Monday, February 02, 2009

I've Got Nothing Else To Do This Month

I'm sick and tired of being broke all the time, and by "broke" I mean "lucky I don't bounce checks more often", and by "more often" I mean "all the damn time". I've been trying desperately to pay off some lingering debt from my previous marriage and subsequent divorce, but I feel like I'm just treading financial water. It's winter, and I'm already a little bit crazy at the moment, what from the lack of sunlight and sleep and living vegetation. So I've decided to make it my project for the next 27 days to do something about my financial situation.

During the entire month of February, I vow not to purchase ANYTHING that is not 100% necessary to my survival (including entertainment). Should I bring your smelling salts? Sounds impossible, right? It very well might be impossible, but I'm going to try.

Fortunately, I am not a notorious shop-a-holic (Alcoholic? 'Nother story, which is why alcohol is included on my list of things 100% necessary to my survival), but I do overspend on groceries regularly. The rest of my disposable income (you know, the $30 that's left after I pay my bills) generally just sneaks right past me and out into the world without my noticing, mostly on things like take-out dinners and car washes and hookers. Oh, and equine porn.

I did a little Google search for "month with no shopping" and I found a lot of interesting information, particularly this link to this article written by Liz Pulliam Weston in 2007. There was another link to a post on My Money Blog about all the forgotten pantry food items we buy, put away, and promptly forget about. This person chose to go a month without grocery shopping (except for milk and juice). I LOVE this idea, because the bulk of my cash is spent on groceries, some of which end up in the garbage or wasting away in the dusty corner of my kitchen cabinet.

I'm still working the kinks at this moment - thankfully I didn't go out of the house yesterday, or I probably would have bought something and ruined the whole plan before I got started. But here is a rough list of what I consider "necessary":
  • Food items that perish in 30 days or less, and only those we completely consume in less than 30 days (milk, tomatoes, the like). All other meals must be prepared with what we already have at home.
  • Booze. I just bought 4 bottles of wine from Trader Joe's on Saturday, so I should be set for at least 3 days. Bar hopping is verboten.
  • Toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, other household items we CANNOT run out of in order to maintain our gainful employment and pass the apartment inspection in two weeks.
  • Rx's
  • Gasoline
  • Stamps

What else could I be forgetting? Surely there are other items that are 100% necessary! If not, what the fuck have I been buying all this time?

I do have two social engagements that I have already promised to attend (a friend's winter choral concert this coming Saturday, and a night with my Jill at the Water Park of America at the end of the month), and I don't feel right about cancelling either of those obligations and letting down my friends. But neither should be terribly costly, and...well...I'm probably going to crash and burn with this little experiment anyway, so I'm not going to beat myself up over it. My goal is to see how much money I would be able to save in a month if I really tightened my monetary belt.

Going into this, I anticipate the most difficult part of "no spending" month will be finding free activities to keep us occupied during the shortest, yet most unbearable month of the endless Minnesota winter. Fortunately, I have Landers to keep me busy, and plenty of reading assignments for school. I might have to break out the as of now unused stripper pole that Santa brought me. I might have to play any one of my thousands of different video games. I might have to write more.

I might also die, but that's what makes this exciting, don't you agree?