There is no question, living within a tight budget is as much fun as a visit to the gynecologist. Possibly even less fun, because a visit to the gynecologist is one afternoon, whereas budget living is a way of life.
Right now, many of us are worried about money. Either we are laid off, concerned about getting laid off, or watching our 401Ks dwindle in value. I don’t know anyone who is so rich that the current economic state has no effect on them at all.
I’ve been laid off twice in the last year—the first time, from a corporate job I hated, but paid me a lot; the second time from a job I never really wanted, but took because I needed a job. I have run through the allotted payments the unemployment system awarded me. Because I was laid off twice, I should be receiving an additional allotment, but the unemployment office can’t seem to decide if they are really going to give this to me. I am being strung along through the unemployment system and not getting any helpful answers. This is a problem.
Currently, I work part-time. I’m hoping that my part-time job becomes a full-time career, but that will take time. So right now, I make a whopping $8 an hour. Sometimes, I perform duties that have a higher hourly rate, but it’s not always a given that I will get these duties. On average, I take home around $200 a week. This is a huge problem, as my life costs around $625 a week.
To make up for the shortfall, I am delving into my savings and cutting costs. My savings account has not yet been depleted, so I still have a small cushion. I am not completely out of money yet and am trying to go broke as slowly as possible.
To deal with this, I first made a detailed list of all my expenses. I then analyzed them to see where cuts could be made. Then, I tried to make some difficult decisions:
- I have digital cable with a DVR. Do I really need this? I dropped down to the cable company’s “economy” package and saved myself $20 a month. I haven’t yet given up the DVR.
- My health insurance is $452 a month. Could some of the coverage be dropped for a lower premium? I found an okay plan that is $246 a month and will switch for January. The co-pays are higher, but not so much that they outweigh the $206 per month savings.
- I go to the chiropractor every two weeks. This is something I like to do and it makes my body feel better. With my co-pay going up though, can I really afford it? I’m going to save myself $50 a month by only going when it’s absolutely necessary.
- My car insurance is $78 a month. This is not something I can go without, so I looked into finding a cheaper insurance provider. It turns out there isn’t one, so this cost is staying the same.
- My cell phone averages $60 per month. I’m stuck in a contract until next spring, but when that’s up, I’m going to make some changes. I can either add myself to a friend’s plan as an additional line or go onto my stepfather’s plan and he will pay for it. Having a parent pay for my phone makes me feel pretty lame, but it may be necessary. Yes, I am in my 30s, but I may have to suck this one up.
- Food is a huge expense for me. It’s not only nourishment, but it is also my social life. Not anymore. I told my friends that I am now on a tight budget and can’t go out to eat anymore. They understand this and are nice enough to sometimes take me out and foot the bill. This is something I greatly appreciate. As for groceries, I have started shopping at the highly horrible, but highly cheap grocery store near my house. This place is so bad it has nicknames like “Sketchy Basket” and “Crazy Basket.” A friend once had a tomato stolen out of her hand at this grocery store.
- My student loans have been hanging around for a long time. They are going to have to hang around even longer. I am looking into deferring them for a while.
- Yes, long-term it is a bad idea, but I’m going to stop contributing to my Roth IRA. I am only putting $100 a month into it, but this is $100 I really need right now. So much for buying low now and selling high when I am ready to retire.
- Rent. This is one I have thought long and hard about. I live by myself in an urban area. It is expensive, but I love living by myself and I love my apartment. When I lived with roommates or boyfriends, I always had to be considerate of someone else. Living by myself, I can have everything my way. This makes me happy all the time and it is not something I am willing to give up yet. Rent stays the same. If I am getting near the $0 mark in my savings account in a few months, then I will consider moving in with roommates.
Thinking about these expenses and where to cut was a huge bummer. On top of this, I needed to think about other ways to squeeze more out of less. There are a few ways I am doing this:
- Walking more places to save on gas. This is good for both me and the environment.
- Hitting up the dollar store. I used to think that Target was the cheapest place to buy things like toiletries and house cleansers. It turns out that the dollar store has them beat on almost everything.
- Turning off lights and electronics when I am not using them. A few bucks less on the electric bill is a good thing.
- Figuring out what is in my apartment. I have all sorts of possessions I have forgotten about. That old Xbox can provide hours of free entertainment.
- Eating all the food I buy, rather than letting it sit in the fridge and go bad. This is something I have been guilty of many times; I know it is terrible.
- Not using the dryers when I do laundry. Draping wet clothes around my apartment saves me a few dollars.
- Going to the library. It’s an amazing resource for everything from books and magazines to music and movies.
- Inviting people to my house instead of meeting them out for food and drinks. I have food and drinks at my house we can partake of.
I am still working on more methods of scrimping and saving. I hate it, but that is the way things are right now. I am hoping to start making more money and slowly pull myself out of going broke as slowly as possible.
Goldstein, S. (2008). Going Broke as Slowly as Possible. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/going-broke-as-slowly-as-possible/0001538
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.