Saturday, July 27, 2013

Living Within My Means - Austerity Style

Lately we've been streamlining our finances in an attempt to get our debt load under control. We live in a low cost of living area, and we do not live in an extravagant neighborhood. Eric found a budgeting software called You Need A Budget, aka YNAB, and named our budget "Leonard Budget, Austerity Style". We may eat out more often than we should, but the kids have everything they need. *

*Need versus Want discussions do happen often in our house. We want a new TV because ours is broken. We don't need one. I keep trying to save up for a new one but something inevitably comes up that needs the money more. I did spend $20 on a used 12" screen TV. Eric thinks our laptop and ipad are sufficient viewing devices, but there's no family movie night. Also I feel this must be qualified by the fact that we canceled our cable subscription many months ago after they tripled the pricing as our contract had run out, and no, they weren't about to offer us the same lower rates or anything approaching reasonable. I don't think the sales guy with whom I discussed our options with could fully comprehend that we'd lived a very full life pre-cable, and that we could most certainly live without it. You see, we only got the cable because we needed internet service, and it was $25 more to add in a home phone and a seriously large cable package. I think Eric had cable when he lived in the Trailer of Despair, but otherwise, we've never bothered with it. We own a ton of DVDs and now Bluray movies and entire series of TV shows. We subscribe to Netflix. I digress, and I think I've made my point.

So Austerity Style does reflect our new style. I'm used to immediate gratification. Want a new TV, well, charge it to the Sears Card during a sale! Want a new set of knitting needles because I need something longer for magic-looping or the Evenstar shawl that I'm plugging away at somewhere in the 3rd chart and it looks like I'm knitting a lacy shopping bag - Pull out the little credit card and order them from Knitpicks! Almost out of fiber for spinning? (I'm halfway through the 16oz of Corriedale, and then I'm out. I don't have much of a fiber stash) Etsy has some wonderful fiber sellers in lovely smooshy colorways like Fire Walk With Me, Captain Tightpants, and Bad Wolf, all of which I would love to spin in various fiber types. It is very easy for me to justify a want into a need, and then spend money on something that isn't a priority.

So now we account for every single dollar we spend. We plan out what our bills are, and if there's anything left over, then we plan out gas and groceries. I go shopping with a specific list, and often use a calculator to make sure I don't go over the budgeted amount. Sam really likes using the calculator while we're shopping. Sometimes there's a little left over for fun stuff like the occasional movie (about 3 times per year, if there's something out we care about) or some new clothes to replace something that's worn out.

I am trying to build up an inventory for an etsy store I want to open. I have been making stitch markers and abacus bracelets and spindles. The spindles aren't really sale-quality though, and wouldn't survive the shipping process. I've been inventing different types of project bags as well. Mostly none of it's good enough to sell, but perfectly usable for personal stuff. Also, that market is saturated with every other knitter and spinner wanting to have a sideline.

We eat most of our meals at home, and they are frequently simple and have parts that can be recycled into another meal. Leftovers become our lunches, or if there isn't enough, I keep a box of instant oatmeal in my locker at work. I've let a couple of my co-workers in on my oatmeal stash, because I can't stand the thought of anyone not having a lunch or breakfast, and I'm not the only one who sees it as impracticable to order fast food or take-out or delivery on minimum wages.

It's hard to complain though, because we do have each other. I would say misery loves company, but we aren't too miserable. First world problems, to quote a popular saying. I can't wait until we get some of this debt paid off so less of our income is tied up in payments. I think a lot of people are in the same boat we are. We now live on a cash or debit card basis, which for me is a new (old) concept. Squirreling away a bit here and there for emergencies or things we really want instead of whipping out the plastic...

The kids start back to school in a week, and we all can't wait. Sam and Awyn will again be at the same school, in 5th and 3rd grades respectively.

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