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Next on the Chopping Block

June 17th, 2010 at 06:26 am

Unemployed:9 months and counting.

Income sources during that time:Unemployment benefits, Census work, freelance writing, market research studies, medical research studies, online surveys.

Personal savings spent: $0

Not bad, all things considered, but I'm also looking ahead and wondering what the heck's gonna happen if I'm still out of work by year's end. I'm deferring a variety of expenditures (some routine healthcare and doc visits, plus home maintenance) and I can't do that forever.

Right now, I feel I have more control over my expenses than I do income.

So what's next on the chopping block?

1.Cell phone.The savings aren't as much as you might think since this is a prepaid cell phone that costs me just $100 a year. I regret not ending this back in April before I renewed my minutes, but after having already done so, I'll just go ahead and use it and will lose the cell phone service when I don't renew next April 2011.

2.AAA membership. $90 a year. I've had this for a few years, never used it and since I'm not commuting anywhere, it seems unnecessary to maintain. I can always renew (at a slightly higher rate) when/if I get a job.

The above 2 items are no-brainers which I regret not having already eliminated, but I guess at the time I wasn't feeling a crisis was approaching.

What else can I cut from the budget? These next two would be very hard for me to do, but neither are "essential."

1.Cable TV: At $25 a month, this could save me $300 a year. This would be hard, very hard. I watch TV daily, usually during breakfast to catch the morning news and weather, and then again at night.

I considered ditching cable and getting unlimited Netflix at less than half the price ($9), but I really like my TV shows. Watching movies wouldn't really fill that void.

2. Internet:I pay $20 a month for slow-as-molasses DSL from AT&T, and so I'd save $250 a year if I dropped it and used the computer at the library instead. I doubt I'd do this since it would be hugely inconvenient to conduct a job search, check email or do my freelance work at the library.

What else is there to cut?

Not a whole lot.

Of course, I'll keep trying to be frugal with utilities like electricity, water, sewer and heating oil (there's also my dump permit at $80 and annual sewer loan assessment of $600) but those bills will always remain unless I move into a tent.

I recently looked into refinancing (again) my small mortgage, which I could actually pay off in full if I wanted, but even with ample cash reserves, the credit union I checked with said that my being unemployed could be an issue and couldn't guarantee I'd get the refinance deal, so I'm reluctant to possibly blow $300 to apply.

COBRA is still an affordable $178.50/month through year's end. Still, I've avoided having ANY doctor's visits these past 9 months and have only ordered my 2 current prescriptions. By summer's end I'll be down to just 1 prescription. (And I can't wait!!!)

Obviously things like eating out, entertainment and clothing have been off the table for a while, though I admit I'm not perfect. I'm only getting my hair cut once every 2 months ($19 with tip).

Most of my gardening/yard work expenses have been limited to my vegetable garden, which is providing me with food.

Cat food has been a huge new expense for me, partly becus I now have 2 cats, not one, and also becus I committed myself to feeding them healthier food, meaning canned food, not dry. My other cat ate dry food exclusively and I couldn't get her off it. I did the research and the consensus is clearly that dry food is crap. However, I'm spending a LOT of money on Fancy Feast, about $80 a month, and I've started letting Luther have one of his 3-4 meals daily be dry. Waldo still gets only wet food becus I'm still not sure if he has kidney disease and dry food would aggravate that condition.

I've had no work done on the car and it's due now for at least an oil change. The car's 11 years old and I want to keep it going for several more years since it only has 112,000 miles on it.

My car insurance is pretty cheap ($350/hr) but my homeowner's is not, so I'll DEFINITELY shop around when I get my next premium bill.

Any suggestions for shaving expenses still further?

8 Responses to “Next on the Chopping Block”

  1. momcents Says:

    If I see any coupons for Fancy Feast (I occasionally do), I'm more than happy to pass them on to you.

    My brother just took in a 50# beagle from a Collie Resue (not sure how the beagle ended up there) and because she is on a special diet (far too expensive for him presently) my mom is subsidizing the food. I think anything that can be done to keep our furry friends healthy is worth it.

    I think you've done amazing! Given that you've been unemployed for 3/4 of a year and spent NOTHING from savings! If you can continue to afford your small luxuries (cable TV and Internet), I'd continue to do so.

  2. Elisabeth Says:

    Just an idea or two. You might qualify for a food pantry. (Although some food pantries are thru churches they do not require membership.) I was surprised to find out that I do. I don't use it because of my couponing activites. But, some offer other things like twice a year free oil changes and a mechanical once over (no repairs). They look at your income, not your savings. Discounted electric service based on income. Call you electric co. and ask if it is offered in your area. This is usually for winter, not summer. Best wishes!

    I would also be happy to mail to you any fancy feast coupons I get.

  3. patientsaver Says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, momcents. I guess if I'm forced to choose between cable and Internet, I'll have to give up cable (and So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, Biggest Loser, The Office)

    Elisabeth, those were both good suggestions...thx. There are, in fact, 2 food pantries in my hometown. I used to volunteer at one of them, so I would feel super embarrassed to ask for food there. The other one, well, I STILL would fee too embarrassed to go there in case I knew any of the volunteers. I have thought of going from time to time, but...

  4. patientsaver Says:

    I'm going to look into discounted electric rates. Thx again.

  5. momcents Says:

    I, too, would feel embarassed to frequent the food banks or pantries. Have you looked into angel food ministries? They might be in your area, and I've figured that I would use them to subsidize the food budget if necessary.

  6. Looking Forward Says:

    I am a veterinary nurse. My kitties eat Royal Canin Mature dry food with a can split between them once or twice a week. A quality dry food is a good choice.

  7. crazyliblady Says:

    I also use a prepaid cell phone. I don't know what brand you use, but I use tracfone. You can buy the phones lots of places, like probably Walmart, Walgreens, Big Lots, etc. I bought mine at Big Lots when they had them on sale for $5.00. Pretty much the only functions I have are text and talk. I bought at minutes card (60 minutes) for $19.99. We do have one regular phone on a regular plan and I could add a line, I don't use a phone enough to make that much sense doing that. Because I don't use a phone much, my tracfone probably costs me around $3-$5 a month or less. I think it depends on how much you use your phone and what you use it for.

  8. crazyliblady Says:

    You can also rent episodes of tv shoes through netflix. Also, check into streaming video from netflix if you have PS3 or Wii.

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