Checking In; And, Being Minimalist Does Not Equal Being Frugal

I’ve been so tired the last couple of weeks — not in a bad way, necessarily. Things at work have just been really absorbing, to the point where, when I don’t have an evening event (we’ve had several since the semester started), I tend to just stagger home and fall over with the dog. Also, I’ve been reading a really fantastic book that a friend gave me recently, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza. It’s beautifully written, fast-paced, and even made me meditate on some classic PF topics, like the value of “stuff.” The word geniza, as the authors explain early on, can have a lot of different meanings, but it came to mean a hidden place where Jewish communities would put worn-out sacred books, something like an above-ground burial. For some reason, around 1000 AD, the Jewish community of Cairo started to store not only scripture, but anything written with Hebrew letters, and when the geniza was emptied out in the late 19th century it turned out to contain a thousand years’ worth of letters, business records, and other documents that in and of themselves were nearly meaningless in their own time, but now tell us modern people what it was like to be a medieval Jewish resident of Cairo like nothing else could. (The geniza also contained sacred texts like the original Hebrew version of Ben Sirah, which people had thought for centuries did not exist.)

Historians tend to rely on pack rats of various kinds to do their work, but I am not a pack rat by nature at all; I’ve actually intentionally destroyed things like the letters I wrote back and forth with friends as a teenager, because I’m terrified I’ll turn up in a history book hundreds of years from now sounding like an idiot 🙂 But sometimes I do think I have a tendency to let things go too easily. I kind of like the idea of the geniza — you can get all the stuff out of your own house and just pile it up in a hidden room at the synagogue….

The other problem with my natural minimalism is that it really does not equate to natural frugality. I’ve been struggling with this a lot this summer. Take my skin care routine. I have pretty sensitive skin, and have never found a drugstore product that didn’t feel too rough or make me break out a bit, even supposedly gentle lines like Burt’s Bees or Neutrogena (though I do use Neutrogena sunblock.) I never wear makeup, of any kind, so that’s pretty frugal! But I do plenty of damage to my bank account with what I spend on a facial cleanser, a facial moisturizer, and an eye cream. I get them all from Fresh (well, actually, I get them from Sephora these days, using ebates to spare myself a little financial pain (<–affiliate link for ebates, just in case anyone isn’t using them yet, seriously, they are amazing and I can’t believe I didn’t sign up earlier) but they’re made by Fresh) and they are pricy. They do last a long time, but still, $38 for a facial cleanser? $42 for a moisturizer? It’s a lot. My medicine cabinet is nearly empty with just a tube and two jars in it, but I could have basically half the drugstore for that.

It’s not just the skin care stuff either. I’ve been struggling all summer with the cost of buying all the fruit and vegetables and interesting other ingredients I want, and the cost of doing things like going out to dinner a bit more and buying tickets to shows, but I haven’t been doing a great job and it’s really caught up with me now. For the last few months I’ve been borrowing ahead from the next month’s budget, vowing to be really cheap the following month and get back to baseline, and every month I’ve failed to be cheap enough to do that — plus I’ve been frustrated by putting off purchases like face cream and a few other things. It’s just annoying. I started September $140 in the hole, and I think I’m going to end it about $100 over budget.

Sigh, I dunno. I really wanted to make it to the end of the year with a 50% savings rate, both because this is supposed to be the Year of Saving and because, hello, I want to save up a down payment by early next summer, why am I buying $42 face cream on the internet???????????????????????????? I’m at exactly 50% right now on the year, and it turns out that secretly I really wanted not only to “officially” save 50% of my income in savings accounts and retirement accounts, but also to “unofficially” rack up slush reserves. And that’s just not happening as of right now. I know I should be really happy with my “official” savings rate, but somehow it’s hard not to want to blast that out of the water with a 60% or even 70% savings rate.

Blah blah, you are all at FinCon, probably nobody is even reading this right now 🙂 Back in a couple of days with a more cheerful post about my visual motivation for the down payment savings.



Net Worth Update, August 2015

networthupdateWell, this isn’t quite the net worth update I was hoping for! It’s all ok, of course, seeing as how I invest for the very long run and not for right now, but my numbers this month definitely don’t look awesome.

I had a much better month on spending, although that also doesn’t necessarily show in this update because I was in the red on so many categories in July — I’d already spent about half of August’s money by the time August actually started! I am mostly thankful to have reined it in enough in August that I’m (barely) back in the green. At this point I’m mostly rooting for winter to get here fast so that I buy nothing but sweet potatoes and never ever want to buy a ticket to a show or go out to eat. I am thankful for ebates though, which I just discovered a month or two ago and which I now have a $31 payment pending from — I’ve used it to buy contact lenses, drugstore stuff which I typically purchase every few months from, and for some work stuff and stuff for my mom, both of which I got reimbursed for — super score if you can get cash back on things you’re being reimbursed for anyway! Continue reading “Net Worth Update, August 2015”