Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's The Little Things ...

... that add up where you least expect them to.

When I was first laid off, people would tell me to think of all the money I'd save on office clothes, transit passes, work lunches, and so on.  Those savings sounded pretty good, until I did some mental math (never an easy thing for me).

First of all, as soon as my severance ran out and EI kicked in, my income would be about 40-45 % of what it had been.  You'd better believe I nursed that severance money as far as I possibly could!

Office clothes?  That would be my once-a-year under-$100 binge at the thrift stores and fabric clearance outlet (where I mostly picked through the remnant barrels at 99 cents a yard).  But I am saving money in an unexpected area  -  I'm only doing about a third of the laundry I did when I was working, since there's no dress code at home and the cats don't care if I live in sweats and pajamas.

Transit passes, yes, a savings of $136.  Plus I do much less driving, except when the weather is extremely nasty, since I now have time to do my errands on foot.

Work lunches?  Well, no, since I always took a lunch from home.  Yes, every single day.  Usually "planned" leftovers.  So I'm still eating lunch, I'm just not carrying it around first.  And really, how much money am I saving by washing one or two fewer plastic containers a day?

The real surprise? The list of things I found I was spending MORE on:

Coffee, and milk to put in it.  I got spoiled at work; coffee and fixings were provided by my employer, and I do love my coffee ... so I got into the habit of drinking it all day.  Now that I'm paying for it, I'm trying to cut back.

The gas and electric bills.  It actually took me a while to figure that one out; being home all day meant that I was on the computer more, had heat and lights on all day through the winter, was watching more tv, was opening the fridge a lot more often, the coffeemaker was on all day ... hmmm.  The computer  -  I'm still on it half the day, mostly doing my daily job search.  The lights  -  I try not to turn them on until I start tripping over things.  The heat  -  I dug into my yarn stash and started knitting afghans, sweaters and house socks, got a couple of pairs of thick warm fleece sweat pants from the thrift store, and turned the heat down.  And I now turn the coffeemaker off as soon as it's done brewing, and nuke one cup at a time.  I'm hoping the savings there will offset the cost of running the sewing machine for hours a day when I start making things to sell at this winter's craft fairs.

Toilet paper.  Another "well, duh ..." moment.  Cutting down on the coffee might have a small effect there ... and cutting out stress would have a big effect, once I find a way to do that ... stress is my worst trigger for an IBS flareup.  A lot of the stress, naturally, has to do with money.  And a lot had to do with my Mom's health issues, which are gradually being dealt with and resolved, thank the Goddess.

Cigarettes.  I no longer have to wait for my official break time to have a smoke.  It's time to quit  -  but that's a whole different blog post, eventually.

Fresh fruit.  I'm buying more of it now, since I no longer worry about whether it will still be fit to eat after banging around in my lunch bag for hours.  But canning season is coming up, so if I can find a cheap source for peaches and pears, along with my garden's apples, plums, and rhubarb, I'll be able to eat fruit from my pantry all winter.

Looking back at the few weeks immediately after the layoff, I did a few things which in retrospect were actually pretty smart.

I did NOT assume it would be easy to find another job, and started looking for ways to cut expenses right away.

I immediately made it known to the entire extended family that I was unemployed and would not be able to do the usual birthday or Christmas gift exchanges; there would be cards for birthdays, and I would be making Christmas gifts, not buying them.

I cleaned out my desk on a Monday.

On Tuesday I filed my EI claim, and then spent the entire day on-line just bookmarking every single job search resource I could find  -  job boards, employment resource offices, temp / staffing agencies, every company in my field with a "careers" section on their website, you name it.

On Wednesday I bought the biggest fold-up shopping cart (aka Bag Lady cart) I could find.  It cost me $35, which is how much gas I would have put in the car that month to do all the shopping and other errands if I hadn't had the cart to walk with; investment recouped in less than four weeks.  The additional exercise I get can't be bad for me, either!

On Thursday I bought a slow cooker to replace one that died years ago.  Soups, stews, and casseroles can be nutritious, tasty, filling, and frugal.

On Friday I started my version of a grocery price book; it's a spreadsheet I check before and after every shopping trip, at the same time that I'm making the shopping list from the sale flyers, checking my coupons, and checking the freezer & pantry inventory (which was also started then).

 Maybe those are things I should have been doing all along.  Next post,  I'll be looking at frugal things I've always done, and ways  -  if any  -  I can improve them.

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