Cutting back is hard work

Like a lot of Americans this economic downturn has gotten real personal, in the past month between client cut backs we are operating with over $2000 less than we did just a couple of months ago. Thankfully we still have income but when you start losing a couple thousand dollars, it means the only way to make the basic bills is to really start cutting back.

For me this is beyond surface cuts, I already got rid of newspaper and magazine subscriptions and premium cable a while ago. No, this month meant looking at things like the grocery bill which has always been a tad high. The older I have gotten and the more refined my palate has grown, so has my grocery bill. I only eat farm fed beef, which a pound of ground beef goes for $8, my milk of choice comes from a local farm that sells quarts of milk for $2 a quart plus a $1 for the bottle deposit (thankfully that is refundable)  which with kids means we easily go through $10-12 a week in milk alone.

Now with times so tight, there are certain things I don’t want to give up mainly my local beef and milk and local produce when in season but everything else is negotiable. So my challenge is to reduce the grocery bill to $400 down from the normal $500-550 in winter months (mind you this time of year, elder boy is at his dad’s so that bill is only for 2 adults and a 3 year old).

So yesterday I went shopping and spent a whopping $187 for groceries for 2 weeks with a few bucks left over for milk and produce, can I just say that cutting back is hard work. In order to keep the bill down, rather than one stop shopping at the local chain store, I went to several stores to catch the deals. Now back when I was a single Mama I used to shop like this so its not new to me but admittedly after 13 years of not being single, its an adjustment.

However the biggest challenge is going to be living with the $150 from now until the 20th that I have allotted for miscellaneous spending. I would like to say I am doing a no spend challenge but really this is a modified version where its the don’t spend so much challenge. To the super frugal person reading this they may be wondering how is this cutting back, believe me this is cutting back in a large way. I am now writing down everything I spend and let me tell you its not the big shit that gets me its the little shit. Just Sunday I spent $41 on bullshit….play dough for the kid,a few items at the store. Truth is money has always gotten away from me.

Now the plan is to spend as little of that money as possible and come the end of the month, dump it in my savings account.  Eventually I do want to have no spend days but I know myself well enough to know if I go from what I used to spend weekly to no spend, it would be like starting a diet, starving myself for a few weeks and then having a binge session.

Yet, I gotta say living on less is hard work, though at the same time I recognize that even in the midst of my own financial storm, I am blessed to still have something for extras, when so many are struggling to just keep the lights on and food on the table it almost feels wrong to say I only have $150 for miscellaneous. Though I should add some of what that must cover is things like my dry cleaning (have a few meetings this month with funders for work, must look decent while begging for my cause), new shoes for the little one (going through a growth spurt) and of course my weekly pack of butts (yeah, I know….better to quit).

Anyway I will keep you posted in two weeks and let you know how well I do on this first go around with less money.

By the way, so glad to see that Tom Daschle has withdrew his name, I mean really that was not a small tax issue at all. If only we could get these damn companies that are getting gubment funds (aka, our money) to realize that when you get a government handout, it pretty much means you can’t have the extras in your budget….just ask folks living off government entitlement programs. We need to scrutinize these banks like we do aid recipients…if some single Mama in middle America can’t own 2 cars to qualify for cash assistance then a bank or other entity getting a handout shouldn’t be giving out bonuses or having lavish retreats. Come on man, where’s the common sense?