Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What exactly is essential?

Don't you love that time of the month (or week, depending on your style) when you have to sit down and pay the bills? I pay them as close to the 15th of each month as I can, because my husband is paid on that day. I immediately write out the tithe and mortgage checks. Most of my bills are paid online. I could do this with the mortgage, but I add as much extra as I can each month, so it varies in amount. I am paid bi-weekly, and my checks vary widely because I may work 4 hours one week and 20 the next. One thing I have learned: if I I send out the mortgage as soon as Mike gets paid, adding as much as I reasonably can, I then have to force myself to make do with what is left. If I wait until the end of the month to pay, invariably other things come up and the extra isn't added. Works for us.

I remember reading an Amy Dacyzyn article waaaaaaay back about figuring out what is essential and what isn't. It was eye-opening even though we were poor college students at the time. Since then, I've read much on the subject, so for the next few posts, I'm going to talk about several "essential" areas and ways that I have found that I can cut back...or ways I didn't but could!

Let's hit the biggie first: groceries. Aside from the mortgage and possibly the tithe, it is the single biggest expense that most of us have. I remember a co-worker once talking about her MIL. Seems mama had given her a dressing down about how much she was spending on groceries. "She just doesn't get it, " she sniffed, "it's not like we can just stop eating." On further probing when we were alone, she admitted that she spent way too much on "junk food." "My husband and kids will easily eat a whole box of chicken wings, a bag of popcorn and a 2 liter of Coke every night watching TV" she sighed, "but I just don't feel like I can tell them no." It really is the little foxes that ruin the vines, isn't it?

To make this personal, let's look at my typical Aldi $90.00 grocery purchase.  What I would call the essentials are: milk, OJ, eggs, lunch meat, cheese, bread, frozen/fresh veggies, peanut butter, fruit, oatmeal, ground turkey, chicken,  rice and pasta. What I buy that I could cut out completely: coffee/filters, juice boxes for lunches (more on this later), poptarts, boxed snack cakes, soda and candy. What I could easily substitute for a cheaper alternative: cold cereal (oatmeal/grits), baby carrots (cut and peel whole carrots), condensed soup (make my own with basic white sauce) paper napkins (cloth)...well, you get the idea.

In other words, yes, we do have to eat, but we could subsist on rice and beans (Dave Ramsey style). Where you draw the line is a very personal matter. I just want to get you thinking about what you truly need. One item that I did cut out this year is the pre-packaged juice boxes. With 5 lunches packed a day, (Mike drinks water), even using store brands and coupons, I was spending about $4.75 a week. Now I wash and reuse 12 oz Gatorade bottles and fill them with generic "crystal lite." I spend about a dollar a week. Over the course of the school year, this will save over $120.00. And that's just one example. You will also recall that I get 97% of my toilettries (toothpaste/brushes, soap, shampoo, deoderant, make-up, etc) free after rebates at the "big 3" drugstores. Obviously, I'm not brand loyal.

There you go, some food for thought. What could/have you cut out of the grocery bill?


  1. Wow Trish, I love this! I too love to save $ but lately it seems for every two you save you spend four. I will be reading regularly. Thanks Mary

  2. Thanks, Mary. Nice to have you on board! Be sure to subscribe or follow to get in on my monthly giveaways! Blessings, Tricia

  3. We try just buying food for one meal a day & see how long the leftovers can go for lunches(???) Rarely buy "lunch" food.