Like everyone else, I'm worried about the economy and what it may mean to my job and personal finances. Six months ago I was in a much better position financially, but this disability leave pretty much killed my savings. It's a scary place to be- not well, in serious jeopardy of having my job eliminated, and no savings to fall back on. So I've decided to join the frugality movement.
My first step was to start following the money saving discussions on Ravelry. There are some surprisingly lively ones. Some of the suggestions (get rid of your car!) just aren't for me. Some of them (cook more from scratch!) I'm already trying to do. But there are a few things I'm considering.
1. Get rid of Netflix. Yes, I know I love Netflix. But as I ease my way back into a normal work schedule I have a lot less time to watch TV. Tivo commonly records two shows at a time, and sometimes it takes me more than a week to get around to watching something. In the summer, when scripted shows go on hiatus and it's reality programming 24/7, I can consider starting up again. But for right now, I'm not getting enough value out of the membership.
2. Get rid of a gym membership. I have been unforgivably lazy about this. I have a 24 Hour Fitness membership, and I literally haven't used it in years. I figure I've wasted at least a thousand dollars on this thing. It's time to go.
3. The library. The Houston library has an excellent selection, and I can reserve books online and pick them up at my local branch. It's like Amazon, except free! My taxes, and late fees, pay for this service, so why not use it? I received a couple of gift certificates for Christmas, and I'll use those for anything I absolutely must have. (Sarah Addison Allen's next book is due out this spring!) Once the gc's are gone, I won't be buying books for a while.
4. Unplug. I've heard this advice for years- unplug all appliances and chargers when not in use. I have a friend who goes so far as to trip the breakers before she leaves her apartment every day. I'm not prepared to go that far. If nothing else, I don't relish resetting all the clocks every day. But I do have my computer, TV, DVD player and VCR on power cords that I switch off when not in use. I just started this over the weekend, so I have no idea what kind of effect it will have on my electric bill. But I'm willing to give it a try.
5. Adjust the thermostat. This is one I've always done when I leave the house. Turn the temperature up in the summer and down in the winter if I'm going to be out. I've also tried to use the heat as little as possible this winter. I have hand knit socks to keep my feet warm and a cat to keep my lap warm. I'd rather throw on a sweatshirt and keep it a little cooler in here. I don't like sleeping with the ceiling fan on, but this summer I may try an oscillating fan in the evenings before bed.
6. A price book. This one is going to take some work. There are two grocery stores, a Super Walmart and a Super Target all within a couple miles of my apartment. I'm going to start tracking prices at all four places so that I can buy things for the best price possible. I've been working on a list of items I buy regularly, and I'm a little surprised at how long it is. Some of it is stuff I buy almost every week- milk, apples, lettuce. Some of it I only buy a couple of times a year- shampoo, toothpaste. I figure it will take a little while to recognize when something is a particularly good deal. But once I have a better idea of what the really good prices are, and get in a good rotation so that I can only hit one or two stores a week, hopefully I'll be able to shave some money off the monthly food and sundries bill.
My goal, because when you start a plan like this I think it's important to have a way to measure your success, is to put at least $5,000 back into my savings account between now and the end of the year. I'd love for that number to be $10,000, but I think five is more realistic. If anyone has any great money saving tips, I'd love to hear them. I believe my goal is achievable, but it's going to take some work and creativity to get there.