Have you ever found that you want to cut the budget again but you can’t quite figure out where to do it?
I’m there right now. I want to cut the budget so I can build my luxury 96’sq cabin (hopefully with the help of Sher and Julie! Hi Sher and Julie!)
Anyway, to make sure I have the $$ for that AND a well, I want to shave a bit off the monthly budget.
The phone: My only option for reception is AT&T so I looked for the lowest cost version. I have a used flip-phone (and a back up one) I got so I could sign up without a contract, but on “contract” rates rather than pay-as-you-go rates. The cost difference was minimal, but the coverage area is larger so more value for the money. I got unlimited talk, text, and pics and the least data (they always make you get some data so that when you hit the GIANT web button you have time to go “oh crap” and get out of that before you run up a bill). It’s about $46/month. Looking online, I can’t find an AT&T that will go any lower and not leave me rationing minutes. It’s my only phone so I do want to have the option to chat. Will continue to see how many minutes I use but so far, this is my best bet.
Car: I paid cash so no loan. I may be able to raise my deductible. I’m not ready to give up full coverage yet. I will look into towing/roadside assistance coverage vs the cost/benefits of keeping the AAA. I use the AAA discounts for hotels when I travel so I need to include that in the mix. I’m keeping the speed down to keep the gas mileage up and combining trips to further lower fuel costs. When in town I walk.
Travel: That will be cut back this year. One fewer trips to Seattle. Possibly no trip to Santa Fe. We’ll see about the trip to Scotland. We don’t want to delay that TOO long as none of us are getting younger.
Food: Groceries are getting about as low as I can go while still eating quite a bit of organic. I’m using the “clean 15” and “dirty dozen” lists to buy/avoid the conventional produce that is safest and cheaper than organic. I’ve done 2 “pantry challenges” now to eat up what I have, then restock with what’s cheap and eat that for the next while. This is helping quite a bit with expenses. I’ve even tried pig heart since it was $2/lb for local, free range and organic. I’m underwhelmed with my first attempts at cooking it, but I’ve eaten most of it. With any luck I can gag down the final bit of pig heart soup tonight. It’s just hard having it for the 5th day in a row when it’s not delicious and seems to bet getting tougher and tougher in storage. Oh well. It’s cheap high quality protein so I’ll try try again. I’m also making good use of the Grocery Outlet deals. Not sure where else to cut on groceries.
Food: Eating out. This could be cut. I had a couple of spendy meals out this month to treat a friend. And one not so spendy meal out because I was sick of everything in the house. It would have been cheaper to buy one treat to cook at home. Will redouble the efforts in March to cut that budget item back.
Coffee: Doing darn well here. Only one coffee-hut incident in Feb 2015 and that was again to treat a friend. Otherwise I’m making it at home and drinking the free swill at work. MUCH cheaper.
Rent: $425 is pretty good and once I can move back into the camper it will be zero from here on out unless I can’t make it through winter in the wee cabin.
Utilities: The high so far this winter is $70. That’s not bad. It’s coming down and I’m going to start timing showers and trying to do better combining baking things to cut back on oven time. I was baking more partly because organic flour was on super-sale so I've made bread and muffins and things, and also to help heat up the apartment without using the baseboard heater some days.
Storage: I’m giving away some things this week and next week in a 2nd cull. I’ll see if I could switch to a smaller storage unit to save $$. Possibly after I get the cabin going, and get a storage shed of some sort out there, I could put the non-sensitive items (tires on rims, etc) in there and get a smaller unit. It is spendy at $120/month for the heated/cooled unit and yet that keeps several expensive items from being wrecked by a freeze/thaw issue.
Gifts: I’ve cut these back to the point of being a bit of an asshole so I don’t think I’ll cut more here.
Medical/Dental: I signed up for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) so am saving whatever my tax rate is on those expenses (it’s all pre-tax). I did sign up for the concierge medical in January at $1500 for a year of doctoring. It includes the personal training, long term health goal work, and much more. I think it is worth it and the money’s spend for 2015 so can’t cut that at the moment. I COULD choose not to get a tooth put on the dental implant but that would be stupid. The point of the implant in the jaw was to put a tooth on it to help save the opposing tooth/teeth in the long run rather than let them creep out of the jaw unopposed. And that money is in the FSA. Hopefully 2016 will be cheaper and the concierge doctoring will eliminate issues like the partly dead finger that was such a highlight of 2014 and now looks a bit like a creepy monkey finger.
Household: This is the budget line I use for cleaners/sheets/towels/etc. This area is cut compared to others. I am currently cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, and borax that I’ve gotten on sale. I’ve owned my vacuum for something like 20 years (seriously…wow). I get vacuum cleaner bags at thrift. I do filter my water. I got the britta pitcher at thrift for 1$, and the current filters are generic ones from the drugstore…because I didn’t find them at thrift. I use dishtowels I get as gifts rather than buying paper towels. I have cloth napkins so don’t buy paper napkins. I’m using the last of the dish soap I got on supersale and will go back to the bulk dish soap which is my cheapest option. Once I’m back out on the land I use the biodegradable soap for pretty much everything. I’m experimenting with using soapnuts for this.
Personal care/Hygiene: Use baking soda instead of toothpaste and shampoo. Vinegar instead of conditioner. Shea butter at 8$/lb instead of designer lotion, along with the lovely designer lotion I got for xmas! I got enough lovely soap for xmas to not have to buy any for ages. And of course I’ve culled soap from hotel stays.
Clothes: I’m continuing to cut this. I stop by Ross Dress for Less, TJMaxx, etc in my quest for cheap bras. The stock is low at the moment. I got NICE sox for xmas and probably have plenty to get through 2015 especially if I mend the older ones and use those for work. I got boots for $52 online in January which gives me one back-up pair of boots so shouldn’t need any more until 2016. I COULD use a pair of walking shoes. I’ve been wearing my “best” pair at the gym and they have a split on the side that can’t be repaired anymore and the soles are paper thin. I have one other pair that is slightly narrow so I’ll see if I can make them work better. They also make a farty noise while I walk but maybe I can just pretend I don’t hear it. Or work with it when I’m a bit flatulent. I got 2 or 3 more pairs of jeans at thrift in January so I can make it through much of 2015. I could use a good pair of sturdy workpants. My carhartts are beyond hope and I need to just cut them up for other uses. I’m a bit low on sweatshirts but that will sort itself out. I have plenty of thermal undershirts and longjohns and will work with that rather than more sweatshirts. I have 1 dressy outfit and haven’t needed it in 18months so no one will recognize it.
Laundry: I spent 4$ at the laundromat in Feb! Part of this was because I rotated more undies into the mix. With 2 weeks worth of undies I just need to wash one “heavy” (jeans, sweatshirts, towels etc) and one load of “not heavy” (undies, t-shirts, sheets) per month. I’ve done the dishtowels with my manual laundry kit (buckets and a rapid washer plunger thingy) and that worked fine. I hang everything to dry hence no cost for drying). Here’s hoping I can keep it that low next month. I think sox and undies can be rotated into the manual washing system.
Insurance: Right now I’m carrying renters and auto. As noted above, I’ll try to cut the auto insurance cost. The options are limited for items in storage when one has no stable address. Will reassess that when I convince the county that I need an address on my land and if I can move things into storage on the land.
So, I’m taking suggestions on where to cut the budget. What am I forgetting?