Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cutting costs...

Yeah, I know this picture has nothing at all to do with cutting costs. But it was too cute to pass up. His skin is getting a little orange tint, I notice. Can you tell I feed him a lot of squash and sweet potatoes? Oh, yeah, and there are carrots in just about all the mixed baby food varieties, it seems... When I was little, I LOVED carrots. At one point, the doctor told my mom to stop giving me so many carrots because I was turning orange. But I digress...

This morning I thought I'd write about cutting costs. Nobody likes to do it, but sometimes, it should be done. When we first moved here, we assumed that all our expenses would be so much lower than they were in Arlington that we got a little lax on our spending. Nothing major, but David started keeping better track of the finances on Quicken, and he realized this month that we weren't saving anymore. Bad. We were both a little shocked. After all, with much lower rent and a higher salary, shouldn't we be making out like bandits?

Well it turns out, not when you factor that all our transportation costs just doubled, since he's no longer getting his commute paid for by the Feds, and since I'm driving more now. Oh yeah, and did I mention that N.C. has ridiculously high car insurance rates? They nearly doubled... before we added a second car. Combine that with the fact that David started eating lunch out every day to get to know his new office mates, and Houston, we have a problem.

So we took a deep breath, and we're deep sixing some of our discretionary expenses. David's daily paper subscription is going bye-bye, and he won't be eating out lunch with anyone more than once a week for a little while. I'm going to keep a much tighter rein on the grocery budget. I'm going to pretend that I only have x amount to spend each week, and once it's gone, I have to start replanning menus or putting things back. The exception will be when we have a special event or company. Looks like I will also be going lite on my cable internet. Sigh. We won't be going out to eat as carelessly, and we'll be using more coupons for that. I'm hoarding my free chicken and coke coupon from Chick-a-lay for a rainy day when I really want to eat out for lunch.

And frankly, we're both a little crabby about our cost cutting. We look around us, and we see people living in gigantic, brand new houses, and we see their brand new furniture, brand new flat screen tvs, and nice new cars. And many of these are people about our age who are living on one income, just like us. Sometimes we look at it with incredulity. Something isn't adding up here. Either they have some sort of income stream that we don't know about... or they're up to their eyeballs in debt. I'm betting on the latter.

But with all this conspicuous consumption going on around us, it's easier to get discontented with a perfectly wonderful life. David and I don't really want anything more than what we have most of the time. It's when we get smacked upside the head with what everyone else has that discontentment starts gnawing. We don't want to be different. Why should we have to hold back from doing what everyone else is doing? If more people at his office brought their lunches to work, David would be able to eat lunch with others and still spend time with his co-workers. But they don't, spending on average about $3,000 a year on eating out daily, so he's the odd one out. If people bought smaller houses and didn't have all new furniture, I wouldn't feel self conscious about inviting them over to my cute little place. Why can't we all go back to a simpler, less expensive standard of living? I hate the desire within me to keep up with the Jones'. Must kill it...

I know this is all relative. David makes a good salary. The problem is not with what he makes. Our cost cutting is about trying to save more money for a house one day, not about trying to dig out of credit card debt or trying to stretch to feed our family. I am very thankful for what we have, and I'm so thankful that we can afford for me to stay home with Seth. It's just easy to whine when you're trying to deprive yourself in a culture of excess. =)

6 comments:

kristin said...

Thank you for honestly sharing. (as always) I, too, have been having some of these thoughts. When I take walks through the neighborhood, I ask God if the day will ever come when Luke and I will own a home...or even two cars. But God takes the time to gently remind me that He is the one who prioritizes my life, and he reminds me that I have never had a need that has not been taken care of. At times, though, my sinful heart still wishes...

Andrea C. said...

Wow, Ellen! Have you been eavesdropping on my life? My dh and I have been having the exact same discussions and realizations lately. We're in the same boat - one good income, renting, not paying as close attention to finances as we once did due to hikes in pay, and finding that we're not saving like we thought we'd be. Contentment has been a big issue in the past few weeks especially as people we know who make less are buying nice homes, expensive cars, and beautiful furniture...oh, and taking exotic vacations. But, I'm thinking...maybe they don't know Dave Ramsey... ; )
It is hard to be thankful for our blessings when our focus is on what others have that we do not, isn't it? It's less appealing to have others over when you don't feel your place & things quite measure up to what you see in Beautiful Home magazines....
Oh, that the Lord would refine our hearts so we wouldn't care or compare at all.

Momma B. said...

We are right there with you, sweet sister! I thought moving to a small town that is like 95% christian would alleviate some of the "I want" pressure. Boy was I wrong!! I am finally starting to feel a bit of contentment. But believe me, I have A LONG way to go.

WHat happened to the idea that everything is worth the wait? I bet you have one thing those other families don't have, a marriage that is void of the "DEBT STRIFE". That's one good thing about living within your means!

Meredith said...

The more my husband makes, the harder it is for us to keep our budget tight.

It's very hard to talk about online, because I feel guilty having even a little bit extra in my budget when others are living on far, far less.

But I agree: this kind of frugality is much more an exercise in self-discipline than the blackbelt creativity I used as a penniless new bride.

rebekah said...

Trust me, the Jones are all in debt. Every last one of them. And they will never have learned the sweet discipline of saying no to yourself. After all, we can't have all pleasures we want here on earth. Otherwise, what would we have to look forward to in heaven?

Wendy P. said...

Wow, your blog is becoming a virtual comment catcher...you have such an audience! We're mostly debt-free, aside from one car payment and our admittedly unique "mortgage", and we have a couple of savings accounts that we each contribute to. I have a friend in Greenville, however, who teaches a Financial Peace Univ. class with her husband each week, and their friends gather & learn together. Just thinking, that if at any point you & David wish to start a group, we'd join in. An NYC friend did it also, and it changed her life. I'm sure each of us has ways that could be improved as well as ways that have already been improved. Melsa's gotten really interested lately in finances & learning how to save & spend wisely as well. Dave Ramsey has a show on Fox Business Network, and his directions are great, but I personally don't care much for his personality. Anyway, just thought I'd share.