Category Archives: European Chic

Chic & Frugal – Week One

I’m going to start a new series tracking my expenses and income. I’ve been logging details into my moleskine journal for the past month but after reading Save Spend Splurge’s blog, I realized it would help to make it public. It would make me more accountable.
To make it easier, I’m not going to keep track of my automatic payments for monthly household expenses, such as mortgage, utilities, cell phones and so on. Instead, I will keep track of unexpected expenses and marketing costs. Last month’s tracking revealed I spend way too much money on last-minute trips to the market for food and buying coffee and drinks away from the home. If I can develop more discipline in this one area, I will save hundreds a month.

What follows is a week of expenditures and income

My goal is to save and plan for all these unforseen expenditures so that I’m only spending on Wednesdays instead of spontaneous trips or spending. This is going to be a huge challenge for me. *Edited. Now that the week is done, I’ve decided that unless I go over my $200 budget, I will not track grocery expenditures each week.

Wednesday (Market Day)
Each week I budget a maximum of $200 to spend on food. Many weeks I’ve been able to only spend $100 or $150 on market day. Unfortunately, this almost always coincides with the weeks I have to go back and buy more food to make it through the week.

Today, when I saw I had spent nearly the two hundred I had budgeted, I didn’t stress because I’ve realized for the most part I need to spend that to get through the week. For now. I’m working on lowering food costs.

Here I’ll break it down:

Marketing

Aldi $59
Cub $42 (I bought nine loaves of a special bread my daughter with tree nut allergies can safely eat – because it was on sale – and put it in our deep freezer. It is the one thing I find I MUST buy at this big grocery chain and it’s a pain when we run out.)
Target $101 (This includes $5 for bug spray and $7 for a smores metal rack to put on our grill. Other than that, strictly food this time.)
FOOD: $202

In addition, I withdrew $20 cash at Target so I can give my kids ten bucks each to spend on field trips for their last day of school.
CASH: $20

Miscellaneous

Parking ticket $38.
When my husband’s band played last week in downtown St. Paul, he got there a few hours early to unload equipment, etc., and didn’t load the meter for long enough.
MISC: $38

Unplanned drink:

Invited out to a brewery by some other mom I ran into while attending kid’s middle school graduation .
$8 with tip

SPENT: $268

Thursday

I spent the morning working on my novel at the coffee shop. I have a punch card for an Americano that I buy every other month, so technically the coffee today was free! I was starving at the cafe and wanted to eat lunch there so badly, but I refrained and walked home to have some brown rice, black beans and a hard boiled egg with some olive oil and vinegar and garlic salt. Very satisfying and free. (Oh, then I finished with a wedge of chili chocolate.)

But then my budget plans went off the rails.

A few years ago U2 came to town and since I’m ALWAYS strapped financially I told myself we couldn’t afford tickets. EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE IN THE SAME TOWN.

I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

Now that U2 is on tour again, I was anxious to see them and disappointed to see they weren’t coming to Minneapolis. The closest show was Chicago. A few months ago, I almost splurged spending nearly $1,000 to fly to Chicago and see U2. I knew it was too much so I didn’t pull the trigger on the tickets in my cart. So when I found out U2 had added additional shows and were coming here to Minneapolis I knew I wouldn’t miss them this time around. My friend who has a U2 membership said she could buy me pre-sale tickets today. But then when we spoke today she told me that she can’t buy four tickets since she already saw U2 in Portland last month.

So I went and bought the same membership so I can buy my tickets tomorrow early for pre-sales at $70 a pop. For two tickets that is probably $140 to $175. Even adding in the $50 membership fee I’m still coming out ahead of what I was planning on spending for my Chicago trip. Plus don’t have to worry about childcare for the kids, etc.

U2 membership: $50

Dinner out: $18

I’m starting to see where all my money goes. This dinner was last minute and unplanned. It was the last day of school for our kids and they had activities that kept them out past dinnertime so my husband and I went down to the most delicious authentic Mexican restaurant in town and split an Alhambre, which I don’t even know how to describe except to say it’s pork and grilled vegetables and pineapple on a platter of tortillas. Amazing! We also split an order of chips and guacamole My husband had a jarrito to drink and I had water so it was a pretty affordable dinner out.

SPENT: $68

Friday

This morning I had to drop my teenager off at the house where she is babysitting and we were early so we wandered into the nearby dollar store. While there, I bought Father’s Day cards and a box of candy for the teen.

Dollar Tree: $4

Push Lawn mower $30

So we have this HILL going up to our house and it’s a bitch to mow and my husband has a sore back so even though I’ve NEVER mowed a lawn in my life I bought this so I can do that damn hill! When I went to try out the lawn mower (someone had listed it on Craigslist) it was not a good buy so I passed. And was relieved to NOT spend that thirty bucks!

U2 tickets!

$192. With fees and whatnot, it was a bit more than I’d expected to spend since the floor tickets were listed at $70 a pop, but I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to have these tickets. I can’t stop smiling about it!

Target:

Last minute trip to Target when I realized I was out of sugar and oil for the food I was cooking. Gah.

$5

SPENT: $201

Saturday

For the past two months, since the weather warmed, really, we’ve hosted small dinner parties on Saturdays and today was no exception. I realized that the one thing I hadn’t purchased was beer for my husband so I felt very virtuous walking to the store in 90 degree weather to buy his beer and a single beer for me (I was more interested in the wine my friend was bringing.)

Beer: $12

SPENT: $12

 

Sunday

Ordered Blue Tooth wireless headphones for my husband for Father’s Day next week

Headphones: $25

I usually buy a small package of Wasabi almonds once a week when I work as a reporter at the Pioneer Press because I can’t eat nuts at home (My daughter has severe tree nut allergies) Today I also bought an RX bar to see what all the hype was. I wasn’t impressed.

Snacks at work: $5

SPENT: $30

Monday

Oh joy of joys, this is possibly going to be a no money spent day! Please.!

I resisted! So. Many. Things. I. Wanted.

Instead, I returned a pair of linen pants I hadn’t even taken out of the package yet.

SPENT: $0

Ugh. Have to edit this. I wanted a spend free day but then last night we rented Rogue One on Amazon. So there you go. Best laid plans.

SPENT: $5.

 

Tuesday

Contacts: $130 on contacts for the kid. For some reason this is an unforeseen expense because I mistakenly thought insurance would cover her contacts. Gah.

Thrift score: $8 PRISTINE, I mean PERFECT Egyptian cotton sheet set + hardcover copy of John LeCarr’es The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

SPENT: $138

 

IN CONCLUSION:

I’m NOT so chic and frugal and something has to change!

I’ve decided that since groceries are a weekly fixed expense I won’t log them from here on out, so I’ve deducted $202 from my expenditures this week. Even so, I am absolutely shocked and mortified to see what I spent in one week.: $520 on UNFORESEEN expenses. Totally and completely absurd. Actually embarrassing to see this. Wow. I had no idea I could go through that much money in a week.

That is unacceptable. Next week is going to be a whole lot different. Now, I realize that I buy concert tickets once every ten years (truly) so that was an exception. I DO, however, buy contacts for the kid once a year so I need to plan for that next year. So if I deduct those two expenses: $130 and $192 for U2 tickets and the $50 for presale access, I feel a LITTLE bit better, but holy smokes. That’s still nearly $150 in a week.

This was an amazing exercise in budgeting and I’m going to do it next week, as well.

 

 

 

Making Do

 

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This photograph by Pamela Hanson http://www.pamelahanson.com/fashion   has always captured my fantasty of living in a European city in my small apartment overlooking a bustling boulevard.

For some reason I imagine this is a very small apartment, maybe even a studio apartment where this woman lives.  It just appeals to my love of small homes, small apartments, few possessions, but ones that are meaningful.

One thing I have always loved about Europeans (at least the ones I have known personally) is that they were all so nonmaterialistic.

It wasn’t about buying, buying, buying. It was about living.

For them, life wasn’t about having things. Life was about having experiences.

I have tried to embrace this in my own life.

I remember reading in Entre Nous, how French women “make do” with their clothing, their belongings, even their husbands — not trying to change them to meet their expectations.

I like to remember this philosophy of making do when I cook — using up the ingredients I already have in my cupboards and refrigerator; when I “shop” my closet — working with the clothes I have instead of believing I need more of them; with my belongings — for instance, I will place one pot ontop of another for a voila! instant double boiler instead of thinking I need to go buy a new kitchen accoutrement.

I am trying to live my life this way and hopefully get out of debt and then only spend my money on things like books, movies, language classes, cashmere sweaters, wine, good food, piano lessons for my kids, etc.

French Cafe

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I have fallen in love with many restaurants, cafes and bars during my annual trips to NYC, but this restaurant has become my favorite. It’s a few doors down from Katz Deli. You can see why. The ambience is fabulous. Dripping candles onto rough-hewn plank tables that could seat a dozen, a shrine on a buffet in the corner. The lighting! The mood! The staff! I loved it. For coffee, my favorite cafe is Robert Arbor (of Joie de Vivre)’s Le Gamin on Houston Street.