Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Saving money. Stretching the budget. Doing more with less. Recession. Unemployment. It doesn’t matter what you call it, more people are learning how to live with less money. It’s what everyone is talking about. In ways, my husband and I are lucky. We haven’t ever made enough money to do a lot of investing in the stock market, so when it plummeted, we weren’t affected. We don’t have full-time jobs to lose, so when the layoffs and business closures started happening, we weren’t worried about getting pink slips. In fact, the recession has had very little impact on us, because we’d already made the decision to live frugally, spend more wisely, and focus on experiences, not stuff.

I guess that’s why every time I read one of those “how to trim your monthly budget by $XXX” type articles, I get the giggles. The last one I read suggested the following:

  • Only get your nails filed once a month. Savings: $25
  • Only go to the hair salon every two months. Savings: $140
  • Cut out the daily latte and get regular coffee instead. Savings: $120

Right about there is where I normally start giggling uncontrollably. These suggestions and most others are so meaningless to me. We do haircuts at home, all of us. We make our own coffee. The last time I got my nails done in a salon, it was for my wedding, and they were torn off before we were two days into the honeymoon.

I can’t be the only person who chooses to live frugally, can I?

When I wanted to cut my monthly budget so that I could work a few hours less each week and be with my kids more, here’s what I did:

  • Cancel cable. Savings: $80 per month. While we do spend some of that buying used DVDs of the kids’ favorite shows and movies, we have a subscription to Netflix for $7.99 a month that keeps us entertained very inexpensively.
  • Cancel the landline. Savings: $40. The only people who ever called our landline were sales people, so there was nothing missed there. While we do use cell phones, both of us work in areas that require us to have relatively immediate access to Internet, email, and phone, so it is a justified – and expensable – cost.
  • Cook at home instead of eating out twice a week. Savings: $60-80. Not only are we saving a ton of money by making trips to restaurants something we only do for celebrations and occasional treats, but we are eating so much healthier.
  • 24-hour delay before buying anything big. We get tempted, to be sure…but before we make a big purchase, we force ourselves to walk away and think about it. So far, we’ve passed up a $2000 TV, a $350 porch swing, and several other indulgences that we don’t notice not having.
  • Shop thrift stores. Especially for our kids clothing, we try to shop as much as possible at thrift stores. The boys are easy: t-shirts and sport pants are all they want, anyway, and I can completely outfit them for less than the cost of one department store outfit. Anika loves having LOTS of outfits to choose from, and with careful shopping, she often ends up with the same brand-name clothes all of her friends are wearing, for $2.99 instead of $29.99 per item.

Do you have a suggestion for saving money? How has the recession impacted your family? How have your spending habits changed in the last year?