Posted by: mollyrossiter | February 8, 2009

Time to tighten the belt

As a divorced mother raising two teenagers, I’ve always known things would be a bit tighter for us than they were for other families. We don’t live extravagantly and even when we do “splurge” I made sure it’s nothing we can’t afford to do.

Like many Iowans and Americans these days, though, as talk about a dwindling economy and recession continue, I’m taking a really close look at our household budget and where cuts and trims can be made.

I was surprised.

First of all, there are a few things I didn’t want to cut:

* We all have cell phones with unlimited texting, at a cost of about $100 per month. I like being able to reach the kids when I’m at work and they’re out with friends, and I’d rather pay a set monthly fee for texting ($19.95) rather than be surprised at the end of the month.

* I pay about $40 for basic cable through a rural cable provider. I rarely watch television but when I do, most of the shows I prefer to watch are on Discovery, USA and TNT, my daughter watches ABCFamily, MTV and VH1 when she’s got the TV on, and my son is a Comedy Central and FX fan.

* I do pay extra for high speed Internet, and that’s the first big thing, if it comes down to it, that will probably go. We still have a land line with no long distance, but until our cell phone provider can give us better service in our small town, that has to stay.

Still, there are a number of seemingly small things that could save us money — a surprisingly large amount of money — that we could change without feeling the loss of something to which we’ve grown accustomed:

— My daughter and I have begun to turn our thirst more toward water, but my son enjoys his Mountain Dew and, I’ll admit, I still need a glass or two of Diet Coke a day. Generally we buy the 20 oz. bottles at about $1.49 each, plus deposit and tax. I’ve started buying the 2 liters at home — same price as a 20 oz. bottle or sometimes even less, with about four times the amount of soda. We’ve gone from buying about 10 individual bottles of pop a week (at a cost of about $17.50 per week, or $70 per month) to buying three 2 liters per week (for about $5 a week or $20 a month). Savings: $50 per month.

— For now, we’ve stopped going to the movies and are instead renting DVDs. With ticket prices reaching $9 per person, it costs the three of us $27 just to get in. We used to go to the movies about twice a month, at a cost of $54. Now we rent two movies and a video game twice a month at a cost of about $30. Savings: $24 a month.

— Coupons, coupons, coupons. For the price of a Sunday paper (which I get anyway) and about a half-hour with the scissors, I generally save about $7 to $10 a week on groceries with coupons alone. I still weigh the price difference between a coupon saving and the store brand, but with items on sale, coupons and store brands last week I saved $14.75 in one trip. Average savings: $7 a week or $28 per month.

With just those three things, I’m saving about $100 more a month than I was just two months ago. Is it a lot? No. But if my savings can total one of my bills (cell phone, perhaps?) then I think it’s a step in the right direction.



  1. So true Molly. Cutting corners is becoming a must just up the street from you as well. A friend of mine has created a blog of her own, souly dedicated to the art of saving money. I have to practice at the coupon thing. I ALWAYS forget them.

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