No, this is not my 50-years-too-late attempt at a working title for a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon…this is a regaling tale of bravery amidst uncertain fate. Imagine a world…broken, on the brink of apocalypse. One man’s quest to fix the family garage, brandishing little more than a soldering iron, and a crippling inability to purchase new things. Read more
Archive for What have we learned here?
The Solder Marauder, or, How I Celebrated 6 Months of Buying Nothing New — Buy Nothing New for a Year!
Spring is a perfect time for taking on way too many projects. Such is the case at our home and, additionally, in our shop. Not that I’m trying to make excuses for my unplanned three-week blogging hiatus, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Between the never-ending-quest-for-perfection™ at the shop, to our potentially over-ambitious goal of crashing our own backyard, it’s safe to say that we have had, and will continue to have, our work cut out for us. Read more
“You’re on for Risotto this week” are six of the most terrifying words in the English language. It’s not that I don’t like making risotto (I do, it’s involved, but fun.) It’s also not like I don’t make a good risotto (I do, it’s involved, but delicious.) It’s just that in our almost ten years of marriage, I’ve only made it twice, because it’s a bit involved, but ultimately worth the work. Read more
It costs me about $10 a day just to get out of bed in the morning and use the things that I’ve already purchased. Whether it’s the TV, our cellphones, the tablet, the computer(s)…you get the point, because likely you get the same bills in the mail each month that we do. Seems like life used to be more simple with less recurring bills, but I suppose (as hard as it is to believe) that it’s been about 15 years now that cell phone bills have become an expected expense, and twice as long since a monthly cable TV bill has been a “necessity” for most. Let’s not even talk about the internet, which can cost as much as $60 a month for home service. Then there’s the additional $30/mo. data package for that smartphone (each) that we’ve just got to have! When will the craziness end? WHEN, I SAY?!? OK, I’m better now, thanks for asking.
Having recently just left the corporate world, we needed to reassess our budget and decide which bills stayed and which bills had to go. Considering it is next to impossible to cancel internet and cellular service for anyone these days, we opted out of our $60 (really about $78 after all of the surcharges and taxes) monthly satellite TV bill. The savings, we figured, would net us somewhere just south of $1000 per year, and the luxury would (hopefully) not be missed by our family too terribly much. With the loss of our only “guaranteed” source of income, every extra $1000 counts! We already had a streaming player and a subscription to Netflix ($7.99/mo. for their most basic package, which is all you need to stream at home), so we would be able to eliminate and recoup 100% of that expense immediately. We took the cable-free plunge in November, and have yet to look back. Though I am still in mourning for the loss of my DVR…we don’t talk about it around the house, yet…the pain is still too much to bear.
Between the selection on the media streamer, as well as the unlimited amount of programs available for purchase ala carte on services like iTunes, not to mention the wealth of DVD’s that we literally had to blow dust off of, we have not had any hiccups in terms of visually entertaining our family. What’s more, we’ve actually done more in terms of finding family friendly programming (and most importantly, enjoyable family programming) that we otherwise wouldn’t have found previously due to the over-saturaton of media in our home. I imagine most homes in America are like mine were: Cable/Satellite TV with 300 channels and nothing ever on, Internet, Netflix, Redbox or some other DVD/streaming media rental service, and a modest home library of some favorite movies. Where do you even begin when you have that type of selection? Do we even know the extent of information that we have access to, and are we able to process it efficiently enough to make sense of? After eliminating Satellite TV from my life and still not even scratching the surface of the other services that are available to me, I can answer that question with a resounding “NO!”
In addition to cancelling our satellite TV service, we took time to look over our internet and cellular bills and make some cost-saving measures there. With the internet, it actually meant up and switching providers, purchasing new equipment (vs. renting it from them) and now we have ten times the speed for about $10 less per month. As far as our cellphones are concerned, the contract we’re tied into now is pretty good in terms of what we need, but at least we know what we are paying for, and when the contract comes due, will be able to make a more educated choice for future service needs.
The point is not that everyone should go out and cancel cable right away (so call off your goons, Comcast), but as with any life changing event, or the beginning of a new year, perhaps, it is always wise to audit your family budget and plan for the times ahead. Leaving my corporate job has been the best decision I have made in years, as it has allowed me the opportunity to spend more time with my family and focus on our family business. There has been a change in the lifestyle that we were previously accustomed to, for sure, but for the most part, we still enjoy the same things we did before. After all, we live in the same house, we drive the same cars, we walk our son to the same school every day, and we gather around the dinner table at night (more nights together now than before, not surprisingly!) and share food and stories of our day. After dinner there is some time for a bit of television…the same television, just with a different source of programming. We’ll play with the boys and do some reading a bit before their bedtime, and then we find a movie or continue one of the many different programs that we’ve started, exactly like we did before! So what, exactly, did we give up? An $80 a month bill with another two year contract…and that’s definitely something we can live without.
So as part of our resolution, we had promised to keep a running tally of expenditures so that you can help keep us honest! From what I can tell 2 weeks into the project, we’re going to need a day off of blogging here and there, so it looks like Saturdays or Sundays should be a good day to update spending information for the prior week. Considering I skipped the tally last weekend, this week’s update will take you back to January 1st. Also, please note that these are our personal family expenses. Business spending, while part of our resolution, will not be published here. Perhaps that will be our project in 2014!
From what you can see below, we have yet to purchase any physical items this year (though considering the time of year, I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch just yet. Let’s see how we’re doing come July!) All of our expenses so far for 2013 have been food and pet/cleaning supplies, as well as a couple of Friday night dinners out in the Portage/Jefferson Park neighborhood. Just because we’ve vowed not to purchase anything new certainly does not mean that we can’t treat ourselves every now and again. Plus, it’s been a looooooong couple of weeks, so the Friday night meal out is as much therapy as it is nourishment!
The other thing I noticed is that on 6 out of 12 days, we didn’t spend one. single. dollar. So far that’s 50% of our days without a single purchase. Considering we own our own business and can stock our shop fridge with delicious homemade lunches and snacks, this knocks off a significant portion of what many young professionals might normally spend on out-of-pocket lunches. When I was on the road all day in my previous corporate life (just a few months ago!), there were very seldom any days where my card wasn’t swiped at least once for lunches, multiple trips to coffee shops, gas gas gas gas gas, etc.
Here’s a list of expenses by day with category and dollar totals. Remember from our original post, we will not be publishing itemized grocery lists, just listing it as “food.” You’re more than welcome to come over and help me clean my kitchen if you want to see what’s actually stocked inside.
January 1: Nothing
January 2: Grocery shopping
- Food: $47.38
January 3: Nothing
January 4: Local Restaurant
- Dinner for 4: $38 + tip
January 5: Nothing
January 6: Nothing
January 7: Warehouse Club Shopping
- Food: 124.23
- Gas: $55 (save 20 cents per gallon over non-club gas stations. With 2 vehicles in our family, even with our limited driving, it should more than pay for our membership this year!)
January 8: Nothing
January 9: Nothing
January 10: Doctor’s Office
- Visit $30
January 11: Local Restaurant
- Dinner for 4: $41 + tip
- I did not end up getting that haircut I blogged about… ran out of time…maybe next week
January 12 ($39.99): Grocery shopping and Walgreens
- Supplies: Cat litter and dish detergent $14.71 (We need to find a cheaper alternative to purchasing cat litter, I know…but our kitties are partial to the pine brand which is much less toxic than the clay brands, but twice the price. Additionally, while we make most of our cleaners from scratch, a good recipe for automatic dish detergent has eluded us…so I stick with the store-brand 75oz box of powder for $4.19, unless I find a sale like I did today on a major brand for 20 cents less…gotta keep your eyes open!)
- Food: $25.28
- Liam won a $5 Walgreens gift card for completing his “Book It” reading club for December. He didn’t even ask to spend it in their toy aisle, saying, “I know I’m not allowed to buy anything new, but candy doesn’t count!” $4.98 on $5 gift card, no money spent.
There it is! All of our purchases for 12 days. With some creativity these past couple of weeks we’ve managed to make ice cream, a race track, Christmas gift tags, kill our tissue habit (saving us about $100 annually), and box up all of our files from last year for FREE. So far, so good. I must admit, we haven’t felt a pinch yet in terms of feeling like we’re “doing without,” to the contrary…it’s been fun!
How many times have you swiped your card these past couple of weeks? Notice any changes from how you were living prior to the holidays? The weeks after the holidays are always the best for making big changes, and remember, like anything else, it only takes about 30 days to create a new learned behavior, and to make that behavior a habit! Good luck, keep reading, please comment when you can and thanks for making Thrift & Thrive part of your 2013!