Frugality was heavily featured in 2010. Getting out of the red is the new black, so to speak, and being frugal is hip, it would appear. Far from being hip (far from it), frugality for us has been the status quo ever since we got married, which was in November of 2001. The market had tanked since September 11, and there were many rumors of layoffs where we both worked. We decided then to refinance our house, which was at 7.5%, and got a new rate of 4.75%, which when coupled with just paying the principle and interest only, cut the mortgage payments nearly in half. We did this so that we could manage to keep the house if one or both of us were laid off, which we fully expected. Steve and I have been living beneath our means for many years, and have a padding of a few months' living expenses should the very worst happen. That's why when I lost my job in September of 2009, I was bummed, but I wasn't panicked. I'm still not panicked. In all honesty, I love being home, but I am starting to feel the strain of not being 'out there' because I should be. I also don't love that Steve is pulling all the weight, and frankly, I'd like him to not have to work where he's working. Things have not been great for him since the company was purchased two years ago, and the stress is starting to tell on him. He actually woke me up grinding his teeth in his sleep the other night. So I need a job so I can get him out of there.
I'd really like both of us to not have to work. Early retirement, to my way of thinking, is a fairly noble goal. Do what you need to do so that you can get out of the race and leave your job open for someone who needs it. And unless you're a trust fund baby, which I am not, you have to be frugal and do what you can so that you don't have to put off retirement until you're too old or sick to enjoy it. I'm reminded every once in awhile that my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of fifty-six and died when he was sixty-two. He didn't get to retire.
The conventional wisdom is that to be able to retire at a fairly young age, you need to be frugal, and whatever's left over you invest. For more information, you might want to check out Early Retirement Extreme blog. I'm not sure that at the late stage of fifty-one years of age, I could actually qualify for retiring early, especially since it will be awhile. I would just like to retire at a reasonable age. But I'd also like my husband, who is six years my junior, to be able to retire with me, so he would be retiring early. And to do that, we need to pay off the house and invest as much as we can, and to do that we need to be frugal.
Being frugal, I've discovered, is a lot like being on a diet. I understand all the rational reasons for frugality, but like dieting, once you're committed, it's really hard to stick to it. We'd planned to really cut back on spending starting in November, but I needed a new crown. Steve needs a bite guard. Then the car needed $510 of work this month, and next month it will need close to $1000, which needs to be done before we leave for Mom's for Christmas. Today I had some blood tests done, although the bill probably won't show up until next month. This is all stuff that we can handle without a problem (because we don't spend everything we make) so I'm not complaining about this stuff ruining my efforts at frugality. Stuff happens.
But I didn't really need to hit Amazon.com three times this month. The first time was to get an iron trivet for the wood stove so that I can keep a kettle hot on it without actually boiling all the water away. The second time was for a DVD that I wanted for Steve. The third time, I really tried not to buy The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson, but there were fifty-six holds on the library's copy, and I can't wait until sometime next spring to read the next installment. Besides, the neighbor from whom I borrowed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo also has the third book, but not the second, so I should really return the favor by getting the second and lending it to her. You see how I rationalize all this stuff? Steve also purchased a false bottom for his mash tun, and I think he said he needs a length of heat proof hosing for it. On some things you can't compromise.
I've already decided that with the beginning of 2011, I'm going back to recording absolutely everything we spend, which I haven't done since we left Florida. I just got out of the habit and haven't gotten back in it, but it's time I did. This also means that I'll have to set a budget for 2011, which I should probably get started on today. Part of that budget is to earmark $2000 a month extra for paying down the principle. If I can manage it, I can get our mortgage out of the way in a little under five years. I may not be able to do that if Steve jumps ship and goes with another job, but I'll do it as long as I can, at any rate.
So going forward, I have to be a lot better about not spending online, or anywhere else, for that matter. Books are usually in the budget- I mean, they've always been before, but I need to show a little restraint the next time. I also need to figure out some other things to do. Generally, we don't spend a ton on food because I'm a scratch cook, and we don't go out to eat that often. We are going to the movies this afternoon (more on that later), but that's usually in the budget too. I think the best way for me to watch it is to go back to recording everything. I think I also need to do that little trick of writing down what I want and then waiting a month, and then if I still want it, then figure out how to do it. Maybe part of the budget should be to set a goal of seeing how much cash I can hang on to every month. I'm much more motivated when it's a game.
And since I started this post, I've received a letter from the State of Oregon indicating that my unemployment benefits have expired. Boy! They sure didn't waste any time, did they? Congress just let them expire and the State jumped on that bandwagon.
This just means that I have to redouble my efforts at frugality, and at finding work. Failure isn't an option this time.