Here’s an interesting mental exercise that grew out of a community dinner the other night. Would you be able to make do with half of your current monthly income? It’s not as obvious of a question as you might think, so just take a minute and imagine yourself with half of your current monthly income. Could you survive?
I took this to heart and got out a copy of my monthly budget. Next to it, I added another column. I then carried over my income amounts, but divided them in half, and I went through every category, trying to figure out where I might shave some money to make it through.
The biggest cut was in entertainment expenses, which I reduced by 90%; there are many options for free or almost free entertainment that I could look at if this were the case. I then started cutting away services: Netflix, cable, internet, and so forth. I chopped my clothing and hygiene budget as well; I could wear clothes many more times and Ivory or generic soap can get you clean. I also reduced my monthly savings by about 75%, but didn’t eliminate it, and I lowered insurance costs by looking at rates with higher deductibles.
I was able to make it under that 50% threshold. I would lose a lot of the luxuries that I consider an everyday part of my life, but I would still have a home, still have food on the table, and still have a wonderful family.
As I sat there looking at the modified numbers, I realized two things. First, I really do waste a lot of money. Many of the things that I view as services are really just forms of entertainment, which is sad considering the number of sources of free entertainment available. Second, I now have a nice checklist of places to work on my frugal willpower. Do I really need all of these services and expenses? Is it really cost-effective to have a relatively low deductible?
This exercise was simple, but it really opened my eyes to the fat that still exists in my own budget.