As I have mentioned in a previous post, my husband was out of work for over a year after losing his job early last year. He was able to collect unemployment for six months, which helped us to at least pay the necessities, After that ran out, we really struggled to keep up with the rent, electric bill, cell phone bill, internet, and food on just my income and two growing teenagers in the house. We did luck out when we won a trip to the super bowl and were able to sell the tickets to the game. That helped us catch up on our rent and other bills that had fallen behind, but didn't last as long as we had hoped.
My husband finally started a new job about a month ago, but are still trying to catch up on our electric bill and get back to being able to pay our rent on time since he has only received two paychecks so far. His job is commission only so it's driving me crazy not being able to plan ahead and figure out how long it will take us to get back on track and start paying down our debt again. In his line of work, he has always been paid commission and not a regular salary so that is not new to me, but at a time like this it makes me crazy because I love to plan for the future! To make matters worse, my paycheck is now being garnished for an old debt since I have not been able to pay it during this past year. This eats up about 20% of my paycheck. On the bright side, that debt should be done after three more checks and that is one less debt and $1800 to remove from our total debt.
During this difficult time, we have really cut back on a lot of things! Most of these things I tried to do before, but my husband wouldn't have it. His philosophy on money was always "I can't take it with me". Money is one of few things we disagree on. It took me a while to convince my husband these changes were necessary, even after he lost his job. But he eventually came to his senses and realized he was being selfish and unrealistic.
We have cut expenses on many things during this last year. We never eat out, with the exception of my husband eating fast food for lunch on occasion (I'm still working on that one). We completely cancelled cable. We use my mother-in-law's Netflix account and we pay for Hulu Premium for $7.99 per month. Cancelling cable really took some convincing for my husband. I had to tell him we had no other options and it was a luxury that if we continued to keep, would cause us to become homeless. The funny part about it is after we cancelled it and subscribed to Hulu premium he said he doesn't even miss it anymore. The only thing he misses out on is some sports, but he is able to catch most things online somewhere or on basic channels. But then, as soon as he found out he got his job, the first thing he mentioned was getting cable back! No!!!! I told him "why would we add another $150 monthly bill for something you didn't even miss and won't get to enjoy much of now that you're working anyway?" He hasn't brought it up since.
I've been rolling my own cigarettes for quite a while now, which saves me $124 a month. We very rarely drink alcohol anymore, not that we drank a lot before, but we did used to go out probably at least once a month and that no longer happens at all. If we do drink, it's something we make at home and is so rare that it costs us virtually nothing. I've been making our own bread in our bread machine and we bought a Soda Stream, which saves us a little. I'm working on putting together some numbers for future posts on those although I fear we aren't saving as much as I thought we would when we bought the Soda Stream because now my son has an endless supply of soda. We never buy clothes unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, we try the thrift stores. My daughter starts a summer job next week that requires business casual attire and she really has nothing to wear so we will have to hit up some thrift shops this weekend to at least get her a few outfits for work.
The next thing I'm working on is switching our cell phone carrier from AT&T to Cricket. My husband is really against this too. I'm still trying to figure out his reasoning on this one. It makes zero sense to me to stay with AT&T when we can switch to Cricket and lower our bill from $255 per month to $100 per month (4 phones). He actually got AT&T on the phone and talked to them for over an hour trying to convince them to lower our bill to keep us with them and the best they would do is shave off $20 a month. I'll take it for now, but we're still switching! He did, however, convince them to send a new phone for my daughter without insurance and without putting it under a contract (hers broke). So right now we have two of the four phones completely out of contract so the plan is to switch those over to Cricket within the next week. That leaves us with two phones under contract with AT&T and since we don't have the extra money right now to pay the early termination fees, we will have to wait until we can come up with it. This will be first priority once our rent and electric and caught up. I've done all the research and math and we can bring all of our current phones over to Cricket and will only need to pay $25 activation fees for each one plus 1 penny for each new sim card. To start with, switching just the two of them over to Cricket will only save us about $8.44 a month. This is because of the way AT&T prices two phones verses four and Cricket offers additional discounts for each additional phone. But it's still savings. If we were able to switch all four phones now it would be worth it even with paying the early cancellation fees. If we could switch them all now, we would save $1000 in our first year with Cricket, including the early termination fees and activation fees. Every year after that, we will save $1,860.
I have to say the only things we have splurged on at all is the soda and cigarettes. I know we could save more money by cutting those out altogether, but I'm just not ready to quit smoking. I do, however, want to start drinking less soda and more water. This time of year I tend to drink more water anyway so my goal is to quit soda completely and stick to water, not only for the cost savings, but for my health too.
Does anyone else have any great saving techniques, ideas, or want to share what your weaknesses are when it comes to splurging?
Labels: frugality, middle class problems