My current MO and lifestyle – living fabulously frugal.
One would think that the two are contrasting ideals. Living a fabulous life connotates living lavishly and indulgently, or in my case, impulsively and passionately without much concern for the aftermath. An expensive month in Paris after grad school? Sure! Move to San Francisco on a random month in the year? Why not? Take a journalism class amidst writing my Master’s thesis? I’ll make it work. Audition for a lead role in a short film?* Let’s do it!
My main point being – all the time and energy to pursue anything and everything was in my reach. Whatever I fancied to have or do, I found a way to make it happen. Aside from student loans and holding down a job, I had no true obligations to anyone but myself. I was free to spend money and time on anything I desired, so long as I had sufficient funds. I had adapted to a lifestyle that splurged on delicious dining, getaway trips, and new adventures.
So what changed? Apparently, being engaged and a homeowner quadruples your level of responsibilities. Not only that, but it also takes a demanding toll on your energy and financial income. We were in love and with a very tight budget. I nearly cried when J and I sat down to work out our monthly expenses for September – the first month of the dreaded mortgage and incoming house bills.
“But there’s no way I can go eat in the City or get together with the girls for drinks with this much for the month!” I wailed at J after I saw my remaining balance. After accounting for bills, house expenses, groceries, gas, loans, and lunch money, I was well in the negative. J squeezed my shoulder and calmly said that I just need to be okay with cutting down on my indulgent spending.
“Babe, you need to have a plan. You want to do all of these things, but how are you going to pay for it?” he said matter-of-factly. I wanted to pinch him. HARD.
I whined and sighed and cried for about the next two weeks. Visions of our December trip to Florida’s Key West, dining out every so often in San Francisco, and buying myself a fancy new camera lens swirled down a drainhole in my head. I was heartbroken. My old lifestyle was gone and I needed a way to move on.
And so here I am today. Figuring out some way to still maintain some semblance of a fabulous life, but doing so frugally – in a financially conscious manner. Things like coupons, discount stores, and promotional deals are starting to become part of my daily jargon. Some other lifestyle changes:
* I purchased a VTA lightrail pass to commute to work. More walking and public transit will mean less on gas & parking.
* Home cooked meals. More practice for me in the kitchen and less on eating out. I calculated that about $40 on groceries bought me – at least 6 meals and breakfast for 2 weeks. If a meal is about $10 each and breakfast can easily be $5, that equals $130 worth of food for my $40 spent. I may not be Giada in the kitchen, but J has been pleased with his dinners so far.
* Utilizing our Costco, AAA, and my education discount. Bank of America also has a cool “Add it Up” program; cash back on online purchases.
* Of course, a wallet crammed full of coupons. I keep the ones I’ll likely use (Safeway, Sweet Tomatoes, Target, Bed Bath Beyond etc) and have no shame in busting it out at the register.
For our recent trip to Las Vegas, J and I allocated about $50/day for food. That sounded pretty crazy to me for a Vegas trip, but somehow we pulled it off. Plus, it didn’t hurt that his friend’s parents comp’ed us dinner at the Rio buffet and that we stayed in downtown Las Vegas instead of the strip. I was so happy that we saved up until the end of our trip that J allowed me to splurge the rest of it (including some of my own money) on a fancy schmancy brunch at Bouchon Bistro at The Venetian.
Brunch = $90. Oh well, it’s still a work in progress.
*Yes, this did happen during my brief stay in LA. I just recently discovered that I am listed in IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1455231/. I did not get the lead, but was cast as a lowly hostess. Did it matter to me? Not really; the fun was in the fact that I had the guts to go try out for a part. Check one off my life’s to-do list. The film trailer and website can be found at: http://www.luckylotusfilm.com/.