Monday, May 30, 2011

Cents and Sensibility: preparing to repair the slow drip of spending.

Like a slowly dripping faucet that eventually creates a massive pool of water, it's so easy to spend a lot of money very incrementally, not noticing just how much you're spending until you take a slippery step back.

A bit of self-disclosure: I've never put myself on a tight budget when it's come to my discretionary income. Discretionary in this context means anything left over after the bills are paid.

I think it's been established vis a vis the very nature of this blog that I don't do a lot of splurging, but I also don't keep track when it comes to running to the store for a what-not that seems, at the time, essential.

So imagine my surprise when I took a sobering step back and calculated what I spent at the grocery store this month. A bank-balance-crushing 668.17. And I'll spend a bit more on Tuesday, the day before we start to stop spending.

As has been established in an earlier entry, May was a money-sucking month on many levels. We had birthday parties, a graduation party and lots of other savory moments of entertaining in between.

On average, I spend $600 a month at the grocery store. That's $150 a week.

Let's break that down, shall we?

Assume it's a 30-day month, and we have three meals a day. That's 90 meals per person per month. There are three people who live in this magical house, two of whom are ravenous teenagers. That's 270 meals per month. Assuming a budget of $600 per month, the cost of each of those 270 meals would be 2.23.

That doesn't seem extravagant. But that calculation has its inherent caveats.

Take for example Thursday. Logan and I lunched on empanadas at a fabulous hole in the wall dive in north Denver. That excursion was so much fun, and it cost $25.

Example numero dos. Friday night dinner in Greeley at Shawn's. A flavorful pot luck, spiced nicely with great company.

Last night I was treated to tasty homemade pizza and a great conversation with my friend Christine. Cost-free, and completely fun. I just love Christine.

As you can tell, there's a yin to the yang when it comes to entertaining, which also involves inviting people to our house for dinner.

We do that a lot. Next week we start our weekly Peasants Feasts. It's a tasty tradition - we choose a food theme, and whoever feels like coming shows up with a dish and conversation. No two weeks are the same, which feeds the self-diagnosed adult ADD part of me that's easily distracted and thrives on change.

But I digress.

The $600 I spend on food each month has its variables, but the trend of going out and inviting in tends to create a balance.

Those variables will change starting starting the day after tomorrow, when June 1 rolls around and we're committed to the Cents and Sensibility project.

We've done a bit of stocking up (I've got details, but that will come later). We'll get some fresh stuff on Tuesday, fill up the car with gas and pocket $20 a piece, but past that point, all discretionary spending will stop.

Will we go mad?

I doubt it.

If I were taking bets, I'd say we'll run out of gas first. Then Logan will run out of Diet Coke, which will be interesting to watch.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Let's see what happens once we turn the money faucet off on Wednesday.

Like the guest list at next week's Peasants Feast, I have no idea what to expect.

And that's the fun part.

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