Monday, August 30, 2010

Adventures in frugality...

It's official: This month, I have spent more on my dog and cat than I spent on myself.

Besides regular food and chew bones for the dog (yes, they're a necessity if I want to keep shoes and other items intact while I'm at work), the cat requires "special" food because she's 11 years old and has feline lower urinary tract disease, so her dry food runs about $20 a month, wet food slightly more.

Last weekend, the retractable leash I've been using to walk Lulu since she was a puppy stopped retracting. If you've ever used one of these leashes and had this problem, you know it's not something you can fix. So I had to buy her a new retractable leash (at one of my favorite stores in Austin, Bark & Purr). For $27, including tax. Twenty-seven dollars. For a leash.

It's not entirely a bad thing. Her old leash was a cord, like this one:
See the cord? I still have whiplash burn scars on my legs from her wrapping that thing around me when we ran into dog friends and she got excited. So my new retractable leash is all belt, like this one:
No more whiplash burns, and this one should last me for a while, but let's just say that Lulu got her birthday present early (she'll be two years old on October 10, and I was wondering what to get her).

When you're on a tight budget, surprises suck. Things break, animals get sick, you get sick (I'm still recovering from paying three co-pays and for two medications from a surprise kidney infection a couple of weeks a diabetic, I don't mess around with kidney infections and even though I'm lucky enough as an uninsured person to be covered by a local health clinic that's just as good as having insurance, I still have to pay the co-pays and for medication).

I learned a lot about being frugal after spending 2009 partially on unemployment and freelancing. I know how to grocery shop on a budget, I no longer use $45 night cream, and I can't remember the last time I bought new clothes. I buy books at the used book store. And there are lots of free things to do with your free time in Austin.

But that doesn't mean I miss being able to walk into Banana Republic and dropping $400 on new clothes (the last time I did that was in 2008). I miss my Kiehl's and Philosophy and DDF skin products. I miss salon shampoo. I miss new shoes that aren't flip flops. I miss my Source of Life vitamins (I take the One-a-Days now). I've only gotten my hair cut and colored twice in the past six months, and I go to a salon north of downtown because it's about half the cost of the downtown salons.

This month, I spent $8.99 on hairspray and $17 on Olay face cream. Add it up, and I spent more on my little animal twosome.

I hope Lulu appreciates her new leash. I can't tell, other than she seems to enjoy walks more without having a cord dragging behind her and getting tangled up with her legs. She's a dog. She doesn't even know when her birthday is. It's hard enough being a dog parent; I just can't imagine trying to make it work with "real" children.

And it could be worse. Last year, around this time, it was. Now I'm getting a regular paycheck, love my job, and know I have enough to cover my bills as long as nothing catastrophic happens. (Universe, in case you're listening, that's a plea, not an invite).

I have a tight budget, but something screws it up every month. How do people with kids do it? I can substitute the cheap cat food for a week or so and my cat won't die. I can use a broken leash for a few days and it's just an inconvenience. I can cut costs and use store brand products, eat pasta for dinner for a week, and do without a new wardrobe. But kids grow out of their clothes. They need to eat green things instead of taking a multi-vitamin. They need lunch money. They get sick and you have to miss work.

Here's too all the moms out there on a budget, including my own when she was a single parent raising four of us while working two jobs and putting herself through college. You perform miracles.


  1. I don't know how even two parent households can afford kids. Everything costs a lot, and so many people are convinced that everything is required to make it work. I mean, I look at mine and MTM's life and our budget, and I can't even comprehend it. I admire parents so much. They are much better people than me.

  2. Hi Kelly,

    Noticed your comment below Angie's article. We are all laced together it seems. Congrats on your new and improved paycheck!

    I hear you about the budget screw-ups. Products are planned to become obsolete so we can't EVER get out of debt.

    Your mother's amazing!

    A lot has changed in the last 15 years for parents. Agree with Cilantro that parents believe they need to spend tons of money to ensure their kids will not be left behind. But, will they end up penniless at 65?

    Been reading a lot of books on that subject lately. Conclusion? Mainly good marketing. None of it matters. The preschool, the homework, the standardized testing, the college, the high tech gadgets, the sports. That may all be making it worse.

    Best to get kids back outside playing and learning to make their own rules.

    Have a super long weekend with your animals.

    Giulietta "Julie"

    p.s. microfamous is funny! Like it.

  3. Definitely agree with you, Andra!

    And thank you, Julie! It is a dilemma and with the economy being what it is, I think there are a lot of people in the same situation as I am. I just can't imagine trying to support myself and a family too!

  4. I'm in the four kids boat. I tend to agree with Giuletta, not everything is a necessity. The Joneses can have it. We'll be in our corner reducing our debt as fast as we can and continue building our emergency pantry / savings as fast as we can and cross our fingers that nothing happens in the interim.
    We've been lucky so far, things are tighter than they used to be, but we're still so much better off than so many that all I can do is be grateful.
    (PS Since I know you'll understand. I got to see the cover mock up! *squee*)


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