Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Getting by.

The economy these days is tough. I'm sure you know that. Everyone is making changes to their budget and tightening their belts. Yes, that's very true and it means different things to different people. So how do you live and spend less? Various conversations I've had and stories I've heard give me the impression that many people don't really know how to live frugally. I'm often surprised to find out how many people actually run out and buy the latest gadgets the day they hit the market and how many people buy and wear designer clothing. I think to myself "Who buys that stuff?". Apparently, lots of people do, even in these tough times. Go figure. Well, not me. I did go through a designer phase when I was 20 yrs old, but managed to rack up a wee bit of debt because of it. Believe me. The debt outlasted the clothes and it wasn't worth it.

How do I live now? Cheaply! My husband and I are usually shocked when we find out how much money other people earn and live on each year. Nearly all of the time they earn twice what we do, and often times much more. It sounds wonderful for them and so it shocks us even more when they too complain about the economy and tell us how they're struggling. That's when I think to myself "Try living on our salary.", which could be more gracious, I know. So how do we do it? Here's what we do to get by on very little.....

Groceries: We shop at WalMart for the basics. Yes, I am concerned about the ethical practices of WalMart, and I would love to show it by not shopping there. Some days I feel guilty for giving them my money, but the truth is they really do have the lowest prices and we are able to get what we need within our budget. We do buy our fish, some produce and lunch meats from Central market, which is a $40 trip for us and I try to budget it every month.

Necessities: The 99cent store is a good resource. I buy office supplies, hair gadgets, plastic storage, batteries and some toiletries there. It's a huge money saver. $10 or less will cover me for my monthly trip.

Pet Food: I scan the web for coupons and usually find one for either Petsmart or for the food we buy. It's Avoderm by Breeders choice and lately they've been offering a $5 off printable coupon that really helps.

Gas: We drive older import cars that we own. My car gets about 27 mpg and it's nearly 15 years old. My husbands truck gets about the same. Getting less that 25 mpg is a real shame and I don't really know why anyone would be willing to settle for a car than guzzles gas and lightens your wallet.

Utilities: We're all pretty much paying the same rates. Having a digital, programmable thermostat has helped us quite a bit. I recommend it. We only water our lawn 3 times a week and sometimes less. Then we pray for rain. :)

Phone: We have the most basic cell phone plan. Together we have 700 shared minutes a month and have never even come close to using it all. The internet plan for our cell phones was just too expensive, so we aren't doing that. I know it seems like a bummer, but if we're honest with ourselves it's a luxury and not a necessity.

Clothing: Kent hardly ever buys anything for himself, but when he does it's basic shorts or jeans for under $30. I buy more clothing but mostly from thrift stores. I rarely pay for than $5 for an item. Every once in a while we buy new, but only if it's on sale or we have coupons and a special occasion requires it.

Thing we wish we could do but don't so that we can save money:
Haircuts I get one haircut a year, maybe two. Ogle School of Hair and Design and TIGI Hairdressing School are great options. Less than $10 gets you a wash, cut and blow dry.
Manicures/Pedicures Nope. Not in the budget. It would be nice, but a bottle of clear polish will have to do for now.
Movies We see maybe 3 movies a year. Tickets for two are pricey and if we add popcorn or a drink we've spent half of our grocery budget in one day.
Vacations It's rare. :( We will take a 5 day vacation every 2 or 3 years and it has to be somewhere we can drive to. Road trips are actually still affordable. I search endlessly for the best hotel deals and we eat on the cheap.
Concerts This one is a bummer. We see maybe one concert every 2 years. Grrr. Not because there aren't great musicians coming to town, but because concert tickets for 2 plus all the "convenience" fees adds up to outrageous. Boo.
Have Health Insurance It would be really helpful. Let's hope Obama can make this happen for us.

Our weakness... We spend most of our expendable income on restaurants. It's the one thing we allow ourselves to splurge on. Of course when I say splurge, I mean $20 or less for the two of us to eat.

My basic tips are:

*Buy used clothing, cars and furniture.
*Drive a car that gets good gas mileage and needs few repairs.
*Don't get the most expensive phone plan and limit your use.
*Invest in a digital thermostat and set it at 74 during the summer months.
*Get a Brita water pitcher instead of buying bottled water.
*Search the web for coupons any time you shop. Try visiting http://printable-coupons.blogspot.com/ or Google "Printable Coupons" and add the category you're looking for.
*Know what the lowest prices really are for your groceries and toiletries. Prices at Albertson's are usually 30% higher than WalMart and Kroger is about 20% higher.
*Visit your neighborhood Dollar Tree or 99cent store.

Please share your budge tips too! I am always happy to learn new ways to save money and live on less.

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