Friday, July 18, 2008

Changing spending habits to save money

I was a bit depressed when I looked at our semi-yearly money spend.

Mrs. MOW and I discussed it and came to a few conclusions (or at least I hope she shared mine):

1. Until 2nd house is actually sold, we have to live within the economic constraints it places on us; that means we can't spend $11,000 on vacations, $1,000 on weekend shopping, etc....

2. We may have to adjust our Costco habit; reduce trips to two times per month. Find alternative low price shopping locations for groceries. Do we need to spend $7.00 on strawberries or grapes? We may restrict Costco to dry goods, instead.

3. Accelerate our search for an SUV replacement - we're eyeing the honda civic hybrid but need to road test it. The thought of not using high test fuel is a big plus in and of itself. My thoughts are that we could save $200 on the lease amount plus another $100+ per month on fuel. We'll have to see what the lease surrender charges are on the SUV and factor them in. At the very least, we should investigate my wife's business travel reimbursement options.

4. New goal: constrain weekend spending to $300;
traditionally I've budgetted $80 for weekend entertainment, $80 for dining out, $20 for movies and $300 for groceries. I'm trying to compress it all into $300 - we'll see what happens. My thesis is that most money is spent on the weekends. If we can work together to avoid spending more than $300, we may not have time to do so during the week.

5. Groceries - we've been spending $1,800 a month on groceries. Mostly at Costco. I am a bit concerned that non-grocery items have been added in, but i usually try to pull them out into distinct categories. We'll see how this works. Costco avoidance may also help. There are a number of hispanic groceries in the region that have a delicious variety of vegetables and fruits and may be priced more aggressively than Costco. Though usually Costco is amazing on bananas at $0.29 per pound.

6. Vacations - no major ones planned the rest of the year, but the $11k in damage has already been done. I think we'll investigate camping alot more - it's quite a bit cheaper.

7. HVAC - I've raised the household temperature to 76 degrees all day. This is close to the maximum I think we can tolerate - but perhaps after a few weeks, we can go a degree higher? We'll see. I wonder how much impact this will have.

Questions and thoughts:

1. I have 3 refrigerators. None of them are very new - say 5-10 years old each. I wonder what they are costing me to operation? Does location matter? One is in the garage, the other in the basement and the third in the kitchen.

2. Should ceiling fans be running if someone is not in the room?

3. I have fairly high end single pane Pella windows. I've always read that replacement cost is very hard to recover. Will it make a big difference?

4. More compact flourescent lights - I have several light fixtures that are on for at least 4 hours a day - all use 40 watt flame tip candles. I remember seeing somewhere - but don't remember where - CF versions. Most websites offer 20,000 hour bulbs at $11 per bulb. That seems very expensive to me - but they are usually dimmable. Somewhere I saw flame tips for $5. At this point I think they're worht getting. Costco doesn't carry them yet, which is a shame. An uniformed oppinion postulated within a year.

5. Rent the second house - paper work is already done - now I'm waiting for a customer.

6. Consider quiting the local Y - I'm paying about $130 a month and not using it - however, I might once school season begins - tough choices - can i let it lapse? Then again I am using the personal trainer - is that included?

7. Reconsider cancelling an old 20 year term life insurance policy. It only costs $65 per month, but it's redundant with the policies we put into our ILIT's.

8. Consider cancelling our legacy vonage lines $42 a month - now only used to forward to our home and mobile. Possibly cancel only 1 on them - still $21 back per month.

9. I think we have to stop buying big ticket event items - we don't do it often, but it's $200 - $300 each time.

Regards, makingourway


Jill said...

Just an outsiders view...if you eat everything you buy from Costco, the price is good. If you waste it, then yes you're wasting money. For $1800/month on groceries, you should be able to feed a family of a dozen or so.

If the life insurance is redundant, cancel it. If it's needed if you pass, keep it.

Forwarded phone lines seem like a waste, just communicate your new number and cancel.

Ceiling fans create a "wind chill" effect in the summer so they are useful only if in the room.

Home Depot carries flame tip candelabra CFLs for about $6.50 a piece. That should take 3 months to recoup the cost.

On cars, replacing anything will be expensive. What about rearranging so the most fuel efficient car is driven most?

If you don't use the Y, cancel. You can always re-join if you are going to use it enough to justify the $130/month cost. Play with your kids instead -- that's great exercise!

Seems like there is tons of room for improvement. $130 from Y membership, $100 on gas (just combining trips, focusing on staying in, driving most fuel efficient car), $400 from reduced weekend spending, $500 from less waste on groceries, and $100 from life insurance and Vonage cancellation. That's $1200 a month.

Focus, you can do it...

Wayne said...

Good to see you're reviewing your expenses. Some observations on some of the points you made,
1) 11k for vacation and 1k on weekend spending???? Even if your house is sold, why spend so much?
2) you spend alot of money on groceries at Costco? Do you really eat that much or is it wasted? Why so many trips?
4) Again, lots of spending on weekends? Why? you spend so much on groceries, why go out to eat and not just prepare your food?

Thoughts section
6) for the local Y, can you suspend membership fee? Some gyms will be able to do that. If you cancel, will you need to start over and re-apply and pay any initiation fee (which I have never understood what it is for)
7) really think about canceling the policy. Do you have enough at work and also outside of work? Think about cost if by chance you needed at your current age. It would be higher than what you are paying for it now.
8) since you have cell phones, reduce the other phone will work