A while ago I wrote elsewhere about my efforts to cut back on household expenses, and subsequently choosing drugstore shampoos over the good stuff. In the comments on that article someone told me I was being “penny wise and pound foolish”, which kind of pissed me off because how does that make me pound foolish, exactly? It’s not like I stopped buying salon products, switched to Pantene, then started dunking my head in a vat of truffle oil after my showers.

At any rate, I think I’ve learned that decent shampoo is, in fact, worth the money. Mind you, I don’t think it actually makes much of a difference in my hair. My hair is what it is: a hot mess, for the most part, primarily because I have an annoying high-maintenance haircut which I am doing zero maintenance on. It’s just that using a soap that feels good and smells good is one of those human niceties that somehow seems to make a palpable difference in my day.

Same with skincare crap. Yes, I could use the Cetaphil, or I could pony up for something that doesn’t look like jizz. It’s the little things, you know?

I have followed through on some other budget reductions, though, including finally stopping the cleaning service I have used and loved with all my heart for years. I hated saying goodbye to the ladies who continually managed to make my toaster look like something that should be hanging in the Louvre, but I could no longer justify the cost. Especially since I’m cleaning all the fucking time these days for those ever-entertaining surprise realtor visits.

(I thought I was doing a decent job of keeping the place cleaning-service-clean, too, and then I peeked under the bed today when a rather large mound of Unidentifiable Whitish Fluff emerged. I don’t really want to discuss what I saw, but I will say I spent the next 20 minutes scurrying around like the kids’ Zhu Zhu hamster trying to get under there with the vacuum because my GOD. MY GOD WHO LIVES LIKE THAT. Hoarders, that’s who.)

Oh, and I cancelled our CSA share, finally being honest with myself that I wasn’t really making 100% good use of the entire box of healthful, planet-friendly produce. If only the local farms would offer a box half full of green leafy vegetables, half full of pretzel crisps, but alas.

Then I turned around and bought a CrossFit gym membership, which negates a good chunk of my cutting back. So far I believe it to be worth every penny, but I suppose some might call it pound foolish.

I keep circling our spending like a math-stupid wolf, peering and trying to decide what I can ditch, what I want to keep. I’ve started dividing purchases into my freelance salary, which is a depressing but maybe-useful exercise. Should I buy the giant select-a-size pack of Bounty paper napkins that will take me an article on goddamned Lindsay Lohan to pay for? Or should I maybe . . . use a dishtowel? The entire endeavor reminds me of trying to lose weight, where the process of trying to get to a place where you don’t think as much about your weight, ironically, makes you think about your fucking weight all the time.

I know these are vague sorts of questions and kind of overly personal to boot, but how would you describe your relationship with money? Do you focus on budget issues all the time, or only during certain times of the month, or what? Is one of the larger stressors in your life, or way down the list? Has it changed one way or the other in the last few years?


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
13 years ago

I worry about money constantly. We struggle daily. My husband is a sub-contactor & we’ve taken a HUGE financial hit w/the “new” economy. Currently he hasn’t worked for about 8 weeks. We spent each month deciding which bills to pay & what can wait. We cut out cable a few years ago & use Netflix & Hulu, I get my hair cuts/color at a local school ($45.00 cut & full foil), I shop at Aldi, & watch sales at Target & Cub. I can’t give up Proactive for my face, just won’t do it. I’ve tried & have not been a happy camper. Instead of super expensive hair products, I buy the salon’s brand, ie Great Clips, it’s alittle cheaper. My best find recently was a new Dollar Store that just opened near us. They freakin ROCK!
Basically, I worry, constantly. The thought of trying to do a budget makes me vomit in my mouth alittle & rock back & forth in the corner.
Oh, and Cetaphil, it does SO look like jizz!

13 years ago

We have a pretty stable little situation in my house but still it seems like money is always on my mind. We aren’t hurting but thanks to 3 surgeries in 3 years for my oldest and really shitty insurance when my husband was a IT Contracter, we have a LOT of credit card debt. I hate paying those bastards so I am determined to pay off the cards ASAP. My husband has a good job that is pretty stable and I stay at home with the kids so I have kind of made it my job to squeeze as much as I can out of his paychecks and, sick as this sounds, it is kind of a fun challenge.

One place I kick ass in is grocery shopping. I use coupons like they are going out of style and I have found that if you match them up with store specials, you can get a lot of things for under a dollar. Yes, name brand items. When I find a good sale I really stock up, which means using a coupon for each item. I’ll get coupons in the Sunday paper, extra coupons from my mom (she gives me what she doesn’t use from her paper) and from Internet sites like Red Plum. A lot of stores (Kroger is one) will track what you buy on your frequent shopper card (which bothers some people but not me) and send you coupons based on your purchases-sometimes even free items. If you looked in my pantry and freezer you would think I was a hoarder but I buy multiples of our staple items when they are really cheap and then I have enough to last until they go on sale again. Last week I got $200 worth of food for $90 and that included toiletries, cleaning products meat, fruits and veggies and dairy (most of which will last us for months). I let other people do the coupon matchups for me (couponmom.com, southernsavers.com- just search for extreme couponing.) I used to go to Wal-Mart and Aldi but I realized I didn’t save more and Wal-Mart made me all stabby. I do have a membership to Costco and use that for meats and paper products. We don’t eat organic right now because paying off the debt is more important to me. When I am not sending the credit card companies so much a month, then I’ll dedicate that toward organic meat and veggies.

I also am a member of every frequent shopper, dining club, etc. I can find. I have found that if you join the mailing list for restaurants and stores they’ll give you coupons for free meals, special shopping coupons, etc. I use the free meal coupons when I just can’t stand cooking for another night and it also makes dining out a treat because we don’t do it that often. I also buy my kids’ clothes at Target, Old Navy and Children’s Place because I refuse to spend a ton of money on stuff they are going to outgrow (plus those stores send out coupons). I am lucky because I have two boys so I can buy once and use twice. We’re going to a wedding in November so I’ll hit the consignment shops for dressy clothes for my boys and me and my husband will trot out his 10 year old (but you wouldn’t know it) suit.

One of the best things we did was buy season passes to a lot of local museums and attrations around town (we live in a suburb of Atlanta). Museums are such an untapped resource because they always have events that are free to members and the passes usually pay for themselves after two trips. We’ll pack a lunch and head down to the Aquarium and have a great day that really doesn’t cost anything.

I love my Starbucks but I use gift cards that I ask for for Christmas. I also do that with Sephora cards and other splurge places- it is a gift so I don’t feel guilt. I also belong to the Y because that keeps me sane and also offers free babysitting while I work out and they have a special parents night out program twice a month that lets me have a date night with my husband. Sure, the Y isn’t fancy but it has great classes, equipment and people and it is CHEAP. My husband takes martial arts which is a little pricy but they cut us a deal because my oldest son takes classes there too. My husband has to have that outlet and it is his lifesaver, especially during on-call week when it seems like every server has taken a dump. Unless we were in danger of losing the house, we won’t get rid of the gym memberships because they keep us sane. We’ll cut costs in other areas.

I really think it is a balance- you cut back as much as you can, using as many tricks as you can in the areas that don’t really mean as much so you can have the specials that keep you from going crazy and that help you feel whole.

13 years ago

I like the use of the word mindfully that I saw in these comments. I think in the big picture that’s the key. Mindfulness equals attention but not stress, and that’s the key to how I get along with money. I quit my golden handcuff job almost a year ago and for the first few months I didn’t really know how it was all going to pan out. I basically just thought to myself, “How is it that I contribute to the world? What do I do that I feel is supported by higher purpose as it were?” which in my case is massage and yoga-type stuff. So I told myself I would take whatever opportunities came my way, paid or unpaid, and I would trust that since this was what felt like my path, I would trust that I would be supported in that. It was a scary step, and one that had a Plan B (go back to golden handcuffs if need be, or get a grunt job, or beg my parents for cash if I absolutely must) and thusfar it’s worked out really well. I still don’t entirely know how it’s all worked out really, but I know my bills are paid, I don’t currently have any credit cards, and my car is slowly but surely getting paid off. I know with kids it’s a lot scarier, but what better way to model good financial behavior than by making an effort to do what you love, be present for your family, and make responsible decisions? Stressing out about them, being that circling wolf, that will rub off on them too, and in the big picture, money is so much less important than family, than having a life that consists of what you love, you know? Anyway, I have faith in you. I’m excited for your new adventure. This is just the beginning adjustment time. A year from now this will be much more old hat.

13 years ago

I feel compelled to defend Cetaphil! My grandma is in her 80s and has absolutely amazing skin. I’m talking just a few crows’ feet on an otherwise porcelain and unmarred face. She absolutely swears by Cetaphil.


13 years ago

I think your doing a wonderful job! I still believe in small rewards to make life liveable such as ditching the cleaning lady for gym time.
I remember when I canceled my proactive membership and the lady on the phone wanted to remind me 7 times that acne comes back after you stop using it. WTH! My response was “Yeah but my family can’t eat proactive”….durrrrr.
I budget us to death because We went from
my full time income to part time due to my back problems. We fight medical bills the most and I felt alot of guilt but after seeing many a doctor without many options I have given into the fact that this is our life. If ya got your health, you got it all!
Your not going to do this forever so cut the stuff you don’t need and enjoy the stuff you do.
FYI: A 50 pound vat of mayonnaise isn’t always the best decision. ;)

13 years ago

Money stresses me out so much that I couldn’t read through all the comments and still keep my blood pressure in check. So perhaps this has been said but hit up Marshalls or TJ Maxx for your salon shampoo and conditioner. $10 liters.

13 years ago

CSA thought! Could you do a share with another family and divide the box? Maybe a little more work but it helps with that, oh geez, I have way too much kale/broccoli/etc. thing.

I am always a bit stressed about money. I try to cut back, too, every few months or so but definitely always splurge on the fancy shampoo. Psychological benefits, y’know.

13 years ago

I am the breadwinner of the family with a 6 figure income though between us we both contribute to a healthy income. I have been lucky to be in this situation since my late 20s but in saying that, my partner is just 2 years clean of habit that accrued us $120k in debt.

We have nearly paid this off and now we are looking to start a family and I am wanting to start my own business. I regularly ask my partner how we are going to make it work and his answer is “It’ll sort itself out”. His approach to money is relaxed if not apathetic and I find I am the only one who stresses about where it comes from, where it goes and if there is will be/enough.

The thought of losing a 6 figure income when I leave my job scares me yet I know for ultimate happiness and fulfillment there no question about doing it. And there’s never going to be a good time.

I have always squirreled away and I am pulling in the purse strings even more in the 18 month lead up to making our life changes. I know it’s going to be extremely tight and that worries me but it’s exciting too to see where it will all end up.

And BTW: For me, anything that is deemed Self Care e.g. gym memberships, moisturisers, nutrition plans etc are worth the spending the money on.

Crouching Cougar
Crouching Cougar
13 years ago

After a finanacial and emotionally crushing divorce last year, I had to step up my already good money mgmt skills into overdrive in order to hang onto my home and preserve a decent future for myself and my 5 year old daughter. I was already tracking all my spending in an Excelt spreadhseet broken into categories so I could see trends over time. However without a BUDGET it was realistically just me tracking spending everything I made! I was turned onto Dave Ramsay’s Total Money Makeover and it has totally changed my relationship with money. If I don’t have it in cash, I don’t get it-PERIOD.If its not in the budget, not planned for, or not an emergency , I don’t get it, PERIOD. Credit cards are an absolute thing of the past except for emergencies or things like airline tickets which are a hassle to purchase any other way. I slashed ALL my bills (entry-level cable only, programmable thermostat/slippers/sweaters, strict meal planning, time of use adaherence for cheaper electricity rates)and scrutinize every purchase. That being said, I prioritize so I can go on a trip each year and get my hair done every other month, and in return happily downgraded to mainly secondhand clothes, a used latemodel car, and healthy but frugal meals.
Just like weight management, you MUST put the time and work in (probably takes me 2 hours a week to track and analyse my finances, plan meals etc)if you want to see results. Great comments, good luck!

8 years ago

My parents have been using that ever since I can rbmemeer. They both have thin hair but plenty of it. In my opinion it has worked for them. I have personally never tried it because I have very long hair already but my sister uses it as well. Her hair is close to being as long as mine.Good Luck.