Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Money Matters: Falling off the Wagon

Well, life has been busy and I have fallen behind in the blogging. But I haven't forgotten my loyal readers. I'm still going through the growing pains of living the life of a Cheapskate. As I've mentioned before, I am no pro at this but am consciously choosing to live my life a different way that involves a whole new relationship with money. Sometimes I'm successful and sometimes not, but to be sure, I do feel like I've developed a whole different attitude and skill set since I started this blog so I must be doing something right.

A couple of weeks ago though, we had a bit of a fall off the wagon weekend that started with a couple of impulse buys and snow balled into a $250 budget buster affair. Did we have fun? Yes. Do I wish I could take it all back now? You bet your buns! Looking back now, I can see exactly where we went wrong.

First Mistake - We started counting our cards before we had the money. Things have been going well in the job search for Don lately and he had couple of good leads that had a strong likelihood of turning into something. So we loosened up a bit and were feeling celebratory even though we hadn't closed the deal yet. We decided to go out for a nice lunch on Saturday at a cafe in Studio City we really liked and spent $25. Now if we had stopped there, as a one time treat it wouldn't have been all that bad. On the other hand, it is really bad cheapskate behavior. True we had the cash on hand but it still reeks of the mindset of living on borrowed credit. Don hasn't even landed the job yet and we were already spending the paycheck he hasn't even earned. A good cheapskate budgets ahead of time how they are going to spend or allocate the money after they earn it, not before.

Second mistake - We allowed ourselves to develop a severe case of cabin fever. We've had a couple of busy weeks and we just plain overlooked our social needs to the point where we were literally going crazy from our overall lack of stimulation. We needed to get out of the house and DO SOMETHING. Unfortunately all of the things we could think of to do cost money. So we started off the evening in an emotional state of impulsive compulsion to satisfy cravings. Although we had frugality in mind, it was definitely the backseat passenger to our very strong urges which were driving the situation. Sometime soon, I hope to put together a blog post of possible activities for situations like these where we can satisfy our cravings without spending a lot of money.

Third mistake - We didn't do our research. Because we were doing things on a somewhat spur of the moment and needed fast relief from the insanity of monotiny, we certainly did not take the time to do our research and it cost us big bucks. Our immediate solution was to go out and play some pool. I knew there was a place close by that I had walked by a few times but we had never been there. So we decided to check the place out based on convenience. We had a few good games of pool but in one hour managed to drop $40. About $20 for a pitcher of beer including tip, and $20 for an hour of pool! Ouch, steep prices. There is a sportsbar in Burbank called Champs that has coin operated pool tables for a couple of dollars per game. We could have been in and out for $20 including the beer if only I had spent a couple of minutes looking up the prices first.

Third mistake - We allowed our hunger to sneak up on us. Already in an impulsive mood and with a couple of beers in us, we let our appetites get the better of us. What we really should have done was hit a drive thru for something cheap or grab something quick and easy to make from the grocery store, but we decided to try a new place based on what our palate and stomachs were telling us. We went to a restaurant called Tapas which serves reasonably priced appetizers but they overcome you with variety and the bill adds up quickly. We stuck to drinking water but with a three different appetizers, tax and tip, it still came out to another $40.

Fourth mistake - We had a friend visiting from out of town and in a desire to spend time with him, our budgets fell prey to accommodating his events and scheduling. This is always a delicate situation to be handled with care but there are things we could have done better. We knew already that we were over budget for the weekend and didn't have any desire to spend any more money but given travel constraints the only opportunity we had to spend time with him was going out to dinner on Sunday night. If it had just been him to consider I would have been happy to offer to cook dinner for everyone but unfortunately he was visiting other people also which I would not have been able to include. Additionally, they had picked the restaurant so we didn't really have a say in that either. What we really should have done was ate at home and then gone out for a beer. That way we still would have been able to spend time with our friend but save substantially on cost.

Fifth mistake - We didn't talk about it. We had a general plan that we could split something at the restaurant and maybe save some money, but we didn't talk about where we were really at with our budget and a specific dollar amount we needed to stay under. We didn't have time and we were too embarassed to talk in front of our friends. Don ordered a beer before I could stop him (an extra $8) and he wanted something fattening and I wanted something healthy so we both got our own entrees and spent another $35. Plus we drove so another $5 for valet parking.

Sixth mistake - We did not bring cash. When you're on a budget and out doing group activities, I highly recommend always bringing cash and in a variety of bills. First of all, it will require you to not overspend and stay within your set budget. But second you can keep track of exactly what you are spending. For group activities like dining out together, when it comes to splitting the check, you will be able to pay an exact amount rather than trying to split confusing amounts among check cards. Some restaurants won't even split checks. At dinner we had no cash so others paid us and we put the balance on our card. Some people short changed. So guess who paid for it?

Add to our $155 shopping spree, our regular costs for gas, groceries, and other expenditures for the week and we blew about $250 in two days. I'm not such a Cheapskate that I'm not willing to reward myself the opportunity for a little splurge or treat every now and again. But it is a good reminder of how loosening up a little can quickly spiral out of control. Still, I'm excited about the growth I'm experiencing and rather than fretting about the debits to credits ratio for the month, I'm actually learning from it and growing. Yes, I had fun, but what I've come to learn is that I could have just as much and sometimes more fun doing other things that would not have cost such a pretty penny. Afterall, the real secret to the life of a Cheapskate, is not to hoard money, but to figure out how to get the most value out of it. And I feel like there are ways that I could have spent that $155 at least that would have given me far more rewards than a few meals, some beer and an hour of pool. But you live and you learn. At least I'm learning.

1 comment:

emilie said...

ooohh.. this is so painful. And so VERY familiar.
We tend to have exactly the same problems, for exactly the same reasons! Not enough planning, no cash in hand, an impulse buy or two... and then an open tab is so easy, and why not grab a drink for our friend and an extra appetizer to share?
Needless to say, I look forward with great anticipation to the "What to do -- for cheap!--when there's nothing to do!" post.