Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Part 1: Finances

It's really a shame that I don't know how to SPELL "finances".  My title was "Finanaces" for the first day.  Awesome.  I swear it was hasty typing and not ignorance!  :)

Part 1 of my little series!  :)  What series?  THIS series!

Photo Credit
Oh money!  How controlling you are.  So many of our choices we make are based on money.  Money is the most powerful inanimate object there is.  So, yes, like everyone else MONEY was a huge part of our grad school decision.  Jason applied to USC, University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, and SFSU.  He got into all of them.  Northern Arizona and SFSU are best known for their English as a Second Language programs.  USC has the best "image" and U of A has a relatively decent program.  In the end we crunched the numbers and SFSU came out on top as the most realistic option as far as the debt to "income after completion of degree" ratio went.  We also decided that we would try our best to go into debt with only the tuition...nothing else.  So there's that.

We also decided that at least at first...Jason wouldn't work.  We would be a one income family and he would completely dedicate his life to his studies.  IN SAN FRANCISCO people!  One of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.  And sure, I have a college degree...but it's in philosophy.  Not exactly a money making major alright!  Fortunately I had some optical experience and decided to keep with that.  It got us by.  Barely.  I mean baaaaaaarely.

Our budget was ridiculous.  I mean like for real.  Here's the low down.

Rent, Utilities, Health insurance for the both of us, car insurance, internet (had to have it with him in school), cell phones (not smart phones), and gas took up pretty much all our money.  What we had left was food and "fun $".  We spent $20/week for fun money.  That's all the extras...i.e. coffee, going out to eat, trip for frozen yogurt, etc.  That's it.  No more.  Sometimes we'd save a couple of weeks up to do something a little bigger and more fun.  Sometimes we'd go stir crazy and go into debt with ourselves and not do anything the next week because we spent too much.  You get the picture.

Food.  Ah, yes.  Food.  Food is the HARDEST thing for me to cut back on.  There is only one thing we put into our thing our body draws from, incorporating it into our very being...and that's food.  I buy organic when I can and refuse to buy non-free range/organic meat.  I like fresh food, never prepackaged, rarely canned.  I like to make it from scratch.  And guess what?!  You can't always do that with $45/week.  So, I had to suck it up and either not eat, go into debt over my food obsession, or make some sacrifices and move on.  The money wasn't there and that was all there was to it.

So, how did we do it?

Here are a few tips:
1) Stay the heck away from places like Costco.  Seriously Costco will make you go broke in 0.5 seconds.  (With $45/week Costco will buy, 3 things?)  A married couple with no kids really in the end has no reason for a place like Costco.  We ended up getting a membership for the tires because you got better tires PLUS a membership for less than just tires other places.

2) Freestyle shopping is a no go.  No list, no trip to the store.

3) Cash.  We pull the cash out for the week and when there's no cash there's no more purchases.

4) Snacking will kill your food budget.  Snacking was basically obliterated.  There was enough money for one "snack food" a week.  Once it was gone, that was it.  Honestly, we decided it wouldn't kill us to be a little hungry sometimes and just wait until the next meal (I hated this really but it was necessary).  Funny thing was that eventually it trained our bodies to not be hungry but at meal times. Buh bye snacking.

5)  Make a full dinner, as the recipe calls for, and use the leftovers for lunch the next day.  The food goes farther and there's no purchasing of lunch while we're at school/work.

6) The crockpot goes a loooooong way.  I am not a crockpot fan.  It smells up your house and I feel like everything that comes out of it tastes the same.  I know, I have problems.  But, I used mine because we needed to.  And really, I think I'd eat just about anything if it means that dinner is done and ready for me when I get home.

7)  Shop and plan strategically.  If you know you have to buy things like Parmesan that are more expensive....use other dishes that need it that week too.

8) Pasta! Pasta is CHEAP...and yummy.

There you have it.  $45/week on groceries.  I totally and completely hated it sometimes.  Like completely did.  And sometimes I DID cheat and go a little over.  For the most part we stuck to it though.

So, here's an example of a menu.  Ready?!

Fri: Date night--YUMMY burritos at our local burrito joint (it only uses $10 of our $20 fun money).
Sat: Homemade cheese pizza (have flour on hand usually)
Sun: Sausage and Broccoli Rabe pasta
Mon: Spaghetti and Bread
Tues: Chili
Wed: Garlic Soba Noodles
Thur: Chili leftovers with cornbread

Shopping List ($)
Mozz. cheese ($4) 
Pasta sauce ($2)--doubles as sauce for spaghetti and pizza sauce
2 bags of pasta ($2)
Baguette ($2)
Broccoli ($2)
Sausage ($3)
3 cans of beans ($3)
ground beef ($2.50)
Stewed tomatoes ($2)
Tomato paste ($1)
onion ($1)
Soba noodles ($2)
garlic ($2)
tofu ($2)
Parmesan ($3)
Cornbread mix ($3)
Cereal ($2)--Jason eats breakfast, I do not.
milk ($2)
half and half ($1)--for coffee
snack food ($3)

Grand total:  $44.50
P.S.  During this frugal stage I pretty much only shopped at Trader Joe's.

Granted this is assuming I have all the staples, i.e. olive oil, flour, chili powder and etc.  I usually do but on occasion you obviously may need to replenish these things here and there.

So, no snacking, lunch as leftovers, and TIME and creativity spent on meal planning.  This is how we lived for the first 1 1/2 years of grad school.

Now Jason has been teaching the last 2 semesters and we have a little bit more money to work with.  I have one word for this...


:)  Oh, and congrats for making it all the way to the bottom of this loooooooong post.  Yay you!

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