May Budget Breakdown

Well, it was a poor showing for me this month, which is to be expected. Writing this post was as painful as going on a weekend-long eating and drinking bender, and then getting on the scale on Monday morning. Ugh.

Here is the full budget breakdown for May:

Auto/Transportation – 4% over
Cash/ATM – 130% over
Food/Drink – 108.1% over
Personal Care – 154.43% over (remember my pre-Discountess addiction to CVS, well it’s baaaccck…)
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) –69.17% over (though I will say that due to my cycle of paychecks, I paid 2 rounds of bills this month)
Groceries – 35% over
Shopping – 45.65% over

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Business/Office – 0% used
Entertainment – 0% used
Dry Cleaning – 12.16% used – Thank you, ZIPS!
Gifts – 63.33% used
Gym – 100% used

You’ll notice that there are more items in the over-spending category than the savings category (eek!), so this month, my goal is to remedy that. I guess it’s time to stop eating out and start having people over! Of course, that’s easy to say when it’s pouring down rain outside, but it becomes harder when I walk out of work on a beautiful night and the wind whispers the word “mojito” in my ear.

Thankfully, D.C. has a ton of fun, free activities during the summertime, so I’m going to try to take advantage of those so I can get my finances back in order. Wish me luck!

 

Springtime Sunday Dinner – Menu of Champions

DinnerSetUp

Last night, my brother and I collaborated on a long overdue birthday dinner for my dad and stepmother.  We put on a spectacular party if I do say so myself – all very Discountess-friendly.

We planned a menu that used a lot of the same ingredients, which helped make the grocery shopping more efficient and cut down on waste. I don’t know about you, but it really fries me when I have to buy a bunch of fresh herbs only to use one tablespoon and have the rest go bad.  I felt totally vindicated when we conjured up this menu because it used up most of the ingredients we had to buy!

We started with Ina Garten’s Tuscan Mashed Chickpeas on a toasted baguette. Not only was the recipe easy, but it used basic pantry items that I had on hand.

For the main course,  we had roasted salmon. Since it was the star of the meal, I didn’t scrimp on the cut of the fish. I headed to an old family favorite, Cannon’s Fish Market, in Georgetown. They gave me a center cut of an 8 lb fish (I only needed about 3) for $28.89. I roasted it with a bunch of dill, parsley, lemon and green onions in the center, finished off with some salt and pepper. I drizzled olive oil on the top, added thinly sliced lemons, and tossed it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Doesn’t it look pretty?

SalmonDinner

I made a “salsa verde” to go with the salmon that used up the rest of the fresh herbs. It was a sleeper hit! We rounded out the main course with a new potato salad and fresh asparagus. Wine was courtesy of my trip to California. And for dessert, individual strawberry shortcakes, recipe courtesy of Bisquick.

All in all a lovely meal, and for my part, the total tally did not exceed $80 (which will eventually be split between the two of us). Not bad!

For those who want it, I’m including the Salsa Verde recipe below. I highly recommend it! Easy and delicious. I don’t know how capers and mint go together, but trust me, THEY DO.

Salsa Verde

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, pressed

1 handful capers

1 large bunch parsley, washed and coarsely chopped

1 handful fresh mint, washed and coarsely chopped

Juice of  1 lemon

1/4  cup olive oil

Salt and cracked pepper to taste

Place the garlic, capers and fresh herbs in a blender. Add half the lemon juice and olive oil, and pulse a few times. Add more oil and lemon juice as needed to create a sturdy, herb-heavy sauce, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with salmon. Can be made a day or two in advance.

March Budget Breakdown – Better Late Than Never

As you can tell, I’ve been a delinquent Discountess. My end of March vacation to St. John and a series of spring weddings have rendered me without time to blog/keep my life and brain in order. After this weekend, I’ll be back in action. I have one more wedding, and then my schedule returns to normal. Well, more or less.

So at almost half way through the month of April, I give you the March budget breakdown. What I’ve learned this month is that vacations do not lend themselves to saving money. Not shocking. Still, the vacation (which I will give the full rundown on later) was fabulous and worth every over-budget penny spent! And, because I wasn’t in DC for a full week during the month, I was able to keep my grocery budget in check (of course my food and entertainment costs were off the hook, but I’m choosing the positive point of view). I also saved in the shopping category—a new feat for me. Aside from a few incidentals for the trip, I mainly stayed away from the stores last month.

Here is the full budget breakdown for March:

Cash/ATM – 14% over (I changed the starting number this month because the old one was too low, but this still isn’t good. I’m chalking it up to vacation needs and moving on)
Entertainment – 120% over
Food/Drink – 135.6% over
Personal Care – 5% over
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) – 56% over

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Auto/Transportation – 71.5% used
Business/Office – 50.8% used
Groceries – 92.7% used (Astounding!)
Dry Cleaning – 18.8% used
Gifts – 65.4% used
Gym – 100% used
Shopping – 70.4% used (YES!)

Also in March, I managed to keep with my goal of taking the stairs at work more which has been a good change. Plus, with the new spring weather, I’ve been able to run outside as well!  The goal on the docket for April was supposed to be about my morning coffee purchase, i.e. I shouldn’t be purchasing it every day. I was doing well for the first week of the month, but this week I’ve hit the Brown Bag for my Swings coffee every day. Perhaps we should save that one for May? Anyway, since it is now springtime, my goal this month is to clean house on my spring/summer wardrobe. I plan to get it all out (it’s been in storage for the winter) and use a discerning eye about what I should actually keep and what I should get rid of. I’m hoping I can scrounge up a few good consignment options, so I can line my pockets for future wardrobe investments.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

February Budget Breakdown

Forgive the lack of posting in the last few days, I’ve been crunching numbers (among other things). All I have to say is thank GOD February is over. What a miserable month. I managed to have some fun (see the shopping and entertainment line items), but I am officially itching for spring.

Again, shopping and the grocery store seem to be the biggest culprits of my budgetary failure this month. Also, my gym budget hit me hard because I had to pay out my last month of membership at WSC and my first month at Barre3. Man, that was a wallop. And let’s not forget my VERY fun California trip, which also helped push the shopping budget over the edge (and we all know that it teeters on the brink during normal months).

Here is the full budget breakdown for February:

Cash/ATM – 10% over (Worse than last month – I think I need to change this budget number.)
Gifts – 45% over (I counted a some of my California trip here, since it was a bachelorette weekend.)
Gym – 325% over (EEK! My WSC membership ends on March 10th, so it won’t be an issue again. Phew.)
Personal Care  – 8% over (A big improvement over last month, but still over.)
Shopping – 207% over (Ugh.)
Groceries – 41% over

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Auto/Transportation – 41.6% used
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) – 67% used
Business/Office – 0% used
Entertainment – 87% used
Food/Drink – 99.5% used
Dry Cleaning – 15% used

In terms of meeting my “no booze” goal during February, I passed with flying colors. I even went to a work dinner and just drank water. Talk about iron will!

Now that we’re in March, my goal is to take the stairs at work. Of course, this isn’t a financial goal, but I still think it’s a worthy one. Now that I’ve quit the gym, I also seem to have quit cardio. I’ve been going to Barre3 a lot, but I still need something to get the heart rate up. And since it’s still FREEZING cold outside, my runs aren’t happening as often as I would like.  And so, I will walk up the stairs at work. I already live in a walk up apartment, so that won’t be an issue.

Is that goal lame? I was going to make March “no shopping for clothes month,” but I’m not sure I’m strong enough for that yet. Plus, I’m headed to St. John with the family mid-month, and I’m in need of a new bathing suit. Priorities!