Sunday, October 2, 2011

Living Richly On A Fixed Income-Looking After The Little Things

As I'm fairly sure anyone who has ever read this blog knows, I am not one to bemoan living on a fixed income (most of the time).  I haven't retreated to the house, given up friends and entertaining, or forgotten about traveling.  I try and live my early retirement life by doing things I enjoy and that are challenging, spontaneous even.

One of the ways I manage to do that is by remembering to mind the little things.  If you're like me, you have more than one or two of those small expenses.  These are expenses that we make simply out of habit.  Mainly I'm talking about day to day expenses here.  These tend to be the kind of expenses that one blogger calls "But it's only....." costs. Often this kind of spending is mindless-we hardly notice it at the time. That, or else we decide that it's only a small luxury, sometime to make us feel good-at least temporarily. However, savings is savings, no matter the amount.  While some may say that it makes no sense to watch the lattes (or colas), many lattes make a movie ticket.  On some level, savings is always offset by something else-be it the $60.00 cable bill or the $6.00 lunch. In my case, I would prefer that money to go towards the "something else".

Different folks have different money drains.  Mine tend to be food and books. I'm not talking dining here, rather fast food out and food waste at home.  Or my habit of grabbing magazines or books when there are perfectly good books at the library. Lately, I've been trying to make a more concerted effort to tighten the proverbial faucet. I have some improvements I want to make to my house (some small, but they do add up). Christmas is looming, along with attendant travel, celebrations and concerts.

When it comes to "food out" , two days a week I attend school from late morning to early evening. Often on a third day I am out and about for a large part of the day-it may be shopping and doing errands, sightseeing, spending the day at the zoo, or some other event. Left to my own devices the water, snacks and lunches on these days could add up to more than just pennies. I've taught myself to take a page out of my frugal travel book (the picnic lunch page).  Since I've always had a well stocked pantry, I have a small lunch bag and I pack a lunch, some extra drinks a snack and napkin and silverware (I always keep hand wipes and some crackers in my care). Simply doing this has saved me between ten and fifteen dollars on days I attend college alone.

As for "food in". This is a work in progress.  I'm an expert at shopping and eating healthily and well on a budget-the extreme coupon shopper at work.  However, I'm still not at the level I would like to be when it comes to food waste.  Even though I cook in bulk and freeze, and use many "for two" recipes, waste is still a problem.  And, with the cost of food these days, that adds up.  Some of this is because I'm still adjusting amounts. Sometimes this happens because my son or I think we have a plan instead of freezing. Sometimes things still get lost in the fridge.  So I've been much more careful-if I don't think something will be used right away I freeze it, and I encourage both son and myself to eat leftovers for lunches and snacks.  Another small savings that will add up.

Lastly, in order to keep my budget under control, I've put my kindle aside except for travel and a few other occasions. Yes, I know, many will sing praises of the kindle. In some places you can download books from the library, there are free books, and so on. However, a great majority of my reading is current mystery or non fiction (John Sanford, Michael Connelly, current craft books).  Often these things can be upwards of ten dollars even on a Kindle. Not bad perhaps, but at my library they are free. I can reserve them well in advance of publication and read them almost as soon as they come out.  I do reserve my kindle for somethings-if I can get a textbook at a reasonable price I do so even if I cannot resell it, for example (just because of the weight factor). But other than for study and travel, I've removed the buy it now option and put my kindle aside for day to day reading.

What about you-do you have small leaks that can be plugged here and there go get you better financial results?  If not, you may be able to  make substitutions-something I'll talk about soon.


  1. I always write down what I buy and the amount-then I can see where I'm foolish. My basic expenses are really low-but I did spend $45.00 last month on lottery tickets. It was unusual that I actually won $48.00-most of the time I win nothing. This is the only gambling that I do and I'm spending $16.00 less than I did previously by eliminating one game. I don't think I would notice the amount without keeping a record.
    I do think that everyone should have some mad money and as long as it's not hurting me-a little madness is allowed.
    It is just good to be aware exactly how much money you have, what your fixed expenses are, and what you can spend on fun.
    Also, when I worked I always brought my lunch and snacks-that was a major savings and I never felt deprived.

  2. this past year I"ve sprung a lot of leaks I thought I had plugged- mainly from emotional spending. some are worth it I thinkb ut wouldnt' be if I didn't have a job or if I knew I would lose my job in 'x' number of months so I need to get a grip. Books and fabric are my weaknesses as well as eating out sometimes. I've also taken on the expense of paying for my friend's kid's mother's day out so he can socialize and learn with other kids(he's smart but used to one on one with his mom and not in a group environment. I also wanted her to attend a quilt retreat with me and paid for that as well. I've never done this kind of thing with $ and am struggling not to be resentful and to consider it a gift. resentment rears its head when I see her with packs of cigarettes and small amounts of alcohol and think all that added up would pay for the school...I offered to pay for her and her hubby to attend a dave ramsey course 10 miles away but she wasn't interested. But I'm doing the school for the little guy hoping it'll make a difference in his life for the better but need to plug the heck out of the other expenses I keep having becaue of him(I have trouble resisting kid books and wii games and educational stuff for the little guy!)
    I've also startd letting food go to waste instead of eating it up - opting for a drive-thru instead of planning ahead at home. January we got to a different 12 hr rotating shift and I need to get organized since I won't have as many days off each week - they'll be mostly all together the 4th week-and each rotation will flip to the opposite...I need a plan big-time!


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