The day this article hits public consumption is going to be a very happy day for me. That’s because December 15th is my next payday, and due to a variety of reasons, I somehow managed to turn the first half of this month into a fiscal dumpster fire and your girl is feeling the burn. After speaking to many of my friends in hospitality and other industries affected by COVID, I realize I’m not the only one going through financial tough times right now, and thought it might be worth sharing my own struggle and plans for redemption.
Even though I’ve now been working for this company for 2 months, I’m just getting acclimated to my new pay schedule. In sales, I’ve always received checks on the 1st and 15th, with all my “extra” money being paid out on the 1st. (“Extra” money is income outside of my base salary, i.e. car and cell phone allowances, bonus money and incentives paid out by suppliers.) With this job, the extras now come on the second check. My first month I obviously had no “extra” money, so when I got my second paycheck of the month in mid-November, I thought I had way more without taking into account that my first paycheck of December was barely enough to cover my rent. I should have budgeted my expenses that fell between Dec 1 and Dec 15 and squirreled away some of that money for a far more accurate representation of my “fun” money. Instead, I blew through it with wild abandon. And it’s not as if I went out and made grand purchases; instead I took the far more dangerous route of spending on dozens of small indulgences so I didn’t notice until it was far too late. It’s easy to notice your money dwindling $100 at a time, but not so much when it’s $10. To be honest, I practically bankrupted myself with Starbucks.
I’ve always been very good about avoiding fast food in general. It’s totally unhealthy and gross for the most part and not only is it a quick way to add inches to the waistline, but it’s also a money pit. I got in a very good habit of meal prepping when I was married to the bodybuilder, but being off work for 6 months with no pressing schedule completely negated that task. Within a week of applying for my new job I was thrown into holiday wine sales which is absolute insanity and I started slipping into grabbing grub on-the-go. I love my French pressed coffee but it is time consuming to make. So, since 4 days a week I’m working in grocery stores that house Starbucks, I started to just skip that part of my hectic morning routine and opted for a grande Americano to go. Except when you’re standing at the register it becomes very hard to stop there. Quickly I began adding a reduced fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich to my order, bringing my $3 coffee up to $8+. Then I realized I could get an order of sous vide egg white bites and hit my protein goals without adding tons of calories and boom! Now that $3 coffee is costing me $12. When you consider I was doing this for breakfast 4-5 days a week, I was dropping at least $50 on breakfast alone, and I only budget $100 a week for groceries TOTAL. I had to do something.
Since a less hectic schedule is out of the question until at least January, I had to consider an alternative. I invested in a single cup Keurig, which I actually found on sale for half off at Kroger of all places, making it $59. For the amount of 1 week of Starbucks, I now have a machine to make endless coffees on the fly for a fraction of the cost. As far as breakfast food was concerned, I still am short on time for the amount of meal prep I used to do, and honestly, there is nothing appealing about cold scrambled eggs. So I’ve started throwing 2-3 eggs in a pot first thing while I’m getting ready. Following a 15 minute boil and a quick peel and cold rinse, they’re ready for Tupperware. Once a week I fry up 4-5 servings of turkey bacon or sausage to keep in the fridge which I add to the container with either toast or some quick oats from the microwave. Essentially I can make breakfast for an entire week for less than $8 using this method and it’s way healthier.
This Starbucks fiasco has really opened my eyes to just how much the little things can make a big dent in a budget. A few happy hour drinks here and there, not making a list before grocery shopping, idly scrolling through the “deals” on Amazon…when you start to inspect the receipts it adds up to money that could be better invested on things of value like paying off debt, Christmas gifts or something special you’ve wanted to treat yourself to. Start by setting a grocery list and budget, meal prep as much as your schedule will allow, and treat dinners/drinks on the town as a special occasion. Stop online shopping out of boredom; those “flash sales” will trigger an impulse purchase quicker than anything. Take inventory of all your digital subscriptions and cancel anything you’re not using. I had added tons of streaming apps when they were free trials and eventually just forgot to cancel because they were less than $10/month. I was shocked to see I was spending upward of $60 monthly in addition to my wireless, which completely negated the whole reason I cancelled my cable to begin with. I purchased a $25 digital antenna that gives me dozens of channels and kept Netflix and considering I get to watch an hour of tv a day if I’m lucky, it’s more than enough.
I also encourage anyone who is trying to tackle paying off debt to look into the Dave Ramsey method, which is easily googled. In 2015 I saved $10,000 for my wedding in less than a year and then paid off all my credit card debt by using his system. Since I was unemployed for 6 months I had to lean on my credit cards and now my balances are high which is raising my minimum payments and I’m being eaten up by high interest. Now that I’m finally getting settled into steady income again, I’m getting back on the Ramsey plan to tackle this beast of burden and hopefully be debt free in a year or two.
These are financially scary times for millions of people, and even if you’re set, more money is never a bad thing. Hopefully these little tips can help get you back on track, and I’m always open to hearing how other people have been able to save so feel free to share!