Friday, September 24, 2010

c(R)ash diet

I have a surprise for you. Are you ready for this?

Here it is:
When you don't have a job, you don't have money!

You're shocked, right?!

I'm not, because I did this already, a year and a half ago. I'm so over being poor.

I'm also a little restless and bored.

So I took on a challenge. It's not a unique challenge, and it's not even a cool and hip young-person challenge. Oh, no.

This is a challenge from the Guru of Greenbacks herself, Suze Orman!

Last December, she declared that to get back at rising credit card interest rates and fees, people shouldn't buy on credit anymore and just do cash: a Back to Cash Movement!

This summer she had a guest on the show who took the challenge and tried to only use cash for a month and felt successful in managing her spending. I found this intriguing, and so, knowing that I have a very limited amount of money to spend period, I would give it a try. Especially because the last of the wedding bills came through this month (on credit cards).

[I'm actually very responsible with credit cards. I almost always pay the complete amount. If that's not at all possible, I pay as much as I can (a big chunk, way way more than the minimum). My first year of teaching (classroom supplies, school clothes, rent, books for grad school) required so much money that I was in debt the whole time--somehow I had to keep charging as much as I paid each month off the balance. So it took a little more than a year to finally get rid of that. Early last year I had a huge car repair right after I got fired, and without a real job, it took three or four months to pay it off.]

But I've been really good about not putting things on credit cards (other than wedding stuff), and it's easy to keep those pretty clear. So my motivation with this challenge wasn't fighting debt out of desperation. It wasn't about drowning in credit card interest. (Thank god.) It was more about freaking out that I still have regular bills to pay (cell phone, car insurance, other things), in addition to things like FOOD, and only what was left in my bank account. If nothing goes into it, how long will that last? How smart am I being with what little I have?

I do get reckless when I have a job. I'm not talking dropping hundreds of dollars on useless toys, trinkets, toys. But I won't say no to a reasonable urge: I'll buy a book or two here. I'll buy a few clothes there. I'll have a few drinks out with friends. I'll buy a plane ticket! (For a vacation, not just any old time, obviously! :D) I spend money because I have money. (I also save it, of course. But naturally, saving is the first thing to go when I don't have an income. I can't spare anything for later if there's not much coming in now!)

So, back to the plan. First I reviewed my spending on mint.com and then set up a very spartan monthly budget plan. I decided I would only use cash for everything possible--groceries ($80 regular plus $100 for Costco), restaurants ($30), transportation ($20), and miscellaneous/shopping ($50). So that's a grand total of $260 to last me an entire month.

I have one week left and less than twenty dollars to get me there. There's no way I'm going to make it.

I'll provide a full report once the month is over!

3 comments:

Schoolgal said...

You forgot to mention coupons. My niece also living on a budget has signed up to so many .com coupon things, she is saving money every time she goes shopping.

I know you gave up teaching, however you know you can get the credentials to sub (not long term) but maybe once a week to help ends meet. And stay away from charters! Just sign up at a few local schools so you can save on gas.

In the meantime don't give up on your passion for photography. Send your photos into community newspapers even if the only thing you get is a "credit" under the caption. Like we used to say in writer's workshop, published work goes out to the world. Get it out!

peace in the classroom said...

During summer after my first year teaching I was in a similar situation. I had so much credit card debt from a cash advance I took out to put down a security deposit, first and last month's rent, and a broker's fee on my tiny studio apartment in an outer borough. I made a plan to pay off the debt and stuck to it by only using cash. I would put the cash in envelopes marked "food," "transportation," etc. It was like I was competing with myself to end up with money to spare in any of the envelopes so I could treat myself and go out to happy hour or something. As tough as it sounds, you can totally make it to next week on $20. I actually look back on that time of my life with fond memories. Good luck!

NCavillones said...

have you seen this? http://smallnotebook.org/2009/07/01/the-no-spend-month-challenge/

the envelope method that peace in the classroom mentioned is similar to what they do on 'till debt do us part, a tv about . it's something that i really need to try but you know.... lol.

and because you only have 20 dollars, you might consider cutting out the restaurants and the misc/shopping until you have more of a cushion.

good luck!