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Bridging the Gap with Sacred Cows

Last week I wrote about my new, improved (much smaller) budget. A budget to based not on what we currently make, but what I would like to make. A budget of one income, and a lesser one at that.


Isn’t that great!? Look at me go with my less monies! Small problem: It doesn’t work. There’s a gap. I can either reduce one income significantly or I can eliminate another income entirely. But, I can not do both. I mean, I can. In theory. With that money I could then feed the dogs, and maybe get some food for us too. That’d be about it. I couldn’t afford life’s trivial things like oh say… gas, household expenses, holidays, medical care, or have any slush fund to speak of. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that’s not a workable budget.

I’ve been mucking around with how to fix that. A lot. With mixed results. The Husband and I keep going over and over and over the line items. Line items I’m already intimately familiar with. Line items I would have said were rock solid, couldn’t be compromised. No way. Yet, I find as we divide things up into categories, maybe I’m wrong. We’ve focused on what we can’t change (The Big Fat Mortgage, recently refinanced, not heading downward anytime soon), what would change in this scenario (certain work expenses down, cell phone bill up), and those sacred cows we just don’t wanna sacrifice.

Sacred Cows. Some of these items have been in my budget for a very long time. When I was working two jobs to hold things together, it was to pay for this stuff. Stuff I only question after repeated berating, with nowhere left to go.

Gym Membership. I love my local YMCA, where I run to my hearts content inside. Very useful in rainy Seattle. I also lift weights, attend spin class, have a bunch of friends, and pay too much for my membership. Too much when compared with skeevy Corporate Gym alternatives. In order to maintain my weight (which has other budgetary implications), a gym membership is not optional. The Husband doesn’t care about the skeevy-ness of his workout facility. Also, if my work hours were different there is a city rec center I could go to for significantly less. Adjustments will be made.

CSA. Community supported agriculture represents $74 of my monthly grocery spending. That’s more than 10%. With Ugly Garden and food preservation in full swing, it’s time to cut the cord. Cancelled.

Comic Book Subscription. First, yes I have a comic book subscription. What about it? It’s only one. And its a doozy. A welcome surprise in my mailbox about once a month. At the cost of $7. When it comes to being able to quit my job, I can let go of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also cancelled.

Savings. I’m not canceling savings, but The Husband would argue I set the bar too high. I divert 15% of our base income to help me sleep at night. Then I put away money for inevitable car and vet emergencies. On top of all that I squirrel away dollars here, there, and yon, ending up with about 17% saved. That’s a hefty chunk of money right off the top. Can I tone it back to 10% and keep with my squirelly ways to get somewhere around 12%?

Internet. Since you readers weighed in with your money saving tips (Thank you!), I’ve been considering options. Getting cheaper internet is one of them. Right now I have to constantly negotiate with Comcast to keep my bill reasonable. Even with that, it could be better. I hate the hassle of changing, but I think it’s in order.

Utilities. Water specifically, another reader suggestion. One I need to get The Husband on board with. He is resistent to the idea of using our grey water for Ugly Garden. I need to work on this (hence the savings compromise) and research the pro’s and con’s to make a compelling argument. Water aside, the rest of our utility usage is pretty damn good.

All this, not enough. Grand total we are talking about $250 here. A number that both surprises and disappoints me. I’m surprised I found this much to carve out, and disappointed that it’s not enough to bridge the gap between what we need for life and what we will make.

Or not? Maybe these aren’t the sacred cows I’m looking for. Maybe the real and true sacred cows are local and organic grocery budgets and multi dog spending. Those are certainly more than $250. They are also categories I’ve already worked on and been unable (or unwilling) to make the compromises I need to reduce them significantly. I’ll send Buffy packing, but is that where I draw the line?

Next steps: This may very well not happen. Yet I’m not considering it a waste of time. If I get $250 of cashflow back, then this exercise was totally worth it. It’s also not done. It’s perhaps even a series. What about income generation? If I even think of this as something resembling a reality am I willing to make cuts I wouldn’t before? Will I be happy with all, any, some of this?

What are your sacred cows? Those line items in your budget you aren’t willing to sacrifice. Are there circumstances under which you would question that?

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If I could scale back to part time hours I would be willing to give up a portion of my $100/month allowance, put a little less in my savings account and cook more to offset eating out. I also make a double house payment but it would kill me to stop doing that. I am looking forward to 2013 when I revamp the budget. I believe I have over saved for car insurance and personal property taxes. This means I have a little extra $ and I will have a little extra to save/apply to the house payment.


Extra money towards the big fat mortgage was where a bunch of my ‘discretionary spending’ went pre-refinance. That’s its own reward, and a hard thing to give up as well.

Over-saving is not a problem most of America has. That will be a nice surprise!

Karawynn @ Pocketmint

I bet your grocery budget is trimmable, if you’re up for it. Like, by two or three hundred a month. If you’re willing to make some moderate changes. Maybe fewer organics, maybe less meat. Let me know if you ever want to talk through the options — I’m pretty good at getting the most for my money, grocery-wise.

Oh, and as an update to an earlier conversation: I bought the grain-free dog food at Costco. Sadly, there was no cat equivalent.


It probably is. Less meat is a big one for us. And I’m pretty picky about where it comes from. Some things more than others.

Let me know how the new food works out!

Crystal Wayward

Last year, when I started my corporate job, I really wanted to try to bike to work or take public transit to save money and sanity, but I just can’t quite do it. Eight miles by bike – and through a terribly non-direct route – or an hour bus trip for a 20-minute commute.
Dogs are also, of course, a huge sacred cow in our house. I think we feed ’em a little too good.
But don’t even get me started on the Boyfriend’s sacred cows…

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