The following guest post is from one of my good friends and fellow debt freedom fanatic, Mrs. Picky Pincher. In this post she describes what her and her husband do when they think they can't trim their budget anymore. I can definitely relate to their story in how I scour over my budget looking for a few more pennies to trim, and I already feel nickeled and dimed with all my expenses.
Bio: Mrs. Picky Pincher is the blogger and savings-crazed mastermind at Picky Pinchers. She’s on a journey to pay off $225,000 of debt while living the good life.
In the summer of 2015 my husband and I started our debt-freedom journey. We had credit card debt ($14,000), car loans ($45,000), and student loans ($65,000). We were up to our eyeballs in debt payments each month. We couldn’t save for retirement and the thought of a house down payment was hilarious.We had great income, but still had zero funds at the end of each month.
After reading great money blogs like Three Thrifty Guys, we adjusted our lifestyle. Instead of cursing the bill collectors, I scoured our expenses.
Over the course of a year we cut a ridiculous amount of expenses. We got rid of a car payment, got cheap cell service, rented movies from the library, and halved our grocery expenses. It took a lot of work and crying over pints of ice cream (true story), but we saved an extra $2,000 a month with these small changes.
Now we’re paying off our $65,000 student loans to be debt-free. This wouldn't have been possible without cutting our silly extra expenses. Ahhhh.
Needless to say, I’m all about cutting costs nowadays. As a natural-born tightwad, I hate parting ways with my carefully-pinched pennies.
But Mr. Picky Pincher and I recently fell into a frugal lull after the holidays.
“There’s nothing left to cut.”
I’ll be honest. Mr. Picky Pincher and I don’t like our jobs. After the holidays, it was obvious that we’d both rather swim with piranhas than go back to work.
I hmm’d and haaa’d over a little plan in my Picky brain. What if we could cut expenses even further so Mr. Picky Pincher could quit his job? Mr. Picky Pincher thought it was a silly idea, and maybe it was, but I asked him to look at the math.
We poured over our budget sheets from the last year. He sighed and said, “Honey, there’s nothing we can possibly cut.”
At the time I thought he was right. Every dollar in our budget served a purpose. We streamlined every little expense and eliminated anything unnecessary. It looked like trying to cut blood from a stone.
I felt defeated, but agreed that it didn’t make sense for either of us to quit our jobs while paying off debt.
I signed up for the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Challenge back in January. The challenge was particularly helpful in pulling Mr. Picky Pincher and I out of our savings funk. The cogs in our dusty, Picky minds finally started moving.
I mulled over the “What ifs?” What if we only owned one car? What if we stopped drinking altogether? (I asked Mr. Picky Pincher this and he leered at me over his bottle of IPA craft beer). What if we had a buy-nothing-new year?
I questioned everything.
Most of these ideas made us feel deprived—Mr. Picky Pincher would riot if we had a dry house! Other ideas weren't practical; we couldn't have one car while we work different schedules on opposite sides of town.
At the end of a mega brainstorming session, the unthinkable happened: we found things to cut. Here’s how we managed to cut our “uncuttable” expenses.
- The beer budget: Aha! I knew we could tackle alcohol expenses! I’m not a big drinker, but Mr. Picky Pincher adores craft beer. He crunched the numbers and realized with a toothy grin that he could save money by making his own beer. I thought it sounded crazy, but after a month in, he’s made 5 gallons of cheap ale to sip on. It did require an upfront cost to buy the kits and equipment, but over time this will cut our $200/mo beer expense to just $60.
- Food: We used to spend $1,000/mo on groceries before our money-saving journey. We finally had our food costs down to $3 per meal and figured it couldn’t get better than that. We’re very Picky eaters, which means we can’t eat rice and beans for every meal without a mutiny. We figured $3 per meal was very affordable. But wait! We began cooking pre-made meals and freezing them. Batch cooking enabled us to have a stash of healthy, fast, and cheap meals in a flash. That meant we were less tempted to eat out, which meant even more savings. At the end of the month we’d cut our $3 per meal cost in half!
- Entertainment: We paid $25 a month for Sling TV. I’m addicted to the Food Network, so it seemed like a cheap way to get my Beat Bobby Flay fix (say that ten times fast). But we realized that meant we paid $25 a month just to watch Food Network. And we had to watch commercials, which really sucked. After a mourning period over missing Kids Baking Championship, we switched to Netflix. We now pay $9 a month for entertainment instead of $25. That’s an annual savings of $192. Woohoo!
- Phone plans: We switched to Google Fi during our debt overhaul. Our combined phone bill cost anywhere from $50 to $70 a month, depending on our data use. I figured cell phones wouldn’t get cheaper, so I was pretty happy with this cost. After digging around, I realized we could score a $5 discount each month by combining our accounts. We combined, which meant easier bill tracking and an annual savings of $60.
The bottom line
Humans don’t need much to live and be happy. The extra trappings of convenience that we know and love, like fancy cars and daily lattes, put us in self-contained financial prisons. Even if you’ve cut costs, there’s a good chance you can cut even more. All it takes is an open mind and the ability to question everything.
We want to know: What expenses have you recently cut?
I took an old chest freezer and created a very good kegerator. Now I buy kegs, which translate to about $1 / pint, rather than $2+. If you don’t have the time or patience for home-brewing, this is another great way to give your beer budget a haircut.
Great post! I can relate re: the beer budget. My husband is also an IPA lover (who am I kidding, so am I!) and home brewer, but he broke his ankle last fall and stopped brewing for a while. Our liquor bill went up significantly, so I’m pleased he’s back on his feet (literally) and brewing again! Interesting about Sling TV — I didn’t realize it came with commercials. Good to know!