Learning to scale back
Earlier this month, I helped some old friends stage their home, in order to get higher offers. It was not an ideal situation. They had bought about a year ago. Very nice place. They had always lived very frugally, and had bought when the market seemed just about right. They had intended to stay in this house for at least a decade. They moved and settled in, and loved being home. And then the primary wage earner was let go. It was a major blow. Since December, they’ve made ends meet, while trying to find options that would let them stay in their home. Temp jobs. Independent contractor positions. Trying to find creative ways to spend less and earn more. They recognized that staying in their home may not be an option. So far, they had gotten an offer, which would put them out about $15,000. It’s not an ideal situation.
So it was that I offered what help I could. Decorating. They had set up their home in a way that was perfect for them, but it was not going to get them the kind of offers that would be acceptable. So we went to work. We basically moved my living room to their place. I bought some items that I’d been waiting to buy. Painted one room. Had the carpets cleaned. Organized their storage, and put all unnecessary items away. Reupholstered a storage bench. Put out potted, flowering plants along their terrace. In the end, the place looked good. I hope it’s good enough …
As I returned to my own home, I thought about how extravagant my life is. Granted, it’s not nearly as extravagant as before I bought my home. But there are still many areas where I spend more than I ought. Be that as it may, I thought it a good idea to talk about the ways my spending has changed, and invite others to share their ideas on scaling back.
My parents are good examples of frugality. They almost never buy anything full price. From groceries to automobiles, they always research the competition and buy at the best rates. We grew up not knowing what air conditioning was, and always turning off lights. Most of the accessories of my childhood were second hand, from clothes to toys to bedroom furniture. At the time, I didn’t see the wisdom of this, as I gazed longingly at my classmates’ Member’s Only jackets. Somehow, there was always money for growing and learning experiences, even if there wasn’t enough for everything else that I wanted.
Fast forward to me as an adult. in my twenties, most of my disposable income went to what I was concerned with most: how I looked, and how much fun I had.Thai massages, pedicures, eyebrow threading, haircuts, dining out, entertainment, clothes, accessories. When I hit thirty, I started weeding out the most ridiculous expenses. And now that I’m a home owner, I’m learning to cut back even more.
- Gone are the pedicures and eyebrow threading. It’s self-service now.
- No more cable tv. Instead, I use hulu.com or Redbox
- I bought energy efficient appliances and applied for every rebate available. I hang dry most of my clothes.
- Ceiling fans instead of a/c. Warm clothes instead of heating. Energy efficient light bulbs.
- Few theatre movies. When I go, I buy discount tickets at Costco
- Brown-bag lunches. Since I prefer a hot-lunch, it’s generally a mix of steamed veggies and chicken that I prepare at home and can heat up at work.
- Buying gas during the middle of the week, and always at my favorite cheapie place. Trying to take the metro to work once a week instead of driving all the time.
- Borrowing books from the library.
- Walking or biking to do my local errands.
- Creative parties at home. Potlucking the food.
- Buying in bulk when possible.
- Pay bills on-line. Better for record keeping and for saving money on stamps.
- Changed cell-phone service, using a family plan with my parents and sister.
What about you? What old or new ways have you found to economize? Are these permanent scale-backs, or temporary?