Friday, April 16, 2010

Financial Boot Camp...

This is the first time I am getting “real” about my finances. I don’t pretend that I have all the answers and my income and committed monthly expenses will not stabilize until July. Until then, I am rolling with the punches and establishing new spending habits.

How so you may ask since you spend $100/month on personal care, buy people gifts and go out to eat? All of my adult life, I spent with reckless abandon and enjoyed every single minute of it!!! I will not lie. Another thing I will not lie about…I miss it too!!! Since I know this, I come here to confess and I come here to celebrate my victories. It’s a sickness to an extent but I feel like I am winning the battle.

I got my hair done every week to the tune of $200/month. I got a pedicure every two weeks in the Winter for $60/month and every week in the Summer for $120/month. I got a massage every 4 weeks at the Spa and I ate out every single day, sometimes taking a taxi just to get to my favorite restaurant. I was ridiculous and my spending was so out of control.

It is really hard to change all of that imbedded spending behavior overnight but I am making great strides. For some, my progress may not be fast enough. For ME, progress is something I never made before so I am delighted and encouraged.

What’s different now…well now is relative because it’s only been a few months since I got “real.” I get my hair done once a month for $50/month. I don’t get massages and I get a pedicure every two weeks for $50/month. That is my $100/month bill on personal care. This month, I cancelled my hair appointment.

I bring my lunch 2 times a week. I will do this more in the Summer because I can then go out into the courtyard, sit outside, read and enjoy the Chicago weather. When I buy my lunch, I aim for under $10/day whereas I used to go to a sit down restaurant and the tip alone would be $5. When I buy lunch, I don’t buy dinner. I cook more. I never used to cook. My oven still looks brand new and I’ve lived in my place since 2003. This is the kicker though…I am finding that I like to cook and I like to eat what I make so I am sure there will be more of that on the horizon.

I don’t give the extravagant gifts that I used to give. I used to spend at least $100 on my parents for Christmas, Birthdays and Mother’s and Father’s Day. I budget $50 now and everyone else gets a gift worth ~ $25 whereas it used to be $50. I look for other ways to give a gift and I am not ashamed to say that I have re-gifted a nice bottle of wine or a gift card to Macys. I just did this in February.

I know I have a long way to go but I am encouraged and I know that better days are coming. As I get comfortable with my spending and my new budget and paying on my student loans, I know further cutbacks are on the horizon. Stick with me…Chitown is going to make it and not just make it…Thrive!!!


Aaren said...

How excellent that you're really starting to look closely at your expenses and acknowledge past behavior!! A crucial, but often overlooked, part of financial fitness.

One thing you may have to learn is to become a DIYer. It would be lovely to have hair that you can slap some conditioner on and be good, but our hair isn't like that. If you don't have one, I'd get a tabletop or bonnet dryer and use those for weekly or bi-weekly deep conditioning treatments. I eventually bought myself a hair steamer, but in the interim a dryer would work well. Maybe you could then cut your hair appointments to once every 3 months or so, without damaging the health of your hair.

Buy a footspa and give yourself your own pedicures. I know it's not as luxurious, but you pay for it the first time you don't get a pedicure. If you're lacking nail polish, tell me. I've got over 300 of them at home :-D. Seriously.

I allow myself to eat out for lunch 5 times a month. I get to pick a day every week, and if I'm having a rough one I get two days. I almost never use all of my days (this month I've used one, and felt bad about it). You might start higher than that and work your way down as you get more comfortable. Honey and I are allowed to eat out for dinner 4 times a month, but we usually do 2 or less. I like casseroles so we often have lots of leftovers!

You're right, change is hard. But recognizing where and that change needs to be made puts you on a much better path toward your future, and I look forward to your continued progress!

Anonymous said...


I have to agree, how excellent! For myself, I just stopped spending. Absolutely stopped spending on things that were not absolutely necessary. I darned my socks, I made bread, whatever it took. I am a little looser now, but it was the "shock" that really helped me. We are all different - you have to do what works for you. And never stop evaluating - as Aaren said - acknowledging past behavior is crucial - as well as future behavior that will help your success!

I agreed with the DIY - at least for now. You may not always need to do your own hair - but maybe for a year or so you could?

Also, for pedicures - you can go to Sally's Beauty supply for all the things they use during a pedicure. Way cheaper.

Have your friends adjusted to the new you? Maybe that can be another blog post?


Danielle said...

You are doing a great job. I know the pain that you are going through. At one point I was paying $300 for cut and highlights at a Robert Cromeans salon, getting monthly facials, biweekly massages, biweekly pedicures and thought that they were essentials.

I do still get one pedicure a month. It's the one luxury I give myself each month. In fact, I did it today. When I get my new issue of Body + Soul, I sneak out of work a little early and head to the nail place near my house. It's $30. That, compared to my other spending habits, is not going to break me, over the course of a month.

And I simply cannot master red nail polish. I refuse to paint my toes with anything except I'm Not Really a Waitress, so that's my me time.

When I started with Money Coach, he said to make sure that I gave myself some sort of treat each month or I would lose it and that's when I would make some out of control purchase.

So while I gave up my beloved eyebrow threading every other week, I got myself a Dermalogica facial brush for $14. I don't need facials nearly as often. (I've been stretching those out like crazy, much to the dismay of the woman I go to.)

And Aaren is right - admitting the naughty stuff in the past is the hardest step. You are doing great!

Anonymous said...

now were cooking on gas :)

Anonymous said...


This post was great, I could feel your excitment through you words as if you were sitting here telling me the story. Looking forward to following this new chapter of your journey.

Aaren is so right about doing your hair at home. My hair is natural and I would go every two weeks ($170 per month) to get it twisted. One day my roommates friend told me to do it myself. At this time I didn't really know what to do, but I gave it a try and it all worked out. Once a quarter (and the random special occasion) I make an appointment to have my hair pressed and trimmed. This has force me to really learn about my hair.

I am so excited for you and your financial future!

Revanche said...

It may not seem like a ton of progress to some folks, but though I've never been in a position to spend so freely, I can definitely see the major difference you've made in changing so many previously expensive habits.

It's a long road and it might never be as easy as swiping the cards were, but it's really worth it.

Chitown said...

Thanks for your comments!!!

I feel encouraged and I am still looking at ways to do things on my own to further reduce my costs. =)

Gia said...

I came across your blog today via NetworthIQ. I like your spirit; it's positive despite your tough financial situation. Check out Dave Ramsey's radio show (via his website). I found the show super motiviating, and it helped me to become debt free.

You can do it!