Choosing Between Apples and Oranges
My family lives a fairly simple lifestyle. We live in a rural area, drive older cars, and rarely go out for dinner. But we also like to enjoy life. Given that we know approximately how much we need to live on, and how much we will have coming in each month, we are able to budget to accommodate for some things that help make life richer (so to speak.)
While many of my friends could never live without the DISH network or TIVO, we don’t subscribe to cable because there is little I could watch around my 4 kids, anyway. So to me, that is a waste of money. Instead, we subscribe to an online movie rental service and occasionally download a television episode or two from iTunes. This ends up costing much less, and we get the most out of both services.
I am also not afraid to purchase off-brand or store versions of most food. While there is a difference in a few areas, when it comes to most staple items like eggs, milk, juice, frozen veggies, and cereal, we don’t notice any difference in taste, and enjoy saving a buck here and there. With the money we save on these things, I am able to “invest” my extra grocery money into the Hazelnut Coffee pods for my Krups Home Café brewed coffee that I absolutely can’t live without. (For extra savings, I brew two cups per pod… it helps with the caffeine addiction.) We also love the creamier and more expensive ice creams with gourmet toppings and syrups.
It can really help a family’s finances to sit down and make an exhaustive list of all the things you regularly spend money on in a given month. (If that’s too lengthy of a task, start with a week.) Add any major purchses or wish list items that you are seriously considering making in the next 6 months. Marking each item with a highlighter can help prioritize how important that item is in your life. My list would look something like this:
New refrigerator (blue - for need)
New dishwasher (yellow - for can live without)
Cable service (yellow)
Internet service (blue)
Rotisserie Chicken (yellow)
Coffee pods (blue)
Cell phone service (yellow)
Long distance landline service (blue)
After you have carefully examined what items you can live without, do so immediately. If you are paying for a service that automatically renews, cancel it as close to the renew date as possible. Use it as much as you can before this time. If you will have to pay termination or contract fees, look to see if you can put in a cancellation request now for when it comes up for renewal. (Don’t pay fees unless you have to, and try to ask for a waiver if possible.)
Now look at those items that you absolutely cannot live without. Can you buy them at discount? Will buying in bulk for an entire 6 months of a year save you any money? Can you use a subscription delivery service from an online retailer or your local store for a certain percentage off? Will coupons help reduce the cost? These are all valid questions to see how your “must-haves” can cost less.
Living lean shouldn’t hurt so much that you can’t enjoy life. (Unless it really is a temporary solution to a very difficult situation.) I have often had to defend my stance on why we don’t have cell phones or use much air conditioning , but enjoy digital photography and make frequent trips to the zoo. That is a choice we decided to make to better enjoy the lifestyle we live. It is a personal one, and our lives are fuller because of it.