If I didn't keep a little list by my computer keeping track of how I've saved money this week I think I would feel like we didn't save at all. But we did, and here's how:
- I returned a light fixture for our shed that the electrician didn't need (we got power to our shed and barn by digging in the wire ourselves before the ground froze). I had to get a different light, so returning one for $18.89 cash back and then spending $27 isn't really a savings. But it would have been easy to neglect returning the light so I'm still considering a way that I didn't "waste" money by being lazy!
- We sold our camper! In itself, this was not exactly a savings except that we haven't used it as much the past few years and it was depreciating quickly as it got older. I would prefer to tent with the kids to have a more authentic camping experience, and the cash is better off in the bank rather than parked in the driveway. Where I feel we actually save is in the $70 insurance we were paying every month. When I called to cancel it I also realized that all these years we were paying for a full replacement rather than the depreciated value. I guess that is a choice but we could have spent a lot less on insuring it if we had known the difference. So we now have $70 less/month going to insurance, which suits me fine!
- I didn't have plans to go to town until Friday, which was also my son's Valentine's Day party at school (I forgot to buy little Valentine's for him to exchange with his friends when I last got groceries). Rather than running to town for anything, I used craft materials that we had here and cut out hearts for him to glue to paper etc. He spent hours carefully gluing and writing (he's a bit of a perfectionist) and it actually kept him quite occupied over two days. We made sugar cookies and decorated with icing and sprinkles and he had a fantastic Valentine's at school without us spending any extra.
- Most importantly of all, I have taken some money from our joint account and returned it to my Tax-Free Savings Account. Over the years we have used my investments here and there when things were tight. But when things were not tight we neglected to ever pay them back. The recent crisis in our economy gave me a real fright and I couldn't believe that despite my frugal tendencies I had not been topping up and saving more. When Husband is home from work he will also be depositing a lump sum that I can transfer into Tax-Free Savings for him. Our income can vary greatly from one month to the next, so I like the fact that we can use that money in an emergency without being penalized.
- I got a wee side job that I can do from home! It is very wee, so I am contributing the proceeds monthly to the above TFSA. We won't miss the money because we've not been used to having it, and it's not an amount that would help in a crisis. But if it is stashed away for long enough it will come in handy someday. If I am able to make extra with this side job I plan to let it accumulate and throw those extra amounts onto our mortgage. I don't want to schedule anything extra because I don't want to "have" to have the extra every month. But when it is there and it feels safe to do so, the plan is to put extra bits on the mortgage and save on interest in the long term.
I have always felt that household spending was the only area of our budget that I could control or change. But I realize now that my efforts are wasted unless I actually "do" something with the money saved. Until now, when I reduced spending on groceries or clothes the money still just trickled away, whether on fees or insurance or TV plans or extra trips to town (or fabric, or crafts, or antiques, or....). as I manage to lower some costs in some areas I am trying to invest and "pay down" in others. That is how I can control both our household expenses and our long-term savings. I have been reading Gail Vaz-Oxlade's Money Rules: Rule Your Money or Your Money Will Rule You. I skimmed through it because we are already doing most of what she talks about. But there were some areas that we have never talked about, mainly, what age do we plan to retire and how do we intend to get there? Not by mindlessly spending almost every pay cheque, that's for sure! And not on $100/month automatic transfers. We need to get more specific and start working towards our financial goals.
Next on my reading list is Gail's Debt-Free Forever. If you've never checked out her Interactive Budget and you haven't figured out your monthly expenses (or don't know where to start) sit down and go through her website. She is no-nonsense, humorous, and puts things in terms even I can understand. If you are trying to get control of your money these are great places to start (and no, I'm not being paid to say that!). It feels good to take action.