Remember when I broke down my budget for you? It required a restructure of my lifestyle by cutting back on everything from groceries to social outings to gift purchases etc. I knew this but I hadn't done a thing to change it. Not a single thing. I have great intentions but I don't follow through easily.
I went out Friday night because a friend from high school was in town. We chose an inexpensive place for dinner and I didn't expect anything significant to break the bank. I should have known better. Here's how it broke down:
For starters, we went to Cascabel Taqueria on the Upper East Side. Being a Friday night, it was packed so we got drinks while we waited for a table. Someone bought a round of margaritas and I was determined to make mine last. No one else had that mindset though because everyone else had 3 by the time we left. One person met us later while we were still waiting for a table and since I was closest to the bar, I asked if he wanted me to order something for him. I did not mean to buy him a drink but apparently that's what he assumed. I order him a margarita and while I'm waiting for it, our group gets called for a table and they all leave! So I'm stuck paying for this guy's drink and I just met him that night. Afterward, he claimed "I owe you a drink" but he never did buy me one.
I had a fairly inexpensive meal, as did most people, although others got additional sides. When we were finished, we did not get separate checks so the meal had to be divided by all 6 of us. Everyone was suggesting to just split it 6 ways...totally not fair.
Ya know that Friends episode where they have to go out to dinner to celebrate Ross' promotion and Ross, Monica and Chandler make enough money so they choose a fancy restaurant and then suggest splitting the check? Then it becomes a big deal because Pheobe, Rachel and Joey only ordered a side soup because they don't have a lot of money and they don't think splitting the check is fair. Well that was me expect I was the only one. I didn't have half the group backing me up. It's even harder when you're out with a friend you haven't seen in ages and half the group you either just met or are merely acquaintances and you don't want to be 'that girl' making a big scene on your first impression.
My $15 meal became $33 plus that guy's drink.
Then our next goal was to go to a cheaper bar so when we go out dancing later we wouldn't need to buy any other drinks. We went to a fairly run down karaoke bar where they had a few $3 shot specials. Since the group was in the "everyone buy a round" mode, I figured it would be smart of me to buy a round of $3 shots instead of getting stuck with a more expensive round later. I also bought one mixed drink, which turned out to be $8! One of the friends went to buy a mixed drink but there was a minimum so I said to just throw it on my tab and he can catch me later, which he did. We quickly left after realizing drinks were that expensive. The thing about these bars is that they don't tell you the prices of drinks unless they're on special. You get your bill and it's a surprise. Not cool.
Then we had to go to this "fabulous" bar downtown that had great music and dancing. So we had to take two taxis to fit all 6 of us. We got there and while we were grabbing a drink, we realized it was so crowded you couldn't even move. At this point, no one was in the mood to pay a lot of money to be a sardine. We headed to another bar that was more low key and I just grabbed one beer to sip on. Unfortunately I was out of cash at this point and of course there is a $15 minimum on credit cards there. So I threw on two drinks for other people too.
Eventually we headed home with another taxi and stopped to get some food before bed. I got an appetizer, which was still $10.50.
The next morning, we went out to get bagels and coffee because our host doesn't really keep food in her apartment because of this strict diet she has going. I wanted to get Dunkin Dounuts coffee because it's much cheaper but of course Starbucks was closer.
Then we walked through Central Park and enjoyed the day. While we were out we also had to get lunch. We went to a Chineese restaurant which has really good lunch deals but of course, there's a credit card minimum so we had to put two meals on one card...mine.
By the time I got home, I had spent $162, which I don't have. I don't have a dime for the rest of the week and I owe my savings account some money.
Over lunch, I had a heart to heart with my friend about where I'm at financially. I told her I don't want to be the buzz kill but I can't afford to keep doing this. I understand her and her friends have more money and can go out more comfortably a few times each week but I have different expenses and just can't do it. I told her I'm either going to have to start saying no and staying in more or we can find alternative activities that don't cost much or are free. She was very supportive and we generated a better plan. We agreed that I can go out one night for each paycheck. Other nights we can rent a movie and make a nice dinner or go to a free concert or movie in the park or go for a run etc. I told her I'm working hard at trying to make more money but for right now, I need her to be supportive rather than encourage me to go out and to almost always take the expensive route. I'm very thankful for this conversation because I feel better about being able to manage NYC living.
Additionally, I'm trying to become trained in waitressing so I have more options to pick up shifts. Even if they don't need a regular waitress, I can cover for people when they need me to. I'm also very happy to work a weekend evening because it makes better money and it gives me a productive excuse for not being able to go out, instead of having to stay inside and pout.
Another lesson I need to work on is buying presents for people. There will always be birthdays and events that socially require presents. I love thinking of presents for people, just as I always appreciate presents from others. But I need to cut back or stop. It was my cousin's birthday on Monday and her confirmation today. I got her a gift card to her favorite store, but I really couldn't afford it. I found her a much more affordable/free present for her confirmation and I feel much better about it. For my friends' birthday and Christmas presents, I will either get more creative with free or affordable presents or simply send a nice card.
Now what will I do for the rest of the week without being able to spend a dime? Good question.
Tonight I'm on my own for dinner since my aunt and uncle have plans. Instead of using that as an excuse to go out, I will use what their kitchen has and make a good meal.
Fortunately, I still have some left over manicotti for lunches because I took advantage of a few free meals work was giving out and didn't eat the lunch I brought. I also have a few apples left for breakfasts and I have a few energy bars and snacks in my desk that I can use. I will force myself to drink work coffee instead of going on trips with my co-workers to Dunkin for yummy iced coffee. I will wait to eat dinner until after I workout and once I get home. I have no social plans this week until the weekend so I think I can manage, it just will be a strange adjustment.
It's all about living within your means and I have to get into that habit quickly. It is not easy, especially when you're fighting peer pressure and are the only one in your boat but I simply have no other choice. Some days are harder than others and it's easy to get down on myself for my financial short comings but if I keep working at this, it will get easier, I will build my savings, lower my debt and be more comfortable with it.