So, it’s been 3 months since I left the rat race…and those around me know, I couldn’t be happier.
It hasn’t been so difficult frankly but a large part of that is attributed to the fact that we started downshifting about 2 years ago…learning to drastically reduce our spending, paying down our debt and building up our nest egg at the same time.
Here’s a glimpse on what we’ve had to sacrifice as well as what we’ve gained in all areas of our life.
You know it’s only the two of us but we used to spend upwards of $1000/month on food! Lots of eating out, lots of coffee stops, lots of convenience items. It was shameful! Now we stick to a budget for $125/week for groceries (or $250/2 weeks). This really forces me to shop according to sales, buy in bulk, sometimes shop different stores. Now mind you, one of my favorite bloggers, The Frugal Girl, feeds her family of 6 on $80-$100/week, so certainly mine is not a super frugal budget. However, we really try to focus on natural/organic foods most of the time and are willing to pay more for it (this is a priority for us).
We eat out only twice a month and usually do so for lunch as its typically cheaper. Eating out is sooooo expensive. Sure it tastes good and is convenient, but you pay for it. We budget $100/month for eating out and this includes stops once in a while at coffee shops.
Total savings per month: $400
We don’t spend any money on entertainment. I know this is a steep one for people, but it helps that we are homebodies, love to watch TV, go on-line, read, listen to music, spend time out in nature, etc.
For TV, we need to go with satellite since we live deep in the mountains, don’t have cable as an option and can’t get TV reception over the air. However, we used to have the premium $100+/month plan which we scaled down to the basic $40/month package. There’s no MTV, E, VH1 and those type of celebrity channels, but I’m thinking we’re better off without them!
For internet, we used to have satellite (for the same reasons above) but researched and found a different option (point to point) which is good if you’re perched on a mountain and point to another point that has a tower, as in our case, and we were able to drop our internet from $80 to $40 a month.
We used to spend approximately $100 a month combined on book purchases and magazine subscriptions. We since stopped buying books and magazine subscriptions and using the library exclusively (yes you can still get mags at the library!).
We canceled our $10/month Netflix plan and instead we scroll the menu guide on the weekends and see what movies are playing and set our DVR to record for later viewing. Once in a while, if we’re really anxious to see a movie, we’ll go to RedBox and pay $1, so long as we return the next day but this is maybe once a month and nearly negligible. We don’t go out to movies, we don’t go to concerts, we don’t go to events and we’re okay with that.
For music, we listen to Pandora (free again!) and one of our TV channels plays music concerts on the weekends.
I know entertainment is what some people crave and that’s okay too, but it’s about priorities…if you want to spend lots in entertainment, then something has to give.
Total Savings per month: $250 (approx.)
Making yourself “pretty” – well, this one is easy but does take some discipline. See, I rarely get my hair cut. All the years of having a pixie style haircut and needing to cut it every 3 weeks taught me to learn how to cut my own (thankfully I have thick hair that is forgiving of mistakes). Now that I’ve been growing it out for the past year, I’m just letting my curls out and letting it be. I also cut David’s hair – he keeps it short and I can easily use the hair clippers on it once or twice a month. Because we cut our own hair, we save about $100/month.
I don’t get manicures, that can easily be done myself and with pedicures, I usually treat myself to one a year, doing it myself the other times. This can easily save me about $50/month. I love massages, but we keep it to special occasions, otherwise, we use a homemedics massager that we bought years ago for about $50 and it really does work great. David and I will rotate massages – he’ll give me a massage one night, I’ll return the favor another night. This saves us about $600/year or averages about $50/month in savings.
As far as makeup goes, I still put some on everyday, but gosh, I swear I will not buy another piece of makeup until I’ve used what I have on hand. At this rate, I won’t be buying another eye shadow for 10 years! And same goes for body care…do we really need 15 different kinds of lotions/body washes/and specific-to-one-body part type of formula? I don’t buy anymore soap until I’m out, same goes for all the rest of the body care goodies. I have enough supplies from endless purchases in my former life. And sure, this gets tricky when I smell something wonderful at the store and want to bring it home with me, but I really step back and think to myself “do I really need this?” I have to be very disciplined at discerning between want and need. This saves me about $50/month.
Total savings per month: $250
Since David’s accident was ironically timed with my departure from work, we decided to stick with one car. And it’s a ’99 Volvo. Certainly not a sexy car, certainly not new with all the bells and whistles, but it’s in decent shape and gets us from point A to point B. Sure we’d love to have an updated vehicle, but it sure is nice not having a car payment. Potential savings of $400/month (car payment), or $800 for 2 car payments and $75/month in car insurance . Certainly not a viable option in most households (that is, keeping one car) but holding on to your vehicle for the long term is. We also utilize our grocery stores gas discount (the 10 cents off deals) whenever we can.
Total savings per month: $475
Not surprisingly, our electric bill has gone up a bit since I’ve been home. This is probably due to the fact that I always have TV or radio on while I’m crafting or putzing around the house and I’m cooking a ton now. However, we keep our thermostat set to 66 during the day and 60 at night. Yes, this means often wearing more clothes, but that doesn’t cost any. Usually I’m moving around so I don’t need a sweater, only if I’m sitting for a while. Also I time the sun and take advantage of passive solar heating – raising all the shades on our Southwest facing windows during the day and closing them as the sun sets to keep in the heat. I like it cold when I sleep so I usually am fine with the 60 degrees, but on nights where I get a little chilled, I’ll put on thick socks, a thicker shirt or I’ll throw our rice-based neck pillow in the microwave for a couple minutes and that also keeps me warm. I try these things before turning the heat up and almost never have to.
Our first year in our house, we flew through propane and had to fill it up twice that year. We’ve since sealed up our house/window cracks and only need 1 tankful a year of propane. This saves us $1000/year.
We don’t have a landline (savings of $40/month) and reduced our phone bill quite a bit last year by doing a family plan, reducing down to the minimum plan and getting rid of our wireless cards. We still keep our texting plan as our nieces and friends use this as a primary means of communication, so it’s a splurge we’re willing to make. Savings of $100/month. We also quit our trash removal service and will keep our kitchen trash bags until they fill a large black trash bags which only cost $3 at the dump (we average twice a month) so $6 vs. the quarterly cost of $60+. Savings of $15/month.
Total saving per month: $235
Well this is a rather large category, but one that can get you into a lot of trouble. We don’t shop all that much. We know just walking into a Target can mean walking out $100 out with all these things we “think” we need, so we try to stay out of those places. Most of my clothes are 5-10 years old. I’ve always stayed with primary colors/fabrics with no patterns and it’s simplistic but classic and allows me to keep for years. Right now, I’m wearing goucho/capri type pants (5 years old) a tank top (1 year old) and a cardigan I wore in college (about 14 years old!). I only wear about 6 pairs of shoes, (sure I’d love more, but do i need them?? No) and I’ve even found many simple shirts at thrift stores. Even random things like office supplies, houseware, etc. – I always ask myself – can I made do without? Is there something else in my house that I could use to do the same function? We used to spend about $300 or more/month in clothes/miscellaneous item that we didn’t need that we refrain from now.
Total savings per month: $300
We keep to ourselves, this is no secret but we do keep in touch with family/friends via online communities, talking and emailing. We don’t live close to family so this is our primary means of connecting. I do have a group of girlfriends locally however that I LOVE to visit with, so we usually get together twice a month, almost always getting together at one’s home and doing potluck – a much cheaper option. Once in a while we’ll get together for drinks/meals at a bistro, but this is infrequent and helps us all to stay on budget.
We’ve made good friends with some of our neighbors and share desserts, meals and divide costs. For example, one of our neighbors plows our road (we don’t get municipal services on our mountain-side switch-back roads) and we give him gas gift cards as a thank you, certainly much cheaper than hiring a professional to plow the road. These same neighbors also exchange dog care with us when either of us go on vacation. We used to spend about $800/week to board our 3 dogs in a nice facility (this is a non-negotiable area for us as we LOVE our pups and refuse to stick them in cages for a week). Since we take several trips a year averaging about 4 weeks total, this is about $3,200/year.
Total savings per month: $350
Overall savings per year: nearly $27,000! (most people are happy to bring that home after taxes, commuting costs, convenience expenses, costs associated with working, etc.)
It should go without saying that our mortgage is a fixed amount, however, we’re paying more than needed each month so that our place will be paid off in 10 years, a personal goal of ours (it’s amazing how many years you can shave off when you pay a bit more toward your principal each month). We also have made a committment to max out our retirement accounts (401Ks and IRAs) and set money aside into our saving account every month.
So, although we lost a chunk of incoming dollars, we also stopped a lot of money going out and as the saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned! We like to travel (and need to in order to see family), but especially enjoy going to new places that I can photograph, so we’re hoping that my new business will generate just enough money for our yearly travel needs and wishes.
By and far, the greatest thing gained is TIME. Time at home, time with my husband, time with my dogs, time to do the things I love to do. Though I keep very busy with all the things that save us money (researching sales, making food from scratch), I LOVE being my own boss and being able to wake up when I want, being able to take the time to sit in nature and enjoy the small but significant things Mother Nature shares every moment and being able to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. As far as life currency goes, this is WAY more valuable to us than having the latest and greatest and flying through convenience gizmos.
Then again, it’s all about priorities and so my priorities are not the same as others and vice versa. I’ve really learned that while you can’t have it all, we show our priorities each day by the way we spend our money and make choices. And what you sacrifice in one area, you gain in another. It’s all up to you on what that means.
Me? I’d be willing to trade in even more if I had to in order to preserve my time, and I’m okay with that. It’s amazing to see how much money goes out the door when you really sit down, save your receipts for a month, utilize a budgeting plan and see how much discretionary money you might be wasting. Ignorance is not bliss if you want to save money or work less. But only you can make those decisions and determine your priorities.
Amazing how your purchasing decisions can free you or trap you…
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