Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What about 60% less?

I just read two articles. The first was the 21 things Americans can live without. But then I also read the one about how to live on 75% less income.

As I read, I couldn't help but feeling Mike and I already live this way, for the most part. We have gone without my income for 8 months, and had no noticeable lifestyle changes due to money (just changes due to having a baby!).

Mike has never been one to spend money on clothes or accessories. He will spend a fair amount all at once when he needs to get new jeans or new work shirts or pants, but that's about it. I buy him all his cool tee shirts for gifts, and his undershirts, socks, and underwear are all part of his stocking at Christmas. As for me, I spent a fair amount of money on clothes back when I first started teaching and had to build up a work wardrobe. Unlike Mike who wears the same five outfits each week, I couldn't do that. Its just different for women, and the temperature of my classroom fluctuated too much with the seasons. But, after a couple of years, I only would be a couple items each season. My big splurge would be bras from Victoria's Secret, but I haven't bought any in getting close to two years because of the pregnancy and nursing. (It will be very nice to go splurge on nice bras again some day). I did buy a pair of $100 walking shoes, but I needed new sneakers anyway (hadn't bought a pair in five years at least, bought them with my mother in MA) and they are the only expense I have for fitness. Of course, we've spent money on Natalie's clothes. But, because we got so many hand-me-downs in the begining and because little girl clothes are so cute, we haven't had to buy that many really. What I have bought hasn't been overly expensive since we mostly shop at Walmart, though I did off set some cheap clothes at TJ Maxx with not so cheap clothes at Sear and JC Penney.

As far as food is concerned, first of all, Mike and I are no coffee drinkers. Going to Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks is a special treat, and we usually only go when I get Mike a gift card. Instead, we make tea and coco at home and have it before leaving the house or in the evening. We also go out to eat rarely. Before the baby, we went out maybe a couple times a month, unless we were traveling, which would add another couple trips. Now after the baby, we've gone out to dinner less than ten times, and only once was it somewhere remotely nice (Applebees) as opposed to fast food or Friendlies. Another thing mentioned in the article was prepared foods. We don't get many of those either, unless it is frozen dinners for Mike. We also don't cook with many sauces or marinades because I can't eat most of them anyway! Feeding Natalie has been very cheap since she doesn't take formula.

Entertainment is probably our biggest splurge. We have down graded one step on our internet, but its not noticeable. Meanwhile, right before the baby, we upgraded our "cable," which is really satellite. We got DVR and on demand, though Mike says the on demand, which we never use, was part of upgrading and really free. This is the major source of entertainment for us. We follow several shows (together House, Lost, Survivor, and Smallville, then alone Mike watches UFC, Celtics games, Justified, and 24, and I watch Project Runway alone; and that's not to mention all the Nick Jr and PBS Kids Natalie and I watch during the day). We still have our Netflix, too. While our shows were on and the Celtics were playing, we weren't watching too many movies, but we've been doing very well recently. And we've bought tons of $5 DVDs replacing other formats we have around the house and getting a small stash of kids movies. Before Natalie was born, we used to go to the movies almost once a week, which used to be a fair amount of money when you include popcorn for me. So, I guess we are saving some money there.

The other form of entertainment in our house is books. I've not bought a book for me in a long time. I have spent a fair amount on books for Natalie, though, but I read a new item saying that the biggest indicator of a child's academic success is the number of books in the home. That makes me feel better. Most of the books Mike has gotten have been presents. Natalie and I have been very avid library users. Since starting to go to library time back in October, I would say that the majority of the books I've read have been taken out of the library. I wouldn't have bought those books before, but I would have been stuck reading only the books we have, which probably would be starting to run a little low and the selection getting boring.

For lots of people, trips are entertainment. Since we've been together, we've only gone on four big trips. We've gone to FL twice (only once including going to the parks), our honeymoon, and a cruise before Natalie was born. Mike did go on some business trips without me, a visit to a friend in OR, and a train trip. We also drove down to MD 3 times. In some ways, we wish we had traveled more extensively, like some of our friends, but we are happy to have saved money instead. Also, when I was teaching and taking classes, we didn't have all that much opportunity to travel anyway.

One of the things it said people can live without is clutter. We've worked on that, too. We sold off all Mike's old stereo equipment to his cousin. I've been swapping my extra books on Goodreads (every ten books, I get a free book). We got rid of a lot of stuff when we had the yard sale, but that went to charity. I also got through a lot of papers when we cleaned out the storage back in April. And, I have a bag of baby stuff going that we don't need to pass along to friends when they have kids.

So, there are still plenty of places that Mike and I could cut before we even make an uncomfortable cuts such as moving, downgrading Mike's car, cutting our cellphone plans, etc.

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