Saturday, October 5, 2013

Looking forward and planning for saving

We got our water/gas bill today and it made me ecstatic (with one exception, but that's a rant that doesn't belong here).

Yup. Building up the cushion for Winter, when I know our bill will be higher than our self-calculated monthly budget of $85 a month.

In case you are thinking of putting yourself on a monthly budget that is administered by the company that delivers your utilities, DON'T. Our self calculated monthly budget (one years worth of bills added up and divided by 12, plus a little bit) is about 20% less than the company calculated budget and I have never had to pay extra, quite the contrary, I can usually skip a month, which comes in handy in the summer when we go on vacation.

Here's how I get to have utility bills that tell me to not pay them:

How the heck is there already cat fur on this bill?

See the CR? That means credit. and yes, I overpaid our budget last month by a whopping $15, because I anticipate a rather cold, harsh Winter and want to go in with a solid, cushiony, thick layer of credit, so I don't panic about the cost of turning the heat up to 67degrees and don't feel like an utter failure for not starting up the fireplace each and every day. I tend to do that in months where the hubbin gets three paychecks, and bank the rest of that 'extra' money. It's a great way to build up some savings without feeling it if you can budget like we do.

If you look at the comparison chart the company provides (and it's accurate, I keep the bills and have checked) you will see that our consumption is almost half of what it was. We installed a low flow toilet and a low flow shower head to match our HE washing machine and dishwasher. That is the part that I have been waiting for, a full month of using them. I LOVE IT. An investment of just under $100, $80 of which was the toilet we had to replace or dig an outhouse (not happening)  and according to this bill that will pay for itself in less than half a year. WOOT.

The Pinch Manor budget is based on part of the hubbins income alone, and on 24 pay-periods, rather than the 26 he actually gets. We have the luxury (and we know it's a luxury) to have access to more funds when we need them, because we both work and our income is more than we spend. That last part is really the key. Spend less than you make, bank the rest or pay down on debt or invest it somehow (more on that in a little bit).

What you see on this bill is what I do with all our utilities. I have figured out what our average consumption is and I overpay that by a little bit (basically I round up to the next $5 increment). It took us a while to get there, and I started with just one of the bills and slowly built up a cushion. Now we are at the point where we basically don't pay utilities for July and August, and that's an extra roughly $600 I get to play with over those two months. And it's not hurting us over the rest of the year. You may find different ways to build in cushions for yourself, this is working for us.

Here's our budget:

CC for items listed as incl., I use the points to buy stuff 362.00
fuel incl $90
Cell phones incl $40
Groc incl $180
Amazon Prime incl $7
Magic Jack incl $5
Pet expenses incl $40
gas/water 85.00
electric 85.00
Cable 96.00
Insurance 70.00
Mortgage 730.00
other stuff/squish factor 30.00
Total Bills 1,458.00
Yearly expenses 17,496.00

Yes, we have cable. And cell phones. And Amazon Prime. And pets that cost money that we account for in the budget. How frivolous ;)

The line items you are looking for that are not here are clothing, entertainment and travel. You're right, they are not there.

Clothing:  I work from home, so my clothing expenses are microscopic to begin with and both myself and the hubbin are perfectly content with mostly wearing second hand items, augmented by some nice, classic pieces that serve us for years so we can actually cover our clothing expenses by sticking them in with our budget. No need to buy a new pair of shoes every week to be at the top of the fashion pyramid. We invest (told you we'd get back there) in quality. Costs more up front, true, but $300 spent on a good pair of boots that last for a decade or more and can be repaired is so much better than the accumulation of $35 boots bought instead. And because I view shopping as a sport and am rather competitive, I find some of those classic pieces for a few bucks.

Entertainment: Actually, it's sort of in there, because we have cable and hubbin goes and sees movies at the theatre every now and then. What you are not seeing is a line item for the fun things we do, because if we don't have the money for it we don't do it. It's that simple. Where I squeeze most of the money for this is actually our grocery budget. I allocate $180, but I beat that budget on a regular basis (I did mention I am competitive, right) and squirrel the leftovers away to have fun with. I augment these funds with money I make from side jobs, so not our regular income, which is fully allocated, but little things like selling books on e-bay or doing a custom job for someone.

Travel: This is something we love to do, and it's also something we don't budget for, on purpose. It's what we save for, part of why we pinch dead presidents and our joy in life. It's not part of the budget. It is, for us, the REASON for the budget. When we both generate and income, or when we have an influx of money, we do not adjust our budget upward, we put that 'extra' either toward paying off debts, retirement savings (if it's a long term thing) or we use it to go someplace or do something on our bucket list. In the last few years that's been our one summer vacation.

For some people the reason to budget is because they have to make ends meet, which is actually how we started down this path, for some it's to send their kids to college, or a myriad of other reasons that are all their own and that's how it should be. For us being able to do what we want is the reason we are sticking with a budget that I have been told over and over cannot work for anyone.

I might be slightly contrary, I love it when people tell me something I am doing ever day of my life is something that can't be done. ;) Actually, that is quite possibly the greatest motivator for me, the fairly constant reminder to stick to being frugal and to continually look for more ways to squeeze a few more bucks out somewhere. I get quotes for car insurance every 6 months, we switched our cell phone providers and refinanced the house twice in one year, we call the cable company every six months like clockwork to see if there is a deal to be had, and we watch our credit debt like a hawk with OCD. It's a lot of little things that keep us on track and I find satisfaction in being able to do it. And that's kind of the key to doing it long term. You have to have a passion for it.

And you have to work together and compromise... The wailing and gnashing of teeth when I cancelled cable was causing strife and so we got it back. It's completely worth the $1152 a year to have a happy hubbin. It would be a bargain at twice the price. Just not sure I would be able to stick to 'below US $17,500 at that point, though, there's probably not enough fat left to trim... mmmmh.

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching


  1. You're a woman after my own heart. People have asked why I live "like this", with mismatched cutlery being just one example of the frugality one sees everywhere they look in my home. The answer: "its a lovely challenge....anyone can live on a million bucks a year, but try to live on ten thousand". Going to read all your past posts now. Where have you been? I have been looking for someone like you for a long time.

    1. Thank you. Been over here, pinching pennies ;) Do you have a blog?