Saving Money Means Sacrifice

Get Rich Slowly has a story about “Gillian,” a woman who came asking for advice on setting up a budget so she could save money and stop charging emergency expenses on her credit card, but was unwilling to actually cut her expenses. We found the story hilarious because it seemed so familiar…

“Okay, let’s see what we have,” I said. “You’re paying a housekeeper $50 a week. If you were to clean the house yourself, you’d save $200 a month.”

“But…” she began.

“I think you’d be surprised at how much difference $200 a month can make,” I said. “I know from experience that even a $50 positive cash flow can make the difference between feeling broke and feeling flush. A $200 difference is huge.”

“Yeah,” said Gillian, “but I don’t want to clean the house. It’s too much work.” I was puzzled. To me, this was a quick and obvious way to free up money. If I were in her shoes, the housekeeper would be the first thing to go — it would be worth some extra work on my part.

Now, we’ve never had a housekeeper or anything, but we have had to go without some things that we couldn’t afford, but wanted, like cable tv. Gillian, seriously, it wasn’t so bad. After awhile, we didn’t even miss it.

When we got bored, we decided to check out a lot of old sci-fi movies from the library, then wrote a silly book about those old sci-fi movies that was published by Simon and Schuster. We had more free time and our parents were proud of us. Getting rid of cable was no big deal.

Some people think they just can’t live without cable or an expensive new car, and when you try to help them cut these extra expenses so they’re not overspending, they get all “but but but” with you. Well, guess what: You can live without a housekeeper, a new SUV, and cable tv. Nobody wants to clean their house and watch NBC. Nobody. But honestly, it’s not that bad. It’s better than being in debt.

You’d actually be surprised by how easy it is to live without the things you only think you need.

You Are Your Own Worst Enemy [Get Rich Slowly]
(Photo: Pam Beesley)


Edit Your Comment

  1. alicetheowl says:

    And some of us have cut out all those “luxuries” like meat dishes with dinner, drinking anything but water and coffee (made at home, of course) and going out for anything but work or the weekly errands (and have started carpooling to save on gas), and are STILL struggling.

    I know; this advice isn’t for those who’ve already made the necessary sacrifices. I’m just frustrated at seeing this advice reiterated again and again and again, and I sometimes have to fight the urge to hurt the people who have such trouble putting it into practice.

    A HOUSEKEEPER? Seriously?

  2. B says:

    But if I have to sacrifice, the terrorists win, right?

  3. mattatwork says:

    Photo credit to “Pam Beesley”? I’m guessing that someone has adopted my favorite receptionist on “The Office” as their internet pseudonym.

  4. Me. says:

    I completely agree with getting rid of cable: I haven’t had it for years (and my bunny ears are broken!). However, to play devil’s advocate, if someone told me to get rid of my $50/ month internet and to go use it for free at the public library, I’d start in with the “but, but, buts!”

  5. alicetheowl says:

    @Me.: Same here. I’ll live off ramen, eggs and multivitamins again before I give up my internets.

  6. Ripped iPod says:

    The Simple Dollar is so much better written than Get Rich Slowly…

  7. Thrust says:

    To save yourself a butload of nuyen, here’s 9 things to ditch…
    1. Cigarettes. SERIOUSLY!
    2. Maid service, delivered milk, Edwardo the pool guy or Emilio the gardener. All those paid services because you don’t ever feel like you have time.
    3. As mentioned above, CABLE (or satelite for some o’ ya). Its not like there’s ever anything good on anyways, and if you MUST see a show, pick it up on DVD. One season usually only runs the same price as one month cable, so that one show you watch weekly can now go 26 weeks straight (unless you buy Firefly, may it rest in peace).
    4. GAS. Stop driving short distances. Walk for a change, your fuel use drops and your health increases. It’s win win.
    5. Brand name stuff that doesn’t matter if it’s brand name. Ok, ok. it MUST be Heinz ketchup, but do you really need Gilette shaving cream? Doesnt Safeways stuff do the same damn job at a third the price? Non-brand name cola usually tastes the exact same as Coke, and now they make non-brand Pepsi too.
    6. Credit Cards. Holy CRAP. If I don’t spend with them, you don’t need to pay interest. Fancy that.
    7. Trust me, you CAN live without going out to restaurants or fast food. Two or three meals out could usually be a weeks worth of groceries (or a month’s if you’re on the college diet).
    8. Why are you spending so much damned money on your HAIR? Most of that damned hair product is only serving to destroy your hair, leaving you needing MORE hair product. Guys, use a barber not a stylist. Ladies, if your hair stylist costs more than thirty bucks, find a cheaper stylist.
    9. Dump your Freeloader. I can’t believe how many people who have girlfriends/boyfiriends or just regular friends who constantly mooch off them for money, food, or the sorts. Anyone who respects you wouldn’t do that crap.

  8. gorckat says:

    Going without cable had the added bonus of making my wife, daughter and I do more stuff together, like board and card games, trips to the park.

    It almost feels like the cable company is paying you to spend more time with the family.

  9. Saydur says:

    Saving money is like losing weight. To lose weight, most people just need to exercise more and eat less. To save money, most people just need to work more and spend less.

    This doesn’t just mean extra job hours, but stuff like house cleaning, food preparation, taking care of one’s own oil and air filter changes, minor home repair, lawn care, and the like.

    It’s not just sacrifice that people fear, it’s extra work.

  10. joeblevins says:

    Everytime my wife and I get estimates for landscaping we get so spooked we end up working in the yard for a few weeks. Just can’t imagine paying someone that much for just menial work.

    Heck, it gives my wife and I something to do together. But I am more than willing to pay the kid across the street $20 bucks every two weeks to do my lawn. It is about 95 degrees here.

  11. mac-phisto says:

    @Thrust: good tips. i’ve got some buts though. specifically #5 & #7. sometimes cutting name brands makes sense. other times, it makes waste. (#5) i actually developed skin allergies b/c i was buying certain cheap personal hygiene products. i switched back to the name brands…it’s worth the extra few bucks/month not to break out in a perpetual rash. (#7) despite graduating from college a loooong time ago, i still find myself on a college diet. i’ve tried the whole “make my own food” thing, but to be honest, it’s often more expensive than eating out when you’re single. i can get an awesome deli grinder for $6 that i will eat for lunch & dinner. that same $6 would only buy the lunch meat at the grocery store. & even when i’m good at making & packaging meals, i still fail to see the savings (unless of course we’re talking pb&j 24/7 here). single serving items are almost always just as expensive (& unhealthy) as the already prepped versions.

    kudos on #9 though. isn’t that the truth.

  12. Wormfather says:

    Yeah, come and try to take my cable away, you will see a sad end to your life.

    Or the housekeeper, my fiance takes pride in her work


  13. RandomHookup says:

    This situation reminds me of all the people who want to know how I spend so little on groceries using coupons and rebates, but then have no interest when they find out it is actual work.

  14. MercuryPDX says:

    I’ve had a housekeeper for close to three years now. It’s $80, every other week. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to come home after a 12-14 hour day to a clean house. An added bonus? Because I know people are coming over to clean, it forces me to keep the place clean and uncluttered the next 13 days.

    In the event of a financial downturn, I’d sooner give up basic cable, then my cellphone, then eating out altogether before I’d give up the housekeeper.

  15. Thrust says:

    @mac-phisto: The brand names one ya gotta know your own needs. I can’t live with imitation brand Ketchup, Cheese, Hotdogs, or milk. But could care less with imitation margerine, butter, bread, soap, etc. But Arsewipe… NEVER compromise.

    As for eating out, there are the rare times in life where it is actually cheaper NOT to keep any food at home. But at those times, your health tends to suffer instead of your wallet. It really depends on what your’re eating. Meats and chicken can be better to just eat at an A&W or Rotten Ronnie’s because the store price for a chicken can floor you, but to waste money on pasta, salads, or soups at a fast food chain is silly when ya get better stuff and more of it for half the cost at IGA or Safeway.

  16. enm4r says:

    @Ripped iPod: You’ve got to be kidding. The Simple Dollar is a horrible website, with mediocre or unoriginal advice at best, and any disagreement with him in the comments results in being ignored 90% of the time, or being attacked the other 10%. The Simple Dollar is good for amusement, when you want to laugh at someone who would rather make his own laundry detergent to save a few pennies per month.

  17. enm4r says:

    I also forgot to mention above, the cable thing doesn’t work if you’re into sports. If I could hand pick the 5 channels I watch and add in the free network cables, I’d be more than willing to pay HALF of what I pay now. I don’t care if I’m paying 5x more per channel, having 90 or whatever I have now is a complete waste anyway.

    The first cable company to have a true, or even modified a la carte system, even if it charges 5-10x more per channel, is going to destroy the competition.

  18. mac-phisto says:

    @Thrust: yeah, you’re right there. in some cases i make some kick ass lunch food for pennies (i make this awesome tuna & rice concoction that probably costs me about $0.70/meal). the supermarket by my workplace has a salad bar where you pay by weight. i can make a great salad there for about $3.

  19. @mac-phisto: “‘ve tried the whole “make my own food” thing, but to be honest, it’s often more expensive than eating out when you’re single.”

    You need better cookbooks. :) Most cookbooks/magazines are geared towards meals for a fabulous dinner party or to impress people. Try the “More with Less Cookbook” and “Extending the Table” which are both simple, hearty cookbooks for actual food that mom-type people actually cook. I also like “How to Cook without a Book” which has basic techniques for simple, flexible meals like frittatas and pastas so you can cook with what’s in the house.

    I honestly can’t IMAGINE how you’re spending that much on lunch meat for a single sandwich!


    I do a little financial planning as part of my practice, which sometimes gets into budget issues, and I’ve had clients who couldn’t give up SIXTY THOUSAND DOLLAR YEARLY VACATIONS. I don’t even know how you spend that much on a vacation for one person! Retired, fixed income, limited investments, spending right towards the poor house, could not IMAGINE how life could possibly go on without the yearly vacation blowout.

    I guess she’ll imagine it soon enough when she can’t afford to eat. She already picked travel over health care, though, so ….

    That’s the highest-dollar-value crazy I’ve seen, but I’ve also seen clients with not one but TWO landscaping services and NEITHER could be given up (seriously?), four phone lines for one person (“you know you can get all those services on one line now, right?”), monthly fees to a storage unit when the house had an empty bedroom, empty attic, and empty basement (“oh, but I’d have to drive over and GET it, such a hassle!”), and so on.

    I also have more than a few I just want to shout, “GET A SMALLER HOUSE!” at. Phew, I feel better now.

  20. Mary says:

    What I’ve found you have to do is seriously look at your budget and what you’re spending and WHY. The why is so much more important than the how much.

    For years, I lived on canned goods and ramen, had no cable, had no furniture I’d actually bought myself, and basically lived like I was poor. Because I was. But when I had an income, I spent far too much on books I could have checked out at the library (or just read while at work at the bookstore) and on movies. When I lost my job and literally only had the exact amount of money to pay my rent, I realized really fast how few of those things I needed, and how useless they all were.

    Here’s my tip for saving money: get Netflix (or Blockbuster I guess, I don’t like them as a company, but YMMV).

    Since I signed up for Netflix, my DVD and movie budget has dissapeared. I used to browse the bargain bins for new movies all the time, buying things if they just looked kinda good. Instead now I browse and then go home and add the movies to my queue. If I rent it and LOVE it, I buy it. Otherwise, I just tell myself the truth: if I want to see it I can rent it again. The same is true for TV shows, but there’s one caveat.

    Not all TV shows come out on DVD. I admit a complete addiction to the show Kim Possible, but it’s first three seasons came on when I was without cable. It’s not been released on DVD except a few odd episodes. The State is another show that I adored and missed a lot of, but it’s never been released. Invisible Man is another one I’d love to finally see all of. My advice is to make friends with somebody that has cable ; ) I would just go see my best friend every Friday night to eat free food and watch Stargate.

    As for the housekeeper…it all depends on how desperate she was to cut funding. She has to think of WHY she has a housekeeper and how important it is. It’s funny, because I think the book It’s All Too Much, which is actually about clutter and cleaning your house, has made me so much more fiscally responsible, because I started to look at each thing I bought as something that would take up space in my house. That doesn’t help for the big expenses, but you’d be amazed at how quickly you can cut down on what you’re spending by looking at your stuff.

  21. TWinter says:

    Sounds like Eyebrows Mcgee has some clients with messed up priorities.

    But it is all a matter of priorities, circumstances and means. I don’t have a lawn service, cable TV or a cell phone (people act like not having a cell phone is just short of living in a cave) but I would never give up my high speed internet access, my gym membership, or my rather large food budget. My spending pattern is working for me – I’m happy, I never stress about paying my bills, and I put money into savings every month.

  22. hellinmyeyes says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Cutting out my storage unit rental saved me about $125 a month, and I had a fairly modest unit (7’x10′). Eventually, I really had to sit down and part with some things, but a lot of it just wasn’t sellable. (I probably will give Craigslist a try soon.)

    I’ve done the “cook at home” thing with varying degrees of success. Sometimes, like an earlier poster noted, recipes are way too much for one person, and I find that the fruit and vegetables I buy don’t keep very well simply because I can’t eat them completely and quickly enough to avoid spoiling. It kind of reminds me of the “expiration date eatathon” episode of Seinfeld. A lot of times, too, I’ll go out and order a giant-ass calzone from a local eatery, and that’s a good three meals there. $9 split into three meals, I think that’s pretty decent. I’ve made a lot healthier eating-out decisions, but that’s just an example.

    I could see myself getting rid of cable, but I couldn’t live without Internet access. It simply is invaluable for the resources and communication I rely on.

    Getting Netflix definitely has helped reduce my “entertainment” budget. It’s much more fun to spend a night in with some friends watching movies and maybe having some wine. I also made a point to set up extra gym sessions around 11PM on Fridays and Saturdays so I’m not even tempted to go out. Saves me $40 a pop in bar tabs and cover charges.

  23. Mom2Talavera says:

    -Bring your lunch to work

    -Stop buying those 5$ coffee drinks from Starfucks

    – do some of your shopping at the local farmers market. You can get some nice organic produce there for a fraction of store price.

    – stop buying all those bottles of water at the gym.Buy a nice reusable one and fill it up before you head to the gym.

  24. Thrust says:

    The bottom line is people will always spend what they earn, some times a little more, some times a little less, but that’s the cap. The trick (and it’s a f’ing hard one) is to NOT up your spending when your income goes up. I can’t tell you how to do it, I fail every time, but I do realize I’m doing it. But on the plus side, I have always fell on the spending less than earnings side of the fence.

  25. vanpire says:

    @ENM4R: I think you are being rather harsh. It’s pretty obvious that both Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar try to write things of interest to a lot of different audiences. Some of it is simple advice, some of it is pretty complex. Some people are into frugality, and some aren’t – just look at this thread, for instance. I visit both sites daily and I think they’re both excellent reads – I’m glad they both cover such a wide array of topics.

  26. mac-phisto says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: eh…i don’t use cookbooks, i kinda just wing it.

    i was trying to get out of the whole calculation by presenting the $6 for lunch meat overly simplistic argument. i can get more in depth though. 4 sandwiches = 1 lb. meat (~7.50), 1/2 lb. cheese (~3.00), 1 pack rolls (~$2.50) various veggies (~3.00), & let’s assume $1.00 for condiments. that works out to roughly $4.25/sandwich which is cheaper than the $6 grinder i get at the deli, but remember, that grinder feeds me thru two meals ($3/meal).

  27. juri squared says:

    On buying generics … I totally agree. I have a mental list of things that I can always get generic and things that I can NEVER get generic. Toilet paper and Kleenex/Puffs top the list on the “always brand” side; drugs/vitamins, baby formula, dairy, cereal and canned goods are on the “always generic” side.

    We also shop at Aldi for a lot of things – it’s kind of an adventure to see what we can get away with replacing. For example, do not get knockoff Pizza Rolls. Trust me on this one.

  28. VA_White says:

    @hellinmyeyes: Sometimes, like an earlier poster noted, recipes are way too much for one person, and I find that the fruit and vegetables I buy don’t keep very well simply because I can’t eat them completely and quickly enough to avoid spoiling

    Get a freezer. Seriously. Get a small freezer, preferably a chest type since they are cheaper to operate. Make the recipe for four and freeze the other three portions.

    A freezer will allow you to save money by purchasing bulk quantities. If you are squeezed on space, buy one anyways and find a spot for it.

  29. VA_White says:

    @jurijuri: For example, do not get knockoff Pizza Rolls. Trust me on this one.

    Better yet, do not get Pizza Rolls at all. They are bad for you, overpackaged, too expensive, and taste like Satan’s anus.

  30. @Saydur: No, eat better not less. This usually conflicts with saving more but you don’t lose weight eating cheap, unhealthy (and non-filling at that) food.

    Most Publix generic items are good. I could go to the cheapo that just opened near me but it’s worth spending more money on tissue not to get harassed by creepy characters at that particular bus stop.

  31. clarient says:


    5. Brand name stuff that doesn’t matter if it’s brand name. Ok, ok. it MUST be Heinz ketchup…

    DAMN straight. I would pay horrendous amounts of money for Heinz ketchup. Give me generic brands for just about anything else, but don’t mess with my ketchup!

    …additionally, we still only have six channels on the TV at my house. I don’t buy expensive juices and instead stick to water and milk, and I stock my fridge with lots of vegetables and fruits. They’re much cheaper than prepackaged snacks!

    And – @MOM2TALAVERA – farmers markets are GREAT. I second that suggestion!

  32. enm4r says:

    @vanpire: I probably am being harsh, but that was the line I drew when I realized multiple errors in math/advice, and every time they were brought up by myself, or anyone else, they were either ignored or we were attacked. That, and the whole “quantity over quality” approach that seems to be taken, really turns me off.

    He actually suggests driving LONGER to work, to avoid driving by a coffee shop to buy coffee. Do you really want to be taking advice from someone who has such little will to not be able to avoid parking, getting out of the car, walking in, paying, and then leaving only to realize he could have done without?

  33. alicetheowl says:

    @Mom2Talavera: – do some of your shopping at the local farmers market. You can get some nice organic produce there for a fraction of store price.

    Not always; it pays to shop around. The local famer’s market in Asheville costs about the same to a little more. Some in-season foods may be worth it, but mostly, it’s not worth the drive.

    The local organic supermarket, which is on my way home from work, sells better food that lasts longer, and it’s only slightly more expensive than the regular supermarket. For me, it’s worth paying more to be able to eat all of my food before it goes bad.

    As a case in point, I bought two pints of cherries at the farmer’s market for $6. They were tiny, and a quarter of them went bad before the week was out. I got a similar amount at the supermarket, and they were bigger and tastier, but they, too, went bad by that weekend (so no fruit salad for me), and an eighth of which I had to throw out because they were squishy or split open. At the organic food store, I bought a bag of humongous cherries for $5, of which 95% were eaten, the other 5% having broken skin and therefore made me too wary to eat.

    I’m sure it varies based on where you live, but for me, the best value is at the most expensive grocery store.

  34. Me. says:

    I don’t know how it is elsewehere, but I’ve found that the best deals at the supermarket occur on Tuesdays, when they are clearing out room for the product that’ll be advertised in the Thursday coupons. I’ll save at least $20 instantly just by going shopping on the right day. (I got this tip from a bagger… ask yours for the insider info!)

  35. humphrmi says:

    My brother and I had this very same conversation 15 years ago; he was overspending and going into debt, and I always seemed to have cash in my pocket and no bills. So he asked me to help him “budget”. He thought that by writing down his expenses, they would magically become lower. The fact was that it ended up showing that his spending was actually much *worse* than he initially thought.

    In the end, we both gave up. He wasn’t willing to reduce his spending and maintained that the “budget” I had devised for him was flawed and making him spend more. I got too frustrated trying to differentiate reality and “magic world” for him. We just stopped talking about it. We’re still friends :).

    Today, we both make more money and look back on the stuff then that we overspent on and laugh, “if only THAT were our only budget extravagance today…”

  36. @hellinmyeyes: “Sometimes, like an earlier poster noted, recipes are way too much for one person”

    Yes, you have to do a certain amount of picking and choosing for the recipes that freeze & reheat well. There are some we (2 of us) like quite a bit but can only make when we have company because they don’t reheat. We often make a Sunday night dish that serves 6 to 8 and freeze/refridgerate the leftovers to provide lunch during the week.

    (Incidentally, we mark up our cookbooks with stuff like “freezes great!” or “leftovers tasty over salad!” or “turns mushy when reheated” which is helpful to us and which other people always want when they copy our recipes. For sure my favorite cookbook is my husband’s grandma’s cookbook with notations EVERYWHERE in it for substitutions, leftovers, failed experiments, etc. Love it!)

  37. pestie says:

    Some people think they just can’t live without cable or an expensive new car, and when you try to help them cut these extra expenses so they’re not overspending, they get all “but but but” with you.

    Oh, god, I work with one of those people. She constantly complains about needing more money, but god forbid she not have cable or, you know, not buy a $24,000 new car because her old car was… uh… Oh, right, it was perfectly fine. She just wanted a new one ’cause she was bored.

  38. @Me.: Oh, that’s one I haven’t heard. Thanks!

  39. alpha says:


    I’m gonna have to agree with enm4r. The Simple Dollar uses shady or completely wrong math some of the time, and when you try to point it out he either 1) refuses to accept it or 2) refuses to publish your comment.

    Probably the most ludicrous one was where he calculated the “annual rate of return” for buying wine in bulk and then drinking one bottle a week. I don’t remember all the details, but suffice to say, consumables do not have “rates of return”. Whatever you save is a one-time savings. He wouldn’t publish one of my comments and even as others said the same thing he kept denying that his logic was flawed.

    Seriously, when you’re wrong, just own up and admit it. I don’t bother going there any more.

  40. etinterrapax says:

    This reminds me of the tech bust in the Boston area, and the Globe ran an article about a couple living in one of the tony suburbs, who had gone from seven figures to nothing within the space of a few months. They were a hundred percent “but-but-but.” They wouldn’t give up buying all of their groceries at Whole Foods. They wouldn’t give up internet or cell phones. Gym, housekeeper, nanny, expensive mortgage, all of it was somehow necessary and somehow staying. I mean, seriously, what a couple of damn fools. When you have no income, no jobs, and a mortgage to pay, you don’t have the luxury of principles about consumption. You must consume less or risk financial ruin. I think we were supposed to feel bad for them, but I suspect that most people around here would have invited them to kiss butt.

    I have found through the years that the greatest luxury in the world is freedom from worry about money. My in-laws are comfortable, and my MIL has opined to me that she understands poverty because she doesn’t buy personal consumer goods (clothing, jewelry, accessories) and they don’t have a high-end lifestyle. But she doesn’t understand the panic of, say, losing a car. If hers dies, she buys a new one for cash. If ours dies, my husband can’t work until we find a way to afford a new one. We’re hardly poor, but I’d sacrifice a lot to ensure that kind of sanguinity.

  41. kaikhor says:

    It’s interesting that this came up because I’m in the middle of this same process. We have financial couselor who will be giving us our budget tonight. I’m sure that eating out will be cut down dramactically (it’s easier when we’re both tired or we’re out and about and forgot to bring snacks. Not good reasons, but those are ours). My goal, no “but, but, but” coming from my mouth!

  42. RebekahSue says:


    Since I signed up for Netflix, my DVD and movie budget has dissapeared. I used to browse the bargain bins for new movies all the time, buying things if they just looked kinda good. Instead now I browse and then go home and add the movies to my queue. If I rent it and LOVE it, I buy it.

    I do that with books. I really can’t afford a new book, even when it’s 40% off.

    Sometimes, even with shipping, eBay or is cheaper. Alternately, I can print my list and bring it with me to the used bookstore or church sale. (When I’m done with books, they can be donated or sent in care packages, or traded with my friends.) My mom wanted a particular book in large print: $33. I waited and kept checking different sites, and found it for, with shipping, $9. When she’s done with it, I’ll read it. When we’re done passing it around, I can donate it.

    I did spend $26 for some hair product in October of 2005. One uses so little that I use it daily and the container is still more than half full. 1.5 years of a similar, generic product would have cost a lot more – after about three months. (I just wish I’d known that Costco would have it two months ago – for $9! (I got another one. The two should last me, seriously, until I’m 45.)

  43. pbrower2 says:

    Cable TV? Sure, I watch largely sports, documentaries, and old movies… so giving up any of those will be difficult.

    Giving up the car to walk short ‘distances’? Impossible; in a rural area that is extremely difficult because there is nothing within walking distance. A bicycle would make sense if I weren’t sandwiched between two high-speed state highways that are scary enough in a car. It’s hard to car-pool as a substitute teacher.

    Cellular phone? I don’t have one, and I have no desire for one. I plan my life around those delightful times when nobody can call me. Privacy is precious.

    Movies? I haven’t gone to a movie theater for two years. Better a DVD of a great movie than a giant-screen image. Especially on one of the new LCD sets.

    Oh — if you are still watching TV on a CRT tube set — consider one of the newfangled LCD sets. You will get a more satisfying image on everything, and you will cut your energy consumption.

    … There’s nothing like $3 gasoline to make even the dreariest hick town less objectionable. After all, spending $3 for the gas to drive even thirty miles makes the drive to some out-of-town shopping center less enjoyable. When it reaches $5 a gallon (likely when the White House is a wholly-owned and operated subsidiary of the International Oil Cartel) travel of any kind will leae a bitter taste in your mouth. If you must go out of town, then at least consolidate your trips.

  44. bravo369 says:

    What helped me was to start keeping track of all my expenses in Quicken. it works great, you always know how much money you have or will have after your expenses. I also like the reporting tool so I can see where I’ve been spending my money over the last few months or years. What hit me was how much i was spending in useless bank fees because I went to different ATMs. $1 or $2 maybe not seem like much at the time but when you expand that over 6-8 months, it adds up. I now make sure I have enough cash on me before I go out, or I wait until I reach someplace closer to my bank before spending cash.

  45. alicetheowl says:

    @pestie: I know married couple like that. The wife keeps talking about how she needs to get a second job to afford the Disney honeymoon and numerous other vacations they’re planning, and then I look around their house (which they own, and they talk about upgrading in another year or so) at the brand-new movies and video games and flat-screen gigantic TV and brand-new truck and crap they don’t even have ROOM for, and I want to shake her.

    I value our friendship more than getting the last word, so I just keep my trap shut.

    @etinterrapax: I felt the same way about the movie Fun With Dick and Jane. I felt NO sympathy for them, because, based on what I saw onscreen, they maintained their old lifestyle, taking it for granted that Dick would get a new job soon, and then panicked when their savings dried up. They were smart to have the three-month cushion in the first place, but without that reckless maintenance of a lifestyle they were used to, that cushion could’ve stretched a lot farther.

  46. MercuryPDX says:

    @mac-phisto: I agree in that cooking for one sucks. I’m relegated to TV dinners, frozen pizza, etc. if only because they serve one and take next to zero time to prepare.

    I’ll eat leftovers if I have to, but beyond day two it’s just really difficult to be psyched to eat the same thing for dinner that I had the past two nights.

    Sometimes I will invite friends over if ONLY to have an excuse to really cook something like a Turkey Dinner w/trimmings or a Lasagna just so I can get some variety in there.

  47. humphrmi says:

    Even when you can afford more luxuries, I’ve learned it’s important to weigh the added luxury against the expense. When we bought our last house, we decided we’d had enough of yard maintenance. I can comfortably afford $75 a month, so we hired True Green to do our lawn chemical work for us. Quite frankly I never saw any real benefit (versus, say, not adding any chemicals at all). They had this fancy guarantee that if you weren’t satisfied, they’d keep coming out until you were. Tried that. Well the lawn never got any greener, as a matter of fact I think it got worse. They just kept throwing more chemicals on top of it, which I think just made things worse. They never stopped for a moment and figured out what would actually work to make my lawn greener and fuller.

    Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a rant about True Green. They have their place I’m sure. I dropped them, stopped trying to chem my lawn into submission, and amazingly, it looks better than ever. I can still afford them, but the money goes into savings every month. My neighbors blindly pay True Green every month and never really think about it.

  48. humphrmi says:

    Whoops I spaced out above, I meant Chem Lawn, not “True Green”.

  49. alpha says:


    Why not freeze the leftovers (where applicable), then you could cook 3-4 dishes and only eat the same thing every 3rd or 4th night?

    I really don’t understand how some people dislike leftovers so much. I mean, I realize it happens, and I realize that there are picky eaters, etc, but I am not one. I’ll happily eat the same thing until it’s gone, however long that takes. Sometimes I’ll have it for lunch and dinner…it doesn’t bother me one bit.

    Strange. I wonder how people develop such aversion to leftovers?

  50. krunk4ever says:

    Nobody wants to clean their house and watch NBC.

    Did you mean and everyone wants to watch NBC

  51. OwenCatherwood says:

    @MercuryPDX: The trick is to get ingredients which store well in bulk, then in smaller quantities get the other ingredients. For instance, I’ll get 4lb. of hamburger, use some and make a meat sauce, then freeze the rest for another batch at a later date. I’ll only buy the other ingredients (other than pasta) in quantities to make what I’ll be doing in one batch.

    Have this setup for multiple dishes and you can rotate through them during the week, and freeze leftovers when you can to increase the variety even further.

  52. mac-phisto says:

    @MercuryPDX: mmm…turkey dinner. i’ll bring the cranberry sauce!

  53. mac-phisto says:

    @MercuryPDX: mmm…turkey dinner. i’ll bring the cranberry sauce!

    beyond day two, my leftovers end up in the section of the fridge untouched by human hands. it’s qutie possible that there’s a cure for cancer in there somewhere…

  54. not_seth_brundle says:

    I have to agree with the criticism of The Simple Dollar. Recently, for example, he posted a laundry list of suggestions for ways to “trim the fat” in a budget. He had stuff like cancel or reduce cable, cancel your gym membership, install CFLs–and among these suggestions was “find another home for your pets.” Well, a lot of commenters were aghast at this suggestion and let him know in the comments. Instead of addressing this in the same post, he made a new post about the pet issue and significantly tightened up his position about pets–only get rid of them if you’re starving, basically, which was not what he said in the original post at all. But he moved the comments from the original post to the new post, so that it looked like the commenters were having unreasonably strong reactions to a reasonable post.

    Because of tricks like that, and just his enormous ego generally (he actually was going to try to write a 600-page personal finance book), I no longer read his blog.

  55. @MercuryPDX: “Sometimes I will invite friends over if ONLY to have an excuse to really cook something like a Turkey Dinner”

    Get a smallish turkey breast and you can do turkey dinner the first night, turkey sandwiches the next, a half-recipe of turkey apple casserole the next, and then turkey soup (like chicken soup, but with turkey bits). When you do the turkey dinner, you can even get fresh veggies that you can put in the soup later in the week. Use cran sauce leftover on the sandwiches. Etc.

    With ham, you do a baked ham the first night, then ham sandwiches, a ham stir fry (I like one called “Vietnamese ham & peas” in my cook book), and then ham soup. Have mashed potatoes the first night and make extra and use that as the soup thickener.

  56. theora55 says:

    Prioritize. My cable expense is my entertainment budget, and I didn’t get cable until other priorities were covered. If you can afford to save, and to have a housekeeper, good for you. But if you think you can’t afford to save, and you have a housekeeper, then saving is a lower priority.

  57. MeOhMy says:


    i can get more in depth though. 4 sandwiches = 1 lb. meat (~7.50), 1/2 lb. cheese (~3.00), 1 pack rolls (~$2.50) various veggies (~3.00), & let’s assume $1.00 for condiments. that works out to roughly $4.25/sandwich which is cheaper than the $6 grinder i get at the deli, but remember, that grinder feeds me thru two meals ($3/meal).

    If you keep on like this, you may have to change your screen name to mac-phatso :-)

    I would have trouble singlehandedly finishing a pound of lunchmeat before it goes bad.

    You could make it work if you wanted to – buy cheaper lunchmeat (roast beef is $7.50/lb…balogna is $2…not saying you have to subsist on balogna, but there _are_ cheaper options), put less than 1/4 lb. of meat on a single sandwich, switch to bread instead of rolls, ditch the lettuce and tomato.

    It fits right in with the subject matter. You can make your lunch cheaper than the deli – but you have to be willing to sacrifice.

  58. Thrust says:

    @enm4r: I agree with you on the avoiding the coffee shop BS. If you’re in it to save money, why blow it on gas?

    @pestie: People rag on cars as an expense they may not need. Often true, but not always. I for one *Cannot Bus to Work*. The busses do not run early enough in the area I work for me to make it on time (not that I’m all that punctual with a car…) and so I needed my new car. I also needed it to BE a NEW car since I can’t fix a thing on them. The difference between NOT having this car (and thus not having my current job) and having it is roughly $500 a paycheque (comparing with my previous car-less job). So with $380/mo payments and $170/mo insurance, I’m still up $450 a month for HAVING the car.

    @kaikhor: Best of luck with your upcoming nightmare. Y’can make things easier by keeping a small snack-stash in the glove box. Simple but filling things like applesauce fruit bars, granola bars (ones that wont melt), or if you’re more like me, WINE GUMS!

    @alicetheowl: Oh COME ON! You gotta feel sorry for Dick. Look what Jane did to her face! Lolz. Tho ya gotta love the voice modulator scene :p

    @krunk4ever: I don’t wanna watch NBC…

    Oh. Couple other things. You don’t save money buying bulk when single, at least, not on food. The crap usually expires before you get to use a quarter of it. Never underestimate the power of Ketchup. Reheated food improves drastically with the stuff…

    And you want a real cash-saver. Dig up the corpse of John (think his name was john) Atkins, shoot him twice in the head, and abandon the notion of Carbs are teh Bad. You NEED carbohydrates in your diet or your BRAIN will ROT. And most carb foods are so dirt cheap its scary.

    -Plain pasta with butter(margerine) and parmesean cheese. What, 12 servings of spaghetti or penne in a $2 box? Maybe $1 worth of margerine over those 12 meals, and a large Kraft (better be Kraft) parm shaker for $12, which will LAST for all 12 meals. So we have $15 for 12 servings.
    -Or break open a box of Kraft Dinner, save the noodles for later, and use the cheese sauce to make cheese spaghetti. It actually tastes real good when ya mix it right.

  59. MercuryPDX says:

    @alpha: I’ll happily eat the same thing until it’s gone, however long that takes. Sometimes I’ll have it for lunch and dinner…it doesn’t bother me one bit.

    I tried that, with a 6lb. turkey breast (@Eyebrows McGee) and was so sick of turkey and all the permutations of it (sandwiches, pot pie, salad) that after it was all gone by day four, I didn’t eat turkey again until Thanksgiving rolled around five months later.

    I wish it didn’t bother me.

  60. It sounds easy to make fun of someone for spending $50 a week for a housecleaner, but I actually found that I had more money at the end of the month after I got a cleaner.

    For me, a cleaner house meant I was more productive, and I was always too busy to clean my house. With someone else doing it, I had more time, got more work done, and ended up making far more than just $200 a month.

    On the other hand, I also saved money by getting rid of things that wasted my time, like cable TV, and even my Netflix account, since I was only watching one or two movies a month.

  61. alpha says:


    Man that’s weird. I just don’t know what that is like. But hey, you tried it, you know it doesn’t work for you, so fair enough. I’m all for doing what makes you happy (within reason, obviously).


    Ha, I missed that one…must’ve been after I stopped reading. The last straw for me was his flawed logic about comparing regular 401k to roth 401k. It was like comparing apples to tractors. That and he deleted one of my comments (a day later no less) and didn’t post the other one where I laid out clear math for why his logic was (once again) flawed.

    Good riddance to that site.

  62. mac-phisto says:

    @Troy F.: mac-phatso. that’s awesome. lollerz to you.

  63. @Thrust: “You don’t save money buying bulk when single, at least, not on food. “

    “bulk” doesn’t have to mean super costco sizes — it could mean the 2-lb box of spaghetti instead of the 1/4 lb. box, or getting a 10-lb sack of dry brown rice (even I can make it through that before it goes bad) instead of small packages of it. Or a couple pounds of ground beef at a time and freezing the extra.

  64. alicetheowl says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: However, one must be careful to pay attention to price per unit. Bizarrely, at my local supermarket, white rice costs 5¢ more per ounce if you buy the largest size. The middle size is less per ounce.

    If I don’t have anyone with me who can do math in his (or her) head, I take a calculator when I go food shopping nowadays.

  65. Alan Thomas says:


    Absolutely. You’re more likely to cook at home (and save $$) if your kitchen is clean.

    Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Spending $$ on a new, efficient lawnmower will pay for itself in a few months, as opposed to having someone else mow your lawn (or get a Robomow).

    A HUGE part of the problem is the 12-14 hour days I see listed above. Do your employers really hate you that much?!? In a traditional family setting, with BOTH adults working those kind of hours, OF COURSE no one has time to do anything.

    I work an eight-hour day, five days a week, and make six figures. I do not have a graduate degree, and I’m a corporate employee not an entrepreneur. My spouse is a homemaker (and cares for our two preschool kids). Don’t settle for 12-14 days unless you only work 3 days a week–come up for air!

    Cable–taken in moderation–isn’t seen so much as a luxury. We drive two beat-up cars. We do our own landscaping, which gives us exercise and gets us outside for hours at a time. I take my daughter for bike rides instead of to the mall. But we do have a housekeeper come in twice a month, which has done wonders for our sanity.

  66. synergy says:

    Some Costa Ricans I know really miss the ability to choose which cable channels to pay for and receive. Now there would be something I’d like, but which keeps getting batted down in this country. Fee per channel instead of fee per 75 or 300 channels. 98% of which you don’t ever watch.

  67. CyGuy says:

    I second your opinion of ALDI’s, by far the bulk of our food is bought there – maybe 3 bags a week. Compared to one bag at CostCo and one at a regular supermarket. But we actually spend only about 35% of our food shopping budget at ALDI’s because the savings are so substantial (I only wish they’d carry organic and lactose free milk).

    I do have a question about your buying generic baby formula. If you have to use formula at all, it is imperative that you get formula with DHA and ARA fatty acids added to them as these are the building blocks for your child’s eyes and brain. [] They have been mandatory in Canada and most EU countries for over a decade, but here in the US are only available in premium versions (I guess poor kids don’t need brains – better to continue the perpetual complacent underclass).

    I know the CostCo store brand has them, but I would be doubly cautious to ensure any formula I bought whether generic or name-brand had them.

  68. Mary says:

    @RebekahSue: I really can’t afford a new book, even when it’s 40% off.

    I actually could go on for days about the cheapest ways to read, since I’ve worked at a bookstore for five years now.

    I just discovered Paperback Swap ( and it’s FANTASTIC. You spend a little bit of money, but overall you save much more. Basically you list books that you’re done reading and then when someone wants one of your books you pay to ship it to them, it’s usually around $2. When you find a book you want, they pay to ship it to you, so you’ve recouped your $2.

    It doesn’t just help you get books cheap, it helps you clean off your bookshelves because the idea of getting a new book is the perfect way to get me to part with an old one.

    As for all the advice about cooking for one, I’ve had a lot of luck finding recipes that refrigerate and reheat well. Basically I sat at the bookstore with a notebook and copied the good stuff out of recipe books that are far too expensive to buy, and see which ones worked out best. I have a spinach-stuffed-shells recipe that I absolutely adore and it feeds me for five or six meals. It takes some trial and error to find the good stuff, and you usually have to plan your weekly menu (rather than just buying ingredients willy nilly) but it can be worth it for the health benefits, not to mention your budget.

    Plus, it’s just nice to have some home cooked food sometimes.

  69. Lee2706 says:

    To overcome the leftover-hangover, Mrs. Lee and I purchase just enough ingredients to make four servings that’ll last for two dinners. So, we can plan on cooking every other day. The days in between are meant for cleaning the house, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. The one thing that helps is keeping the kitchen clean – definitely encourages cooking and eating in.

    We also like to make large batches of tomato sauce, lasagna, and chili and freeze them in appropriate serving sizes. Makes it easy when we are in a pinch and/or lazy.

  70. a_m_m_b says:

    @alpha: texture – a lot of leftovers get unpleasant textures when stored & then reheated. burnout – not rotating the leftovers.

    these are often why leftovers get loathed.

  71. @alicetheowl: “However, one must be careful to pay attention to price per unit. Bizarrely, at my local supermarket, white rice costs 5¢ more per ounce if you buy the largest size. The middle size is less per ounce.”

    Oh, for sure. (Most annoying grocery store trick ever: showing cost per unit on one size in pounds and on the other in ounces. Jerks.)

    I get my rice (brown rice! much better for you!) at the ethnic food mart. “Ethnic” staples are generally cheaper at that ethnic food stores, and a 10-lb sack lasts me for ages so I don’t have to haul ass down there all that frequently.