Friday, April 05, 2019

the budgetary life

If I'm really to pay off the last of my major debts this year, I'm going to have to buckle down. In-office luncheons were taking an enormous toll on my once-unsinkable budget, which is now slightly sinkable, i.e., if I don't pay off everything this year, it'll definitely happen by early 2020. That's a phase shift of only a few months, but a bit of a blow to my pride. I had originally wanted to be debt-free before I turned fifty, but I watched that goal slip away as I tracked my budget and the forces at work against it.

To become debt-free this year, I need to save about $3000 per month, then send $6000 chunks of money to the States every two months. Doing so would leave me with a few hundred bucks to tide me over from month to month, so I've decided to see what happens if I try to spend the minimum amount possible per month—possibly until the end of the year.

Let's review my expenses. I take an alternating mix of the subway and taxis when I go to work at the beginning of the work day, then I normally walk home every night. The monthly cost of this adds up to around W100,000 per month, or roughly $88, US. Making those huge meals for ten to twenty people cost me anywhere from W200,000 to W500,000 per month, so let's split the difference and posit an average of W350,000, or about $308 per month. Then there's the embarrassing issue of how much I spend on food just to feed myself. A truly frugal person in the US could probably get by on—what—less than $200 per month as long as s/he cooks at home and shops wisely. I'd say my current rate of expenditure is more than twice that—around $450 per month (about W512,000). If I were to cut that severely down to W100,000 per month ($88), I'd be saving $362. A life with no transportation, no office luncheons, and no extensive food budget would save me $758, or W862,158. Not bad at all.

Is this achievable? Cutting out public transportation merely means walking to and from work, and my new office is now actually closer to my residence than my previous one was. In theory, that ought to be easy. Not cooking office luncheons is merely a matter of letting go, so that also ought to be easy (not to mention a bit of a relief because, as fun as those luncheons are, they're also kind of stressful to put together). The huge hurdle, though, is cutting back on food expenses. Cutting down to W100,000 per month is draconian, and it's going to mean I'll lose weight because, on some days, I'll undoubtedly have to just fast. But hey—maybe this is the way to get me dieting, at least for 2019.

Aside from food, I have no other necessary expenses from month to month, unless I go out with friends somewhere, and that doesn't really count as a "necessary" expense (apologies to all accounting majors for my ignorance of the proper terminology to describe all this). W100,000 a month comes out to spending W3,333 a day on food. That's everything: meals, drinks, the whole shebang. I think I'm going to start my draconian regime when I get my next paycheck (well, direct deposit, anyway). From now until payday, then, I'll work on a meal plan that allows me to survive a month on just $88. It's probably going to involve a lot of bulk buying, not to mention the pre-making of certain meal components (e.g., a bucket of chili, stored in single-serving Ziploc packs). This will be a good opportunity for me to get back on what I now think of as my "French diet," i.e., the pattern of eating and exercise that I settled into while in France last October, which got me losing six kilograms in two weeks—a faster rate of weight loss than I'd experienced during my 2017 trans-Korea walk.

And here's a thought: if I skip all eating on Tuesdays and Thursdays, drinking only water, I can spend more per day on meals, as I'd be eating only 22-23 days out of 30-ish. That would put me at W4,545 per day for meals, as opposed to W3,333. Every won counts.

More on this idea as payday approaches.

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