Saturday, October 4, 2008

Neccesity or Luxury? You Call It.

Our family is going to start comparing financial expenditures with another family as we try to buy only necessities rather than luxuries (I will call us FID for Family in Debt. I will call them OFID for Other Family in Debt). I think we are defining "necessity" a bit loosely (beer is on the list), but we will cut out many of the expenses that are truly superfluous--all in an effort to reduce our debt and balance our budgets (since no one is going to bail US out). We are modeling ourselves (with much less rigor, I think) on the efforts of Judith Levine and her husband, as chronicled in Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping.

As a result of our efforts to improve our budgets and decrease our spending, I will occasionally post some of my expenditures in order to play a little game of "Necessity or Luxury: You Call It!"

Here's our first round:

  1. Three-ring binder and folder for all of the stuff that comes home from kindergarten with my son.
  2. Brand-name toothpaste.
  3. A new box of markers for my kids who draw A LOT.
  4. A new copy of my reading group book (couldn't find it used at my local store).
  5. Birthday gifts for my step-father.
  6. Dance classes for the month of October for my daughter (and myself).
  7. Karate class for October for my son.
  8. Two Tiger's Milk bars for the kids after dance class today.
  9. A loaf of really awesome bread from a local bakery (sliced for sandwiches).
  10. A spirulina smoothie for myself (medicinal expense since I have a cold?).
  11. Monthly subscription to NYT and local paper.
  12. Monthy subscription to Netflix (but we don't have cable . . . )
Other than utility bills, mortgage, and car insurance, these are the only expenditures so far. I know it's only been four days . . .

Oh, and I think my husband purchased lunch every day this week. We need to work on that. I'm not sure what else he has purchased . . .

Whaddya think? Necessity or luxury.

8 comments:

amstr said...

Good for you! I'm impressed. I read Levine's book about a year and a half ago, and couldn't really imagine doing it, although I think it a noble pursuit. The best we've been able to do is keep to a weekly spending budget. We figured out a number that we could afford and that we thought would cover our general weekly expenses (groceries, adventures, eating out, etc.), plus a little extra that we could save up over a few weeks for classes, clothes, haircuts, etc.

We use buxfer.com to keep track of our spending. That way we can both enter spending, see our total for the week, and access our total from anywhere (thanks to our iPhones--talk about an unnecessary expense).

Your list looks pretty great so far! I'd probably vote for them all as necessities, or at least justifiable splurges. My guess is that as you figure out shortcuts (an in-between brand name and generic toothpaste that you like, library and post-it-notes for book group, bulk snacks to take with you for after classes, making your own bread (ha!), online newspaper reading) your list may end up looking more extravagant to you then it does now.

As for the eating out, some friends of mine we're paying down debt and had a $3 max (each, per day) lunch budget. This was 10 years ago, but they made it work (and ate vegetarian).

I'm eager to hear how your endeavor goes.

baxie said...

I wanted to like that book- it had a great premise. But the prose style hamstrung my enthusiasm.

I'm going in reverse- after a lifetime of no meaningful debt, I'm going into hock to settle my mom's estate (this is what happens when the deceased give away money they don't have) and fix up the house.

My sop to economizing the last few years has been regular trips to the dollar store for toothpaste, toothbrushes and shower curtains.

I could probably buy a car on what I've spent at the coffee shop next to the store over the years.

baxie said...

PS:

I also do the 'netflix instead of cable' dodge.

I'm planning on hooking up a dedicated streaming computer to the tv in the new place to take full advantage of their 'on demand' stuff.

Good Enough Woman said...

Yes, gotta love Netflix "On Demand" (i.e., immediate gratifcation). As for Levine's book, I enjoyed the premise, but her political harangues and other aspects of her style did, indeed, hijack the book.

Coffee shops. Ah, yes. I haven't been to my local shop in at least two weeks!

baxie said...

ok ok on topic:

1. Three-ring binder and folder for all of the stuff that comes home from kindergarten with my son.

Necessity.
What's he supposed to do, paperclip it together?

2. Brand-name toothpaste.

Necessity, and if you get it at the DOLLAR STORE only a buck!

3. A new box of markers for my kids who draw A LOT.

Art = necessity
(I'm not being much help here, am I)

4. A new copy of my reading group book (couldn't find it used at my local store).

Books = ....you get the drift

5. Birthday gifts for my step-father.

Depends on how much you like him.

6. Dance classes for the month of October for my daughter (and myself).

This falls under 'luxury', unless the lil girl wants to be Gelsey Kirkland.

7. Karate class for October for my son.

substitute 'bruce lee' for 'gelsey kirkland'.

8. Two Tiger's Milk bars for the kids after dance class today.

Luxury! Let them graze on the lawn!

9. A loaf of really awesome bread from a local bakery (sliced for sandwiches).

Bread is the staff of life- NECESSITY.

10. A spirulina smoothie for myself (medicinal expense since I have a cold?).

smoothies are by definition a luxury.

11. Monthly subscription to NYT and local paper.

Considering you can get everything in a newspaper for free online, I say Luxury.

The Sunday NYT is a separate entity and could easily be classified as a Necessity.

12. Monthy subscription to Netflix (but we don't have cable . . . )

Luxury, but a justifiable one.

Good Enough Woman said...

I agree about the NYT, but my subscription is 4.95 per week, which is less that the Sunday issue at the corner store . . . Thus my dilemma. Although we are thinking that after the election we might cancel, mostly because of the trees we're using up. But it pains me to think of its absence.

Louise said...

My opinions:

1. Three-ring binder and folder for all of the stuff that comes home from kindergarten with my son.

Think you could have dug something up around the house or was this a time saving purchase versus a "need" purchase? Both, in my world, have value. Time is a precious commodity.

2. Brand-name toothpaste.

Luxury

3. A new box of markers for my kids who draw A LOT.

If the old ones were worn out - necessity. Art is key.

4. A new copy of my reading group book (couldn't find it used at my local store).

Library? Otherwise, necessity.

5. Birthday gifts for my step-father.

Luxury. Get the man a card, you're raising a family. Ditto for all family members (excluding the Husband/kiddie poos -including me!)

6. Dance classes for the month of October for my daughter (and myself).

Necessity. Art, dance, creativity are all necessities.

7. Karate class for October for my son.

See above. Karate is an art.

8. Two Tiger's Milk bars for the kids after dance class today.

You know the answer.

9. A loaf of really awesome bread from a local bakery (sliced for sandwiches).

Sadly, a luxury.

10. A spirulina smoothie for myself (medicinal expense since I have a cold?).

Luxury.

11. Monthly subscription to NYT and local paper.

Choose one or the other.

12. Monthy subscription to Netflix (but we don't have cable . . . )

What about changing your subscription to a cheaper version?

My 2 cents. However, you are talking to someone who spends hundreds of dollars on skin care products, hundreds of dollars to my hair stylist, but will buy the generic soup because it saves me $.12.Perhaps that's how I justify the skin and hair. Vanity drains my bank account.

Louise said...

One more thing....

I was awesome at penny pinching when I was unemployed. I was amazed at how little I could spend when I worked at it - HARD. Sadly, I had the time because I was unemployed. Being that frugal took planning, time and dedication. I couldn't do it now if I wanted to (which I do).

I think what you're doing is great though. Shane and I are exploring our own efforts at saving.

L.