Since the big furnace purchase, I've been having a bit of financial anxiety. I thought I had been living sort of frugally, and in a way I had, but several large expenses over the past year (dog's broken leg, need to buy new glasses with expensive old people's lenses in them, a new laptop, the furnace) have severely dented my cash reserves. Upon close inspection of my finances, I've uncovered lots and lots of places where I could have been way more frugal. So I've kicked myself into a financial mode that I'm calling ... well actually I don't have a name for it. It's the mode where if it isn't essential (and I'm in the process of trying to redefine and streamline "essential"), it's out of the budget. I'm also using an Excel spreadsheet to track all discretionary spending (i.e., not utilities/mortgage/car payment) so I can break down how much really goes exactly where in an attempt to change some habits.
This is so not like me (especially the Excel part). I mean, I'm OK at being cheap--I love buying my clothes at Goodwill way more than buying them new, and I will often shop for non-perishables at the Raleigh Aldi during my lunch break (I wish there was one in Durham!) because their prices can be insanely cheap. But I really need to build my cash reserves back up AND pay off my furnace, and I'd like to do both simultaneously. That may not be possible, so I'll settle for not using up any more of the reserves while I discharge the furnace debt. Dang, I'm even toying with the idea of getting a roommate. Just toying at this point ... for a lot of reasons it's probably just crazy talk, but the idea is in my head.
I'm also looking into ways to bring in a little extra dough (without having to take on freelance design work, because that's something I've decided I don't enjoy at all.) I found one thing that is not to be counted on but, over the past two days, has brought me $30 for right about one hour's work. No, it's not prostitution, (I would charge more than that!) but I'm going to keep it a secret because it involves grabbing the jobs before someone else does, and the less competition the better for me. Let's just say it involves the intertubes and it's something I find quite easy and fun. Yay me!
I've also, with the encouragement and help of girlnblack, decided to give "extreme couponing" a try. It involves a little bit of work and organization, but apparently you can really play the system to get stuff almost for free. It takes a bit of start-up time to amass the proper collection of coupons, but I decided to try to do what I could to start out yesterday at Kroger. I had a batch of groceries that rang up (after the usual Kroger Plus card discounts) at somewhere around $33 (I wish I had written it down, because that amount didn't get printed on my receipt.) After all my coupons, including a $7.00 off the total one from the Kroger packet, I paid $16.34. Apparently, after a month or so of collecting coupons, it can get even better than that, with a lot of items ending up being free if you time the coupon usage just right and work the stores' doubling policies and whatnot.
And in other good news, my $100 credit from PSNC already came through, so not only do I not have to pay my November bill (which was amazingly only 1/3 of what last November's bill was), but I have $75 left over to apply to January's bill ... and maybe even beyond if my new furnace is as efficient as it's cracked up to be.