Sunday, January 4, 2009

Off to a good start

Not much has been going on with me lately; I've just been busy with R on his vacation from school. It's been lovely. We went sledding on Friday! We played with Play-doh. We built and played with gazillions of Legos. We read his new Tintin comics. We've had a great time, but even R is ready to go back to school and see all his friends. It will be nice to get back into a routine again tomorrow.

2009 has started off well. I haven't made any official resolutions, but it dawned on me over Christmas that I suddenly can't see parts of my body that I used to be able to see (except when I was pregnant) because of the fat that is in the way, so I should really do something about that. The last month has been pretty tumultous for me emotionally and I know I haven't been taking care of myself as a result, so it finally caught up with me. I need to eat better, go to bed at a reasonable time, and try to get some regular exercise. Me and every other person on the planet!

But the other resolution-type goal that A and I have is to trim our spending to prepare for the possibility of his contract not being renewed at the end of the month. Plus, it's good just to be more responsible with our money anyway. I'm really proud of how we're doing. We used to eat out or get take-out at least twice a week (and not always the cheap places), and we've cut that down A LOT. We've been a lot more creative about cooking at home. We found our favorite Indian sauce (tikka masala) in jars at the grocery store. We spent $3.99 for the sauce (we already have tons of chicken and rice at home - thank you, Costco!). It wasn't quite as good as the restaurant version of chicken tikka masala, but it was still good and so much cheaper than the $12.95 we usually spend per entree.

And, after two weeks of no eating out at all, we treated ourselves for brunch at our favorite cheap buffet place. All three of us ate for less than $20! (Normally, breakfast/brunch out for us runs us closer to $40 at our neighborhood diner.) And, despite the temptation of various meats and pancakes and waffles and desserts, I was able to eat healthy there - salad, scrambled eggs, and fruit.

We stopped shopping every week at the more expensive grocery store, even though it's a lot more convenient for us because they have everything we need in one place. Now, we only go there for specific items. That has saved us $20 to $30 each week.

And, yesterday, we cancelled my cell phone and dropped A's plan way down to the absolute cheapest one. I have a cell phone through work, so I'll still have a phone on me, but having two phones was silly. We've been using our home land line a lot more. We're also going to switch our cable, Internet, and phone to the big V company's new service, which will save us $50 a month over the big C company we have now.

There will be many more changes to come for us financially, but I've been pleased at how easy these first changes have been so far for us. We definitely weren't living beyond our means before - we've always been good with our money - but it makes me feel better to live more frugally.

That reminds me! I watched the Suze Orman show last night (if you don't watch her, you should!), and she had some really scary information about what the credit card companies are up to. I thought I would share it in case it might affect you or someone you love. Basically, because of the mess of the mortgage crisis last year, the credit card companies are freaking out and looking at everyone's accounts and statements. If they see that you only pay the minimum due each month, they may either completely revoke your cards or decrease your credit limit. And, they may increase your interest rate on what you still owe to 29% or 32%! It doesn't matter if you have a good credit rating/FICO score. Suze predicted that this is going to cause the next part of the financial crisis because it's going to force many people into bankruptcy, especially as more and more people lose their jobs and have to live off their credit cards. Anyway, I wanted to share that information. I hope it helps someone!

What ways have you found to cut your spending and live more simply?


sandwhichisthere said...

when I saw you last, you didn't look like you had a weight problem. Every time I see you I have an overwhelming urge to stuff you full of food. You are naturally thin. People that live in the North tend to round out when the cold weather comes. It is not just people, this applies to animals also. It is a body's way of conserving heat. Weight measurement is a better way of tracking changes in your body. I have weighed the same since I was eighteen years old but my waistline is eight inches larger. I have not seen my toes in ten years.
As for living a simpler life, moving to this small town greatly effected that for me. There are very few places to go that are complicated or expensive. There is a barber shop that is going to open this month. Learning to make pizza at home is the major saving that I have experienced as I used to avail myself of the convenience of delivery too often. The only way my life could get simpler would be to grab a hammer and some nails and boards and head for Walden Pond. Living close to a city is more expensive but the options and advantages are worth it. Living at the North Pole would cut way down on outside spending but would it be worth it?
It sounds like you have everything well thought out and under control, as you have always since you were a small child, and I hope that all will be well with you and your family. This is going to be the year that you and Alan and Rix look back on and say "What a wonderful year 2009 was!",
all of my love to all of you, always, daddy

Ericka said...

Woohoo! I'm finally going to benefit from paying way more than minimums on my credit cards (besides the obvious paying less interest)! And most of my debt was refinanced at <5% interest for the life of the balance, so I'm still doing well, even if I have a problem not replenishing the debt.

The good news that I heard was a congressional effort to bar credit card companies from increasing your interest rate because you paid some other bill late. It would be nice if they'd repeal John McCain's law that allowed them to charge whatever interest is legal in the state in which they operate, and put the limits back to the state in which the accountholder hails from, but I suppose this is hoping too much.

I also have to start the exercise and not-eating-so-much-crap routine. Everything still fits, and I weigh the same, but ... well, things have shifted. And it's been a long time since I felt like I was in shape. Sadly, I don't think I have any great money-saving ideas, we're mostly trying to avoid ordering out so much (when did a pizza start costing $25?!?), and to actually eat the leftovers we have, rather than throwing them out a month later.

Wanda said...

Sometimes it doesn't take much to save a lot. Don and I had been splitting a meal when we go out, and it's plenty for the two of us.
If we can't agree on the same dish, we take home half of each and have it the next day. We eat out a lot less too.

Shopping at Costco, is helping our budget too. When I buy a large cut of meat, I separate it into small pkgs for two, and I get 4 or more meals out of it.

I have found some darling name brand clothes at our local thrift shop and since I lost the weight, I find more available.

Just a few... but they are working for us too.

Greg C said...

We are cutting way back too and here are a few things we did or are doing soon. We already got rid of the cell phones. We only have one which we trade off with and it is a pay as you go plan. The only place we go out for dinner is our favorite Mexican resturant and it is really inexpensive if I only get the small frozen treat. My kids love pizza so we are trying different frozen ones to find which one is cheaper and better tasting. I am going to learn to make pizza dough again to save even more. And we cut way back on the fast food places. We are trying to pay off that one credit card now.

Heidi @ GGIP said...

I really like Suze Orman and I watch her show a lot.

I am planning on losing some weight this year too. I never lost the baby fat from baby #2 so that is now a problem 9 months later! It's not so much that I look bad, but if I keep up this kind of weight gain it will be bad for my health.

Great job trimming your expenses! It is great that you were able to do a lot without much problem. We need to trim some expenses too, but it is a bit harder because we've already done all the easy stuff:(

Happy New Year!