We’ve been taking a hard look at our finances lately, in order to try and make sense of just where it is all of our money goes each month. By far our largest expenses are the mortgage, childcare, and savings, but there’s also some big-ticket debits being filed into the Automotive section (car payment, gas) and holy COW do we ever spend a lot of cash on groceries.
It’s important to us to be pretty aggressive with our savings, for our kids’ sake (college) as well as our own (wanting to retire before we drop dead, enfeebled and palsied) — so reducing savings isn’t an option. It’s important to me to keep working, for many reasons too numerous to detail here, so eliminating daycare isn’t an option. Everything else, though, is up for consideration, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what expenses I consider to be mission-critical.
Well, okay, so none of them are probably mission-critical, unless you count that whole “roof over our heads” thing. We’re trying to lower our mortgage but unfortunately now isn’t exactly a great time for consolidating loans and getting a fantastic low rate. We could move to a less expensive house, I suppose, but since we’re located in the insane Seattle housing market that would basically require building a small grass hut forty miles out of town.
I’m trying to be better about grocery shopping, but there’s just no getting around the fact that household staples cost a lot more than they used to. A half gallon of organic milk costs as much as a gallon of gas, and considering what gas costs that’s just NUTS.
We do pay for some monthly luxuries that I am loathe to give up — specifically, a housecleaning service and a lawncare service. My husband and I feel strongly about being able to use our minimal amounts of non-work, non-family free time for things we actually enjoy, like pursuing freelance opportunities or exercise or hell, just being able to sit down in front of a DVD together. Having someone help keep our bathrooms clean, our kitchen from morphing into a biohazard zone, and our lawn weeded and mowed is beyond wonderful. I appreciate these services so much, and they contribute in a huge way to our work/life balance. Sadly, though, they aren’t free.
Other luxuries I can think of include cable, nonessential kid gear, hair appointments, clothes, our beloved non-gas-conserving vehicles, Netflix, my husband’s occasional diving-related expenses, my once-in-a-blue-moon girls-day-outing to the movies. I don’t want to axe any of these things.
But I suppose that’s what cutting back is all about. And it looks like it’s time for us to get serious about doing so, because even as our income grows, our expenses are starting to grow even faster.
Are you feeling the pinch these days too? What sorts of measures have you taken to reduce your family’s spending?