Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time for an austerity program

I've been reading the three "Tightwad Gazette" books by Amy Dacyzyn (sounds like "decision") the past week or so and I've gleaned a few good ideas and a few good philosophies about spending money. And I'm at a point where some financial belt-tightening is necessary for a while.

So, as they say, the place to begin is at the beginning, right? This morning I took a few minutes to look at the "money leaks" in my budget, just to get a rough idea how much money I may be wasting.

What brought me to this? I got a notice a week ago that I was overdrawn by $1.05. I was mortified. Part of the cause was that my auto-draft on my car and house insurance payment went up $11 this month after my rates were adjusted for this six-month period. But you know what? I shouldn't have been so close to the margin that $11 would put me in peril.

So for the past week, I have spend zero money, other than $15 in coins I found around my house. With that $15, I bought $5 worth of gas so I could get to and from work; $5.90 for groceries; and I held on to the rest. If I can do that for one week, I can certainly plug some other budgetary leaks.

I've started by getting online and looking at my bank transactions for the past two months -- I opened a new account and now have online banking with this account so I can check any time I want.

I've checked to see how many times I have made cash withdrawals from the ATM-- it was far more often than the once-a-week I *thought* I was doing. Yikes!

I also checked to see how many times I was putting "lunch" on my debit card. Again, it was shocking!

This week I've been surviving by bringing my lunch and using the items in my pantry and freezer that I've just been looking past. And I'm REALLY looking forward to going to the grocery store tomorrow! With this break in the weather this week, bringing cooler temperatures, I'm thinking of all the inexpensive meals I can fix that will be good for lunches as well as dinners.

I've also returned to scanning the coupons for the items I use, then checking the store ads to see where I can get the most bang for my buck.

I don't think I'm at the point of washing baggies and aluminum foil to reuse, but I do use my oilcloth lunch bag (with a velcro closure) and tight-sealing containers for my lunch selections.

Instead of buying a tuna salad sandwich on a croissant at a downtown cafe, with chips and a drink for almost $8 (outrageous!) I've been making enough tuna salad at home for lunch and supper in one re-sealable container. Figure 69 cents for the tuna, a little more for a squirt of mayo and a spoonful of pickle relish, then whatever the cost of two slices of bread from a 79-cent loaf of bread from the bakery outlet store... you can see I would have saved WAY more than the $1.05 I was overdrawn! On average, lunches out are $6 to $7.

Starting tomorrow, I'll post my menus and the cost, plus how many servings they provide for me. And I'll let you know how many of those ATM trips I can cut out, since that cash probably also goes to meals I didn't make. I'll even commit to making a list of any cash purchases to see if I can cut down on my weekly cash allowances just by being aware of what I'm spending.

In a month, I'll let you know how this plays out -- whether I'm still walking along the edge of the financial cliff or if I've been able to step back and keep some money in savings.


TECH said...

It all sounds good! I know you can do it. Currently that's the mode I'm in also. With only unemployment coming in, I'm having to watch every penny, nickel, and dime.

Trixie said...

So far, so good. I've already plugged some spending leaks without feeling deprived.