Once I get going on the “simplify” theme, it is hard to stop. Especially when the simplifying actually saves me money.
Oh, if you are just joining me now on the “saving money and simplifying stuff” theme, you might want to read this post first.
Something we are quite passionate about now is growing at least some of our own food. It is cheaper, it tastes better, and it is so ridiculously easy to do that almost everyone can do it. Literally, we prep the soil with a bit of compost and cow poop, plant it and basically ignore it until it is time to start snacking on snow peas and strawberries. Sometimes when I need a little time to myself, a bit of stress relief, I do some weeding. Well worth the few bucks we spend on seeds and new garden gloves every spring.
At some point in my married life I seem to have morphed into a bit of a do-it-yourselfer. Not something one would ever have suspected of me had they known me earlier in my life. That being said, it is strangely satisfying and much, much cheaper to do many things yourself than to hire an expert. We ripped off and rebuilt a deck last year. I am quite sure it would have cost double had we hired someone, and on the bright side it is still standing and attached to the house so we must have done something right.
Back on the topic of stuff, we have tried since our girls were born to be sensible when it comes to belongings. As soon as children come on the scene, the sheer volume of things seems to grow exponentially just to fill their basic needs. Babies come out of the womb with pretty minimal baggage, but it doesn’t take long for them to take over the house with all of their goods. Now that our little ones are not quite so little, we have tried to pass things on as much as possible, but we still have closets stuffed full of outgrown clothes and toys and cute boots that they wore twice. There are books and toys in almost every room no matter how hard we try to limit the spread. We try to be fairly restricted in toy and book purchases, but there is no stopping Santa and grandparents.
One thing we do to cut back on both clutter and cost is use the library. It helps that I am there all the time, but even if I weren’t we would still get most of our entertainment there. We easily take out 25 kids’ picture and chapter books a week, as well as adult books, the latest magazines, music CDs (gone are the days of only classical music at the library) and movies and television shows on DVD. So it is all free and when we are done with it we return it. One sweep through the house and at least 30 things a week are cleared out. To make room for new! Even when we are on holidays we get a library card where we are staying and pick up a supply of trashy magazines, kids’ books on CD for the car, whatever. It is also a great free rainy-day activity when you are camping to go hang out at the library for a couple of hours.
At our house we have done a lot of the classic “save money and energy” things like change lightbulbs to compact fluorescents, wash everything except ourselves in cold water, seal around the windows to stop heat loss. We even had a home energy audit done on our century house a few years ago when there were still government rebates for energy-saving renovations. It has made a difference, but we still dream of putting in solar hot water and getting rid of oil-powered heat forever. That is not yet in the cards for us, so we continue to find ways to save in other departments.
As I learn more about our finances, I have found that it annoys me more and more that I spend so much on banking fees every month. Now that we have combined finances, the two of us mostly use one account for everything, to get paid into and to pay everything out of. Funny how there seems to be a lot more “coming out” than “going in.” Anyhow, we have increased our banking plan several times, only to find that we still go over the maximum allowed transactions every month, which means paying a monthly fee AND also paying sixty cents for every extra transaction. To get unlimited transactions would cost $14 a month. Yep, it’s ridiculous. Paying $14 a month to a bank that is making billions in profits every year from OUR money.
Well, they may only be making a few dollars off my money personally, but you know what I mean. Anyhow, I decided to check out the online banks, and ING was offering me $50 to open an account with them. That got my attention. They offered ME $50 if I deposited $100 in a new account. And they don’t have any transaction fees for regular things like paying bills. None. So just for signing up, I got $50 and I saved $14 to $16 a month on bank fees. Huh. Almost $200 a year. Now I don’t usually promote brands, but I am so annoyed with the regular banks that I am willing to brag a little about this. And if other people are referred to ING by me, we EACH get a $25 bonus. I am willing to suffer the humiliation of doing their marketing for them, so here is the link:
Ah yes, did I mention we don’t buy booze anymore? Of all the cost-cutting measures, that seems the harshest. I suppose in the olden days we would have just fired up the still out back to make some home brew. Just a wee glass of icy cold wine on a summer’s eve is truly a luxury, but hey, we do what we must to get off the merry-go-round of debt. And someday, we will get there.