I’ve Been Backsliding

Is it summer? Is it being ultra-frugal for a while and then letting up? I don’t know, but one way or another, I know I’ve been spending a lot lately and I need to figure out what’s going on and rein it in. I just feel like I’ve been reaching for my credit card way too often the last couple of months.

Let’s start with some accounting.

In the last six months, here’s what I’ve bought (by month) in the non-essential type categories. I’m leaving out rent, my cash draw, car repairs, medical stuff, and the like; this is just the “stuff.”


Sistema lunch container, $6.33


Clothing (jeans and a skirt), $88
Kitchen (spatula), $9.24
Clothing (bra), 35.00
Spices, $25.00

4 transactions, total of $157.24


CDs, $30


Music (Sufjan Stevens CD), $13.06
Clothing (tshirt), $22.00

2 transactions, total of $35.06


Clothing (three dresses, sandals), $200
Sistema food storage containers, $42

3 transactions, total of $242


cookbooks (Amazon), $11.05
rice cooker, two books (one gift and one I wanted for work), and a paring knife (Amazon), $80.24
clothing (skirt, sweater, blouse), $175.91
gifts, $71.09

4 transactions, total of $338.29

July, which is only half over!

Blueberries for freezing/canning, $50
Three CDs and a sieve (amazon), $39.41
canning gear and stockpot, $79.95
canning gear and a few misc things at grocery store, $44.12
clothing (two cardigans and a tank top), $60.24
skin care, makeup, etc (sephora), $90.00

6 transactions, total of $363.77

OK, yes, I think I have some reason to be concerned here.

I spent almost nothing on “stuff” during the first four months of the year. In May, I discovered zulily, but I’m very pleased with everything I bought then; I’ve been using all of it extensively and I really needed to refresh my work wardrobe with those dresses and sandals.

In June, I was clearly starting to slip. I’m not as pleased with the clothing I bought from zulily in my second order. The rice cooker is nice to have, but essential? No. I did want to buy a housewarming gift, but it ended up costing what I think is too much money. I should have been more cautious there.

July’s just been a mess. It’s mostly at least somewhat justifiable; the canning stuff and fruit is being well-used (I bought a stockpot that I’ve wanted for years, a silicone jar rack, and multiple boxes of jars); the CDs had been on my want list for several months, were for a long road trip, and I don’t regret them; the sieve isn’t really necessary, but is nice to have; the cardigans are replacements for two that I wear constantly at work and which are starting to wear out after two years of regular use. The only really questionable thing here is the Sephora order, which I feel a little bad about, but it’ll all get used. The point, however, is that the month is only half over and I’ve already spent more money on “stuff” than in any single other month this year. Look at January and March, in which one item each entered my house! Also, I’m concerned about the number of times I’ve used my credit card for purchases. 10 times in June and July, vs 11 times in the first five months of the year combined.

It’s not that any of this is so terrible, either individually or even collectively. It’s that it feels dangerous to me, like the way I used to be before I started budgeting, where I just bought things and paid my credit card off regularly. The good thing here is that I’ve really been keeping my eating out and general food expenses under much better control, so I’ve still been spending less overall. But I need to tighten up on the “stuff” spending. I think I’m going to institute a shopping ban for the rest of summer; I’ll still buy fruit and vegetables and, if necessary, more canning jars for preserving, so my expenses will stay higher, but I’m cutting out anything else — no more clothing, books, gifts, and general “stuff” until at least September and maybe longer.

Also, I’ve learned from this that before next summer I need to set up a savings line for produce. I’m clearly going to want to spend lots of $$ on fruit and vegetables for preservation over the summer and I don’t see anything wrong with that, but I can’t take it out of my general cash without causing a lot of problems. I think I’ll aim to save up $300 for produce and supplies (more jars, etc) before next July rolls around.

20 thoughts on “I’ve Been Backsliding

  1. I believe that most of us feel this way at times when we stick to a budget. My belief is that you just get up from where you are and make the adjustments and move forward. It’s what you do right now matters. Good luck.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I think I can adjust now that I’ve noticed what’s happening! Things kind of slipped without my really noticing.

  2. While my first inclination is to say, “it happens to everyone” (it does) I won’t. I think sometimes we need someone else to kick us in the ass, so let me be the first to kindly yell at you over the internet. lol! Stop spending!!! Did that help at all? Feel free to call me out for being a jerk. 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      LOL. Yes, it helps 🙂 I wanted people to agree with me that I was a little out of control — of course it happens to everyone, but now that I’ve noticed, I need to stop, not keep doing it!

  3. Uff, that’s definitely happened to me in the past, as well. Sometimes (for me) it’s a simple matter of putting the credit card away somewhere–instead of keeping it in my purse. I put it in a drawer I don’t use often, or someplace random in the kitchen, then I forget about it, and time passes, and it turns out I’m fine. But when I start slipping into spendy territory, sometimes just keeping the card out of my purse helps.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Sigh, unfortunately basically all of this spending has been online. I’m going to see if simple willpower will help me get a lid on things; I think it will, but if it doesn’t I’ll have to, like, clean my credit card out of various accounts so the info’s not saved.

  4. I think there are several pieces of good news here. (i’m becoming more optimistic after reading Spontaneous Happiness!) First, as you said yourself, it’s not really that bad. Things like the canning equipment count as an investment, in my book. And, as someone who’s ALWAYS cold, I think cardigans count as an important investment, too! Second, you noticed the trend and are bothered by it. Third, you’re not taking on debt to pay for this stuff.

    it sounds like you have a good solution in mind.Keep us posted on how the ban goes…

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I’m glad I caught it early! And that’s what I thought about your consolidation loan — I think it’s great that you’ve pulled a plan together to handle the situation. It was really good news.

  5. Cindy says:

    I do this too, even without a credit card! I find myself getting a little carefree with my debit card and, next thing I know, I’m shuffling extra money from somewhere else to cover the difference. Luckily I run things tight enough that there’s always money somewhere else. But still!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, there’s enough money, it’s just — come on! Hold it together for a few more months, self!

  6. The only stuff that pops out at me on your spending is the clothes. That’s a decent amount of clothes accumulation in a short period of time. It also seems like you are buying more expensive clothes. Pull back on the clothes and you should be good. The makeup is a bit of a spike as well, but sometimes you run out of everything at the same time. It could be worth poking around to see if you can get your Sephora buys somewhere else.

    Don’t worry about the canning gear. It sounds like something you enjoy doing and those jars are reusable. And I would like a jar of red jam, please 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I usually do buy clothes that are on the expensive-ish side. They last so much longer that I think it evens out. The problem is that before this shopping spree I hadn’t bought anything new in about two years, so I had pent-up needs, especially for decent work stuff. THAT SAID, I am in fine shape now on the clothes front and do NOT need to add anything more!

  7. Hannah says:

    Before the house post, I would have totally said you are being too hard on yourself because your future self wants your past self to be happy and you’re still investing, avoiding debt etc.

    I think now, your future self probably wants as much cash as possible, so yes, I advise you to reign it in a little bit.

    My husband and I have been discussing whether or not we should reign in our spending, but we consistently decide against it, because our short term financial goal involves a lot of spending (house remodel!), and the luxuries we purchase are in line with our values (and in our opinion are not out of control). As soon as our short term focus shifts, I think our spending will shift.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, that was sort of what I thought — if I didn’t want to maybe buy a house in a year…. I think six weeks of reminding myself not to buy stuff will be a nice reset 🙂

  8. Megan says:

    Does your public library or university library system have CD collections? I find that my local public library system almost always has the CDs I want, even the newest releases. You might have to wait in a hold queue to receive the latest albums, but then I always upload them to iTunes or burn them (I have no idea if this is unethical, but it’s what I do.) My entire music collection is almost all from the public library. Anyway, that might be a way save a few bucks and satisfy your music jonesing.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      That’s actually a brilliant idea! Note to self. I’ll try it next time.

  9. ARBM says:

    I hope you aren’t feeling too bad about spending…
    You aren’t going in to debt for it… And, you have noticed and are trying to remedy it…
    I am super spendy right now… and I am doing nothing about it… just riding the wave until after my wedding… I’ll buckle down then… maybe go on a shopping ban starting then…

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Nah, not too bad — just wanted to get on top of it before it got worse!

  10. MJ says:

    Good thinking with the produce savings line in your budget. My spending has risen quite a bit this summer, too. Maybe it’s time to add a “July spending” line to the budget and sock away $500 bucks and make July the month I refresh my wardrobe and makeup and whatnot. When I look at what I’ve been spending on, it’s all clothing and accessories…to feel…prettier? More put together? Nothing wrong with that in many ways, as long as it doesn’t seriously set us back on our goals.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I think I just have more time and energy in the summer which translates into wanting to go out, look nice, eat well, etc 😉

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