The 10 Things I Won’t Give Up Just To Save Money

By Julie Rains on 7 October 2008 (Updated 10 October 2008) 59 comments
Photo: mahalie

Times are tough and they may be getting tougher as inflation and unemployment rates rise. There are 10 things that I could cut out of my expenses to save money right now but these measures will likely cause my earning power to shrink and my cost of living to rise in the long term. I’ll share my plans for spending, my ideas for cutting back, and so, you won’t think I’m frivolous, my list of things I never bought in the first place. 

10 things I won’t give up:

1) Internet access. The Internet has freed me from the limits of my local economy, which has been burdened with layoffs from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Hanesbrands, and Wachovia. It has allowed me to eliminate yellow-page and other forms of advertising in favor of a website and network of contacts that range from bankers, teachers, and sales reps within a 10-mile radius to engineers in Honduras, designers in New York and California, and property managers in Washington, DC. And, my Internet access enabled graduate-level distance studies in journalism, and a freelance blogging job with Wise Bread and Parenting Squad

2) Good food. I know I could save money at the grocery store if I just bought regular peanut butter or high fructose corn syrup orange drink rather than natural peanut butter or real orange juice, but I want to consume the good stuff and avoid what I am pretty sure won’t be healthy for me. My goal is to stall the onset of disease so I can save healthcare dollars and be healthy enough to work productively for many more years.

3) Fitness expenses, which now consist of a gym membership and athletic gear, such as running shoes, Barracuda goggles, moisture wicking apparel, and concentrated carbohydrate gels.

For a while, I opted for cheaper alternatives that didn’t require planning or a membership fee, such as running and walking in my neighborhood. I also used a stationary bike and home gym. These were good options for a while but I didn’t really maintain a good fitness level as it became difficult to measure my progress. When I realized that I could start facing some serious health problems, I decided that the expense of the gym (in my case, a family membership at a nearby YMCA) was worth it. Having access to resistance training equipment, indoor and outdoor tracks, indoor pool, group classes, and more helps keep my workouts interesting. After a decade hiatus, I am now back to community road races and bike rides.

4) Health insurance. I have a high-deductible policy primarily to avoid having to sell investments in order to pay for a catastrophic health event. The policy itself isn’t particularly useful in covering day-to-day healthcare expenses though I do receive pre-negotiated discounts on medical services.

5) Cancer Screenings. The cost for these range from free for an annual skin cancer check offered on a limited basis by a local dermatologist to $50 or so for a yearly mammogram and $1,500 for a colonoscopy every 5 years. Treatment should be much less expensive in the early phases than in the latter.

6) Dental Care. My childhood dentist didn’t use novacaine when drilling so avoiding the dentist has often seemed like a rational way of saving money, time, and stress. But repairing dental problems can be pricey compared to the expense of regular cleanings, check-ups, and ultrasonic toothbrushes. And since underlying health problems can be signaled by problems in my mouth, it makes sense to get looked at (even for a moment) by a dentist. For inexpensive care, use services offered by area universities or community colleges with dental programs.

7) Dinner with the book club. Once a month, I gather with a few friends (all moms with teenage sons) to discuss our latest selection while dining at Panera Bread, where a sandwich, salad, and/or soup are somewhat extravagantly priced compared to home-prep expenses. Though we’ve considered other sites including our own homes, we haven’t yet strayed from this choice: no one has to ready her house and the folks at Panera allow us to sit and talk for hours. We meet for dinner on un-crowded Saturday nights and stay until closing. The social connections, divergent perspectives shared in a supportive environment, enlightenment regarding literature and teenage culture is invaluable, and cheaper than talk therapy (though please visit a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist if you need help).

8) Kids’ activities, now consisting of junior varsity football, scouts, and church youth group. Despite one child’s athletic injury (a $600 wrist fracture, making me realize why orthopedists are prominent sponsors of the football team), these activities are some of the least expensive available. Summer camps run a few hundred dollars and most outings typically require the cost of food and just a few dollars more. So, I am not planning on cutting these relatively minimal expenses for what I hope will yield dividends in the future, namely strong men and someone to pitch my tent when we go camping on vacation.

9) Chocolate and wine. There are some indulgences I refuse to give up. As my eighty-something dad says (paraphrasing Clement Freud’s wisdom), if you give up what you enjoy, you don’t live longer, it just feels longer.

10) Annual vacations. Getting away from my routines and having novel experiences is essential to my well-being, physically and mentally. And, according to research, vacations may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

10 things I never bought in the first place:

1) Lottery tickets. The lottery came to my home state of North Carolina a few years ago but I haven’t yet bought a ticket. It’s not that I will never, ever buy a ticket but I haven’t yet and now doesn’t seem like a good time to start. (For a lottery alternative, see Philip's post on generating a windfall).

2) A larger car than I need on a day-to-day basis. Yes, I would love to be able to haul gear around on the bed of a pick-up truck or take a vanload of kids to the swimming pool. In some cases, not having the larger car has cost me more (because I have had to buy supplies on the road or take 2 cars so that kids can be seated safely) but in general, I have saved on the initial cost of the car, insurance, property taxes, and gas.

3) Private school tuition. My kids are doing well in their district-assigned public schools and if they weren't, I would consider alternatives such as charter schools more suitable to their needs, tutoring by a professional or me, and/or the guidance of an educational psychologist. I just can't see justifying $10,000+ per year per child for private school

4) Extra pairs of shoes for the kids. For most of their lives, my kids have had just one pair of shoes: a pair of sneakers for school, play, and nearly every social occasion. Old pairs were saved for use as river shoes on canoeing trips. There are exceptions that require a change in strategy. When a formal event is on the horizon, I wait until close to the big day to make sure that whatever pair of shoes I secure will still fit. Now that they're older, I have gotten them flip-flops or fake Crocs to wear to the pool; fortunately, these type of shoes are not as size sensitive as sneakers or dress shoes, and so have lasted multiple seasons. For hiking boots, I snagged a great deal on functionally great shoes in an unusual color from Lands' End overstocks or bought sneakers with super-duper treads.

5) Mortgage payments on a too-expensive-for-me house. Though I have, at times, regretted not spending more on a larger house that might have increased in value more rapidly than the one I am in now (my home's tax value is less than the median price in my town), I am pleased with the affordable mortgage payment.

6) Cleaning supplies. I’ll admit it – I am not a good housekeeper. Cleaning supplies for anything other than laundry, dishes, and certain parts of the bathroom, are rarely on my weekly shopping list. Soap and water seem to do well; and now that someone I trust has proven its efficacy, I am going to spend my cleaning money on baking soda.

7) Entertainment. I’ve always chafed at the cost of movies and some live shows, considering that there are usually free or cheap alternatives, funded by corporate sponsors, local groups, or my public library. 

8) Expensive trips. Though I insist on annual vacations, they haven't typically been luxurious ones. And now that I've started bike riding, multi-day events with tent or gym accommodations appeals to my sense of adventure and frugality.   

9) New wardrobe every season. I wouldn’t mind updating my closet more often but I don’t have a great fashion sense and rarely have face-to-face meetings with clients so my fashion clothing needs are minimal. I try to buy classic clothing that lasts nearly forever

10) More enriching activities for the kids. If you're a parent, you'll know that there are loads of activities for kids. Fortunately for me, my kids don't beg to be signed up for lessons though I wouldn't mind partaking in martial arts, cooking school, and horseback riding. Putting a limit on these saves at least $50 each month plus gas money.

10 things I am considering cutting out or changing: 

1) Using a clothes line to dry my clothes (It took 3 days for 3 t-shirts to dry but I am hopeful that the right combination of clothes and lower humidity in the fall will bring faster drying.)

2) Cancelling the newspaper (Reading the paper has been my morning ritual for years but now that the paper is trimming its print offerings, I am considering eliminating this daily habit altogether.)

3) Growing a garden (Right now, I have chard and blueberries but would like to learn how to have a real vegetable garden.)

4) Turning back the heat and air conditioning, depending on the season

5) Baking, not making, homemade gifts

6) Camping rather than staying in vacation rentals or hotels on vacation

7) Consuming cheaper sources of protein (such as applesauce protein bars found in my clean eating post)

8) Shopping more at consignment stores, discount stores, and Goodwill

9) Learning how to landscape my yard (My yard needs some work so, even if I hire a professional, I'd like to get a better handle on what I should and shouldn't do; community college classes are great for this type of information.) 

10) Organizing my space (I am one of those people who need to get organized in order to avoid buying tools or other rarely used items I already own.)

So, now you see my priorities, which likely differ from yours, and my feelings about false economy, that is saving money on the front end only to have to spend more later. Feel welcome to consider my list as you ponder yours. 

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Carrie Kirby's picture

For me, the "indulgence" that increases my earning power is having the cleaning lady come.

 Watch that high-deductible insurance plan as you age, though. My parents have to pay a 15% deductible, and it has gotten pretty burdensome now that they are in their early 60s. One year one needs cataract surgery, the next year a procedure to check for artery blockage, and every year they are forking over a lot of their income to the doctor. I just hope they limp along until they qualify for Medicare.

 

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture
Debbie M

If you're trying to dry things indoors, turning on a fan can make a big difference. A ceiling fan is ideal, but other fans will work. Flipping the things over after the top feels dry can speed things up a bit. Using these methods, I can always get things dry in 24 hours or less (more like 12 hours in the summer). I live someplace warm (it rarely freezes outside) with medium humidity (around 50%).

Drying things outside (when it's not raining) can be amazingly quick. On a sunny, breezy day, all but the thickest items (cotton towels and jeans) can be dry in an hour or less.

**

Thanks for the list. Here are some of mine.

Things I won't give up (unless things are really seriously bad of course): living indoors, cooking with whole grains, chocolate, (some) pricey activities planned by friends, car (unless mass transportation improves or all my friends move back into town), laptop computer with fast internet service (and reading, but there are ways to do that for free)

Things I never got (and plan to never get): new car, big house, kids, lottery tickets, Microsoft software

Things I'm happy to give up indefinitely: eating out most meals, shopping in malls, hair cuts by others, daily make-up, not having a roommate, student loans, and TV and cable (I do watch some TV shows on DVD on a computer)

Things I'm considering changing for the better: growing more food, decluttering more, comparing prices on my favorite foods and making the cheaper (healthy) ones more often

Things I'm tired of doing without (and considering spending more on): dryer (I'm tired of lint being everywhere), dishwasher, covered parking, shade trees

Myscha Theriault's picture

Thorough piece, Julie! I love that you had ten of everything. And I am totally with you on the internet and wine issues all the way, girl.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the tips and your lists.

And Carrie, I have been rethinking the HSA though I'll keep some form of health insurance. One tip that my agent passed along is to take the HSA fund deduction (reduces your AGI) and pay for health expenses outside of the HSA so that that can also (if it is high enough) reduce your AGI by whatever amount is over 7.5% of annual income. Still, it may be easier and better to fork over the $10,000 or so it would cost to get regular insurance.

Guest's picture
Guest

Very interesting post. Believe or not there are folks who would think even having what you won't give up a luxury. Finding money for day to day expenses... food, clothing and shelter..and gas are at the top of their lists. Be thankful for what you have.

Guest's picture
Guest2

I agree! Those are luxuries that many people could never afford to have/do in their lifetime.

Guest's picture

I recently didn't a major audit of my expenses. Or rather, I should say, it's been a process of eliminating.

I canceled my netflix for free sites of entertainment.

I tried to cancel my TV (turns out my internet is $15 cheaper to HAVE TV than not have it)

I canceled my XM radio. I recently moved to a more metropolitian area that has good FM stations.

I use candles a lot in my apartment as opposed to lightbulbs.

I sold my air conditioner.

The biggest decision I have made is to go car-free. While my car has temporarily come back to me it will soon be sold. This eliminates gas, insurance, AAA, maintenance, registration, etc.

All of that to say, I can give up my car, but I can't give up my internet! And for that matter, I'm with you on good organic and natural foods. And I'm with you on my form of alcohol: craft beer.

Thanks for this thorough list!

Read more about my carless experiment at www.goingCarless.com

Guest's picture
Guest

Yeah times are SO tough when you can still afford to live a lavish lifestyle. Get some perspective.

Guest's picture
Guest

lol... exactly what I was thinking. I was really hoping for some good pointers, but all I read was "...and I could never go without getting my nails painted because they are just so *pretty* with all the different colors on them..."

What a joke. Perspective indeed.

Guest's picture
Beth

I tend to agree with the two anonymous guests above. I hope you do realize that many of those things are luxuries, and that your lists might have to change if times got worse.

I live in the hometown of the three big businesses you mentioned above, so I perhaps have a similar perspective as you on the current financial conditions. In this area, if one is not dependent on income from a manufacturing job, SO FAR things aren't too bad. We traveled a few months ago to the state our family is from, and things we already much, much worse there...and this was before any of the crises involving Fannie, Freddie, banking, and bailouts.

There's a level of wealth in this area that has insulated those of us who are in the technical, medical, education, and perhaps a few other, fields. Our day may very well be coming quickly. I hope it doesn't, and I hope you don't ever HAVE to find out which items on your first list are really indulgences...but it might be wise to think about them ahead of time.

It might also be wise to consider location and relative incomes when you write a post like this.

Andrea Karim's picture

Get a grip. Julie's lifestyle is hardly lavish; she's a normal person with priorities. I hardly think that listing them constitutes a lack of gratitiude. Julie's being honest about her life and lifestyle and what she and her family want and need. Just because she's not living on the very edge of poverty doesn't mean that people can't relate to her.

You want lavish? Complain about MY blog posts. I'm the one who buys clothing for my dogs.

OK, #8, you were more reasonable and raise important points. But I still don't think that this list means that Julie would NEVER give up internet access if it came to that.

Guest's picture
Leanna

My cat wears old coat sleeves with holes cut out for his paws. The dog coats are too fat when they are his length and incredibly expensive. His head sticks out the cuff and I get lots of comments! He has come to love his little coats and since he is a therapy animal, he needs to be as free as possible for my observation. These work perfectly! And from someone who has been homeless before, I would suggest you follow my motto: Think homeless before you are homeless. I was raised against alcohol but was very lucky to have a car during most of my homeless bouts. I would tell you that the Salvation Army believes in chocolate and I never gave it up, though. Also, thank you all for your comments. Every money-saving tip is appreciated.

Julie Rains's picture

Oh goodness, I hope I didn't sound ungrateful and I do realize that there are people who can't afford housing, clothing, and cars. I am not sure if buying $2 shirts at Kmart (what I am wearing right now, functional and semi-fashionable fuschia) is lavish but everything is relative. There are 3 lists here, with one being what I never bought.

My main point: there are trade-offs that most people need to make and these trade-offs need to be considered but are going to be different for each person. One person may need a fabulous wardrobe to meet with clients; another a van so s/he can carpool. Right now I don't need either of those but my choices may free up money to spend on things that I perceive will have long-term benefits.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I don't think you sounded ungrateful at all, Julie. And you certainly pointed out that you knew other folks' lists would be different from yours. Sure, there are people who would love to have some of the items on your list, but there's nothing wrong with setting additional health priorities when you are financially able to.

One thing that really spoke to me was your comment about food quality. Now that we are a tad more solvent than we were in the not too distant past in our marriage, we are factoring in a few more health items on the grocery list. But for the longest time however, it was the 20 cents a pound white rice, homemade French bread, and sixty-nine cent 10-pound bags of baking potatoes.

Yes, my weight suffered, but if it's hunger pains and headaches or white rice you do what you have to do to get through the rough patch. Now, with a little more financial breathing room (although rolling with this flood recovery is certainly dipping into that at an alarming rate) and a bit more knowledge of how to stretch healthier grains and legumes, I feel like once we are settled again I have more knowledge and resources to maintain some healthier grocery items in our budget. So, I hear you on the making better food a priority front. Particularly for health concerns and having kids to provide nutrition for as well.

Wine? Well, anyone who follows my posts know that a stocked bar is not something I scrimp too hard on, but when push comes to shove I know I can cut it out. However, like you, I have several other items I see others spend a tremendous amount of money on that I never would. So while I'm able to incorporate it now, I do. Do I feel guilty about it? No. And neither should you. (At least in my humble opinion.)

There are plenty of items on your go without list that others wouldn't want to eliminate. And just glancing at it, I notice a couple that easily provide the savings to put money in the areas you  listed as a priority. We all have limited resources no matter what our income. It's up to each of us to decide what allocation method works best for our individual situations.

It's understood that many people have their backs against the financial wall right now, but I hope that others will continue to use this discussion  as a way to toss around ideas and get support, which is what I understood your invite to be.

Oh, and P.S? Thanks for having the courage to go on record with all three of your lists and offering people a peek into what many would consider private information. It takes guts to be this open with your readers and invite them in to your private family decisions. I for one appreciate your willingness to share.

Guest's picture

Julie, I really loved reading your lists. I found it an inspirational read and I'm so pleased that there are others out there, with an eco conscience who feel it's ok to keep some 'luxuries' in life.

There are things in my life too that feel like a sort of 'safety net' and I'm going to sit down over the next few days and think about my lists too.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Guest's picture
Wilson

"concentrated carbohydrate gels" Really? Maybe you run marathons, but running marathons isn't exactly necessary or even conducive to good health.

Guest's picture
Craig

I know how the exercising thing goes. I've been an endurance athlete for over 14 years(inline speedskating) and now cylcing/road racing for around 1. I love all that cool apparel and energy food! It's soo expensive to.. UGH.

Guest's picture
kav122

Julie, I thought your lists were interesting...as for the haters, I really don't know what to say. I guess we all wish that we could be as perfect as you and not spend a dime on anything. Total budget: $0. Yeah, that would be awesome. =

Thanks again for the blog, Julie :)

Julie Rains's picture

Gels not for marathons but for long bike rides; for example, my 3-day trip (half of my vacation time) to raise money for low-income families who couldn't otherwise afford childcare.

Thanks for your thoughts and comments Myscha, Mrs. Green,  Kav, and others. My priorities have changed as I've gotten older so my list may not be as relevant to those in their 20s or 30s or even early 40s and maybe even beyond; but now that friends who are younger than me are being diagnosed with heart disease, it makes sense to me to do what I can. You'll notice that half of my list was health-related.

I have considered these expenses including Internet access, which as I mentioned, can be a key to economic development not just for me but entire communities (see info about e-NC Authority to increase access in rural areas). My mother-in-law's dad worked in the postal system during the Depression and was one of the few who were able to keep his job; my access allows me to work with those in the government (the property managers in DC), who, presumably, will have money to spend later on.

While it's true that you can spend loads of money on vacation, wine, and food, etc., you don't have to: Wise Bread is a great source of info on how to best use your money.

Guest's picture
JW

I spent several years trying to live ultra-frugal, eating junk and canceling the gym memberships. Looking back, I wish I had cut other areas and kept the healthy diet and gym workouts. Your health is priceless--after all, if you check out early it won't matter how much you've saved.

Guest's picture
RDS

Great post. Most people would be much happier and much wealthier if they put this much thought into where and how the spend money. Splurging on things that you value can be a great deal while getting a bargain on something that you don't care about is a bad financial decision. Among the things that my wife chose not to spend money on are cable TV, a second car, soda. We are much better off for it. We spend more than many of our friends on travel and on groceries (especially cheese), but those are worth it to us. If your spending matches your values you are in good shape.

RDS
http://financialvalues.blogspot.com/

Linsey Knerl's picture

I, too appreciate your candor and willingness to be "beheaded" for the chance to help others.  :)

Everyone has those things they appreciate most.. and even when times are tough, they are the last to go.  You are admirable in your effort to analyze what you value and what you don't.  That is being financially responsible.

Thanks again.

Linsey

Guest's picture
FrugalNYC

I thought this was a great list and agree with nearly every point. I wrote a short snippit about the current market. I think if everyone took responsibility for their own decisions, the economy would not be in the current mess. my post is at http://frugalnyc.blogspot.com/2008/10/hiding-under-rock.html

Guest's picture
Diana

I figure since I'm staying indoors more, I should be able to enjoy the creature comforts.There are some days you just don't want to read, clean, etc. I can enjoy playing internet games, chat with people or watch movies on cable.

I do know that the premium channels will be first to go should things get worse. However, I have a wonderful (scarcastic) satellite company that will punish me with a fee for canceling my subscription if under two years.

Philip Brewer's picture

The comments here just go to show how hard this sort of thing is to talk about.

There's no luxury so extravagant that you can't find somebody out there who considers it a necessity, while at the same time there's no necessity so basic that you won't have people coming out of the woodwork to point out that a billion people get by without refrigerators or electric lights.

The key, as you've demonstrated here, is to be thoughtful about your choices.

Whether people agree or disagree with the your lists means nothing.  The point is the process of making the decisions in accordance with your own values.  (Of course, you already know that.)

Guest's picture
Guest

I got cable tv for $10 a year for basic; adding internet there was no installation (got from a call) & it was $32 a month plus $5 for modem; when I went to pay (KNOWING that they have "offers" I mentioned I might not be able to keep the internet as on disability & might go to dial up; she promptly offered me for $29 both internet & the TV & modem; so, I do have both for less than just the internet would have cost. I miss the newspapers but our local just wasn't cutting the mustard for news; so the internet gives me far more coverage than is seen on TV or local news media; (how sad); I also utilize the library which has local papers; get books from there to read (new ones) instead of buying new; however, I do maintain a membership to friends of the library which has lots of great books from small prices & every bit helps the libraries; I discovered Fred Meyer's has the least expensive chocolate chips around & just got 5 bags of them at $1.09; and made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies; they were awesome! I am with you on the chocolate! and homemade cookies are far better than store bought ones any day!

Guest's picture
Sofia

I come to this website to read about saving money without scrimping yourself out of all of the good things in life, so I thought your post was perfect! Keep up the good work!

Guest's picture
Guest

silly woman

she doesnt have toilet paper on the list

quite clearly she is stil rolling in dough

Guest's picture

Excellent points! I agree -- you can give up some things in this economy, but living the life of a pauper will make your miserable in short order. Your Dad has it right: existing is one thing, but living is something that is entirely different: bring on the wine and the chocolate!

Guest's picture
Guest

I'll be laughing at you when you are broke when the Greater Depression is in full swing.

You suffer from affluenza and snobbery. You say you won't give up some things. Well, obviously you need some help.

Internet access can be free if you know how to get it. Why pay now?
Good food is cheap, if you shop wisely and don't fall for snob appeal..
Fitness is free, Just do it! You don't need the crap you use.
Health Insurance is Government sponsored. Ooops...You Yanks have to pay for that, don't you? You were born in the wrong country.
Cancer Screenings? Self-exams are free. Feel yourself up in the shower.
Dental students work cheap.Try brushing more. And floss.
Read the book, eat a sandwich, stay at home.Why pay to be pretentious?
Let your kids make their own fun. Feed their imagination.
Chocolate makes you fat. Wine? Are you an Alcoholic? Tap water is just as good.
Annual Vacation? Working holidays work for me.

Julie Rains's picture

I have mentioned free alternatives as often as possible -- if the alternatives didn't work, then I have gone to options that cost money -- too bad for me.

You can see how healthcare is a huge issue in the USA. I am trying to avoid the cost of medications to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes; surgery for joint replacement; surgeries and drug treatment for cancer, which can run from $100 per month to $50,000 or more for initial treatment with additional costs for follow-up. Genetic make-up plays a significant role in developing these diseases but so do controllable factors. I have learned, though, that cardio rehab fees can be less expensive than gym costs but I am pretty sure I have to have a heart attack to get in.

Linsey Knerl's picture

For anyone wondering the reasoning behind Julie's "snobbery"  (If you knew Julie as a person you would no doubt be apologizing profusely)...

see my theory of Apples and Oranges .  And I have been without food AND toilet paper in my lifetime...

Linsey Knerl

Wise Bread

Myscha Theriault's picture

As I've stated before, we're all just human beings here, folks. Human beings working hard to bring you good content. And putting ourselves out there for ridicule in order to do it.

We love our readers and their right to free speech. So hitting the censorship button isn't something you'll see done often. (Not trying to speak for the other Wise Bread folks, just stating what's glaringly obvious to anyone who reads this blog regularly. )

That being said, I feel like a parent here getting ready to say "Don't make me stop this car".  Instead I'll politely invite the obvious commenters above to mind their manners and show Julie a little respect as they join in our free and open discussion of financial priority lists. Remember folks, she didn't have to put herself out there, but she did.

And Julie, you rock.

 

Guest's picture
Guest but not the last guest

You can laugh your way to the mental asylum for all I care. Your government has... oh, maybe ten more years of being able to afford to keep you in an institution before socialized medicine goes completely broke?

Guest's picture

I respectfully beg to differ. Living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of your family, and succeeding in your career are hardly elitist pursuits. At the risk of sounding a little pie-in-the-sky, these are precisely the common goals that many of us share, no matter what our political, social, or economic backgrounds may be. I think that the current economic crisis and the contentious campaign has all of us in panic mode, but it's certainly not the time to attack the people who are merely trying relate to all of us and help assuage our anxieties.

Guest's picture
Guest

I liked the post - made me think of things that I wouldn't give up and things I would.

Lets see, things I would never give up:

Healthcare for myself and my husband (cheating a bit though since we're double covered under our jobs but even if one of us lost a job we would still have healthcare)

Vet care for my animals - this is a big one as it can be very expensive. It seems that every animal I have is on medication for something or another (yes - all necessary) and issues always come up (burst anal gland on the older dog, abcess on the outdoor cat and that was just last month) but I would never EVER skimp on their well being. I have the animals and it's my responsibility to make sure that they are well taken care of and live healthy and happy lives.

My Direct TV (with Setanta) - I don't go out to movies or eat at restaurants very often (unless it's for work) - Direct TV is our entertainment. Plus I get all my English Premiere League matches on the weekend and I'm a very happy camper.

Things I would give up if it came down to it:

The housekeeper. If I had to.

I'd say the dog walker but she only comes when we need her to. I suppose I could get a neighbor to let the dogs out but that would probably be very inconvenient since I travel so much, we don't work close to home and the husband is school 3 nights a week. I like my neighbor speaking to me.

Things I have given up:

Travel to exotic locations (we're going to the Anderson Valley instead and taking the dogs)

Shopping for clothes or shoes

The gardener

Going to the nursery for plants (used to be a weekly habit - I love my nursery)

Buying food I don't need - we set a menu each weekend, make a list and only buy food we will eat that week

And yes I realize this may look like the post of a spoiled person to some but each lives their own life. I have no debt other than my mortgage, we're putting away my husbands salary into savings every month and living just on mine and I am not an evil person who doesn't appreciate the value of a dollar. I do like the niceties in life but can live without them.

Guest's picture
Guest

I was happy to see that others value quality of food as much as I do. I try to buy local and organic as much as possible. It's also important be kind to our earth; even though we live paycheck to paycheck, I won't sacrifice the earth or my body to save a few bucks. We all do the best we can with what we have. By the way, I also love wine and chocolate!

Great post!

Guest's picture
Guest

magazines. I have let my subscriptions to Traveller, Gourmet and Bon Appetit lapse. I've only kept the ones for Food and Wine (excellent recipes and you have to get the magazine to access the website) and Business Week.

Gourmet and Bon Appetit I can get online and Traveler was just annoying and inappropriate in this economy.

I also will not give up good food or wine, though I have become much more cost conscious when it come to how expensive the wine I buy is.

Guest's picture

Living frugally is all about cutting back or saving in those areas you care less about so that you can build extra wealth to spend on things that do matter to you. It's not about living a miserable life. It is about living within your means so that you can afford some extra luxuries that you really enjoy.

For me, definitely a cleaning service :)

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Guest2

srry meant to say I agree to the commenter who said:

"Very interesting post. Believe or not there are folks who would think even having what you won't give up a luxury. Finding money for day to day expenses... food, clothing and shelter..and gas are at the top of their lists. Be thankful for what you have."

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Guest

I'd give her a larger car than she needs on a day-to-day basis.

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Guest

A commenter wrote in reply to another poster:

"You can laugh your way to the mental asylum for all I care. Your government has... oh, maybe ten more years of being able to afford to keep you in an institution before socialized medicine goes completely broke?"

To that Poster:

Strange you would say that, considering that the United States is the largest Debtor nation in the World with the largest Government Debt and deficit spending.

America's Current Account Balance is now in the negative Trillion dollar range and is the World's largest Debtor nation..

My country has socialised medicine, but ranks in the top ten Nations having Current Account Surpluses.

I think you should do some research before making such incredibly silly statements.

And please consider that you have been indoctrinated into a political point of view that is not in your best interests.

Guest's picture
Guest

No, GUEST. What's strange is that you're too stupid to know how to use proper capitalization techniques, but I suppose that that is a post for another time. I'm sick of people from countries with socialized medicine coming to this site and crowing about how great they have it, and gloating about the state of the American economy. First of all, this is a not a web site designed to allow annoying trolls to come along and pollute a discussion of money-saving tips and philosophies with abusive comments and idiotic "We are so much better than you" rants about the US. This is where we readers come to trade ideas about how to be better savers and consumers, so we don't need your additional commentary.

Second of all, news flash: your economies depends on ours. I'm not proud of the way my country has managed our debt, and I certainly wish that we weren't about the take the entire world down with us, but guess what? We are. Your economies in the UK, Canada, France, Germany - you are all going to suffer the consequences of our lousy economy. So, come here and pick on the blogger if you want. Go ahead and boast about your healthcare system and national surpluses while capitalizing every word in your sentence (German, right?) - you, too, will suffer through this the way the rest of us are.

Third, you don't know a goddamn thing about my political affilitation, so stick it. I happen to be a huge proponent of socialized medicine, but my support for that does not imbue me with the desire to troll around blogs and say obnoxious things to bloggers because I may have a different idea about what I would or wouldn't spend money on.

Guest's picture

We have a great balance in the U.S....We may have the largest debt, but we still have the best and most missiles so it all balances out. Sorry

Julie Rains's picture

Let's go back to the idea of false economy and cost/benefit analysis. I suppose you could say that I am listing my priorities and you'd be right. But, for the most part (with the exception of the $4.99 purchase of 360 brand wine at Whole Foods every other month, for example), I have done a cost/benefit analysis of my purchases and made a decision about which I thought was best.

The car comment (thank you) brings an example from corporate America regarding false economy. I would love to still be driving my Ford Escort rather than my 2002 Corolla. But Ford made the decision to save $2 (or was it $1.50?) on a part that, as it aged, caused the engine to stop at very inconvenient and seemingly random times, such as when I was driving 60 mph down the highway. My mechanic couldn't diagnose the problem so I decided to donate my car to charity (the value by then was about $500) and get a new one. A few months later, this cost-savings move came to light: see NYT article: Judge Orders Ford to Make Huge Recall.

So, when I talk about what I won't give up just to save money, it is in light of this cost-benefit analysis and the idea of false economy (rather than pure indulgence), which I didn't realize was so foreign to some readers.

Have I witnessed crisis? Perhaps not on such grand a scale as we might be experiencing but I do remember gas rationing in the 70s (hence my purchase of fuel-efficient cars and love of bicycles) and I graduated from college in 1982, when the unemployment rate was 10% in my state. I went to work for a small-town-based regional bank, that was one of First Union's (now Wachovia) acquisitions. I did see the housing market falter because of this hit to the local economy. So I do know that housing can be an investment that doesn't rise in value. I also see that sometimes spending money can reap benefits.  

 

Guest's picture

Good list. It reminds me of a short posting I wrote on why having a happy wife makes for a happy life. And even though it's so expensive to get her hair done, it makes her feel special. Have a look, make some comments, etc.:

http://www.onemillionbucks.net/2008/09/my-wifes-hair-happy-wife-happy-li...

Thanks!

Guest's picture
Guest

This was a great post. I've recently analyzed monthly expenses and learned that I spend $200 month on Cable TV, phone, and internet combined. But I can't see giving up any of these. Once you have the DVR it's addicting and you can't imagine life without it!

I'll bundle up in my thrift store sweaters and sit in the dark to watch my taped tv shows on the dvr. While eating my PBJ sandwich, of course!

Everyone has different priorities and it's always good to take a second look at those priorities.

Best,
Shelly

Guest's picture
Kate

There are definately things (as a college student living with my parents and off part time money) I won't give up, and some luxuries I am willing to pass up. The most controversial thing I don't view as a necessity is health insurance.

Gasp.

My friends are usually flabbergasted when I mention this, but I've been insurance-free since last year, and I'm healthier then my peers. I take meticulous care of my body, despite the fact that I smoke cigarettes. I watch what I eat, I get enough fresh air, I do strengthening exercises, I make damn sure I get the right vitamins (although, I've had food allergies all my life, so I'm used to monitoring these things), I don't drink or do drugs, I drink at least two liters of water a day, visit free health screenings, and try to get enough sleep. When I feel a cold coming on, I double my orange juice intake and take iron supplements.

I lean in favor of paying out of pocket, if a health issue does appear, as it will probably come out to be MUCH less expensive i n the long run. Of course, I do plan on getting insurance once I get out of college, but right now it would be such a huge drain on my finances that I couldn't manage to go to school

Julie Rains's picture

Though I might make a different decision, I can see the rationale behind a college student with presumably no assets not having health insurance. For me, the health insurance payments and coverage are a wash at best; it is the catastrophic illness that may deplete other assets that I am protecting against. I'll mention that high-deductible individual insurance (with large lifetime amounts) may actually be less than a group plan, which can be outrageously expensive.

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Lady Jane

I think I could give up or trade down on most things that wouldn't be considered bare necessities to someone living as I do in a large city in a developed country (with government sponsored health insurance, for the record). But if we are talking about the difference between a reasonable, not extravagant, quality of life and misery, my Factor X is breakfast just the way I like it. Home made muesli with proper yoghurt and black coffee or tea. I could make it through the day without makeup, booze or soft loo paper (and a lot of other things) if only I'd had my breakfast. I've been in hard saving mode for 6 months and have cut back in lots of areas. After an initial feeling of deprivation (once the self righteousness wears off), I really haven't missed many of the things I've stopped buying.
By the way, don't let anti-American posters get your goat. They would not have the balls to call you 'Yank' to your face.

Guest's picture
Gabrielle

Hark at those trolls, hatin' on the woman's personal list, in a blog no one forced them to read.
What kind of spiritually deprived baggage do these haters carry around, that they insist on tearing down someone else to feel good? It's not even effective vitriol--just froth and nonsense.

To Julie, and those of you who've been happily commenting and thinking on the subject of effective prioritizing: You're lovely, and I've really enjoyed reading what you wrote.
Please forgive the smackdown I'm about to give:

Trolls:
Anyone who's worked hard and managed to pull a decent life together is going to be grateful for what they have. They're not going to be ashamed about it, nor should they be. That doesn't make them unmindful of those less fortunate. You, on the other hand, seem to have missed the boat on the whole empathy thing.
If you have strong feelings about those with less than you have (you've clearly been fortunate yourselves at some point, or you wouldn't be able to read, write or access the internet), than do something constructive about it. Attacking bloggers isn't constructive, it's self-indulgent--which is precisely what you're accusing Julie of being. You've blown your own argument. Think about that, and look to your own glass house before you make comments.

Guest's picture
Abigail

Cable is a big one for me. I'm home all day, every day. And my husband has been lately, too, as he tries to figure out what his next career will be.

And I need good internet speed for my part-time work at home.

Even so, we pay under $90 for both combined.

Guest's picture
Guest

I know it's such an expensive and hard habit to break! I've tried everything (patch, gum, pills, etc) and I finally stumbled upon a solution that allows me to keep smoking. Electronic cigarettes, yes, electronic cigarettes. I know it sounds strange, but they really do work! They supply nicotine in vapor form like a little nebulizer - no tar, no carcinogens, but all the nicotine. Completely healthy! Check out these sites for more information:

http://www.greencigarette.com/
http://www.keepsmokinginside.com/

Guest's picture
~B~

Your lists are quite informative and I agree with most of it. Gym memberships are definitely a good thing to keep if your not one for keeping up with physical activity out side of the gym, like myself, or using baking soda to clean (hydrogen peroxide is great to use as well, esp when trying to whiten things like grout). However there is one thing in particular that requires a better looking into; trying to eat 'good' foods. Now don't get me wrong I don't think you should eat Mc Donnalds every day just because its cheaper but I think you should really look at your definition of good. Specifically pertaining to high fructose corn syrup. I think it may be worth spending the money on the more natural peanut butter, the one without the trans fats/emulsifiers that keep it together. However, it may actually be healthier to use high fructose corn syrup to sweeten products than sugar. The first thing that should be noted is that HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) isn't dangerous and does not contribute to hyperactivity nor obesity. Second is that HFCS is actually sweeter than sugar, not to mention cheaper and 100% domestically grown and manufactured. Since it is sweeter than sugar it requires less, and it would be even better to use pure fructose or a 95% fructose blend of HFCS.

Also, one other thing to note, I lived in europe for about 4 months and for most of that time didn't use a dryer and you may spend more trying to keep your clothes soft and smelling nice than you do saving money on drying. Although, that may have had something to do with they humidity.

Also @ Gabrielle:

The poster left the comment section open, and they should be just as free to express their opinion as the poster. Just because they express a different opinion it doesn't automatically make them trolls, even if they do express it poorly. Unless they are really just trolls in which case just ignore them.

Guest's picture
manofasia

I'm agree and support your article..Thanks for the sharing Julie !!

Guest's picture

"10) Annual vacations. Getting away from my routines and having novel experiences is essential to my well-being, physically and mentally. And, according to research, vacations may help prevent cardiovascular disease."

I totally agree with you on this. Even though it could be quit a bit expensive, having vacations will help you relax and come back more happy. Moreover, you can learn a lot of things and ideas from these traveling vacation as well.

Guest's picture
Joelle

What a fun read! I enjoyed all three sections. Very clever. Let's see, I also wouldn't give up the internet because it too helps me create revenue (generating more than it costs).

Good shoes (not fancy, just good. I'm on my feet all day, and I need the support).

Haircuts (I don't go to great clips, but I'm also not at the spa. I have a friend who does a great job and makes me feel like a million bucks. When I'm broke, I just go longer between appointments).

Good food (commenters are right. Good food can be cheap. I prepare a lot of my own foods, making even basics from scratch. Saves money and the quality is far superior).

Good skincare product (I make them stretch when times are tough. I switch brands to find what I'm looking for for less, but in the end, I won't use the highly chemical crap. Aubrey Organics has great stuff for way less than a lot of high end places).

So, enjoy some of mine.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the comment! Prioritizing expenses that help us earn our living was definitely on my mind (like the Internet for both of us and shoes for you).

Guest's picture
Javier

Julie, your article--by way of example--suggests that we all participate in a great exercise: determining what we need; not just to live, but also to be happy. Living frugally is a great way to budget your expenses so that you have a bit of money left over for the occasional gift to yourself. Everyone's priorities will be different, but the process of creating that top-ten list is the same. I work for Mango Financial, and at our blog we strive to deliver money-saving and budgeting tips to help our customers get the most out of their money so that they can build savings or splurge on the occasional treat. Check out our content and let us know what you think.