"Secret skimping is out, like false bosoms." - Marjorie Hillis, Orchids on Your Budget, 1937.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cutting Costs - When There's Nothing Left

I've been really hard on myself lately about my PF progress. I spent the last year as a spendthrift, after all. Even though I'm back to my more frugal ways, after reading and taking to heart a lot of what Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme has to say, I'm even more determined to squirrel away more of my income. So I took to my budget, red pen in-hand, desperately trying to find an opportunity to cut back on something.

Our largest expense is rent. The number ($850/person) is a true horror to behold, especially since not 2 years ago I used to spend only $500/month when I had more roommates. Meanwhile, my income is holding steady at $45k gross, which yields a little over $33k net (after federal and state taxes and a meager 3% 401k contribution), so I'm not getting any richer with this setup. We live in a 2-bedroom apartment now, when all we really need is less than or equal to 1 bedroom, so I perused craigslist with visions of a relatively inexpensive studio apartment in or near the city. I couldn't find anything at a reasonable price point that didn't require 2 additional roommates, or a 30 minute trip by car. Turns out our insanely expensive unit is actually quite a steal in this part of town. Until I can live the dream in a Tiny Tumbleweed house, looks like I'll have to make do with this place.

So I moved onward, looking for some other fixed cost to cut, but besides the Netflix subscription we just signed up for (it's winter in MA - I'm sure I'll get my money's worth), I couldn't find anything. Here's a list of things we already do without:
  1. Car (and therefore, no car insurance, gas, etc.);
  2. Cable television;
  3. Cable internet (we use dryloop DSL);
  4. Landline phone;
  5. Gym membership; and
  6. Haircuts, apparently - similarly, I do all my own bodily upkeep, including my nails.
The fees I do pay monthly are (i) an unlimited train/bus pass, which is less than $60/month and (ii) my cell phone, which is $45. No, there's no extraneous monthly fee to cut (except Netflix, but we just signed up, and already we've watched probably over 20 DVDs). Looks like I just have to track every penny to lessen my OTHER spending. I'm not shopping anymore, but I do spend $2 or $5 here and there for a coffee or a sandwich sometimes, and it really, really adds up. Groceries are also very expensive (duh), and we do shop sales, clip coupons, and eat a lot of lentils and tuna fish.

Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I really do just need more of an influx of cash. Anyone else out there in a similar situation or want to share some "necessities" you do without?


me in millions said...

Do you spend a lot on clothes or shoes or going out to eat? Do you buy lunch a lot? Do you have magazine or newspaper subscriptions that you don't use? Are you using "deal" websites to get free or supercheap toiletries? Do you have flex spending at work where you can get medical expenses paid for before taxes?

What are those variable expenses? What can you cut or reduce there?

ekingout said...

I use alice.com for toiletries. I don't do/have the other stuff, but I am still occassionally struggling with my home-shopping problem, which is what I really need to completely cut out if the picture. I guess I would just feel so much better if I didn't have the monthly obligation to shell out $850 for rent.

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

How much do you spend on groceries?

eking out said...

I put $218 every month (and so does my fiance) into a joint account to cover electric/gas bills, plus groceries. So basically, we pay the utilities, and whatever is left can be used for groceries. I believe it averages out to around $46/week/person?

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