Playing around with Mint, you can see where your money goes. Prior to setting this up, I had the idle hope that I’d look at where our money was going and think, “Gracious, we spend how much on X? Well, we can easily cut that out.” And then save thousands with minimal effort.
Of course, it didn’t work that way. There’s no enormous latte factor. No big ticket items that we buy repeatedly and don’t get pleasure out of. Even our eating out patterns seem pretty reasonable.
There’s just nothing obvious to cut. Even if we never bought any more food ever again, at most we’d save $500/month in groceries and $300 or so per month in restaurant meals. So if we never ate again, we’d maybe save 10K/year. And of course, we still have to eat. Cutting all food out isn’t realistic. So that gets us down to much smaller wins. Maybe we could cut 4K/year (or more!) by being super careful and never eating out and cutting down our consumption of organics, fancy cheeses, lara bars, and so on. Are those cuts worth 4k/year? Given my income and our current savings, no, probably not. I would rather have the little food luxuries than another 4K/year of savings.
Similarly with our utility bills (except in August, but you can pry my August a/c from my 82-degree dead hands… and the HOA dictates the summer water bill grrr). We don’t spend that much all things considered. We already have an extensive fan system and keep the thermostat at temperatures at a level that is better money-wise than most public finance tips suggest. We take short showers. Our dryer is on gas rather than electric and adds at most a few dollars to our gas bill.
Cutting all childcare or all insurance would be a “big win”, but it would also be a big loss to our careers or to our risk-averse well-beings in the event of a negative shock. (Or the state government finding out, in the case of our car insurance.)
Even though there’s no big wins, we still spend a lot of money each month. More than graduate school us could ever have dreamed. So money can be cut.
But money must be cut in unsatisfying ways of cutting a little here and a little there. Eating out a little less. Price shopping at the grocery store a little more. Calling up our regular providers again to ask about discounts (though we already do this about once every year or two). Smaller Scholastic orders. More needs on the Amazon wishlist and fewer wants. Driving on our annual trek to the relatives rather than flying. And so on.
Of course, we’re already doing all the easy stuff. Real cutting is going to be noticed. Spending will have to be more mindful.
And now, another challenge update:
DH made another unscheduled run to the grocery store (he needed ones and the bank wasn’t open yet), but ended up buying things that were on the grocery list. We’re around $400 at this point. He also got cleaning supplies and batteries at Walmart for $15.
Our refrigerator is dying, specifically the freezer. We vacuumed all the parts that could be vacuumed and we’re going to try to eat down the freezer and hook up the ice maker (the people who owned the house before us didn’t cook but they threw lots of parties) so we can save the frozen breast milk should it go completely caput. We’ve had the fridge for around 10 years now and it was the cheapest one they had at home depot when we were graduate students. We suspect we would do better getting a more energy efficient one rather than trying to repair this one. It may not last the month, and if we do get a new fridge we’ll probably get a more pricey one meaning we probably won’t make the February challenge even if we never leave the house. But we’ll see. DH is going to try a few more things to see if he can keep the thing alive, so maybe it will hold on until March. In the mean time, we’re trying to eat down the freezer. Update: He seems to have gotten it going, will probably post tips at some future date. Update 2: Keeping it going requires vigilance.
I got tired of the books I had and got a hankering to reread a Discworld book. This time around I’m reading them from first published to last, but I don’t have all of them. Our local library (surprise surprise) does not have Mort, and the university library has it but it’s on reserve and can’t be checked out. So I bought it on Kindle. $6. I also don’t have the one after that, but the university library has two copies of it.
We went out to eat at the local Korean place. $60.
I put gas in my car: $27.49.
Phone bill: $78.
Vacuum cleaner bags: $23.
Quarterly insect control: $72.
DH spent about $75 out of his allowance, but we’re not counting that. We also spent a little under $600 for two weeks of childcare. We’re not counting that either. And of course the mortgage posted. :)
If you had to cut your budget, do you have any obvious big wins?