When I was first getting out of debt, I found many little ways to save bits of money here and there to put towards my debt payoff. At the time, I needed every extra cent. Frugality was the name of the game. Now, my perspective has shifted. I’m not desperate anymore, because I’m out from under my debt! I no longer feel like I struggle for every dollar, because we’re ahead on our bills.
However, I’m not ok with feeling this way. The truth is, I got into debt a few dollars at a time, and if I don’t watch out, it will happen again. So, I’m going to rededicate myself to getting rid of the extra expenses to keep our budget lean!
There were some obvious cuts to be made initially. We budget $50 for household decor/furniture, because we’ve been setting up a new (rental) house since we married in June. However, we’re pretty much set on furniture and decor for now, so cutting this to $10 will be enough for the occasional picture frame, and to build up some savings for larger things later. Next went World of Warcraft, which I simply don’t play anymore. As a substitute, I’m going old school with a text-based MUD. Just as fun, but totally free!
After these obvious trimmings, I dug a bit deeper. I’ve been spending $35/month for my own virtual private server, which is indeed a good deal. However, I’ve been using the free Heroku plan for hosting the occasional small development application, and thus the only things left on my server are this blog, a few other miscellaneous blogs, and a few sites I used to host for a friend. I’m no longer getting my money’s worth, and even worse I don’t have the time to administer the server and keep it secure. So, I’ve switched to DreamHost, which costs less than $10/month, and is a pretty awesome hosting service. I’m totally happy with it thus far!
Then, I reduced our dining out budget by $10. We probably won’t even notice this decrease. I reduced the grocery budget by $20, which we also likely won’t notice. Tomorrow I plan to call the cable company to put us on a plan to save a few bucks each month but with better service. I reduced our entertainment budget to basically allow us to do Netflix and then a movie theater trip every other month. Finally, I called to see where my student loan consolidation was, and realized they were waiting on one company. So I called them to get the ball rolling for the consolidation, which will save me $150 per month in costs.
Overall, these changes amount to about $300 or so per month! Those little charges do add up! And even though you think some may not be changeable, you may be surprised when you try to cut costs. It’s particularly effective if you do it in a way where you won’t notice (cutting the dining budget by $10), or where you have a good alternative (MUD instead of WoW). The key is feeling like you just won extra money without sacrificing at all.
So, the lesson here is to always revisit your expenses, and never let your budget stagnate. Things change, and you have to be able to roll with it. And rolling with it in order to salvage 10% of the budget is always a positive thing!