Summer Budget Project Week 7 (and an announcement)

This week’s total was torpedo bombed by a massive swimming lesson purchase. This Tuesday we will use the last of the ten swimming lessons I purchased for my daughter a couple of months ago. We definitely want to keep taking her; she needs to be safe in the water and she is making big gains at this place. The pool we’re taking her uses a system where you buy a package of lessons and then schedule them. Last time I bought the ten lesson set; this time I bought the fifteen lesson set, because it makes each lesson a little cheaper, AND (more importantly) allows us a 4-hour cancellation window with no penalty (the ten pack had a 48-hour cancellation window). I think once school starts we’re going to benefit from that 4-hour no-fee cancellation policy, and I know we’ll need at least 15 more lessons for her to be water safe (or feel comfortable enough in the water for us to explore other lesson options).

If it weren’t for that massive charge, this week would have been…meg. Not good by any stretch, but not the worst I’ve done.

I took my mom out to brunch this week. I never got her a Mother’s Day present (she takes that stuff pretty seriously) and she just watched our kids for four days while we enjoyed our staycation. She wanted to pick up the bill but I felt I should. I was curious what you all thought about that. Having my mom pay would help my bottom line, but it seems like the least I can do when I never got her anything (not even a card) for Mother’s Day and she just watched my kids for so long. What are your thoughts? Should I have let her pay, or was treating her the right move?

I ended up retuning the swim assister and some of the safety stuff to Babies R Us. I decided the swim assister wasn’t something we needed to own; I’m hoping I can borrow one from somebody for our week down south. The safety stuff I returned also didn’t seem necessary in the end. We can watch our son more carefully and avoid spending some cash. I exchanged them for a big box of disposable diapers for our trip. I do not travel with cloth diapers, it’s just too big of a pain. I also got a box of Toddler Mum Mums because my son is ADDICTED. Seriously, it’s toddler crack. The difference was almost $10.

I also returned two of the uniform shirts from Old Navy after I found two long sleeve shirts I forgot I bought. I also took back three of the white leggings and found they were having an even better sale so I exchanged them for some other leggings that were cheaper. I also got my son some socks (my parents suggested I try to only use white socks with him because maybe the dye in his colored socks is aggravating his eczema–evidently my mom was told not to wear colored socks when she had some skin irritation issues on her feet. Has anyone heard of this before?!)

And now is when I tell you all that I’ve decided to extend my spending freeze (with some contingencies) until the end of the calendar year. I clearly have a lot more to learn on the budgeting front and I just don’t think I can make the necessary changes without specific restrictions in place. Even with them, I’m going to have to do some things very, very differently.

Much of the spending freeze will remain in place, especially as it relates to things for me. I will continue to abstain from purchasing clothes, shoes, books or other non-consumables for myself. I have plenty of clothes (if I can lose a little of this weight), plenty of shoes and more books than I could ever read. I can look at what I have and know that I don’t need anything more for myself (at least not in the next six months).

Where it gets tricky is with my kids, especially my daughter. She is a growing girl who needs new things every once in a while. I have already purchased her enough uniform pieces (all big enough for her to grow into), but she recently had a growth spurt and suddenly all her “weekend clothes” don’t fit. It’s hard to know how many “weekend clothes” to get her, because most of the time she only needs two days’ worth. But when there is a break in school, it’s hard because she doesn’t have much to wear. Right now she prefers fancy princess nightgowns and we let her wear those all weekend long. Sometimes, though, they aren’t appropriate and we need some pants and a shirt for her. I was thinking maybe 2-3 pairs of pants and 2-3 tops for her “weekend wardrobe” at any given time. So if she has that many she can wear, no more, but if we have to retire something and she falls below that limit, we’ll replace what she grew out of. Same goes for outwear: 1 heavier jacket and 2-3 sweatshirt/sweater type-pieces seems reasonable (you have to at least carry long sleeves with you all year around in SF).

Luckily we have been given tons of hand-me-downs for my son, so he doesn’t need much in the way of clothes or even shoes. When he starts at the daycare/preschool he’ll need 5 pairs of khaki pants (we already have the tops from when his sister went there) which I’ll need to get. I like him to always have two pairs of shoes that fit at a given moment (same for my daughter), plus a pair of rain boots and a raincoat (oh please let this El Nino be everything they promise it will be). That is really all they need. I think once I have a set amount of articles for my kids, I can restrict my spending to only replace what they need as those articles become too small.

There is also the matter of my son’s birthday in October. And the cargo bike I’m still determining if we want to invest in (more on this soon). Of course Christmas is also a potential wrench, but I want to figure those things out as they happen. I’m hoping I’ll know what to do when the time comes.

{I’m also unsure of purchases that I believe to be therapeutic for my daughter. Most on this later.}

What I still need to figure out is food/eating out and how I’m going to incorporate my husband’s spending into the budget. That requires more thought and will be tackled in a future post. For now, I know the spending freeze will continue until 2016, as will my weekly itemized purchases posts. Sometimes I feel terrified but mostly I’m excited. I have lots to learn about delaying gratification and patience, and I hope to teach my kids a fair amount about it as well.

7/26/2015 Gift for birthday party (American Express Gift Card) $10.81
7/26/2015 Cat litter box scooper (ours broke) $4.68
7/26/2015 Laundry detergent (for stripping diapers), eczema lotion $26.57
7/27/2015 Gas $50.01
7/27/2015 Costco (groceries, kids claritin, CeraVe lotion for son) $135.33
7/27/2015 TJ’s (groceries) $94.99
7/28/2015 Brunch with mom (Belated Mother’s Day gift) $39.00
7/28/2015 15 swim lessons $539.00
7/29/2015 Overnight diapers (subscription from Amazon) $25.83
7/29/2015 Life insurance premium $115.65
7/30/2015 Safeway (Groceries) $57.94
7/30/2015 1 Round of drink with a friend $14.00
7/31/2015 Lunch at my favorite sopes place (w/ tip) $8.00
7/31/2015 Safeway (Groceries — few things I forgot) $22.73
7/31/2015 Old Navy (return/exchange) -$10.11
7/31/2015 Babies R Us (return/exchange–big pack of diapers for trip) $9.82


  1. First, brava on extending the spending freeze! I think it’ll help you change the way you think about spending. I know just reading you is helping me think differently about it.

    The question of lunch with your Mom is tricky. I understand why you did it, but I think I’d have tried to think of something you could do or make for her rather than shout her lunch. A thank you card for her help throughout the year, and a little gift (something homemade to show your appreciation AND to save money) might have been just as appropriate.

    1. I think you’re right that I could have handled it differently, without spending so much money. I need to change my thinking on these kinds of things…

  2. I think with questions like that of the mother’s day gift you need a full picture of your finances and an actual working budget. It’s not a “this is always the right thing to do” or “this is never the right thing to do” it’s “can we afford this and still meet our responsibilities (including for the future)?” and “what trade-offs are we making to do this and are they worth it?” So if it’s a choice between getting something less expensive than you normally would at a night out with friends, then yes, it’s worth it. If it means going into credit card debt, then it probably isn’t worth it. And there’s a huge range of options in between those two extremes. (Our upcoming Monday post is pretty much on this topic.)

    As you figure out your money situation more, hopefully you will be better able to figure out what kind of trade-offs you’ll need to make to get where you want to be financially. It isn’t that some purchases are always justified and some purchases are never justified– it’s important to look at the whole picture.

  3. My first thought re: your question about the brunch is: “Make a budget!”. If you set a certain amount aside for “gifts” for example, you can take a peek and see if you have $x sitting in there (from saving $x/7 per month all year) and the $30 will hardly make a dent and you’ll have plenty left for birthdays/holidays to come. Or you can notice that you bought abc and the Gift category is at -$y and so you either don’t pick up the tab OR if you feel you must, you’ll have to find that $30 in another category. And then you have to consider—can I take $30 from the grocery budget and still be OK, or can I return something I bought or sell something in the house or whatever.
    I think Mali’s thoughts above are also very true. I think its takes time to hone the creativity and flexibility in thinking that is required to live super-frugally, but its worth thinking about & working on!
    Back to the budget—for me, the budget is THE ONLY thing that keeps me sane living with a spouse that isn’t 100% on the same page as me. Even when he doesn’t enter his spending into YNAB, I can comb through our transactions on Mint and add anything in. So I know what he’s spending and where, and I can start hinting about reducing categories that need it, or I can reduce anything that I DO have control over to make up for any excesses that he’s NOT willing to reduce, or, I can actually relax because though it “seems like a lot” when I’m just listening to him talk about taxi rides and lunches out, when I add it all up, its well within his allowance.

  4. Have you tried freecycle for clothes for your daughter? We do that sometimes and we donate on there as soon as the clothes are outgrown. It is wonderful.

    1. I just joined FreeCycle about a month ago and I haven’t get tried it for clothes for my daughter. That’s a great idea! Thanks!

  5. My first thought was you did the right thing in insisting on picking up the cheque and treating your mom. Then I read Mali’s comment, and she does have a point. Perhaps you did “owe” her, but could have done it differently? Just my $.02.

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