My Weekend Money Diary: Edition #2

What happens when someone who’s “good at money” tracks their spending the old school way? With a pen and paper and not using an automated system like Mint?

Inspired by the Man Repeller and Refinery29 money diaries, I thought it’d be fun to see what happens when I track my spending for a weekend. Although I’m conscious about my overall spending, I’m at a point where I don’t feel the need to review purchases line by line. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for surprises.

This weekend’s theme: Amazon Rampages, Perrier Pop Ups, and understanding Zombie Rote Mode

Friday Night

When my husband and I first moved in together, we thought it would be cute to pretend it was a business merger and give ourselves “job titles” based on what we’re good at. One of my job titles is “VP of Supply Chain Planning”. Basically, that means household supplies like toilet paper and paper towels need to be rolling at all times. And let me tell you, I’m killing it at this job. There has never been a single instance where we’ve ever run out of any household supply. Pro-tip: It’s time to buy new supplies once something is ⅔ empty; don’t wait until it’s on its last leg.

So tonight I rummage around the house doing inventory and realize we’ve got to re-up on quite a lot. It’s time to go on what I like to call, an “Amazon Rampage”. An “Amazon Rampage” is when I go hog-wild on every single household item we could ever need, as if it were an apocalypse and our last opportunity to hoard supplies before the world ends. And now that our landlord gave us storage in the basement (a total luxury here, really!), buying in bulk is easier than ever.

Today I order 24 Bounty paper towels rolls, 24 Charmin Ultra Strong toilet paper rolls, 2 40-lb bags of Feline Pine cat litter, and 1 box of Ziploc storage quart bags. $117.56

My husband is now asking me where the sunscreen is, which makes me realize almost all our bottles are empty. I place a second Amazon order for 4 bottles of sunscreen. $29.22

Friday Total: $146.78

Saturday

Everybody says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, it isn’t for me. I know, blasphemy! I never buy it at work, either. It’s just not that important to me, so if there is no breakfast food around the house, or for free at work, I don’t eat it, period. I actually can’t have coffee and food at the same time, because coffee fills me up! So today is nothing new: I wake up and drink coffee first thing. Then an hour later I eat a bowl of Cheerios.

I plan on working on the blog for most of today, so to avoid feeling like a total shut in, I go for a 3-mile run in the park. In 85 degree weather.

When I get back to the house I check the fridge for lunch. I warm up a leftover tart from the previous night’s dinner, grab a string cheese (because I’m an 8-year-old), and a peach my husband got from his latest farmer’s market haul.

Tart lunch with string cheese and a peach

A pair of bananas on the counter are looking sad, only one day away from fruit flies central. It breaks my heart to waste food. We have a lot of baking staples, so I ask my husband: hey, should we use them up and make banana muffins? He’s on board with my plan. He usually grabs breakfast out during the week, so I figured he could just eat these instead to save money.

And ugh, I go take a shower and realize I need to place yet a THIRD online order of the weekend. Oh my god, I’m falling down on the job here. So, I’ve discovered Amazon really sucks in inventory and pricing for certain things, like cling wrap and shampoo. The prices for those things seem too expensive, so first I cross-checked the Rite Aid weekly sales flyer. Nothing I need is on sale. Then I start Googling to compare prices. I found a Pantene bundle of shampoo and conditioner for $5.99 at Target, and they have the cling wrap for a decent price, too. Target, it is! In addition to the shampoo and cling wrap, I also order Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap refills, charcoal face sponges, Dove body soap, Kleenex tissue boxes and to-go packs, and Puffs Plus Lotion Softpacks. $55.43

Damn, over $200 at Amazon and Target? There goes our monthly household supplies budget.

Husband does a grocery run from the fancy-pants market close by. He buys a half-dozen eggs, chorizo sausage, shredded parmesan cheese, and two limes. $18.96

For dinner he makes swiss chard pesto penne with chorizo. (BTW, his household title is Chief Domestic Officer, which includes most food prep). We have wine in the fridge, but I’d rather save it for another time when I’m actually stressed out.

Saturday Total: $74.39

Sunday

The breakfast muffins are now obliterated. Because we only had two bananas, we had to halve the recipe. The muffins turned out to be about the third the size of a regular muffin so the obvious thing to do was to eat two or three at a time. So much for my plan to save on breakfasts during the week.

For breakfast I had the last of the muffins plus a kiwi. Oh, and the usual coffee, too.

Kiwis and banana muffins

Earlier in the week, I was checking out Spoiled NYC for stuff to do this weekend and came across a Perrier Pop-Up in Soho. Its offerings: a ball pit, Big Gay Ice Cream, tote bags designed by you, and unlimited Perrier. I’m so in, solely because of the ball pit situation (remember I said I’m an 8-year-old?).

Before I leave the house, I inhale my lunch because I don’t want to get hungry while I’m out and end up dropping money on mediocre food. Luckily, I forgot to bring one of my homemade lunches earlier in the week, so it’s still hanging out in the fridge. This lunch is always a production to make: quinoa, edamame, arugula, grape tomatoes, eggs, avocado, and chicken nuggets.

I meet my friends in Soho in the afternoon. After we got the ball pit out of our systems, we get some Perrier drinks and try the birthday cake flavored ice cream. I’m wondering why the universe has deprived me of birthday cake ice cream until now. It’s freaking delicious. I pass on the tote bags; they’re super cute, but I’ve got a million totes at home. No need to bring more clutter into the house just because it’s free, right? They also had a vending machine where everyone got a fun surprise: I got a watermelon blow-up drink cozy. Really cute but kinda useless.

Perrier Pop Up ball pit in NYC

Since they’re just a block over, we stop by a couple shops: Derek Lam, Rag & Bone and then A.P.C. At A.P.C. there are a pair of flatforms I’ve been eyeing online and I need to investigate them in person. Shoes retail for $425. I take a pic of them on my feet because sometimes I trick myself into just imagining something looks good. But pics don’t lie. Pic tells me they look good, so yes! But the shoes are a little loose on my feet, so I still need to sleep on it.

I’ve got blog stuff to do so I head home on the subway. But it’s Sunday and the panic is starting to settle in: shit, it’s my last chance to get lunch supplies for the week, or else I’m gonna have to buy food out. I make a pitstop at Trader Joe’s.

Since it’s almost 5pm, I decide to stray from the usual meal plan. Here’s why: I’ve discovered that the best time for me to make my meals for the week is when I’m in “Zombie Rote Mode”. “Zombie Rote Mode” (ZRM) is a period of time when you’re most susceptible to completing boring, repetitive tasks, like meal prepping. For me, ZRM happens right after I wake up on the weekends, before I’ve had a chance to start my day. And that’s when I have the best chance of actually following through on meal prepping. So, I know that at 5pm today on a Sunday there is no way in hell I’ll be putting together my usual lunch, which involves cooking four things, then assembling seven separate items into five different Tupperwares. Nope, I’ve gotta set myself up for success; I need something easier than that right now. I get two salad kits and plan to throw in a few chicken nuggets from the freezer to make the meals more substantial. I also get some bananas and pita chips to round out the whole lunch.

In the freezer aisle, I discover an absolute travesty. THE MOCHI IS GONE. My beloved mochi, the green tea one, was $3.99 here. The same box cost twice as much anywhere else in the city, so Trader Joe’s was my go-to source. I ask a nearby worker what’s the deal. He says he thinks they’re discontinued, probably because Trader Joe’s is going to come out with their own mochi. I settle on something new–Trader Joe’s key lime pie for $5.99. Our favorite key lime pie is Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies in Red Hook. However, it’s definitely expensive, like, $17.99 expensive. I’m hoping the 10-inch pie for $12 less will be a decent substitute. $15.92

Trader Joe's haul

My husband had to drop someone off outside of the city today, so I’m on my own for dinner. I look around in the cabinets and find a pack of Neoguri ramen. It’s my favorite ramen because you don’t have to add anything to it; it’s already packed with flavor. I stock up on these in Chinatown for these exact times: when I’m feeling too lazy to put something together. Who cares if it’s 85 degrees and not soup weather? Not me.

Neoguri ramen
After I have a slice of the Trader Joe’s key lime pie for dessert, and it’s more than edible. Husband approves, too. I’ll definitely be picking it up in the future, now that the mochi is gone.

Sunday Total: $15.92

Weekend Total: $237.09

Money Diary #2: My Weekend Spending

Frugal Fails

The amount we spend on household supplies continues to bug me. Our monthly budget is $75, which we always max out. And now we’re over budget because the vacuum cleaner broke last month and it cost $140 to fix it. Or maybe I never budgeted for it realistically in the first place. When I first moved in with my husband I didn’t account for the furniture and other necessary set-up costs. Did this introduce a fatal flaw into my budget? Overlooking non-recurring spends like vacuum cleaner repairs, a houseplant, or a new laundry hamper? I wonder if this set us off onto a bad path of having an unrealistic budget and then getting annoyed by “overspending” so regularly.

Frugal Wins

No spend on eating out, clothes, entertainment, or exercise!

Is there a spending category that continues to haunt you? How much do you spend on home supplies every month? Any tips for how to get that spending down?

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  • I really wish I could get our food spending down! It’s one of our only expenses, but I know there is work that would be done there. Because of where we live, we don’t have a ton of options, so I guess I’ll just have to become a ninja at reading the flyers every week. Gosh, living frugal is so glamourous eh?

    • I used to live in a smaller city and it was a million times easier to be frugal there! I wonder how I’d do if I lived where you do…I think food is a big one for a lot of people, but I guess it can be justified because it’s directly related to health, right?

  • Teddy Luxband

    “No money spent on exercise”? Uhhhhhh, what about the $117.56 for the privilege of lugging 97 Lbs of Amazon stuff upstairs in 90 degree weather? Shouldn’t part of that be allocated to the “exercise” line on Mint? — Your Loving Husband, Teddy_Luxband.

    Also, great post, hon!

  • Love the 4 zeroes on the last image. I need to learn from you to stock up on things. My main fail is to not stock up on canned/dried foods. Because when everything is still frozen and the willingness to do an elaborate cooking magic is zero, I always turn to delivery instead. Which is so bad when I can just easily make sardines or noodles. Your posts are always so elaborate and informative! Two thumbs up!

    • Hey Ellya!

      Buying things in bulk is a game changer. It’s an inefficient use of my time to keep going out every week to buy household things. I think the paper towels will last for 2-3 months, and the toilet paper a minimum of a month. But I also think I’m a natural planner so it’s a little easier for me to think ahead about stuff. Usually when I get delivery I’ll only eat half and save the rest for lunch the next day!

      Thanks for the thumbs up! I always want my stuff to be useful 🙂

  • Mrs. Frugal Hacker

    It’s awesome that you guys also have a designated Supply Chain person in the household. Mr. FH does all of that for us and I own the kitchen/cooking responsibilities 🙂 Is there a Costco around you for household supplies? We’ve done price comparisons for most of our big recurring purchases and find pretty good savings at Costco. We’ve spent ~$230/mo for the past 6 months in the grocery + household supplies category (2 adults). https://www.frugalhackers.com/blog/2017/6/24/hacking-costco-true-frugal-hacker

    • Hi Mrs. Frugal Hacker,

      It’s funny. I saw that post and I showed it to my husband as inspiration, haha! I was like, hmm, we could learn a thing or two from these guys. And the list of what you buy from there was very helpful. We do have a Costco but I think we’d need to rent a car to make the best use of it. Otherwise we could just get the stuff that could fit inside a granny cart. I did get a membership one year and we bought stuff from there once, and never went back again. I looked on their website this past weekend and if they had more stuff I could order online then it would be a game changer!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Sophie

    Loved reading this! My husband and I are just getting around to budgeting and groceries always set us back anywhere from $120-$200 a week. Really should start doing this.

    • Hey Sophie,

      Thanks for reading! And I’m glad you and your husband are starting to revisit your budget. Even money ppl like me have to do it periodically as priorities change. I found that writing down all my purchases really made me stop and think whether it was worth it or not. Would love to see a money diary on your blog!

  • Wow $0 on drinks and dining out in NYC. That is some self control there. I don’t think it would be possible for me to do that there…..

    We are HUGE Amazon people at our house. We have the front door mat that says “This House Runs on Amazon Prime”

    Subscribe and Save is huge for us to save extra, and make sure we never run out. Every month we do a run through of everything, checking stock levels, and then order what we need. We can also check prices to make sure we are getting a good price.

    I am also very jealous of people that have Trader Joes and Publix….Arkansas is sorely lacking in good cheap grocery options. It is a great place to restock the wine cabinet when we go out of state….

    • Ha, sounds like we should get that mat, too! At least the mailman will have a heads-up on how insufferable all our deliveries will be. I know SnS is a time-saver but I can’t seem to pull the trigger on that, for fear that the deliveries will come too soon.

      Yeah, but do you have an Aldi? I keep seeing other bloggers shopping there, and we don’t have that.

      • Nope No Aldi either. Kroger, Wal Mart, Whole Foods, or Fresh Market for us. There is talk of a Sprouts potentially but that has not come to fruition.

        With SnS, you can choose what you want delivered, and it is easy to skip a month if you can make it last, or if the price is too high. Really makes it easy to manage.

  • Today I order 24 Bounty paper towels rolls, 24 Charmin Ultra Strong toilet paper rolls, 2 40-lb bags of Feline Pine cat litter, and 1 box of Ziploc storage quart bags. $117.56

    ಠ_ಠ that’s so expensive what in the world NYC!!!

    The TJ’s broccoli salad is so good!! I think I’m going to make a graphic for my next income report too! Yours is so cute!!!

    • The 24 rolls are the huge/mega size, cost about $23, and last for months!

      I just ate the broccoli salad. I had low expectations but it was surprisingly tasty! Girl, I stayed up until 3am making that graphic, lol. Proceed with caution!

  • The Perrier Pop Up shop looks like so much fun…which makes me wonder, how long was the line?! I miss NY because of these fun things that go on all summer long! Looks like we both failed to find our TJ’s gems last week! I can’t believe they’re discontinuing the mochi!

    I hate the household purchases category too, mostly because I don’t have a separate budget for it. I usually roll it into Shopping, so then I’m banned from buying any fun stuff when I have to drop crazy $$ for household cleaner and soap. Another category that used to stress me out was Travel because I didn’t really have a great system for budgeting this and was always booking too many things in a month. It’s been better ever since setting up a rolling Travel category (so it builds up $200/month at a time), and then when I need to drop money, it stresses me out way less!

    • Actually, I went on the last day in the afternoon and there was no line! There was a little line for the ball pit, but that’s to be expected. I’ve been conditioned to go to everything early here, because I’ve been burned too many times…

      Apparently, mochi is still avail at the TJ’s in SF so I’d def jump on it now just in case.

      Yeah, it’s really interesting to see how people define their spending categories. For me, shopping is clothes, shoes and jewelry. House and home is a separate thing. I’d recommend making it into its own category. I have a budget for travel, too, and I agree, it makes those purchases wayyyy less painful.

  • Tim Kim

    Nice Neoguri! That and Shin Ramen are my favorites. I like Neoguri a little more because it’s a little bit more of a “sea-foody” and umami flavor, and also because the noodles are a bit thicker. I know this sounds gross, but I can eat 4 of those at one go….yeah…

    • Neoguri is the bomb! I love the thicker noodles and how flavorful the broth is. Seriously never eating Maruchan or Top Ramen again!

      4 at a time? Oh man, all that sodium…

  • YES to Neoguri! One of my favorite cheap meals. I usually add eggs, kimchi, green onion, and seaweed to make it more filling and healthy.

    I use several tricks to save on house supplies and food:

    -Shoppers Drug Mart here in Canada has an amazing points program, so I usually buy my things there and only when they’re on sale. Even if I don’t need something right away, I’ll usually have an appropriate amount of backups to avoid buying at full price. I also use the Shoppers app which gives me coupons and specials so that I can earn points faster. Then I redeem points for more household items I need. Do you know of a drugstore that has a similar points program in the USA/NY?

    -I’m very stingy with paper towels. I only use them for drying food, etc. otherwise I use reusable rags whenever possible

    -for food, I usually review the local flyers from that week and plan my meals around whatever is on sale. It helps to add variety to our diet that way too.

    -once a month I’ll dedicate a day to running around town to the off-price stores and Costco to stock up on certain things that we can use throughout the month. Sometimes it’s worth it to shop outside of the downtown area that I live in.

    • Oh wow, Neoguri is already delicious by itself! Did not know how next-level it could be with extra toppings! I have some fish cake in the freezer too I could just add in.

      Sounds like you had some solid money-saving tactics in Canada. I don’t know of any supermarket near me that has a points program, except the local market. But the items there are more expensive anyway, so I think the savings end up cancelling each other out. Whole Foods here has an app with special deals, so if you shop there, definitely download the app, too!

      Drugstores here all have rewards programs. I’m part of them but never seem to rack enough points to actually get anything, even after being a loyal customer. But yeah, you scan your card and then you get coupons with your receipt. My favorite drugstore here is Rite Aid, as they seem to have the better selections and sales.

      Actually, I’ve been thinking about the paper towels and seeing if we could get away with just using rags. I think we’ve just gotten accustomed to using paper towels all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re 100% necessary.

      Thank you for the thoughtful reply!

      • Sounds like I’ll be missing Shoppers once I move!

        Paper towels are so convenient but I would recommend switching over to rags if you can – I think I bought a 6 pack of paper towels that lasted me all year. I’m too cheap to buy them and feel guilty about the waste. The rags I use are white, so I save up a big pile of dirty ones and wash them with bleach every other week or so.

        • I actually brought up the paper towel thing to my husband last night. He said he was thinking the same thing. That we try rags instead. So, we’re on it!