One day last month, I realized I had a problem: I spend too much.
Let me explain. I’m not a compulsive shopper and I don’t engage in “retail therapy” when I’m feeling bad. I don’t have a closet full of clothes and accessories. I only shop when I absolutely need something and most time I’ll refashion something similar into what I need. I make my own hair products. I’ve had the same MAC foundation since 2005 and there’s still enough left to get me through about 8 more weddings. (I’m sure that killed some nice woman somewhere). And while I love cute shoes, shopping for and buying them is a whole different story.
But not when it comes to food. And this isn’t the first time I realized this. I only accepted it this time.
On that day crisp fall day, I sat down and looked at all the things I bought in the past two weeks. For every 10 debits, 8 were food-related. Eight! Not one was less than $5 (and all of those were from Tim Horton’s across the street from the gig). That’s a minimum of $40 on food. Miscellaneous food at that because every week, I still spend at least $50 on groceries for the two of us. It was sickening. Something had to change.
The Hero, while being the manliest man I know, has a super soft spot for me and I exploited it. He sacrificed collecting comics, making music and hanging out with friends so I can enjoy happy hour at Hyde Park, Gordon Biersch, and a number of other spots. I didn’t consciously exploit him, but when I thought about it, I felt guilty for taking advantage of his affection and sabotaging our dreams of buying a house and reducing our debts.
So I made a choice. Effective November 1, everything changes. I chose to start planning. I chose to start budgeting. And I chose to start doing some things differently:
- Start using my budget sheet again
- Start planning meals again by finding inspiration on Pinterest (I think my Food board is only second to my DIY one)
- Start using what I have on hand at home before buying something else
- Start coordinating shopping trips based on weekly ads (I have lots of time to price compare)
- Start taking advantage of electronic and paper coupons
- Sign up for money-saving, electronic programs (Meijer’s mPerks)
- Start using more vegetables in my cooking
- Divide multiple-serving items (chips, crackers and cereal) into single servings
- Buy more produce and less processed snacks
- Make snacks from scratch
- Pack lunches the night before
- DO NOT accept impromptu lunch invitations
- Create a nice ‘thanks, but no thanks’ response to peer pressure
- Deal with emotional eating by asking ‘why do I want…?’
- Start saving ALL change and make weekly or bi-weekly deposits into my savings account
- Suggest non-food venues for meeting friends
- Bake ONE dessert each week
I started to ease my way into this new program leading up to November 1. Instead of happy hours and food invitations (upwards of $25), I suggest coffee or tea (around $5). I’ve declined the on-the-spot lunch and happy hour invites from co-workers. I set a budget of $10 every pay for the occasional lunch treats for myself which doesn’t get me far working downtown so I end up saving anyway.
It’s working. No one seems to be offended by my counter suggestions for socializing. Our change container is filled and ready to be deposited. The Hero lost weight and said that planning our meals and snacks helped him curb his pizza addiction. That didn’t stop him from eating the last of the sweet potato pie cobbler, but, you know, baby steps.
I’m thinking of posting monthly updates on how things are going. What do you think?