February 2019 Expense Report: I Miss $2 Pad Thai

February’s theme: recovery. Recovery from jet lag after January’s Asia trip. Recovery from the funds spent on said trip. Recovery from the sunburnt neck I also got on said trip, oops.

February was a low-spend month, despite Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day.

Here’s the breakdown:

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RENT + UTILITIES   1,075.00I live in brownstone Brooklyn with two roommates.
RESTAURANTS      245.12Dates, meals with friends, and takeout.
GROCERIES      203.67Includes a new subscription to my neighborhood’s CSA. I roasted parsnips for the first time. Yum!
GYM      167.00I lift and do HIIT at a local gym 3x a week. Semi-private training. Worth every penny.
TRANSPORTATION      156.00Visiting Mr. Boyfriend. Includes a $100 Amtrak gift card, a last-minute bus ticket, a Charlie Card, and Lyfts.

Excluded: my NYC MetroCard, which is pre-tax.

GIFTS      135.18Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Boyfriend! Here’s an Instant Pot. May it grace your life with its ~~~~magic~~~~.

My sister danced all night for Children’s Miracle Network. I donated $50, which my firm matched.

Excluded: Chinese New Year money. I gave my grandparents $200, which was covered by gifts that I received.

HOME SUPPLIES        61.52A $50 Amazon gift card, Sensodyne, and Kleenex.
HAIRCUTS        50.002 x (20.00 + 5.00 tip). I get a haircut every 2.5 weeks because otherwise I’d look like a porcupine.
COFFEE        36.45I make coffee at home but still buy coffee at work. The free pantry coffee is decaf sludge.
CLOTHES        29.90I bought a shirt from Uniqlo, partly to replace an old holey shirt, but mostly because I wanted to put off laundry for another day.
ENTERTAINMENT          9.99Spotify Premium.
TOTAL   2,169.83  

My February notes:

I miss cheap food in Asia!

When Mr. Boyfriend and I sat down to plan our Asia trip, our conversation sounded like this…

Me: We’re going to eat here for breakfast… then here for a mid-morning snack… and then here for lunch…. then here for second lunch… [points at color-coded Google Map with pins for every restaurant]

Mr. Boyfriend: Are we going to do anything else besides eat?

Me:  Yes, that’s what the red pins are for. They’re the activities that’ll help us work up an appetite in between meals.

Mr. Boyfriend: Oh, OK. [overwhelmed face]

I love food. I grew up in a family of food lovers. Once upon a time, I even took food photos.

But one thing I realized? Eating out is WAY more fun abroad. Especially when your U.S. dollars stretch far.

In Bangkok? Get the best pad Thai for $2, or green curry for $1.33. Enjoy it, because the same dishes are 8-10x the cost in NYC. And not because they’re better.

I guess I was still on vacation mode because restaurants were my largest expense after rent at $245.12. Oops.

What went wrong? A post-mortem:

  • Expensive meals with friends. My coworker invited me out for Restaurant Week. I didn’t vet the menu before saying yes. Guys, it wasn’t even good. I don’t remember what we ate. I just remember that we waited an hour for our entrees, and I left early for a meeting. The one saving grace was that we went for lunch and not dinner. Cost: $35.
  • Laziness. The other weekend, I had a day where my plans were to lounge around the house in PJs and be a burrito. I had all day to meal prep. I still got takeout because I didn’t feel like cooking. Oops.
  • Poor planning. A too common scenario: I get out of work late, the train is delayed, and I’m not home until 9pm. What’s in the fridge? Shredded mozzarella cheese.

Oops, I missed my train to Boston.

You leave work at 5:30pm. Your train leaves Penn Station at 7:50pm. What do you do?

Um, I tried to squeeze in a workout. In Brooklyn. 35 minutes away from Penn.

Thirty squats and a delayed subway later, I’m on my laptop, scrambling to rebook my train ride leaving in 20 minutes. Ahhhhh!!!!!

The good news? Rebooking my trip was free, even though it was literally at the last minute. When you rebook an Amtrak trip, you can redeem your ticket for any ride that’s the same price or lower. Since trips were expensive through April, I chose a random weekend in May.

The bad news? I bought a last-minute bus ticket because, well, I was still going to Boston. It was 2x the normal price. Gah!

Note to self: do less.

I did use my Chase Freedom though!

For those who are unfamiliar, the Chase Freedom card gives 5% cash back on categories that rotate every quarter. There’s no annual fee, so it’s a good first card for those looking to dip their toes into the rewards game.

That said, the categories can be hit or miss. Gas stations? Tolls? I live in NYC. What’s driving?

In 1Q 2019, one category stands out: drug stores.

Why are drug stores great? It’s not because of the Sensodyne and Kleenex (though I did buy those, thank you). It’s because of the gift cards by the cashier. If the gift card selection is good, guess what? You basically can get 5% back on anything.

The Rite Aid near me never has gift cards, probably because they go fast. But one morning, they did! I scored a $50 Amazon gift card and a $100 Amtrak gift card, which will go toward home supplies and future Boston trips.

In one shot, I earned 750 points on items I would’ve bought anyway. Since I also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, that’s $9.38 toward my next trip booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (assuming 1.25 cents per point).


I just wonder if I should’ve bought more. I have a lot of Boston trips this year. Drug stores are 5% back until March-end. Hmm…

My money goals for March 2019:

Slash my restaurant spending.

Mr. Boyfriend thinks my restaurant spending is OK. I think there’s still room for improvement. I’m trying to become fitter. Why do I spend more on meals out than I do on the gym?

In March, I want to spend no more than $150 on restaurants. The plan? Schedule meal prep days in advance and buy emergency frozen meals. If I meet up with friends, I will suggest the venue first.

Make those small purchases that I’ve been putting off.

On the list:

  • A rice cooker. I’ve lived without a rice cooker for almost a year. I’m Asian. WTF have I been doing???
  • A rolling laundry hamper. It sounds so silly, and I have no idea why I still don’t have this. But I don’t. On laundry day, I hand-carry my clothes to a laundromat three blocks from home. Not so bad, except when there’s black ice on the sidewalk, and your laundry weighs 30 pounds because you put it off for a month. Like right now.
My laundry situation. Please send help!

How was your February?

What are your March goals?

Do you hate laundry as much as I do?

[Featured photo: Unsplash]

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