Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saving the Moola: Living Within Your Needs, But Below Your Means, Part 7

You can catch up on this series by reading Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here and Part 6 here. This is an eight-week series.

Jason and I returned early Thursday morning from our vacation. While on our way home, our tire and wheel went flying over the Zilwaukee bridge. Thankfully, no one was hurt (one benefit of traveling very, very early in the morning (or very, very late at night)). Unfortunately for us, we could not find the tire (we didn't really expect to). The repairs were actually very much lower than we expected and were paid for completely out of savings - with savings left over! When you live within your needs but below your means, unexpected accidents like the tire incident of 2011 won't freak you out - beyond the fact that seeing a tire go flying and sparks under your car is not that fun to see. We're very grateful to my parents for coming to get us and transport us back to Fenton, where we used Jason's car to travel back to Saginaw to approve the repairs and pick up my car. This is just one more nail in our coffin that living within your needs but below your means not only results in being a good steward of your money, but it allows accidents to be more stress free. Instead of worrying about how we were going to pay for the repairs, our concern was that we woke up my parents and ruined their relaxing morning (my parents, of course, were incredibly gracious and just happy we were okay).

So maybe that was a bit of a digression, but I just wanted to share a real-life, recent example of why or how this lifestyle works for us and how it can work for you. Last week, we began talking about our 1% or less expenditures. We're continuing that discussion this week with: holidays, Christmas, Day-After-Thanksgiving-shopping (or as I call it, DATS), crafts, renter's insurance and magazine subscriptions.

Holidays are everything minus Christmas. We typically only celebrate our birthdays and our anniversaries. And if we celebrate others' events, we do so with either a card, a phone call or a homemade gift, but in general, we tend to keep all occasions very low key. There are multiple reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that we honestly don't see a reason to celebrate any of these (including birthdays and our anniversary). We show our love for each other and others close to us all year round, whether it's with a homemade gift, a phone call to say "I love you," a dinner out on us, or doing an extra special chore around the house the other has been hinting at (like cleaning the outside of the wastebasket because really, who wants to do that? That's a show of love if I've ever seen one!).

Christmas expenditures includes everything from extra grooming, like manis and pedis, extra clothing purchases, gifts for our family, gifts for each other, Christmas cards, postage stamps for Christmas cards, etc. Our gift allotment is very low - we have a set amount for each of our three stockings each year that is the same - a stocking for Jason, a stocking for me, a stocking for Preston. Each year, one of us (Jason or I) play "Santa" (we alternate years), and that person fills up our two stockings and we both fill Preston's stocking. This year is Jason's turn. So Jason will buy and wrap gifts for his stocking and my stocking. This is extra fun because then on Christmas morning, it'll be extra surprising since I won't know what either of us received! Jason and I started this last year and really, really enjoyed it. We do not buy gifts outside of the stocking for each other. We make as many gifts as we can to give to family. You can read about why we do this style of gifting here.

DATS is something I look forward to, literally, all year long. It's not for everyone because most people are just cranky when they participate in DATS. Jason and I are not cranky people, and most definitely not on this morning! The stores we visit vary each year, but we're usually home and done by 7 AM and go back to sleep. We're not cranky for the following reasons: a. we wear comfy clothes (people who put on makeup and do their hair are just crazy!), b. we sing Christmas carols the entire time (this probably annoys other people, but we don't care), c. we don't have to go DATS, but we really enjoy being around other people, getting good deals, and buying things for ourselves that we normally would not consider due to higher costs on another day. During DATS, we usually are buying things for ourselves. This year, we're looking at buying matching picture frames for a project I want to complete for the kitchen, a blender, an electric heating blanket, and Disney DVDs. We would never normally purchase these items, but we're hoping to get good deals and can fit them into our DATS budget. My favorite website for viewing DATS ads ahead of time is theblackfriday.com.

Crafts somewhat overlap with DATS, holidays and Christmas, as most of the craft items we purchase to make crafts (like pinking shears, fabric, etc.) are to make gifts for others. Crafting is enjoyable and challenging for us, and we truly enjoy it. If you're not into crafting, your "crafts" category may be called "hobbies." Crafting is our biggest hobby in terms of expenditures (reading is probably my biggest hobby, but I get all my materials free at the lib).

Our apartment complex requires all renters to have renter's insurance, although if this was not required, we would still have it. We haven't had it during the entire 5+ years we've been renters, but I'm glad we're making a point to always have this budgeted for the future. A cousin of mine just recently experienced the roof of his apartment complex caving in on his apartment, and everything he owned was ruined. Completely ruined. Thankfully, he had renter's insurance. Personally, I never want anything to happen (unless we were home) because if we weren't home and the house, let's say, burned down, then I could only assume Preston would perish in the fire. There is nothing in the world - no monetary reimbursement, no item, nothing - that would make that okay. Regardless of that, renter's, or homeowner's, insurance is a must-have. It's worth the little bit of money to cover yourselves and your belongings.

As referenced above under crafts, I get most books, magazines, DVDs and CDs from the library. However, there a few magazines that are particularly useful to subscribe to, such as Crafts n Things. I get a lot of gift and craft ideas from this magazine, and the magazine has templates, instructions, tutorials, etc. that are useful. We subscribe to very few magazines and always check several websites to be sure we're getting the best deal.

Next week, we'll wrap up this series. Last week, I double dog dared you to spend an evening at home and indulge in free entertainment. On our vacation, Jason and I stuck to our budget and had a blast! We could not have had more fun. We took several games and spent many hours playing those. We also took many walks and took pictures. We went to the beach, buried each others' feet and read books we brought from our home lib. We visited the local library, we drove downtown and looked at pretty houses, and we went through a rope maze that was free of  charge! I'd love to hear what you and your family did for free this week.

I Double Dog Dare You: This will be the last dare of this series. Is anyone else sad? I am! We'll be back next week to wrap up this series, so until then, I challenge each of you to sit down with your partner and decide on a budget for next year. Determine how much money you really need to live on and vow to keep your expenses to that amount. Save the rest of your income. Decide what that money's purpose is - every cent should have a purpose! Maybe you want to save for a new car to be paid in cash, maybe you want to save for a 20% down payment on a home, maybe you want to save for a remodel to be paid in cash, maybe you want to save for a vacation to be paid in cash. You can read our past posts in this series to see our budget for next year and what our goals are.

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