Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Tight-Wad List

In many ways, I am super privileged to even be making this type of list. Eating out? Organics? Come on! Many, many folks live without these largely "middle-class" luxuries. But for us, these all represent a significant lifestyle change. And some of these will sound pretty extreme. No pain, no gain, I guess. More like, "let's survive the new economic realitities." But really, weren't many of these just how people lived 100 or 150 years ago?

  • NO eating out EVER, except for really, really, really special occassions... I know this is the usual for most folks, but for us, eating out has essentially become the biggest part of our (formerly $200) monthly "entertainment budget." In fact, we did overspend in our entertainment category on a not-irregular basis, and most months, eating out was the only culprit. We cut the budget to $100 upon our move, and thought that was all we could realistically expect of ourselves, knowing how busy we are and what a big change that was for us already. But not too long after, we realized we had to make this into a really significant lifestyle change. No more entertainment budget. None. Ever. This is the change I resent the most.
  • Far fewer organics. While the change above is the one I resent the most, this one is the one I worry about the most. The organics order of priorities is: (meat, which we don't eat), dairy, then fruits and veggies, then grains. While we have gone through other times in which we have been able to buy organic fruits and veggies only when they are the almost identical in price to non-organic, we've never had to cut out organic dairy. Now, however, we will be able to buy organic dairy much more rarely.
  • At the same time, I commit to recontacting our raw milk source, which is competatively priced (though we will have a drive to pay for to pick it up, so I will have to crunch the numbers). We will try making our own yogurts and cheeses if we can get enough milk for that purpose. This will require a significant shift in use of time. I am most looking forward to this change, though I am dreading contacting our source only because I contacted him last year but never had the time to follow-through and feel guilty. Also, next year, if we do the CSA (and given that we are having to cut down on our other organics and that the CSA is low cost, I am inclined to say we will as long as we can get a payment plan), there will have to be a moratorium on buying any other produce. No other produce expenditures at all. Ever. Somehow or another, we are going to have to live with eating only leafy greens when that is the only thing in season.
  • Soda almost never. This one has long been a goal of mine, but I've put if off far too long in fear of the withdrawl period. I'm in withdrawl right now (actually, I am sipping on a soda I found after hunting desperately in the pantry for just one unopened can), but I have reduced my soda intake by about 75% in the last week or so. Soda is going to have to become a drink for only very special occassions. Withdrawl symptoms include exhaustion, extreme headaches, complete irratibility, mood swings, unquenchable thirst, physical intolerance for changes in blood sugar, anxiety, and trembling muscles. On the plus side, I think I am finding some anecdotal evidence for the outlandish theory that my soda intake has something to do with my neurological issues. I am in the middle of a 72 hour EEG, and I have had almost no "events" to record.
  • No more canned beans or soups, and no more instant/convienence foods and frozen meals. These can all be cooked at home more cheaply, even if cooked and frozen ourselves.
  • No cell phones. We should have one contract ending this month, so that is good. But we might have to pay to get out of the contract on the other. We'll keep our prepaid phone for emergencies, but we recently discovered it is not working very well (keeps shutting off even with a charged battery, and has to be plugged in to work even half the time).
  • Changes in transportation. I've talked about this for a while, and have begun making some changes. Since moving, we've cut down on a great amount of driving. This will have to continue, and the next phase will be even more difficult because the bus system here is so incredibly unreliable and once it starts snowing (due to the fact that snow here turns to thick sheets of ice that never melt until the spring), biking (not that I even own a bike) is simply not possible. G and I found a garden wagon at Lowes on sale for $50. I think we are going to get it because it is large and would fit both kids plus a couple bags of groceries if not more. It also has these big, sturdy wheels that will work well for many surfaces. This would make walking to and from the grocery store more possible.
  • Lessened use of heat. See my next post.
  • A significantly changed Christmas. This year we will use a couple gift certificates we have saved after receiving them over the last year as gifts, etc. to buy the kids Christmas gifts. We'll be making all other gifts. Mostly, we will reduce by a good deal the amount we do gifts for the season. We also will modify the way we do Christmas cards, if we do them this year at all.
  • Natural lighting only during the day. To understand what a big deal this is, you have to understand where we live. Where I grew up, after it snowed, the sun would *eventually* come out and melt everything and bring some light for a while. Not here. Here, once it starts snowing, you don't see the sun again until the spring. It will be grey straight through. Also, as I mentioned, the snow here doesn't melt. The snow here becomes white ice once it hits the ground. Every time it snows again, a new layer goes on top of the old, which makes the first even more solid and compact. Think of the most painful kind of snowballs, and you know the kind of snow I am talking about. You can tear a pair of jeans on the ice just trying to shovel your driveway. In order to avoid SAD, we'll need to shovel our way out and spend time outdoors even when it is super cold and the ice on the ground is at thigh-level. And because the sun will be behind the clouds, I am talking about more than a few minutes outside each day. Time to get out the snowsuits and think of cheap activities to do when we are stuck home in the snow.
  • No lights after 8pm. The kids are in bed asleep by that time, so they won't be impacted in any way. But this means, if G and I are still up (what an incentive to go to bed early), if I am just getting home from a meeting or whatever, I will go by candle-light, or the light from the computer if G is watching a movie or working on the computer or something.
  • 90%+ homeade homeschool supplies. I can't really spend money right now on our Montessori lessons. I am going to have to find a way to collect cheap stuff to make the lessons from.
  • Home computer use limit of five hours per day total for the family, and turned off between useage. ALL other appliances unplugged when not in use.
  • A return to dial-up? No home internet? After the changes above, our monthly budget includes only food, medical care, mortgage, and basic utilities, except for the internet and driving back and forth to visit G's parents and sister (an hour and a half drive). We can't reasonably cut the latter. G's parents are advanced in age, and our visits with them are important. Also, we combine it with a trip to K's therapist, who is in Boston which is on the way. However, we are changing our lifestyle so much for this winter that I also don't think I am quite ready to say no more high speed home internet. That said, a few months down the line, I'll probably reconsider.

The good thing about all this? I think if we are successful, we are going to spend less time goofing off on the computer, and more time playing games, writing letters, and at the library. I think we are going to be getting better sleep and become more in tune with the natural cycle of the day.


Sara said...

We'll all be cutting back, I'm sure. Good luck!

Masasa said...

Oh yeah. I don't know a single person right now who isn't talking about where they can cut back. Thanks for the luck. I am already having a hard time "sticking to my guns" on these. Living without the heat is hard because already it is very cold here and I still haven't found a good pair of long underware for myself yet. The lights out at night thing, though, may prove to be the second most challenging, especially without the heat. We'll see.