Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The cost of living...

Metric measuring cups, $2.99 from Goodwill (imperial ones cost $0.49)
When was the last time you took a good long look at your finances? No, not just scanning your bank statement, but actually writing down what you spend on day-to-day living - when was the last time you did this?

Me? I've never really done it, until now. A few years ago Michael spent about 6 months entering every dollar he spent and where it went and came up with a very pretty and interesting Excel spreadsheet, with pretty graphs showing his savings going up. I might have the patience for knitting, but I wasn't really interested in doing something so... tedious?

As the "home maker" Michael has charged me with such a task, because we have been living off our savings for the past 4-5 months, and really don't want to dip into our savings now that Michael is being paid (yay!!). We're actually hoping to save money. Strangely enough, doing it fairly simply, it is actually interesting and reassuring to see where our money is going.

Now, I'm only using broad terms like: food; eating out; rent; utilities; hygiene (although this sort of comes under household items); alcohol; clothes/home (which includes crockery etc, linen, shoes, books, computer and camera bits, wool...); and touristy activities. Initially there was also a column for establishment costs, just to keep a record of how much it has cost to set up our apartment, even in the little we have done, because it'll give us some idea of how much we'll be spending on that sort of thing when we come back to Australia*. There are no columns for: living on a very low income and savings for 4-5 months; US Visa processes. Needless to say these two columns would be scary.

So, after about 1.5 months living in Manhattan, KS, I think we'll be ok... but we've been a little overwhelmed by the whole process and may not have always been thrifty as possible, i.e. we were buying 1/2 gallons (1.89 litres) of organic whole milk for $3.50, when 1 gallon (3.78 litres) of the home brand whole milk costs $3. That's all part of the learning curve, just like finding bread without sugar and learning that Acetaminophen is Paracetamol.

Once we've been here for a few more months I think we'll have a better idea of where we can save money on food and minimise food waste, buy in bulk for stockpiling, and minimise water and electricity usage. For now we're focusing on eating as simply and cheaply as possible without compromising our health, making do with what we have, buying second hand where possible and lower-mid range where it's not (in the hope that these items will last the year), cheap thrills, and, as Michael would say, not dying.

And if we can afford to pay $2.99 for measuring cups, when we already have imperial measuring cups ($0.49 from the Salvation Army shop), for my sanity (not just because they're pretty), I think we might even be able to travel a little outside Manhattan, KS. But we still have to watch the money.

*We have some homely things in storage, so the cost of re-establishment should be less, but there will still be costs involved.

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