Thursday, April 16, 2009

Buying books

So, I've been killing my considerable downtime at work these days reading a blog, The Non-Consumer Advocate. Basically, a blog about living extremely frugally. She goes so far as to buy nothing new but consumables, and she drastically limits her purchase of those, too. I like to think I do pretty well with making responsible shopping decisions, but I know I could do much better. Hence these thrift-minded posts.

Anyway, I mostly buy used books. And I'm not talking the "like new" books found used on Amazon. I am talking 25¢ books at thrift stores and library book sales. I am usually content to choose my next book from a stack of acquired books of interest, rather than seeking out a specific title. Plus, last year I had the great fortune to attend BookExpo America, where I got dozens of advances that I am still working through. So, I almost never buy new books. And while the Kindle excites me on an intellectual and professional level, I personally shudder at the idea of spending $10 per book with no escape.

But... I work in book publishing! I love books, and I want writers to be compensated for their work. I do feel some guilt about my book-thrift (hence this post), but certainly not enough to buy new on principle, as some of my colleagues do. Plus, when I love a book, I buy new copies for gifts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Frugality vs. Living Balance

As a few of you know, this fall will find me heading back to school. Which means that Bill and I will go from living on a paltry non-profit salary and a meager grad student fellowship to a meager grad fellowship and an even-more-meager grad student fellowship. In a very expensive city.

So, I am thinking hard about what cuts I can make, especially now that I still have a steady income (knock on wood) that covers my basic needs with room for a (very) little extra. I consider myself a fairly thrifty person. I am an awesome budget shopper, at least when it comes to clothes (seriously, I dare you to find someone better), but I've become that way mainly to compensate for my recreational shopping habit. So yes, I rarely spend more than $15 on shoes, but I spend that $15 a lot more than I should.

I am a value-conscious grocery shopper, but I admit that I will spend a few extra dollars on some cheeses that perhaps don't belong in the refrigerator of someone with my means. In general, I feel proud of my financial acumen-- after all, I don't have credit card debt, I've never defaulted on my student loans, and I contribute to my 401k (although so far that hasn't paid off).

However, I like to eat out, have a few drinks, go shopping, travel, go to events, take yoga classes, etc. I took a financially ill-advised but unforgettable trip to Peru last year (that I paid off a few months later). I don't really want to give up those experiences, but I do think it's time I figure out a way to manage my spending and cut it back.

I'm not sure how I want to manage that-- I think a more strict budget is in order. I'm toying with the idea of moving to a cash-based existence-- maybe ditch the credit/debit cards-- and give myself a weekly cash allowance? I love my credit card rewards but I think might be a good idea to get out of the habit of charging all of my groceries (even if I pay the bill in full). I have to say, the idea of rejecting dinner or drinks with a friend because it doesn't fit into my budget seems like a strange and horrible concept, but I think it's the only way I can get through the next two years.

Infrequent readers, how do you budget?