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Friday, January 05, 2007

I Certainly Hope They Make a Patch, Gum, or Inhaler for This

A friend told me recently that her sister decided last New Year's to not buy herself anything other than necessities for the duration of 2006. I snorted. Inconceivable. No clothes? No CDs? No DVDs? No doodads for the house? No baubles for the wrist? No fresh flowers? "I wouldn't last two days on that kind of a venture," I thought before clicking "confirm order now," on a pair of new ski pants. But as the days have passed since she mentioned it, I haven't been able to shake the idea. Could I do without for a year, just to see if I could do it?

Last night I decided to parse all of my checking account statements from 2006. An informal audit of my spending as it were. I didn't pay attention to any purchases for bills, groceries, drugstore trips, travel, or spending that I knew was on gifts for others. I was just tallying the Banana Republic stops, the Garden District visits, the Cafe Deluxe noshes and the like. The results were horrifying:

More than $12,000 in one year on non-essentials. And that's just based on identifiable purchases; it doesn't even include cash that I might have used after making an ATM withdrawal. Now, I'm less concerned with the second column. Really I just tabulated that to see what it would come to. Dining out is both necessary (a girl's got to eat) and social. Heck, nearly one-twelfth of that particular bill came from one night at The Caucus Room when I took my Significant Other out to celebrate him landing his job after moving to D.C.

It's that first column--we'll call it the Needless Budget-Clusterflubbing Fluff Column--that has me questioning my sanity. At first, reading back through the bank statements was like a pleasant skip down Memory Lane. The pink, ribbed sweater that made my skin glow here. The new toile comforter for the guest room there. But then I hit months like April, where a $550 trip to the mercilessly enticing Sitting Pretty boutique in Annapolis helped push the spending tally into four digits and I started to feel guilty. By the time I gasped and sputtered into the December bank statement, a year's worth of buyer's remorse had taken up residence in the pit of my stomach.

So that's it. I'm holding my nose and taking the plunge. I'm seeing how long I can last without buying anything for myself that isn't essential.

*Now if someone would be a lamb and send me a burned copy of The Crane Wife, that would be swell because I'd planned on buying it and I'd hate to welch already.

26 Comments:

Blogger HomeImprovementNinja said...

They had an article in the paper (NY times?) the other day about this. Some yuppies started a group where they don't buy anything (except food) for the whole year. I think it's a response to consumerism or something.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problem is, this country is build on consumerism. Meanwhile, 12K?! Prolly more than I earned last year....yes, I'm serious (well, that the IRS knows about. Gotta love being a personal trainer ;)

Good luck this year. It's not as hard as you think. Prolly under 1k for me, but this ain't my blog.

thanks for making me think now too!

B
http://needtsza.blogspot.com

2:57 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Is So Over said...

Can we form some kind of support group for this? Because I have made two Sephora and two Nordstrom orders in the past week alone... if I made a handy chart like yours, I would be APPALLED. I'd vomit before I got to June.

I need help.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous etcetera said...

1. you gals need Quicken. its awesome. you can categorize all your spending lickety-split and compare months or categories or whatever you want. if you want to download my copy, just let me know.

2. imagine if you could isolate your money spent on alcohol alone for a year. *shudder* i put bar expenses under my "recreation" category in Quicken. there's a whole lotta "recreation" going on.

3:05 PM  
Blogger KassyK said...

So jealous. I maybe spent a total of $2,000 on things besides food, toiletries, etc. This was the year of Kassy being broke. Painful.

All my money goes to the same crap though when I have it...CVS, Books, Magazines, Itunes. :)

My resolution this year is to have money for more fun, frivolous things.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous kevinmc said...

Is the SO going to live by the same rule? Because I will be fascinated to see how long he can go without a trip to a bookstore - I think his current record is 4 days.

3:21 PM  
Blogger bettyjoan said...

Wow, good luck--I definitely need to engage in some similar eye-opening and wallet-closing.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the books/movies thing would kill me. I collect old books, for one, and for two I make it a serious habit to go to the movie theater roughly once every two weeks - generally for a double feature :(

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Fred said...

Yeah, does this mean no movies? I guess you and the S.O. could alternate between watching Anchorman and Talladega Nights every weekend. ( if you dont already... )

As for me, my columns would be reversed. $200 on fun stuff and too many $$$ on food.

Eating more at home ( this doesnt mean "takeout" ) is my New Year's Resolution.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These people call themselves freegans. There was an article in the Express the other day. Basically the article made them sound like homeless people who forage for food based on principle. Check it out... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freegan

4:31 PM  
Blogger Brunch Bird said...

HIN-I'll definitely check it out.

B-Exactly. I'm ashamed to admit it, but if it's a Saturday afternoon and I'm bored my default is to go shopping, not to go to a museum or read a book. Terrible.

K-Even looking at one month was disturbing. I mean, at a certain point we earn the money to pay our bills and spend the rest how we want to. It's not like I was buying headbands and not feeding the dog or anything. But it was the sheer volume of how much I'd spent on that type of stuff that freaked me out. (I've got a Sephora and a Williams-Sonoma gift card from the holidays that I'm going to be treasuring even more now in the upcoming year.) What really annoyed me was seeing that total and realizing that I'd spent a lot of time last year bellyaching about not traveling enough. I could have done the grand tour of Europe on what I spent on $29 sweater sales at the Gap.

Etc-Quicken can do all that?! I'm all over it. Please to be providing a copy at your convenience.

KK-You've definitely earned it after being thrifty last year!

KevinM-The SO gave me the facial-expression equivalent of the snort and hysterical laughter my sister gave me on the phone last night when I told her of my impending monetary monasticism. I think he thinks I'm nuttier than a peanut patty....mmmm....Texas peanut patties...

BJ-Thanks!

View and Fred-This is definitely not going to include going to see movies, or Netflix (although I did drop from the 3-at-a-time plan to 1-at-a-time last night.) No art forms are going on the chopping block. (although purchase of actual artwork is out for the year.) So movie tickets, live shows, theater, opera, and the like are safe. Book purchases though, I'm going to try. Before Barnes&Noble popped up everywhere I used to actually read books from the library. And we have a library in the house that has so many books I need to read that I never even get to because I just keep buying new ones and reading them.

Fred-Does Whattaburger count as take-out? I hope not, because denying yourself tacquitos is like denying yourself sunshine.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

recognizing the problem is supposed to be hardest. for some, it's actually confronting it though.

again, good luck

- B

4:50 PM  
Anonymous etcetera said...

... and we have BB's thrifty new ways to thank for the ads we now see on her blog. i'll click every day so at each blogger happy hour you'll owe me a drink, BB. ;)

5:53 PM  
Anonymous rcr said...

But alcohol is a necessity, right? Like food, heat, shelter, and the Simpsons.

My bar tabs alone would probably buy me a sports car.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Brunch Bird said...

Etc-Let me just say that I encourage you all to click through to check out the many wonderful products that our new sponsors have to offer. ;-)

RCR-Yes, it is. Restaurant and bar tabs, while drawing closer scrutiny in the '07, are not going under the knife. I could never stay mad at beer anyway.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous fred said...

Well, I had a little bit too much 'sunshine' over the Christmas break. In fact, the only reason I woke up before 11:00 most days was to make sure I could still get a taquito...

Which has lead me to New Year's Resolution #2...

8:35 PM  
Blogger honeykbee said...

Did someone just mention CVS and Sephora? Great, there goes another $200.

8:36 PM  
Blogger regs said...

I'm stunned at your attempt. What a nice idea for other people! I think it is so brave of you to put those numbers up there. I am so afraid of what mine might look like. I notice you don’t have a column labeled “BS expenses I’ve incurred just by owning this house that is just sucking up entirely too much of my spare income.” But then again maybe you’ve had better luck than me in that area.

There are so many expense columns that would make me cry. Trips to the hair salon? Money on travel to weddings, parties thrown by you for the couple, heinous bridesmaids’ dresses, and bachelorette weekends you never wanted to attend in the first place? (bachelorette weekends, not the weddings) I added that particular figure up once at it was 20K over the past few years which I could probably get past except now I’m bracing myself for some 2nd weddings.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous etcetera said...

regs - good call. i need to make a "weddings expenses" category in Quicken for 2007. the bf and i just realized that we cannot afford to go to the bahamas next month because we have 6 weddings to travel to this summer. i will be drinking a crapload at each wedding to get my money's worth. at least i'm not a bridesmaid. nothing's worse than spending $300 on a dress you'll never wear again.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous rcr said...

How about spending $160 on a tuxedo that you have to return the next day. At least you get to keep the dress.

I'll never forgive him for that ascot.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Is "maintenance" a necessity, because it is to me: hair, hands/feet, facials, waxing. Then there's the magazine subscriptions...

11:46 PM  
Blogger Barzelay said...

I've got you on The Crane Wife, which I just included on my Top Albums of 2006. If you were serious about that, just email me and I'll give you a link where you can download it from me so as not to have to give out your address to some random (and possibly creepy--hey, I don't know how I come across on here) blog guy.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Brunch Bird said...

Cube-Yes. I'm trying to reduce spending on things, not look all uglified. ;-)

Barz-Kick. Fanny. I was dead serious. Email to follow.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Papa said...

Goodness sakes, to be young and single (like y'all sound) again. Not to depress you, but look forward to the Children's expenses category in Quicken: Bobbi Brown cosmetics account for older daughter; Itunes expenditures for all 3, since they have different likes in music (make great last minute gifts for teenagers, too); dance expenses (coach, apparel, weekend for dance recital); high school theatre department expenses (2 kids in high school musical, costumes, meals during rehearsal, cast party, tickets to Tommy Tune Awards (they won best musical)); educational expenses (including driver's ed);.

But, look forward to the moments that these expenditures lead to!

5:17 PM  
Blogger Brunch Bird said...

I'm not gonna lie Papa: that list scares the crud out of me.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Papa said...

Be afraid, be very afraid. Learn how to say no to Starbucks.

3:26 AM  

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