This is one of those weeks that happens to us every so often, though luckily not as often as it used to. Even though I deposited his paycheck yesterday, my next one isn't until next Friday and things are, how do you say...a little thin. The budget is a skinny shoestring and has to be dealt with very carefully for the next few days. The checking account is as tight as Nicole Kidman's face. We po'.
But the good news is, if there is one thing I'm good at it is living lean (as opposed to livin' large). Which will come in handy when this country swiftly goes from Recession to Depression - but let's not get into all that for the moment. Right now I'm here to offer you tips and suggestions, all coming from the wealth (oh look, a pun!) of experience I have on the subject.
This particular crunch came about from a larger-than-expected electric bill. This does not bode well for this winter, as it's only the beginning of November and already the bill has increased by over a hundred dollars. As much as I like the cold, I don't like to be cold, and I may have started turning the heat on a little too soon. Like in the wee hours of the morning while getting ready for work. And before going to bed so when I get up to pee in the middle of the night it would be nice and toasty. (I've started pricing heated toilet seats for this reason as well.) (The pricing is not encouraging) And maybe there have been a few times I put my clothes in the dryer while I get ready for work so they're all snuggly when I put them on. Okay, so this one is all me, all my fault. Brian is somehow heated from within and it takes a lot for him to actually be cold, while I won't be taking socks off for the next four months unless I'm taking a shower. My nose tells the whole story and every time he bitches about me turning the heat on, I make him touch it to prove I'm not full of shit, but rather blocks of ice.
Which brings me to my first tip: If you're having a tight week, review the bills you have to pay and only pay the necessary ones. This includes the electric bill. Rent, mortgage or car payment due? Eh, skip it! Your landlord and/or finance company will let you slide for a few days; trust me on this. Just don't let those days slide into weeks - trust me on this too.
Luckily, the cable bill, though not entirely caught up, is paid up enough so that Time Warner is happy. This one is all him, as three Carolina games have already been on Pay Per View, and the fourth one is today. At $25 a pop. It would've actually been cheaper to ATTEND one of the games, which are played six miles from here. However, I know what Gamecock football means to my husband, so I haven't bitched (that much). Which brings me to tip number two. If you're poor but have cable anyway, make that your prime source of entertainment. No going to the movies, out to eat or to a bar - the only place you're going is to your couch. Now's the time to search the channel guide and see what you've been missing. There's HGTV, the Travel Channel, the Cooking Network; watch how the luckier, smarter and more affluent people live and I promise one of two things will happen: you will be inspired to better yourself in order to live more like these lucky bitches, or you will spiral down into a deep depression and wonder where you went wrong in life. Either way - a great time waster.
Speaking of food. I had to be verrry careful at the grocery yesterday, but this is fun since this is one of the few bills you can actually control. I cut coupons, I didn't get tempted by my insane need to stock up on things like toilet paper and paper towels - the two rolls I have of each are more than enough to get us through the week. I spent $53, being careful we have enough fun food to eat because here's some good news: junk food is much cheaper than healthy food! This week is all about fillers and starch and how fun is that! True, we might have enough vitamin deficiencies to warrant a scurvy scare, but I'll be sure to put the old dusty bottle of One a Day for Her vitamins on the kitchen counter and crush one into every dinner I make this week. Problemo solved.
Most people I know don't love to read like I do, but I'm telling you - there is no cheaper form of entertainment. Well, only if you get your books from the library, which I hate doing since I keep most of the books I read and the library tends to frown on that. Damn library and its silly rules. Luckily I have a few books on my to-read pile, so I am not tempted by the 20% off Barnes & Noble coupon that was emailed to me yesterday. Nope, not tempted at all. But, you can bet I'll be doing some reading this weekend, out on one of the porches, taking in the beautiful Fall leaves...
Which brings me to my next tip. Today I plan on taking the dog for a long walk around the neighborhood and snapping a bunch of pictures. It seems like right now we're peaking as far as our foliage is concerned, and it's going to be gone way too soon, leaving ugly stark tree branches in its wake. Taking pictures is cheap and fun, as long as you don't go on Kodak, Snapfish or any of the other picture sites and order prints like I just did of our vacation pictures. It was such a good deal though - the whole album for five bucks! Whatever. The pictures I take today will be free as a bird.
You may find when cutting down on expenses, you're getting cabin fever and damn, it's not even Winter yet. Luckily gas prices have dropped dramatically, so that if you do feel the need to get out of the house, a short ride won't cost very much anymore. Yesterday I ran all my errands and tomorrow we'll be going to his parents', but other than that, no gas will be used today. His dad, cousin, uncle and half-brother are coming over to watch the game today and since I suspected this might happen, I stocked up on enough food and beer so that we'll be fine without any last-minute, expensive trips to the convenient store. Though I usually underestimate beer consumption, once they get here, THEY can be the ones to run to the store and pay for more! Always let other people pay for things you aren't consuming yourself.
This one is mostly for the ladies, though I know a couple of men it applies to as well. You might be like me in that you like to buy yourself presents. Frequently. We'll get into the psychological aspect of that another day, but for now let's stick to the practical. Yesterday I was sad knowing I couldn't buy myself anything. Not that I really even need or want anything right now, but when the choice is removed completely, you may find yourself starting to sweat and/or itch. Then, I came up with the solution. I remembered my favorite thrift store, Sid and Nancy's, put out a bulletin the other day they need winter clothes and coats. I remembered my coat from last year that no longer fits (yeah, that's right - a coat that won't button over your boobs is no coat at all), so I took it on down there and when she said she didn't have any cash on hand to buy it at the moment, but could offer me store credit, I smiled big and said store credit was just FINE with me. I got two new pairs of courderoys and still have $3 leftover for the next time I go. New clothes for no money! Call your nearest consignment store and go stimulate the economy by getting yourself that well-deserved new outfit!
Another one for the ladies. I know you are like me and have plenty of fun things to do in the bathroom. Dig out that deep conditioning treatment, curling iron or straightener, nail polish, files and clippers, facial scrubs and masks, and give yourself a spa day right there in the comforts of your own home. True, it's not nearly as much fun as paying someone do all that stuff for you, but damn; you're broke - you don't have anything else to do anyway! Plus, the results are the same: you're prettier and feel better than you did before. Don't be sad about wasting a good hair and face day by having no one see it; put on that new thrift store outfit and take some new Myspace pictures!
Sex is totally free, unless you're paying a prostitute. Which I don't recommend. Personally, I've had enough lately so that's not on my to-do list this weekend. You hornballs are a different story - go get laid! I promise it will take your mind off your money troubles, at least for a short time. (Or a long time, depending on if you're one of those freaks who like to do it for hours. I don't get you people. Do you not fear chaffing? Do you really like being naked and sweaty for that long? Does it really hold your interest for more than fifteen minutes at a time? WEIRDOS.)
Last but not least. Again, this has to do with food, because Lord knows there's a reason my coat from last winter didn't fit anymore. Since the weather has cooled off in most places, now is the time to rummage aruond in your kitchen and see what ingredients you have lying around. You may need to actually buy one or two things, but make a favorite recipe for yourself and/or other people, one that's more fun eating in cooler weather. I only had to get butter yesterday, and now I have all the ingredients I need to make the Crack Cookies today. It's a fun, cheap activity that will make you happy and will garnish praise from all those you feed. Win-win.
So there you have it. Do with this information what you will, but trust me. It's going to come in handy one of these days.