Monday, January 7, 2008

Black beans, please

After six months on a debt-reduction diet, I have mastered the cooking of black beans. 

This week the tasty legumes will again be my primary means of nutrition for lunch, along with some decent whole wheat tortillas. I am so thankful for cumin and limes. Without them, I could not regularly eat the penny-pinching staple for five-day stretches at a time. 
The task of winnowing my expenses to ever smaller amounts has grown easier with time -- for the most part. 

I did keep three luxuries -- a cell phone plan with lots of minutes, basic cable and high-speed internet access. I felt the cell phone was somewhat justifiable, since I have no land line. My roommate splits the cost of cable and internet, so that bill is not quite so onerous.

As for my gym membership? Gone. Subscriptions to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal? History. And my hair? Cut only once since July. I turned the visit into a reward for cutting my credit card debt in half.

I also have learned to do without other amenities. The large-screen TV I inherited from a friend broke in November. A repair or replacement is waiting until the debt is gone. For now, I am watching the 12-inch set in my bedroom. My personal laptop no longer has a functioning CD/DVD player. That, too, must wait.

I did allow myself to buy new running shoes with Christmas money I received. Now that I have quit smoking, I do not want to become a gordita. Vanity still occupies at least a small place in my life.

If only I could tame the most vexing of habitual expenditures of all -- the afternoon snack. I crave a Diet Coke from the vending machine as if it were oxygen and I an emphysemic. Cost -- $1.35. Equally pernicious are the chicken nuggets from the company cafeteria.  Those set me back $2.00. At least I can limit the chicken treats to once a week. The soda is another story. I drink it daily. Perhaps I should just buy a 12-pack, store it in a desk drawer and be done with it. 

It may seem like a petty battle, but the coke habit alone costs me more than $300 a year. I think I can beat the chicken nuggets. The soda, however, looks like trench warfare.

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