I don't like to harp on about money too much - I find it a devastatingly dull conversational piece. But I can't hide from the facts...in giving up my fairly-well paying career so that I could focus my energies on my writing, I simply do not have the disposable income I once had. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. The fact that I'm happier and healthier is vindication enough for my pre-mid-life-crisis. And so I find that I have to live off a tight budget. For those of you who have just made the leap into writerdom, or are considering it, here are some of the money-saving ideas that I have found to be the most effective for me:
1. Five Dollar Meals - Essentially this is a rule that means I can't (or won't) spend more than $5 on a meal. This means that, when I am cooking, if I spend $20 on ingredients, the food needs to have at least four servings. Now, keep in mind that it's a maximum of $5, I usually aim for about $2 - $3 per serve for a home cooked meal. This involves lots of slow-cooked cheap cuts of meat, lots of rice, and lots of imagination.
This rule also counts if I forget to bring my lunch to work, or I am running late and need to buy breakfast on the go. I get really, really uspet with myself if I have to buy both breakfast and lunch. Including a coffee, I will not spend more than $5 for either of these meals. That's the tough one - coffee these days costs at least $4, especially as I have soy milk, so I have to really want a coffee if I am going to buy one. I have had to learn to live with the instant coffee that my boss provides me with.
And if you're out to dinner with friends? This is a tough one. Usually I know in advance that I am going to have to splurge on a night out, so I will really tighten the belt in the week leading up to the aforementioned dinner. This means absolutely no coffees, and sandwiches from a $1.09 loaf of bread from Coles. Not overly appetising, but I enjoy the dinner with friends all the more for it.
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2. Five Dollars a Wear - This is a rule given to me by a friend, only she had a $10 a wear rule. If you are going to buy an item of clothing, it should work out to be at least $5 a wear. So, if you buy an $80 dress, it needs to be worn 20 times. I have to admit, this rule is easy for me to follow as I don't tend to bother with fashion, and so I apply it to spontaneous purchases as well. For example, I will not buy a book for $20 if I am only going to get a day or two out of it - that's what libraries are for.
I sometimes cheat with this rule. For example, I have a friend's wedding coming up and she is very particular. The day is really important to her, and it is a social faux pas to wear a dress to a wedding that everyone has already seen. After weeks of searching I bought a very nice dress for $80 that I will probably only wear 3 or 4 times. To be able to afford it, I didn't drink coffee for a month.
3. Utilise Lay-By - this one is to help with idea number 2, and is something I only recently discovered. I recently bought a ring for myself in memorandum for my Nan, who I lost to cancer a few months ago (with little forget-me-not flowers on it, which we used to gather together). I paid $5 a week until the ring was paid off, THEN I got the ring. This meant that I had to really, really want the ring, as the luster wears off a bit after waiting so long when the purchase is not something you really need. As it happens, I haven't had even the briefest moment of regret.
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4. Ease Off the Gas - I discovered that I get an extra day's worth of petrol if I don't 'floor-it' when driving. When you ease up to the speed limit, you use less petrol. I have a granny-mobile so this can be really tough to do. It takes me so much longer than everyone else to reach the speed limit even when I do stomp on the accelerator. And so I crank up the music and bop along, refusing to look at the speedometer and how slow I am going. This does not mean you have to drive slowly - I don't. I am just not in as much of a rush to reach the speed limit as I used to be. Once I reach the speed limit I travel at the same pace as everyone else. Disclaimer: sorry to all those folks who drive on the same roads as me.
I am still fairly new to this whole saving money palaver. I would love to know anyone else's tips and tricks that I can try!