Category Archives: Austerity January

Check, Please: Discovering Where My Money Goes

This Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend was spent close to home. I didn’t get out of bed before 9am for three days. I finally put a couple of extra blankets into one of those vacuum-seal bags and stuck it under the bed. As dinner simmered away in the slow cooker, I took out my bank statement, fired up my credit card app, and decided to take a close look at my finances.

The scribbles of a lunatic

The scribbles of a lunatic

I’d rather deep-clean the dark reaches of the cabinet under the kitchen sink than come face to face with my poor financial choices. My early successes at consuming less had me confident. It was time to face the music.

My student loan payments weren’t any more appalling than usual. My fiance and I rent a nice and affordable apartment, so that isn’t too bad. My gym membership is expensive, but I use it and enjoy it, so that stays. My share of the cable bill is high, but that’s to be expected. Do I still need Birchbox? Why don’t I pay my renter’s insurance in full every year instead of paying in monthly installments? Why don’t I ever remember to budget for my haircuts?

Once I’d tallied up my regular bills and income, I saw I had about $1,500 left every month. I’m certainly not saving that much. My credit card app helpfully breaks up a month’s expenses by category. I tallied up the totals on “Dining” for November and December. The average for those two months? More than $450 per month.

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2015 New Year’s Philosophy: Consume Less. Create More.

Every year, I think about New Year’s resolutions. They’re typically the banal kind that advertisers discuss in their focus groups. Lose weight. Pay off debt. Travel more. I read a million blog posts and magazine articles about the tools and tips I need to meet my goals.

When it comes to resolutions, I accomplished quite a few in 2014. I fulfilled my lifelong goal of sticking my toes in the Pacific Ocean on a family vacation to California. I paid off $10,000 in credit card debt after two years of hard work. While I didn’t lose weight, I stuck with a new fitness routine that’s made me stronger.

For 2015, I’m thinking of going beyond the New Year’s resolution. It’s time for a New Year’s Philosophy. Here it is:

Consume less. Create more.

No, I’m not running off to an ashram or a commune in Vermont. Hear me out.

The reason I haven’t lost weight is because I’ve consumed too much food that isn’t good for my body. If I take the time to create more meals at home, thinking about the stuff I’m feeding myself, odds are I’ll start losing weight. (And, if I don’t, I’m going to the doctor to have my hormones checked.)

Consuming less means fewer take-out meals when I’m just too lazy to reheat something I planned to eat. During a time when my fiance and I are both stressed out, frazzled messes with no free time? We’re getting a healthyish meal out so we can connect with each other instead of feeling guilty about a pile of dishes in the sink.

And it’s not just about food. I haven’t been writing as much because I’ve been consumed by distractions. House Hunters marathons just because I’m too lazy or too frustrated by my creative output to pick up the computer and keep plowing through. I simply don’t have time to write! No, I simply don’t make time to create. That has to change.

It might mean saying no to more social occasions because now that I’m out of credit card debt, it’s time to rebuild my savings. (And pay for a wedding.) That’s fine. I’ll have the time to create a fun environment in my own apartment for friends to enjoy.

zenSo. Who’s with me!?


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Austerity January: The Recap

Booze tasted so good on February 1.

I treated myself to a cocktail. Then another. Then friends started showing up at the bar and beers were ordered for me. The French Fries I’d eaten along with the first drink did little to prevent a tidal wave of drunkenness from overtaking me. Next thing I knew, the waitress brought over a cheeseburger that I could not fathom eating without losing the contents of my stomach immediately. I tossed down a wad of cash on the table and headed for the T.

Had I learned nothing from Austerity January? Here I was, 31 days later, having burned through a significant cash withdrawal in one evening, just like I’d done all December long. In my drunken stupor, I teared up. It was a bad first day back.

But the next day brought Burrito Bowl at the Rattlesnake and drinks and dessert plans with my friends. I had a couple of drinks at each occasion, but stopped because I just didn’t feel like drinking anymore. It still tasted great, but I’d had my fill.

Since February 1, I think I’ve been better about moderating my intake. Unless I’m being social, I’m still avoiding booze during the work week. As the month wears on, fewer resolutioners will be at the gym, making it easier to stick with fitness. I liked seeing my paycheck remain in my bank account longer, so I’m trying to eat at home more often and still with less cheese than I might like. So the lessons of Austerity January remain with me, even if I forgot on the first night of February.

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Austerity January: Week Three

On Sunday, I met up with some friends to watch the AFC Championship game. Sometime in the first half when the game seemed like it could still go the Patriots’ way, our waitress came to our large table to drop off drinks. She plunked down a pint of Wachusett Blueberry in front of me, even though it belonged to my friend clear across the large table. I could smell the tang of the alcohol. Blueberries dropped into the beer circulated through the glass thanks to the carbonation. Ruefully, I handed the glass over to my friend.

“You looked so sad,” she told me later.

Indeed I did. But there’s less than ten days left of Austerity January. They might be frigid, terrible days, but I can almost taste the cocktails I’m going to enjoy on February 1.

Alcohol consumed: Zero
Not only did I refuse the blueberry beer on Sunday, I sat next to a cocktail at a meeting today and refused several offers to drink it. I also sat in front of a beer for a photo shoot at another restaurant and abstained. Superhuman feats all.

Meals out: Six
I had a Groupon to Chez Henri I’d intended to use before January, but it didn’t happen and it was about to expire. (Pro tip for pregnant ladies and fellow teetotalers–they will make a virgin mojito for you. And it’s awesome.) I also had lunch from the restaurants twice. After an Ikea run on Saturday, there was a Friendly’s stop. And Sunday night dinner was eaten out as well. I was feeling run down last night and ordered pizza instead of heating some noodles. The eating out thing was kind of a hot mess, looking back on it.

Cheese consumed: Minimal
Get the ceviche at Chez Henri. (I did have nachos on Sunday. But not as an entree, as I’ve been known to do.)

Veggies consumed: Meh
I made a few veggie and pasta dishes, and had salad for lunch one day.

Fitness: Pretty excellent
Although I dragged my weary self through all of the workouts, I did exercise for five days for the first time in a while.

Just a bit more than a week left. Siiiigh.

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Austerity January: Week Two

The sanctimonious pride I felt in the early part of Austerity January is transforming into frustration as we reach the halfway point. The restaurants I work for have some great beer events coming up, and I cannot participate. I’ve got a Groupon for a restaurant that I meant to use in December but didn’t, so I’ll be enjoying a quality meal with an artisan Shirley Temple.

And while I didn’t elect to do Austerity January for weight loss, I was hopeful it would be a positive side-effect. Alas, it hasn’t happened, despite being better about eating out, not drinking empty calories, and working out more.

To the bullet points!

Alcohol consumed: Zero
The man-friend and I went to his mother’s house last weekend for dinner. As is her custom, she offered us a cocktail when we walked in. He explained that we’re not drinking this month. After a fleeting expression of confusion, her face lit up. We looked at her quizzically, then realized what she was thinking.

“NO! No, she’s not pregnant,” he said in horror.

Meals out: Four
On Thursday, my friends and I enjoyed movie night and ordered in some pizza. On Friday, I ordered still more pizza because I didn’t feel like cooking or going out. On Saturday, I spent the day catching up on award-nominated films and it was much later than anticipated when the movie ended, requiring dinner before heading home. On Sunday, I had to do some work, and took advantage of brunch.

Cheese consumed: Quite a bit

Veggies consumed: Fair amount
I did have a lot of veggies on said pizza. Also enjoyed some veggie-heavy pasta.

Fitness: Acceptable
I think I worked out four times last week? OK. Though I’m not really enjoying the workouts due to the flood of resolution-makers.

As much as I seem to be crankier than usual while sober, one thing bringing me joy is the shape my bank account is in. I shudder to think how much I typically spend on dining out. (I’ll drag out some old bank statements and add up the total when I’m more peppy.)

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Austerity January: Week One

How’s everyone doing with Austerity January?

I blogged about Day One last week, but I don’t want to bore you to tears with the minutiae of my days. So let’s do a Week One check-in.

Booze consumed: Zero.
This was a tricky one. On Friday, I went with friends to see Louis CK perform. As we had tickets to the late show, we had a lot of time to kill at the bar beforehand. As I was wrapping up at the office, I felt a little pang of sadness that I didn’t have a big, frosty mug of beer to look forward to. It was especially awkward as I was waiting at the table for my friends to show up, sipping a soda and reading a book. It’s a bar, for God’s sake, not a library. But my friends ordered enough beer to make it worth the waitress’ while and I had so many free refills I jittered through the entire show.

Meals out: Two
At Boston magazine, we had bagels on Friday mornings. Even though I’m the one paying for the bagels now, it’s a small treat to reward myself for getting through the week. And the pre-Louis CK meal was at a dive bar, with the tab for me and the man-friend (also doing Sober January) coming to a measly $25. It would have easily been at least twice that if we’d had drinks.

Cheese consumed: Minimal
Had some on my sandwiches for lunch, and some on my Friday burger. But on the whole, far less than usual. I have noticed that instead of a beer nightcap, I’m having a glass of milk before bed. To wash down some cookies.

Veggies consumed: Many
Carrots with lunch every day. And I made some lentil stew for later in the week. Also had some in a stir-fry.

Fitness: Meh
After getting over my cold, I managed a quick run on Saturday and some OnDemand fitness tonight. Hoping to be good this week.

On Saturday, I joined friends for a night on the bowling lanes. As I waited for my turn, I decided to sink $5 into the scratch ticket vending machine.

“Wait. So you’re not drinking, but you’re gambling?”


“You’ve just traded one vice for another.”

“No. This one might make me rich.”

I didn’t win a damn cent.

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Austerity January: Day One

Sober January (#Drynuary) came too late for me.

The nonstop drinking, the cookie binge, the wacky sleep schedule—it all caught up to me on Sunday afternoon. Sure, I had imbibed a bit too much Saturday night, but this was no mere hangover. Around 4pm, on my fifth episode of some unmemorable real-estate reality TV show, I felt the tingle in my throat that could mean only one thing. A cold was coming.

And come it did. I worked from home on December 31, and managed to attend a house party on New Year’s Eve. I even dragged my sick butt to breakfast on New Year’s Day (determined to be in bounds for Austerity January due to everyone needing greasy breakfast on January 1). But after a much-needed visit to the grocery store, I landed on the couch. My sinuses felt like they were full of wet concrete. My throat burned. My voice quit. I chugged some NyQuil and took to my chambers early.

The statistics on today:

Booze consumed: Zero*
*Yeah, wiseass, there is alcohol in NyQuil, but it’s used to keep the active ingredients in a liquid solution and I took one standard adult dose. Come look at the number of Kleenex in my trash can: I’m not playing at being under the weather.

Meals out: Zero*
*I did buy a coffee at Dunkin Donuts, but paid with a gift card.

Cheese consumed: Two slices on my sandwich.

Veggies consumed: Carrots with lunch; homemade veggie chili for dinner tonight.

Fitness: Does coughing count?

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