Happy July the Fourth, everybody! 

Hillary Kitten woke me up a little before 5 this morning (which was actually pretty nice; usually she wakes up Boyfriend around 3:30 or 4) and by 5:30 or so I actually got up. So, I actually had time to write this morning, and even tabulate last month’s expenses, which means there’s a blog to post. Sure, I have the whole day off and I could have done this at any time, but hey, Hillary was just trying to be helpful.

In a nutshell:
Spending: $2,727.88
Income: $3,961.88

(More or less, my math has gotten a little wonky lately too… remembering to carry over the money I deposit automatically into our joint account, skipping the check that hasn’t cashed yet, etc.)

I’ve started skipping a lot of the Your Money or Your Life details lately. I’ve totaled the amount spent in each category, but I’m not posting here because I want to revise my spending categories. I’m not asking myself the YMoYL questions: did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to life energy spent, is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose, how might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living, etc. 

I haven’t reconfigured my “life energy” since getting the job (basically what is my real hourly wage after all work related expenditures and annoyances including travel time, gas, decompression time/beer, etc.) so I can’t answer question #1. I’m not sure that I know what my values and life purpose are right now, which makes it hard to know if my spending is aligned (probably not), and thinking about what would change if I didn’t have to work for a living is too depressing. Basically, I’m out of whack and it’s showing up in how I spend my money, but I don’t want to look too closely because then I have to fix it. 

I know I’m out of whack; the gears are grinding against themselves and inside me the machinery is screeching. It shows up in the ten o’clock at night donut runs after a couple of glasses of wine and an unwarranted adrenaline rush. It shows up in the emergency grocery runs because I haven’t had time/energy to plan and shop and create. It shows up in resentment toward Boyfriend because I’m not making the time for what I want to do (write poetry). It shows up in sleeping in instead of getting up and writing poetry. Fortunately now I’ve got a cat, and she’s a much better alarm than my cellphone. 

My twenty-fifth year seems to have been made of mostly transitions, mostly uncomfortable ones. That’s okay–growing pains can be uncomfortable. And it is going to take some more growing to get my spending aligned with my values again. Since how I spend my money is one measure of how I live my life, it’s also going to take some growing to get my life aligned with my values again.  

…in awhile anyway.

On Friday I got a text from a derby friend of mine inviting me out for a beer/cheese thing at her favorite coffee shop, Krakatoa Cafe on 25th and B Street. I love beer and cheese, and I’d been meaning to talk league stuff with this friend for awhile, so it seemed like a great plan. Sometimes things are a surprise, but the only surprise on Friday was how abso-fantastic-lutely amazing this plan actually was.

The cost for the beer/cheese pairing was $15, not pricey for six tasters of beer and six cheeses. But this–this was so much more. My friend and I were expecting a little plate of cheese, but the plate we received came decked out with all sorts of accoutrements, like two kinds of bread, olives, a spicy apple butter, figs, and pickled relish, all surrounding sizeable portions of cheese. Alright we thought.

The event (because it turned out to be much more than just a happy hour special) was mc’d by an event coordinator for the coffee shop, Edwin, and featured a speaker from Venissimo cheese and a beer distributor. All three men were extremely personable, and informative, about their craft. The beer distributor in particular made a lot of friends when he started pouring refills of the “tasters” we were supposed to be getting. He made even more friends at the end of the evening when he set the opened bottles down on the table and said “might as well finish that.”

Did I mention we were basically in a treehouse? We were basically in a treehouse, lit by Christmas lights. At several points, my friend literally raised her arms in the air like we had just won a touchdown. In particular, when they brought out homemade chocolate truffles that were not on the menu, but leftover from a book signing a few days before.

The cafe owner made friends when she brought out leftovers of everything on the cheese plate. “Help yourselves,” she said, so we did, particularly to these homemade bettermade versions of a nature valley bar–crispy with a hint of sweet and a depth of flavor. She won my undying love when she brought out a ziploc bag and said, “take the rest home.”

We sat around the table with other strangers, people who became friends by the end of the evening simply because we were all lucky enough to have discovered the best Friday night in all of San Diego. “Fifteen dollars?” We looked at each other. “We would have paid double.”

Krakatoa, if you ever read this, thanks for an amazing experience. Lately I haven’t found a lot of restaurants to be worth the price, but I can pretty much guarantee I would go to anything they hosted ever again.

I made it through all of last week without stepping inside a Starbucks. I might even have made it without stepping inside any coffee shop at all, but I don’t remember that for certain. I brought my lunch (and usually my breakfast) to work everyday, so there was no need to sneak out somewhere for a snack. The skills are coming back slowly.

This week will be a little different. For one thing, derbs took up all weekend, so grocery shopping and a big casserole didn’t happen. I’ve made it so far, and I think I can survive on various pasta/vegetable combinations without too much trouble. This weekend I am going to a conference for work, which will be interesting and might lead to some unusual spending (like a random coffee shop, or an impulse buy–I know nothing about orange county so I don’t know what to expect) but I’m hoping I can avoid it.

This week’s challenge (since spending is semi-manageable) is to get back to a morning routine that includes some writing. Or an evening routine. Or really anytime. Just some writing. A little haiku here and there. I missed today (sleeping in a warm bed is too nice), but tomorrow is only a few hours away. Maybe by saying it here, I will actually make it so.

Used to be, even when I was working part time and making no money, that I would put 10% of each paycheck into my savings account. It might have been only $30 or $40 bucks at  time, but it added up because I did it religiously the same day my check was deposited. I used to pay my car loan the same way: a check and a nice letter to my grandmother on payday. I guess it was because I wanted to make sure I was being responsible even when I was making so little. I knew how quickly that $40 would get spent unless I purposefully set it aside immediately.

I haven’t been as careful the last few months, probably because life has been just plain crazy and hard, though it has gotten much easier financially. My car payments became sporadic, savings became nonexistent (especially after I left G.S. and the automatic 2% deduction to an I.R.A. ceased), and H.’s wedding fund hasn’t seen a penny in months.

But I’m coming back around. I totaled my May income and expenses last weekend, and today I wrote a check for my car payment, along with the nice letter. I transferred 10% of last month’s income to my savings account, and $100 to H.’s wedding fund. I’m hoping that wedding fund will still have something in it after the wedding, but I’m not counting on it. It would be a nice surprise.

I’m surprised at how long its taking me to recover from all the changes: big conversation with the BF, new job, new derby responsibilities, new kitten. I’ve been sick for the last three weeks, and it just hit me today that maybe this is my body’s way of saying: take it easy on me. I can’t handle so much right now. Oh yeah, I’m still rebuilding.

Caring about my finances is just starting to come back. Blogging is just starting to come back. Poetry…well, maybe next week. Exercise (outside of derby)… maybe once this cold is kicked.

I stayed home from work today, didn’t make it through practice yesterday, but at least today I saved something.

It’s Sunday night. I’m still pretty sick with a head cold, so this weekend has been pretty relaxed. I cleaned the apartment yesterday and pretty much just hung around. I volunteered with Girl Scouts this afternoon, then went grocery shopping. FYI Grocery shopping is exhausting when you’re sick. Maybe other people already knew this, but it is such a mundane activity that I think I should be able to handle it in all instances. Instead, I came home from the store ready to collapse into bed. I didn’t. I made casserole instead.

This casserole is a Mexican lasagna, the ultimate in gringo comfort food. Lasagna noodles, refried beans, salsa. It’s easy to make and I can eat it for every meal until it’s gone I love it that much. As important, it’s easy to haul to work so that I have something comforting and warm to eat for lunch. I find warm lunches are much more appealing than salad when I’m sick. Unfortunately, there’s a salad rotting in the fridge as we speak, but I doubt it will get eaten. Broccoli isn’t comforting enough. Not exactly frugal, but not exactly expensive either.

Boyfriend bought me more tea yesterday too, so my goal for the week (it’s pretty ambitious) is to make it through five days without hitting up Starbucks. It’s not like I don’t have caffeine options. I can bring tea with me to work or drink the coffee my boss makes or make my own coffee before I leave.

But Starbucks, like Better Buzz when I worked at the law office, is about more than just a caffeine fix. It’s really nice in the middle of the work day (or any time) to have someone serving you. Someone who is meeting your needs. Who is making something for you. It’s nice to be served. When I worked at the law office and was catering to the demands of clients and my bosses, I appreciated being able to take ten minutes to switch roles: to be the client and have someone catering to me. I think I like that more than just the coffee.

I’ll admit it. I bought Starbucks today. I was early to Girl Scouts, so I swung around the corner and went to Starbucks “because I needed some energy” I told myself, but really, it was because I’m sick and I want someone to take care of me, even when all that means is someone giving me a sugary drink that I really like.

One of the things I value about frugality is the opportunity to learn to take care of myself. It’s the difference between buying coffee at Starbucks and making it myself in the mornings before work. Making it myself shows that I can take care of myself. I can get up early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee in the quiet of my apartment (not so quiet with Hillary now) which means I probably have most of the rest of the day figured out too.

Buying coffee at Starbucks on the other hand (independent coffee shops are a little different for me) is a fix. It’s not a break. I get coffee from Starbucks because I’m running late and I didn’t have breakfast, or it’s the middle of the afternoon and I’m hungry but I didn’t pack a snack. I don’t sit and enjoy it. I suck down the iced venti chai latte and the sugar is the relief. It’s a quick “treat” but it isn’t really treating myself to what I need, which is probably a break, a little more sleep, maybe ten minutes to breathe.

It was nice to be sick this weekend because being sick is a break. It’s an excuse not to do anything more than the basics. I didn’t have coffee this weekend, but I had a lot of tea, and a lot of time reading in bed, or watching Hillary. What I appreciate about tonight is that it is 7:30 and I’m tired, but I’ve prepared tomorrow’s lunch, figured out tomorrow’s breakfast. The laundry is done. The apartment is clean. The dishes are washed. The week will be better with basics like these complete.

I’m typing this with a kitten grooming herself on my belly. There is really nothing better than cuddling with a cat and Hillary Kitten (for that is her name) is pretty much the greatest thing on four legs in this cat owner’s opinion. Her rambunctious playing has livened up our quiet apartment, but my favorite bonding moment so far was watching the No Ceilings conversation hosted by Chelsea Clinton with Hillary Kitten hanging out on my lap.

I adopted Hillary last Thursday, so we’ve had her for a little more than a week, and I can’t imagine life without her. It can be tough to tell a kitten’s personality from the way that they behave in the shelter, but luckily Hillary has been a perfect match—energetic like a kitten for sure, but she’s also a cuddler and a talker which is what I was hoping for.

But adopting Hillary also means financial responsibilities. There is a new category in my monthly spreadsheet for all kitten related expenses, and in the first week I’ve spent almost $400 on little Hillary.

Here’s a breakdown:

Adoption Fees: $125
Toys, bowls, litter, etc with her adoption: $66.11
Toys, bowls since: $17.25
Cat proofing Supplies: $69.91
Fan for the bathroom for the litter stink: $26.99
Litter Deodorant: $5.39
Vet Visit: $89.25
Total: $399.90

Yep, week one is expensive. And Hils has to go back to the vet in four weeks for her rabies shot. And I’ve spent way to much time googling “attractive cat trees” to admit. But she’s also basically my baby now, so the costs are worth it. There’s really no point in trying to justify or excuse the costs, any more than I would try to justify or excuse the costs of groceries or going to the doctor (which Boyfriend made me do yesterday). She’s a complete delight, at least when she’s not confusing my foot with one of her toys. Actually, even then she’s still pretty great.

I went to the store this evening, vowing that tonight was the night I’d finally get my shit back together so I could stop buying my breakfasts at Starbucks (and my lunches and my snacks). I was going to get back on track.

I feel a long way from the frugality I espoused a few months ago, and an even longer way from last summer’s sequester. Tonight I bought bagged salad and canned beans. Not unusual purchases, but ones I’ve avoided (and probably judged) in the past. I can wash my own lettuce, I would have said last summer. I can simmer my own beans.

Tonight the thought of getting out the crock pot and slow cooking a cup or two of beans seems like so much work. A can of beans, ready to be dumped in the salad, is  easier. I bought pre-made falafel too. There was a time I would have made it myself. From chickpeas I slow cooked.

Perfectionism is a hard habit to break. It’s hard for me to look at the contents of my shopping bags and say, “take a chill pill. This is not the end of the world.” Still, I have a lunch for tomorrow. I have a breakfast. I even have a cup of coffee waiting for me in hte fridge.



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