Since writing about my blog anxiety, I’ve received an unexpected blessing: the desire to blog again! First topic back in the line up, personal finance. I’ve put this topic on the shelf since being laid off because I felt like I had nothing to share– it was all just stressful. Now that we’ve got things under control, I feel like I’m allowed to have opinions (and dreams) about our money again. Enjoy! And… as always please share your thoughts in the comments. YOU’RE the interesting one here!
When I was laid off a year and a half ago, we slashed our budget to the bare minimum. Which bills had to be paid? How low could our discretionary categories go? For a while there, we said goodbye to spending money, dining out, and using the car for anything but JHubb’s work.
Since then, our budget has come a long way. We’re back to $40 per month each in spending money. We spend a lot of money on food ($600+ per month) and rent ($1400+ per month). But each of these line items represent intentional priorities within our budget. To be able to prioritize these fat areas, we stay pretty “thin”* for many other things:
- Clothes. JHubbs gets a few new items for the school year, but otherwise our clothing budget is less than $100 a year. I work from home, so I have a pile of yoga pants and T-shirts that I’ve owned for a long time. For church and social events, I have two pairs of jeans and a handful of tops that I cycle through (sorry, friends!), two casual dresses, and two dressy dresses. Much of this simplicity is the result of decluttering and buying/owning only what I truly wear each month. It leaves a lot of room in our walk-in closet for storage, where we keep off-season clothes and music equipment.
- Eating out. Outside of the holiday season when we meet friends and family members for meals, we eat out about once a month. “Fast food” is a naked rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods and a nice evening out is the hot bar at Ellwood Thompson’s. (It really helps here that I get sick if we eat out :-P).
- Electronics. We’ve had the same phones for 3+ years. (This won’t count soon because we’re saving our spending money to get new phones in three months, but for now it counts :-)). We’ve also had the same laptop for over 6 years, though this weekend I did buy a Chromebook for my business use.
- Makeup and hair. I use very few beauty products and the ones I do have I stock up when Whole Foods has its 25 percent off sale each year. It also helps that I don’t have to go into work, so one bottle of concealer lasts me about a year! I don’t dye my hair, I get a haircut about once a year, and we bought a trimmer for JHubbs so he gets year-round haircuts for free. About twice a year I talk myself into an eyebrow wax, and once every few years I get a pedicure.
- Household. We use linen towels in the kitchen to limit our paper towel usage, so one package lasts us a long time. My parents often bring paper products as a house gift when they visit (so generous!), so that pretty much stocks us for a long time. We do buy dish soap, laundry detergent, and dishwasher detergent, but using less tha you think you need can help stretch it out. After a very long phase-out period for greening-up the house (start slow, but start!), we use vinegar and essential oils for cleaning, and don’t buy perfume or fragrance-type things because of the chemicals in it that disrupt your endocrine system (I forget what those products are called again). I think we have a Lysol can from my teaching days, but we don’t use it much. And to get TMI on you, did you know that grains are just bulk for your toilet? Because your body can’t digest it, the grains you eat just go on out the other end. Going grain-free means cleaner, less frequent (though still daily so you maintain intestinal health) bowel movements and therefore less toilet paper.
- Linens. We’ve have the same bed sheets, blankets, and bath towels since before we were married.
- Furniture. This is about to change, as we’ve started a “couch” envelope to buy a nice couch, but otherwise our furniture is from Craigslist and/or we’ve had it since before we were married. The only exception is business-related items like an IKEA desk and a new computer chair (that I’ve since swapped out for an exercise ball).
- Kitchen. Despite spending a lot on food, we don’t spend a lot in the kitchen otherwise. All of our dishes, glassware, silverware, and baking pieces are also from before we were married (and/or wedding gifts). Major appliances like a KitchenAid mixer and food processor were (very) generous gifts from my parents over the years.
- Entertainment. We don’t have a landline or cable of any kind. Our entertainment expenses is a grand total of $8/month for Netflix. We use the library and second hand stores for books, and we use Spotify for music. With friends, it really, really helps to be honest about being on a budget. There’s rarely any pretense to spend money for the sake of spending money, and we’re all pretty open about seeking free and low-cost things to do (hello $2 theater!).
- Commuting. I don’t have a commute and JHubb’s commute is less than 30 minutes, so our gas costs are about $150 a month (remember when I used to commute and spend $400+ a month on gas!?!).
*Obviously, we’re very lucky to consider these lifestyle habits “thin” or “poor” in any way. I hope you’ll lend me some literary license here. We’re grateful to be so blessed to have phones at all, let alone 3-year-old ones!