Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saving the Moola: Living Within Your Needs, But Below Your Means, Part 5

You can catch up on this series by reading Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

This week, we're continuing to share our middle-of-the-road expenditures with everyone. We pray that this series is uplifting - that you know you're not alone in your struggles to juggle priorities - we pray this series is enlightening - that you realize that you, too, can have a budget that is quite literally below your means but still within your needs - and we pray this series is educational - that you learn to set a budget and stick to it, no matter what.

Our next expenditures include: charity, phone/cable/internet, energy and medical.

We have found that the more we give to charity (both our money and our time), the more we have to give and keep for ourselves. That sounds kind of weird, right? How do I get more time or money if I'm giving it all away? Well, for non-believers, you refer to this as karma. For followers of Christ, it's really just part of His inheritance and plan for you. However, it's not like if I give $50, I suddenly find $50 sitting on the floor. It's more like... if I give $50, maybe we're blessed with a raise or promotion at work (and it comes at just the time you've started giving or upped your giving), or someone blesses you with a bag of fresh produce from their garden. If you give, it encourages others to give. Maybe you want to give to your church, maybe you want to pick a family to donate your time or money to, maybe you want to donate to an animal shelter, maybe you want to donate to Compassion International - choose a charity that speaks to you. The average American spends nothing on charitable giving, but the average American should spend 10%. We're not yet at 10%, but we're planning to sponsor another child next year (and keep adding one child a year).

Because Jason and I both work from home, we prefer to use a landline to connect to the phones at work (the calls we place and receive do not cost us anything, and we can use any line for this, but we prefer a landline). We only have one cell phone between us, since we only need one, and we like having a landline as a second phone line, too. Since we also work from home, we prefer to have cable so we can have something going on in the background, TV-wise, while we work. And, also because we work from home and also because we want it, we have internet. We are planning, in March of next year when our phone/internet/cable contract is up, that we are only going to bundle our phone and internet. We're planning to switch to Hulu Plus and get the proper cord so that the TV show from my computer comes through on the TV. This will save us about $800 a year, plus we watch very minimal TV so it just makes more sense to do this. The average American spends about 5% on this, and the average American should spend 2%. We are in line with what the average American spends.

Our goal this summer was not to turn on the AC unless it reached 90 degrees, and then the AC would be on at 89. This did not last long, and as a result, we did have higher energy bills for the house. However, we keep the heat on low in the winter and generally have a very, very low energy bill (except in the crazy summer months). We also unplug things when we can, utilize the slow cooker for a lot of our meals and keep as many lights off as we can. Since we work from home so much, this is important to save on energy in these ways since our computers are plugged in a lot. The average American spends about 7% on energy, and the average American should spend 3%. We are lower than the average American's expected spending of 3% so this is a great accomplishment for us.

And finally, we come to medical expenses. Jason suffers from narcolepsy which is that crazy sleep disorder where he literally just falls asleep whenever. He's crashed many cars on account of this, and without insurance, each pill (he takes 2 daily) would cost $35 each. Isn't that insane? (It's still under patent so no generic version is available, although through research, we've learned the generic version will begin to be created in 2012). I'm not including what I pay out of my paycheck for our health insurance since only our take-home pay is used for the percentages of what we spend. But our health insurance is very reasonable, considering the alternative. I also wear glasses and contacts, so our medical may be higher than others', but I'm glad we've both been blessed with reasonably good health. The average American spends 4.9% on health care but should spend 6%. I'm happy that we are far, far below these percentages.

Next week, we'll start tackling our 1% or less expenditures - there are a lot of them! We'll cover these in the next 2 weeks. Last week

I Double Dog Dare You: Until next week, I challenge each of you to brown bag your lunches every day. Most restaurants now charge at least $5 for a well-rounded meal (if you can call fast food well-rounded which I cannot, but alas). A PB and J with a cheese stick and an apple or a can of soup with rolls and an apple are much, much cheaper. We're literally talking a savings of at least $3. That really adds up! Even if you only buy lunch once a week as a treat, just try to go without it just this week and see how that extra money feels in your wallet. As always, Jason and I will be joining in this challenge.

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