Residual effects of February challenge

Damn it.

I’m still thinking about spending.  Even though we’re no longer under a challenge, it’s harder to just get something to eat without major pre-planning.  And when I do, there’s some regret.  If only I’d put more stuff for me on the grocery list.  Then I wouldn’t have had to pay for that overpriced mediocre salad at the cafeteria.  Earlier me would have said, it’s only $7, and I should probably get this mediocre $6 california roll too just in case.  Obey my hunger!

I ran out of larabars is the problem.  Also we ran out of any fruit but apples.  And we ran out of rice cakes.  And cheese.  And yogurt.  And tortilla chips.  And EGGS.  And nuts.  And used up the cooked rice and cooked quinoa.  And I think wheat products have started giving me hives on my arms on top of the potentially imaginary symptoms I was having.  (Thursday night, after DH and DC had pizza at a birthday party, DH accidentally got the regular sweet and sour chicken at pei wei instead of gluten free for me because our cupboards were bare, other than wheaty things.  I ate it anyway because I was hungry.)

We obviously didn’t get enough at the grocery store that Saturday and we should probably have gone again mid-week, but I kept thinking, we’re going into the city this coming Saturday, surely we can wait.  In the end we went grocery shopping on Friday anyway after I ate out twice (and again in the city the next day).  If we’d spent enough the previous Saturday, we’d probably have saved more down the line.  Or maybe everything will eventually get eaten anyway and it doesn’t matter when we buy it.  Except that when we have easy-to-transport wheat-free food, I don’t end up eating overpriced wilty salads.

Larabars are expensive at $1 each.  But they’re less expensive than snacks at the cafeteria.  Once I’m no longer nursing I should be able to cut back on them.  We have stocked up.

I did go crazy in the city that weekend, mostly without guilt.  I feel a little bad about what was spent, but also bad that I feel bad.

Also bought presents for people this month and spent what was right for the present rather than cutting back.  Next year the perfect present we think of will be less expensive, I’m sure.  (Thanks, Rumpus, for the TONX suggestion!)

So I don’t think we’re really spending less than we would be without having done the Feb challenge, but we’re feeling worse about the spending we do.  I wonder if this will wear off, or if we’ll eventually tighten our belts or what.

Urgh.  So we need to either spend less, make more, or figure everything will just work out.  It is so much easier when your income is far more than your enough!

23 Responses to “Residual effects of February challenge”

  1. plantingourpennies Says:

    I’ve wondered – why with food more than any other expense, does it feel so painful to cut back sometimes? Is it because we fool ourselves into thinking that because calories are a necessity that calories from those specific types of food are (by extension) also necessities?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The other places are already cut back. Food is the main luxury, and it’s a relatively small luxury that we experience the pleasure of multiple times a day. Unless you spend a *lot* of time in your Rolls Royce, you’re not going to get that much pleasure from almost any other purchase.

    • Revanche Says:

      Maybe it’s because food is so delicious and we hate having to lose the yummy? That’s sort of my problem with it. But the same reason helps me make the better “grocery instead of eating out” choices when necessary. (Pretty much screwed when it comes to awesome snacks and restaurants though.)

  2. Debbie M Says:

    It sounds like you want to keep some of the changes from the challenge (stocking up at the grocery store), but you’re not in the habit of doing so. Or maybe it was just a rough week (you let yourself run out of cheese??).

  3. Jacq Says:

    Extra r in February in the title…
    Agree with Debbie on the habit part.
    I don’t remember feeling the urge to spend more afterwards to make up for it when I did a challenge in 2010. Maybe because it was more of a game I played with other people to get as low as possible?
    Actually in looking at the numbers pre-challenge, I guess I reduced some categories permanently. Weird. I didn’t notice that happened. Not sure if that’s good, bad or just what is.

  4. bogart Says:

    I am definitely capable of counterproductive penny-pinching at the grocery store; it can be a problem. We don’t “go to” the store — none of the places we shop is more than about 4 miles from our home, and we (gasp!) use a car to get there — so running out for something quick is in principle no big deal. But lacking something that can be quickly whipped into a meal, packed for a lunch, or otherwise available can result in eating out.

    I have recently started mostly riding the bus to work, which I am in fact enjoying. But it does demand that I do some planning ahead to be budgetarily efficient: if it results in my eating lunch out, it is a net loss. Mostly I’m being pretty good about appropriate planning, but this is a potential pitfall.

    Our household acquisition of our first smartphone (DH) together with the discovery of the “ourgroceries” app has made our lives much better. Stuff goes on the app (often added by me) and gets purchased (mostly by DH, who, remember, is a SAHH). Somehow using a paper list was not feasible, and while he’d call me and ask if we needed anything, this required that I (a) pick up the phone — not always feasible; (b) remember on the fly (ditto); and (c) I was not allowed to list more than 3 items (“I can’t remember more than that!”). So the app is leaps and bounds beyond our previous system. However, I prefer to buy different things at … hmmm … 6 different stores (main affordable chain store: most stuff; second more upscale chain, certain durable sale items; 1 local 5&dime, cheap past-date bread; different 5&dime, household cleaners & paper products & such; local co-op, affordable local eggs and a few other items (excellent cheeses!); Trader Joes, some produce and cheese), of which DH only goes to the one affordable chain (and think of the mental load I take on remembering what to buy where! What am I thinking?!), so I still do a fair amount of shopping. But it’s mostly in-and-out for a few items, rarely essential, so it’s tolerable.

  5. NoTrustFund Says:

    So much easier.

    I find it really hard to cut back on our food budget. Not so much our eating out budget but definitely our grocery budget.

    Out of curiosity, what are your favorite larabar flavors? They have so many varieties now!

  6. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Funny, a friend of mine just posted on Facebook she made Larabars from scratch this weekend.
    I definitely think that what you’re feeling is residual guilt from the spending challenge. I’ve had it happen to me before after doing challenges or even after living extremely scaled back because of vanished income and then being able to slowly scale up spending when income starts flowing again. Now that my debt reduction plan is going well, I am also making enough money to purchase things that aren’t basic needs. They’re more like the not critical need, but still need to get it at some point or another type of thing. And I keep telling myself to get over it, it needs to get purchased. But I’ve still got my bargain hunter skills. I needed a dress for the wedding party this coming Saturday. I tried on several but the idea of spending $40 on a dress kept bothering me so I kept going to stores and trying things on. Finally scored one for $17.80. Old Me would have bought the first one that looked decent on me just to get it out of my head and over with.
    All that blah blah blah aside, I do think that the guilt will go away in time.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH and DC made chocolate chip cookies with coconut and almond flour that I think would have qualified as larabar if they’d been bars instead of cookies.

      It probably is residual guilt. And it’s not like we had a real goal that we reached that’s now over. So there’s none of that “we did it now we can go back to normal” feeling. We’re still going to need to figure out how to make this work in the future. And any cuts we make now will make it easier later, but it’s hard to think about that.

      Congrats on the bargain dress! I think I’m finally going to have to buy a dress for a wedding for next October. I’ve finally hit the confluence of seasons and same people such that most of the people there will have seen me in the two I normally wear!

  7. becca Says:

    Personally, I’ll wait to get stuff when I next go shopping for anything but milk and eggs. Those are the triggers for an actual trip. We go through an obscene amount of milk, so that’s a lot of shopping. Given that framework (and the fact you’ve capitalized EGGS), running out of eggs sounds like a dead giveaway you should have gone shopping.

    Sometimes if I know I’m going later for some reason (like in the case of your planned trip to the city), I’ll write a list with planned meals just to the end of that time and do a mini trip (for me, a mini-trip is < $40). But it can be hard when you're crunched for time, I know.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yes, we should have gone shopping, and probably just to get milk and eggs. And we did, but a few days too late.

      In the end, we do eat all the stuff we get at the grocery store, so it probably doesn’t matter when we go. I think it’s best if we just relax about the grocery spending and cut elsewhere.

  8. oilandgarlic Says:

    It’s tough to thank so much about budgets/money!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It takes up too much mental space! I wanna go back to not having to think about it!

      I accidentally got onto the page of K-12 and adminstrator salaries for my home-state (which is union) and thought OMG, I should have gone into fricking teaching. With the amount of time I’ve been out of college I could be making far more than my current salary, and if I’d gone administration rather than staying as a math teacher, I could be making 200 or 300K now AND living in a fancy suburb of a big city. I could see the opera. *sigh*

      Global ambition isn’t always rewarded as well as local ambition.

  9. chacha1 Says:

    All I can say is, a meal plan is the only way I can avoid making multiple grocery stops in a week. There’s a decent market on my way home from work; there’s a very nice (but expensive) one I can walk to on my lunch hour; but I don’t WANT to go more than once a week if I can avoid it. Time budget, ya know.

    Our situation is simpler because it’s just two adults and we both take care of our own breakfasts & lunches, meaning I’m really only shopping for dinners. But I’ve gotta have the plan or sure as sh*t I’ll forget something.

  10. EMH Says:

    I try to bring lunch into the office every day but I find the planning and making it ahead of time in the morning my downfall. Would it be easier if you brought a bunch of Larabars into your office and kept them in a drawer/cabinet instead of bringing one each day? I also find oatmeal to be a quick snack as long as you have a microwave. I keep a container of oats in our office kitchen. It lasts a long time and if I forget my lunch, well, there is always oatmeal. Not exciting but it works and helps me save some money.

    Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are doing great! Maybe you aren’t reaching your savings goal but you aren’t going into debt.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We were out of larabars. Also out of the trailmix I usually keep in my office. I think we may have even been out of the chocolate I keep in my office. It was sad sad sad. Nothing to eat at home except wheat products. We did have oatmeal and I think that’s what I ended up with for one meal, but I can’t do more than one meal of oatmeal without getting grumpy. DH is gradually turning our oatmeal into much more exciting granola.

      We’re old enough could spend down (including retirement and kids’ college savings) for several years without going into debt, so I’m not sure that’s the best goal! We will need that money for its intended purpose one of these days.

  11. First Gen American Says:

    Agreed that the income buffer helps numb that incessant feeling of guilt when spending. It’s something that took me years to ditch and all it takes is one job loss to jump right back into that mode again. I suppose it’s a better feeling to have than not caring at all and getting yourself in trouble.

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