Nice picture, huh? What a beauty!
To follow up on the news around here, I've been telling you how Andrew has started his own company, Vellum, after losing his job a month ago and things actually are going fairly well. After a couple weeks of heavy sweating he got the new business set up then most recently he has had a potential client come his way. I know it's just one and nothing is final but given the circumstances it has been a time of great rejoicing around here and it gives us hope that we can survive this.
But . . . (and this is a big but) as the many of you who attested in the comments, starting up a business is lots of work and even if this particular job goes through that's just one hurdle of many. You're never really sure where things will go from day to day as you try to establish yourself.
We figure this could be scary for the next six months, maybe a year and even if everything goes as well as we could hope we're still looking at several years--maybe five--before things have started to pay off and go where he wants them to go. Which means, of course, that the prudent thing to do is to tighten up that budget as much as possible right now.
Even though we're not particularly lavish with our habits, we could wait to reign in any extra spending until we're really feeling the pinch, hoping that things go our way and that we can switch tracks seamlessly, but that doesn't sound very wise to me. Seems like a better plan would be to be as careful as possible so that if the transition doesn't go perfectly that we're not in jeopardy of losing our home.
So this week's list is kind of funny for me. A few months ago it would have made me twinge to think of giving up so many lovely little conveniences and extravagances but actually it's been kind of a fun adventure--in a weird, masochistic kind of way--but to be able to give up something you took for granted and say "Ha! I don't actually need this to be happy" is a highly satisfying feeling. Here is our list of things we've cut back on or modified to save a buck or two.
1. Piano lessons. You've seen me posting clips of Spencer playing and in fact all of the children play the piano, three of them have been taking lessons up until now. But no more. At least for the time being. While I think that being able to play an instrument is a wonderful and fulfilling thing, and their teacher was wonderful, it's just not at the top of the priority list and to keep three kids in lessons, even as reasonably priced as ours were, doesn't make sense right now.
Spencer is looking at playing basketball this year anyway (it's free), David likes cross country running and Grace is swimming so they have something to keep them busy outside of school and the younger ones can use the older kids' past piano books and music to inch along with my meager help. I think it'll be good for them to have to come up with activities and sports that don't require expensive equipment and heavy fees for participation. Seems like that's how it used to be back in those old days.
But as I see it, better to lose the lessons than the piano itself if you know what I mean.
2. My clothes dryer. Well I actually didn't give up the dryer all together, just drying clothes in it. Our summer weather has been so wonderful I've been hanging up the clothes on the line outside all summer and it's saved us a bundle of money on our gas bill. So much so that I've started hanging up clothes in the garage on rainy days and hope to be able to do it most of the winter.
Boy does that dyer suck up the money! I figure I do at least 6-8 loads of wash each week (give or take) which translates into approximately 6-8 hours of gas usage. I think that's the equivalent of the GNP of many Third World countries by current gas prices.
3. Extra running around town. It used to be that if I wanted to get out of the house a bit I'd jump in the car and go run an errand. It wasn't critical usually, just stuff that I could do to take a break and get out for a bit. Now if I have an errand I save it up to do in one run, usually to or from picking up the kids at school. I figure save that gas as much as possible. When they say "going green" I'm thinking about green backs. Besides saving me some money in gas, it's amazing how much time it's saved me. Apparently I've been wasting a lot of time running back and forth to the bank, the library, the supermarket, etc.
4. Date nights. I should be honest here, I haven't exactly given up going on dates with my husband, in fact I think right now our dates together are more important than ever, we've just changed what we do. Forget the movies or the dinners out, instead of going out and spending money we've been looking for things that don't cost anything--like taking a walk.
Actually, with both of us running we've been going out several times a week to the track and not only is it a good way to get in some time together without any money but it's been great in burning the stress that builds up. Now if it could also burn off a few pounds that would be absolutely perfect.
Once the snow hits we'll be switching from running to cross country skiing, it's been fun to try something that is physically challenging and good for you where we're both learning and improving together--it just feels good.
5. Coloring my hair. This one is harder because it hits the vanity but if I had to live without my hair cuts and colorings I could do it. Right? Lots of people make it through life as brunettes just fine . . . . like, uh . . . uh . . . quick, give me a brunette that you'd trade places with.
I'm kidding. But hey, I'm so tall that it's going to be at least a year before people can even see my roots going dark anyway. Only those who are at least seven feet tall can see the top of my head so I'm safe for a while, right?
And luckily I know how to cut the kids' hair though Andrew might be a bit harder to convince into the chair. He's become very protective of his hair style lately.
6. Personal cash. Gadgets, iTunes, clothes, an afternoon at the movies, all that personal cash is going to have to be put on hold. Though it has had a good effect--less money for leisure time activities has me working more often and after the huge slacking-off I did all summer that should be a good thing.
But you know what? For all those years at the beginning of our marriage we made it very happily without having play money so I don't doubt that we will still be able to be content. I've heard that money only buys happiness up to about $50,000 a year in salary, make less than that and you're struggling to make ends meet but once you make more money than that all your basic needs are met and the extras you have don't do anything for your mental well-being. Interesting. Wonder if that's true.
7. Food. Okay this one I'm really proud of. I would often read around on the internet how much people spent a week on food and I was always amazed. I mean I know I'm living in Alaska and that food is a bit more expensive up here but even taking that into consideration I wondered how other people could get by on so little, it seemed I was spending so much more but I didn't think I was being frivolous.
Well this past month I wondered how much I could cut off my food budget--could I slice it in half? We do have a stash of emergency supplies, the staples, that are there to get us by in an emergency (powdered milk, flour, beans, pasta, that kind of thing) and it seemed like it might be a good idea to start using some of that and see how little I could buy.
I've actually cut the budget by 60% now for three weeks running. It's amazing how much you can save by simply not buying cold cereal and Twinkies. We were spending $40 a week on milk and cold cereal alone and I've got it down to where the kids drink regular milk with their meals but all the cooking milk is from our powdered milk supplies and I've started fixing breakfasts items that are much less expensive than the cold cereal.
Of course it takes a bit more work but boy it saves some money. Fancy prepared treats are gone and instead of throwing junk food into the kids' lunches I've been making zucchini muffins, homemade fruit leather, carrot sticks, etc. I so proud of myself for not only saving some money but fixing healthier meals. And so far the kids aren't complaining.
It's got to the point where if I start to put something on the shopping list I ask "Do I really need this or can I make something else in its place?" Usually the answer is that it can be left out entirely or made at home for less.
8. Cell phones. My cell phone plan ran out and we decided not to renew it, Andrew's ran out as well and between giving up the two phones we've saved quite a bit. And don't get me started on those iPhones! As cool and nifty as they are the plans alone are $70/month here. Wow. And I hear they lock you in so that you can't escape, even if you get an upgraded phone (which they will undoubtedly produce over the course of your two-year contract). Only Apple could come up with something so wild, so beyond-belief, so "Soviet" and still have it selling like hotcakes. Let's face it, the iPhones are cool. End of story.
9. Heat and lights. Now of course we can't cut these out all together but we have cut back quite a bit. Put on a sweater, turn off the lights behind you, do what it takes to conserve. Sad that it's taken a personal crisis to make us into an eco-friendly home, huh? Hey, however you get there.
10. Vacations. This one is the hardest to think about. Andrew and I have tickets to go visit my parents in India in January. We had frequent flyer miles so it's not as if the tickets were really an extravagance or anything and then being that my parents live there we'd be staying with them so the trip itself isn't really the issue but we only had tickets for the two of us. We were leaving the kids home and babysitters don't exactly have frequent flyer awards. Or should I say "frequent crier" awards? Ha!
Anyway, besides the whole issue of affording a babysitter the biggest part is that with Andrew trying to build up this new business he won't be able to take the time off as he'd planned--one of the downsides to being your own boss is that if you're not there you don't get paid.
It's not 100% scrapped at this point but it's not looking good. At least there's a bright side in that we can get the miles put back into our account and they'll even refund the taxes on the tickets that the mileage plan awards don't cover. At least that's good news, right? Right? Tell me it's alright.
Oh well, easy come, easy go.
I know, I know! I'll have to use one of the tickets myself and since Andrew can't go I'll put the other one up as a giveaway item on a Saturday giveaway! I bet I could find one of you out there who would be willing to accompany me to India, right? Now THAT would be a giveaway.
You bring the curry?
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Thursday, August 27, 2009
Nice picture, huh? What a beauty!