The short answer is, no.
Of course, you say, who can eat and socialize in Chicago, matter of fact, anywhere in this day and age, on only $250 a month? It seems impossible, but things were looking good for me the first two weeks; I was maintaining my weekly budget and I wasn't feeling deprived, well, almost didn't feel deprived. Then, something happened on the 17th and I found myself falling off the wagon. (Of course this aligned nicely with the weekend). I could blame it on a well known hip-hop song, but I won't, I take full responsibility for my actions.
Here's what I learned:
- Staying on budget takes time and planning.
- People can high-jack your plan with their fun, social ideas.
- There’s a lot that you can do with a box of pasta, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, a can of olives and a can of artichokes -- I mean, a lot.
- Cooked pasta doesn’t freeze well. (See #3)
- Organic anything goes out the window when you are comparative shopping.
- There's soy in like, everything packaged, I mean, everything. (See #5)
- Whiskey on the rocks for $10 a pop will last through your friend’s two $12 craft cocktails.
- Travel items that you snagged from hotel rooms become really useful.
- You have no qualms telling the cashier - "We're working with $40 here, just fyi." You do a high-five when the total comes in at $38.00 + change.
- You get really good at negotiations.
- You get really pissed off at your cell phone company for not being more competitive.
- Quarters, in vast quantities, can buy you lunch or a cheap beer and this brings you joy.
- Speaking of change, your loose change jar, half-full, makes you feel rich; this is what excitement looks like.
- You know you’re in deep when you start planning dates -- which come with a free dinner -- into your budget.
- #14, and the fact that you can wear heels and make-up and bring life into this world, is the only time you might have reveled in being a woman.
What's more important though, is that I learned a lesson on valuation. Many times in life we look towards that next moment -- when I finally get that job, lose the weight, find the one, get my shit together, to define who we are at a current place in time and consequently, our definition of success. For me, at the moment I took a budget diet I was working on the "when I finally pay off those medical bills." Unknowingly, I was evaluating myself on a balance sheet perspective. Being financially responsible is a must and definitely something to strive for, but we are humans, not organizations - last time I checked we didn't come with a ticker symbol; when did we start acting like we did.
Lessons in valuation to be continued . . .
$250 Budget Pasta Salad for a Week
I didn't break this one down by costs but it's safe to say this lunch is less than $3.00 a pop. Wasn't fab but wasn't that bad either.
1 bag of pasta (Don't skimp here, get the good stuff!)
1 can of black olives, sliced
1 jar of marinated mushrooms
1 can of artichokes (preferably marinated)
1 box of cherry tomatoes
1 large (hormone pumped) chicken breast, cooked and diced
Heavy dash of white balsamic vinegar (you can use red but you'll get red pasta, yum)
Mix all together and toss in a little Italian dressing if your artichokes and mushrooms didn't come marinated. If you want more suffrage, throw in some broccoli. This easily lasted me about a week, but warning, you can't freeze it. . . well, you can, but it ain't pretty.
PS. I'd recommend you try the experiment just for a week if not a month to see how creative you get. Who knows, it may just finance that thing you must have oh so dearly.
PPS. Medical bills paid off. Bam!
Thanks for reading!