Friday, January 25, 2013

200 posts! Thank you all!

I couldn't believe it when I looked at my stats today and saw that I've made 200 posts!
I've had a lot of fun so far and "met" so many wonderful people though your comments and emails. This blog even gave me the chance to make friends around the world, because back in September I got to meet Fairy from Organised Castle. She and her husband were taking their Great American Tour and we were able to meet up. She's an awesome lady with some great stories to share and I think you'll enjoy her blog.

And the best part about having spent the year working to declutter my life? Our condo was neat enough for entertaining, so we had them over for dinner! We really enjoyed getting to know Fairy and The Duke in person. You were some of my first readers, and your blog is fantastic. Thanks for coming to visit!

I want to thank everyone for reading and for sharing your own struggles. It's amazing how much we all have in common. I haven't updated my links in a while so if you have a blog please leave your web address in the comments if I haven't included you! Thank you to the 55 of you who follow regularly. And if you don't follow me by email or Google Friend Connect I would love it if you'd consider subscribing. Thanks everyone for your comments and support. Here's to another 200 posts!

Diagnosis: Affluenza January 18th-24th

This week wasn't a total disaster. I spent $158, and slightly over 1/3 of that was for medical expenses. There was definitely room for improvement this week but at the same time I didn't buy a single object this week.

Green is purchases that were either necessities or purchases that I will only give up if I end up in serious financial trouble. Orange purchases were probably okay but should've been considered for longer. Red purchases shouldn't have happened. Asterisks indicate physical objects.

  • Two prescription refills: $20
  • Physical therapy: $35
  • Tithe: $5
  • Guitar lesson: $45
  • Museum membership and lecture: $35
  • Another Star Trek kindle book: $8
Total: $148 
($55 of that was medical)
  • "No peeking" bonus (guitar fund): $10 = $158 total 
  • Clutter tally: 0 objects purchased 
Bank account balance: $0.00. 
$44.75 still owed to the Chief Engineer for my ski boots.

I also started something new for myself this week. I have a very bad anxiety-driven habit of obsessively checking my bank account multiple times a day. Unfortunately my bank account's online system displays not just my checking account balance but also the numbers for my tiny little stock portfolio. So yes, every time I look at it, the numbers are different. Even when I check it eight times a day. Which I have.

It's easier to break habits when there's an incentive. My incentive is to "pay myself" $5 for every day that I don't look at my bank accounts or look up any stock values online. The money then goes into my guitar fund. The idea occurred to me on Tuesday, so you'll see two "no peeking!" bonuses for Wednesday and Thursday. Hopefully a few months of this should help me break my habit and help me save for a guitar (or knowing me, the guitar money will end up paying medical bills instead.)

The museum lecture and membership I shouldn't have purchased, nor the kindle book. Not right now, anyways. But given that the lecture is about space disasters and Ken Mattingly (Apollo 13's original co-pilot) is speaking I went mildly crazy at the opportunity to hear him talk. Between that and a Star Trek book and the amount that I spent, I think I'm living in a world of science fiction right now.

Reality better set in soon because I looked at my upcoming expenses for the first week in February: Two physical therapy appointments and one psychiatrist visit will total $210. Yes, I know I need a cheaper psychiatrist and I did just make an appointment with the only psychiatrist I can get to without a car who takes my insurance. I nabbed his first open appointment, in April. Until then this expensive psychiatrist visit is an important appointment that I have to keep.

I've been blabbing on a lot lately about money, when this is a hoarding blog. Are you enjoying the Diagnosis: Affluenza posts? I'll have more hoarding horror stories to tell this week. We're headed back to Pennsylvania to spend a day skiing, and that means (tada!) we have to stay with my parents. 

See you soon!

Friday's Fashion Fallout: Men may love it...

This shirt just proves how completely distorted women's body image is, compared with the way that men see us. I wore this to, er, work one day. While it looks demure and all that, I'm all chest when I wear it. I wear it to work and suddenly guys are telling me how good I look. 

Only problem is, this shirt is so, so tight that it makes me body conscious. Body conscious to the point that I binge because of how body conscious I feel. Why? Because I bought the shirt 15 pounds ago and I remember how it felt then. Every time I wear it, all I can think is, "OMG I've gained so much weight." 

The complements don't make up for the way the shirt makes me feel. Strange. So it has to go.  $15 wasted. Item 179, an ED-inducing shirt.

Does anyone else have pieces of clothing that you hate but that other people seem to love?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sacrifices to the gods of our tile floors

There's nothing quite like going out of your way to save something for the thrift shop only to break it right before you get there?

Because I swear, the whole week of attempting to use or get rid of items has gone like this:

~The tale of the teapot~

Me: You, teapot on my desk that mom bought me when we went to the Corning glass factory when I was 13 -- you have been sitting on my desk at work for a year and have been used once. You're too big, you cool down to quickly for me and I own another teapot already. You're going to the thrift shop. I'm going to put you back in the box you came in because I have been crazy enough to still have a box that's almost 17 years old, and I'm going to put you nicely in this tote bag I brought with me just for you, and now we're going to walk the three blocks home slowly so you don't break. Then I'll take you to the thrift shop.

[walks home slowly, opens door carefully so as not to smash teapot]

Gods of the Tile Floor: We demand a sacrifice.

Me: Nice try. I made it all the way home and didn't drop this teapot, so someone else can use it when it goes to the thrift shop.

Gods of the Tile Floor: We demand a sacrifice.

Me: Oh really? See, I'm just going to set this down here and it's safe now --  [puts the teapot down on the tile entryway floor]


Gods of the tile floor: Mwahahaha!

I have no idea how, but I managed to break the top part of the teapot when I deposited it on the tile floor. I swear, I just sat it down! And yet it broke. Oh well, I'm not sure why my mom thought my 13-year-old self needed a teapot anyways other than to fulfill her need to acquire and to "take care" of me. And one that still had a pricetag of $12.99 (from the mid-90s) on it no less.

But apparently the sacrifice of the teapot to the Gods of the Tile Floor wasn't enough, because a little later on I managed to drop this butter dish and smashed the base of it.

I bought that ugly but distinctive butter dish for $12 or so on ebay a few years back just because Gram had one just like it. (I can't believe I spent $12 on a butter dish to make myself feel better after she died. Ugh.) I wanted to look in the fridge and see something familiar. This is the first thing we've broken on our kitchen's tile floor, and I should've expected that. Back to the plastic tupperware for the butter we go. I don't need to buy another $12 butter dish to remind me of her.

But that wasn't the only item that we've managed to accidentally trash this week. Again, on the way out to the thrift shop we were busily putting this lamp in the car, when...surprise! We heard a lovely ripping sound as the shade caught on the trunk of the car. This was an idea lamp with a custom shade and no replacement is available. Our thrift shop won't take lamps without shades. So Argh, it ended up in the trash. I feel awful.

So unfortunately this week's decluttering has been a result of butterfingers and fictional dieties. I'm not happy but at least the items are gone.

Have any of you ever gone to great lengths to get something ready to give away and then managed to break it at the last minute?

The Reckoning

Items 176, 177, 178: 
A teapot (free from mom)
A lamp (also free from mom)
A butter dish ($12)

Fate: broken and sacrificed. Sigh.
Total money I've wasted on junk I never should've bought: $1955.00

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Diagnosis: Affluenza January 11-17th

I think I've finally figured out a format for this. As usual, I started the week with $250, $30 of which went into a brokerage account for me to invest. That left $220. I then got paid for some contract work ($100) and sold an old gift card I didn't plan to use to a friend for $80 which brought my total income to $400. I also had $184.25 left in my checking account from the four weeks since I started to use this money plan.

Here's what happened to that $584.25 this week. Our ski trip plus the computer repair took an incredible bite out of my budget and what I'd saved so far.

Purchases in green are purchases that I consider reasonable. Purchases in orange are purchases that I should've thought more about or prepared for but didn't. It would be good to avoid these purchases until I have more money saved. The purchases in red are purchases that I should be skipping until I have $600 in savings. I've picked $600 as a result of looking at previous months' spending. I noticed that I have a habit of making about a $300-$400 purchase on something unnecessary or unexpected every month. This month was probably the most unexpected and totaled $600, so that seems a good amount to aim for.

Anything with an asterisk is an object. So this week I acquired two things, well, I suppose four things. I plan on working to keep that number low. Four objects a week is 200 objects a year! And since we've got 1200 square feet to work with, that could be a problem! So let's go look at a "bad" week:

I can't legitimately expect anyone to read
this chicken scratch, can I?
Starting bank balance: $584.25
  • Weekly budget: $220
  • Extra income: $100 from contract work
  • Extra income: $80 from selling an old gift card

  • Mac repair: $290
  • Physical therapy: $ 35
  • Guitar lesson: $45
  • *Ski boots: $230
  • *Ski poles: $50
  • Lunch with friend: $30
  • Star Trek Kindle book (stop laughing!) $8
  • Two iTunes songs: $3
Total expenses: $691.00
$291 over budget
Bank balance: $-106.75

I should probably avoid iTunes and amazon for a while.  That's going to be a hard habit to break, but at least it's not expensive. Okay, just one book and one song next week. I'll try to get down to zero after that. For just a little while. Lunch with my friend Bret is does make me wince, but at least it's only once a month and friends are more important than money. We "treat" each other to lunch every other Friday, meaning we each only end up paying once a month. I may want to suggest a less expensive locale in the future. 

For the next couple weeks I'll have three regular expenses: $70 of physical therapy a week and weekly $45 guitar lessons. That leaves $100 each week. I'll need to be careful so I can pay back the Chief Engineer for my ski boots in the next two weeks. I was doing well for a while, especially the first two weeks. Time to hunker down a little more. 

In terms of our family spending, we've made another change: This month I don't get to look at our household finances except on the last day of the month.  The Chief Engineer and I temporarily changed passwords on our accounts to ones that only he knows. Why? Because I have a nasty, OCD-habit of checking our bank accounts and our credit card sometimes several times a day. It's a little (or a lot!) ridiculous. If I can't stress about my eating disorder, I stress about money instead. With food, when I angst over it I end up eating more. Maybe if I angst over the bigger picture of our family finances I end up spending more than if I just leave them alone.

In spite of the ski trip it feels like we've spent less money this month. I've spent more evenings consciously trying to do things that don't involve shopping, spending money, or planning to spend money in any way. I don't spend a lot of time spending money but I do spend a lot of time planning to spend money. I'm trying to distract myself and see if it makes a difference. Instead of planning to buy stuff, I've done some quilting, caught up on much of the Law and Order and Start Trek episodes that I missed while I was in college, read lots of free online fiction, and for the first time in over a decade I finally sat down and started writing some fiction of my own. It felt really, really silly good.

I'm quite a bit happier than I was when I was angsting about our money. Hopefully I'll eventually be able to wean myself of recording everything I spend out of my own bank account.

See you all for Dx: Affluenza next Saturday!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Back in business

But it's a good thing I'm not a business, because I'd be broke and out of business if I were.

Stop laughing! It's a ridiculous 
background screen and I LOVE it! 
My laptop made it back to me this week after a vacation at the Apple store. It completely died on me and ended up needed pretty much everything but the screen and casing replaced, which came to a whopping $290. I gotta admit I feel like I got a real deal though. Apple's flat rate service and labor for laptops covered a new motherboard, new trackpad, new keyboard, and new solid state drive for under $300. If I'd bought the pieces separately I would've come closer to $1500. Makes me wonder how I managed to break all four of those things given that only the keyboard has moving parts...anyways, I'm back to blogging again. 

Financially the week has been a disaster. Last week I managed to twist my ankle and ended up at the doctor's with a $35 copay and a $55 brace. Add physical therapy for another old injury, and then the laptop....and would you believe the real stupidity hasn't even shown up yet?

The slopes around here finally opened and we went skiing for the Chief Engineer's 30th birthday this week. For what it was, it actually wasn't all that expensive. Middle-of-the-week lift tickets are $25 a day, or about 1/3 of weekend prices on the east coast. He's an avid skiier so he's had on his own gear for a while so there's no need to rent his equipment. We pack in our food so it just ends up being the cost of lift tickets, gas out to the mountain (which isn't much since we own a car with great fuel economy), and one night in a hotel. 

Except I can manage to make anything more expensive and I can always manage to acquire more stuff. On this trip I already had my own skis but didn't have boots or poles, which was fine, figuring I could rent boots and I've skied well without poles in the past. Apparently I was wrong. You can rent skis alone, you can rent helmets alone, you can rent poles alone. But apparently you can't use your own skis and rent boots anywhere. Ask the lawyers, because I don't understand it. 

I will *make* these worth it.
My choice ended up being, buy boots or don't ski at all. I ended up dropping $230 on these. They're quality boots and should last me over a decade. But to make matters worse, after the first day I ended up also spending $50 on poles.  I sat and beat myself up about doing something else that took us financially one step further away from going to Australia in January next year. I realized that these not-so-little sudden financial expenditures are coming at more than a financial cost because each thing I spend money on means there's something else that can't happen instead.

Then I went and skied the best two days of skiing I've ever had. So I stopped beating myself up. I just have to decide what's most important to me. In the YNAB book, the author said something along the lines of, "If you find yourself consistently blowing $100 on shoes every month, the solution isn't to make yourself stop buying shoes, it's to admit that you're going to buy shoes and plan/budget for them." That means doing the splurge/impulse/unplanned purchases in place of something else.  

Oh. I get it now. 

My goal of completing the kitchen and going to Australia within a year? I've let go of it. We'll do the bare minimum on the kitchen and then will turn our focus towards saving for the Australia trip. I am willing to let go of the desire to have a new cabinet, sink, countertop, and backsplash in exchange for being able to ski and to go to Australia. I've lost my desire for the earrings I wanted. A new guitar? I'll get it eventually. And kids? Kids can wait.

A kitchen or this? Easy choice. 
Happy 30th birthday, darlin'!     
I don't think it quite hit me until I took one of the exactly two falls I had during the last two days (yes, pun intended!) but skiing and being pregnant don't mix, toddlers and skiing definitely don't mix, and I've MISSED skiing. The Chief Engineer and I had our first real date skiing together. We had several not-a-dates on the slopes before that. In high school on wintery Fridays my uncle would pick me up at school and he'd take me night skiing in the Pocono Mountains. I ski enough to make the purchase financially worth it and I love every minute I'm on the slopes. 

I knew rental gear was poor quality, but I don't think I realized just quite how poor. I performed well and had a FANTASTIC time! My gear will pay for itself in about 23 more days of skiing, compared with renting. That's about two years of skiing for me or less if the weather is good this year. But I'm enjoying skiing so much more now with the new gear and I'm now willing to give up other things I want so that I can keep skiing. And going skiing and suddenly hardly falling anymore because my gear actually works? Priceless.

Unfortunately there are two more immediate problems: 1.) I suddenly own two very large objects (well, four) that I didn't own before. Ski boots and poles are not small! I'll need to declutter a few things to make room. Not sure what yet.  2.) I spent about $106.75 more than I had in my bank account by buying the ski boots. I had enough to pay for the laptop repair and the ski poles but not the boots. So the Chief Engineer gave me a one time "payment plan." He put my ski boots on his credit card and I have exactly two weeks to pay him back to keep me out of overdraft. This was not the way I was hoping things would go financially. Details and a plan to get out of "debt" and not get back into it will come in tomorrow's Diagnosis: Affluenza post. 

It's not permission for me to go crazy. I've just learned that my personal financial buffer needs to be about $600, or what I ended up blowing on unplanned expenses this week. It will take time to build that up and I'm sure at some point I'll decimate those savings again in a matter of days. Clutter-wise, I need to clear out more clutter because objects I truly want and use like ski boots sometimes show up and need permanent homes. It's all about getting my priorities straight. I'm incredibly lucky to be where I am financially and I was killing myself trying to do everything. 

Next up: spending less next week to be able to pay the $106.75 back to the Chief Engineer. After that: paying for any skiing until the end of the season. After that? The kitchen wall comes down. After that? Saving for Australia.  That's the order in which things matter to us. Maybe something will have to wait. I'm okay with that. One thing at a time. And in time, too. 

Friday's Fashion Fallout: a handbag, a trip, and a marriage

I looked on Facebook this morning and read a friend's comment:

"Ten years ago today some of my new friends in London invited me to see Star Trek: Nemesis. Best decision I ever made. I sat next to the most wonderful man I've ever met." 
(aka, the guy she married!)

Is there a British spelling
 for the word "ugly?"
I visited my friend and stayed with her in London a couple months after she met this guy, and we had a fantastic time romping around the UK. One of my favorite memories of that trip was going to Harrod's and having high tea. We had too many scones with clotted cream, the strongest tea I'd ever had with too much cream and too many brown sugar was just wonderful. We were shaking at the end from the caffeine and the sugar! I can't believe it was ten years ago.

After all of that we went down to the shopping halls in Harrods and I must've bought about $100 worth of teas, mugs, and of course, a handbag.

Have you ever felt pressure to get the stererotypical souvenir from somewhere you've visited? I felt like I needed to bring something home that had the Harrod's logo on it but hated the typical green oilcloth bags. So I got this handbag. It had the logo, and matched my preferred handbag style--black and boring.

Label as souvenir. Why do
I keep doing this to myself?
Which I've ended up hating. It's too narrow, too deep, and the straps are too long. I still have much of the tea from that trip, in fact I made some this morning before I read her post. Now I'm staring at the tea I'm finishing now and being shocked that 1.) it's ten years old, and 2.) the ten-year-old tea still tastes this good! I can and will reuse the tea tins, so I don't need to keep the handbag as a souvenir because I have other things to remind me of that trip. But, oh, the nostalgia! The wonderful memories of that vacation! The smells, the tastes....

None of which are actually captured in the handbag. I can let it go. Breathe....Wow. You'd think after decluttering this much stuff this would be easier. It doesn't seem to be. I logically know that there's no good reason to keep this bag, yet my heart really wants me to.

On to...

~The Reckoning~

Item 175: A souvenir handbag.
Cost: About $20. But it was ten years ago so I can't remember.
Fate: The thrift shop.
Total money wasted on crap I never should've bought: $1943.00

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday's Fashion Fallout: a two-fer

Courtesy of some unfortunate computer problems with my laptop I'm a little behind on everything, and now borrowing the Chief Engineer's laptop. So you all get a two-fer to make up for last week's missed Friday's Fashion Fallout. Try these on for size. One thing you'll notice is that the items have numbers now. I'm keeping track of FFF items separately. I have a feeling that I'll have one for every week of the year this year. But let's hope not! I hope I don't own that many worn-out, ill-fitting, ugly clothes!  Let's go.

Up first is a set of lace-embellished devil horns. (Yes. Keep laughing.) I bought them for Halloween two years ago. There were just two problems: 1.) apparently NONE of the 1600 people in my building do Halloween, and 2.) If you wear devil's horns and hang an egg carton around your neck, nobody understands that you're deviled eggs.

Fate: donated to the thrift shop.
Cost: well, I suppose they were worth it because one of my friends in grad school did it and everyone loved it. I knew my grad school was lame, but I didn't realize we were that lame.

Now that we're in week two of this year's FFF, meet another victim of my eating disorder. I bought these jeans in an attempt to buy pants that fit...and either I made the mistake of not sitting down in them in the store (since jeans always feel tighter when you sit), or I gained weight. I'm going to ignore the last option and just say well, they don't fit, they probably won't ever fit, and they were only $7. Out they go, ironically back to the thrift shop they came from.

Today's FFF total: two items, $7 wasted.

That makes for 174 items and $1923.00 wasted on crap. Ugh.

It's Friday! What stupid Halloween costumes have you gotten rid of today?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Hey there folks,

I've been enjoying everyone's posts about the holidays and your comments here on my blog! I'm unfortunately going to be a little scarce for a while as I managed to, er, do some damage to my laptop. Note to self: don't take laptop into the bathroom during bathtime. Like, ever.

As it's completely not fun it is to blog on an iphone, hopefully all will be fixed soon and without much $$$ damage...see you soon!


Friday, January 4, 2013

Diagnosis: Affluenza

Today's the first post of my now regular "Diagnosis: Affluenza" posts, where I take a look at my personal spending in the last week in an attempt to acquire less stuff, learn to need less stuff, and learn to be more respectful and grateful of what I have. You'll see them on Saturdays, so I can still do Friday Fashion Fallout. But because I'm crazy on brand-new ED meds, I'll do Saturday on Friday this week and Friday on Saturday!

I want to first thank I Should Be A Minimalist for introducing me to something called You Need a Budget, more commonly known as YNAB. Oddly enough it wasn't the budgeting and putting-things-into-categories information that was the most helpful. I do lousy with budget categories. It reminds me too much of the dieting I did during the worst times of my eating disorder. No, it was the YNAB book that was the awesome eye-opener for me.

YNAB is effectively a really fancy spreadsheet. But you can download a free copy of the principles behind the YNAB-budget lifestyle. (He also sells the same thing on Amazon, but I don't know why anyone who cares about their money would do that instead of just printing out the obviously free PDF. Anyways.) The YNAB creator, Jesse, said that one of the best and worst parts of a budget is the moment when it shows you a time when you know you are not going to be able to make ends meet or achieve a particular goal.

Sounds pretty lousy, right? Not for us. Why? Because it let us know that our goals were way too lofty.

I'm thrilled that I'm no longer living paycheck to paycheck as I did after college and in grad school. I am blessed to be well off. Except that my spending has risen to the level of my professional paycheck. I've always spent just about every penny I make that doesn't get sent to a retirement fund before it leaves my paycheck. My husband doesn't have this problem. Why? Because I have affluenza and he doesn't. I have a need for stuff. Let's take a look at my "needs" for the next 2 years:

1. Make three changes to our kitchen. $27,000 (within 18 months, the max allowed by our condo association.)  It doesn't have to be done all at once though.
  • Remove the wall in our galley kitchen so there's room for both of us. Cost: $7,000
  • Add in an island so that we have more than one counter to prepare food on. $8,000
  • Replace the countertops, backsplash, the damaged ceramic sink, and fix the couple water-damaged cabinets. $12,000
2. Go to Glacier National Park: $4,500 (already planned for June 2013, $2,500 of it is already paid for)

3. Go to Australia: $12,000 (Dec 2013?)

4. Have a baby: $12,000 for start-up costs, hehe
  • Temporarily ignoring the $250,000 it will take to raise this kid from diapers to diplomas, I'll have to take three months off of work with no pay. We'll need to save about $9,000 to make up for that. Plus the cost of pre-natal care, meds, delivery, and diapers etc. in the first year, I figure $12,000 would be a good number to aim for.
5. Build up an emergency fund of $25,000  (in the next two years) and then continue to fund it with $1000 a month every year after.

6. Go to Spain. $4,000 (within 18 months)

7. Replace our 20-year-old TV: $1500 (within a year)

8. Sell my old guitar and get a 15/16 size instrument that fits my tiny hands so I can play without pain (by my 30th birthday in April.) Net cost: $300.

Total: $86,300 of activities. 
That is frakking insane. 
I do not need nearly $100K of activities to keep me happy in the next year.

Gram would be really, really ashamed of me and that thought makes me sad. No, it's time to get my priorities straight.

So here's what we figured out. The emergency fund comes first. Baby comes...whenever I can get off my lovely new eating disorder medications that are apparently, well, really dumb to be on while pregnant (I know there are some that are safe to take...I'm just apparently still too sick for those to be enough for me). And everything else comes as the money shows up. I get to let go of my goals a bit and stop stressing. I can't do everything. Problem with affluenza is, I think I can do and purchase everything.

We will be paying attention to our finances but we've discovered that locking ourselves into budgets (eg. $300 on food a month) just makes us both insane. Over the last few months we've tracked all of our  spending as a couple on things like gas, food, eating out, and day-to-day fun. The numbers are pretty consistent. It's a level we're content with. My husband's spending on stuff he wants is quite low and very fine. The point is just to pay more attention. If we don't have money for something, then we don't do it. I may have to give up or trim down Australia or Spain, or put off the kitchen as long as the condo association will let us. When we have $7000, we'll take the kitchen wall down. When we build back up and have $12,000 again, we'll get tickets and hotel reservations for the Land Down Under. Then Spain. Then the kitchen. And a little bundle of joy whenever that gets to happen. It's like debt snowballing without the debt.

But as we know, my spending on stuff is just stupid. I'm really the only one who needs to change. My erratic, impulsive spending is making it hard to plan what we can do when (this is a bit of a problem when you're trying to buy plane tickets to somewhere halfway around the world!) To help us know when we can afford to do one of the items on our two-year list, we've set up four accounts:

1. checking account, with enough to pay the bills in it
2. an emergency fund
3. a future expenses fund
4. a checking account just for me. It gets an allowance of $500 twice each month. Of this, $30 a week goes into a brokerage account so I can learn to invest (literally) in my future.

I can hear almost every one of you saying -- how is $220/week not enough for me?  All it takes is one $140 visit to my psychiatrist, one monthly $50 copay for the antidepressant that keeps me from injuring myself, and two $35 physical therapy appointments for me to blow $260 in two days. That's what last week looked like. It was a good thing I cancelled my guitar lesson last week because that would've brought me up to a total of $295 of expenses for that week and I only would've considered the guitar lesson optional. Healthcare in my town is boutique-style. Most providers around here don't take insurance. The ones who do are either hours away, are lousy providers, or have 3-month waiting lists for new patients (as is the case with every psychiatrist in a 10-mile radius who takes BlueCross health insurance. Bloody hell.)

But we know I like to spend for fun even beyond that. So the Chief Engineer helped me figure out the first of many changes that we'll have to make to keep me from spending and slowly teach me to stop wanting to spend.

The first step we took together was removing my online access to our joint checking account.  We've also taken away my credit card. In the event of an emergency I can call the bank and get access or visit the branch around the corner. I'm not brash enough to take money from the emergency or future expenses funds for myself. There is one exception, though -- my Renfrew eating disorder treatments go on our joint credit card. It's on file with Renfrew so I was actually able to destroy my plastic card so I can't use it. Ultimately, if the money is not my checking account I can't spend it. I don't have a credit limit on my debit card.

A cute money journal, just like in grad school

Something else we did came from an idea the Chief Engineer had. When I lived on $100 a week after paying my rent in grad school I kept a log of every single little thing I bought. The Chief Engineer thought we might gain some insight from those logs but it turned out that I'd trashed them in one of the five moves I've made since grad school. Silly me. But instead we started a new one. It worked in grad school.

It seems to be working now. We started this experiment two weeks ago and at the end of two weeks I had a little over $100 left in the bank. I just got my paycheck today and now have a little over $550 to get me through the next two weeks. Oh, and I have four physical therapy visits alone in there. Let's hope I can keep from running over to Guitar Center for this baby in the next month or two. I need to build up savings in case I, say, need another $800 crown like I did three years back.

So how do I build those savings and resist the long-practiced temptation of spending everything I have? What did I do in grad school that let me live on $100 a week and still buy the occasional expensive piece of jewelry? Patience, it turns out. It's something I've lost. When I wanted a $200 piece of jewelry in grad school, I stuck pennies, dimes, quarters and single dollars into an old coffee tin for six months before I finally bought the ring (and I still have it, love it, and wear it often.)

Say hello to the guitar fund! It's no longer a coffee can but it'll do. What can I say, I like fruit, even when it's plastic. I thought about pitching $20 bills into the sound hole of the guitar I have now, but somehow I think that might make my playing sound *so* bad that I would immediately rush out and buy a new instrument.

I've now told myself that I can have the guitar. I just can't have it now. That's a feeling I haven't felt in a while. But it's a good feeling. I will be able to have the guitar, I will eventually have enough saved to know that I can pay for a personal emergency if I need to, and I am learning to deal with the long-term ups and downs of stock market investing. It feels like a good year. I just need to be patient and relax. It's going to happen this time, because I've done it before.

Spend slowly. Save slowly. Think slowly. Change slowly. 

And stop buying cute Jordi LaBanda notebooks. 
(I must have 15 of these things. It's just glorified hoarding.)