Money saving week two has arrived! Hello and welcome back! This is week two of my money saving, spending only 100 dollars a week challenge. And dang did it get off to a rough start. But first, let’s quickly recap the previous week:
Last week my fridge was already stocked up with groceries so I knew that part of my budget would be minimal. The majority of my money honestly just went into feeding Cashew, my 65 pound lab mix. I’m not willing to compromise on her nutrition so I still buy her expensive dog food. I also spent twenty dollars on gas, just under 23 dollars on laundry supplies, and the rest were just minor groceries. I had 1.74 left at the end of last week, but it was just coins because I used cash for all of my purchases.
If you’re also thinking about starting this money saving challenge I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you take out 100 dollars in cash. You can see cash leaving your hands and dwindling with each purchase. That makes easier to track of because you literally can’t overspend it if it’s not physically there. Using your card makes it easy to overspend because you might forget that you spent money somewhere, and it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve actually spent.
So Friday rolls around and it’s the start of my second week of money saving. If you read my post last week you know I had the stomach flu and missed a few days of work. I thought I’d be well enough to work on Friday, I even came to work, but it became clear pretty quickly that I still was too ill to be working. Since this was my third day missing work, I had to get a doctors note… and the copay on that was $40!!! Consequently I only had sixty dollars to rock with for the rest of the week. This was the beginning stages of the very, very humbling week I had that really got me thinking:
There are people in this world to whom 100 dollars a week to spend on food, gas, and everything else would be a BLESSING, not a challenge.
Imagine living below the poverty line and being too sick to work. You’re losing money because you physically cannot work, and then on top of that you now have to spend money to see a doctor just to get a note for your job.
This is why people work when they have serious, contagious illnesses. They don’t have another choice! It’s so, so sad. It made me wonder: how little do people living in poverty actually make?
So I did a little research on what the poverty line is, and according to Google for a single persons income it’s 11,700. I live in Florida so it would be a little higher here but not by much. A report for Miami that said 12,500 so I’ll roll with that. I used the salary after taxes calculator and we see that the monthly income for someone living in poverty in Florida is only $944 after taxes.
How Expensive is Your State?
First of all, rent in Florida is ridiculous. You would be hard pressed to find anything below 800 a month here. And that would be a really shoddy place. Again, it depends on your location in Florida, I imagine rural areas would be less expensive. Car insurance in Florida is also CRAZY expensive. It’s beyond me why, but everyone who moves down here gets shocked. One guy I met from New York told me he was spending about 127 a month for car insurance there. In Florida they wanted to charge him 345 a month. I googled which state has the most expensive car insurance and Florida was in fourth place.
What I’m saying is, I cannot imagine a scenario where you could be at the poverty line and pay rent and drive a car — even if your car is paid off. That’s why so many people take the bus around here. Some can’t even afford that and have to ride their bikes everywhere. That doesn’t sound as awful as it actually is until I remind you again that we live in Florida— basically a giant humid mosquito swamp. Imagine riding your bike to work on a summer day when it’s 102 degrees, the sun is BEAMING because we are close to that equator, and it’s 100 percent humidity. Oh, and if you have to wait at a red light of for cars to pass you know those mosquitoes are coming for your sweaty little butt. All that and no chance of money saving for people living in poverty.
I didn’t realize just how privileged I was.
I can afford a car payment, the ridiculous insurance that goes with it, a phone bill that’s got unlimited everything, but if I tried to pay rent living on my own I would be cutting really, really close. In fact, I don’t think I could manage, but lucky for me I still live with my family for the time being. I was able to pay for rent on my own before I got Cashew. She was given to me by someone who had an accidental litter and I was told she would be medium-small. She ended up being a big dog which my condominium didn’t allow.
She’s a high energy dog, and because of that I needed to rent someplace with a yard. Something like that around were I live would be about 1000 a month in a questionable neighborhood, closer to 1400 for a nicer neighborhood. Straight up, I cannot afford that kind of rent. Definitely wouldn’t be any money saving happening if I lived alone. So I moved back home. I felt so discouraged about that at first, but now I see just how lucky I really am. There are people living in poverty who have to live with their families because they need to group their income together for survival–not for the sake of getting their dog a yard to play in.
Humanitarian rant over, let’s get back to money saving.
So now I have sixty dollars after the $40.00 copay. Cashew needed wet food this week, which is an extra 15 dollars. I get her dry food that has all the nutrients she needs, but she gets understandably bored eating the same thing. To combat this I would get tiny variety packs of wet food and mix them in with her dry food to make it more appetizing. But at 100 dollars a week, 15 of it going to wet dog food was steep. So I had to get creative.
I know that she loves sweet potatoes and that they’re good for dogs. At 89 cents a pound a couple of mashed sweet potatoes can last her the whole week. Obviously I only cook one at a time so it’s fresh. I mentioned I’m not willing to compromise on her nutrition, but her dry food has everything she needs and the wet food was just for flavor anyway. Besides, I think the sweet potatoes might be healthier for her because the wet food is loaded with preservatives and probably food coloring, flavor enhancers, etc.
Since this is for a dog I didn’t add any seasoning to the potato. It literally was just a (skin peeled) mashed sweet potato. I added purified water as I mashed it for a creamy consistency. A few tablespoons of this mixed into her dry food and bam she now has a healthier, more affordable wet food. Also, she LOVED it. Added bonus- it’s more eco friendly than the single use plastic containers her wet food came in. Yeah, I recycled them, but as we know only 9 percent of plastics actually get recycled so it’s best to avoid them if we can (I have a great article on that here).
Along with sweet potatoes, I also bought regular potatoes for myself, a bag of cranberries, limes and lemons, and some mushrooms by the pound. I got these from a produce stand near my house because it’s more affordable than the grocery chain by my house in that regard. However the produce stand rarely has fresh looking leafy greens so for those I did go to the grocery store. There I bought some Swiss chard, some sweet pickles, a couple bananas, and a bag of sugar. The trip at the produce stand cost $10.92, and at the chain grocery store I spent $8.67. This was on Saturday, day two of the week for me.
Money Saving Lesson Taught by Sugar
The sugar was another humbling experience. Usually I’ll get a nice agave syrup or maple syrup because they’re healthier. But when your grocery budget is 60 dollars and it’s still the beginning of the week you start questioning whether or not you can drop 15 dollars on a small bottle of maple syrup, or 8 dollars on a slightly larger bottle of agave. No, when you’re on that much of a budget you have no choice but to go for the giant bag of good old fashioned refined sugar for two dollars.
Once again I realized I thought I was saving money beforehand, but if you’re willing to compromise on quality for a while in order to reach a financial goal you’ll get there a lot more quickly. While I am not willing to play around with my dogs nutrition, I can make a few changes to mine. Also if I’m being honest it’s not like I was totally avoiding refined sugar anyway. You’ll definitely see me going to town on pastries if they’re around. Technically the maple syrup and agave are healthier, but it was no big deal for me to switch.
Aside from the sugar, nutritionally speaking I have been eating better by default overall. I can’t go out to eat for the next few months, meaning every meal has to be home cooked. Likewise, I can’t afford luxury mock meats (I’m vegan) because one bag of “beefless tips” is coming in hot $4.79 and it says 4 servings but who the heck are they kidding. I can eat the whole package with some rice and steamed broccoli. Those mock meats are delicious, but they’re mostly wheat fillers with some flavoring. And they’re not money saving friendly!
The Cheapest Calories Money Can Buy
Now it’s beans and lentils most of the time for protein, which are very nutritious and affordable. Also versatile because you can cook these pretty much anyway you want to. For carbs I stick to potatoes, oats, and rice; they’re affordable, filling, and way better than refined wheat breads. My best advice on veggies is to buy them only when you plan to use them. At this point I cannot afford to be throwing food away. I got the bunch of Swiss chard, I steamed it with water and fresh lemon juice, and I’ve portioned it out to have three servings, meaning I’ll have them for three meals.
My challenge starts on a Friday, I bought those veggies on a Saturday. By Tuesday they were all gone except for the potatoes. I went to the grocery store and bought a few more healthy veggies for my next few meals. I bought two cucumbers, some mixed greens for salad, and a bag of green beans. This cost me $6.08.
By Wednesday I realized I still had $34.33 left and only two days left for the money saving challenge this week.
Even with having that 40 dollar doctors visit! That means for the whole week so far I had only spent $25.67 on groceries!!! How is that possible?
Easy. I bet you can too. Look through your pantry. How much food do you have in there that you never got around to using? In there I had about 10 cans of different kinds of beans, some rice, pasta, and oats. I’ve been eating away at that slowly and it has been the bulk of my calories. I only bought fresh fruits and veggies and relied on what I already had that I never got around to using.
When I bought the Swiss chard I steamed and seasoned it. I took out a can of chickpeas I already had, and I made some rice which I also already had. I seasoned and cooked the chickpeas, and the three combined made for a meal. Three meals to be exact. The next veggies I used where the mushrooms I bought on Saturday. I had those with some mashed potatoes that I also made from the veggies bought on Saturday.
On Tuesday night I had a side salad with cucumbers, I cooked the green beans in a garlicky soy sauce I made, and I used more potatoes except I baked them this time.
Money Saving Tip: Use Whatever You Already Have
In order to save money on breakfasts I have been eating plain oatmeal which I already had in my pantry. I paired it with a banana a couple of times. For the rest of lunch and dinner for the week I used whatever I already had in my pantry–rice, beans, and pasta. The salad I bought lasted me all the way to Friday– and it was spring mix and I used the whole thing without tossing anything away!
As I’m writing this, it’s Friday, November 8th. The start of my third week. I still have enough salad and cucumbers to make one more small side salad. Also I have about 5-6 servings of pasta left which I made last night from a box in the pantry that had been sitting there for a couple of months. The majority of people I’ve spoken to have an overstuffed pantry–our family is no exception to this. Because of that, I was able to spend only $25.67 on groceries for the whole week!
Pretty much all of the groceries I bought were fresh veggies, and I based the bulk calories and proteins around the multitude of canned beans, rice, and pasta I already had. I didn’t need any toiletries this week, but I will for this coming week. All in all, I had a $40.00 co-pay at the doctors and just under 26 dollars on groceries.
I have a huge surplus on a week I thought I would be doomed!
Honestly, I really can’t quite believe it myself. I did not need gas; I really only went to work and back and any grocery trips were on the way back from work. No money was spent on entertainment. Was I bored? Nope! Because I now spend all my free time either working on this blog or playing with my dog. My friends and family have been very understanding about my money saving challenge. It’s very important to have people supporting you when you’re doing this. I imagine my success wouldn’t have been easy of my friends were pressuring me to go out. Likewise, My family has been very understanding when I refuse take out, and they haven’t complained about the very basic meals I’ve been making.
Another important point to mention is that my family has been eating some of the stuff I’ve made. Yes. These groceries fed me the whole week and even had some extra servings to give away!
On my next post I will share the complete breakdown of how a few changes in my grocery habits will save me LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. The change to sweet potatoes instead of wet dog food alone will save me over $700.00 in one year!
In the future post I’ll break down exactly how that works and other changes I’m making that will save so much money it’s got me realizing I was basically throwing it away before.
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I hope you have a fantastic day! Go out there and get to saving some money!