From the beginning of starting Lazy Man and Money, I've been a proponent of both saving and investing. I've found that this is kind of an unusual stance amongst personal finance bloggers. While most everyone agrees that both are important, I usually see them lean heavily in one direction or the other.
I don't think there is necessarily a right or wrong way to work. I know people who make six figures that begin with a crooked number, but they have little savings. There are others who don't make a lot of money, but they find a way to squirrel it away and watch it grow to financial freedom.
The math is extremely simple, the different between what you make vs. what you spend equals freedom. You can create more freedom, or get freedom faster by making more or spending less.
I believe in the two equally, probably more than most personal finance bloggers. That's why you can go from one article yesterday: Time to Buy Yahoo Stock? to today's article about becoming extra frugal.
With that long-winded explanation out of the way, our family has embarked on a mission to kick the frugality up a notch for a couple of months... at least as much as possible.
Why the sudden change?
One of the tenants moved out of one of our investment properties. The kitchen cabinets and counters were the original ones from the early 80s... and I don't think they were particularly well-made then. Even with a small kitchen and the most basic cabinets, the costs kept rising and rising. We thought it would be around $6500, but legitimate, though hidden costs started to creep in. And then there was the mold removal from a pipe that had been leaking for who knows how long. By the time we are done, we're probably going to put 10-12K into this.
That's a lot of money to spend in a month, especially when you don't have a tenant in the property to pay rent.
None of this is really a surprise and I've created spreadsheets to depreciate and amortize most of the major maintenance. At the same time, it's psychologically a big deal. That's one of the interesting factors at work here.
Seeing a big drop in available cash is never a good thing. When it comes from one account it can seem worse than it is. My wife and I ran a comprehensive net worth that we tend to do every few months. The result was that we still had a plenty of accessible cash... it was just spread in a few different accounts (some mine, some hers, some shared). This was a huge step in mitigating the psychologically big hit.
The other interesting thing is that it triggered us to move into an "ultra frugality" mode. Well, maybe not "ultra", but "very, very mindful." Here are some changes we found we could make nearly right away:
- Eat Out Less - We have an Entertainment-type book and though we feel like are getting a good deal, we are not saving money with it. We've been using it a lot this summer to "get out of the house." By a lot, I'd say about twice a week, not five times or anything like that. We should be able to cut it down a bit.
- Eat Down the Food - We have a chest freezer and it's full of food. We also have shelving units full of food. I got most of this food by stocking on great deals. Now it's time to eat it down. We've challenged each other to make each meal with something from this storage. Aside from staples like milk, the hope is to not have to spend money to bring in more food for little while.
- Have "Limited Spend" Days - My wife had Friday off and we paid for day care anyway, so we took the kayak to the beach and paddled around a bit. (Now you know why there was no article last Friday.) Saturday we took the kids to a free playground. Little Man (2 years old) had a ton of fun. Mini Man (8 months) enjoyed watching and doing a little crawling. Sunday, I watched the Patriots play one of their worst 2nd halves of football in the last 14 years. As they say, "Two out of three ain't bad."
We still ended up spending money on these days... but it was small amount.
We're also trying sell excess stuff Ebay. In some ways, that amounts to drop in the bucket, and it can be a lot of work, but every little bit helps.
It sounds like a perfect plan except for two things.
The annual financial blogger conference is this month. That's in New Orleans. Fortunately, I literally wrote the post on how to visit New Orleans on a budget. Also, finance companies sponsor lunches and the occasional libation. (Note to any such companies reading this, please send me your invites.)
The other thing is a two-week trip to Aruba a couple of months later. We have our Marriott Vacation Club time share that was bought a decade ago now. I'll be applying everything from Save Money in Aruba and Save More Money in Aruba to minimize expenses.
I think what it comes down to is that I've always been frugal with my purchases, trying to maximize value. However, over the next couple of months, I'll try to combine that with an eye towards not spending money at all, when it is reasonable.
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