Category Archives: No Spending Challenge

Bye Bye Comcast – Hello Wii+Netflix+HuluPlus+Antenna

I recently moved to a new apartment and despite the new amenities featured in my new place there was one major loss in the transition – ATT U-verse. The new spot is wired for Comcast, not for U-verse, which really sucks. U-verse is 2xs a better deal than Comcast when it comes to cable TV and all the nickle-and-dime things Comcast requires just to have a halfway decent experience. After 3 weeks of giving Comcast another try I packed everything up, returned it to the service center and decided to revamp my “entertainment center” (I use the term “center” term very loosely).

I decided to go with a combination of Wii-Hulu-Netflix (which I already subscribed to and love)-Redbox-Antenna. Here’s what i have learned so far…

Wii – My Wii is getting more use in the first week of January than it did in 2012 as a while. This was the best (and probably the only) gift my brother got me as an adult!

HuluPlus – Hulu is nice. I used to watch the free shows online a lot years ago and hadn’t been doing so as much. Now, without cable, this is a great way to watch some of my favorite TV shows on the larger screen – Scandal, Tonight Show, etc…
Pros: Watching shows and series on TV and on computer
Cons: Selections are limited; Movie selections are questionable at best; Did not work well with Wii via wifi (skipped a lot)

Netflix – The current love of my life!! I watched all four seasons of both Mad Men and Breaking Bad and a host of great B-list movies, documentaries and even some more current films via Netflix. Works seamless on the Wii and I also use the app on my laptop, iPad and Windows phone.
Pros: Watching shows and series on TV and computer; App works seamless across my technology
Cons: Movies and shows are not the most current – have to wait for Season 5 to come out

Redbox – There is a Redbox kiosk in my office building, my grocery store, my neighborhood gas station…. they are everywhere. Very convenient for that moment when you’re leaving work and decide a movie would be a great way to end the evening.
Pros: Inexpensive, especially if you forget to return for a day; Lots of options, including new movies
Cons: Can’t forget to return or it racks up

Antenna – I purchased an antenna from best Buy only to realize that my TV was pre-digital transition, so I also ordered a digital converter from Amazon… waiting for that to ship and arrive. In the meantime, I can pick up about 5 channels on the antenna – weather, two Christian channels and only one that comes in clear with old TV shows like Knight Rider.
No Pros and Cons until I get the digital converter I ordered.

Upfront costs – buying a new TV wasn’t an option, so I worked with what I had and bought the following accessories to enhance my experience (should have been more patient and checked for price matches or just used Amazon because clearly I overpaid for each one in Best Buy):

All in all, so far things have been good!!!

Pros: Saving plenty of money each month on cable. With the bundle I’m saving $40/month now, after my bundle would have expired the savings are more like $60/month (not including upgraded channel selection or premium channels).
Cons: No sports! Which is ok for me – luckily I have friends, or 2 cool neighborhood bars within walking distance or I can watch online

Considering the switch?? HuluPlus has a 2 week FREE trial offer if you sign up through my referral code!
http://hulu.com/r/zLTOSg

One Month – Spend No Money – Day Twenty-One (POSTED LATE)

**I wrote this on Monday and forgot to post it**

This past weekend I went back to Detroit to spend some time with family. It was a great last minute decision and I came back to Chicago feeling refreshed about life. I had a lot of support for my challenge, which helped a great deal! My aunt Julie rode with me to Detroit (yes, that young chick in the pic is my aunt!). Not only did she get in the car with a 3-piece from Harold’s, she also shared a bag of Garrett’s caramel-cheese mix popcorn!! By the time we got to Gary, IN (for the non-Chi people that’s only about 30 minutes away) the lap of my gray jogging pants was covered in bright yellow splotches from the cheese!!! YUMMY!!!

When I arrived in Detroit my dad had purchased an 8-piece from Popeye’s to get me through the weekend! Go Dad! On Saturday morning my Granny fixed some grits while I hooked up toast and eggs then I was off to meet up with my maternal side of the fam. I did make a purchase – a greeting card, a gift card as my contribution to the fundraiser for my cousin Bobby’s family and a cute little trench coat from Target for Reina’s daughter’s birthday. I resisted the urge to buy candy, gum and everything else and went on my merry way. There was plenty of food at the event, hosted by some of his fraternity brothers. This was my first time hanging out with a house full of men of Alpha Phi Alpha since I graduated from college. LOL – It was cool and we had a great time!

What was planned to be a few hour visit turned into an all day stay. When I got home I was TIRED and plans to hang out were scrapped. I got good sleep and woke up late on Sunday. I was rushing to get back to Chicago and in my haste got 20 miles away before realizing I left my laptop. Had to double back for that and thus began the 4.5 hour journey through torrential downpours along I-94. My dad had given me $30 to get some breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Since my bill was only $8.47, I added the rest to my weekly grocery allowance and picked up some more fun things I was out of like Vanilla Wafers and caramel dips.

So what you got Week Four. We’re in the home stretch!!! YEAH!!!

One Month – Spend No Money – Day Fifteen

OK, I have learned something else – Out of sight should NOT always mean out of mind…

So I’ve taken the charge cards out of my wallet, I keep my debit card and my emergency food gift cards with me and a lil cash. That’s it. Since I’m not spending I naturally suspended my almost daily checking account reviews. Bad idea. Imagine my surprise this weekend when I open my mail and realize I had a $35 overdraft fee on my checking account. On a Blockbuster night last week, Rob was supposed to get the movies but since I had to return one he “PayPal-ed” me some money and asked me to pick up the new ones, versus both of us making the trip. No problem, its no money off my back. So I open my wallet and see a $20 and a debit card. I figure I should save my cash and use the card, not a problem since I haven’t been using it, right?

Not so. When I paid my tithes and my Homecoming Dues after the automatic payments on my bills went through, I forgot to balance my checkbook… had I done so I would have noticed that there was $8 in my account, not enough for the $10.88 movies. So my cheap date turned into a $45.88 evening. Sigh.

While I don’t feel the need to check daily, I reminded myself that I need to maintain my usually routine of balancing the checkbook and reviewing against the online statements. Fortunately, a quick call to my bank got the charge removed and life goes on…

Saturday night was the house party event of 2009 (LOL) and Sunday was a snowed-in chill day of watching Pineapple Express, reruns of Platinum Weddings, Making the Band, Sportscenter and a bunch of other nonsense tv shows… now we are on Day 15. Week Three. Bring it on…

As for the item of the day… my cousin just got one of my “non American dream cars” – the Mini Cooper. Being from Detroit, we stick with our American car companies, but if I ever happen to be in a Mini Cooper dealership with my checkbook and nobody is looking, I just might have to be disowned from the family!!

MINI COOPER

One Month – Spend No Money: Day Ten

Sigh. Withdrawal is setting in. The cravings for all of the things I don’t deny myself of during a typical month are HIGH. I want Chipotle. I want a tomato basil quiche from Argo Tea. I want my morning honey banana oatmeal from Corner Bakery. I want a Berry Fizz from Grand Lux Cafe. And tilapia tacos from Carbon – with guacamole. And new gym shoes. And a new jacket. And a new pair of Joe’s Jeans. I want, I want, I want…. I even tried to get my dad to give me his credit card number so I could use it to add money to my Cosi gift card. It didn’t work. He told me to go ahead and cheat because he’s positive April is cheating. Well, let her cheat!! I am not going to do it!

On top of this – today is the first day of Lent. What did I give up for Lent this year? Macy’s. In-store and On-line. Shopping and browsing. As if to rub salt on the would, I received about $90 in gift cards AND 4 coupons YESTERDAY from my Granny. Its cool. I can do this. 40 Days. I’m going to need prayer. I keep reminding myself that my reward will be my trip a week after Easter. I’ll take my gift cards that week and go shopping!

scream <-how I feel about it

Yesterday my Aunt Shelley came to town for a day trip to Chicago. My cousin Cheryl picked her up and they came with Margo to scoop me up and we went to Carbon. My auntie bought me a burrito bowl. I love her 🙂 Just for her generosity, I am going to help her hook up her new toys when I go back to Detroit!!

cherish and shelley <- Aunt Shelley

Item of the day?

Gmail accounts!! (really… I’m so serious…) It took a LONG time, and I mean a LONG time to really learn to like my gmail account but now I love it. And it seems that most of my friends have them too. As they continue to add more features, it becomes increasingly fun to use! I know this is a Windows Live Blog, but I just do not like my hotmail/msn account anymore. If I didn’t like Windows Live Spaces as much as I do I would have rid myself of the email address long ago. Any other gmail users out there?? Love it or Hate it?? I’d love to hear your thoughts on your preferred email service…..

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One Month – Spend No Money: Day Seven

I survived the first week of no spending!! I did not take one trip tot he grocery store… no buying books, plane tickets, or shoes online… no fast food stops… no martinis or movies. And yet, in that week, I managed to see 3 museums, attend 2 networking events and enjoy a $65 plated luncheon. At no out of pocket cost! NOT BAD, HUH??

On another note, I can definitely say I notice some differences within myself… and I’m really starting to see my thought patterns about money, food and spending overall. My Day Four “break through”:

I’ve accepted that using debit/credit cards are still forms of spending.

Of course, that is basic knowledge that we all (should) have and my father taught me everything there was to know about this stuff… but I can now truly understand my inner thoughts on it. We pull out a card and often take a moment to think before swiping. In that time of thought, we either decide to spend, or we decide to move on. Well, without my cards, that simple thought is now an “evaluation” because I have to go out of my way (back home in most cases) to get to my credit card in order to use it. So now I’m forced to really consider the purchase and determine:

– do I need this? If so, why?
– can I buy it a month from now?
– will I need/want it a month from now?
– is it truly worth it, during this time when I am trying to pay down debt and increase savings.

In most cases, I walk away. It really hit me Tuesday when I looked at a Best Buy sales ad, one of my favorite stores, and saw the TV’s on sale. I have one TV in my entire place (not that its huge, but still) It’s a 19″ Flat panel EDTV (no, its not even an HDTV – leave my TV alone, Brian). It sits on top of my fire place and if you sit any further from the couch you can barely see a thing. I’ve talked about replacing it for years (Literally). I also swore I’d get cable (which I don’t have) when I replace that TV.

throw_out_tv

So when I see this 32″ Flat panel for $497 at Best Buy, my thoughts go:

– no interest for 3 years.. $500… that’s (at a minimum) about $14/month. If I pay $50, I’ll pay it off in 10 months. No problem. I should go to Best buy right now!
– wait, I am supposed to be on a no spending spree…
– oh, but if I put it on my Best Buy card it doesn’t count as spending cause the bill won’t come until next month…
– WAIT!! Yes, it does count!!!! Because its still money that I’m spending, and will have to be paid back!!
– Since I’ve already made it 3 years.. what’s another month/quarter/year??? And do I really want to add on top of that, the expense for cable??? NO!!!

So simple, right?? Well, a lot of us have spending “issues” that are ties to emotions. For me its usually sadness, boredom and hunger. So I grab a cookie and storm over the trash can and bury the sales paper deep inside.

Another day of success, another life lesson learned. That is what this is all about!

Today I will take my $10 to the grocery store and stock up on my fresh goods. But I know, you’re really looking for my item of the day, right?? LOL! Well, its none other than a seafood meal. Sigh…. going to get my peanut butter now.

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One Month – Spend No Money: Day One recap

While Day Two (today) was pretty much uneventful, Day One was a blast! I have to give some credit to the inspiration for this challenge. This blog inspired our first thoughts of taking on our own challenge. I found out today that Brent is a friend of my sorority sister, Mia. Small world, Huh??

Monday was the first day of the best and I was on vacation for the holiday. April was sending me text messages by 10AM about how she wanted a Pepsi so bad but wasn’t going to cave on the first day. My original plan was to check out the Chicago Cultural Center (free admission) and the Chicago History Museum (free admission on Mondays).

I hopped on the bus to the Chicago Museum of History. There was a Popeye’s across the street when I got off and I instantly thought about a biscuit and 3 wing combo. I shook the thoughts out of my head and started walking so I could get away.

The museum is free on Mondays and turned out to be a great trip. There is an exhibit called “Chic Chicago” that chronicles society fashion over the 1900’s in Chicago. Saw some AMAZING designs. There were some other exhibits that were also very interesting including sections in the Chicago: Crossroads of America exhibit on Chicago Jazz and Blues and the Race riots and Gang Violence of the past, along with future ideas for how to take the city to the next level in terms of transportation and sustainability (Burnham 2.0 Plan). I also got a free 4-photo strip from the photo booth 🙂 Here are some of the pics I took (not the best, as flash photography was not allowed)…

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(above) Chicago took the title from the East Coast as the leader in transportation when it developed its rail system. The second pic is part of a plan to earn the title back by 20

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(above) Items that were founded in Illinois – Radio Flyer wagon, Lincoln Logs, Schwinn bikes and magazines including Ebony, Jet and Time.

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(above) Chicago fashion, Jordan’s jersey and shoes, a replica of the old Chrysler Motors building, a “jazz club” with photos of Chicago artists.

When the museum was shutting down, I decided to hop on the bus and head downtown. I was so busy laughing with the driver when I got on the bus, and he kindly reminded me when I got off that I never paid my fare. I gasped and laughed and offered to pay (though I had realized once I sat down that I forgot to pay) but he let me go free. Save a couple of bucks there by simply smiling 🙂 I hopped off the bus and excitedly skipped towards Jamba Juice, only to come to a screeching halt 10 feet from the front door, once I realized i can’t spend any money. So I turned away and went to Macy’s to pay my bill, wandered around for a bit and ended up buying absolutely NOTHING. Surprise, huh?

Then I walked over to the Chicago Cultural Center only to discover it was closed early for the holiday. I headed back to State Street and caught the bus to the Shedd Aquarium (Today was a FORD Free day and they were staying open later for the holiday). The guy at the entrance informed me that they were closing in 50 minutes but since I didn’t pay I could only visit the first level. No problem, I saw plenty in just 30 minutes… and was reminded that my maternal urges are buried deep inside after the 3rd kid walking around screaming the word “Mommy”over and over forced me to run to the nearest exit. But I was able to get a few pics from the Aquarium…

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By the time I left, I was hungry and tired tired so I caught the bus back home. I fixed myself a nice (cheap and quick) dinner of Cuban Black Bean Stew and settled in for the evening.

Day One = Success!!!

Day Two= Success!!!

Stay tuned… So far, its been a breeze, but I’m sure it gets tougher. Any bets on how long before I cave and buy my first piece of junk food???

money pic,jpg

…and since I can’t spend I HAVE to post an item of the day…. Maybe if I can do “no spending” for… say… about 12 months I may be able to buy these beautiful Christian Louboutin shoes!! LOL!! (Yes, they are the pink version of the silver ones I posted a week ago!!!)

Christian Louboutin Mirrored Platform Pump

New Challenge: One Month – Spend No Money

April and I have decided to take on the challenge of one entire month of spending NO MONEY. Every failure (purchase) must be tracked. The challenge does not include rent/mortgage, bills, transportation… but pretty much everything else counts – yes groceries included! So this required planning. I had to plan out my meals and buy enough groceries to last a month – which cost me WAY more than I have ever spent at once in a grocery store!!!!

So now its DAY ONE and I’m on vacation for the holiday. I slept in (in a lame attempt to pass time) and now I’m trying to map out my afternoon with free events/exhibits in the city. So far I’m going to check out the Chicago Tourism Center, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Chicago History Museum (free on Mondays). I found this list and it has a few other ideas for me to pull from over the next month.

I’ll be sure to take lots of pics and report back on how well April and I are doing with our “no spending plan”. Wish me luck!!!

P.S. – If you’re in the Chicago area and want to offer up a free meal at your restaurant or complimentary admission to your venue, in exchange for a blog post or Yelp review about how wonderful you are, just let me know! 😉

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As for April – the competition is ON!!!!!! Winner takes all!!! (uhm, for the record – there is no prize other than bragging rights among two competitive females!)