Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saving money

I've been working on getting our financial life in order for six months, with more discipline at some points than others. Reading Dave Ramsey's books and using his materials has helped a lot, but the biggest issue is still the same as it was before I started working so hard on this.

We spend more than we should.

I have cut a lot of our spending, but I keep having to adjust certain categories because of changing costs. Everyone knows what is happening to gas and food prices, which are already the second and third largest items in our budget. (In May food was actually number one!) Much of our driving can't be avoided. I've managed to cut back on my weekly gas expenses with the arrival of summer, but that will be offset by adding in a few long trips.

We have always kept our thermostat low--64--in the winter and high--78 when we use it--in the summer. We drive older cars with low insurance costs and no car payments. Colin would like to ride his bike to work, but it is 18 miles, and there are no facilities to shower or change after he gets there. We've cut our cell phone minutes in half, for the three of us who share an account.

There are lots of cuts that can still happen, but this is where they start to hurt. We can cut our satellite bill by getting rid of our DVR and dropping a few channels. We don't have any premium channels, but we do get a lot of channels. The biggest problem with this is that the three channels Colin really watches--outdoor and shooting programming and soccer--would disappear if we did this. I love the DVR because I can watch the few shows I really want to see in just a little over half the time, speeding through the commercials. (I can watch an hour of American Idol in about 20 minutes, because I only watch the performances and the judges reactions.) And even if I made all of these changes it would only be $15.99/month.

I could save money on clothes and shoes. I don't buy very much--for any of us--but what we buy is good. I could save money on coffee, by drinking cheaper coffee, but that would be way down the list of possible cuts. (I've already cut my Starbucks trips back to almost none.) We could take cheaper vitamins, but then we could go back to spending more money at the doctor's office and the pharmacy, so that wouldn't ultimately be a savings.

I could find a place to get cheaper hair cuts. For the boys, too. (Although I'm not willing to go as cheap as I do for Andrew!)

But I can't do anything about house and car air conditioners going out or cars needing new tires and other repairs. I can't make the boys slow down their growth and wear their pants for more than a couple of months. (Have I mentioned they also eat an amazing amount of food?)

So, I'm at the point where there's going to be some pain. And yes, pain is relative. I admit I am spoiled. We have a nice income, and for me pain is cheaper haircuts and no new sandals and eating a few more meatless meals.

My decision is what the pain is going to be. Am I going to make more cuts or earn more money?

I'm leaning toward earning more money. Then I have to decide if I am going to be disciplined and put some effort into my business, which has treated me incredibly well for the tiny amount of effort I've made the past couple of years. Or am I going to impose outside discipline on myself and get a job?

I think I'll spend some more time with Dave this afternoon.


Edith said...

Oh I can so totally relate. I posted on ways to "cut" stuff a couple of weeks ago...check out the post called "Ponderings". I've yet to start walking to church simply because that's where my tendency to run late hits. We already have cut way back on frequency of haircuts - for all of us. I've cut down my coffee purchases to a "cheaper" brand.

Anyway..have a blessed day.

Kim said...

We've cut things over and over. Usually food is what is hit the worst since it's the easiest place to cut. For the moment we are keeping Netflix and Sirius but I've thought about cancelling both. I've cut out most unnecessary trips into town and it's helped a lot. I now only go out one night a week, asking Paul to run all errands on his way home. It only adds 20-30 minutes to his day and we save quite a bit.