Life,  Making Do

It’s time to…

batton down the hatches

(warning: loooooong post ahead)

So this new financial situation I’m going to be in come summer isn’t a good one, and the preparations need to start now. Even though I’ve been told there’s a chance that those classes may be added back in due to student demand (I teach what counts as a core class, and so cutting any section leaves a whole lot of students out in the wilderness), I need to assume they won’t so that I’m prepared to make things work.

Over the past few days I’ve been meticulously assessing my financial situation and going through records to determine exactly where my money is going – and where there are potential areas for saving. Honestly this is really something I should be doing more often than when crisis strikes, but I suppose it is what it is.

In the course of this overview I’ve boiled things down to a few categories where there is saving to be had: Fun stuff, Craft and Hobby Supplies, Clothing, Groceries, and Everyday Beauty Products. In each of these categories I’ve created a few rules that I’m going to stick to for the entire month of March and beyond, and hopefully this blog will help keep me accountable for following them.

So here we go.

Fun Stuff

Category #1: Fun Stuff

Most of my non-necessary spending comes in the form of books, take-out, and beer (I don’t drink often, but when I do I like the good stuff… Samuel Smith’s Organic Double Chocolate Stout… mmmmm…). Honestly the best way to deal with these unnecessary expenses is to just not buy them anymore. I have more books than I could probably read in 10 years, take-out is not really good for me anyway, and honestly the beer thing isn’t going to be a huge sacrifice. I have one maybe every other week.

And so here’s the rule, not just for March, but for the foreseeable future: I’m putting a moratorium on buying books, DVDs, take-out and beer/booze.

I will allow the following exceptions to this rule so as to keep myself from “cold turkey” syndrome (aka just breaking the rules all together come a super upsetting or stressful day):

  • Books: only if it is something I absolutely, 100% need for class and it’s not available through the library OR interlibrary loan. I will also allow myself one personal book purchase for every 15 books I read from my collection (count starts now).
  • DVDs: Same as above, only add Netflix and Amazon Prime/Digital to the mix of places to check first and remove the personal purchase. Also, Frozen will be purchased when it’s released (I still haven’t seen it and am really mad about that so it will be my one treat).
  • Take-out: I will allow myself one night of Chinese a month (unless someone else is buying, naturally. Not gonna turn down free food), plus the occasional pint of rice to go with my frozen stew/soup/whatever IF others at work are ordering and I have the $1.50 cash on me.
  • Beer: Beer may be purchased as required for recipes like my beef stew and vegetable soup.

Craft Supplies

Category #2: Craft and Hobby Supplies

Again, this one is a pretty easy expense to simply cut. Like with my books, I have more yarn than I could knit up in 3 years. Same with fabric – my stash is almost embarrassing thanks to the summer I spent working at JoAnn’s with that employee discount… and in both cases the size of my stash doesn’t live up to how often I knit or sew.

Rule: No yarn/fabric/other craft supply purchases. I will use what I have from here on out.


    • One yarn purchase for every 5 projects finished (I don’t have a great track record of finishing things in a timely manner – at the rate I go that amounts to one purchase every year)
    • Small items such as bias tape, zippers, thread, etc… as needed to finish sewing projects made primarily from stash.
    • 4 times a year I will get photos printed for my albums – I don’t scrapbook in the traditional sense, but I do use scrapbooks for my photo albums so I can use nice paper instead of boring pocket albums.


Category #3: Clothing

Again, a pretty easy expense to cut. I already do most of my shopping at thrift stores, and quite frankly my closet is in dire need of a purging – not new things.

Rule: No clothing purchases.

Exceptions: Only to replace the basic closet staples as they wear out (camis, blue jeans, boots, etc) and for specific special events if needed (e.g. a wedding with a specific dress code that I cannot meet with what I have).

Category #4: Groceries

Obviously I need groceries. Food is a must. But there are definitely ways I can reign in my budget. Growing up in a pretty comfortable middle class household (we had our tight times, but if there were ever serious money problems, our parents kept them well hidden from us) I never really gave much thought to a grocery budget until I moved out on my own. At that point I cut out most snacks – it’s amazing how the chips and pretzels and fruit snacks that were just always around at home can really add up. But even since then, my grocery budget has never been really tightly monitored. I never really had to. And so I kept track of what I use daily for the last week and found the following cuts.


  • No more keurig. K-cups are expensive, and since my coffee detox this winter, I don’t drink coffee that often anyway (although I very much miss it). I do have a small drip pot, so out of storage it comes. The Keurig will be for heating water for tea only.
  • Along the same lines, no more fancy creamers. Milk and sugar are just fine.
  • Start buying store brand grocery products when cheaper.
  • Buy teabags only when on sale, and stick to Twinings – don’t be pulled in by the fancy $8 a jar teas at Wegman’s.
  • Menu plan for the days I do get a chance to cook – use recipes that can be made affordably and in large quantities and frozen for during the week.

Exceptions: None.


Category #5: Everyday Beauty Products

Here’s the one category where DIY can hopefully come to the rescue. I’m not really big on the beauty routines – I don’t wear a lot of make up or spend a huge amount of time and product on my hair. And thanks to a recent purge of my mother’s bathroom closet I have enough fancy body wash and lotions to last me the next 10 years. That said, the few habits I do have can be a bit of a drain on the wallet. I’m a nail polish junkie, and I rely heavily on my Batiste Dry Shampoo to make my thin, limp, naturally greasy looking hair not look so awful.


  • Switch to Old-Fashioned Shaving (have you ever thought about how expensive disposable razors are?)
  • Moratorium on nail polish purchases.
  • Switch to DIY Dry Shampoo for everyday use. Batiste is expensive and I go through it quickly.
  • Actively work on getting better with my hair so as to be able to style it and cover up any discrepancy between the Batisite and the DIY.
  • Stock up on my regular shampoo/conditioner of choice when it’s on sale, and actively look for coupons.
  • Either cancel gym membership or start going – it’s only $10 a month, but that adds up for a service you’re not using to your full advantage.


  • Nail Polish: I will allow myself to replace my favorite topcoat (Sally Hansen Insta-Dry) in the eventuality that I run out (I’ve got two bottles stashed, so this will take a while). Additionally, I will allow myself to take the next Julep Maven Box that I fall in love with – but ONLY if I cash in my stashed jules to do so, which means they’re free. No money will be spent (To learn more about Julep Maven, and possibly join, click here)
  • Dry Shampoo: I will keep a stash of Batiste around for special events/emergencies. Will only buy it when it’s on sale at Ulta BOGO and I have cash.

So that’s the plan so far. I very much realize that in the grand scheme of things, even with these cuts, I’ll still be living comfortably compared to many and that these sacrifices are very much “first world” sacrifices. And for that I count myself lucky. Even so, I must admit that having a plan makes me feel a whole lot better about the future prospects. The only big question left is, will it be enough once the cuts hit?

(textures for graphic from here and here.)

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  • Timiae

    I loved reading this. We are currently “ok” financially, but are moving and that’s going to eat up most of our savings and my husband is going from fulltime to parttime at his new job… that means we need to think about more cuts as well. We’ve already made lots of cuts and try to live somewhat frugally, but you’ve inspired me to look at our own spending habits. I know we could definitely cut the fast food (healthier for us, too) and I could cut craft purchases for sure.

    I’m so hoping that they decide to keep your class (seriously, cutting a core class?) and then you’ll have a time of feast rather than famine with all that you save this summer!

    • Magpiemakingdo

      Moving is such a money-suck, isn’t it? I’ve only moved (not counting college) within the same city and it totally drained everything – I can’t even imagine moving across the country. I’ll be keeping you guys in my thoughts as that gets underway for sure.

      As for the spending habits – this is REALLY something I should have been doing all along – if I had, I’d be in a much better situation facing these cuts! I let myself get comfortable and complacent… I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but I’m not terribly hopeful. Although it certainly would be great if it did work out! As you look at your spending too, let me know if you come up with any tips or tricks! Goodness knows I could use them!

  • bluchickenninja

    I’m not sure if this will help but last September/ October time I was able to live on about £10 a week just by paying for everything in cash. I did have some help by being too busy at college to go shopping, staying with relatives and taking my own lunch with me. But I still managed to save a bunch of money. I was even able to go to the cinema and buy tea on that £10.

    • Magpiemakingdo

      That’s basically what I’m hoping to be able to do. I’m pretty much setting up to spend money on bills and groceries only for the next… well, for the forseeable future. At this point I’ve managed to save enough to def. get me through the summer, but I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to fare when the paychecks start again at a reduced rate.

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