Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If you ain't got no money...join the club.

Money. Who has it? These days it seems like no one has a lot of spare cash on hand. Although I have a fairly steady job at the moment, I still don't have a lot of spending money due to some unexpected car repairs and the every day expenses of being a homeowner in Connecticut.

Noe and I have been discussing ways to save money recently. To some, I'm sure it's pretty obvious how I could build up a cash reserve: Stop buying wine and going to that damn restaurant every week. But I'm not willing to do that. For one thing, I have become much more responsible in my wine buying. I generally only buy things that I taste on Friday nights, ensuring that I do in fact like what I am purchasing and am not gambling on chance. Also, I have quit buying $6.99 Australian Chardonnay just for the sake of having wine in the house. I am buying more expensive wine than I used to buy, BUT I am buying overall less wine and only wine that I really enjoy drinking, so the cost equals out.

As for restaurants, well, that's my luxury spending. Once again, I am spending less, but I have evaluated the situation and realize I can't give it up all together.

Noe and I also face another problem in the fact that we have expensive hobbies. Tennis, skiing, indoor soccer, and kickboxing add up, even after the initial equipment expense.

So what are we doing to cut costs?

For starters, we evaluated our driving/parking habits. I work 2.5 miles from our house - not a huge expense, fuel-wise. However, I have to pay for parking. Parking in the garage attached to my building costs $55 a month. To be fair, some of this is subsidized by my employer. But what about the part that isn't? And what if that benefit gets taken away eventually?

Noe and I decided that starting in December, I will give up my parking pass. The deal is I will find my own way to work - run, bike, or in the event it is truly freezing, go in early when he leaves - and Noe will pick me up at the end of the day (I can't run/bike home because it gets dark at four freakin' thirty out here). This will not cost Noe any extra gas because he goes by downtown on his way home anyway, and should save a little gas money/wear and tear on my car in addition to the parking money.

Second, I have decided to open what my bank calls a "Keep the Change" account. Those who know me personally know that I use very little cash - I have my checks direct-deposited and use my check card for the majority of my purchases. My bank - Bank of America - offers a unique option to people like me who rely heavily on check cards: open a savings account, and every time you make a check card purchase BOA will round up to the next dollar and put that change in the savings account. For example, I buy a cup of coffee that costs $2. 45. Bank of America rounds that to $3.00 and puts $0.65 in my savings account. How does this save money, you ask? Because Bank of America matches contributions 100% for three months and then at a (much) smaller percentage after that. I round up in my check book anyway so I am never dealing with change and always have a little "cushion." I am trading my cushion for free money. Not a lot of free money, but free money nonetheless. This is like lesson number one from Suze Orman - never turn down free money!

As part of the whole "not turning down free money" thing, I started contributing a percentage of my paycheck to my company's 401K program. Why? Because my company offers a match. Giving up that small percentage now will ultimately be worth it because I am making more money in the long run.

We've also taken to looking at Craig's List and Noe's work classifieds for furniture and household bargains. I actually scored a $300 KitchenAid mixer - which I have been wanting forever - for $70! And we went to look at some bedroom furniture (headboard and bed frame) that Noe found that was the same style as a dresser we had already purchased. It ended up being the wrong color, but we are still continuing to scour these sources because you never know when you might find a really good deal.

And as far as personal sacrifice goes, well, I did give up one thing - buying coffee. I only drink work coffee now. No more Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Muddy Waters except for the occasional treat. When it came right down to it, I'd rather have a $12 or $14 bottle of wine than three or four cups of coffee shop coffee every week.

Obviously, the big gamble with the potentially big pay off here is the parking. I'll let you know how it goes and meanwhile, good luck finding creative ways to cut costs in your everyday lives!


Scott said...

The Bank of America thing still seems bogus to me--maybe you'll get $20 over the next three months. But the 401K is the huge thing. Buy some stocks while they're cheap, get Job Target to buy you some more, and be rich when you're old. Not a bad way to make some money.

I'll buy you a drink on Thursday. :)

Amy W. said...

$20 over the next three months is still better than me just using my check card all the time and getting nothing...I am not delusional that I will make a ton of money, but for someone like me who uses their card for everything I do stand to gain some :)

Scott said...

Right you are--that's at least a nice bottle of wine right there, courtesy of Bank of America!

I guess I am just sore because I thought it was somehow free money, which it really ceases to be after the introductory period (easy to fool old Scotty, I know).

Alison said...

When I took my current job I was faced with a big pay cut (totally worth it, trust me), so Brad and I had to find some major ways to save. It ended up coming in the form of restaurants! We used to eat out 4-5 nights a week, and I used to buy my lunch all the time. Now I only buy my lunch on special occasions (such as lunch dates with coworkers) and we only eat out once a week. But similar to your wine purchases, we now eat at a nice place that we look forward to all week, rather than a "what the hell, I'm hungry, let's go to Old Town." Believe it or not, it's worked, and we've been able to save a ton of money.