Last month I wrote about getting fired unexpectedly and how we were okay financially. Today I'd like to talk about more ways we saved and managed our money.
To begin, you should know that we got married in October 2012. We also bought and moved into our house. When we started looking at houses we had 2 incomes and a lot of money saved for a down payment. We were preapproved for a mortgage double what I thought we'd get, which was great because it meant we didn't have to settle for a tiny, rundown house in the city; we could actually afford a county home. In the end we were able to out down 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. Married life was comfortable with our 2 incomes and we were even able to start saving money. Less than 2 months after our wedding I was fired from my job (it was a 9 month contract and I had 2 months left to go. So we knew I'd be without work soon but were working on a financial plan). We had some money saved up so we weren't too worried about getting behind in our bills, and my husband apparently makes enough to cover all our bills with some left over.
But sometimes things happen that cause us to dip into our savings...and eventually that savings diminishes. I took a long hard look at our finances and realized we were spending too much unnecessarily. So I saved all our receipts for 1 month to determine our average variable expenses. Then I added in our fixed expenses and subtracted that total from our income each month. I was very surprised to see how much money we spent on little things that we didn't need. We cut out a lot of things such as meals away from home and clothing (I love clothes shopping! But when I actually went through my closet and sorted through my stuff, I realized I didn't need a lot of new things. Plus, since I wasn;t working I didn't need to buy more dress clothes). We decided we could spend a certain amount of money on variable expense each month, and no more. We also decided to go out to eat only once and that I wouldn't buy any new clothing or house stuff unless I got rid of items we had but weren't using. For example, we already have lots of bed sheet sets. So if I wanted more, prettier ones I had to donate some we no longer used. This system really worked! Seeing our spending in black and white was a real eye opener.
We also set financial goals for ourselves. For example, we wanted to renovate the basement bathroom in the near future, so we had to determine what we needed to buy and how much it would cost (side note: we are currently renovating that bathroom! we managed to score an antique sink and will use flooring we had from another project. more on that later!).
Here is a summary of exactly what we did to manage our single income:
- saved our receipts for 1 month to determine our variable spending
- made a list of fixed expenses, such as mortgage, cell phone and insurance
- averaged the fixed but slightly varying expenses such as hydro and propane (we are on a well so we don't pay for water)
- determined our monthly income after taxes
- added all our monthly expenses and subtracted that from monthly income
- decided what variable expenses could be cut out or reduced (eating out less frequently, not buying clothes unless we need an item, buying less groceries per week so nothing spoils before we use it)
- set financial goals to motivate us to save money (another goal I had was to upgrade the kitchen with a new backsplash and countertop so I stuck a picture of what I want to the fridge as motivation)
*bonus step* since I was home all the time I was using my computer, doing laundry and cooking whenever I wanted, but I was also using electricity at it's peak which means it cost more. I went online to see when the peak hours of usage are and then planned my activities around that. I would still use my laptop but only charge it during off peak; I'd cook dinner in the early afternoon instead of around 5; I did laundry in the evenings or overnight. With that simple change we saved around $30-40 each month on our hydro bill.
I would like to point out that we were not in debt at all during this process. We bought our house without any prior debts like credit card bills or loans. We paid all our bills on time or called the company and asked if we could do payments each month without penalty. If you are currently in debt, or close to it I suggest you seek help from a professional debt counselor. There's a whole section in the phone book with listings. My advice is for people who just need help adjusting their finances. I'm in no way a professional, I'm simply sharing what worked for my family.
Do you have any money saving tips? I'd love to hear them! Comment below, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet me @OurWoodHomeblog!
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