Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Living Cheaply

Recently I've been asked a couple of times how I manage financially.  Now these people weren't being rude, just curious.  Let me explain.  I have not worked full time in over 4 years thanks to a layoff right before the financial crisis hit.  Yay for timing!

So now that my income is about 1/3 of what it once was, Hubby and I still have managed to pay off our debts and start saving.  The questions make sense now, huh?

So I thought it might be nice to share some of my tips and ideas that have helped us get by because there might be some others out there looking for ways to live on less.

I think it might be important to accept right off that if you need to live on less, you have to give up all notions of keeping up with the Joneses, or of being hip, cool or stylish.  Probably not gonna happen.  But if you manage your money well when the chips are down, when things improve, you'll be well-trained for living larger.

I think the main thing to do is to spend less.  Here are some ways we do this:
  • Eat at home - Eating out is expensive.  Buying ingredients at the store and making things at home is much cheaper.  It can also be a great way to bond in the kitchen and watch your weight.
  • Limit restaurant expense - We do eat out occasionally but we do it rarely (maybe once a month), we don't order the most expensive items, and we often get take-out to avoid all the expensive pitfalls of restaurant eating like appetizers and drinks.
  • Vacations?  What are those? - The only thing we can even count as a vacation in years was one overnight stay in Memphis.  Sorry, but that money needs to be saved just in case.  I can lay in the sun and read a book on my deck.
  • Libraries, my dears. - Speaking of books, I don't buy them.  Ever.  Not even digital versions for my Kindle for PC program.  You can get books free at libraries, many can be found online for free, and if you'll take good care of them, you may find friends who will loan you theirs.
  • Cheaper movies. - We only go to the theater for big sci-fi or special effects or blockbuster movies (think Batman or Star Trek). We wait for things to come out on video and pick them up at the video store.  We also make sure to take it back the next day to get a store credit that makes the next one we rent cheaper.
  • Brands, Schmands. - As much as possible, we buy off-brand items.  Sure, I have to have my name brand toothpaste, but why would I spend more on paper towels just to wipe up spills and throw them in the trash?
  • Coupons! - For those name brands, I try to find coupons.  I print coupons from websites like coupons.com, check all those ones that come in the mail, and look for other options.  I'm by no means an extreme couponer.  First of all, I won't spend money in order to get coupons.  I'm not going to buy a magazine just to get a coupon.  That's stupid.  And secondly, I'm not going to spend that much time on it.  I don't want couponing to become my new full-time job.
  • Cut back on extras. - I dropped my newspaper and magazine subscriptions.  Think about things that you don't really need and get rid of them.  They may be things that you enjoy, but if sacrifices need to be made, do it.
  • Limit utility expenses. - Those suckers add up fast.  So do things like wash only full loads of laundry or dishes, hang up clothes outside to dry and let dishes air dry, set your central heat and air at a temp that is comfortable but doesn't allow it to run all the time, take shorter showers, cut back on watering the lawn and washing your car, and so on.
  • No gyms for me. - I do exercise regularly, but not at a gym.  We go to the park or walk at the free walking track at the nearby indoor track.  I also work out at home with exercise videos or instructions found online for free.
There's a start for you! Check back later and I'll bring you more savings tips and ideas.