Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fun Monday - Personal Economic Strategy

Fun Monday time again, and this time I'm hosting!

I don't know what happens where you live, but this morning's paper was full of stories about layoffs and business strategies and state and local budgets and all the cuts that are coming our way. We have two big industries here - the State government and the University. Cuts have already been made in anticipation of smaller budgets, but with the session that started this past week, the news seems to be getting direr by the day.

With all this on my mind, I ask you:

What are you and your family doing to deal with the current economic situation on a personal level? Obama's got a plan for the nation, but how do you/will you deal with your own economic stress?

I do not fear for my job. I do a lot of different things and most of them are needed to keep this station running. But if for some reason I wound up laid off, I would find ways to make money. I am not too proud to flip burgers or clean houses or mow lawns if that's what it took to put food on the table.

But I also haven't had a real raise in years. Every few years, we are thrown a bone of 2 or 3% increase, but that hasn't kept up with the times in any way, shape or form. And as a result, we usually live within our means and tighten our belts when necessary.

It looks like it will be necessary. For the first time in a long time, I was concerned about getting to the next paycheck. That little shocker came as a result of forgetting to write in a car payment. So we are close enough to the line that we need to look at ways to save money:

1. So easy to go out to lunch! No planning ahead, just hop in your car and go! And spend between $5 and $8 a day on something you can easily do without. Fat. Salt. Extra carbs. When I went grocery shopping this week, I planned for lunch at work. Sandwiches. Soup. Leftovers.

2. Leave the spare change at home. The vending machine can eat up your money faster than you can down that pack of M&Ms. Or that diet coke. We have ice trays in the fridge - and water is free... And a heck of a lot better for you. Snack time is going to be an apple from home and a tall glass of ice water.

3. As long as we're on the subject of food (because honestly, when you have to feed two dogs, four cats, a fish, a man and a boy in addition to yourself, it's a big expenditure), I'm watching the grocery bill. More store-brand products. Less overbuying. I had to throw out a perfectly good roast a couple of weeks ago because we never got around to it. Pissed me off. Why are we going out for Greek when we've got pork chops in the fridge? More planning of menus and appropriate buying will nip that impulse to just get carry out in the bud. And save us a few bucks in the bargain.

4. The mortgage is going to be what it's going to be. But we can lower our utility bill! Turning off lights when we're not using them. Leaving the heat set low (62 in the winter) and the AC set high (80), or opening the windows when possible helps. But I know there's more. Our city does energy audits on homes with low interest loans to cover fixes available. I'm getting one of those. I suspect we have a lack of insulation under the house, and possibly in the walls. We replaced windows and the roof since we've been here but obviously there is more we can do. My electric bill tells me this every month.

5. Last fall, our above-ground pool sprung a leak. All winter we debated about fixing it or pulling the whole thing out. We have finally decided to pull it out, saving us the money of chemicals, maintenance and filling the thing up again. In its place, we will be installing a garden - hopefully growing some of our own food this summer. It won't be big, but it will help. That, along with eggs from my father's chickens - we should do pretty well with the food bill this year.

6. Spring break and summer vacation are going to be a little different for my son this year. I'm not quite sure we can pull off a camp every other week like we did last year. Perhaps a city-run day camp at one of the local parks will be an alternative. We're still exploring ideas at this point - but I know we can't do the same camp he did last year.

All of these are little ways we can stretch our dollars. If the unthinkable happens and one of us loses their job altogether, there are other things we can do away with. Satellite TV. Telephone. A car.

I don't have to think about that yet, but it's comforting to know that as deep a cut as I'm going to make this year in our spending, we can go deeper if we have to.

Visit everyone else and see what they have up their sleeves! I don't know about you, but I'm looking at all ideas!!!

Hootin' Anni
AOJ and the Hounds
Alice in Wonderbread
Lil Mouse Jill


Jeanna said...

I think things like lunch out are a luxury these days. You'd be surprised how some of the city programs are very good and if you look around, you'll find pools, and library programs and stuff you and the kids will love.

karisma said...

Great points Sayre, I think people often don't realise just how much those lunches and coffees add up to through the week. Its amazing what you can save when you are aware of what you are spending!

Mariposa said...

Looks like we all agree on dining out as extra cost! And I agree with you on spending most of our change with unhealthy food!

This is a nice topic...thanks for hosting.

Happy Fun Monday!

Anonymous said...

Limit the money in your wallet to say $5 or $10, and then don't break the bill until absolutely necessary. You'ld be surprised how long you can go without spending ANY cash. Also, use pennies. They do add up, and if you can pay the sales tax in pennies, it makes you more aware of where your money is actually going.

Gattina said...

It's nice the way you handle the crisis. I can't compare the life in Belgium with the life in the States.

Peter said...

Good work, I see why you chose the topic.

ChrisB said...

I think we are going to see many similar ideas. I tend to invite people home for a coffee rather than meet them out. Making a few biscuits or a cake is a lot cheaper and much nicer anyway.

Sandcastle Momma said...

We quit eating lunch out and were shocked at how much we saved just by doing that! I'm also going to grow more veggies this year to cut back on grocery spending. I'm jealous of your fresh eggs!

Mom said...

Save the Sunday comics and use them for gift wrap. Also, save and reuse regular wrapping paper. Those reused pieces become old friends, and bring back memories of holidays past, and the people who gave us gifts.

Margaret, Brand New Mama said...

I am playing along. But not playing by the rules at all. :)

♥~♥ Tracey ♥~♥ said...

Great tips to live by, even when economic times are not tough! I like the idea of an energy audit. I will have to look into that!

jill said...

can i play? add me please? jill

hulagirlatheart said...

I quit eating lunch out a couple of years ago. Instead, I run and then eat a sandwich or something from home. I feel so much better. I get exercise and save money. And I eat those leftovers that used to go to waste, sitting in my fridge. Great ideas, Sayre. Thanks for the ideas and for hosting.

Faye said...

I think you hit the heart of it Sayre in your last comment: "we can dig deeper if we have to." I think as long as people realize that there's always a way out--if you have your health and are not too selective in what you're willing to do. You have so many tried and true strategies listed here. A good reminder for us all. Staying out of stores is especially important for me.

margaret (the misanthrope) said...

Great assignment, and great post, Sayre! I liked your ideas - and the garden sounds wonderful! Happy FM to you!

Janis said...

Sounds like you have a great plan in place for cutting back. You will be surpirsed what you can live without. Just feeding a growing boy will add your grocery bill up. Keep up the good work

grace said...

timely topic, sorry I posted late. thanks for hosting

Aoj and The Hounds said...

You are so right about eating out....I don't very often but I do have a weakness for Starbucks and I have been resisting all temptation and making my own versions at home!

HoosierGirl5 said...

I finally got mine up. Had some editing problems. Let me know what you think.


PinkPiddyPaws said...

If you haven't already, changing your light bulbs to CFL's. Also, turn off your computer when not in use to save electricity (every little bit counts). In the summer, have the pilot on your gas heater turned off. Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. Consolidate your errand trips to do as much as possible in one run.

Etc..etc...etc.. :)

movin' down the road said...

the food thing is major for me. I get better coffee to make at home and a frother to make lattes. Saving 4 a day. The heat down a few degrees and the lights off, makes a difference

sexy said...



Anonymous said...
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