Monday, March 16, 2009

Blog the First

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle the experiences of my wife and I as we do our best to survive the current economic recession. That I am even writing such a blog is surprising to me, as just one week ago, I was actually feeling a little bit guilty that the recession had not yet effected us in any way.

Well, that's not true- there were positive effects in the sense that retailers have lowered prices and provided great discounts to entice consumers to still shop at their stores (or at their restaurants, as the case more often was for us). And there were negative effects in that our Roth IRA accounts were coming in with net losses, meaning that if we contributed, say, $1000 over the course of a year to an account with $2000 in it already, the total amount in the account by the end of the year was somewhere below the hoped-for $3000+. Also, our Direct Deposit savings account took a hit, going from a 4.5% return to about 1.5% now. We have considered ourselves lucky that most of our money is in the savings account, not the IRA's. You see, we're 29, so even with a 25% decline in value for our IRA's, it didn't hurt TOO much.

So, what happened? Well, my wife lost her job last Friday (March 13. Yes, Friday the 13th. No, I don't believe the date is particularly unlucky. This was just an unhappy coincidence in my mind.) Anyway, my wife's salary was a bit higher than mine, so now our total income is less than half of the previous amount, whatever we get from unemployment notwithstanding. And despite the fact that we have always lived with the motto of careful consumption, a 50%+ cut to our income hurts. A lot. Don't get me wrong, I make OK money, and we're not going to be going to the poor house just yet. But we have already implemented a series of what we consider to be big lifestyle changes, and we still will most likely be a ways from breaking even.

What kind of lifestyle changes? Well, that's a tricky one. Remember I mentioned the "Careful Consumption" part? If you do a Google search for "ways to save money", and look at the lists provided, the odds are, we already were practicing most of the items on the list. So, there's not a lot to cut back on. Here's where we are going to cut:

1. Food. Our average weekly food expenditures probably come up to about $140. That's groceries, one nice meal per week, and eating out for lunch a few days a week. New amount? $50. We will make it for this week (grocery bill was total $40, and no eating out for any meals at all). And we hope to keep to that number until my wife finds a new job. Let's hear it for fresh fruits and vegetables, butcher shop meat prices, noodles (including Ramen), and inexpensive large dishes that provide for multiple leftovers.

2. Entertainment. No more movies, bars, concerts, really anything that costs any money at all. We're going to hold onto our $14/month Netflix subscription and subsist on that and free entertainment options. Speaking of $14 monthly movie costs- we don't even have basic cable, so you can't cut that. We're close enough to downtown St. Louis that a $30 outdoor antenna gives us 90% of the TV shows that we would watch anyway for free.

3. Any item that is not a necessity. No clothes, furniture, accessories, toys (tech), no big purchases, nothing. In fact, as soon as I find some black masking tape, the "Service Engine Soon" light that just popped up on my car today will be just a memory. At least until the car breaks down on the side of the road.

4. Savings payments and big purchases. That's $1000/month right there, but only about 1/3 of my wife's previous monthly take-home. We've been paying $800/month into our savings account ever since we paid off our cars. And we have a $200/month revolving "big purchase" line of cash. That may sound like a lot, but think of it this way- if you want a new $800 TV, and you have the cash, do you buy it? If it's me, the only way I'll buy it is if the $200/month revolving line of cash is available. If I'm still paying off that new computer that I bought 4 months ago, the TV is going to have to wait, cash in hand or not.

Well, that's all I've got on cuts right now- other ideas, please let me know.

One last thing; pursuant of the capitalist nature of our society (you know, that imperfect system that, at best, didn't prevent this recession from occurring), I have opted to tie my PayPal account into this blog. So, if you're reading this, and you happen to be feeling sorry for me, and/or you just want to get rid of some of that "survivor's guilt", please feel free to donate. If you're in a similar situation to me, well, I hope you enjoy the blog anyway, and take care of yourself, not me.


  1. Aldi's Grocery. Dude. I was afraid the first time I walked in there, but we cut our grocery bill in HALF. The food is AWESOME!! I know a stay at home mom who actually spends enough time on the internet redeeming coupons and signing up for free stuff and rebates, that she MAKES money and has more food than she knows what to do with. It's nuts.

  2. Hey, thanks for the suggestion on Aldi's. You're the second person to suggest this to me, so you must be on to something. We'll have to give it a try.