The Down to Earth readers' guide to cutting back
We have the smallest house at the moment and although we are starting to build a house soon even then it will be smaller it will be easy to clean and the kids will continue to share a room. We are a family and we don't need to be separated from our kids and each other. With grocery shopping the best thing I've found to keep on budget is take cash, every sunday night I put my weekly budget amount in a bag and I carry it with me daily, all food/grocery expenses must come out of that envelope. We make it a challenge to have left over money at the end of the week that we can put into our change money box.
I find it's not so much what I do but more what I don't do. Like, I don't go to the mall, fabric store or grocery store, that way I don't spend money on silly things. I do go to the stores w/a list and try, very hard, to follow that list. I make a general menu for the month so that I don't stop on the way home and do take out for dinner. I don't buy my lunch at work but bring it from home. You get the idea.
I stopped buying newspapers and magazines (especially quilting one's). Books also dropped off the shopping list. As I gave up more 'stuff' it became easier to do. I then started to prune the grocery shopping to only buy exactly what was needed for the week, no more 'I may use this'. I stockpile dry goods and tins when on special. I have surprised myself by slowly making progress on reducing expenditure and our debt. If I can do it then anyone can, goodness knows I spent a fortune in the past with nothing to show for it. If your serious about being debt free and living an authentic simple life, start small and STOP spending.
Here in the UK we are already paying the equivalent of A$2.40 per litre for the diesel we need...with no sign of it dropping back to the price it was 6 months ago, when it increased by 10%-ish. Making economies is a constant exercise; a challenge, but I relish it like you do.
If only they taught these kinds of things in schools today!!!We learned the value of living simply and frugally when my dh started his own business. We had 3 months wages in the bank and stretched it out to 6 months. The fact that our Family Tax Benefit payments went up was a big help in making that happen.We never lived a lavish lifestyle, but we made changes that meant we lived an incredibly simple life:* use cash only. Take out only what you have planned & budgeted for and when it's gone you say no.* make a menu plan and a shopping list. If it's not on the list don't buy it. * only shop once a week.* cook everything you can from scratch.* learn to enjoy some vegetarian meals. Just 2 meat-free dinners a week saves us substantially. To start off with we did 50/50. We've now developed quite a collection of meals we really love.Some of our changes are also in our thinking. We no longer buy now and think about how to pay off the CC later. There is a lot to be said for the feeling of satisfaction of saving up FIRST! We now really enjoy a night in the company of friends over a simple home cooked meal. If we are the visitors I truly and completely enjoy the meal and the fact that I didn't have to cook it. And in return I never ask my guests to bring something with them unless it's truly a spur of the last moment kind of thing (like 5pm and I've already started cooking & discover dh has invited someone over!!!!).With a bit of planning it's amazing how much one can avoid spending!
What a timely comment Rhonda and what marvellous contributions from everyone. There are a basic lessons to be learned from reading all these - having realistic and achievable goals and learning where your priorities lie.We have no debt - Like everyone else, we went through that period of conspicuous consumption and we paid through the nose for it with the interest we paid. Once you are rid of that debt you are in command of your life.Home for us when we started out was a small 2 bedroom home which we added to in later years as needs demanded. 46 years later we are back to having a smallish 2 bedroom home - with no additions envisaged!We shop fortnightly and stockpile and we find this suits our country lifestyle beautifully. Another thing we have found worthwhile is to use EFTPOS when we shop. Not only does it mean we are not carrying large amounts of money, it also means we are withdrawing only what we need to cover our purchases - with no excess...and it is amazing how much money you can waste if you think it is left over. The big BUT with this is, you must stick religiously to your shopping list -with no impulse buying.
Kate in NY wrote:
I have just recently realized, after years of both unsuccessful dieting AND unsuccessful budgeting, that the two are very, very closely related. In the past, I've often wondered why I haven't lost weight when I've been "so good," and yet I've failed to take into account the handful of chips here and the chocolate bar there. It's often been the same with money - I've wondered why we have incurred so much debt when we are living relatively frugally, certainly far more simply than our neighbors - but I still stop in for a latte when I feel like it or buy a new book from Amazon or whatever. Now I am losing weight AND actually sticking to a budget for the first time in literally years of trying - mostly because I am taking stock of EVERYTHING that goes into my mouth or out of my wallet. I know some people can make huge changes slowly, in moderation, but for me, the cold turkey, 100% committed approach seems to work better. For right now, I need to be a little obsessive - complacency just seems to set me back. I'm glad I've discovered the connection between these two areas of life that have eluded me - it feels so good to be disciplined - much better than a brand new book or a chocolate bar would!
Cash seems to be a lot harder for me to part with than using my debit or credit cards, so I allot myself a specific amount of cash per week to spend on miscellaneous things and once it is gone it's gone. I find I horde it because it is makes spending more tangible. I honestly think that a lot of the reason Americans are falling father and farther into debt is because spending is just swiping a card - the money no longer has any tangible value and there haven't been any tangible negative consequences for racking up debt. We live in a large house, more space than we need and I struggle with that. But I am proud to say that we do not have any debt on credit cards, no car payments, etc. and we live well within our means. I know I can cut back more and become more resourceful. My biggest waste is food and I struggle with meal planning. I have a young toddler and a one month old baby and at the end of the day sometimes I am happy to just throw together peanut butter toast and a simple salad. I know I can get a better system in place and I'm working on it.
I try to live simply and unlike some lucky people am just starting out in the world of home ownership, currently have an offer on a house and praying it will be accepted. I do not buy novels, I don't even really like to be given them, as I find it had to read any but the most interesting more than once as I remember the storylines too well. I borrow from the library and only buy a book if it is a reference book I envisage using multiple times. I don't do a weekly shop. As I only feed myself and cook a large meal twice or three times a week, saving leftovers, I find that if I go to the shops I buy things, even when I have a list. So, I avoid the shops and only go when I actually need something.I buy most of my clothes from op shops, and try and make some of my clothes (hoping to do this more and more)I try and not carry cash, as I will go to the op shop. If I find something I want I have to want it enough to go to the atm and get money out.I don't eat out or get coffee unless I am doing it with someone else. Take lunch to work, and make espresso coffee on a small machine in the office.By doing this I have been able to save even when I was studying full time and living on youth allowance (student support from the govt in Australia) When I finished uni and began working I made the decision to not increase my expenditure by any significant amount, and on average, would live on approximately 30-40% of my income which is not significantly large and this includes my giving to church and sponsor children.
anonymous wrote: (I agree wholeheartedly with you anon. We do this too - cutting back on this and that - Rhonda)
This may sound silly, but I have learned that I cook way too much food at any one time. For example, cutting back on using two cans of beans for one recipe and instead only using one has helped our budget a bit.... we don't notice a difference and we toss less....
When my DH and I were married 34 years ago, we both worked full time. We lived off of his income and saved all of mine. That way, when it was time to buy our first home and start a family, we had a sizeable downpayment accummulated and were accustomed to living on one income.I have been able to be a SAHM ever since and homeschool our three boys (now all grown men!).I have never regretted our thrifty ways!
Now both my littlies are at school i am free to do things that really save money until a part time job comes along. I believe children should be at home with their Mamas and I managed to do this although i was a terrible budgeter.I look back now and think how did we manage ...the waste!!! One thing i am doing and I have and will be blogging about is sewing my childrens clothing. It saves heaps although people are so negative. Cheaper from the Warehouse.They say(Wrong!!) Who has the time. (I do!!). Im NOT a good sewer but even I have managed. I also sew Sanitary pads (Dont say yuk just go to Hillybilly housewife for the pattern) Napkins instead of paper towels, quilts from scraps and remnants, aprons, gifts, curtains etc etc. My children feel really great wearing their original clothing, I feel proud and my pocket smiles at me. Yes there are dozens of others things but I just wanted to put some input in for this lost art.
The best advice I have is to really think about how YOU want to live YOUR life and then make your priority list from that.We wanted a home of our home with a decent size garden and close to family if possible. This meant we had to move interstate and choose quite a modest house. We have a 2 1/2 bedroom house on 1/3 acre for our family of 5.We wanted our children to be brought up by their parents and have a close relationship with their extended family. So whether we have both worked part time or one worked fulltime and the other stayed home our children have been with their parents and at times had their grandmother step in when necessary.This means we have lived on a minimal income for most of our married life but we have always been well fed, we enjoy a close relationship with our children and we are without debt.We have sacrificed material wealth, job advancement and myriad possessions but really that's no sacrifice at all.When you see something that you think you must have, think about the consequences to your family and to the planet and then it's a lot easier to make a proper decision rather than just react.When we were first married, buying a home and having our first child Australia was having the "recession we had to have" and interest rates were going through the roof. Our mortgage payment took half our monthly income and to stick to our priorities we had to learn how to make our own washing detergent, budget our money, and make presents rather than buy etc.It was a great adventure and taught me so much. I have always cooked from scratch, made my own clothes and knitted and mended and so on. Our house is purposely close to shops and public transport and my husband has always preferred to ride his bike and these habits have kept our expenses reasonably low. We own and use a car but we also walk a lot and use buses and bikes.During the brief time when I worked part time and my husband worked full time ( three years) we did our best to save my wage so that we didn't get used to two incomes and so I think we avoided the trap that would have eventually made us materially wealthy but time poor.I really believe you have to have a philosophy to live by that feels right for your family, that gives you a solid foundation for every decision you make and then you don't have to agonise over a thousand different things, you just know what is right for you and the community and planet and you certainly don't need some advertising agency to help you live your life.