Sunday, February 5, 2012

How Is My Spending Diet Going, Anyway?

Remember all those months ago when I said I was going to go on a spending diet and then started keeping track of my spending?

Yeah, well....that didn't work out so well.

I had the right idea, but I just didn't have the willpower to curb my spending or my credit card habits and once I got started at Christmas, I just couldn't stop the spending. When I realized that the packages were still arriving long after Christmas was over, something just kind of clicked. Finally. You'd think that all these years of credit card bills and interest and car payments and student loans and mortgages and figuring out how we were going to get from check to check, it would have clicked years ago. Spend less than you make. A simple concept. Very hard to do when you have credit.

But 22 days ago, something clicked (I actually felt a click in my brain) and I realized it has to stop. I need to be smarter about our money and I need to stop charging on the credit cards. Having credit is not a license to spend, spend, spend. And I think I finally get that. Pay off the debt. Pay off the debt!

I recently went to South Carolina to visit my parents in their new home. I wanted to take my spending challenge with me and see how I could do. I didn't take all of my credit cards, but I did take two. You know, just in case. But my goal was that I would only spend the $100 in cash that I took with me and, with any luck, I would actually bring cash back to add to my little savings that I started a month or two ago. (Some money from Christmas, a $20 here and there from spending money my husband took out of the bank - just to see if I could save up a little nest egg of cash. And I've only touched it once, when I was buying some clothes from a girl from Craigslist, which was a conscious choice, since it involved actual cash.)

I want to start holding myself accountable, which is why I have been posting every day on Facebook how long I have lasted on this particular attempt to curb my spending (day 23 today). It feels like a permanent change. I don't know why. How do you determine when you've really changed your feelings about how and when you spend your money and on what? How do you determine what you really need and what you just want to have but don't need?

So, here's how my $100 broke down in South Carolina. Sadly, I did not come back with any cash.

$10 at Subway for lunch at Dulles before my first plane left.

$3 at the Charlotte airport for bottled water. Really? $3 for water????

$3 on the second plane for a small tube of Pringles chips. (Captive audience, anyone?)

$12 at Walgreens when I got to South Carolina for products they wouldn't allow me to carry on the plane.

$36 at the Off Island Thrift Store (which is the most awesome thrift store I have ever been in if you are ever in Hilton Head, by the way). $31 of this was for a birthday gift for my dad. He found an ottoman for his office and I bought it for him for his birthday, which happened to be the day we were shopping. $5 was for a shirt I found that was perfect to go with a pair of purple sweatpants I have but didn't bring with me. I got home and discovered that the shirt is just a bit small. I wish I had tried it on at the store, but that's a $5 lesson for me. I was thrilled to be able to buy my dad a gift that will make him think of me every time he puts his feet on it.

$3 at KFC for a drink while we were waiting for my mom to finish at the doctor. I would have spent more, but their oven was not working properly for biscuits. That was a bummer and would have been worth the extra $1.

$36 at the Airport souvenir shop for a Savannah t-shirt, a Nicholas Sparks paperback to read on the plane, bottled water, crackers, and sun chips. A total rip off, but they've got you once you get through security and I hadn't been able to find the t-shirt anywhere we went while I was visiting.

$7 at Burger King at the Charlotte airport for lunch.

$1 for the lady in the restroom (my very last dollar) who apparently cleans each stall every time someone uses it. She sang a welcome song every time someone came into the bathroom and really made my wait so pleasant. I gave her my last dollar as a tip because she really deserved it. Anyone who can remain cheerful working in an airport bathroom deserves a tip.

I just added this up and it amounts to $111. I didn't have any money left in my wallet by the time I got back to Dulles, so I must have had a bit more than $100 in cash with me or I don't remember one or two of the charges correctly (I didn't save receipts).

I used my credit card three times while I was gone. The first purchase was a $5 kindle download, which I discovered wasn't something I wanted to read within three pages and returned. I am waiting for a credit on that. And yes, I hate to take money out of an author's pocket, but if a product is not to my satisfaction, I will be returning it. As a writer myself, I really hate to take back my money, but if the book is poorly written, I feel that the fault is the writer's. If I published something that bad, I would hope that people would tell me it was bad and then I would fix it.

I ran out of minutes on my phone and ended up charging $36 to reset my cell phone plan. I am waiting on an $11 credit for "topping up," which it turned out was not the way to pay for extra minutes. The $25 would have been charged on the 14th, so I just moved my billing date up by 14 days.

And I charged $6 at Mrs. Fields for cookies and water when my second plane was delayed. I was fighting a severe case of anxiety and claustrophobia as the delays continued and we were moved from gate to gate and I just needed cookies. I texted Justin, who texted back that I didn't need permission to use the credit card for cookies when my plane was delayed, but I was working so hard not to charge that I was waffling on the cookies.

In the end, the cookies won, I finally got onto a plane, and we took off an hour and a half after we were supposed to.

All in all, I feel that I did remarkably well with my spending on this trip. Normally, if I am on vacation, I would just pull out my credit cards for whatever I want. This time, I was able to not do that. In fact, I didn't even take all of my credit cards.

I feel that I have had a huge revelation and I'm not sure why. I just know that I don't want to spend money anymore. And if you've met me, you'll know this is very strange.


  1. I so get your feelings about credit cards. I'm struggling with mine too. I've improved but I need to stop using them! It's really hard. Btw I tried to order something from Cafe Press but the postage was more than the cost of the item!

  2. Oh, I am so sorry to hear that! It must be because you are overseas.

    I'm not thrilled with their pricing. The "cost" price is already high and then if you want to make a profit, you have to set it even higher. But, I don't know what the alternative would be.

    Just out of curiosity, what did you try to order?



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