Thursday, May 13, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane or I'm a Thriftiholic

Jen at the Spin Cycle is looking for tips and cost cutting measures that we could all use in these tough economic times.  So check out the Spins. It's one of the best freebies you will find. 

My thrifty ways comes from watching my mother stretch my dad's meager paycheck for fifty years.  She hoarded her pennies, made tough decisions, was a master of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and always prayed for forgiveness when she did it.

When I left my job some nine years ago, we had to manage on one income. So I returned to budgeting techniques I used when QueenMaker and I were first married.

1.  No car payments.  We buy only used cars.  Used cars that need only basic car insurance to cover.  No collision or replacement costs.

2. Money envelopes. I am amazed how well this works.  The insurance envelope, the credit card envelope, the taxes envelope, the luxury envelope.  I put a small amount of money in each envelope whenever I can.  In the luxury envelope I deposit only two or three dollars every once in a while. Even if I don't have the whole amount when the bill comes in, but I usually do, this method has been a tried and true friend to me.

3.  Stop going to restaurants.  QueenMaker and I love cuisine and went out to eat at least two or three times a week, plus a breakfast on the weekends.  Now we limit ourselves to once on Saturday because we both work until 1pm.  We are both starving and cranky so Saturday we go for a big lunch.   If a restaurants offers lunch specials on Saturdays, we're there.

4.  A cooperative and trusting partner.  When you are both on the same page it helps immensely.  QueenMaker and I came from the same background, impoverished. We didn't have a thirst for materials things.  Although this might backfire and has for many a couple, QueenMaker used to hand me his paycheck and I handed him an allowance.  In our early years he used to ask, "Can we afford this?"
I admit that he didn't really want to know about finances.  Lucky for him, I was a saver.

One time his mother admonished him for not knowing what I was doing with our money, the little busy body. So finally after six years together, he asked how much money do we have in the bank.  His eyes popped when I said ten thousand.  Well, I was saving for a down payment for a house.  His trust in me was vindicated and he never asked again.

5. Hand me down furniture.  My mother in law and several of my friends feel the need to change out their furniture more often than I think is practical.  Sometimes it doesn't fit right, or what they really wanted was a leather couch, or what was I thinking buying blue when I wanted black.  So I reap the benefits.  I haven't bought furniture in years.

6.  Never buy a cereal unless its on sale.  I never buy a grocery item unless its on sale. Occasionally I may give in and buy something at full price, but it always makes me feel better when I calculate the hundreds of times I've bought the item on sale.

7.  This is a recent one.  I now only take cash when I go to Sam's or Costco's.  I used to spend way too much in these stores.  Bulk buying is a trap.  Going with cash only has saved me hundreds of dollars.

8. No house payments.  I know this is a tough one.  But for the last twelve years, no house payments.  When we bought our house we were disciplined enough to know what we could afford as a monthly mortgage payment, not what the realtor or bank said we could afford. I didn't want the house to own me.  With my aversion to debt and by tightening our belts, I paid the fifteen year loan off in ten.

We never fell for the hype of making our home a commodity, to refinance for extra cash, to use my home as some kind of hidden savings account.  I do have an equity line on the house, but that is for emergencies only.  The bank kept pushing me to take a large home equity line, but I took a line half the value of my home.  Since I don't use it, no house payments.  But it has pulled me out of some tough situations in the past.

9. Driving.  No more multiple trips to the same area.  Shopping trips are planned with multiple stops to cut down mileage.  If I need to go to the cleaners, I hold off until I can hit the bank, post office, and my favorite fruit market.  My husband and I work in the same building.  We used to drive separately because he started an hour or so before me or let an hour after me.  Now I go in with him and utilize the extra time to read or work on a project or take a walk with a dear friend.

So there you have it.  Even without a car and house payment I get stressed about our cash flow which lets you know we are living on very little income as it is.  What's next?  Get rid of my health insurance. We're paying for that ourselves at $500 a month.  Just got word that our health insurance company has just been taken over by the state and may fold.  Yikes, an increase to $700 a month is the cheapest I can find. Got my house insurance bill as well.  It's gone up so that it matches my property taxes.  This just doesn't seem right.

It just doesn't stop, people.  Oh well, belts will be worn tighter this year.


unmitigated me said...

Take that 500 a month and put it in a savings account, instead of giving it to the insurance company. And dear friend wishes it would stop raining. There are world issues to be worked out!

Sprite's Keeper said...

You'd be surprised how many people secretly think you're living a dream, no house payment or car payment, John and I want that. We're currently working to achieve it. Thanks for reassurance that it IS possible. You're linked!

Patty O. said...

I am so impressed. My husband and I share many of your tactics. We have no car payment, because well before we needed a "new" one, we saved so we could buy a used car with cash. We are also putting extra down on our house each month, and we bought a house we could easily afford. Still, I wish we had more in savings, so we are working on that now, along with saving for a new furnace and another car when my husband's finally conks out on us.

I feel so much freer knowing we are not in debt.

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