September 2016 Month in Review

These guys know how to keep warm in style.

Confession time. This is the post where I lose the title of Frugal Bagel. I am officially a Profligate Bagel.

September is always a challenging month for my budget; a chill in the air and a back-to-school vibe invariably makes me want to replace my wardrobe. Like all Septembers, this month covered a huge range of temperatures in Boston, with a couple of hot summer weeks in the 80s and 90s and then a couple of damp, gray weeks in the 50s (with nothing in between). So I spent the first half of the summer convinced that my summer wardrobe was inadequate and needed expansion, followed by an abrupt sense that I needed to hastily prepare for winter!

This month, I had a medical procedure which (knock on wood) has so far seemed to improve (though not totally remove) some of my pain issues. While the recovery from my procedure was painful, the resulting increase in energy has lead to a ton of new opportunities to indulge in my hobbies, especially active ones. I ran five times, which may not sound like much but is five times more than last month! I went on a diet and lost some of the weight I gained during my sedentary summer. I drew pictures and played music.

Great, right? From a budget perspective, not so much. I had absolutely no financial self-control this month. Part of this, I blame on dieting, because I only seem to have willpower for one thing at once. But also, I didn't start dieting until midway through the month, and I'd already blown a ton of money by then. Finally, due to my increased running after a break, and the temperature variations, I fell HARD into a pit of highly expensive weather-adapted workout clothes.

I spent a total of $1,002 on stuff for myself this month, which is more than twice my budget. That doesn't include the $646 worth I returned. Had I not rampantly returned things, I would have spent $1,648.

Here's how that broke down.

Work Clothes
Net Spend: $65
Originally Bought: $194
Returned: $129
Return Shipping Fees: $9

I kept two used pairs of clearance work pants from ThredUp, and returned two more.

I also bought (and have not yet received) a used eBay dress from a Polish big-bust-clothing company I've been meaning to try. They're usually sold out of my size in the garments I want the most, plus buying from Poland incurs a ton of shipping and customs fees. The ideal scenario is to find something I want from a US-based eBay seller, which, this month, I finally did, nearly a year after I told eBay to look for such items. I'd classify this as an "opportunity" purchase. Which I normally wouldn't mind making--but I need to remember to leave some room in the budget for opportunities, and not be tapped out by the time they come around!

Casual Clothes
Net Spend: $192
Originally Bought: $260
Returned: $50
Shipping/Return Shipping Fees: $18

Seasonal purchases: 2 very nice, warm flannel shirts. Love these.

Opportunity purchases: a sale on the linen shirts I love & live in for summer. I'd been looking for some more at the beginning of the summer, but the store was consistently sold out of all colors except lemon and white. Suddenly, in fall, here they were in my dream colors: dark blue and dark turquoise! I snagged them to save for next summer.

Experimental purchases: I went a bit nuts on Poshmark researching my post on buying used clothes online, and bought 2 T-shirts, a scarf, and a pair of shoes. Nothing on Poshmark is returnable, but the things were mostly good, and quite inexpensive.

Predictable purchases: I spent my usual $20 at Goodwill. I got several casual T-shirts, including a few long-sleeved for fall.

Athletic Clothes
Net Spend (including undecided): $480
Originally Bought: $929
Returned: $451
Undecided: $125
Shipping/Return Shipping Fees: $24  

You can see that this is where I went crazy. I became obsessed with getting gear that would enable me to continue running in winter after one (1) day of 50-degree weather. This was a perfect storm of seasonal transition spending and current-obsession spending, and since my current obsession is fitness, it's extra-hard to say no to because (a) it seems virtuous and (b) as I mentioned before, my willpower is depleted just in the act of making myself get up early and run and not eat bread.

The buy & keeps: nylon hiking pants, and a ton of wool stuff: running tights for winter, 2 running t-shirts, a half-zip pullover, and some outerwear accessories on my long-term winter buy list which I probably don't need yet, but got early because they were on super-sale and/or easy to throw in with larger wool purchases: new glove liners, mittens, a hat, and a buff.

The returns: mainly versions of the things I kept in other models/colors/sizes.

There are still a few things I haven't received yet, which I've presently counted in the net spend, but might still end up in returns. These are 2 more pairs of running tights (which I probably will return since I'm sitting on a pair I like pretty well now), and a wool hoodie.

Okay, the hoodie is not a needed item. I don't really need a new hoodie, since I have a hemp one that was one of my prized purchases last year. But I came across a particular model last spring when I was researching lightweight summer beach cover-ups, and I lusted after it deeply. It looks like a really good balance of warmth and weight, plus it's a simple plain navy blue, and a flattering shape and length for me (at least, that's what it looks like in the picture). At the time, I couldn't justify getting it because of the cost and the fact that it seemed like it was really more of a heavy fall layer. Then, while looking for the rest of this stuff, I found it on super-sale for about 25% of its normal cost. I just couldn't pass it up. But I probably should have! This is total shopaholic reasoning.

Hobby Supplies
Net Spend: $110 (no returns or shipping)

Since I ran out of money last month, I promised myself that September would be the month I bought a small practice amp for my bass. I spent $80 on that basically on day one, plus $20 on incidental art supplies (pen nibs, markers, etc.)

Hobby diffusion (being excited about too many hobbies at once) has definitely been a problem for my budget this month. Fitness was the primary obsession, but I've also played music for the first time in a long time, and I've done a ton more art than usual, too! It's a good problem to have in a lot of ways, especially since it signifies a very welcome return of energy after a sick, tired, painful summer. But, I need to find a way to express my joie de vivre without spending so recklessly.

Net Spend: $155 (no returns or shipping)

This consisted of:
  • Amazon Prime (why????? to enable all this spending? I'm gonna cancel. First lemme watch some shows though.)
  • $22 worth of Kindle books. To be fair, most of these books were $2 each and half of them were pre-orders I'd made in a previous month and forgotten about. Some were comforting kids' books which I got to read while I was recovering from my procedure, and one was a $4 edition of the complete Anne of Green Gables series, which has provided me with hours of subway reading. 
  • a small thermos which I've been using for a frugal tactic that I swore I'd given up on: taking homemade coffee to work. But I'm not doing it for frugality reasons, but convenience: I no longer live near a coffee shop. Plus, I discovered a delicious way to make coffee at home: cold brewing concentrate, then diluting with either boiling or icy water (depending on if you want it hot or iced). It's so smooth and mellow! And you don't need any equipment, except a jar and some sort of strainer. Frugality-wise, I'll have to pass up store-bought coffee 16 or 17 times to justify the thermos purchase. I'm probably on about four.


Overall, I love the stuff that I got. My flannels have kept me warm, my books have kept me entertained, and I am optimistic about putting my athletic gear to good use by running in cool weather throughout October. But I feel really guilty about the amount of money I spent. After a particularly bad spree toward the end of the month, I asked my extremely frugal wife to take the reins. At my request, in October, I am not allowed to purchase anything unless I run it by her first. We'll see how that works!!


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