May Check In

English: Central Park Bridges (view from Bridl...
English: Central Park Bridges (view from Bridlepath looking southwest), Gothic Arch, Spanning bridlepath south of tennis courts at nort, New York City, New York County, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

May has come and gone and  I’m one month closer to paying off my debt.  Since I started this process my debt has decreased from $10,500 to $7100!  The other morning I was thinking “wow, in two months I will be 50% toward paying off my credit card debt.  When I first made this commitment, I was scared of the period that I’m in right now, the in between period.  I envisioned myself getting bored and depressed in my new life style and throwing away this quest altogether.  Despite some peaks and valleys and fall backs it hasn’t been that bad.

Here are some helpful ways to stay on track if you’re in the same boat:

Stopped Impulsive Buying

This has been easier than I thought.  I don’t buy coffee, takeout, or shop for cheap clothes (a la H & M, Forever 21) and I don’t feel devoid or deprived of anything.  Often times I would get an afternoon craving for a snack and buy a  cookie from  a bakery, often paired with a second coffee.  But in order to satisfy that craving, I go to the dollar store a block away and stock up on some snacks to keep in my desk.   I used to find that if I didn’t bring lunch, I wouldn’t end up leaving the office during the day.  Instead I’ve started doing errands instead, such as going to the bank or post office.

Popcorn and Movie Night 

One weekend it was the end of my budget and I couldn’t spend money.  I still wanted to see my friends so I sent the following email:

Hi Girls!  So, you all know that I’ve put myself on a tight budget and vowed to pay of my cc’s in the next 12 months. My budget doesn’t start again until Monday and I’ve kinda run out until then. I have the apartment to myself this weekend, and in an effort to not be antisocial this weekend, would any of you be interested in a movie night with popcorn and wine tomorrow evening?  I know it sounds really low key, but I’m too new into this life change that I don’t have the will power to go to a bar and not drink just yet.

Most couldn’t attend on short notice, but to my surprise they were all welcome to the idea in the future.  My friend Aline came over and we drank a bottle of wine and ate popcorn.  I’m going to start a series of entertaining on a budget so stay tuned for ideas and inspiration for at home gatherings!

That same weekend, I mentioned to my friend Lindsay that I was going to go to Buffalo Exchange to sell some clothes.  She wanted to come too.  So I was able to find other ways to see my friends that aren’t expensive like going out to dinner or to a bar.

Plan for Spontaneity

Two blogs that I follow, The Debt Breakup and Budget and the City, both wrote recent posts about planning for spontaneity.  I’ve tried to buy ahead of time when possible and plan nights out.  To me, this means purchasing experiences on daily deal sites, prepaying and budgeting for known plans ahead of time.  I purchased some Bloomspot deals a couple weeks ago for a Saturday night out and a Central Park bike rental. Be careful with these purchases though and plan to use them carefully so they don’t expire and go unused. (I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t purchase fitness classes because I never use them in it’s entirety).  On the other hand, I always buy the $7 Central Park bike rentals when they’re available, and split the bottle service deals with 4 or 5 friends.

After I’m done paying off my debt, I’m going to put that money toward savings accounts for various leisure activities.

Find a Support System

Special thank you to my family and friends who have been supportive and encouraging through this process!  You’ve been so understanding and this would be so much harder if you weren’t.  Also, some other bloggers who regularly comment and cheer me on have been great.  They are going through the same process and I know we will all get there.   (Re)Creating Carly, The Debt Breakup, Budget in the City, are the folks that I regularly turn to.  Cait from Blonde on A Budget, is the veteran who really motivated me to start my blog in the first place.  I first read her story on LearnVest and after two years she is debt free 🙂

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One Package of Chicken, One Week of Meals

Hello everyone! It’s that time of the month, the last two days before my budget replenishes and I am running on fumes until payday. Which means I literally can’t spend one cent until Wednesday. On top of that, my pantry is running pretty bare of staples. Yesterday I had one package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts left in the freezer and was determined to make them work for dinners and lunches until at least Wednesday.

Lately I’ve been wondering if my recipes really fit in with my blogging, but Carly from (Re)Creating Carly had told me to “keep them coming!” Thanks for the feedback, Carly! And to everyone else, if you ever need a motherboard installed on your computer, then she’s your girl.

My findings in the pantry/’fridge/freezer revealed zucchini, arborio rice, brown rice, parsley, cilantro, frozen shrimp, frozen broccoli, half of a tomato. I started to dream up yummy concoctions in my head, google search my ingredients and came up with the following options:

  1. Saffron Risotto with Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage
  2. Chicken dressed in Chimichurri Sauce with Brown Rice and Zucchini
  3. Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Pizza

Making bulk dishes that combine ingredients are a great way to stretch your food budget for the week and preparing multiple dishes will prevent boredom. I made a trip to the grocery store for pizza dough, cream cheese, one Italian sausage and sliced mozzarella cheese (sliced cheese at the deli counter is way cheaper than buying the shredded kind, I think it covers the pizza much better too). I spent a total of $10.

I started by cutting the chicken into one inch cubes and sauteing them in a fry pan Followed by the sausage. Then got started on the risotto.

If you’ve never made risotto before, it’s pretty easy. I get the Arborio rice from Trader Joe’s and prepare according to the package directions. You’ll have to keep a pot of heated broth on while you’re preparing. I used a bouillon cube to make the broth and then whatever was left over to prepare the brown rice for my chicken/chimicurri meal. I added onion and garlic at the bottom of the pot first. After adding the first laddle of broth I added the saffron to allow the color to diffuse throughout the cooking process. About half way through I added chopped tomatoes and then at the end added one quarter of the chicken, sausage and a handful of frozen shrimp. Simmer until the shrimp are thawed.

I had left over broth so I added a cup of brown rice to the pot and left it alone until it cooked through. I cut my zucchini by halving first length wise and then width wise and then into half inch pieces. I threw them in another fry pan with a bit of olive oil. I then prepared my chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is one of my favorite sauces. It’s typically used on steak but I put it on chicken, burgers, corn on the cob. I like this recipe found on Epicurious.

Before mixing the chicken with the chimichurri, I held out a handful of chicken which I will use to make my pizza tonight. The rest of the chicken was mixed with the tangy green sauce and served with rice and zucchini.

This evening, I will be making my pizza. I found a recipe for a really easy alfredo sauce using cream cheese right here. I’ll top the pizza with frozen broccoli and chicken and bake off this evening and enjoy some leftovers tomorrow!

What are some ways that you stretch your budget until the end of the week?

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Off and Back On the Bandwagon

This past week I fell off the bandwagon a bit.  Actually, a little more than a bit and I feel a bit guilty about it.  Last weekend, as I noted earlier this week, I was away for a wedding.  After returning from weekends away, I tend to get lazy and go right to bed or turn on the TV. Which I did in this case.  Failing to go to the grocery store on Sunday evening led to slim pickings in the refrigerator. Couple that with a crazy work week and some evening commitments left little motivation and energy to pack lunch for work and I ended up spending about $60 frivolously on lunch, printing at FedEx, and a cab ride or two.  That $60 could have been used a lot more productively, either saved, put toward debt or put toward SF.  Alas I’m feeling regretful and disappointed in myself.  I need to get back on track and not let it happen again.  This is a feeling I will channel when I get lazy in the future.

That said, this weekend I’m getting back on the bandwagon.  I need to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of this week.

I didn’t go out last night, instead, I stopped at my favorite vegetable market on the way home from work and went for a run along the Hudson.  Stiles had some  prepackages on special for $1 each so I picked up two.  One had zucchini, tomatoes, onion and the other had some bell peppers and limes.

 

All this for $5!
All this for $5!

I also posted the open room in my apartment on Craigslist, and we were able to find a new one this morning.  There, feeling productive already!

We went grocery shopping followed by lunch on our patio from some of last nights purchases and some pantry/freezer foods.

Openfaced Tuna Melt with Salad
Openfaced Tuna Melt with Salad

The rest of my weekend is pretty much prepaid.  I found a $15 1 hour open margarita bar on Bloomspot which I’ll be attending with two friends tonight.  I’m going to walk to save money on transportation, and keep my drinking to the open bar portion of the evening.  (Seriously, margaritas have a lot of calories!)

Tomorrow I’m attending an alumni event, a tour of the Cloisters followed by brunch, a total of $24 which I paid for last month.

How am I doing on my budget otherwise?  I have about $155 left for the next two weeks.  I should be ok since I’ve already prepaid for my friend’s birthday celebration next weekend and with a stocked refrigerator and drinking the office coffee I should be able to manage!

Alright I’m off for another run along the Hudson, before prepping a Cinco de Mayo taco dinner!

Does anyone else feel guilty when they fall off the bandwagon?  How do you  find the motivation to get back on track?