1. Use your last three months' worth of bills, bank statements, and credit card to come up with a monthly average for each expense. If you spent $50 on PBR in January, $40 on PBR in February, and $30 on PBR in March, then your average monthly PBR expense is $40. Write all of that down on a list. All of it.
2. Add up everything on your list. Divide the amount of money you have in savings and/or can reasonably expect to have rolling in by the total. At this point, you will probably note that you cannot afford to continue your current lifestyle, at least until your book deal/TV show/monkey sky-diving business comes through/takes off. It's OK to cry a little at this point, but then you have to stop.
3. Next, go through your list of expenses, and cross off any that are not necessities. That includes watching cable, eating out, going to bars, buying clothes, buying books, buying housewares, or really buying anything at all except food. Yes, dead serious. Do it.
What remains are your "fixed" expenses - bills, groceries, etc. Except, TFH thinks these expenses can also be fixed. As in, made lower. As follows:
- See how many days you can go without turning on the heat/AC. When you must, don't put the heat above 64, and don't put the AC below 74. When you leave the house or go to bed, make it appropriately colder/hotter. You will get used to it, The Frugal Hostess assures you.
- Follow the sun around your house so you can avoid turning on the lights. Change your lightbulbs to CFLs, even if the incandescent bulbs are still burning. (The amount you save over time with the CFLs far exceeds the waste of a few days worth of traditional bulb). Once you've made the switch, don't turn on the lights. Also, unplug every appliance that you aren't using - toaster, espresso machine, cell phone charger, etc. Hang your clothes to dry (or, as many as will fit in the shower if you don't have a line).
- Wash and reuse plastic bags and aluminum foil. Bonus points if you mutter unintelligible things like, "In my day..." or "See here, sonny." Never buy another paper towel; use tee-shirt rags instead. Don't buy anything except white vinegar for cleaning. Use any wretched plastic grocery bags you have for trash and cat litter disposal. Under no circumstances should the word "disposable" be found on anything in your grocery cart.
- Only meet clients and business contacts for coffee (never lunch or, heaven forbid, drinks). Or have them to your house for coffee, if you're close enough. Email presentations in advance of meetings and only bring one printed copy. Keep a box under your desk for paper that has only been printed on one side. Take every free pen you are offered, ditto with post-its, etc. Never throw away a paper clip.
- Call every company you deal with, from car insurance to wifi, and ask for a better deal. You have to do this, even if you are embarrassed. It will work on some of them. Go through all of your junk drawers and handbags and put every gift card or 20% offer you have in one place, hopefully close to your keys. Get in the habit of checking that place every time you leave the house, so you don't spend money when you don't have to.
- Stop buying any prepared foods, frozen meals, or individually portioned items. Stay away from convenience items like pre-shredded cheese or baby carrots. For about $3, you can buy a bag each of rice, barley, split peas, and lentils. Do so. (But do not buy cheap meat. Just don't eat meat if you can't afford decent, humane meat.)
- Read one of FruHo's favorite blogs, Save Money You Cheapskate. You'll laugh, you'll cry from laughing, and you'll laugh again.
OK, what did The Frugal Hostess miss? What else can Ghostwriter do to save money until her DPs subside?
Photo by WordRidden
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