As I promised, it's time for a post on things we've changed or cut back on in order to stay on track with our budget. I should start by saying we lived a fairly basic life to start with. We're not big on entertainment - we didn't go to movies (or even rent them very often), go out drinking, or any thing like that. We are constantly looking at our budget for ways to improve, which is why you'll see a section on things we've shopped around.
Thing we cut back on or eliminated
- Golf: Tim LOVES golf. He doesn't talk about it much, but this has been a huge sacrifice for him... saving $200/year
- Eating out: We used to eat out as a family once a week. I also had a tendency to make a quick run through a fast food restaurant at lunch because it was easier than cooking for the kids (or we were already out running errands.... saving $150/month
- Food: In addition to cutting back our eating out, we've SIGNIFICANTLY cut back our food budget. This is mostly due to meal planning (and has happened even more recently), but also has a little to do with smarter coupon shopping. Our grocery budget includes household items too, so I've cut back quite a bit there. Before budgeting, we were spending about $600-$700/month on groceries and household items. When we first started budgeting, we brought that down to about $550. Now... our goal is to be under $500 each month. That still sounds like a lot to most people and it's probably the area I'll have to cut back on. Recently, however, we've been doing some entertaining (Addison's birthday in May, her baptism in June, 4th of July this month, etc.) I'm hoping that by eliminating that next month and sticking to our meal plan I might even be able to bring that down to $450 (ideally, below $400). Even as it is now, though, we are... saving $150/month.
- Dry Cleaning: Tim wears a suit 5 days a week. When we got serious with Dave, he decided to launder his own shirts instead of taking them in to the Dry Cleaners... saving $25/month.
- Road Trips: This isn't some thing we did much, but one of the sacrifices we've made is cutting back on road trips to see family. We still try to make it when we can, but have probably eliminated 1-2 trips a year. It doesn't sound like much, but when you factor in gas, eating out, etc, it can really add up. We're probably... saving $100/year.
- Hair Cuts: This is going to sound silly, but we've changed how often the guys get their hair cut. Instead of getting it cut 1 a month, Tim goes about once every 6-7 weeks. We're trying to do the same for Troy. This has probably resulted in us... saving $10/month.
Things we "shopped around"
- Refinanced: This is probably the biggest thing we shopped around in the past year (and by "we", I mean Tim). He must have talked to at least 6 different mortgage brokers/banks. All his hard work paid off, because now that we've refinanced we are... saving $300/month.
- Car & Home Insurance: When we first started, we switched just the car insurance and were able to save $250/year right off the bat. Then when we refinanced, we shopped the car and house together and brought the total down another $250/year... saving $500/year (from when we first started). We did this without increasing our deductibles (actually raised them) and despite claims for hail damage on both the car and house.
- Term Life Insurance: Dave is VERY insistent on getting Term Life Insurance. We used Zander when Tim first signed up and again recently to get a better rate... saving $13/month
- Phone: I made a frustrating, but productive call to AT&T and found out I could get the features I needed and unlimited long distance for cheaper than I was currently paying. I know a lot of people say to drop the land line all together, but I need it for the business. Still we're... saving $10/month
- Satellite: We shopped this around and debated between cable and the other carriers in our area. We ended up switching for better channel selection and saved a little in the process. This is one of the lifestyle things that we're not ready to compromise on at this point. It's pretty much our only vice in this household. Still, now we are...saving $10/month
- Cell phones: This was another thing Tim shopped around. Not only was he able to get us free phones (him a blackberry and a nice flip phone with keyboard for me), but we now have more features and better service and are... saving $20/month
Things I can't quantify: There are a lot of things we've done that we can't really put a number on. They can really add up, though, so I wanted to be sure to mention them.
- Reduced gifts for kids: They get TONS of gifts from other people so we try to keep our gift buying very simple.
- Reduced/eliminated gifts for each other: I think I did buy Tim a $16 subscription to Consumer Reports for his birthday and he's gotten me a couple small gifts (anniversary/birthday), but in general we don't buy gifts for each other. Our primary gift to each other is financial peace.
- Better trip planning for errands: I've eliminated running to multiple stores just to get a good deal and try to group other errands together so I spend less time in the car wasting gas.
- Changing our habits: Instead of buying a pop or coffee while he's on the road, Tim will often take some thing from home. If we do splurge, we shop for a deal (like buying 'seconds' candy at a bulk food store).
- Finding new bargains: Tim's discovery of the bread outlet has been a great money saver for us. We've also discovered that we can get some good deals at GFS Marketplace and with our membership to Sam's.
- Leaving the kids behind: I now do 95% of my shopping without Troy (Addison is too young to beg). This not only keeps me from buying things we don't need, I used to buy him a treat every time we went. Saving a couple bucks each trip can really add up.
- Delayed gratification: This is actually a BIG thing, it's just hard to quantify. There are a lot of things that the "old us" would have purchased or maybe even considered a "need" that is now on the back burner. Technology is a big thing here. We'd LOVE to replace our 12 year old console t.v., we'd both love ipods, I'm totally longing for a wii, etc. There are also a lot of little things around the house we probably would have purchased or fixed - a broken bathroom fan, a paint chipped deck, peeling wallpaper in kid's bathroom, etc. These probably add up to HUGE savings. I really wish I could quantify this because it would be ENORMOUS!
If you add it all up, we're saving $9,056 each year! And that's just the things we could quantify. That doesn't include some of the biggest savings just by changing our habits and keeping in mind the difference between wants and needs.
So... now for the next post... things we can still change. We have cut back significantly, and, yet, I know we are still far from a beans & rice budget. Let me hear your ideas! What things have you changed? Challenge me!