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Budgets & Cats

I Played The Mins Game. Here’s How I Did.

When I first moved into my apartment, all my belongings fit into eight boxes. “Sorry I have so much stuff!” I yelled at friends while running up and down the stairs. My friends were confused, trying to figure out why I needed five people to help me move. Coming off a year and a half of living with a roommate, I had kept my personal belongings to a minimum. My old shopping addiction had been semi-sorted out and I was trying not to go back.  But old ways have a way of returning when you least expect it. That’s what I realized after living in the same apartment for four years.

After deciding to renew my lease for another year, I decided some organizing and redecorating may be in order to keep my place looking fresh. While looking for inspiration, I came across the Mins Game. It seems easy enough to play and you end up eliminating 465 items out of your home, by donating as many items to to corespond with the day of the game. It sounds daunting but seeing how the average house in America has over 300,000 items in it, that’s hardly a drop in the bucket. Sure, my home isn’t huge by any standards but it could still have a ton of crap in it. So I decided to play for the month of November. And as I write this on the last day, I’ve successfully completed it! (Thanks competitive nature.)

So, what did I learn?

My House Was Aggravating My Mental Health

Now that I’ve been on a proper treatment plan for my mental health, I know that I don’t suffer from anxiety or depression. Instead, these are symptoms of a mood disorder and ADHD, which I’m now being properly treated for. It’s been such a relief to have the right team in place. In a lot of ways, 2018 was a growing year and taking responsibility for me. In taking responsibility, I will admit to the world I am not the greatest housekeeper.

Being chronically ill with several autoimmune issues, you have to be picky where your energy goes. My energy goes towards my career so as a trade-off, my house suffers. Since I just live with my number one man aka my cat, I usually get away with it. But this year? The common breaking point for meltdowns has been my house. Sure, there were underlying issues, but the state of my home is what would do me in. I can count at least three people I cried to about my house

Since September, I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping up on my apartment. But decluttering for the past month has really made me have an appreciation of clean counters, dusted bookshelves and a place for things.

I Fed Into the Ideal Version Of Me

The ideal version of your is something I’ve seen on a few self-development blogs but I didn’t realize I was participating in it until this past month. If you haven’t heard of the concept before, it’s pretty simple. You have an imaginary ideal version of yourself and you buy into it by purchasing items you don’t need because one day you will. The ideal version of yourself is usually someone who you aspire to become but may not necessarily even want to. For example, Ideal Athena is going to eat kale chips so she buys a food dehydrator. Current Athena hates kale so she will never even use the dehydrator in the first place. But ideal Athena will, one day, so I’m going to buy it. Pretty silly, right?

Yet, here I was, getting things for the ideal me. Ideal me has a few shelves of books she’s going to read one day. She’s also going to be really into doing her hair., wears scarves as statement pieces and wedges. And because one day ideal me will eventually be here, I’m going to hold on to all this shit.

I think it’s funny, for myself at least, how I imagine physical items are going to magically transform me, without me having to do any of work to transform. That’s why diet pills and stuff like It Works wraps are so hot. People don’t want to do the work. It’s hard. We’re tired. We’re scared. Or in my case, I don’t really want to do it but I still think I should. And I’ve spent money. So why not save it? I’ll get there some day, right?

I Buy Stuff Just Buy Stuff

When I was younger, I had a shopping problem. It was nothing for me to go on spending sprees when I wasn’t properly medicated for my mood disorder. Instead of dealing with my emotions, I ran from one codependent relationship to another. And when those relationships failed me, I partied and shopped.  I remember dancing at a club on the strip with DJ AM playing the hits while drinking a Malibu & Pineapple. Dealing with life was for losers.

I was obsessed with buying designer names, collecting items, anything I could do to make myself feel better about, well, myself. I got high off shopping. And when the high went away, I was trying to figure out what other destructive things I could do to distract myself. Needless to say, getting involved in the PF community, therapy and meds have helped tremendously. But I’m still human and old habits die hard. And a lot of the shit I’ve thrown away is a result of it.

While on a work trip, I caught myself falling into this bad habit again. I love souvenirs as I feel they are a way to enjoy your trip a little bit longer. I love them for myself and I love to give them to others. But on the last day of my trip, I was going hard at a museum. Maybe I should get a patch, I told myself. No, jewelry! I need this book! OMG, this print! I grabbed everything in my arms and walked around, looking for the next thing I could buy to remember this day just a bit longer.

Luckily, I caught myself before I had spent a hundred plus dollars shopping on stuff I was just going to get rid of anyways. I was exhausted from traveling and my coping mechanism of shopping was just trying to get me through the day.

I Will Be Playing The Mins Game Again

For the month of December, I will be doing another round of the MinsGame. I’ve only made it through part of my living room and kitchen, which leaves so much of my apartment left to declutter and organize. I want every spot in my home to be a place that serves a purpose, makes me happy and rejuvenates me. It’s important now for me to be organized and comfortable and I feel my home is the best place to start. 33, new me, right?

Tell me. Have you ever played the Mins Game? Do you declutter? Has your stuff left you feeling down? And if you’re a minimalist, do you have any tips for me?

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Budgets & Cats Money Smart Latina

Budgets & Cats- Saving On Cat Purchases


Looking to not spend an arm and a leg on your new cat lady status? I’ve got you covered fellow cat lady! 

I picked up my child on Feb 4th, 2015. Although we had met two weeks prior, I asked his foster family if they could keep him until after I had moved into my new apartment.  As I came to find out later that I was his third try at a home, they were anxious to say yes. After being gifted a few free items he had been using, I put him in his carrier and drove home like I had precious cargo. I did. I had my fur baby Harrison George in the car.

Our first night home!

As I watched him inspect his new surroundings, I was giddy with excitement. I felt ready for my new responsibility and had stocked up on new cat supplies, with everything from food to bedding and toys. I sat waiting for him to lay in his new bed but he only wanted mine. I gave him toys, he broke a candle. After I had bought five kinds of wet food, I realized he just didn’t like. Yeah, I spent a ton of money on this guy and then slowly but surely, learned how to reign in my cat lady spending habits. We’re here to help you save where you can so you can spend more on the good stuff- the treats.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

Be frugal right out of the gate in your cat lady journey and adopt. Although it’s rarer for someone to purchase a professionally bred cat than a dog, it still happens quite frequently. I see people in Facebook cat groups who spend thousands on Savannahs or Persians, which seems ridiculous to me. SO many cats need homes and are filling shelters, so why pay for a specifically bred one?

Cats do not need to be designer or come with a $1,000+ price tag. Spend time researching cat behaviors and types, then go over to your local ASPCA to check them out. Trust me, even without having to pay an arm and a leg, your local shelter will have a ton of cats to chose from. This will also give you a chance to interact with the cat first to see if your behavior and mannerisms click. Before you bring any pet home, you always want to meet and interact with them in person first.

Prevention Is Key

Do you ever wonder how people can drive the same car forever? You assume they have the best luck then realize they take extremely good care of it. They regularly take their car in for routine maintenance such as oil changes and anticipate replacing items such as tires and belts. They also don’t drive like they are NASCAR drivers, make sure their tank is always full and wash their car weekly. I’m not one of these people but I really do aspire to be.

However, I am definitely this way when it comes to my cat. If he sneezes, I’m pretty much taking him to the vet. I’m overly cautious with him because of his FIV so I’m always in the vet’s office. But because I am in the business of prevention, he is one of my vet’s healthiest FIV patients. As part of being a good pet owner, and saving money, schedule the annual exams. Take advantage of low-cost vaccine clinics, spay, and neuter when applicable and make sure your pet is taking any medicine. Don’t neglect their health because this is how minor things can end up causing thousands.

You Don’t Need Everything Pinterest Says You Do

After deciding to bring home Harrison, my BF and I went shopping. I needed a couch for my new apartment anyway so we had decided to pick up additional items when out and about. My BF wanted to go to the dollar store and I laughed. What, you think he’s a peasant?!?! He’s getting some fancy bowls from Ross!

Well, what do you know? His fancy bowls from Ross rusted and I ended up buying new ones from the dollar store. He ignored his cat bed until I finally put it in front of the window. And he had no interest in my couch unless I was sitting on it and he wanted to be near me. I had spent a ton of money on a cat who wouldn’t even wear a collar or touch a toy from Petsmart. His toys of choice were my hair ties and bottle caps, both free.

I could have saved over a hundred dollars if I had gotten to know my cat first. When adopting your new companion, stick to the basics and get to know them first. Your cat could be playful or just lazy. He might think bottle caps are the bee’s knees and could care less about this ten dollar toy with feathers you thought was cute.

Try The Dollar Store

If your cat DOES like toys besides bottle caps and hair ties, huzzah! Head over to your local dollar store and behold all of the goodies you can score for your new child. Seriously, you can buy everything for your cat within reason at this place. Ceramic bowls, dry food, mats, towels, toys and collars are just a few of the items you can snag for a buck here.

Once I decided to quit being a snob at Petsmart, I stocked up at the dollar store for some goodies for Harrison. I have found the ceramic bowls here are the best and so are the toys for their value. Really, who needs to spend more than a dollar on balls with bells in them? I’ve also been able to find a container for his treats, pet pads for accidents and flea treatments. Like any other medications, I’d say be careful and do research, especially with your furry friend. They can’t communicate if something is wrong so be cautious.

Use Amazon

If you have an Amazon Prime account or easy access to one, check out the prices on cat products. This never even occurred to me until after I had owned my cat for a year so don’t be like me. Use them now.

After realizing some of my hair products were way cheaper on Amazon, I researched pet meds. Harrison is FIV positive and his main prescription costs $44 plus at the vet’s office. It’s not one I purchase monthly so signing up for a monthly pharmacy delivery seemed a bit steep to me but so did the vet. I realized I could get his medicine from a reputable seller through Amazon for less than $29. I may only buy this medicine every other month, but any money saved adds up over time.

Like anything else in life, you can purchase just about anything for your cat on Amazon. Some people even find it to be cost-effective for their food and litter. It wasn’t for me due to the next tip I’m about to mention until I bought a self-cleaning litter box. Due to my chronic health issues, it hurts to bend over sometimes. So, I thought it would be a wise investment. My friend found them extremely mark downed at Petsmart for $70 so she scooped one up for each of us. Besides saving my back, it had saved my apartment. However, the cost of those trays wasn’t saving my wallet. Lo and behold, if you buy them in bulk on Amazon, you save $5 off each one. Now, I honestly break even with my previous litter expenses. Thanks, Amazon!

Figure Out Sales & Shop Them

Do you ever go somewhere regularly and realize things tend to go on sale every few weeks? It’s true, stores like Target roll out deals in cycles. This means every six or eight weeks, certain items go on sale or have a free gift card with purchase offer attached. Not only are foods and clothing rolled out like this but so are household items and pet products.

During these sales, take time to stock up on cat essentials, such as litter and food. When you time these deals just right, you can match up coupons and get things at a much lower price versus buying them when you run out. It’s the worst anyways when it’s midnight at night and there is no more dry food.

Purchase items in bulk so you have them ready and on hand until the next sale rolls around. You don’t need to every buy anything at full price if you can absolutely help it. Save that money for the vet!

Take Time To Enjoy Your Cat

What’s the point of having a pet if you don’t take time to enjoy them? Cats get a bad wrap of being aloof and mean. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes Harrison ignores me and bites me out of nowhere. You know, normal cat behavior. But, if I am never home, I notice my cat gets anxiety and is especially aggressive towards me. Cats notice when you like them and cats notice when you’re not home. They get lonely too.

Take time to relax at home and hang out. Read a book, drink some hot tea or binge watch that show you’ve been meaning to on Netflix. Try knitting while your cat pounces on the extra string. Besides staying in and saving some money, your blood pressure and heart rate are going down just being around your feline. You can only imagine what you’re doing for his.

Closing Remarks

Being a cat lady doesn’t have to be expensive! By utilizing all of the tips we’ve provided above, your feline friend can actually be a sensible line item in the budget. Be sure to be in the act of prevention and take good care of your new fur baby. In return, they’ll take good care of you too.

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Budgets & Cats

Budgets & Cats- Finding Wiggle Room In The Budget

Budgets & Cats- Because You’re Going To Die Alone Anyways, is a new budget series found exclusively on Money Smart Latina. Since a man isn’t a retirement plan around these cat lady parts, we need an ample amount of savings and personal finance knowledge. And if our cat decides to let someone else share the bed, it’s all gravy anyway. Hope you enjoy! 


 

Two years ago I came home to a house full of cat vomit. Fellow cat ladies, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all fun and games until the cat eats too much and pukes on the carpet. Except, Harrison had never thrown up before. Sure, a random hairball every few months (is he supposed to have more?!) but not actually throw up. Concerned, I decided to keep an eye on him which only lasted for a few minutes because then he threw up again. So off to the vet we went.

$1,300 later (thank you emergency fund!), we had a new diagnosis of FIV, a cool cone to keep us company and a prescription for an anti-viral. Oh yes, I now had a new expense I needed to make room for. He is also susceptible to a variety of secondary infections that have us in the vet now quite a few times a year.

If this has ever happened to you (unexpected expenses, not FIV), fear not fellow cat ladies. I got the tips and tricks to keep you covered!

Do A Budget Analysis

The first thing I would recommend to anyone who is looking to find extra room in their budget is to complete a budget analysis. A budget analysis is when you compare where you think your money is going to where it’s actually going after you’ve tracked your spending. Most people recommend doing this for a month to get the most accurate picture. I would second that a month would be most accurate but have been able to notice spending habits sooner. For myself, I can notice in as early as two weeks.

Tracking your spending can be as easy or as hard as you want to be but I suggest grouping similar items into a budget category and using a free tool when just getting started. There are so many free tools such as software like Mint or Personal Capital, spreadsheets such as Google sheets or just a regular pen and piece of paper. Find what works for you and track everything you can for at least a month to see where your money is really going. For myself, I know I eat out a lot but it’s always more shocking when I see the grand total of what I really spend versus what I think I spend.

See What Can Go

Once you have seen where your money is actually going, see what exactly can go out of your monthly budget. Stuff that can often go for me in my budget is any subscription boxes I have signed up for. In the past, I have participated in subscription boxes like Birchbox and Hunt A Killer. I loved getting treats in the mail as well as trying something new. But eventually, with Birchbox, I started getting junk instead of items I would actually use. I never received junk with Hunt A Killer but I ended up not having enough time as I thought I did to keep up with the monthly tasks.

Along with subscription boxes, see if there are any memberships you aren’t taking advantage of such as one to a gym, class or food co-op, but no longer need. Other memberships or subscriptions you may not be using could be something entertainment related such as Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Really look at your budget to see where your money is going and if you are paying to use something that is no longer bringing you joy or just collecting dust. But don’t worry, you can keep Catster magazine, I give you full permission.

Chop Chop Chop

After you have weeded at any subscriptions, memberships or bills you have decided you no longer need, it’s time to start trying to make the bills you do have lower.

Gather all bills and start analyzing what exactly it is you are paying for. For instance, are you paying a fee for insurance on a credit card? Or something like a new internet modem you never received anyways? It’s important to make sure all fees and expenses you are being billed for are not only accurate but correct as well. You could be paying a significant amount in fees without even realizing it.

Next, see if there is anything you can call and negotiate for a lower rate with your provider. I have my cable company on speed dial and know that I need to call the loyalty department once a year to ask for a promo code that I am entitled to. I’m also currently stacking a few discounts on my cell phone bill that I was eligible for by doing research, such as looking into my ADP employer portal. Discounts and lower rates are everywhere so don’t be afraid to do research and ask.

And if you are in a desperate time calling for a desperate measure, don’t be afraid to walk away from a current provider and seek an alternative one who’s cheaper. It may be harder in a smaller town but in a major city, there are always alternative providers to the one you currently have. In Phoenix, for instance, we can pick between at least two providers for any type of service, including utilities. Anything is up for grabs, even rent if you are renewing your lease!

Figure Out The Cheapest Way To Buy Something You Need

One of the best pieces of financial advice I’ve ever heard was from my boyfriend. We were talking about spending or rather lack thereof, on certain things. To be honest, I was probably willing to spend more than him on something because I’m the one that usually thinks I’m a baller, not him. He simply replied, “Just because you have money, you don’t have to spend it.” This motto has been seriously part of my MO while shopping and looking for the most frugal ways to do something, especially when creating wiggle room in my budget.

When looking to buy items you need, ask yourself how you can get them for as cheap as possible. A lot of household items you may need can be purchased at the dollar store for, you guessed it, a dollar. You can also purchase snacks, spices, and a few other items there like trash bags or Ziplocs. You can even get cheap supplies for your cats, such as toys, bowls, and bedding!

Groceries can easily be saved on by purchasing whats in season, using coupons and buying items when on sale. You can even get gift cards and promo codes at Target as well as using in-store coupon apps. By building this frugality muscle, you can even use these habits to save even more without thinking about it. And for cat supplies, such as meds and cat litter, I have found Amazon to be surprisingly cost effective.

Look For Alternatives

I believe challenges, such as Whole 30 and No-Spend Months can really help us jumpstart our goals, in terms of fitness and finance. I’m also a firm believe that moderation is key to having long-term results and maintenance.

When cutting something out of your budget to make room for something new, make sure it’s sustainable and that you have a backup plan in place. For instance, I am a caffeine freak. There is no way cutting Starbucks out of my budget was going to allow me to also give up coffee nor did I want to. Instead, I now drink coffee mostly at the office when I get in and now on days I’m in the field or having meetings, I remember to pack my thermos. But by allowing Starbucks to be a treat, I am no longer spending $30 a week there like I was. $25 of that is now being redirected towards something else.

If there is an item you like or prefer, take time to see if you can get it cheaper at a different store or utilize a friend’s warehouse discount. If you are giving up Netflix or cable, see what you can find at the library for cheap. Consider a movie night in with friends instead of going out to the bar. There are a ton of frugal alternatives to things you already do, you just have to be creative.

Keep The End Goal In Mind

One of the things that help me when cutting back on my spending, and trying to find extra wiggle room in the budget, is to remember why I am doing this in the first place.

Being a social butterfly and living in a big city makes it very easy for me to always find something to do. As much as I love hanging out with my cat reading a book from the library, I also love going to concerts and trying new restaurants and bars. And I love everyone in my life. So, it’s hard for me to not want to go out and spend money with the best of them.

Remembering why I’m doing this in the first place is what really helps as well as trying to find the bright side. When you remember why you are cutting back for that wiggle room and spending less will help you when the times get tough. Sure, you could go out to eat three times a week or you could save like you had planned to go skiing instead. Or maybe it’s medication you really need to prioritize and self-care, like me. Whatever it is, it’s important to remind yourself this is your why.

Practicing gratitude is also a great way to remember your why. You, like many other people, may have more than you really need. That’s great that you have been so blessed! So it may be a great time to remind yourself of what you already have and what you don’t need to pay for. Maybe you have some crafting items collecting dust or books that you’ve been meaning to read. Give thanks for the stuff you already have and keep yourself busy at home. Your cat will also be grateful that you’ll be home more.

Closing Remarks

Finding wiggle room in the budget may be hard at first. Even figuring out items you can cut and do without is really a privilege on its own since others are not so lucky. But if you are, it’s good practice to see what you can do without so that you can free up some extra money for whatever the next step in your life may be. For you and your cat!