Preparing for Lent

For the past few years, I’ve made a practice of giving up something for Lent.

I’m working towards a couple of financial goals this year, so when I started to think about what to give up for Lent, I strongly considered giving up spending money online. My rationale is this: there are few (anticipated) online purchases that are truly so essential that they can’t wait until we run errands the next weekend. I have already done my special occasion shopping for the next two months. We newly have to pay taxes on (some) Amazon purchases. And frankly, it’s just too easy to decide that we need something and then order it without stopping to justify why we need it.

However when I put this idea forth to the internet, a number of people wisely suggested that life with a new baby is hard enough without taking away conveniences, and that if I’m actually after a reduction in spending, I should look to those luxuries where I could reasonably cut back. Point taken.

So what I’ve decided to do is this:

  1. We’re going to give up ordering delivery/take-out. We order in about once/week, almost exclusively on days when I’m just too tired to think about food. This means we’ll both have to put more effort into cooking because if we’re too tired to think about food, the baby is almost certainly too tired to be dragged out for a meal.
  2. I’m going to give up buying coffee and sweets (or second breakfast) at work. I make coffee at home most mornings, but I often want a second cup. And I’m often hungry enough (or feel like it, anyway) to want something between breakfast and lunch. And so I spend $3 at Ex Libris for coffee and a donut, which is $3 I don’t need to be spending. So I’ll be making my second cup in the office suite kitchen, and bringing treats from home if I need them.
  3. If online purchases are really necessary, I’m going to document why. I was encouraged to think about this with regards to the hidden costs of NOT shopping online: gas, price differences, taxes, and my time. I’ll report back!

By the numbers: July 2008

July numbers:

Three month comparison:

At the start of this whole thing, I suspected that while we may find ourselves spending more on produce than we normally do – our diets on the whole would improve without a substantial overall increase in food spending. After three months, the numbers support this conclusion. We’re spending about the same amounts as we were before starting to shop at the market – but we’re getting gorgeous fresh things, meat and cheeses straight from the producers, wonderful baked goods made from local ingredients instead of overly processed snacks or produce with a ridiculous amount of packaging that can’t be reused. Our milk, chicken, and the odd packaged meal (for those nights when cooking is just not going to happen) still come from the store, as do staples like olive oil, kitty litter, and sandwich bags – but on the whole I think we’re doing quite well!

By the Numbers: June 2008

Our total grocery spending was down this month, but that’s likely because our eating-out spending was up as a result of Bonnaroo.  Beginning July 1, we started tracking our eatings-out in order to provide us with better budgetary numbers going forward.  We’ll be moving to a new place in the fall, and being able to accurately calculate our expenditures will be important for our fiscal well being.

I’m really proud that this month we neared 50-50 on our market/non-market spending!

By the numbers: May 2008

Look! I can use Google to make charts and graphs!

Am I sure how we spent $428.43 on groceries and other household-y stuff last month? Not really. I mean, we have the numbers, but I’m not sure what they mean, exactly. There were a few splurges on alcohol, lots of cheese and meats for a fancy picnic, and things like that which put us over our budget for the month. On the whole, though, I think we’re coming out about the same as we were previously – we’re just buying better things, and eating better meals at home. Last night I was trying to remember exactly what it was that we ate prior to two months ago. I think a lot more frozen things.