The bummer-of-an-economy hit home with us a few weeks ago. My company issued pay cuts to all employees in an effort to ward off having to take more drastic cost-saving measures down the road. It’s obviously not news I wanted to hear, but I was certainly grateful that it wasn’t worse. When I told Sherry about it, we shared some moments of disbelief, anger and worry. But over the following days we slowly embraced the reality of having to live on about $400 less per month.
You guys know that we’ve already adopted a pretty affordable lifestyle and pride ourselves on being able to live life to the fullest even when our wallets aren’t (Sherry gives me haircuts, we’re a one-car household, we eat in all the time, I brown bag my lunch, etc). But we’ve gotta be honest: four hundred beans seemed like a lot to cut out of our already no frills budget. We don’t have it 100% figured out yet, but I thought we’d let you in on how we’re planning to adjust so far.
1. Kick my iTunes habit: It’s small, but I can keep a few bucks in our bank account 99 cents at a time by being a bit less iTunes happy. Music is to me as shoes are to Sherry (yeah old school SAT-style analogy), so I’m trying to absorb my pay cut a bit by rediscovering my existing music collection, and turning to Internet radio and YouTube when I want to enjoy playlists of new music.
2. Pause my gym membership: I work out at the Richmond area YMCA, and primarily use it as a place to shower after a lunchtime run downtown. By simply shifting my runs to mornings or evenings I can shower at home, where it’s free. And since it won’t cost me to restart my membership, I won’t be penalized for taking a break. Though Sherry will have to do without my rippling muscles for a little while (please note the sarcasm).
3. Trim our vacation by a couple days: We’d saved up for a weeklong road trip to Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston, but we decided to cut back a little by holding off on Charleston for next time. Shortening our little trip by 2 days put almost $250 back in our pocket in hotel fees alone. Plus, we can’t complain about the extra time that we spent relaxing in our own home sweet home instead.
4. Watch movies at home: Movies are probably second to my music obsession, so we try to allow ourselves a couple of trips to the theater each month. Instead I’m just going to practice patience this summer and rely on our Netflix subscription to satisfy my craving for cinema.
5. Cash in some credit card points: Sherry and I have gotten into the habit of using our credit cards to pay for just about everything. Not because it allowed us to buy things we can’t afford (we pay it off in full each month) but because it’s an easy way to track our spending. A few years of this habit later, we have wracked up quite a few points and have finally decided to trade them in for some bonus dinero.
6. Remember our refinance safety net: The great coincidence of all this is that my $400/month pay cut came just days after we refinanced, which reduced our monthly payment by – you guessed it – $400 per month. Maybe it’s all a big financial joke the universe is playing on us, but we’re still planning to have the last laugh. We hope to be able to continue to overpay our mortgage each month, but find comfort in the fact that we can reduce our monthly expenses by exactly $400 by letting that go if we encounter any unexpected expenses.
All in all, we’re pretty optimistic about everything. With Sherry having earned a variable freelancers income for over 3 years now, we’re well versed in adjusting our spending based on how much we’re bringing in each month. So ’til the economy gets better (knock on wood) we’ve got our noses to the grindstone and our hands out of the piggy bank. Have any of you guys felt the financial pinch especially hard lately? We know we’re certainly not the only ones with employment woes, so feel free to commiserate or, better yet, offer up some money saving tips or words of encouragement to the group.
And speaking of money saving tips, check out our other moolah-related posts which list a bunch of things that we do to keep cash in our wallets and smiles on our faces. Here’s the first one, the second, and the third. Happy saving to one and all.