Friday, August 28, 2009

Bogus money saving stories.

Is anyone else tired of reading internet articles with "money saving tips" and finding not only that they don't have any NEW tips, but that the people in the articles were just dumb or clueless?

This morning at 5am, I was reading an article in a baby magazine that claimed to have three baby budgeting success stories. For each section of the article, during the first sentence of each family's situation, I thought, "well duh! Of course that works." One family, upon learning that they were expecting twins, suddenly started paying attention to their finances only to realize that they could live on one salary if they just started paying attention to where the money went each month. So they had been wealthy morons for how long? And if they weren't wealthy, then lets hear the nitty-gritty details of how they did that. One family realized that they could save a "ton" of money by not buying specialty coffee every morning and using a coffee maker instead. Is this news to them? I forget the details of the three families, but every single one of them were able to have one parent stay home with the kid or kids and still vacation and/or save money for the kids college. Well isn't that just hunky dory! Good thing they made a ton of money!

How about an article about successful baby budgets that actually has some new news in it? Let's hear some success stories for folks who buy what they can off craigslist, and grocery shopped at Aldi. We don't really have a lot of debt, we own both our cars, and we only have cable TV because it's like $10 more per month than only having internet service. We each spend $20 per week on "mad money" and don't spend more than $25 per week on entertainment. We take public transportation when it's cheaper than driving. My husband cuts my hair for me and he gets his cut where-ever has issued a coupon. We don't use coupons because there are only about 3 grocery items per week that we buy that aren't at Aldi (which doesn't issue coupons). I plan on using coupons for diapers once our bundle of joy arrives, at least until he grows to fit size 3 diapers. Aldi doesn't sell diapers smaller than size 3.

Lately, hubby spent some serious time on the phone with various kinds of insurance people and managed to save us about $1500 per year on our home and car insurances with roughly the same coverage. This is the biggest money saving change we've made in a couple years and I am darn proud of him for it! We got the great rate because of our great credit.

After this wonderful success, he started looking at all our other bills trying to find better deals on them too. The phone/cable/internet/cell phone group didn't go quite so well but we are saving a little money there. We figured out that we are saving $30 per month between the two bills (home phone/cable/internet and then cell phones separately). The annoying part is that for our primary TV, you have to have two remotes to turn it on and we still don't have our favorite channels memorized. We're not sure if we're going to keep the new system.

Some articles suggest canceling your home phone. That would work great if we didn't live in a valley AND we have trouble getting cell phone and radio reception inside the house.

Some articles suggest eating out less. We realized long ago that eating out was a special, expensive treat and as a result, most eating out money comes out of our weekly $20 "mad money" allowance. Otherwise, we spend $20-25 per week on entertainment which may or may not include eating out. I always roll my eyes at these folks who started saving $200 per month when they just started cooking at home more often. Really?! You didn't know you were blowing $50 per week?

After reading this frustrating article, I reminded myself that when we were first married and in our current house, we earned, combined, the same amount that Hubby makes now. So theoretically, we could do that again (if not for new baby costs), right? So what has financially changed for us in those 7 years. Oh yeah, we took ramen out of our diet as a staple. Along with vienna sausages and tuna. We eat real meat now. We've also added the following things to our budget:
monthly saving for our next used car
monthly saving for our next vacation
monthly saving for our next unforeseen car repair (including tires)
monthly saving for our next unforeseen home repair (including appliance repair)
monthly saving for trips to see family (we don't have a relative in the state)
monthly saving for Christmas
adding $100 per month (up from zero) to our budget for clothing

That adds up to $810 for us. And notice none of those particularly frivolous! The new frivolous additions to our budget since then include:
paying someone to mow our lawn ($50 per month that prevents a weekly fight!)
cat expenses (ranges from $12 to $100 per month)
my gym membership (averages out to $21 per month)
paying extra to have unlimited long distance (no more than $30 per month)
keeping up with friends abroad (recently reduced from about $30 per month to $10)
recreational firing range supplies ($200 per year)
masonic lodge memberships ($50 per month)

So where are the money saving articles for our kind of people?! Huh?! We can't be alone in our situation! I'm really tired of revelations that you don't have to use name brand baby wipes. Or that the store brand is cheaper than the name brand and is virtually the same product. Or that bottled water costs money when the tap is right there. Or that the library is free. Or that organics are expensive. There's got to be other folks out there that realize that when money is tight they can live without manicures, pedicures, massages, new shoes, or anything from the mall. Where are my kind of people?! And why aren't they writing frugal articles?!

Or perhaps I just need a nap because I woke up at 5am.

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