The pennies are adding up, albeit very slowly. When your coping mechanism to stress is to spend for the sake of spending — that psychological trigger for instant gratification — a self-imposed austerity can be difficult. But keeping the end in mind (living cost, debt payments, etc.), I somehow make it work with the occasional “treat yo self” awards, even if it’s a $0.99 bag of chips.
When I first went over the plan with M, I got anxious. Can I do this? I was worried I’d break, that the stress of not spending money alone would drive me to spend money to cope with the fact that I shouldn’t be unnecessarily spending money. It’s a crazy mind-f**k cycle, especially when you have anxiety. After about five paychecks (so far), I’ve learned that this project can be done, and it’s going to take some time to get to a place where it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to fill some proverbial piggy bank before seriously tackling debt and other financials.
Despite my reservations and a desire to buy something on those particularly stressful days, the austerity project has been, surprisingly, easy and straightforward. Don’t spend money. Don’t buy shit you don’t need. Don’t buy shit. This includes the decadent $6 coffee from the bougie coffee shop near the office, and $10 salads from a local, female-owned business (as much as I desire to support her, that stuff adds up when you’re doing it five days a week).
One of the first things M and I did in December was to go through all recurring expenses. I made a list which included recent charges like magazines, cloud services, and online purchases that were within the return policy window. We asked ourselves if we needed things like Netflix and started axing things:
- Netflix — $9.99/month
- Recent 100% Pure purchase — $71 (refunded)
- Evernote Premium — $69.99/year
- The Nation subscription — $12/year
- Costco membership $50/year
- Linkedin Premium — $29.99/month
Those are the recurring costs I remember from the list I
absentmindedly threw away during a recent desk cleaning.
I also recently dropped my Amazon Prime subscription. The thought of losing free 2-day shipping is sad but we hardly use the service to begin with so that extra $99 goes a ways.
In addition to getting rid of the above, we set the budget for groceries ($100/week), and taking advantage of my employer’s transit benefits, I started buying a 30-day unlimited metro card. I’m hoping to drop the train pass once the weather warms up enough to commute by bike, but the goal right now is to simply “don’t spend”—a strategy that’s different from “just save your money.”
As M pointed out, saving money implies that we have money to save from in the first place. We’re not quite in that zone yet, hence the first austerity phase: don’t spend unnecessarily.
Since we started Operation Austerity Budget in December,
It’s too early to tell the totality of the austerity budget’s effects, but I’ll have some numbers to share soon from YNAB. (My referral link if you’re interested.)