Get The Picture? By Sherry Hopkins

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2009

Sherry Hopkins

Cutting expenses, shopping smarter becomes ‘new normal’

There is no mistake about how bad the economy is. We all have been affected in some way.

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I have even found myself worrying about the low gas prices. I figure it can’t be good news when gas goes from $4 a gallon to $1.38 a gallon in just weeks.

Dear Don and I have had endless discussions about what we should do as a family.

This is our challenge. We vowed at the beginning of 2009 to spend less money and to retry to only buy what we need not what we want. We have many times in the past tried to differentiate between wants and needs with little success. We learned quickly that we could justify any want as a need. We hope to do better this year.

Our cost cutting methods may seem drastic and will certainly not appeal to everyone but you can look at your own circumstances and make it work for your family too.

We will not be eating out in restaurants on a regular basis anymore. Meals out are nice especially for me, the chief cook and bottle washer, but they are far from a necessity. For example last year we probably averaged eating out 2-3 times a week. The drinks alone, which were almost always iced tea or diet soda, would cost at least $12 a week not including tax. Take that figure and multiply by 52 weeks in a year and we have spent over $600 in one year on something to DRINK. This past weekend we went to town for a basketball game and afterwards we grabbed roast beef sandwiches that were on sale 5 for $5. We had packed a couple of soft drinks in a small cooler and we ate in the car. We spent $5.50 on that outing and brought home leftovers for another meal. On the two previous holidays this past week we packed a lunch and took it to the lake and ate while watching birds fish for their own lunch. It was quiet, it was peaceful and it was free.

Back during the summer we purchased a home hair trimming kit for $30. In the past dear Don got a haircut once a month for about $7 each cut. This kit has not only paid for itself in just a few months but now we will save almost $100 a year. We are cutting back on paper products and convenient cleaning products that are more costly and sticking to old tried and true cheaper methods. We discontinued all extra telephone services like caller ID, call waiting, unlimited long distance etc. Our phone bill went from $110 a month to $45 a month. That’s a savings of over $750 a year. Now so far we have saved enough to pay for insurance and property taxes for the year. With just a few minor changes, we are making a difference. We are turning off lights and lowering the heat, driving slower, and taking cooler, shorter showers.

“Does it matter?” you ask. 

You betcha.

I have devised a budget in a journal type book to keep track of every thing coming in and everything going out on a monthly basis.  I am so excited as I make an entry in my book. Today my electric bill came in the mail. I had budgeted $200.00 for the bill for this month. The bill was $154.49. I am already almost $50.00 under budget for the month. I am shopping smarter and becoming more aware than ever of where our money is going.

Our challenge is to live this year on one income and still save money. It’s a leap of faith but I feel strongly that we can do it. We both know what it is that we have to do and we have made the first steps. No we won’t always eat dollar roast beef sandwiches from the fast food joint while sipping drinks we brought from home. But I bet we won’t be sipping $2-a-glass ice tea out anymore either. The fun will be in finding ways to cut back and still live happily without feeling deprived. I can’t wait for the next utility bill to come in to see how we have fared.

I would like to hear from you about steps you and your families have taken to live more simply and or to save money.

I love a good challenge and I am excited to see where this year takes us.

Happy New Year and at this writing gas is now $1.54 a gallon and President Elect Obama is promising $20 more in our paychecks each week. Every little bit helps.

You get the picture.

(You can contact columnist Sherry Hopkins at