Friday, September 10, 2010

Proactive Budget Trimming

I hate being told what to do.  Especially when it's something that I don't want to do. Even when I was a kid, I hated being told what to do.  I usually knew what I had to do, but if I didn't want to do it, I would just either procrastinate and delay the inevitable or I would just not do it.  As I've gotten older, I've changed my mind about this behavior, somewhat.  I've discovered that there is a certain sense of freedom or control in doing what needs to be done before someone or circumstances force you to do what needs to be done.  Huh?  Let me try to explain.

Two years ago, we used to have Dish Network.  While we enjoyed HGTV, Food Network, and Comedy Central, we realized we didn't really watch TV that much.  My husband was anticipating a layoff, so we decided to get rid of Dish.  Sure, it only saved us $30 a month, but when you're out of a job, that's alot of money. The layoff didn't happen for a year, but we were able to save the money that we would have spent on TV. 

Recently (as in last week), my husband was laid off.  I decided to do a little proactive budget trimming rather than wait for the checkbook to completely empty.  First, I took a look at our phone expenses.  Our home phone is a cell phone.  Three years ago we ditched our landline for a cell phone, but that's another story.  My husband also has a cell phone, which is a must if you work construction. We had switched from Virgin Mobile to MetroPCS.  As much as the $40 per month unlimited talk/text is a good deal, I had to admit that it was more than I wanted to spend for the amount of time that I used it.  Needless to say, we went back to Virgin Mobile's PayLo $20 special: just add $20 to your account every 90 days.  That works out to $6.67 per month per phone.  That's a savings of $66 per month.

Next, I looked at our grocery shopping.  I decided to do something that I've been threatening to do for a long time: monthly meal planning.  I made a handy dandy calendar and filled it in with favorite (i.e. cheap) meals. It's now hanging on the fridge. To my surprise, I realized that I have more than enough pantry items to make dinners for the rest of the month.  I'll have to buy eggs, dairy, bread, and fruit every week, but I can easily save $30 - $40 per week by planning ahead.  I know, I know...Duh!

Can we still afford these things with unemployment and savings?  Yes.  Should we?  That's a good question. We're choosing to let these things go before we have to. Most people, myself included, are willing to go along with a plan if they choose to do it, rather than if they are forced to do it. They still may not like it, but there is a huge difference in attitude: choosing to eliminate items from your budget can give you a sense of freedom - like cleaning out your closet, you get to decide what stays and what goes.  Being forced to do something can make you feel deprived - like a victim.  There are no easy choices, but I would rather make the choices whenever possible than have my circumstances make them for me.

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