Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saving the Moola: Living Within Your Needs, But Below Your Means, Part 4

You can catch up on this series by reading Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Last week, we shared our expected biggest expenditures for next year: housing, a new car, and groceries. This week, we're going cover some of our middle-of-the-road expenditures. These include: gas, school loans, vacation, savings and car insurance.

Our gas bill for our cars is relatively low, due to the fact that we drive to Ann Arbor once a week for work. Other than that, we usually drive three other days between the two of us - twice to the Flint area for groceries and errands and once around Fenton.

My school loans are in line with what I make - I've heard so many callers tell Miss Suze Orman their school loans are $800 and they make what I make! I'm not against school loans, in general - I would not have my four-degree or the job I currently have without having taken a school loan and gotten that degree. However, I, of course, wish I didn't have any loans! If you do take loans, just be sure you can easily pay them with what you expect to make. You can view the average American's expected education costs here. Note that the average American should, in theory, spend nothing on education (I do believe education should be free). Jason and I spend a bit more on education than the average American in paying my student loans back.

For many, many years, Jason and I never took vacations. Our "vacations" were visiting family (which is fun, but not the same as a true vacation). We had a terrific time on our honeymoon and vowed then that we would always take vacations. Our vacation this year is going to be fairly modest, but starting next year, we're allocating a huge chunk of change for this. Rest and relaxation are so important, and so are experiences. Experiencing new things can help you rekindle romance and get to know one another even better! You can view the average American's expected travel costs here and also view what the average American actually spends here. Our travel costs are a bit higher than the costs the average American actually spends and should spend. But I think we're okay with that!

As we discussed in Part 3 here, Jason and I are furiously saving toward a new car. This is our biggest priority right now. After the new car purchase, however, we plan to start growing our eight-month emergency fund. We'll be able to put away a bit toward this next year after we purchase a car. You can view what the average American should save here. Please note that the average American actually spends nothing on savings - in fact, a co-worker told me that the average American saves a negative percent of their earnings, meaning the average American spends more than s/he makes. I don't know if this is surprising. Our projected savings next year is less than what we should be saving - due in large part because we are first and foremost saving for a new car.

It's recommended that you review your car insurance policy every three years and shop around for a new quote. We did this a week or so ago and found, unsurprisingly, that no better quote is available. We use Progressive, and we've been extremely pleased with their customer service and costs. We've called quite a few times just to ask questions and have our bill explained to us - their reps are very friendly and patient. We've had one claim since we've been insured with them, and it was handled very easily.

Next week, we'll discuss more middle-of-the-road expenditures, such as charity and medical expenditures.

Last week, we double dog dared you to use as much cash as you could throughout the week instead of using your debit or credit cards. Jason and I did this, as much as we could (we usually do this anyway but we made a conscious effort this week), and we were happy with the results. We stayed within our grocery budget, we stayed within our "blow money" budget (and bought two beautiful pottery mugs), and we enjoyed a couple of meals out of the house with extra blow money we had.

I Double Dog Dare You: Until next week, I challenge each of you to go an entire day without eating any meat. Meat is more expensive than other protein sources, such as beans, and also takes a lot of energy to produce, process and package. Eating meat-free dishes can be a great way to keep your budget in line, keep your waistline slim, and expand your cooking repertoire. As always, Jason and I will be joining all of you in this challenge.

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