Experiments in Pennypinching: Using What I Have Already

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In my first post of this series, I talked about making breakfast food in bulk and bringing it to work rather than giving in to my bad habit of stopping at Tim Horton’s. This post features another way I’ve tried to change my spending habits and save a little bit of money.

My mother calls me a hoarder; I prefer to think of myself as a forward thinker.

I have a hard time letting go of things. Not because I am particularly sentimental about them, but because I always think “Well, what if I need that later on?” before getting rid of something.

The same thought process affects my spending habits. I’ll be at the grocery store and see that roasts are on sale, and will think, “Oh! I’ll need that when I make pot roast!” So I’ll buy it, but I won’t make that pot roast for three months. I’ll see that chicken thighs are on sale, and I’ll buy them, even though I still have a package that I bought the previous week. And if they’re cheap again the following week, I’ll probably buy more. I’ll need them for something. Eventually.

I also do this with books. I’ll get bored with a book and put it off “for later,” and then I’ll buy a different one–and potentially get bored with that one, too!

I don’t like to think of this as a waste of money, because eventually I do get around to using what I buy. But it is a waste of space. My freezer isn’t tiny, but it is by no means big. And it’s full of things I have half-forgotten about since purchasing them.

Sales are by no means a bad thing, but it’s not like roasts won’t be on sale again. I didn’t need to buy that roast if I wasn’t planning on making it any time in the near future.

So I’m trying to establish a new habit in which I use what I already have rather than stocking up.

I started by taking everything out of my freezer. I pitched the freezer-burnt items and tossed the frozen soups I made last winter (I washed and kept the containers the soups were in though because what if I need them later on?).

As I was putting everything back into the freezer, I took inventory. I wrote down all of what I have and how much. Then, I took a sheet of graph paper, wrote down the items, and then drew a bar to correspond with how much I have. It’s now taped to my refrigerator, and when I take something out, I fill in one square of that bar. I’ve used up a fair bit already, but as I’ve made or bought more, the list has expanded.

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Is there anything in particular you are bad about using before buying more? Comment below and tell me what that thing is!

Experiments in Pennypinching: Bringing Breakfast from Home

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Summer is the peak time of year for me at work; I put in about 50 hours a week, but sometimes more if that’s what my boss needs. It’s very nice for the overtime, as it gives me both extra savings and spending money. I might complain about feeling overworked, but the extra wiggle room in my budget is admittedly nice (especially because my energy bill is at its highest this time of year).

Then fall starts and my overtime goes away. And while I live within my means year-round, I always feel a little shocked and stressed financially when that happens. I have to give up the bad habits of summer and go back to more disciplined money habits.

Since I started saving for retirement, I’ve really been trying to become more financially savvy. I’m reading up on finance and investing, watching the Nightly Business Report on PBS, checking the stock market, and talking to the people in my life about money. Currently, I’m reading a book by Kimberly Palmer called Smart Mom, Rich Mom, because even though I don’t have kids, there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead.

You’re reading this and probably thinking, GET TO THE DAMN POINT, SHELBY.

Smart Mom, Rich Mom is about building wealth while you raise a family. It discusses savings and investment plans, and so on. It isn’t a book about extreme couponing and pinching your pennies.

However, it does talk about establishing good financial habits and cutting costs where you can.

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Where I’m cutting costs: Tim Horton’s. I spend a lot of money during the week on breakfast food and coffee. I am one of Timmy’s Hos. It is a guilty pleasure to the point that I’m feeling a little too guilty, to be honest.

Let me elaborate: My average purchase from Tim Horton’s costs between $4 and $6, and sometimes I go there 5 days a week. I’m spending between $20 and $30 a week on breakfast.

And with the peak season at work rapidly coming to a close, I need to cut my Timmy’s habit–by 75%, at least. One day a week, every other week is my goal.

Part of why I have a Timmy’s problem is because I really drag my feet in the morning. I like to get ready and just go to work. Usually I pack my lunch the night before, but I’m not very big on breakfast. Preparing breakfast food in the morning makes me feel ill. I can just throw a packet of instant oatmeal in my purse, and I have. But lately, I’ve just been like, Ugh, oatmeal. It’s taken me all month to even get half through the box on my counter.

But I need to cut Timmy’s out.

So I decided to make things in bulk so all I have to do is grab it from the refrigerator and leave.

I may share the recipes later on, but I was up until 1 a.m. the other day (no wonder I drag my feet in the morning!) making quinoa-and-egg muffins and mini quiche. And on top of that, I made enough to last at least a week. I let them cool off, popped them into ZipLoc bags, and threw most of it into the freezer.

It might not be much but I feel good about it. We all have to start somewhere, right?

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Where do you think you can cut costs? Comment below!