Week 49 & 50: Taking Care of Business

Week 49 & 50: Taking Care of Business

Again, this is a two-weeker update.

One thing that always irks me is that it is so hard to keep to a grocery budget. My ideal is to spend no more than $150 a week, but inevitably, even if one week I miraculously scrape by on something like…$140, the next week it’s more like $175 or $200. I must say that I do not keep tight track of all the expenditures on food in a week. Sometimes I go to the grocery store once, sometimes twice because the first time I forgot a few key ingredients. Then there’s also the extras, like eating out on a Friday, or a cappuccino with a friend. And I’m not sure that there is much of a solution to be had; that is just what it costs to feed my family of four, and keep my sanity ( more on that last part, in a moment).

California is the font of amazing foods, but it is also EX…PEN…SIVE. I’d sort of never realized how expensive because I came straight from South Korea where money was entirely different and not entirely comparable, so it didn’t compute. Before that, I was at art school and my idea of cuisine was perogies and the occasional head of broccoli. I only realized how pricey the cost of food was here when I had family visiting from Canada who pay attention to these things (and who made the Canada to US calculation) and informed me, that yeah, it’s uber pricey here in NorCal. The price we pay for AMAZING fresh produce, novelty foods and health foods. I’d say I am a conservative shopper: I load up the cart with fresh produce first (only going organic on the “dirty dozen” items and any sale organics) then a few packaged foods like bread, and yogurt, skipping most of the middle aisles. And yet, still…

I can cut out the cappuccinos…but then who wants to kill joy? Honestly, I don’t spend very much on myself, so the occasional fancy coffee…or a lunch here and there with friends is my sanity keeper.

Last week I was just so focused on this business building thing that I really wasn’t thinking about how not to spend. I am firmly in the realm of trying to build my photography business, starting with my website: www.SharolynTownsendPhotogpraphy.com and my facebook page by the same name. Where I can tie this new focus to this challenge is that I am making sure to not spend on equipment or much of anything until I actually start making money and can justify the expense. The motto, right now is “make-do”. And there is fun to that challenge in and of itself. I need to prove to myself that you don’t have to have all the right gear to do an amazing job.

What I did spend on was a couple hundred basic business cards via Vista Print. The trick there, I learned through luck, is to only order 100 and then after the purchase wait for their 10 minute deals where you can add another 150 cards for only $9.

The cards are a stop gap measure while I figure out my logo and design my own personal cards, but they are certainly handy. It’s nice to have something to hand to someone when you are talking about what you do.I have been putting myself out of my comfort zone and finding ways to tell people what it is I do and directing them to check out my website. I really felt I was on a roll this past week, networking and finding potential clients. The goal, as I mentioned before, is to not get discouraged. This is pertinent to keep at the forefront of my thinking as there is often a lot of interest but not a whole lot of follow through. I found myself holding a lot of mental space for the people who told me “they’d for sure be in contact”. I realized that I can’t just wait around for that and try to stay available. I am available until I am not, and until then I just keep putting myself out there. Still, from the little I’ve been doing, I feel like I have some forward momentum, and I hope that soon I will have a few more clients lined up.

I am finding it hard to split my head between creative work (photography) and being mommy. When these two worlds collide, often, if I am not careful, I become frustrated. That’s not the vibe I want to be giving off with my kids. Luckily, today my hubs was very supportive of me seeking mental space, and he watched the kids while I went out for a few hours.

The thing I chose to do? Thrift shopping.

I had a few things in mind that I want to find, props for a shoot essentially. But mostly…I like thrift shopping. I’ve been so good. I have not gone in such a long time, and when I have it has been just for books for the kids and kids clothes. Today, I looked for me.

Now, I must say, that thrifting is a little too trendy these days. Know how I know this? Because it’s getting bloody expensive, that’s why. Goodwill is one of the worst. The standard price for shirts is $6.99. Now, I know, that’s not a huge number. But this is USED clothes; donated clothes. Half of the shirts there are Massimo (Target brand), Old Navy, or H&M. You can get those brands, new, on the sale rack at their stores for less than that. I say for shame, Goodwill. I was actually about to leave in a huff at the ludicrous prices, but since this was more for mental sanity than anything, I just browsed to see what there was. It was depressing to discover, once again, that though I think I want new/different clothes in my wardrobe, there’s not much that peaks my interest.

Then I discovered that this being Sunday, any clothes with a blue tag were 99 cents. So I targeted just those racks and found a couple of dresses. Getting those helped ease my dis-ease with the fact that I have nothing nice to wear when the rare “date night” comes up. I also picked up a nice faux leather jacket for the full price of $8.99 which was a deal for me, to ease that desire I’ve had since art school days, to posses a really cool leather jacket. This desire surfaces now and then, but I have never actually sprung for one. This one fit the bill, and hopefully will put that demon to rest for a while. So, you see, it’s all about balance. Complete austerity doesn’t work, I just feel deprived. It felt good to get a few things for me, for, all told…$11 for two dresses and a jacket. Hopefully I will feel sated, both for new (to me) clothing…and time away from the kids. A new week begins anew tomorrow!

And that’s it folks. I’m all business these days, most of my free time is spent figuring out how to entice new clients out of the woodwork. Wish me luck!

S

Week 48: Home Stretch

Week 48: Home Stretch

The shine of this challenge has worn off.

And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, if it still felt new, it would mean that I was making no progress. It would seem that slowing my consumption of useless products has become the norm. That is not to say that I don’t still have my moments, but I have not had any major splurges followed by deep regret. ( I say that as I currently fight my almost obsession with Blundstone boots. Gosh darn, once you do an internet search for a product, it keeps showing up in my feeds and on the border of webpages. They really track you! Not easy for the resistance!) Splurges now are, on the rare occasion, going ahead and buying that cheapo toy for my kid as we make our way through the dollar store. Or getting a fancy coffee and a steamed milk for the kids as a self motivator or reward for having done the groceries. Sometimes a used book for each kiddo at the thrift store.

I still look around me at my home and see excess. I think it is just the nature of how my family and most of the people I know, live. We are so lucky. We are not suffering. Even though I and my friends and acquaintances talk of struggle at times to: pay the rent, find work, afford a new car, etc etc, we all have roofs over our heads, food in our bellies, and lots and lots of stuff. I know not one gal pal who does not have an over-flowing wardrobe ( okay, my sister-in-law is pretty good at the minimalist life style). I who don’t even like to shop for clothes, still have clothes and lots of it. None of us are without cell phones or computers. I think I currently have 4 different types of strollers for different scenarios with the kids (used, but still!) I could go on, but you get the idea.

I’m deep into trying to start up a photography business right now, so my attention has been pulled elsewhere. Yet I am still applying what I have learned from this challenge. In the past, when I came up with a scheme to start a business (yes, I’ve done it before: pet portrait artist, art card designer/seller) I’ve launched into it with the wrong focus: I needed all the stuff before I could be a legit business. That meant that I bought the display infrastructure, the packaging, the tent, the book-keeping ledger,the what-have-you, thinking that I needed it all to be professional.

This time, I’m approaching it differently. The motto is “fake it til you make it”. I refuse to exceed my earnings with start-up costs. With photography, it would be extremely easy to go out and buy equipment. There is always new and better stuff. But since my income is close to nil, close to nil is what I plan to spend. Luckily I already have the camera, I have the photo program, I have my skills. So far, what I’ve invested in is the website, and today some business cards (now that I’ve started to network I have been asked several times for my info). I will try to go as far as I can with this to test the waters before I invest more fully.

That isn’t to say that I am not serious about making this a successful business. Au contraire. This time I intend to apply some stick-to-it-ness. I have too often given up before starting, or given only a half-hearted attempt, so afraid of failure that I don’t try hard enough and give up too early. I want to be like so many people who have inspired me with their gumption, their fortitude and willingness to keep working hard at something.

Just saying all of this out-loud terrifies me. I am afraid of failure. But this time, I’m not going to let that be an obstacle.

S

Week 47: Winning

Week 47: Winning

Saturday:

Feelin’ kinda thrifty at this moment. Or, at least, like I’m playing the game a little better this week.

Some weeks, it seems like no matter how much I try, I end up having to spend. No matter that they are necessities, sometimes it just feels bad when large chunks of cash are going out and not the other way around.

Whether because of my own sloth or not, I managed to skip the weekly grocery shopping and just pull from my pantry and back of my fridge. It’s a bit challenging what with the kids needing constant snacks (those are the first things needing replenishing, always) but somehow we managed. Today we are down to the bare minimum, and a shopping trip is definitely required, but it was nice to empty out the pantry a bit and know that there is nothing moldering in the back corners.

And then, and then…I went online to shop for a new car seat. My littlest is finally about to outgrow her bucket seat (alas!) and it’s time for the next iteration. I have been mulling it over for quite a while because I want to be smart about it, I don’t want any unnecessary mid-step that will have to then be replaced again to the tune of several more hundreds of dollars. So, I did some calculating and realized that I can put my one year old into the seat my three year old currently uses, because it does have the rear-facing ability even though we aren’t using that for our eldest anymore. So…I can switcheroo her to a new car seat that will be a 3 in 1, ( it converts from a harnessed forward facing, to a booster with head support, to just a booster- the last car seat we’ll need to purchase for her essentially). Ta da! And it will also solve the problem of my eldest feeling jealous if she sees her baby sister get a new seat, we get to skip that drama all together- yay! And would you know what? Amazon prompted me to use my rewards points on a Discover card I haven’t use in a long time. I remembered suddenly that we probably did have a bunch of points because we’d done a lot of house reno purchases on that card, thinking we could redeem for flights to Canada…which turned out to not be so because Air Canada and thus it’s US affiliates don’t accept Discover ( long story). So those had been useless points to us.

Until now.

So…I got the whole car seat with just our points and with some to spare! Score!

So yeah, I’m feelin’ pretty good about that.

It also helps that I have extremely generous family. This week my mum-in-law paid for another round of music classes for the girls. No small chunk of change that is.

And then my sister-in-law went ahead and got some dance classes for my eldest.

I’m feeling really blessed right now.

 

Thursday, Mid-to Late Week Update:

I am so past my posting date that this is turning into a twofer. I’m not sure why, as it nears the end of this challenging, getting my posts up in time seems to get harder and harder…

So, after all that thriftiness I wrote about up there… well, I went to Ikea with my Aunt and the girls and did a small splurge. Some was necessary: art supplies we were running low on. At this stage, the girls just sort of make a mess with paint, and use too much, and wast the stuff, so Ikea’s paint and brushes are amazing for low budget supplies.

But then there was the splurge stuff, like the cloud shaped light I wanted for C’s room to complete the look. And a twin sized duvet with cover that matches the room. Not a necessity but a heart/completing-the-vision sort of need.

I won’t go into all the details. Suffice it to say that, there is still some “ping back” from being thrifty. When I do a good job of resisting, often I then unconsciously want to reward myself, and thus a small spending spree. I don’t know what to say about that. I feel like those ping backs are getting smaller; and I can recognize them for what they are.

I’ve also (if we’re here confessing) been obsessing over Blundstone boots. For some reason I have gotten it in my head that these would be the perfect boots for me as a mom: I like the golden brown ankle boot look, they are super long-lasting and durable, all weather for this climate and they pull on. I’ve gone browsing for them more than once. Luckily nothing has been in my size if they have the style I like, or vice verce. I’ve even gone as far as fantasizing that I’d eliminate 5 pairs of shoes if I got those. I’ve then sat staring at all the shoes I already possess in order to talk myself down. This is the first purchasing obsession I’ve had in a while. I will let you know how it all works out…so far I’m winning…I think…

 

S