challenge update: february

This is a monthly update on a personal challenge I set for myself in 2013. My goal: living lagom on $20,000 a year. See past challenge updates here. Please note that these posts will be loooong.

the numbers

EXPENSE FEBRUARY YEAR TO DATE
Rent $795.00 $1,590.00
Transportation $4.20 $12.60
Cell Phone/Internet $75.65 $149.78
Insurance $7.20 $14.40
Laundry $0.00 $14.16
Groceries
Meals $149.85 $288.54
Snacks $16.01 $43.99
In Home Entertaining $0.00 $8.00
Household
Supplies $3.60 $41.18
Equipment $27.65 $128.41
Grooming $11.54 $23.92
Entertainment
Coffee Shops $32.32 $38.47
Eating Out $6.76 $6.76
Magazines $0.00 $6.77
Movies $13.00 $18.15
Gifts $10.86 $47.14
Yoga $0.00 $92.47
Baby Shower $243.52 $419.12
Toronto Trips
Greyhound Bus $25.99 $25.99
Coffee Shops $4.15 $4.15
Eating Out $8.00 $8.00
Blog/Writing
Books/Publications $10.45 $10.45
Electronics $9.03 $9.03
TOTAL $1,454.78 $3,001.48

categories explained

Below are the new categories added this month. See January’s challenge update for an explanation of previous categories.

Toronto Trips: Throughout the year, I will likely take a few trips to Toronto. I lived in Toronto for over 10 years and that’s where most of my friends still live. I’ve decided to make this a separate category to record how much I spend during these mini-breaks.

Blog/Writing: Includes any expense related to running this blog, as well as any reference materials and writing courses that I take.

Electronics: Includes anything of the technological sort related to my iPhone or computer.

observations and insights

Here are my thoughts on this month’s expenditures:

  • My groceries amount was pretty consistent with January. I continue to eat a mostly plant-based diet. I think there are areas where I could save more, but this amount seems sustainable to me.
  • I ate out for the first time in 2013! I’d been craving a veggie burger and since I don’t really make those at home, I bought one. I also ate out while in Toronto. There’s a pizza place there that doesn’t have a location in Waterloo. It’s called Pizzaiolo and the Bianca pizza is my favorite. So good!
  • I also treated for the first time. I bought my sister a latte and my friend a pizza slice for her birthday. I’ve decided to record these types of purchases under the Gifts category because I guess that’s what they are. They weren’t expensive gifts, but hey, they made me feel good and the person receiving them feel good too. I won’t highlight each time I buy someone something, but I thought I would share it with you this month since it’s the first time it’s come up.
  • Overall, I spent approximately $450 on my sister’s baby shower, if you take into account the money I also spent in 2012. It would’ve been a lot more if it hadn’t been for all the ladies who contributed food to the party. I confess, I had to rely a lot on the dollar store for such things as decorations and paper plates. My inner treehugger wasn’t too happy about that. I did get to use my beloved mason jars as centerpieces and my gift was homemade.
  • I had my first unexpected purchase. My iPhone charger stopped charging. No good. So I had to go out and buy a new one. Luckily, it was just the charger and not the phone.
  • I didn’t buy any clothes again. Trust me: I will eventually need to buy some. Especially once summer comes around.

tips of the month

This month’s tips are entertainment related:

  • Give yourself an allowance. Each week take out a certain amount of money for entertainment purposes. Keep it separate from your other money. Once the cash is gone, you’ll have to find other ways to get your entertainment (see last tip). You can also give yourself a monthly or yearly allowance for such things as iTunes, books, magazines, etc. I sometimes give myself an allowance when I go to restaurants to curb my spending.
  • Set-up a special events fund. Some people really like going to concerts. Or museums. Or in my case, film festivals. So in addition to having a weekly allowance for entertainment, you should consider having a special events fund for things that happen less frequently. If you don’t budget for it, you may not get to attend, which would be sad and not really living lagom.
  • Throw a party. Just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t throw a party. If it’s important to you, you need to make room for it. This could come out of your special events fund. You can also keep the cost down by making it a potluck and BYOB. Or if you want to do it all on your own, maybe have just one or two grand parties a year.
  • Start a club. I’ve started and joined so many clubs in my life. They’re a great way to be social with people who share a common interest. And they don’t have to cost very much money if it’s something like a knitting club or a book club or an espresso club. So many options!
  • Embrace free. There are so many ways to get our entertainment for free. You can borrow books, magazines and movies from the library. There are free ebooks, podcasts and videos online. You can find a blog on any topic you may be interested in. Not to mention all the free events that take place in your local community. Always remember that you don’t have to spend money to have a good time.

the living lagom part of the equation

Below is my own personal interpretation of how I’m living well on less.

Alas, there appears to be a bit of a love theme this month. It turns out I’m more conventional than I thought.

books of the month

For my fiction book of the month, I chose the classic Charlotte Brontë novel Jane Eyre. I’ve never read any of Brontë’s books before. I did see the recent film adaptation, but there’s nothing like reading the actual novel. It was a rather long book for a short month and there were some slow sections. But overall, I enjoyed it very much. I especially liked how Brontë talks directly to the reader at times. It’s like she was communicating to me from another world.

I have two favorite quotes from this book. Both are from the character Helen Burns when she’s speaking to Jane.

“If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”

And . . .

“It is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.”

Smart kid.

For my living well on less pick, I chose Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. It’s a memoir of a woman and her partner that decided to only purchase essentials in 2004 – before not buying challenges became en vogue.

It received low customer reviews on Amazon, but I thought it was an honest portrayal of the emotions someone trying to go a year without buying non-necessities would feel who is used to being able to buy what they like.

There were some tips in the book, like starting a garden, making your own beer, getting involved politically and in the community, utilizing your local library and creative gift giving. However, it’s mostly about her experiences (which coincided with the 2004 U.S. presidential elections).

If you’re interested, I would borrow this one from the library since there isn’t too much to reference once read.

movies of the month

I went to the theatre twice this month. I saw a special presentation of Battle Royale, which some (most?) would say is the original The Hunger Games. In this Japanese version, the children are from the same class, which adds a whole other dimension. Yes, it’s (very) violent. But it’s also a love story. Several in fact. Definitely worth seeing if you are a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy.

I also saw A Royal Affair. A Danish film that takes place in the 18th century during the reign of King Christian VII. It’s about so much more than a love affair. Alas, even in the course of trying to change the world, people still remain human. And it’s very difficult for a human to live without any character flaws.

I can’t let this month go by and not mention my favorite romantic movie of all time, The Princess Bride. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and quote from it on at least a monthly basis. There’s nothing like true love to bring back the (mostly) dead farm boy, so that he may be reunited with his Buttercup. Inconceivable? Well, what if I told you there was also a pirate, a six-fingered man, a giant, fire swamp, revenge and the greatest kiss of all time? Still not your goblet of Iocaine powder?

As you wish.

song of the month

This month’s song that was added to my granny’s playlist is Anyone Else But You from the Juno soundtrack. I prefer the version sung by the film’s lead characters, Michael Cera and Ellen Page. I like my love songs with a bit of quirk in them and this one fits the bill. Plus, I love the line: “We sure are cute for two ugly people.” Adorable.

Alright, alright, alright. I actually picked two songs this month. Greedy, I know. Especially since I recently wrote about one love. What’s downloaded, is downloaded.

My second (and more traditional) love song is Give In To Me by Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund, which is also from a movie soundtrack (Country Strong). Ever since I heard this song a few months ago, it’s been stuck in my head. I use that as a key sign that it should be added to my playlist.

Honestly, I just REALLY want to sing this song one day at a karaoke bar. All I need is to find a duet partner with a deep and raspy voice . . .

mind, body & spirit

I continue to do my morning affirmations and nightly prayer. I forgot to mention last month that I do a blessing before each meal by placing my hands above my food and giving thanks. Nothing grand, but I want to remind myself that I’m indeed lucky that I don’t have to worry about having food to eat, budget or no budget.

My yoga classes are going . . . okay. I was starting to feel like I was making progress, but sadly, I’ve regressed. I don’t know if it’s the structure of having to go to class on a certain day and at a certain time, but sometimes I get a little agitated during my practice. I do feel good afterwards though. I may just be better suited to practicing yoga on my own. I have one more month of classes to digest as much as possible, before the program is over.

I walked in a snow storm this month. It was quite enjoyable. I haven’t walked in that much snow in YEARS. It reminded me of when I was in grade school and my mom had to come pick up my sister and I because of bad weather. Since I was small for my age, my mom had to give me a piggyback ride all the way home so I wouldn’t get lost in the snow.

I’m trying to work on writing more than just this lovely blog. I need to stop writing stories in my mind and put them on paper (or rather screen).

favorite experience of the month

My sister Lizzie’s baby shower. I loved how my family got to spend time together, which doesn’t happen enough these days. I also really appreciated how almost all the ladies brought food and how others came early to set-up or stayed after to clean up. There’s no way I could’ve done it all on my own. My mom would’ve been so thankful for everyone helping out her girls. I’m thankful too.

Below are some pictures of my gift to Baby Coo-Ci Coo-Ci Coo (soon to be my favorite – sorry Lizzie).

livinglagom.com - challenge update: februarylivinglagom.com - challenge update: februarylivinglagom.com - challenge update: february

Hand drawn card / Transfer of my mom’s bear (I’ll miss you!) / Recreated my sister’s baby blanket with her old duckie and my mom’s old pajamas.

So that’s the kind of February it was back in 2010+3.

15 thoughts on “challenge update: february

  1. Lina

    Love your blog, it is so well written and corky :) I am just finishing the book “Your Money or Your Life” and this kind of posts help to see how to put into practise what I am learning.
    Xoxo, Lina

  2. livingsimplyfree

    I too love the Princess Bride, one of my all time favorite movies. I hadn’t borrowed Not buying It because of all the bad reviews but maybe I’ll rethink that decision now.

  3. Emily

    I kept up with recording my spending on food/drinks/edible stuff, and ended up spending $212 total this month…pretty close to your numbers. I ate out more than usual, but worked less, so it was easier to cook at home. Maybe it balanced out. Since my income isn’t consistent, I can’t really make a budget, but it was good to assuage my curiosity. ;) I like your idea of having a special events fund!

  4. Susan Regular

    I discovered the website pinterest and found a recipe for homemade laudry detergent. supposed to work out to 8 cents per 30 loads. not sure if this tip would interest you or not. I have yet to make it.

  5. living lagom Post author

    Awesome!!! I think tracking has turned out to be better for me than having a budget. I did put a rough budget together at the start of the year, but I think the actual budget is going to look very different by the end of December.

  6. living lagom Post author

    I use Method laundry detergent, but I make my own all-purpose cleaner with vinegar and water. Feel free to post the link to the laundry detergent. Maybe someone will try it and let’s us know.

  7. eager urbanist

    Who doesn’t love The Princess Bride? The thought is INCONCEIVABLE!

    Thanks for providing us with such an honest and detailed monthly budget update. It really is nice to see how someone spends their money lagom-style rather than as an extreme minimalism experiment.

    If you want to reduce your party expenditures further, try asking a couple of your guests (or fellow hostesses) to bring a full set of their dishware to the event. I’m sure at least one person has a set of fancy dishes they never get to use, and if you need more than one set, you can mix and match multiple people’s styles by alternating the place settings with different sets of dishes. As you found out with all of the nice before-and-after party helpers, most guests are glad to contribute something to a party, even loaned dishware. This should also soothe your cringing inner environmentalist ;-)

  8. living lagom Post author

    It really is inconceivable!

    Great tip for not using disposable plates. I guess because people were already bringing food, I felt bad asking them to bring plates as well. Though I could’ve gotten some at a thrift store and then re-donated them after or rented plates. I’ll do better next time. :)

  9. Nicole

    I’d love to learn more about your groceries. I don’t eat much meat, but my groceries are almost double yours!!!! Where do you shop? What sorts of things do you buy? Do you buy organic? Local? thanks!

  10. living lagom Post author

    Hey Nicole! I was actually just talking to my sister about food expenses today! I save a lot of money by going to the farmers market here in town. It’s not always local or organic, but the prices are so much cheaper than the grocery store. I buy my fair share of organic food, but I don’t stress if it’s not available. Except with greens and apples. I always buy those organic.

    I used to spend a lot of money on food when I lived in Toronto. My main grocery store was Whole Foods. But now I don’t have that as an option and I’ve found cheaper alternatives.

    My main grains are oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa (all organic). I also buy a box or two of pasta a month. I’ll occasionally buy bread.

    I normally have two types of seeds/nuts on hand. I like organic sunflower seeds because they’re cheaper and then I’ll also have organic peanut butter, peanuts or pumpkin seeds.

    I get a can or jar of beans a week. I don’t eat beans everyday, but when I do, I add them to my buddha bowls.

    I don’t really buy milk or eggs. I did in February though. They don’t make me feel good so I’ve decided to only have them when I’m eating out or at coffee shops. This month I bought organic rice milk, which I prefer to cow’s milk.

    For snacks I buy one bar of organic, fair trade chocolate a month and plain microwave popcorn (sometimes organic). For Lent, I decided all other snack foods had to come into my life for free. It was slow to start, but now I’ve gotten a bunch of goodies.

    What else? Umm, oh yes! My expenses will be higher for March since I decided to buy some Amazing Grass Wheatgrass and I haven’t made it to the market as much. I think the market is key to my low grocery amount. You could try Asian markets for produce not on the dirty dozen list.

    I think you’re in Toronto, you should definitely go to Herbs & Nutrition at Bloor & Bathurst. They have an amazing bulk section for your organic grains and way lower prices on other stuff. I think organic quinoa is like $2.99 a pound!!!

    Basically, I eat a pretty simple diet that gets jazzed up from time to time when I eat out.

  11. Nicole

    thanks! I love Wholet Foods too, but try not to use it as my main store since it’s so expensive, but it is great for special things and the occasional visit to the salad bar (my favorite)! I’ll definitely check out Herbs & Nutrition – thanks for the recommendation!

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