Monday, September 28, 2009


"F*ck me, I love Keats." - Daniel Cleaver

All right, I'm just going to come out and say it. I hate living on a budget. I know, I know, why the hell did I name my blog after such a personal abomination? Well, because for right now (in my late 20s, at least) I'm on one, and even more so after quitting my job.

Most of the time I completely forget I'm on a budget because I have and/or buy whatever I want. But there are other times -- like, um, Saturday morning when J and I sat down and looked over our spending for this last month -- when you realize you've been a little too breezy in some fiscal areas of your life. Take groceries. We usually spend about $250 to $300 a month in our combined Costco/Trader Joe's journeys. This month? So far we've spent over $400 ... and I'm already out of diet root beer. Ugh. We both balked when we realized this overall total, especially since we've been eating out constantly (Baja Fresh, you are ruining my life) and we spent another combined $100 at CVS and Rite Aid.

"What do we even buy at the drug store?" J asked, completely bewildered.

"Um, candy and beer," I responded.

"You mean to tell me we spent one hundred dollars on Swedish fish and Miller High Life?" asked J, even more surprised because we aren't big beer drinkers ... and he thought he was in some way cheating the system by buying one of the cheaper, albeit "champagne of", beers.

"Yup," I answered ... a faraway look of disbelief in my eyes.

So, after we scrutinized our recent finances, we've decided we need to clamp down on our spending ... as in, not spend at all (okay, I admit allotting $80 a month to our "Target needs" is still spending, but to me it's like not spending at all). This is how it's going to be, at least from now until we move in 8 months. After all, J's Bar fees are ridic and moving expenses will add up.

Being the masochist I am, I forced J to come shopping with me at the mall that very same day and used him as my financial barometer. The typical convo that ensued:

Me: "Ooooh this is cUUUUuuuute ...." (I hold up a dress/necklace/sweater/pair of shoes/peacock-feather headband in J's stolid face.)

J: "Yeah, but do you really need it? It's a short-sleeved dress and the temps are dropping, you wouldn't be able to wear it for another six months."

Me: "I know, but it's SO cute!..."

J: (Sighs). "Do what you want, but do you not want to be able to move back to California because you spent all our money on dresses and headbands and 'cute' pink doggie-poop-bag holders that you don't even need?"

(Twisted look of frustration pervades my face, and I angrily stuff said dress back into rack/fling said headband back onto shelf/leave said pink doggie-poop-bag holder next to cash register.)

Then I festered in self-pity and pouted in the car ride home until J -- again, my genius voice of reason -- says "You know, it's a trade-off. Would you rather be doing what you did before and shopping all the time, or working on your book and not spending much money?"

Sigh. How can I argue with this?

Looking at it like that, hell no. I would not want to do what I was doing before, no matter how much I got paid, and I am SO HAPPY that I instead get to do what satisfies and inspires me. It turns out true freedom is never free (as our budget so deftly points out).

"If you want to be an artist, you're going to have to live like one," J said.

Leave it to J to boil it down to an absolutely excellent, valid, puts-things-into-perspective point. He's right. I've never had to live the life of an artist, so I didn't know what to expect. And even though I loathe living on a budget, I'll do so because while it may seem that I'm irate now, I was even more exasperated before with my other career and all the money I had. Go figure.

Of course our limited spending also means limited spending on our "outings", like going to the movies and incessantly eating out at restaurants. But J had an excellent idea Sunday morning -- why don't we read to each other? "It's free," he pointed out. As if that was the major draw with his idea.

"Oh my god," I thought. "So Victorian, so romantic, so Bridget-Jones-and-Daniel-Cleaver-reading-Keats-in-their-rowboats." (Note: In real life J is, was and always has been Mark Darcy.) I was definitely in. I love reading and analyzing lit, and J is the perfect person to do it with. So that afternoon we took a Starbuck's gift card we had lying around, ordered a couple coffees and read Heart of Darkness to each other at a table near a window. Didn't cost a thing, and I loved every minute of it. We decided it's going to be "our thing", and I've already gotten out my old Hemingway short stories to read aloud next. I guess being on a budget right now isn't as bad as I originally thought?...


Penny said...

I agree, budgets suck but look at it this way; better to be on a budget now than when you're 80 and trying to figure out how to pay for depends and polident in one shopping

Seriously though, I think if you put your mind to it; you may just surprise yourself at how much more creative you might become.

I also love this quote: "J: "Yeah, but do you really need it? It's a short-sleeved dress and the temps are dropping, you wouldn't be able to wear it for another six months."

That is so my husband and I in the mall too. I gather that many more women also experience the same like convo as they drool over some get up - while the husband looks on -- unimpressed and bewildred.

me in millions said...

I disagree, I think Baja Fresh greatly improves the quality of my life. Sometimes nachos are really all it takes to make me happy!

And you and J are too cute! Reading to each other at Starbucks... what a sweet afternoon!

Mandy said...

I will be right there with you soon. We'll be down to one income and switching to a budget as well. I will be looking for "free" activities to do as well. Look at it as being creative and romantic, as you already have. I can't wait to see/hear what other "cheap" or shall I say "resourceful" activities you and J will come up with.

p.s. - you could come join me in Florida for the next month. Free complimentary breakfast and free beer and wine every evening! :-)

Anonymous said...

I just recently found your blog and LOVE it! I'm just recently going on a budget so looking for inspiration where I can!

paisley penguin said...

Yeah, budgets suck but they are a necessity for me right now too. I am planning on going back to school in a couple years. Got to get some debt paid down first.

Unknown said...

Live the dream!

A budget can be that creative talisman! Wretched and abusive to yourself = CREATIVITY and angst.


Anonymous said...

I hate budgets, but even wealthy people use them.

Reading aloud is divine. I am so jealous of your day together.

The Depressed Yogi said...

Omg SUCH a good post, Crystal. Even though I've only technically been living on a budget for a few months now, sometimes I get soo frustrated by it. For me, the issue is: I'm an attorney with a six-figure salary and yet b/c I'm trying to get out of debt and get a job I love that will NOT pay this much, I have to live like I make about half as much as I do.

BUT I always remind myself that it's for the greater good. Just like you, I can't imagine doing what I do now forever. It's SO worth it in the end.

And really, buying stuff just creates clutter!

Chloe (Naturally Frugal) said...

I totally feel your pain. Budgets suck just as much as diets do. Whenever I'm on a diet/budget all I want to do is eat and spend! It's reverse psychology at it's best.

However, I have a pretty good grasp on my finances and every so often the boyfriend and I review our savings goals and whatnot. For instance, last night I told him he doesn't have any savings and he counters with he doesn't have any money to save. I counter with yes you do, you just have no savings.

Cue end of money discussion.

When this comment is finally over just know this: I feel your pain and just might have to blog about our plight as up and coming twenty somethings in a world of cash....errr, credit.

Unknown said...

Oh how I hate the whole budget thing as well! And, I'm terrible at husband is always going "Did you REALLY NEED another pair of shoes...REALLY?" And, then I feel guilty. Ugh, to be filthy rich :)

Unknown said...

Oh, and I left you a blog award at my place!

Anonymous said...

The bf and I have been on a strict budget for a while now since we spent a large chunk for our cruise we are taking in March. It is no fun at all!

WellHeeledBlog said...

I love your blog. Just want to tell you that. Your posts are hilarious, and yes, living on a stricter budget is not so much.

Jeanne Estridge said...

We're also on a budget since I lost my fancy-Dan IT job and became a bookkeeper at a free clinic and I'm finding that, for me, it's easier when I don't spend much time with people who have plenty of money. Because I'm not really into all that material stuff unless I go to the mall (or the online equivalent) or I listen to people talk about their planned Caribbean cruise over breakfast.

ltbeyer said...

I just found your blog and after reading this post, I'm a new subscriber! My boyfriend and I are also trying to cut back our spending in order to save for our future, and its harder than it should be on both of us. I think B-U-D-G-E-T is a dirty word, but D-E-B-T is ten times worse. Congrats on working together on your needs and wants (Target totally counts!) and finding fun, sweet things to do together instead.

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