Tag Archive | budget

Grocery Shopping Inside a National Park

In February, sometime before my last roommate moved away, she mentioned a budget software that her son bought her. Well it got me checking for budget apps to download onto my tablet. Found one that I had enough space for. Its called “Spending Tracker”. It seems pretty easy to use and was an eye-opener when I posted the income that I had actually brought home in January (not the gross pay). I kept looking at the total I brought home “VS” the amount in my bank account at that time, and the realization hit me that I really do need to stick to a budget more then I had thought.

Lately I have seen a few blogs around the internet and some comments in facebook groups where different people post what they spend at a grocery store. Usually it’s from people who live in locations with more than one store, which allows them to shop around and compare prices. Well in my tiny community outside of the national park there is only 1 store, with 1 bigger store inside the park. Stores like Walmart, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Safeway, are in Flagstaff which is about 90 minutes away. Without a car, they might as well be across the country. Thankfully I can order some food online from Walmart and Amazon, to be delivered to my post office box.

So with my new spending tracker app, I want to see exactly what I spend in a month for: #1. Starbucks, #2. Dining out (restaurants) #3. Groceries at store (both inside and outside the park), #4. Schwan’s food truck delivery. #5. Foods ordered online. The idea is to find out exactly what I am spending on all the food and drinks that I consume and then figure out a way to save money. This should be an interesting month, as myself and all the other locals like to complain that it’s expensive to shop and eat here.

Sure there are days where I don’t care about a price and will go eat out at one of the local buffets. My last buffet was for Easter dinner. Then I become a Scrooge for a few days after my big-spending moments and refuse to buy anything.

(Saturday) for lunch I finished up a bag of frozen broccoli and cheese sauce that I had gotten from the Schwan’s truck last week, and I mixed it with a mini Minute-Ready container of red quinoa & brown rice. My lunch is technically not on my diet, but it’s what I had ,easy access to today before I get ready for work.

Around 5:30pm, I started feeling kinda BLAH. Got an ice cream sandwich during my lunch break and felt better afterwards. It normally cost $1.79 but with my employee discount, it cost me $1.43. I didn’t really eat much all day which is probably why I wasn’t feeling my best.

(WEDNESDAY) 4/25/2018

I came up to the store to buy a couple avocados, bag of spinach, shredded cheese, and some junk that I didn’t really need. So what does the produce section look like in your store? My total (with my employee discount) came to $14.34.

Now I am heading back home to have a huge salad while I do laundry.


Debts, Budgets and Saving Money

It seems like I can be spontaneous and get some crazy idea to buy something that I could live without ( which means something that I don’t really NEED). Mostly I get these crazy ideas when I am bored or when I am in any stores with friends. One solution is don’t go to shopping in town with friends. It’s easier to walk out of a store if I am not waiting for someone else who is taking forever to shop.

I have been wanting to save money for:

1. New eye glasses, 2. Alternative Naturopathy Doctor in Flagstaff, 3. Online school, 4. A car (preferably a van/roadtrek), 5. Land

The glasses might be a “need”, the others could be considered a “want”…depending on where I am living. But as long as I want them, then I should figure out a way to pay for them.

Every now and then, I have a friend that will post something on facebook that came from the debt-guru, Dave Ramsey. Well today I decided to download 2 of his kindle books, along with a few other books on the subject. One is called “How to manage your money when you don’t have any”. That title actually made me laugh, because I am thinking…well that’s easy, no money means nothing to manage. But after starting to read the book, it’s obvious that the writer has never been homeless in GA, and lived on no money…zip, zilch, Nada, nothing, NO MONEY. Hmm, I wonder what advice the writer would give my friends in GA.

Another book I downloaded was “The no spend challenge guide”, well now that sounds like a title that my friends in GA could write. I haven’t checked the book out to see what it’s really about yet. But I will assume it’s like most and that any advice you get from a person who has any money will always be different from advice you get from a person with no money.

Yes I have had my job since right after Thanksgiving, so at this moment I have a little bit of money. But not enough to last me half a month without my job. I am lucky enough to live in a state with a minimum wage of $10.50/hour. My rent of $30/week ($120/month) is automatically deducted from my pay. That includes rent, utilities, cable (or dish tv??), and free crappy wifi. Unfortunately it also includes 6 housemates with 1 kitchen. Its employee housing, so the housing comes with the job. Not many places in the USA, that will allow you to live somewhere for so cheap. I know others that actually pay over $1,000 just for the rent and then about that much again for all their utilities combined. Now that’s totally ridiculous and high way robbery.

For the most part I like my job, but I don’t like the housing situation. I have applied for a transfer into the park, (2 different locations) in the village I would live in a dorm-style building. I could live without a car in the village and not worry about budgeting for that now. If I get back to Desert View then I would live in a 2 bedroom apartment with my own bathroom, but would definitely need a car.

I am getting tired of having to re-buy the same things everytime I move. Who wants to budget for things like pillows, bedding and kitchen supplies every 3-6-9 Months? Which really make big moves so ridiculous, because in the long run I end up losing money instead of saving it

I also have a bad habit of being spontaneous and just leaving this area all-together and ending up in some unknown place which doesn’t work out very well financially. So I end up back at the Grand Canyon eventually because it’s my safety net, it’s my home away from home, and it’s the 1 place that I just know that I can afford to live. Even knowing all that, I have still put in applications for Crater Lake and Zion and Badlands…none of them pay as much as I get now, it would take time and money to arrive at each location, it would take money to re-buy anything that I couldn’t pack to take with me…

Usually most “debt-gurus” will tell you to keep track of where you spend every penny for a week or 1 pay period…depending on how often you get paid. I know where my money goes…amazon and eating out. You see even though I have a nice kitchen at home, I have to many darn housemates so I have no real space to put food or cookware. And most of them are asleep and want the house to stay quiet when I get up in the mornings and/or don’t want to smell food at night either. Which is why I go sit in McDonald’s on Mondays when I am off work.

Maybe instead of worrying about budgets and saving money, I just need to think of staying in 1 spot for awhile. So I really hope I get a job in the village and live in Brandt Hall again. That really would solve some financial issues. Oh and the rent would be the same in the dorm as it is in my house now. The jobs inside the park will be with the same company, going through the same HR office, so if I ever do wander around the country later, it won’t look like I transferred jobs on paper. Yes, hiring managers around the country hate the fact that I can move around so much.


American’s love to say they live in a “free” country. But what exactly does that mean? Are we really free to live anywhere we want without ridiculous taxes and expensive rent. Can you live in any state without getting a new driver’s license or voters registration card?

Are we free to go on a week long vacation (or longer) every month or whenever we want? Probably not if you have a job. A job means someone else probably makes your weekly schedule telling you what to wear, what time to show up for the job, and sometimes even what time to eat and go to the bathroom. By the time you get ready for and travel back & forth to that job, you might be to tired to do anything else; during your free time.

I may not have all the answers to what freedom is, or how to live freely. But I know a few things on what it isn’t. Freedom is not paying over $400 a month for a small dorm room that you are forced to share with a total stranger. A room that does not even have any kitchen area. The community bathroom is shared with 50 other people, with no privacy for showers. Hey, I never liked the bathroom in my high school gym class either.

To make a long story short; I left Yellowstone National Park on Thursday (July 14, 2016). So for now I can sleep when I want, eat when and what I want, and I don’t have to climb stairs a hundred times a day. I drove around the park doing a bit of sight-seeing until I got tired of all the tourist traffic. Then I headed South toward Arizona, except I never actually made it to Arizona. I got to Cedar City in Utah, yesterday and decided that was enough driving for me. It took me 2 whole days to drive almost 700 miles.. a distance that most people could do in 12 hours.

But seeing as some people on facebook have told me, that I am cool & brave because I own my own life…not some boss, not a significant other, not some religious or political group. I am the one who decides where I will live, even if that means I change my mind while driving down the interstate.

I found a room to rent in a family’s basement for $265/month. Utilities & wifi included. Also company from the family pets.

So my monthly expenses are:
$60: phone
$63: car insurance
265: rent
$388 total for the month,

which a part-time job should be able to take care of. Why just a part time job? Well because I want time to find a yoga class, time to get really serious on writing a book, and time to get back into photography & jewelry making. What’s the sense of working so much, if you don’t have time to enjoy life or any hobbies. It seems like most people work to much, just so they can buy more stuff that they won’t even have time to enjoy.

Third payday in March


Not sure how clear that picture will show up, but that’s my paycheck that I got yesterday.  It’s the biggest paycheck I have gotten since I started working with this company again last year. As you can see I am in California so the minimum wage is $10. But I saw someone else’s paycheck…someone who has been here for many years and they only get $10/hr too. I would have assumed that he woulda gotten extra for all the time that he has been here. Our “lead” people in the store, got $10 before California raised the minimum wage, so their pay stayed the same.

Someone in my dorm got upset that we got charged for rent 3 times in March. $70 on all 3 paychecks in the month. So instead of being $140/month for rent, we got charged $210. There is usually only 2 months a year with 3 paydays with this extra rent payment. Even at $210, the rent is cheaper then most places across the country. It’s cheaper then the rent will be in Yellowstone.

I had to post a new picture of my paycheck so I could  compare it later with my future checks in Yellowstone. My world does not revolve around money, but it’s still nice to have when I need to go shopping. Luckily I don’t really need alot.

Cash or Credit

I work in a general store in a national park.  Of course we take credit/debit cards and we have an atm, for people that want to get cash out. 1 of my questions is, why do people “need” to use cash now-a-days? Is there anything that really requires cash anymore?

Then of course there are those people who drive me bonkers, when they don’t understand  that they need to carry their license or passport with them while shopping,  if the credit card is not signed. It’s  written on the back of your card that it is not authorized without a signature. Which is why most post offices refuse to accept any unsigned card (even if you remember to carry your identification) some people will write CID on the back of their card and still forget to carry their identification. They will get mad if I say that they need to walk back to the campground to get it or I will point to the atm and tell them that they can get cash out to pay for their stuff.

I just love it when spouses try to use each others card. A wife will say “Oh it’s my husband’s card but I sign for it all the time.” We’ll maybe so, but you ain’t doing it at my register. Or a husband will tell me that both names are on the account. Well sir if both names are not on the card that you handed me, then you ain’t using it at my register.

It drives me crazy when other stores/restaurants don’t ask for my ID when I hand them my unsigned debit card. Lately I have  noticed it in fast food places like Subway or Panda Express. Yes I realize that asking for ID would slow down the line while business is busy, but I don’t care. I want you to check my identification. I want to know that if my debit card gets stolen/lost that someone else won’t be able to use it without my ID.

Then yesterday, I paid a big bill at the dentist with my debit card, after shopping at Walmart. Later I tried to shop at the grocery store and was told that I had reached my daily limit with the card. Say whaaaat!? I had never heard this before…course I had never used the card to spend $500 in a single day before either. Damn, as I am sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out how to get enough gas in Kim’s truck to make it back home, I called the 800# on the back of the card to ask about the daily limit. The lady who answered finally agreed to raise the limit just enough so that I could get $20 in gas. Now there was a problem that don’t happen if you carry cash, but it’s a problem that I don’t like. Sure now I know that if anyone else tries to use my card that they won’t get over $500 worth of purchases. But I don’t like having that limit on myself. If I want to spend all my own $$ in 1 day then I should be able to.

Ok, I will get off my soapbox now and stop ranting…because it’s a beautiful sunny day outside and I wanna go check out the art show.



My paycheck stub does not fit nicely in 1 photo, so I cropped parts of it above. I received this December 23rd. The pay week had ended on the 16th, which means the last 2 weeks of this year will be paid in 2016. I am sure someone will be expecting the pay raise to be on that next check. But even though we get the check in 2016 it will be for work done in 2015. You see, on January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will go up to $10/hour. So we won’t see the increase until January 20th. Dental insurance will also be taken out of my checks starting in January. My memory is foggy this morning but I think it’s only $7.50 every payday.

I only worked 60 hours for those 2 weeks above. Work had been slow, so I was sent home early a few times. $407 to do whatever I want is really enough for me. Course a paycheck for a full 80 hours is better but $407 still pays everything I need. Now that Christmas is over, I will save money for a future car. Looked at a few online sales for cars in Pahrump & Vegas already. Maybe I can get a car for my birthday in March. Hopefully in time to drive around the park when all the spring flowers are in bloom. After the floods in October, everyone is predicting a super bloom season.



Hopefully whoever is reading this can see the above picture. It’s a picture of my paycheck stub that I got this week.  As you can see I worked 77.14 hours, which is about normal for 2 weeks.  I am in the state of California and the state taxes taken out are not as high as I expected. If you can see the deduction listed as “FCHSG-P” for $70, that is my rent for the 2 weeks. Which will make my rent about $140/month.


My take home pay of $531.44 for 2 weeks, might not be much to most people. Especially if those people pay about $1,000 or more every month for rent & utilities. Luckily all my utilities are included in my cheap rent. Breakfast and lunch are also free. Rent & meals are cheaper here then they were at Mt Rushmore..and seeing as I work for the same company at both locations then my deductions from Mt Rushmore is still listed on this paystub. Housing was $452 & meals were $1,130. So $1,582 for the 16 weeks I was there.

. About the only bill that I pay right now is Netflix which is  $8.99/month. Starting next month I will be paying for dental insurance. I have necessities  that I will need to buy like laundry soap & shampoo, but after that whatever money is left will just be an extra luxury. I have been wondering how much I will need to save for trips to the dentist, in Pahrump. Maybe I can dream real big and try saving money for another car….which by the way is alot cheaper in South Dakota near Mt Rushmore then it is anywhere near Death Valley.