Later she returns and informs me, "Dad and I think we should get a new garbage can -- in February." Jan. 2: I do the week's grocery shopping, and though it pains me to pick up a $14 bottle of olive oil, who can cook without it? When I get home, I find an unopened bottle of olive oil in the back of the pantry, prompting my daughter and me to take on the reorganization of the jumbled pantry. I find more things I didn't know I had: a bag of coffee, cleaning supplies, bottled water and the fireworks I was looking for on New Year's Eve. Organizing cupboards and closets is a great way to save money -- no buying duplicates because you can't find something.
Just two days into the New Year I spend $40.89 at Office Depot for computer paper and office supplies, but we can't do without. At the checkout, my daughter tosses a bag of Sour Patch candies on the counter. I raise my eyebrows. "Oops, I forgot, " she says as she puts them back.
My husband's car won't start. He pays $59.88 for a battery and installs it himself.
Jan. 3: I cancel the next day's scheduled delivery of bottled water as well as a delivery later in the month. Savings: $61.98.
The Cat Cafe closes. We have six cats and usually put dishes of food out on the patio so they can snack while we are at work. The problem is, all the cats in the neighborhood, the blue jays and even an opossum family also feed at our trough. Now the cats must come in and eat before the family leaves the house in the morning. This exercise gives new meaning to the term herding cats, but it should help cut the cat food bill.
Jan. 4: A quick trip to Ormond Beach to visit my parents. At a pit stop, the GooGoo Clusters and Peanut M&M's beckon, but I walk on by.
Jan. 5: We spend the morning at a farmer's market. My mother buys. There are bargains: a pound of tomatoes for a quarter. We talk about taking in some of the local attractions or going to a Native American festival with a $10 admission fee. But we end up taking a ride along the St. John's River, walking on the beach and playing board games.
Jan. 6: We eat in, talk, feed bread crusts to the birds on the beach and play more board games. My stepfather checks out the The Odd Couple from the library. I haven't seen it in so long, it's like watching a new movie. The day is a nice, low-key change of pace.
Jan. 7: We eat breakfast at the pier in Flagler Beach. I would have paid, but my step-dad has the fastest hand in the West when it comes to picking up checks. Other than gas, we have spent $0 in the past four days.
My daughter and I arrive home at 7 p.m. after a four-hour drive. "You must be tired, " my husband says. "We can always order a pizza." But we can't; it isn't allowed.
Instead, I whip up a vegetable and beef stir-fry with leftovers. I rummage through the cupboard for those little packs of soy and duck sauce left over from the days when Chinese takeout was permissible and stir them together with ginger to make a sauce. Not bad.
Somehow, my husband has managed to spend half the week's food budget over the weekend. I discover Lean Pockets and packaged coconut cake in the fridge. No and No. When your food budget is $70 a week, you've got to prepare most of the food yourself -- from scratch.
With school looming the next day, my daughter wants to give her school friends belated holiday gifts. But under the no-spend edict, the only acceptable gift is a homemade one.