Monday, January 18, 2021

Mindful Changes

2020 was a tough year for the toy industry, I could tell early on that business was slowing down for the toy company I work for, international clients were closed for large portions of the year, new development pushed out to 2022, it didn't take a genius to see the writing on the wall.  We redid our personal budget in April and saved as much as we could possibly save while reducing our spending in every single category in anticipation of a salary cut.

In November 2020, I received notice that my salary would be reduced 30%, we were already living well below that number so we felt prepared to weather the storm.  I was advised to expect this to last for at least a year.  While it's hard to give up that much salary which means no savings for IRA's and less savings, I've gained an extra day off per week.  At first I wanted to make up the difference by finding other work, but in November my mom got sick with Covid, and while she did recover, she's still regaining her strength.  I found myself less motivated to find replacement work and used my day off to help her with errands and to work with the kids on their at home lessons while also getting all of us ready for Christmas.

This year I've been reading multiple financial books to see if I've missed any possible detail in our number crunching and I'm pleased to say we've done quite well.  I've been reading Frugalwoods and signed up for her January spending challenge, so far I haven't read anything new but I do find it inspiring to be reminded every day on saving money.

I think we're down to what I'd like to call "mindful changes" which are:
  • Working with the light off in front of a window that provides adequate light - I'm a total light hog, I don't like dark rooms, I turn the light on to walk down the hallway, etc.  Today I'm working with the light off, hoping to cure myself of my desire of super bright rooms.  My room has five very long windows, but it's January and overcast so it feels a bit shadowy.  
  • Shorter showers - that's a tough one, I love long showers every single day.  
  • Heater set at 65 - my preferred setting is 70, today I've added a lap blanket and am feeling quite cozy.  We keep the house thermostat at 67, but with my office/bedroom having 5 huge windows it's always a bit chilly in here.
  • Using less butter - I actually wrote a post about butter because I was so shocked at how much we were consuming, my baking habit got a bit out of control!  I'm working hard at keep it to one box per week and proud to report I've stuck with that so far.  
I'm not expecting huge changes to our bills, but every little bit helps.

Other areas I plan to tackle are:
  • Sam's Club VS Costco - on my next day off I'd like to go to Sam's Club to see if we can get everything we enjoy at Costco.  I've recently narrowed down the items I get at Costco, removing bulk butter, green beans and canned corn because they're cheaper at Aldi.  It's funny how we can get into habits just because we've done it that way for years and it takes a scrupulous willpower to go through every purchase line by line.  
    • Reasons for trying out Sam's Club - the annual membership is $20 cheaper and they are local whereas we drive 30 minutes to get to Costco, so even though we've narrowed it down to going every two months, it's still a drive we might not need to make if we can switch to Sam's Club.
    • Costco has a credit card with great money back rewards, but I want to see if we can find something that offers better rewards elsewhere.  I can't blindly accept it's the best card just because it impressed me three years ago.
  • Cell Phones - we are switching from Cricket to Tello - savings $32 per month for the same coverage, the only trick is husband needs to get a new phone that works on the Sprint network so researching options.
  • Pre-made foods - we buy many pre-made foods for lunches and sides and I'd like to replace these with more homemade and/or healthy options
    • Frozen Costco pizzas are $2.00 per pizza
    • Appetizers/Sides - Taquitos, Jalapeno Poppers, Mozzarella Sticks, Cheesy Broccoli, Madras Lentils
    • Kid lunches - Pierogis, chicken nuggets, pizza rolls
    • Canned beans - replacing all with dried beans
Last year we cut back on dining out, which was easy because we couldn't eat in restaurants due to Covid-19 so we just had to cut back on take-out.  After comparing our annual food expenses to 2019, I was aghast to see we only saved on average $20 per month on food (including dine out) in 2020, I really thought we'd done better than that.  I think we ate more pre-made foods to make up for not dining out.  This year we will beat the 2020 number as we work towards "mindful changes" in all purchases.

In summary, just because we managed to live on a budget within the 30% lower salary isn't a reason to slack off on ways to save money.  We want to increase our savings despite the salary situation and that means cutting out all unnecessary expenses.  What if a bigger salary cut comes through, well, I'd probably end up taking another day off and definitely getting a second job!  Or what if this salary cut isn't rectified?  Regardless, I remain optimistic this year will improve once people worldwide can get the vaccine, then things should slowly start going back to normal - until the next calamity!  I guess that's optimism with a dose of prepper mentality.