’m not sure why.

i have netflix movies from april sitting on my credenza. 4 of them actually, and i can’t seem to get them to the mailbox. theoretically, i should just put them in my purse and drop them in the mail slot at work, but it just hasn’t happened. it’s the simplest thing, and somehow i can’t manage to pull the trigger. it’s the same thing with money. yes, cutting back and saving money to throw on the blazing inferno that is my debt is difficult. changing lifestyles and making sacrifices totally sucks dick. but you know what’s not difficult? opening an HSA, or transferring my high interest credit cards to lower rate cards, or taking out a home equity loan and using it to pay off my debt.

every time i get agitated and defensive about money, it’s when someone who loves me has given me a sound piece of advice that i am just unwilling to follow. i try to turn it around to make it like they’re the jerk for meddling in my affairs, but i’m the jerk for being stuck, for being unwilling to listen and try. maybe i will make some big changes in the new year, or when i’m not so busy, or when i get my tax return money… but i probably won’t.

the good dr. and i didn’t get far enough to figure out why the hell i’m shooting myself in the foot like this, or how to stop being so stubborn and pointless, but it felt like a significant breakthrough anyway.

tomorrow, i’m gonna mail back my netflix, and maybe call my insurance company about setting up an HSA. at some point i need to realize that if i’m really serious about getting rid of my debt, i have to do EVERYTHING i can. not just the things that are easy.

please tell me that i’m not the only person who gets stuck on stupid shit.





where did this pig come from?

5 09 2010

well, my vacation has finally come to an end. it’s sort of sad, but saying goodbye to the steady diet of bread and cheese (not a lot of vegetarian options in piscataquis county) and lifetime network was an absolute necessity. so i finally dock my bloated ass back in portland, and i’m unpacking all of my various jazz… and this pig rolls out. well, this plastic replica of an antique hog shaped  pin cushion, and its accompanying receipt for $8.99.

um… what? was i on pills or something?

nope. no pills, no demon possessions, no being held at gunpoint… no, something far more sinister was at work here: RETAIL AWKWARDNESS.

on the long ride home from greenville, we made multiple stops at antique malls, thrift stores, and junk shops, all of which turned out to be a bust.  we must have done the 2 minute tour of disappointment at least 7 or 8 times, slipping out the side doors while other customers distracted the shopkeepers from our lack of buying. in and out like some sort of dirty double entendre that i’m too tired to make right now. but somewhere near abbot (maine’s #1 town- at least alphabetically), we stopped into a tiny little antique shop and everything changed.

despite what it declared on the exterior signage, it was really more or a junk shop than anything. a combination of crappy reproductions, aging craft projects, and other dusty sub-garage sale knickknacks. about 30 seconds indicated that it was time to leave, but one unfortunate feature of this store was a large rascal-bound elderly proprietor sitting right next to the front door. oh, and no other customers. at one point i heard a door slam and thought that i might be saved by the distraction of other incoming suckers, but it was only the equally elderly husband of the proprietor, coming in to hover in another part of the shop. there was no escape!

maybe it’s just me, but sometimes when i’m in a kind of depressing store that i can tell isn’t weathering the economy very well, i am overcome with horrible guilt for not buying anything. even when the merchandise is utter (often utterly overpriced) garbage, i still somehow find myself looking harder, digging deeper into bins, trying to find anything that might be worthy bringing home. when the sad eyed shopkeeper is there to stare me down (on a rascal, by the front door no less!), i am powerless. it’s almost like i’m paying a price of the trinket to escape the awkward sadness.

when i saw the pig pincushion sitting on the shelf, i saw my ticket to get out of that store sans bad feelings.  am i the only crazy person who does this? furthermore, is anyone out there in the market for a pig pincushion?





accepting exceptions.

28 07 2010

was i supposed to be on some sort of cash diet or something? it was sort of like i blacked out and woke up in a ditch and all my money was gone, except for the part where that didn’t happen. bring on the carelessness! my attempts to majorly rein in my spending this month somehow completely derailed this week as i proceeded to make exception after exception after exception…

exception #1: sister and her husband came to visit from albany. delicious barbecue dinner (split with the boyfriend) -$50

exception #2: sister’s visit ran concurrently with my niece’s 2nd birthday. dora the explorer microphone -$15

exception #3: accidental impulse purchase of coveted belt at target while buying dora microphone- $16

exception #4: purchased gas for friend who keeps hauling my ass home from dance class- $20

exception #5: bought a compilation of oldies on itunes to sing in the car with my little sister (she’s a living oldies encyclopedia)- $27

total damage: $128 (on top of the allotted $50 i spent on tomfoolery earlier in the week).

looking back on them all, only the belt (which i do love and have been stalking for many months) counts in my mind as a true foible. gas, gifts, and time spent with loved ones (especially loved ones who live 5 hours and 11 minutes away and never visit) hardly qualify as mistakes, so why do i feel so guilty about it? it’s roughly the same feeling that i get whenever i cheat on a diet:

i am only very slightly overweight. but, i remember what it feels like to weigh 25 lbs. less, and i miss those days with great desperation and self criticism that indicates that i will never be happy in my current skin. i even know how to lose weight (what i should eat, how much exercise). however, whenever the part about sacrifice and sucking it up rolls around… i fold like the foldiest folding chair that ever folded. out roll the excuses about how i’m going to start tomorrow, had a hard day, or how a few more calories won’t hurt. i am the motherfucking excuse master. somewhere in my stupid head (even though i think i want otherwise),  i know that i’m “not that fat”. i am normal and passable (acceptable even!) to most in a way that makes the urgency less um… urgent.

with money, i have a lot of debt, i have minimal savings (thank you stupid fucking roof), and i have a strong desire for financial freedom… but i also have enough income to pay my bills and go out on the town when i want to . as long as my bills are paid, i don’t HAVE to put any of that money toward my debt or my savings, and i don’t. there will always be an excuse to spend more and save less because i’m selfish and lazy and don’t want to give up any immediate quality of life- even if it means my quality of life will be infinitely better in the long run. i understand, but i don’t “get it”.

what is it about money and food (consumption!) that leave me so completely powerless and in a perpetual state of treading water? and furthermore, is there some sort of suze orman/jillian michaels hybrid (terrifying!) who will come to my house and scream at me to get real? i can see the problem so clearly, but the solution is nowhere to be found. it’s not as simple as “eat less” or “spend less”, that doesn’t work for me. but what will?