Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saving the Moola: Living Within Your Needs, But Below Your Means Part 6

You can catch up on this series by reading Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here and Part 5 here. This series is an 8-week series.

This week, we're talking about our very low expenses. All the expenses covered this week and in Part 7 next week are 1 percent or less of our take-home income. Last week, we covered the second half of our middle-of-road expenses.

Today, we'll be talking about: laundry, cell service, grooming, entertainment, clothing, pets, and car maintenance.

We live in an apartment complex and as such, do not have our own washer and dyer (most apartments do not have these). We've saved a lot of money off our laundry bill by having a clothesline, making our own laundry detergent and making our own dryer sheets. Still, laundry costs money, and I reckon we spend a lot more on laundry than someone would who a. owns their own washer and dryer and b. does all the above we do. But we've cut our costs practically in half so I can't complain...

I used to understand the draw of a regular phone contract. Er, at least that what's I keep telling myself to justify why I wasted money having a phone contract. There are so many phone service providers today that it's just stupidity to have a phone contract. Pay-as-you-go, or no-contract, plans are a way better deal and they put your freedom back in your hands! You can get incredibly sophisticated phones (but we prefer a very simple phone). We use MetroPCS and pay very little, in my opinion, to have: unlimited calls and unlimited texts (plans are available that include web use). I'm sure we spend far, far less on cell service than other Americans, and we also have one cell between the two of us.

In this next expenditure, it's hard for me to hold my tongue. So I'll try to keep it clean and kind: beauty comes from the inside. So even if you have fake nails or dyed hair, if your insides are ugly, you're ugly. With that in mind, among other things, when it comes to grooming, Jason and I take a simplistic approach. I will share what Jason and I regularly spend our grooming allowance on: waxing. Which, may I point out, that if I so wanted, I could buy a home waxing kit and do it myself. We treat ourselves to manis and pedis once or twice a year, and I shave Jason's head. We save about $12 a month just by Jason avoiding the barber shop. I only visit a salon for haircut when I truly feel my hair needs it, which is once or twice a year. Simplicity is key. Not only are you going to be spending money at salons and spas, but it wastes time, too! I have better things to do than sit in a salon chair being vain. I hope you do, too. With that being said, the average American spends about 1%, and it's estimated here that the average American should spend 4%. That's a little crazy, I think. We're in line with the average American actually spends.

Jason and I don't drink, don't party, don't go to the movies... but we sure as heck have a whole lot of fun together every day! We keep our entertainment costs low but allow enough to go to three or so festivals a year, a movie maybe once if it's something that's important to us (we're planning to see Courageous on its opening weekend to support the film), a Tigers game or other sporting event, multiple trips to Barnes and Noble to buy a treat and read books and mags for hours, etc. Also included in entertainment is garage saling and craft shows. The average American spends 4.8% on entertainment, and the average American should spend 5%. Again, this is crazy. We spend far, far below this on entertainment.

I think by now, you're kind of catching on as to why Jason and I have money to do the things we really want to do (like buy a car in cash, save money for an 8-month emergency fund, etc.) is because we're super frugal. And we're super frugal in one area that others love to spend money: clothing. We have a very, very low clothing allowance but we never go without - in fact, we recently donated a bunch of our clothing because we had too much and didn't wear it all. We mostly work from home so our clothing is very simple. In a normal day, we wear plain white t-shirts, sweatpants and boxers. Jason has multiple polos, jeans, and button-down shirts. We buy jeans brand new, but shirts for Jason are purchased at Salvation Army or very cheap at stores. We generally don't spend more than $4 for a polo shirt. I have one pair of jeans I love and multiple shirts - fancy, hoodies, cardigans, etc. Plus, we recently bought a sewing machine and plan to use this to make some of our own clothes. You don't have to spend a lot of money to look decent. Buy classic styles on sale and you'll be good. The average American spends 2.7% on apparel and should spend 5%. We spend far, far below this one as well.

Preston, our cat, is one of the greatest joys, if not the greatest, in our lives. He's witty, cunning and playful. He brings a smile to our face on the darkest of days and lends his heat on the cold ones. Preston's been known to have issues (allergies, scratching himself til he bleeds, lumps and bumps on his skin, etc.). His costs are usually high, but not higher than 1 percent of our income! Pets do not have to be expensive and let me tell you: his food is expensive (you cannot buy it a regular store - that's how special it is). We've taken his allowance for the entire year and divided it by 12. Every month, we put that amount in an envelope so whenever he needs unexpected care, a bag of food, more probiotics, etc., we just take the money out of his envelope. He's never, ever gone without (and has more toys than he knows what to do with). It also helps that we get his litter for free. You can read about that here.

Last but certainly not least is the topic of car maintenance. This mostly just includes oil changes, tabs, and registration for our two cars. There is a little bit of leeway here in the event of a small repair. In the instances of huge repairs, we utilize our unbudgeted money (which is about 4 percent of our income) or cut out other things that are not needs (like clothing, entertainment, etc.).

Last week, I double dog dared you to go an entire week with brown-bagging your lunch. This was hard for Jason and I because we usually do this save for one day a week. We work from home and usually, one day a week, Jason will get take-out as a treat for us. We so badly wanted to do this yesterday but convinced ourselves instead to have PB and J sandwiches. I'm glad we did! This challenge was a success for you. How did you do?

I Double Dog Dare You: Until next week, I challenge each of you to spend an evening at home with your loved ones and indulge in free entertainment. You could play a game with each other (non-electronic games are preferred and more fun! Try some Blockus). You could grab a DVD from either your own collection or the library, pop some popcorn and make hot chocolate. You could go for a walk and try to identify birds, insects or trees with your kids. People tend to spend so much on entertainment, but really, the best things in life are free. Use this week to remind yourself of that. Jason and I will be on vacation this week and will be enjoying some free entertainment of the varieties listed here.

One last note: As I just mentioned, since Jason and I will be on vacation, we will be taking most of the week off from blogging. Tune in next Saturday when we resume our regularly scheduled programming with This Book Room and Saving the Moola.

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