Friday, November 21, 2008

Being frugal

Part of the reason that Dorea and I decided to become permanently car free is that we are cheapskates. I’ve always been a tightwad, but I wasn’t always good at budgeting and controlling impulse purchases. Dorea was always good at budgeting, but not as good at penny-pinching. We became big fans of Amy Dacyczyn (if only she had a blog!) when I brought a copy of the Complete Tightwad Gazette home from the library maybe six years ago. Together, we became tightwad blackbelts.

When Dorea and I got engaged, almost six years ago, I had debt in credit cards and student loans that totaled around $40,000. Dorea had a few thousand in student loan debt. We paid off the last of all that debt in the spring of this year. We would have had it paid off even earlier, but we used some savings to put a down payment on a condo re-do the ceiling.

For a long time we were frugal because we had to be. We were both grad students and I was trying to take whittle down a huge debt so that Dorea wouldn’t feel like she was marrying a ne’er-do-well. Then we were a young family with a child to support and only one of us out of graduate school. Then we were both employed but were trying to re-establish our emergency fund after buying a house. And then we were scrimping and saving and putting all of our free cash towards the expenses of getting pregnant as a lesbian couple.

But now we are coasting along and we are starting to lose our frugal edge. We bring in more than we spend without having to try as hard anymore. This is in large part due to the fact that we live in a very small condo (650 square feet) and don’t have a car. But over the past couple of months many of our expenses have gone up:
  • Transportation: We bought a fancy new bicycle, and Dorea doesn’t ride at the moment (at the insistence of her acupuncturist who was instrumental in helping us get pregnant) so we spend more money on public transportation.
  • Food: We’re inching closer and closer to keeping kosher, and right now buy all kosher ingredients for food we cook at home. This means that we spend more for some items. Dorea has been feeling very sick, so we are buying a lot of special foods to keep her happy. And I have been having a lot of stomach problems so we’re buying special foods to keep my tummy happy. That all adds up to about $90-$100 a week, even shopping at the Market Basket.
  • Time-savers and treats: Dorea and I are both feeling tired and overworked and generally put-upon. As a result, we’re instituted a take-out and movie night at our house. The movie comes from the library so it’s free, but our takeout usually costs $20-30, which is a sore blow for former tightwad blackbelts. We’re also spending more of our money at coffee shops, and buying more things like paper plates. Oh, and we’re using paper diapers instead of cloth at nighttime. Oh the shame!!
Now we are starting to feel nervous. We would like to re-do the kitchen in our condo and put in hardwood floors. We’d like to head into our first year as a family of four feeling financially fit and fabulous. We’d like to stop some of our bad habits, while still taking care of ourselves and realizing our limitations. So I've been trying to soak up some inspiration. The Simple Dollar and Almost Frugal are both great for that. And maybe it's time to crack open the Tightwad Gazette in and dig back into Your Money or Your Life. Someday we may have the energy to be frugal once more!


Jonathan Beck said...

Congrats on the "bun in the oven!" The comment about biking while pregnant reminded me of this thread over on cyclechic, those Danes would never listen to your acupuncturist!