Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
With the economy still tanking, and people facing job loss at record levels, I thought I would share what I learned from my three months of unemployment. Note: I was not eligible for unemployment compensation, because I am a part-time worker, and in my state you much be a full-time worker seeking full time work in order to get unemployment compensation.
This brought us down to one income. It took some doing, but we made the adjustments. Now that I am back at work, we are still living on one income, and putting my full income into savings. There are many sites out there that will give you the basics of money management: budgeting, expense reduction, debt reduction. But we implemented some specific strategies that saved us a lot of money:
Shopping for Myself
For the last several years, I had hired out things I didn’t want to do myself, particularly errands and shopping. Now with more time than money, I started to do these tasks myself. I found that by doing the grocery shopping myself, not only did I save the service charges and delivery fee, but our grocery bills went way down, simply because I was able to adjust ingredients as I was shopping. For example, I routinely bought jarred pizza sauce for $1.79. I substituted tomato sauce at $0.28 a can, and used spices I had at home. Substitutions like that cut our grocery bill down by over $60 a week.
I also took advantage of my local discount warehouse store. I used to avoid going there for one or two things because of the time needed to navigate through the store. With more time than money, I now buy things we use regularly, but at a much lower cost per unit. For example, I can buy two jars of peanut butter at the warehouse for what I can get one jar at the grocery store.
Cooking At Home
With more time on my hands, I was more likely to cook good meals. More meals at home meant less going out, which is better for our health and budget. Sure, I have backups on hand, but the meals were generally from scratch and healthy. In fact, my husband exclaimed after one meal: “If I can eat like this all the time, you don’t have to get a job!”
I did some experimenting with our “favorites” during this time. For example, I tried an off-brand of peanut butter from the grocery store, and a much cheaper brand of coffee instead of our Starbucks beans. The peanut butter didn’t go over well, but we found that we liked the taste of the cheaper coffee as well as the Starbucks…and save about $20 a month. Many of the “favorites” were changed to cheaper alternatives. As long as I was up front about the substitution and elicited feedback, my family was happy to make the changes. We don’t buy the cheapest of everything, but we like what we buy.
Bye, Bye Credit Card
For several years, we had put all expenses on the credit card, with the intention of paying it off every month. That never seemed to happen, and every time we paid the balance off, it went right back up again. This time, we paid off the credit card, and both of us surrendered our credit cards. They are kept out of our wallets, and we have to ask the other before using the credit card. We still have one expense going onto the credit card. Netflix gets charged every month, and we pay it off. This keeps the credit card “in use” without real usage.
Limiting the Holidays
This fell in line with what we thought about the holidays anyway, but we were glad to have the chance to try it out. My daughter was told Santa would bring her one thing, and we would get her one. She thought about what she wanted carefully. To round out the gifts, I made her some clothes for her stuffed animals. This holiday was probably the most peaceful we have known, and she seems to appreciate her gifts more.
For my husband and myself, we each picked one thing we would like, and both were things that were needed. For him, it was a replacement pair of slippers. For me, it was a complete set of knitting needles (this stems the ongoing expense of buying needles for projects).
While we have never been a big “go out” family, we really made an effort to entertain ourselves at home. Every Friday night we watch a Netflix movie as a family. Every Saturday we play a game together. It gave us great family time together.
I realized that I had been stockpiling things because I had convinced myself that it would save me time. What I found is that I could put off a lot of expenses by not stockpiling, and evening out the budget. For example, I buy paper towels in bulk. When I was down to my last three rolls, I thought I should buy more. It’s been three months now, and I am finally using that last roll. I will be able to purchase them on a week when the household expenses are lower. Likewise, instead of buying pet food just because I was at the pet store, I wait until I am almost out.
This method is making me make more trips to the store, but I still am not doing errands more than once a week.
Eliminate Impulse Purchases With A List
One of my local department stores has “bargain” stuff at the front. I would wander in to buy one thing and end up with a bag full of stuff. What I learned to do was to employ the same strategy I use for grocery shopping: if it isn’t on the list, it doesn’t get bought. This saved me from buying a lot of “nice-to-haves” or non-essentials.
These eight strategies have saved us a lot of money over the past few months, and will continue to do so. What are your favorite saving-money strategies?
Photo by pfala