Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the tag “budget”

Budgets & Saving

My separation and divorce obviously set in motion a tailspin of life changes, not all bad. Going from a dual income household to a single one was a huge change that took me quite some time to figure out, especially since for a good portion of time my monthly mortgage payment was a bit too close to my monthly take home income. Once I was able to refinance, things did get much easier, but I continue to employ a lot of the budgeting and savings techniques in my efforts to get ahead and hopefully be able to pay off my debts in a timely manner.

Here are some of my tips on budgets & saving that kept me from losing my house & having to live in a cardboard box.

– Make a budget that not only includes all the expenses every month, but leaves a little for incidentals like car maintainance and other issues that might crop up.

– Coupons & store sales are your friends, as are generic brands ( as long as they don’t taste like junk, otherwise it’s worth paying $1 more for something).

– Discount stores like the dollar store, Big Lots, and  Ocean State Job Lot ( my personal favorite) are awesome resources for non-perishables like soup, pasta, and spices, as well as for cleaning supplies. Almost always these stores carry the same brands ( or better!) than at the market, but most times these are cast offs because the brand logo has changed or some other packaging element.

– The library is your best friend- books, DVDs, magazines. I will always use my local public library for these resources until the day I die.

– Stop email subscriptions to various brands, group coupon sites, and stores that could lure you to spend on unneeded items.

– Cook in batches and freeze food- soup in the freezer is perfect for lunches or dinners and allows you to plan ahead & get the most out of the money you spend at the grocery store. I would even save leftover bits of vegetables or rice, put them in a plastic zippy bag in the freezer, and when I had a good amount, make “leftover soup.”

– My social life hurt for a bit while I figured out my new game plan for money, but I saved a lot by having friends over for wine or dinner and games, and a lot of them reciprocated by inviting me over!

– Even if it’s only a small amount, try to put something into savings. While I was really strapped, I had to stop this in my personal savings account, but I still contributed to my retirement via my paycheck every two weeks.

What are your little tricks to save money and budget?


Cutting the Cable Cord

Back in 2011, I cut cable for a purely monetary reason. I was handling a huge mortgage on my measly nonprofit salary as my divorce was going through and a lot of things were deemed ‘luxury’ and had to go. But the decision to cut the cable cord was definitely one of the best I’ve ever made.

It started as a necessity to makes ends meet, but it ended up being a decision that has changed my habits immensely. Prior to quitting cable, I more often than not spent my nights after work in front of the TV aimlessly watching whatever was on or even worse, some horrible reality show of D-list celebrities letting cameras into their lives. I rarely watched PBS and neglected reading, watching documentaries or independent movies in favor of watching The Wedding Planner or whatever random cable movie was on  for the 30th time.

Post- cable, I found much better and enjoyable alternatives for my viewing entertainment. I used an over the air antenna for local channels and upped my Netflix account to include instant viewing and 2 DVDs at a time. I started reading more and find myself now often spending an entire night without even having put the television on at all for anything. This past fall, I added basic cable again to get a few more channels than what my antenna could offer to me. My house is at the bottom of a  hill so sometimes with wind or storms the antenna didn’t work, which was most frustrating at times and being super into Downton Abbey, I wanted to insure PBS coverage on Sunday nights during the winter. The basic cable package only was $20 a month, but I found that because my habits had changed, I still wasn’t watching any of the channels still. After I was given a wonderful iPad as a Christmas present from my aunt, I spend much more time watching things in bed or on the sun porch, further eliminating the need for the cable. I kept a diary in April to see how often I was using the television for anything other than DVDs or Netflix— in the whole month ( minus the time I was in Holland), I turned it on to watch an actual TV show only twice. The decision was easy to get rid of the cable again.

And now, I’ll ever look back. A few weeks ago I babysat my friends’ son while they were at a wedding– in the eleven hours I was at their house, I watched a Red Sox game and then the Mad Men marathon on AMC. Didn’t change the channel once or even do a whole lot of channel surfing to see what their satellite TV could offer me. My entertainment preferences have shifted hugely- I am catching up on PBS and BBC miniseries ( if you haven’t seen Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, you’re missing out- I can’t believe I didn’t see it until now!), watching a lot of documentaries, and finally tackling the huge movie list I have. I’ve re installed the antenna on the television to get local news, but in the two weeks it’s been up, I haven’t even done that.

Before, I used the television as a crutch to avoid thinking and feeling. Sure, there are still days when I’m exhausted and come home to watch a few episodes of The West Wing instead of reading a book or writing, but it’s something I’m choosing to watch because I enjoy it and it is interesting to me, instead of just putting something random on to pass the time to bed. It’s entertainment, not escape.

If you’re thinking about cutting cable, it’s not as difficult as you think it will be! Try not using it even for a weekend and I think you’ll see what a difference it makes in your every day, plus on your bottom line!

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