This past year and a half has been interesting to say the least. I've been interested in finance and how the mind works around it for many years. In my youth I would worry about what growing up would look like and how you pay bills (like the actual where does it come from and how do you have electricity worries), which is probably not normal for an eleven year old. I'm quite sure my upbringing by Depression era grandparents had a lot to do with it.
I've been debt free three times in my adult life, once without a mortgage and twice with a mortgage. Now we are debt free with a mortgage that we are trying to pay off and I intend to not ever have consumer debt again. We follow the Dave Ramsey baby steps but not to the letter and that is okay.
Last year I did a no buy on clothes, books, and accessories like shoes and jewelry (even those $10 earrings at Target). It was amazing and hard. I learned so much about myself and my buying habits. Though never a spend thrift I enjoy having a new outfit to wear, a new pair or sunglasses or a new fresh book to open and dive into an alternate reality for a time.
This year we had some goals that have been put on hold. We paid over $35,000 on our mortgage last year, which was about 1/3 of our income, we took a big trip to Yellow Stone, and we paid off our tractor and our car. We had a good year and have not always made as much. As a matter a fact seven years ago when I met my husband together we were both making about $35,000 a year combined.
This year started off with some challenges and it has caused us to have to put a hold on all extra spending. We both had unexpected health challenges at the same time, big bills, two surgeries, test, thousand and thousands of dollars of medical bills in two months time. The weather has not been conducive to keeping a roofing company busy but I know that will change. And since we got married it put us in a higher tax bracket and low and behold Uncle Sam asked for a huge chunk of our income, twice what we thought we would have to pay.
So what do you do when you have to cut back? How do you do it? I'm here to tell you the sweet spot is in the flexible spending and simply your perspective. Here are my top ideas for cutting back and actually enjoying your life more. Some will be familiar but others may not.
How to Cut Expenses and Still Have a Full Life.
- Write down everything you pay for. EVERYTHING. Subscriptions, mortgage, rent, food, gas, insurance, clothes, gym membership, cable and wifi..and anything else. This tells you where you are on the map of life with spending.
- Think logically. What is really a need. We often put our emotions into this. Think if you were helping another person who was identify needs and wants. What would you say? Often people make a want a need by emotional justification. If you spent time on your own self care then would all of these things you think you need really just be a want. You can cut your flexible spending here greatly. Eating pancakes at home rather than going out for breakfast is about $2 a person versus $15 a person when you add tax and tip. That can add up to a savings of about $175 a month if you go out to eat breakfast three days a week.
- Identify your income. If your income is spotty or irregular add up the last three months and divide by three to get an average income.
- Cut the cable. Get Net Flix, Watch You Tube, Go to the Library. You don't need cable. We paid $200 recently to get rid of cable. Yes that expense caused me resentment to the cable company for their terrible service but it saved me $1000 dollars over the course of the year.
- Get rid of subscriptions. Check your statements to find any that you may have. Go to the free versions of everything.
- Don't Shop. You won't be tempted if you aren't shopping.
- Avoid advertising. Read books over magazines. Stay off social media more. Don't watch normal t.v. Don't make shopping a sport.
- Find alternate things to do. Go for a walk, hike, visit a park, organize your house, clean your house and car, organize your closet. These things will make you feel better about your life and situation. Getting exercise, going outside, having a clean home and car feels good and makes you feel more in control of your life.
- Watch something on You Tube everyday or read a blog about living a full life, financial freedom, health. something positive that contributes to your life without making you feel worse.
- Start to think of purchases in terms of how much you have to work to pay for something. If you want to go on vacation but need to cut back and a one week vacation to the beach would cost $2000 and you make $36000 a year you will have to work about a month to pay for it after paying taxes. If your boss would pay you in a vacation instead of money, but you had to work one full month, 40 hours a week for 4 weeks would you take the money or the vacation? That begins to change your idea of what a vacation can look like. Maybe a stay-cation this year. Maybe you simply need some time off.
- Have a mind of abundance. Instead of bemoaning having to cut back. Give thanks to the God of your understanding, the universe, whatever or whomever you give thanks to and say "Thank you for the roof over my head, thank you for my job, thank you for my family, my feet that carry me through life, my health.". Giving thanks will change your mindset.
These are principals I use when I cut back and in my daily life. Our grandson ask this weekend how we had all that we have (three paid for cars, a boat, a tractor, a forty acre farm with a cabin, barn and animals) and the truth is we pick and choose what we value. We live on less than we make. We pay cash, we save, we work hard, we enjoy our life but we value pancakes at home and walks in nature and books over shopping or fancy vacations every year. Truthfully the big things like buying new cars can take a toll on your finances but it really is the little things day to day that we take for granted that really add up. I recently cut our food bill by $400 by doing a little research on it and redoing our food budget. You can do this too and feel even happier than before.