Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thankfully Eating at Poverty Level

In my last post, I touched on how deciding to not "keep up with the Jones'" has affected how I spend. I've also read some very interesting articles since then that have forced me to look deeper into other areas of spending (not just retail therapy) as well. Yesterday I read the "The One-Dollar Diet Project" blog about a couple who ate on a dollar per person every day for a month. At first I thought "whoa, nelly!" that's a bit too frugal for my tastes, but they posted a staggering chart on their blog. Yeah, almost 1 billion people (that's a SIXTH! of the world's population) eat on a dollar a day or less! UNIMAGINABLE! The couple mixed it up a little, but basically rice, beans, and oatmeal made up their diet for a month. Nope, there was no nutritional value in it. They ate what they could afford and that meant no fruit, no meat, and no vitamins. I found it rather sad that I've been complaining about money being tight this month. I averaged out the price per person that we will be spending this month (yes, that includes Thanksgiving dinner) and it's $3.34 each. Not bad when you consider that people on food stamps get the same amount. That's where another blog I read comes into play. On MSN's "Smart Money" there was a blog a while back called "They Tried Eating on $25 a Week" and it talked about how the Illinois Food Bank set up a challenge to anyone willing to try to eat on $25/week per person as that is what the average food stamp recipient receives from the government. There was a HUGE response to this article. So many people resisted the idea that it could be done without sacrificing healthy meals. Huh? I mean honestly. My husband and I are vegetarian, so most of the food we buy is fruit/veggies/organic/etc. (i.e. not cheap). So my husband and I are living at food stamp levels, but we are still managing to eat healthy. We just learn to eat less is all. And we should. With American's being as obese as we are, maybe a smaller portion isn't the worst thing in the world. I know that by eating less, I'm doing good things for my body and my pocketbook all at the same time. I would guess that those 1 billion people in the world that eat on a $1 a day would be happy to have $3.50 a day to eat on. This Thanksgiving, I'm going to give thanks for being able to afford to eat at America's poverty level, not the rest of the world's.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cash Is King!

Wow, it seems like such a simple thing, but we've rediscovered the power of cold, hard cash. I feel like a complete dolt when I think about how we got into debt in the first place. Those handy little plastic cards that just cry for me to use them until their little black strips fall off! I used to think that having a tremendous credit limit was this incredibly cool thing to have, but then I came to the conclusion that no one knows I have it but me, so where is the fun in that? I'm guessing that's why most of the country is in debt right now. People have this need to show off how well off they are to others that they put themselves in debt over a handbag. I've come to realize that no one cares what your handbag, car, clothes, etc. look like. They are consumed with their own world and could care less about what you have going on. So in that realization, I've set myself free. I no longer spend huge sums of money on things that I think other people will see and think i'm well off. I spend money on things I need, and the money I spend is cash. Not long ago I put together a budget to account for our spending. It was a wake up call to say the least. However, now that we have our debt paid off (credit card debt anyway), we have an exact idea of how much we should have left over every month after putting money in savings and paying the bills. This money is our "fun money" and it's cash. What a beautiful thing. There is definitely a mental trick when you use cash. Suddenly you feel compelled to keep it in your pocket rather than spend, spend, spend. And the larger the denomination of the bill, the better. If I carry around a $100 bill, I am loathe to part with that baby. It looks so cute nestled in my wallet, all cozy with it's friends the $1 bills. I find myself a lot more aware of the purchases I make now, and I'm spending a lot less. It feels pretty good. Cash really is king in my palace.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Tax Man Cometh

Last week we received an exceptional letter from the Cook County Tax Appraisers Office. It went like this: "You are receiving this letter to show the reassessed value of your home and what it means to your taxes. Next year however, your home will be reassessed again without the homestead exemption as the exemption is being phased out. Your taxes could (read as: WILL!) go up exponentially. Please contact your state representative to pass a measure to reinstate the homestead exemption." Um, yeah. So basically what the tax man is telling us is that we better prepare for a HUGE tax bill next year. As if paying somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/3 the cost of our mortgage just in taxes isn't fun enough, let's raise the taxes some more and still not do anything about the horrendous roads or the schools. Believe me, we plan on appealing this, but if taxes go up to 1/2 of our mortgage, we won't be able to afford a house anymore. Matter of fact, no one will be able to afford that. The sad thing is that we put a hefty down payment on the house, but with the price of houses being what they are, that down payment was small comparatively speaking. If housing prices were anything like they were when we were kids, our down payment would have bought the house outright, but now it's just a drop in the bucket and we are "upside down" in value. The saddest part to me is that we can afford the mortgage itself with ease, but our taxes are rising hand over fist with no end in site, and that we can't afford. I don't remember signing any paperwork when we bought the house that said "please sign away any and all future paychecks to taxes". It's just not right.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

Hi, I'm the Cash Ninja. I've started this blog as a way to vent some of my frustration with the economy and how I interact with it. I hope that you will comment and tell your story.

My story is not that dire right now, but with job loss looming over what seems like everyone in the country, it could get a lot worse. We are learning new ways to be frugal as a 20-something couple, but I'm sure there are better ideas out there. Please write what you do to save money!

I'll list a few that we adhere to now:

We've become vegetarian (for reasons other than just frugality, but that's another issue)
I'm learning to cook from scratch, not just boxes!
We've reintroduced ourselves to board games as a means of entertainment
We cut the home phone & internet off the other day
Our cell phones are pre-paid (this gives us an excuse to end the call quickly!)
I make a grocery calendar for the month and buy everything I can in one trip
We "reduce, reuse, recycle" everything we can