Month in Review: November 2015
Lunch UpdateWell, I ate out for a few lunches. Four, to be exact. So, about once a week. Including coffee (which wasn't restricted) and one pizza dinner, my "going out" spending for November came to $67.24, a big improvement from October's $198.13!
- Pleasure is best enjoyed in moderation. Big surprise, right? The Shangri-La folks knew what was up. The four times I ate lunch out, I felt naughty, but I also really loved it. The best way to enjoy my love of eating lunch out isn't to do it every day, and it isn't to ban it. Twice a week feels about right to me. My new plan is to eat out on Mondays and Fridays. The middle days, I'll bring lunch, or make it at work.
- I need a basic template lunch. I'm too bored by cooking and the daily grind of lunch to be creative with it more than once a week or so, so coming up with something new and special each day is unsustainable. This is a lot of what kept me from taking my lunch on a regular basis. I didn't have a basic lunch. It seemed like an impossible task: something easy to make ahead, easy to reheat, that I don't mind eating multiple times per week, yet also don't eat for dinner (so I'm not eating the same thing twice a day). I knew I didn't mind eating pasta repeatedly, because that's what I ate for dinner most of the time when I lived alone, and, bonus, I don't eat it often now because my wife doesn't like it. But I always thought it would be ruined by reheating at work. I've had some bad experiences with rubbery pasta. Turns out that it's fine. Make it al dente and reheat for two minutes. I can easily eat pasta twice a week at lunch.
- Still, it's good to have a backup option I can make at work. Forgetting my lunch is the thing that causes me to eat out (it three out of four of this month's eat-outs; the other was because I was drained from a long meeting and eating the sad-seeming leftovers I'd brought just felt like the cherry on top of my bad day.) Nut butter and banana sandwiches work here. If I don't forget my lunch, I can eat bananas as a snack or side, and nut butter lasts forever. The bread is the hard part, but I can buy bread at Panera, then take the extra home to freeze for toast.
In general, I think I'm more of a "moderation" person than a "cold turkey" person. The moment I tell myself I can't have this or that, I start feeling defiant. I think this is why I didn't make it through Day One of my attempted shopping ban months. It's not hard to go a day without buying anything unusual (only groceries, etc.), but something about knowing it was supposed to be a shopping ban made me want to break all the rules. I'm too contrary. I can delay gratification, but not deny it completely. "If I don't eat out today, I can eat out later in the week" makes sense to me as a reasonable trade-off, constraints that I can work within; "I can never eat out" makes me want to burn the budget to the ground and rise from the ashes, restaurant burrito in mouth.
In November (excluding today, since I wrote this post yesterday), my wife and I spent $3790.16. $1853 of that was standard expenses (mortgage, bills, groceries, etc.)
Jointly, gifts was an unusually high category, since my wife and I did the bulk of our Christmas shopping this month. We spent about $500, where we usually spend zero or twenty-five or maybe fifty.
Personally, I took full advantage of the personal money freed up by eating out less to buy a bunch of junk for myself. It probably wasn't necessary to buy so many dishes for the office. I don't, as it turns out, really cook there, since my basic meal, pasta, is made ahead at home. Lesson: wait until you have a need before fulfilling it. Don't anticipate what you might need.
The most expensive item was a $100 pair of work pants, since I was operating on only one usable pair of work pants; somehow, now, though, I now have four (the old pair, the new pair, a $15 pair from eBay that I wasn't sure would work out but did, and a previously too-long pair I got hemmed for $12). Chalk that up to pursuing too many avenues at once: just one or two of those solutions would have worked. I guess I should have returned the expensive pair after the other two cheaper options worked out, but I'd already worn them, any anyway, I like them a lot. I don't think four pairs is terrible unreasonable, but don't let me buy any more for awhile!
Finally, I caved on Black Friday and got some sale stuff online that I don't need in the immediate future (or ever, really, in the true sense of "need"): two lightweight backpacks (identical, in different sizes; at least one will be returned) and a pair of compact binoculars. These are items that have been on my "Buy With Intention" list for awhile, but it's hard to justify them because I already have a backpack and a pair of binoculars (two, in fact); they're just bulkier than I'd like, especially in situations where birding is not my primary purpose, so I don't want to weight myself down with expensive, heavy binoculars, but don't want to be stuck squinting at tiny flitting silhouettes if I do see birds incidentally. This happened several times over the summer, but probably won't happen much over the winter, so it's not urgent. But the items I wanted were on sale, so I figured if I was going to get them eventually, it was cost-effective to get them now. I'm not sure if I made the right decision or not, but in my stuff-lusty heart of hearts I'm glad I did it. I'm looking forward to receiving them.