(I know, I know, I said I was going to be quiet this week. And I am. Soon.)
Our family budget is not working. There are exceedingly more ways that we can think of to spend money than there is money to spend. And the unfunded expenditures are not luxury items but things like necessary home maintenance (broken toilets don't just go away because you pretend they aren't there).
So what's the answer? Pretty simple, really--either more money coming in or less money going out. As we look at our family schedule it is hard right now to see how we might fit in more wage-earning hours. So our attention has turned to finding ways to cut spending.
Since we have to pay the mortgage and property taxes, keep the house relatively comfy and lighted, clothe and feed ourselves, fuel and maintain the cars, teach our kids and take care of our health, there are only so many places to look for savings. Certainly we can try to do all these things as economically as possible (except for the mortgage and property taxes--they are what they are), but there is a point beyond which we can't be any cheaper than we are already being. So we have to look elsewhere.
That essentially leaves recreation and entertainment. We already eat out rarely, if ever (usually when we do it's because someone gave us a gift card to a restaurant). We don't go on vacations (except for the yearly trek to visit family in Texas) unless they're handed to us on a silver platter (as in our "Galena Getaway"). We don't go out to movies (or on other family outings such as miniature golf or bowling) because we just can't afford it. We do subscribe to Netflix (bargain basement package, $4.99/month), and our kids like their video games, but those are purchased out of Christmas/birthday funds or with their own money.
So with a recreation/entertainment budget that is already fairly Scrooge-ish, what's left to cut?
Here's what we have come up with initially. The magazine subscriptions are going by the wayside. Over the last few years we have already cancelled several, so there aren't that many left. But--considering the fact that we can and do get most of our news free online these days-- when the World and National Review renewals come in we will be wishing those enterprises well and letting them go until such time in the future as our bottom line changes. Savings: $120/year (or more).
We have also taken a hard look at our cable subscription. Currently we susbscribe to Comcast's "standard package" for cable television at a cost of a whopping $52.49 per month. There is only one package that is cheaper: the basic package at $15.49 per month. We subscribed to the higher-priced package because it includes several stations enjoyed by various members of our family (Fox News Channel, ESPN, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and TV Land). But there are many, many stations that we never watch. So the question is whether or not the few stations we do enjoy are worth $37 per month. We have decided the answer is no. So in the near future we will be downgrading our cable service. Savings: $444/year.
The frustrating aspect of this is the limited choice of cable packages that are available. Why must there be such a huge jump from the bottom package to the next package up? Why not allow consumers to purchase stations a la carte and to pay only for what they really want? Senator John McCain is among those asking the same question. Maybe if he and others are able to get some answers it won't be long before we get some of our favorite channels back. But in the meantime, we will continue to enjoy network programming (and we may just boost that Netflix account up to the next level to allow a few more movies to come our way).
Hmmm. . . suddenly we are looking at $564 additional dollars in our hot little hands. New toilet, here we come!