So? How are we doing?

 

Y’all.  Despite the aforementioned spendy moments, we are making great strides over here in the Greener Pasture$ household.  Our spending is down and our savings are up, with a big difference seen in our variable (non-fixed) spending.  YAY!  Time to celebrate and reflect.

Here’s the big picture — a comparison of our fixed and variable spending for the first half of 2017 compared to 2016 (and remember, we started the laser focus on reducing spending at the end of March of this year):

Fixed vs Variable

 

As you can see, our fixed spending (the orange line for 2017) doesn’t look to have changed much since 2016.  But look at that variable spending (the green line for 2017)!  That looks like a sustained, significant, and non-coincidental DROP!

How are we doing it?!?!  I think our success so far is attributable to a few different things:

1. Our heightened awareness of our everyday spending.  You’ll recall I talked about the small things adding up.  Since starting this experiment, my husband and I have been much more thoughtful about small purchases we used to make without a care.  I could have anecdotally told you that we’re making far fewer purchases nowadays.  But, because I have my handy spreadsheet, I just ran the numbers and confirmed that the change in the number of purchases we’ve been making is real.  Check it out:

Number of purchases

WOW!  That is even more dramatic than I was expecting.  As you can see, in sheer number of purchases, we’re now making less than half of what we were at the beginning of the year.

And, lest you think that we’ve simply consolidated our shopping and are spending more per purchase to make up for it, we’re not.  The average cost per discretionary purchase has remained relatively constant:

Jan/Feb Feb/Mar Mar/April April/May June
No.of discretionary purchases 132 109 98 63 61
Cost/Transaction $46 $53 $54 $40 $49

So, many fewer little things.  And could I tell you exactly WHAT we’re not buying?  Some things yes, but not really!  Those little purchases must not have been super important to our lives…

What else are we doing?

2.  Our focus on food spending is seriously paying off.  Remember my obsession with eating well?  We’ve been continuing to cook and eat lots of delicious, nutritious foods.  But, with much more home cooked stuff and much less fast-food-for-convenience, our food spending has been going down, down down:

Food Spending 2017

Ahhh.  So our total monthly food spending has dropped from over $1300 to $763.  As with everything, I think there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but I’ll take a $600/month savings increase, thankyouverymuch!  And yeah, we’re still eating awesome stuff.  Last night, we had these extremely delicious mussels and corn for dinner out on the deck at sunset.  The mussels cost $6, and we had the rest of the ingredients we needed in the house already.  Do I sound like I’m suffering over here from all this cost-cutting?  That’s a no.

And?  What else?

3.  We’re taking advantage of the giving/lending/buying-used economy.  We belong to several neighborhood Facebook groups and listservs (a Buy Nothing group and a few local parents groups), and have been using them to our great benefit.  Tonight, my husband picked up 5 FREE wooden puzzles for our son from a neighbor, and tomorrow, I’ll be picking up 4 FREE nursing shirts from another neighbor.  We have two Little Free Libraries in our neighborhood, and have given and taken several books (both for grown-ups and kids) over the past few months.  And, today I went to the actual public library and picked up Juliet Schor’s book (which pertains to this blog and I’m super excited to read) and a few more for our son, which he is quite excited about.  I’m also reading a book on Kindle from the library.  These little things are fun, and give the same new-thing excitement as buying the thing would have done.

4.  We’re examining the rest of our expenses.  It’s frustrating to see our fixed spending stay the same.  But it’s not that we’re not working on it — it’s just taking some time to get that number down.  For example, we just cancelled cable (!) and returned to the cord-cutter life.  That hasn’t saved us money YET because there were startup costs, but it should start saving in the future.  We found a local, independent internet service provider — we’ve stopped giving money to Verizon or Comcast, and instead are giving it to a local small business!  To do this we had to buy our own modem/router instead of renting from Verizon, but that should pay for itself over time, and our cable/internet bill is going from $95/month for a basic cable package and rented equipment to $50/month for just internet.  We also have other bills that we were locked into contracts for, so when those contracts are up, we’ll be reevaluating.  So hopefully, that fixed spending number will start to creep down.

5.  Other little stuff.  We’ve continued to walk for our commute nearly every day, saving probably about $130/month on subway fare and getting lots of extra fresh air and exercise.  We also get cloth diapers delivered for our son, but we’ve switched to having pickup every week to every other week, which saves $12/delivery.  We also picked up some free smaller cloth diapers on one of the above-mentioned parents’ groups, so we’re going to try using them when our new baby comes! If we like them, maybe we’ll move away from the delivery service altogether and save even more!  So… little by little, we’re finding things we just don’t need to spend money on, without feeling deprived.

So YES!  We’re making great strides, and feeling very excited.

And yet…  we are still FAR from our $80,000/year total spending goal; June’s spending level annualized would be about $100,000, and we’re on track for a pretty expensive July. And although reigning in our food spending has meant a big and quite enjoyable change to our prior habits, reducing day-to-day spending still does not feel easy or habitual.

So what gives?  And how do we change it?  Stay tuned as I plan to tackle that psychological hangup in the next post….

 

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