Monthly Archives: March 2017

No-Spend Weekend Update

I survived my no-spend weekend on March 3-5 (the only exception was buying groceries for the upcoming week). Admittedly, it was not a really difficult thing to do. What helped was 1) finding free activities, 2) making the most of what I already have, and 3) having someone willing to treat you every now and then.

On Friday, 3/3, Dennis and I went to Free Fridays at MoMA, where admission is free from 4-8 p.m. I have visited MoMA as a paying guest and even then, it was crowded, so to say that Free Friday was an absolute zoo would not be stretching the truth. We had to fight our way through crowds to catch a glimpse at the Pollocks, Picassos, and Rothkos on display, but it was still a fun and intellectually stimulating way to pass the time.

On Saturday, 3/4, I went to the gym (okay, not really “free” since I pay a monthly fee), bought groceries at Trader Joe’s, and then spent the night in watching “Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark” (“free” via our AmazonPrime subscription) and drinking Old Fashioneds with bourbon we already had on hand.

On Sunday, 3/5, Dennis and I participated in a free wedding registry event at Crate and Barrel. We got to come to the store two hours before it opened to the general public and complete our registry, which was a nice experience because usually the SoHo C&B is totally overrun with people. There was free coffee and muffins, yummy wedding cake samples, and at the end of the event, we got to take home two free stemless wineglasses! As far as I could tell, C&B doesn’t really check to make sure you are actually getting married. So if you want some free food and wine glasses, just borrow a friend’s engagement ring, make up a wedding date, and register online for the event. Afterwards, we met up with some friends for brunch. I had warned Dennis beforehand that I was doing a spending fast, but he offered to treat me so I of course accepted.

I ended up not spending much money the rest of the following week, either, even though no spend-weekend was over. I brought lunch to work every day, which saves at least $50/week. As the weekend approached, I thought about repeating the spending fast but I decided to give myself a $40 allowance instead. I ended up spending all of it on Friday night, when Dennis and I went to Harlem for happy hour and dinner. The happy hour  was incredibly well-priced – $6 shots & beer, well drinks, and wine – and I will not disclose the location because it is a tiny hole in the wall and we want to make sure we get a seat next weekend.  The only regrettable portion of the night was the food we got at a restaurant next door, which was fairly mediocre and we both agreed that we would have been more satisfied if we had grabbed some slices of pizza near our apartment for a quarter of the price. Since I had spent all my money in one night, I had to refrain from other purchases this weekend, including tickets to see a documentary at Film Forum and buying some pastries from the Hungarian Pastry Shop. Without the allowance, that would have been probably another $20 or so. Not enough to break the bank, but I knew that the upcoming week was going to be expensive: on Monday, we’re having dinner with out-of-town friends and on Tuesday, we are going to a Brooklyn Nets game ($20 tickets! but obligatory happy hour drinks and arena food for dinner).

Would I do a no-spend weekend again? Sure, but the conditions have to be right: unpleasant weather, no guests/visitors, a couple of good books to get lost in, and a well-stocked home bar. I do like the idea of establishing a weekend budget, and I think it’s a habit that I will try to adopt going forward.

A Good Decision

When my parents dropped me off at college, after all the dorm room furniture rearranging and unpacking, my dad gave me a hug and, before leaving, said, “Make good decisions.” Presumably at the time, he meant “Don’t drink or do drugs” or “Make sure you graduate within four years.” It was a simple, catch-all piece of advice, much like the only financial advice he gave me and my sister when we were young, which was “Save.” The advice at times has been frustratingly vague. How much am I supposed to save? Where do I put it? Is taking on a massive amount of debt to attend graduate school across the country a good decision? It seems like only after the fact do I realize whether a decision I made was a good or a bad one.

Case in point: Dennis and I need to find a new apartment starting May 1. Here in NYC, landlords typically put out listings a month before the current tenant’s lease expires, so we really don’t need to be looking seriously until about the last week of March. I’ve been peeking on Streeteasy and Craigslist since January. We are looking for a unicorn of an apartment: less than $3,000/month, a true one-bedroom, in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights/Park Slope/Downtown Brooklyn a half-mile or less from express subway stops, relatively new construction, lots of natural light, central AC, in-unit washer dryer, dishwasher, and some access to outdoor space. I know that it will be impossible to find everything we want without significantly increasing our price, so we are prepared to make some tradeoffs. On Friday, I stumbled across an apartment that pretty much had EVERYTHING going for it, with the exception of central AC. It was well under budget ($2700) but the catch was this: 1) you basically had to become a gardener and 2) the lease started April 1. The apartment is on the ground floor of a brownstone and this tenant’s responsibility is to maintain a really nice garden — we’re talking multiple flower beds, shrubbery, trees, etc. I was less concerned about the gardening than I was about the lease start date, which is a full month before we will be ready to move. I crunched the numbers in vain, hoping to find a way to make it work, but there was no way to blunt the financial pain of paying full rent on TWO apartments for the month of April. Could we do it? Technically, yes, but it would have meant diminishing our savings account and basically not spending any money besides subway fare and beans and rice. It was time to make a decision: ignore the numbers and find a way to make it work anyway? Or accept the financial facts, close the Craigslist ad, and hope that another awesome apartment will be available in May? I chose the latter, and I think my father would agree that it was the right decision.

Preparing to Fast

I am not going to spend any money this weekend, except for groceries. Normally I try not to deprive myself of things completely because then I go nuts, but I think I can handle not spending for 72 hours (Friday-Sunday). The past couple of weeks have been more expensive than normal and I am feeling the pinch from brunches, dinners, and movies (it was Oscar season, after all). This past weekend alone I spent $180 on drinks, two dinners and two movies! I am living, yes, but not exactly saving or working towards paying down my debt, either.

I’ll be able to fill a few hours of the weekend with standard chores and errands, like cleaning the apartment, buying groceries, and going to the gym. While it helps that I won’t have any out-of-town visitors and the weather is going to be meh at best, I am still going to find myself tempted to spend just so I have something to do when all the chores and errands are done. So, I’m compiling a list of free activities to keep myself occupied:

  • Clean out my closet, since spring is (finally) around the corner
  • Read (I have three books checked out from the library: The Underground Railroad, The Zookeeper’s Wife, and I Contain Multitudes)
  • Work on some outstanding wedding tasks
  • Catch up on other Oscar-nominated films and documentaries on Netflix that I haven’t seen yet (like “The White Helmets” or “13”)
  • Go on a long walk somewhere if the weather is nice (and only bring my Metrocard)

Have you done a no-spend weekend before? What did you do to keep yourself busy?