Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Small Changes, Big Savings

When I first made the resolution to cut on grocery, electricity and telephone bills, it didn't come easy. I've never been a big spender, but I was used to just grab whatever brand we usually bought, without comparing prices or looking for specials. Whenever I felt hot or cold, I turned on the air conditioner. Whenever I had a free hour, I picked up the phone.
I knew I wanted to change this; but calculating all the time, looking for a cheaper brand, stretching or just doing without – it was all so frustrating; I mean, come on, it's pennies we're talking about – does it really matter?
… Until I sat down with a calculator and saw how much we can save – or spend - in a year. I started with small things that were easier to calculate (we all know how much we spend on a cup of coffee, but it's much more difficult to estimate the cost of our average phone call!). I counted snacks I bought outside once or twice a week while waiting for the bus, expensive brands of shampoo, convenient small packages we bought once a week instead of buying a jumbo package once a month.
Guess what, before I was even close to the end, I realized we're talking about thousands of dollars here! Thousands of dollars that could be added to our family budget, but instead were lost in the "Where Did All the Money Go?" grey zone.
Did I say I was not a big spender? Well, I didn't go out as often as some of my friends did, and my clothes were usually not very expensive. But when I think of the money we're saving now, I realize we've been horribly unwise.
When you think of making a change that might save you money, but then discard it as small and insignificant, I encourage you to think of how much you could save IN A YEAR. Take something you buy on a regular basis; could you get it cheaper? Even slightly cheaper? Think it's not worth the effort? Count what you could save in a year, making even just this one small change. Does it still seem insignificant? Think what you could do with that sum. Maybe you could buy a present for a loved one, or give to charity, or save. I'm almost certain you could find better uses for that money!
I'm a big yogurt-lover. Instead of buying sweet yogurt with fruit, I switched to plain unsweetened yogurt; when I feel like it, I can add honey, fruit or homemade granola. This ALONE saves about a 100 dollars (!) a year. I can find a thousand better uses for an extra 100 dollars a year!
Our battle with the "Where Did All the Money Go?" monster is endless and draining. It requires a lot of endurance. Often we are tempted to submit to convenience instead of thriftiness, and think it doesn't really matter. Calculating what it will all add up to in one year has been a great motivator for me. Waiting to hear about your motivators. :)


Jordin said...

You're so right. I've always lived with my very wealthy parents, but after Matt and I get married, we'll be living on about 1600 dollars a month. Hmm. Talk about motivation to become A LOT more frugal! I've really had to do some changing! ;)

Thanks for this, Anna!

Ashley said...

Hi Anna,
I have been reading through your blog, and like your posts. I especially like this one. I am trying to cut costs here and there also. I stay home to raise my 2 year old son, while my husband works, and we are living on one income, which these days gets harder and harder to do. I have been budgeting, and trying to buy bulk in things we must have, it seems its much cheaper that way.

I will definitely be over to visit again, I think that you have wonderful things to say in your blog!


Anna S said...

Thank you, Jordin and Ashley!

Ashley - have you and your husband been living on one income from the start? If yes, did you plan for it and budgeted since before you were married?

Jordin said...

Just to let you know, I've chosen you as one of the bloggers that makes me think! You can see my blog for details. (If this isn't your kind of thing, please don't feel obligated to participate!) :)

Ashley said...

Yes, we have lived on one income since we were married, but we started out with him being in the Marine corps. He lived 3 hours away, and I still lived with my parents. We didn't really live together until he got out and we rented my grandmothers house.

We knew before we were married that we wanted me to stay home and raise our children. And that he would provide. But the IT job that he has right now hasn't been reliable in always paying us on time, or the correct amount.

I pay the bills and do the budgeting, but with the unreliable paychecks it makes it hard. But god blessed us with a promotion, so hopefully this will straighten out the pay situation. Austin is also still in diapers, those aren't cheap either... lol.

Any tips that you might have would be wonderful, I mean other than the ones mentioned in your post :)

Sorry for writing a book. I promise my comments aren't normally this long.


Tracy said...

I'm sure that you are such a blessing to your family, and this *practice* may bless a future husband, Lord willing.

I look for small savings as well. We were buying eggs from a family at church for awhile. While I loved supporting them in their business, the eggs were $1.25 a dozen. I could buy them at a local discount grocery for $.59. When I calculated the savings it added up to $120 a year! I had to lovingly explain that I could no longer afford the eggs from them, and while I felt badly about this, I knew that this much money would help us tremendously! There are so many other examples that I could share, but the point is, yes, little things do make a HUGE difference!

Mrs.B. said...

Wow, this is a great post! I'm afraid I'm more wasteful at times than I wish I were. Maybe I should start writing more things down.

I found your blog from Jordin's. (o:


Emily said...

Great post Anna! Really challenging and inspiring. I have been meaning to sort out my finances and set a budget for myself for a while now! I just never seem to be able to find a free moment to do it. Perhaps I will make time this evening.

In the meantime, I have been using some great tips from Crystal at Biblical Womanhood with regards to grocery shopping. I am trying to plan my meals around what is on sale that week, as well as making my own things from scratch, and already it is helping a lot.

Thanks for motivating me to get onto my finances!

In His care,


Anna S said...

Jordin - thank you! Will check out your blog in a minute.

Ashley - thank you for your comment! Regarding budgeting, saving etc - I almost never run out of thoughts and ideas on this one. I hope to post more about this soon.

Tracy - your example with eggs is just what I was trying to say. I'm sure not many of us would just give away hundreds of dollars that could be used in much better ways, but somehow overspending just a bit every day/week doesn't seem as painful, even though the consequences are more or less the same...

Mrs. B - thank you for visiting, hope to see you around again soon!

Emily - I also love Crystal's blog and read it every day for advice and inspiration. I learned loads from Crystal! I should send her a thank-you email one of these days.