What’s Next

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I don’t actually know the answer to that question.

The main work project I had going since mid-2009 (or earlier than that, actually — it started in 2008, though it went in fits and starts for a while) ended at the beginning of December. Now I’m trying to work through the things that had been neglected while I was taking care of that, and also trying to wrap up a few other projects that have been going on.

I have a lot of partially written posts, mostly random thoughts about frugality and lifestyle-type things, and I’m going to try to work through those and take a second look, finish what I can, and get posted.

My real-life food project for now is to try to eat for $100 a month including the food I buy for Scrap Exchange Third Friday receptions.

For the past year or two I’ve been making most of the food for the gallery openings, because the food I get is cheaper, better, and we don’t waste anything because I handle the leftovers and either freeze and use them again the next month (for instance crackers and juice) or incorporate into my next week’s meal planning (for instance crudité, which I can use in a stir fry). For 2011, I counted that as a separate budget line and didn’t worry too much about how much I was spending.

I just looked at the totals, and I averaged $42.04 per month for that line, including wine but not including food for the holiday party, which I was reimbursed for. (I spent about $150 on stuff for the holiday party, about half of which was used and reimbursed and the other half counted as grocery expense for me.)

My food average for the year was $101 per month which was much higher than expected due to a really stupid mistake I made with how my tracking system was set up.

[And I know probably no one cares about the details of this, but I’ll give them anyway, in the interest of full disclosure.

I used to track everything in Quicken, but it was on an old computer and when that computer finally died and I went to try to get a version of Quicken that would work on my new computer, I discovered it was $75, which seemed like a lot to pay for a program that I used only a tiny fraction of, and that left my historical data in a format that required a special program to access. I tried various alternatives and finally settled on an Excel spreadsheet for tracking day-to-day expenses that I would then transfer into a Filemaker database at the end of the year. The Filemaker database includes all of my historical data exported from Quicken in addition to the more recent data transferred from Excel. This has worked well.

I gave up on Quicken in 2009, but I wasn’t actually making any money at that point so tracking expenses wasn’t an issue. I know that might seem backwards, but my goal is to spend the right amount of money — when I have no money, the right amount of money to spend is none. I don’t need to track that. Also I think I was trying to be less OCD and not track so much, but in doing that, I discovered that I like tracking expenses, I find it relaxing. Also when I actually have money, it’s important because it keeps me from spending too little on things I do care about and too much on things I don’t care about.

So in 2011, I went back to looking at monthly expenses more carefully, but I was doing it out of Excel instead of the way I used to do it, and was figuring out a new system. The way I deal with grocery money is to put cash on a Whole Foods card and use that for my normal grocery purchases. This simplifies tracking and also lets me handle cash in a way that works better for me; if I run out of cash, I can still buy food.

In my tracking spreadsheet, I deducted the amount left on my Whole Foods card at the end of the month from the month’s total but I failed to add that amount to the following month’s expense. Duh. So I’m tracking and I’m like hmm this is interesting, this seems lower than I would have expected, guess things are just going well. And I spent money in a way that I wouldn’t have if I had actually had the right number. In December when I looked at the final totals in a different way and had the actual numbers come up I was like what?? And then I figured out what had happened and felt like a dumbass. But it was what it was, nothing to be done.]

So for 2012, I would like to spend $100 on food for me and Scrap combined, though I think I will exclude wine. Mostly I get two-buck Chuck (which is actually three bucks), but it still adds up. And I never use any of that for myself, unlike the food, which I end up using as needed.

If it turns out this endeavor seems worth writing about, I will. (And hopefully take some pictures, even I have started to miss not having any pictures on this blog. Where are the pictures? Maybe I’ll just start taking pictures of random things and posting them, since I can’t seem to manage to ever get any pictures taken of food.)

So anyway, that’s what’s going on here. For starters, I’ll try to get the odds and ends finished and posted and see how that goes, then take it from there.

Hope all is well with you.

2 Responses to “What’s Next”

  1. I forget…are you the friend who is related to M.F.K. Fisher?

    It’s funny but I had the same issue come up while I was tracking overtime hours. I wanted a way to carry over the hours from week to week, but until I caught myself, I was going to be adding last week’s overtime to this week every week and so I’d end up with the wrong numbers entirely. I need to subtract last week’s overtime once I’ve added it into this week.

    Good luck on this. $100 a month sounds reasonable to me.

  2. lessisenough Says:

    No, I am not related to M.F.K. Fisher … except possibly in spirit.

    Yes, an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re setting something up. I think the reason I didn’t catch it sooner was because I was trying so hard to not be OCD that I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been. Here I am not being obsessive just keeping a casual eye on this thing…

    I think the lesson there might be to either track stuff or don’t track it but if you try to do it a little bit, you might get it totally wrong.

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