Living on a Budget

I’ve been reluctant to write about my finances on this blog, mainly because it’s nunya. That’s right, nunya darn business! (thanks for that saying Vira), but also because…. well actually that was the only reason. However, given the fact that the economy seems to be on everyone’s mind, I am going to relent, and talk a little bit about moulah.

First off, I think the whole “economy in the tank” attitude is kind of an exaggeration. American’s seem to think that just because we can’t go buy anything we want, anytime we want, somehow that means we’re in a recession. No my friends, we’re just spoiled rotten. So I tend to agree to a certain extend with Phil Gramm. Smaller profits are still profits, and 1% growth is still growth. Buying houses you can’t afford because you think you can turn a profit in the near future is cocky and irresponsible. James 4:13,15 talks a little bit about this attitude. And yeah, that’s a generalization, some people are really hurting, but relatively speaking, we’re just not that bad off. And most of those who are, put themselves there.

The reason I bring this up is because my wife lost her job last month. And after the initial panic, we decided we’d take a good hard look at our finances and see if we were being good stewards with God’s money. What we found is that we weren’t. Honestly, we were wasting most of it eating out, traveling, buying crap we didn’t need, etc. And the sad part is that compared to a lot of people I know, we were being frugal!

The thing is, to Americans, spending money is a sport. It’s what we do. And it’s probably why most of the world envies and despises us at the same time.

At any rate, we’ve discovered that even on 45% less income, we’re making it because we’ve made some necessary changes and have begun to think smarter about how we spend our money. To me, this has really been a blessing. God is really teaching us something with this experience. So how have we done it? Here’s a few tips.

First, stop driving. People can’t get two blocks up the freaking street without hopping into the SUV these days. It’s ridiculous. So I parked the truck and started riding the motorcycle to work. 38mpg baby. My kid and her friends ride the bus to the mall instead of being taxied around. $1 will take you anywhere in the city on the bus. Michelle and I plan our days so we can do several things with one trip and we stay as close to home as possible. We’re on track to trim $150 or more off of our gas budget this month despite higher prices.

Second, cook your own meals… from scratch. We shop at WinCo instead of Save Mart now. We buy everything in it’s raw form; grains, vegetables, meats, etc. We buy nothing pre-made, nothing out of a box. Yeah it takes 60 minutes instead of 20 to cook dinner. Big deal. Last week we roasted a chicken with carrots and potatoes for a dinner one night. It cost us all of $5 for three people to eat like kings and I had chicken sandwiches for lunch for the next three days. We’ll cut $300 to $400 out of the food budget this month and we’re still eating three squares. When we factor in not eating out and not hitting starbucks, it’s a much larger savings.

These are just two small examples that save big dollars. There’s a bunch of other stuff we can do to cut $20 here and $30 there if we have to; go with a slower internet plan, order fewer cable channels, borrow movies from friends or hit RedBox instead of Blockbuster, go with Skype instead of a land line, read the news off the net instead of getting the paper, cancel text messaging on the cellphones. None of these things will kill us to do without.

So my point is, it can be done, we can live on less. And honestly when you really get control of your cash, the stress suddenly drains away. Money really is like a drug, the more you have, the more you use, and the more afraid you are to lose it.