Reducing costs and the slow life.
Photo credit: http://www.crowncanada.ca/
Andy and I by no means have a large income. For the past year we have been living off of primarily Andy’s income, which since he works for a church means it’s less than what most would expect for a full-time job. While this particular diocese in which the church operates is pretty average compared to churches in general, it’s low compared to other non-religious jobs.
At any rate, learning to reduce costs as a family has been a priority for us given that we know we haven’t much to work with. One resource that has been extremely helpful for us has been Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University series. My aunt and uncle, who live in Ohio, lent me the audio series, which Andy and I both listened to. While we’ve been lucky to have no serious debt to our name (perhaps $500 here or there), we found the priorities listed as down-to-earth and relatively easy to apply to our lives. We paired what we learned with Dave to Gail Vaz-Oxlade‘s advices and we’ve found a system that generally keeps us on track, even when we forget to keep ourselves up with everything.
The two most important factors for us to living within our means have been
1) Using a cash system for variable costs (ex. grocery, clothes, toiletries, office supplies, coffees, dining out, etc)
2) Tracking our money and recording it in our budget sheet
The second one is really what kicked us into gear when we finally got around to tracking a month and realised we had spent about $1000 in groceries and really had nothing to show for it. Isn’t that absurd? We also quickly realised where our vice was: food. We love buying good, tasty food. We haven’t changed that – we still love great food, but we’ve come to realise something very important: the slow life is the cheaper (dollar-wise) and richer (fullness-wise) life. Making things from scratch, taking the time to hang laundry, learning older methods and slower methods of doing things seem to both contribute to us spending less money and finding a richer life.
Photo credit: http://www.carvalhocoffee.ca/index.cfm?PAGEPATH=Who_We_Are/Keep_coffee_brewing_simple&ID=36984
A couple examples from our life: recently we realised that we were consistently spending more money on coffee (beans) than we had budgeted. We looked at our method: the electric coffee-maker. We found that we were consistently making too much coffee for our mornings – we’d have 2 cups for each of us in the pot, but we’d only end up drinking about 1-1.5 cups each. So we changed tactics. We started by using less coffee grounds, putting it in a cone filter over the cups and brew it this way. The longer time it took for the water to filter through the grounds gave the same strength that we enjoyed with the coffee maker, the coffee was hotter, and we brewed just enough for each of us – 1 cup. Slower, yes. More attention, yes. Equally satisfying and cheaper, yes. Alternatively we could have gone with a smaller coffee maker, but that would have required us to purchase something.
Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogurt
Another example: yogurt. We had been going through yogurt by the container while we lived in Ottawa. It became expensive, so we looked into what it would take to make it for cheap. Turns out, it’s pretty easy and because you use just a jug of milk, it’s cheaper. So we learned how to make our own yogurt. This also gave us the ability to moderate the sugar content and use whatever berries we wanted (or didn’t want). More time, yes. Take up more space, yes. Cheaper, yes.
I admit, we don’t do everything slowly, but I heartily endorse the movement to slow life down. It’s often cheaper and more meaningful. I certainly don’t point fingers at those who don’t slow down; some people can’t support a slower life – I understand. We are all at different walks of life. We started doing this in order to live more cheaply, not for any pie in the sky ideal. We’ve discovered more benefits than being frugal, though, and we also find it a challenge in today’s world. But I do enjoy wandering into the slow life often.