Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day 1 of Livin' The Dream: El Cheapo, which is Spanish for: The Cheapo.

Listening To: For the Love of Money by The O'Jays

So yesterday was the first day of my grand new goal of living on ten bucks a day. Usually when I wake up in the morning, the first thought on my mind is do I have enough time, between when I woke up and when I have to be at work, to grab some Starbucks. Seriously. I don't think about sex, I don't think about my goals for the day, I don't think about the weird dream I had last night. I think about Starbucks, and I will fully admit that some days it's the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

Not this particular morning, though. This chick is on a revolutionary new budget!

So I bounded out of bed and tried to remind myself of the reasons why I'm doing this, tried to be optimistic about how much I'm going to learn from it, how interesting it will be, blah blah blah. Then, after thinking more about it, I got a little cocky: I'd been to college. I know what it is to live on Ramen noodles for a month. When I lived in England during my volunteership at a youth shelter, the dilemma of whether I should eat that day or buy bus fare was a daily one. My first "real" job barely even covered rent much less gas, groceries, and all the other expenses of setting up your first apartment. I didn't even have a phone or any real furniture (save for my ultra-classy futon mattress) until about a year after I moved in.

So I've done this before. Yet it's really depressing that I'm back in the same place. That I haven't actually progressed beyond scraping by. Things have gotten better for periods of time, but god...I would just really like to say goodbye to this cycle and know that I'll never ever have to here ever again.

But for now I am, so let's get on with it.

The challenge today is to figure out how to buy gas, groceries, and shampoo on only ten bucks. Tough order the first day out, but like I said before, I'm scrappy. I'm resourceful.

I'm also super lucky, because that morning I strolled into my work lunchroom and noticed a huge sheet cake left over from an open house we had last week. I don't know if you know this about me, but one of my most beloved fantasies is to be able to eat cake every single day. So instead of having to spend 65 cents on a candy bar from the vending machine for breakfast, I did a little happy dance and ate a piece of the free dessert.

All day long the mantra, "Make smart choices" reverberated in my head. Feeling thirsty after eating another piece of cake during my break (most likely from the copious amounts of thick, frothy frosting I had just inhaled), I reached for my coin purse out of instinct to grab some change for a Diet Coke. Then I stopped myself: I'd be running around with a client for the next hour and a half, so I wouldn't even really get to drink it, much less enjoy it. I think somebody once said that water's healthier than pop, too...and it's free. Check, check - smarter choice made.

Over my lunch break I decided that I might need a little bit more sustenance than just cake, so I headed out to the nearby gas station in search of cheap food. Again, everything is a choice: I chose not to go to the grocery store a few miles down the road because even though chances are the food is cheaper, the extra gas spent getting there would probably just balance it out. Would I rather eat fairly cheap cans of soup for a week rather than bologna sandwiches? Yes. However, I also have bologna and butter left over from last week's groceries, so it makes the most sense to just buy a loaf of bread for $1.29.

I took a shot at the shampoo. Back in plushier times, this girl might’ve splurged for fancy-type shampoo, like Pantene or maybe even Herbal Essences. Nuh-uh...not any more, bitches! Besides, don’t those commercials for Suave even say that you can’t tell the difference? However, priced at $2.39 via Holiday gas station, I decide to either wait for an opportunity to buy it elsewhere or buy it the next day, when I'll have more flex in my budget.

I still had my sweet, sweet vehicular machine to fill with gas: $8.70, which maybe got me three gallons of gas, putting me just above the half-tank mark. But...my daily spending comes out to one cent short of ten dollars, a fact of which I am unabashedly elated by as I cruise on out of the parking lot.

That evening I tagged along with a friend on some errands, which included a stop at Target. While I perused the aisles, I noticed that Suave was priced at only 97 cents ($1.07 with sales tax). Even though I had already spent my daily budget on food and gas, I decided to buy the shampoo since the price was better than at the gas station. I knew I'd have to subtract $1.07 from the next days' budget, but I also knew that at least I'd be doing that math in shiny clean hair...

And, as luck would also have it, my generous and ultra-wonderful roommate gifted me with two Lean Cuisines he had scored but didn't want. I love free food!

Final Countdown: Loaf of bread, $1.29/3 gallons of gas, $8.70/shampoo, $1.07 = $11.06, which brings me to -$1.06.


dan said...

Hm. Poor Britney will have to do with one less new album sale today...


Erica said...

I am la-la-loving this new blog. Your writing is funnier that ever and the subject is actually really interesting. Really, who hasn't been in that situation before? Keep the faith.

Amber said...

Word on the street is that she won't be suffering the loss of my sale...I heard her album was flying off the shelves today.

Erica! I'm so glad you like it! Thanks for the encouragement - I really do appreciate it.