Amanda Dorough | She's Paying It Off

The Story of My Journey to Debt Freedom, One Tiny Step at a Time


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No Spend Challenge 2020: MARCH Recap

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Well that didn’t go as planned…

Me on March 1:  Yay!  I have so many awesome things planned in the next couple of months!  2020 is going to be great!

Me on April 1: *glazed over eyes* If I really ration my toilet paper I may be able to make it ’til May…

While we were all hyper-aware of Covid 19 a month ago it was still so foreign to most of us and mostly a joke to the American public.  Now stay at home orders are in place, TP is worth its weight in gold, and the “curve” is definitely not flattening.

Looking back on March it was a fairly successful month, both because I put forth the effort and because I didn’t have the choice.  While it feels weird to talk about going out, having fun, and social wins right now, in order to do March justice and celebrate the good things I’ve done when it comes to my No Spend Challenge I’m still going to write about it here.

Now just note the most of these things I’m writing about took place BEFORE all the social distancing and stay at home orders were put in place.

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So let me start with slip ups…

Honestly, I didn’t slip up to bad.  I got a drink from chickfila once to go along with a free sandwich (I know it’s sooooo bad, but it broke my wants vs needs rule)… but at this point, weeks later I can’t even remember what my other “slip up” was.  I know it didn’t break the bank at least so that’s what matters.

I did, unfortunately, have to get a root canal done, which was unexpected BUT because I had set money aside in January/February I had more than enough to cover it, which was encouraging.

Now some cool things from the month…

-So I’m a paramedic and a lot of events like to offer first responders discounts or free tickets, especially when the events don’t sell out.  It is actually really cool and generous.  Anyway, I never really paid attention to them in the past because they’re usually pretty last minute, but now that I’m trying to enjoy my year while simultaneously spending as little as possible I thought it would be worth a look.  That’s how I managed to score tickets to a Houston Roughnecks XFL game (off-season professional football) and had a ton of fun!  I went with my work partner and only ended up spending $7.50 on ticketmaster fees to get our tickets, tickets that would have been $50 each not including the fee if we’d had to pay for them!  We also parked away from the stadium so parking was free and the subway style train is free in Houston on Sundays so we didn’t have to pay for that!

*Note these kind of deals also apply to active military and veterans so if you fit into that category you should definitely look into it! (It’s called 1sttix.org for first responders and vettix.org for veterans)

-Speaking of free things to do, Movies.  I refuse to pay to go to the movies this year (unless it’s a date) so that led me into the world of advance screenings.  I’ve been using advancescreenings.com which lets you look up your city and then gives you links as to where to get the passes.  It can sometimes be hard to score a ticket, depending on how popular the movie or actor is, but if you can it’s an awesome opportunity.  I got to go to an advance screening for “I Still Believe” earlier in the month when movies were still allowed and I had a great time.  The only thing to note is even if you score a pass a seat isn’t guaranteed.  Get to the theater early (like about 45 minutes for a regular movie; a lot more for a popular one) to get your actual ticket.  Now obviously this isn’t something you can take advantage of at the current moment, but as soon as the theaters reopen, go for it!

-A big win for me…I used my creativity to finally get some things done that had been on my list.  Like finishing a “painting” I started about a year ago but didn’t have the inspiration to finish. I also turned an old, grimy, used up Bath and Body works candle jar into a votive holder for a pillar candle that had been sitting in my closed for years.  Now I can use it during my relaxing at home bath “spa” time.

– I found several apps on my fire TV that offer free shows and movies which is awesome!  I’m currently working my way through “The Middle” on IMDB TV.  There is around 1 (singular) commercial every episode, but for enduring the 1 commercial I get free entertainment.  That’s soooooo much better than HULU which makes you pay AND watch more commercials.

Now for some Stats…

Side hustle income: $48, so not even half my goal of $100.  With social distancing though, once that went into effect I couldn’t justify going out to complete most audits.  Some, like restaurant based audits were canceled too.  (This doesn’t include the 72 hrs I worked at my part time job)

Money to Debt: $2462.97 (This includes minimums)

Now here comes April… In about a week and a half they’re expecting a big surge in Covid-19 cases so my full time job changed up our schedule from 48 on/96 off to 24 on/48 off until the middle of May.  Overall it’s not a massive inconvenience but it does mean two things…

  1.  I’ll be driving to and from work twice as often so I’ll be spending more money on gas.
  2. I won’t be able to pick up as many shifts at my part time job if any.

I guess we’ll see how it all goes.  Until then, keep social distancing everyone!  Let’s prove all the models and projections wrong. And for everyone stuck at home having to get creative, I’d love to see all the ways you’re saving money or upcycling things you have, feel free to share!

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No Spend Challenge 2020 FEBRUARY Recap

Picture_20200308_134942945(*Now, just to make a note, I share the following just to share my experience through this no spend challenge and my debt free journey hopefully inspire others.  These are my own experiences, my own wins and challenges that I mainly share because I know it inspires me to read about what other people are doing or have done as well.)

Hello Everyone!  We made it to March!  Two months down, many more to go.  I’ve admittedly meant to sit down and write this blog for days now but I’ve been enjoying a good mix of living and relaxing that I can’t complain about.

So let’s get to it.  February was actually a pretty good month.  I stuck to my guns and had no big slip-ups outside of my “needs” and allowances!

That being said I did have a couple disappointments financially…

  • I paid more in electricity than I wanted to.  I’ve had a lot of issues with my Thyroid for years.  In December I went through my second round of radioactive iodine to essentially kill it off.  Well, needless to say it worked and I have been FREEZING for the last month which meant turning up the heat in my apartment a bit (because even wearing layers couldn’t compensate).  It only came out to $53 but that was $10 more than January which in the grand scheme is pretty freaking good, just disappointing to me.
  • I went through a couple tolls for convenience’s sake.  For the most part I avoid them, and I actually allow for some toll usage in my budget, but I try to record each time I do it.  In February I didn’t.  I know I’m being nit picky, but every little bit counts.
  • I was going to cancel Disney Plus but was trying to finish the Mandalorian first.  Well I finally finished The Mandalorian but missed canceling Disney Plus by one day (facepalm) so I’ll have it for one more month.

Now for the good things in February!

  • I cash flowed my taxes!  I know this may sound weird, but I saved more than enough in January to pay the $950 plus preparation fees etc. which feels good.
  • I successfully completed my Pantry Challenge!  From the middle of January until the end of February I was cooking solely from my cabinets with the exception of staples like milk, eggs and fruits/veggies.  I won’t lie, there were days where leftovers felt like the worst thing ever, and the firefighters I work with would make fun of me for it (all in jest) but I spent <$50 on groceries in 6 weeks.  That is a win.
  • I was on top of things with my good habits challenge!  I finished 5 books in February which blew my goal of 2 books out of the water.  I also followed my oral care plan to the T.  I had a dentist appt on the 27 for a cleaning and the hygenist commented that I had almost no build up!  Hooray!  I still have a lot of things I need to fix, but for the time being, I’m not doing further damage.
  • I found out about the Texshare card!  I was disappointed to learn that my library didn’t have a few books I wanted and it would cost me $3 per book to do an interlibrary loan.  My library does however participate in the Texshare program which allows members in good standing to go to other participating libraries to check out books, which means, I can go to the Austin libraries and get the books I wanted, for free!

Free and fun stuff…

  • February was Black History month and for a couple select days I found out Regal Theaters was offering free screenings of Harriet so I decided to take advantage of it and I’m so glad I did!  Going to the movies, or moreover paying for movies (outside of dates) isn’t allowed on my wants vs needs list so it was fantastic to get to enjoy the theater.  It also opened up a whole world of free advance screenings to me, so, after some research, it looks like I may be getting to enjoy more free movies in the future.  Don’t worry I’ll share details so you can enjoy it too when I know more!
  • I went to Mardi Gras Galveston with my friend/work partner Shannon.  This is the third year I’ve been and it’s just so much fun (and no, unlike popular belief you don’t have to do crazy things to get beads, at least not in Galveston).  I used my social budget to get some food that day, but made wise choices.  We also found free parking for everything even though it meant walking a little farther.
  • I got lots of free products to try and free food!  The Field Agent app gave me the opportunity to try a lot of toiletry products for free and then through Field Agent and other apps I got free Little Ceasers, Sonic, and Panda Express.  I’m obviously not eating out during my no-spend challenge (outside of my social allowances) so I’ll take everything I can get!

Overall I was able to put $1981.75 toward debt in February!  Heck yes!

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Finally, since I haven’t said anything about it, I went on a trip to Washington State to visit my family and friends at the end of January/Beginning of February.  This trip was planned prior to my deciding to do the spending fast and it was so worth it.  In all, not including the flight, which I bought last year, I spend $310.  This included….

  •  Ski equipment rental for two days of skiing (my dad blessed me by paying for the lift tickets and condo we stayed in)
  • Buying the groceries for the three days of the ski trip with my dad.
  • Taking my mom out to see a movie.  She covered dinner and I covered the movie.  It was a good night out with my mom.
  • Going on a hiking adventure with my oldest friend.  She drove, so I paid for lunch.
  • Lunch at Dicks drive-in on an adventure day with my sister’s family.
  • Supplies to make bath bombs with my niece.
  • The airport parking fees for my car in Austin for a week.

So there you have it!  Onward to making March the most successful month yet!

 


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No Spend Challenge 2020: My Wants vs. Needs List

Hello all!  Quick catch up in case you’re new to this space or didn’t read my previous post (which you can find here).  Starting on January 1, 2020 I would be completing a no-spend challenge.  My plan is to do the challenge for 6 months and then reevaluate.  At that point I’ll either continue for the rest of the year, downgrade to more of a “spending diet,” or I’ll stop completely (which honestly I don’t anticipate).

The basic framework of a no spend challenge is spending money only on needs, no wants, for the 6 months (or more).  The definition of a need is honestly different for everyone, barring some obvious line items such as rent or food.  So, these past few weeks I’ve really marinated on the concept of wants vs needs and thoroughly debated what I can truly consider a need and what I can give up (aka wants) for the duration of the challenge.  Y’all I got really specific when it came to some things on my list.  Some were super easy to give up, but others I had to really consider.  Lots of needs, lots of wants, and lots of items falling into the situational gray area in between.

So, without further ado, and for the sake of accountability, I’m going to share that list with you all today!

Here we go!

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(Note: An asterisk * indicates a gray area and it will be further explained at the bottom of the list)

Needs

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Fuel
  • Car maintenance and repairs (plus savings for registration)
  • Cell Phone Service
  • Health: Doctor, Dentist, Optometrist, medications, vitamins
  • Continuing Educations (for Paramedic License)
  • Chiropractor & Massage (because of tension and headache issues)
  • Gym Membership
  • Hair Dye
  • Hulu/Netflix*
  • Amazon Music
  • Tolls*
  • Art supplies for paintings (but only as I need it)
  • Social Budget*

Needs will also include any item I use frequently if I run out of it, but only if I run out.  ie. Shampoo, Toilet Paper, Bubble Bath (aromatherapy to help with headaches and much cheaper than bath bombs), etc.

Wants

  • New clothes
  • Alcohol
  • Candles
  • Bath Bombs
  • Costco (membership ends 8/2020)
  • Disney + & Prime*
  • Redbox*
  • New Makeup
  • things because they’re on clearance
  • Craft Supplies
  • Almost everything on my amazon wishlist
  • Eating Out
  • Travel*

The Gray Areas

  • Tolls:  Austin is littered with toll roads.  I live just east of the city and it’s seriously difficult to get anywhere, especially on the north side, without hitting tolls.  I’m going to be further challenging myself to avoid tolls and find creative backroads to get where I need to go.  That being said I will occasionally allow myself to go through a toll if a time crunch or situation requires it.
  • Hulu:  I have access to the Xfinity app through my parents and can watch most network shows available on Hulu using that.  Currently some of the Hulu original content, as well as Letterkenny, are keeping me from pulling the plug though, we’ll see…I have to weigh this one further.
  • Disney Plus and Prime:  I haven’t been to impressed with Disney Plus so far and haven’t found it to be worth it (yet).  I’m going to let my subscription go through January so I can finish the Mandalorian then I’ll cancel.  Then as far as Prime, my plan lasts through July 2020 and I that time I don’t plan to renew it.
  • Social Budget:  This is something many cut out but I find that my current life situation calls for more of a cutting back than cutting out.  I’m dating currently and want to be able to contribute to the costs of dates occasionally (because honestly, no one wants to be with a mooch).  I’m also living in a new city and therefore give myself a small budget for social activities so I can hopefully make friends and build a support system. Life is far too lonely without close friends nearby.  Also under this heading is a small budget for eating out.  I have a traditional monthly goal setting session at Panera that I’m not willing to give up, and I also want to give myself the freedom to buy into a meal with the firefighters I work with (usually $5) a couple times a month.
  • Redbox:  I have a bunch of redbox codes I’ll allow myself to use because they’re already paid for, I just won’t be buying new ones.
  • Travel:  As I mentioned in my last post, I have one definite trip to Washington planned during the challenge as well as a possible trip to Alaska to visit friends (using airmiles) and a possible roadtrip to Dallas to visit my cousin.  If all these occur I will just be approaching them from a super frugal perspective and incorporating as many parts of the no spend challenge into the trips as I feasibly can.

So there you have it.  I realize I have a lot of gray areas but really, as we all know life isn’t always black and white.  I’m laying these all out here today so, like I said, I can keep myself accountable and y’all can too.  I’m also putting this on here as a reminder that some spaces in my wants vs needs are flexible, but even that flexibility has limits and I need to stick to the bounds I set for myself.

T-minus 10 days and counting.  Then the fun really begins!

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