The first part of our homesteading journey was to “clean out.” You’ve gone through all your stuff, cleaned your closets and attic and garage/barn. Now what?
Let’s talk about money. I know, this can be a bit taboo, but if you are like me, watching all that hard earned money you make go out the door as fast as it comes in can be pretty stressful. You work hard for that money. You spend one third of your life going to a job you may or may not enjoy to earn that money only to hand it over to other people. It’s stressful, isn’t it?
As I mentioned, the big part of being a homesteader is getting rid of that stress.
Pull out your last bank statement or if you are tech savvy download it from your banks website. You can use an excel spreadsheet or just a pencil and paper, but go line by line of your statement and place a category next to each item. Every single one. If you want to get really detailed you can have a category and a sub-category like Auto – Fuel or Food-Dining out.
Now either using a pivot table on your excel sheet or using another piece of paper, make a row for each category and put the total dollar amount you spent next to each one. In other words, add up the total dollars spent for each category.
Surprised? I was.
I paid bills so automatically that I never realized that my cable bill was equal to half a car payment (actually more than half). My food bill seemed out of control. And my cell phone bill? OMG.
If you added up just the phone, electric and cable/internet bill it equaled half my mortgage payment.
If I wanted to save money and really live a simpler life, I knew I needed to get my spending under control.
But I need all these things, you say. Do you, really?
My boyfriend and I each have our own cell phones. Both my parents and his parents each have just one cell phone per household and they share it. Hmmm.
After much discussion, we decided that we did need two phones for now. We do not have a landline, so that saves us some money. But since we work in two different places and we have two different businesses, two phones seemed necessary.
That’s when I decided to take a line by line look at our phone bill and all the options that totaled up to such a high amount. I was able to trim over $40 off our bill by getting rid of the replacement plan on our phones. Both our phones were too old to qualify anyway and the deductible was at least half the amount of a new phone, which we had already paid for in fees. We also reduced our data plan to 1G. We originally had 3G when my boyfriend’s daughter was also on our plan. Turns out 1G is more than plenty for us. So right there, forty bucks! Shazam!
My cable bill had increased substantially when my “plan” ran out and I never realized it. We watch TV for maybe an hour a day, if that. We talked about getting rid of cable all together. My son only uses Netflix and Hulu, why couldn’t we? I called the cable company to discuss what it would cost to just have internet and lo and behold they had a plan that reduced my bill by $50 per month and kept us with basic cable and most of the channels we watch! Wow! I was up to $90 in savings already. I was on a roll.
Our food bill was another focus. I will do a whole blog on the true cost of food at some point, but let’s just say that we were spending a lot of money on icky processed foods and junk food that wasn’t contributing to our overall health and was costing us a bundle. We started a garden to grow some of our own vegetables, bought canning supplies so we could keep some of that harvest throughout the winter months and starting looking at healthier options. Our goal was to cut our food bill to $60 a week. You know what? We did it! We cut out anything that came prepackaged and began making our food from scratch. We don’t normally eat out that much anyway and we rarely if ever eat fast food, so cutting our dining bill was easy. Now we eat better than ever on half the cost. Bam! More savings.
We are still working on our electric bill. A friend of mine told me about a site where we could choose a lower rate. It is a little confusing and I had a hard time tracking any real savings, but it is something I will look into again. With just the two of us, our bill should be much lower.
We were so excited about all the money we were saving we wanted to keep going so we put together a five year plan to reduce our monthly bills by one thousand dollars per month! That’s right. Can you imagine having a thousand extra dollars a month to save towards your retirement goals?
Now it’s your turn. This isn’t an easy exercise. Take your time and go through all the money you spend. Really look at every dollar that goes out the door and ask yourself, “Do I really need that $5 latte?”
Create a budget and stick to it. I know it’s as hard as sticking to a diet, but trust me, it will get easier.
Look through your list and think about the money you are spending and then ask yourself, if I didn’t have all these bills, could I find another job that I enjoyed more but paid less? Could I retire a year or two sooner?
How many times have you asked yourself, “If I wasn’t afraid, I would…”
Well, here is your opportunity. If you want to live a simpler life, you need to find that place where you are comfortable and stress free and reducing your debt will be one more step closer to that goal.