Home > Category: Cutting Corners

Viewing the 'Cutting Corners' Category

Mr. Money Mustache Bares All

January 21st, 2013 at 07:56 pm

Mr. Money Mustache bared all - his spending for the past 3 years.

He spent about $24,000 last year (Family of 3 with a home in Colorado). Cutting all the fat could have easily lived on $14,000.

Text is and Link is

I can relate to Mr. MM. *Obviously* we don't live anywhere near this lean. On a scale of 1 - 10, MMM is maybe a 10. (Or an 11?) No doubt about it!! I am nowhere near a 10. BUT, I can still totally relate. I am used to people telling me that our lifestyle is impossible on my income. We are clearly on a continuum where we spend less money every single year. We will probably never live as extreme as MMM, but are generally headed in the same direction.

I share because anyone can learn from MMM and he gives us all a direction to strive for. Even if we only want to be 4, 5 or 6 on this scale. You don't have to be a 10 to see the benefits.


Comparative notes on MMM's spending reveal:

Mortgage - we have a mortgage but no intention to keep one forever. Right now our mortgage runs us about $7,500 per year in mortgage interest. Not there yet, but eventually we will be down to $0.

**Plus, regionally, we have *always* kept our housing costs VERY low. Very key for living well while spending less.**

Property Taxes - As long as we don't buy up over time (lord knows we have no plans for that!), property taxes are actually pretty inexpensive in California. I Can compete with MMM here. In fact, the property taxes on our home are the same as they were on our last condo in more expensive city. (Value of both homes was the same, thought current home is far more luxurious). So basically, we have never "bought up" our property taxes, and no plans to in the future.

Food and Dining We are very much in line with MMM. I'd say we eat quite well, but eat the bulk of our meals at home. This was a habit we solidifed when my spouse was first laid off from his job (I was first pregnant). This has been REALLY key in living on a lower income. I have always been surprised how much we could stretch our budget by eating at home. We improve with time. We are always learning and getting more efficient. I expect the tides to turn at some point because I have 2 extremely high-metabolismed boys. Teenage years might be fun! But in the interim, we have improved every single year, for about a decade. Even adding two mouths to feed. We are just much more efficient than when we ever fed just us. (We used to probably eat out most the time - we worked long hours and both had a lot of meals provided by employers).

Healthcare - Healthcare is a financial beast for us. There is no comparison, but with our commitment to high quality healthcare and TRULY getting our money's worth the past few years, I don't have a lot of issue with this. We may always work more for good healthcare. & that is fine. We also just do not have the assets for a super high deductible plan. MMM and us live on two different planets when it comes to this area. {My spouse had brain surgery "out of nowhere" a couple of years back - so why we will always live on another planet - not sure my spouse could get any cheap insurance ever again, with the pre-existing}.

We could also maybe move to another state to lower our insurance premiums, but it's not quite that simple. Wages would also likely be lower. & we are fairly committed to staying put and being close to family. I will pay anything to stay close to my family. It's a deal breaker for us. For that, we will never be a 10, and I don't think everyone has to be a 10. I think my whole approach is to get all our other costs down so, "who cares about the beast? Will deal..."

Auto Our auto habits are somewhat in line with MMM. Buy inexpensive, used, fuel efficient vehicles in cash. We don't have a lot of auto expenses.

We are not DIY in this area, but having a trusted mechanic has always saved us a fortune. It's the next best thing when you can't/won't do it all yourself. For 2012, our spending was about the same as MMM, for example.

Gas - we are guilty on the gas. I have a commute and we *love* to travel by car. BUT, we don't have two commutes, and I could certainly see our gas usage going down considerably when I retire. I *get* it.

Auto insurance - oh, and auto insurance rates are totally insane in our city. That will be another fun one when it comes to teenaged boys! Not much we can do here - we already have inexpensive cars, no collision coverage on the old one, and "perfect" driving records and good credit scores. We've got the best rates we can get in this zip code.

Utilities MMM is good. His level of utility spending is about equal to the flat fee we get from our city and county for water/sewer/storm drainage. NOT going to happen for us. We keep our gas and electricity usage very low though. I know we are well below average. Having an energy efficient home is crucial. Having a fairly large home, people always assume our bills are insane. People have asked me if my gas bill is $300+ in winter months. We don't even pay that much for the WHOLE YEAR! We pay less utilities in our current home than we did in our last condo. The condo was not energy efficient in the least, though half the size with shared walls. Appearances can deceive. I know the questions to ask when we buy our next home.

cell and internet We pay large sums for these luxuries these days. This is not forever. We are seriously considering Ting for cell service eventually and internet offerings seem to improve with time. Waiting for more competition and options. My dh is always telling me about this or that - just waiting for when it is right for us. Just to say, just because I will pay a premium for something now doesn't mean I expect to pay it forever - we are always re-evaluating.

Home - Insurance and renovations. Insurance is a little pricer here, but not by a lot.

I would argue the love of the DIY could be a rather expensive hobby (versus always being painted as simply better and cheaper). We don't spend a lot on home maintenance. Our strategy had been to buy a new home that would not need much the first decade or so of home ownership. Likewise, our first home and our next home will be a condo. LOW maintenance. There are certainly other strategies if you don't love going to Home Depot all the time. Wink

Speaking of DIY, clearly we do the tax and financial DIY (another area where people spend a LOT of money). MMM is a jack of all trades. We are not, but we have plenty of major cost-saving skills. My dh is very good with the IT/computer stuff. I am musical and financial and tax savvy. Can always barter tax skills, computer skills, piano lessons, etc. I find our skills quite useful.

Travel - We don't spend much more on travel. I know MMM is a 10, but we do *plenty* without spending much money. Our vacation spending is comparable.

Other/Misc - Our spending is also pretty comparable. We are not big on the retail.

There are some glaring differences in our spending habits:

Insurance - MMM does not spend money on disability or life insurance. Understandable - I also will not bother when I reach his level of net worth.

Luxuries - I am willing to spend money on a few luxuries that I probably would not bother with as much if I were not working full-time. My luxuries are my $15 gym membership and $80/month to never have to do anything with the yard. (I mentioned we will eventually retire to a condo, to eliminate all yard concerns and costs). A gym membership would not matter so much if I could work out *any time.* I like to use for the dark and cold/hot hours. Is obviously a very small splurge. I don't see my dh giving up his internet and cell phone, BUT, like I said we are always keeping our ears open for alternatives. We kind of allow ourseleves a couple of regular luxuries here and there. OF course, do did MMM with some of his other costs.

Other Notes:

--MM probably easily pays no income taxes. We are in a similar boat. We don't pay a lot of income taxes with the decision to live on one income. But I do pay a fair amount of payroll taxes, working. (Which is not *all bad* as provides social insurance like state disability for me and social security for the both of us). But, yes, the "no income tax" thing is very relateable when you are willing to raise a family on one income.

--Debt - no debt payments were mentioned aside from mortgage - neither of our budgets have other debt payments.

--Daycare - MMM's kid goes to public school, of course. Public school + parents at home means little need for childcare. We are fairly committed to a public school education, not having MMM's financial resources.

So, there you have it. I think no matter where we all are on our financial journey, there is something to be learned. My approach is very "one thing at a time" but I feel like there is certainly always room for improvement in our spending. That is what I am always striving for and why I am here. The more efficient I am, the more I can do with my money. & that feeling is AWESOME.

P.S. My dad is a LOT like MMM, so where I got a lot of frugal habits. Funny enough, he would never hire anyone to do *anything,* and I do not think that is always a good thing. Thus, I am a lot more laid back about paying people to do things "right" once in a while. But I am sure my parents easily survived on $15k last year and spent another $10k on hobbies and travel - something like that. It doesn't strike me as weird or impossible. They paid off their home a long time ago and barely put any mileage on their cars. Besides food and utilities, what else do they really need? Apparently not much.

Procrastinating - Lots of Thoughts to Share

November 20th, 2011 at 08:12 pm

The weather is cold (not going outside)! and there is absolutely nothing to be done today.

I should be readying the house for T-Day, but I am procrastinating. As long as I get going by noon, probably have plenty of time to clean up the house AND work on some fall cleaning. (We picked up a bit last night - family is a great help - so not much left to do). I suppose that is the plus side. We were going to dinner at our neighbors, but they canceled due to sickness.

Oh yes, and we had wanted to go to the free museum day today but had changed our mind with dinner plans. I suppose I will look into that - there is a really cool exhibit going on - some "mad scientist" from the Bay Area - has all sorts of cool looking robots and things. We were thinking of just going on one of our days off from school/work, but might as well take advantage of the free day with no other plans. I am planning on getting a family museum membership, but our plan was to check out some of the free days and figure out the parking situation. If we never go because the parking sucks... So, it will be a bit of an experiment.

This is the kind of art that the kids can get excited about:

Text is and Link is


When it comes to the online blogosphere and such, I generally settle down somewhere for a period of time, and then move on when life changes. For example, I found pregnancy support message boards to be incredibly invaluable while pregnant, but didn't find what the community evolved into post-birth to be terribly useful. I am sure there was probably a lot of wisdom and tips to be gleaned in such groups, but the problem is you have to wade through the minefield of sleep-deprived hormonal new moms. NOT a pleasant experience. Wink Throw in the mommy wars, and I found the experience pretty useless. Beyond useless - it was a pretty toxic environment.

When I moved away from that and found savingadvice, I settled here and has definitely been a VERY positive experience. I have often wondered when I Would move on and where I would be taken next. I think it all started with "Small Notebook." I LOVE that blog and really identify with it on many levels. I find myself finding more and more blogs that are along the same lines. I don't think I had ever really thought about it, but a running theme in my own life is simplification. I find most people make things far harder than they have to be. I am ALL about the short cuts! & so I am really digging finding bloggers who focus on simplicity and love thinking about things in new ways and getting new ideas.

That said, I don't think I am going anywhere! No matter where I am in my financial journey, I am an accountant at heart. I have always delighted in organizing my finances, and I always will. I often go to work and can't believe how well I get paid for simply doing what I love doing. So, I don't think I am going anywhere.

But, I share because I have been linking more and more of these blogs to my website links, AND the more I read them and focus elsewhere, the less posty I have been. & I suppose that is my intro as I start to think more about how I do simplify things in my life, if there are any tips I can share, and I why I am excited to share new things I am learning.

Anyway, I read this old blog post this past week and thought it was fascinating:

The myth of doing it all: modern moms and hiring help

Text is and Link is

Love love love this article. It really made me stop and think about the cultural norms that are behind the attitude we have often gotten for our own personal choices when it comes to hiring help.

What kind of attitude?

A - our parents think it is TERRIBLE that we hire any help at all. We hire a gardener. Interestingly, our parents were always supportive of us hiring out childcare (as women who could not afford it - they realized we were incredibly lucky to be able to - better for both us and our kids).

B - From very frugal friends, we always got a LOT of attitude about hiring out daycare though my spouse stayed home. To me it was always a "What the hell is their problem???" kind of thing. Even though we stretched a bit to make it work, I wouldn't change it for anything. Towards the end I said specifically in this blog, "Why do people with HUGE car payments get so judgmental about such a practical, and so very temporary, expense?"

Ding ding ding - societal norms. Society says be in debt forever in your car, but only snooty/wasteful Stay-at-home people hire help. I was thinking that daycare help was much more pleasing for the soul than a brand new car. Big Grin

C - A friend of mind who is deep in debt, orders lattes every day, and goes to the salon endlessly, well her or her husband have made several "it must be nice" comments to us over the years, about the fact that we have a gardener.

Again - societal norms. Forget that they are paying WAY more on a monthly basis for simply salon visits. Hired help just has a much bigger stigma.

& what I realized thinking about this was that on every level, getting to think outside the box and look at things differently is so freeing. It really does make life easier to not to be so conformist. I have never had a lot of problem being different. But reading that post made me look at things a little different. I think next time anyone makes a snide comment about any decision to hire help, it will be easier for me to see where *they* are coming from. & maybe I know better how to reply to help open their own eyes. It's like I realized, but I didn't really realize. A bit of an *aha* moment.

So next time my friend makes an "it must be nice" comment (honestly, I think it is her husband, not sure she has ever said the same?), I think I will just smile and say, "yes, it is nice." What can you do?


In other news, I made a new step in organizing in my house, after reading this post:

Clearing the �Counter Pile� with a Tickler File

Text is and Link is

I am a big believer in manila envelopes. I organize my life pretty much in manila envelopes, anyway.

BUT, when it comes to bills and stuff, my way is not overly organized. My method is simply this. I don't procrastinate. So, when papers come in, I send them back out. I either shred them, or pay the bills, or send back the school forms, or whatever. If it can wait a bit, I just throw it in a pile. The pile never gets very big, and I know where to find anything I need.

It works.

BUT, the idea on this blog post was to have one manila type folder for each month, and to file things away by month. So, if a bill is not due until January, I could file the bill in January, rather than leave it in a pile. If I have a form I want to take care of next month, I can file it away for next month. So simple, and yet so genius! I went one further and got out some folders for coupon categories and also labeled one for each kid. In the kid folders I put school stuff that I may need to reference, but didn't want to toss yet. Or stuff they may need next month, or later.

In addition, I put an envelope in each month to keep all receipts. Talk about a simple way to get mega organized. I will probably toss most the receipts once the month is over, but I too often have to ask dh what this or that purchase was for, or forget some purchase I made 4 weeks ago. So, this should help simplify.

So yeah, I organized all of the coupons into folders, too, by category. Our old method was a pile of coupons. I can't say it was working overly well.

I already put EVERYTHING on the calendar as a simple way to keep organized, so I find I didn't have to follow this tickler system to a tee. I just have to remember to check the folders every month, is all. I like the tip to put, say, wedding invitations in the month for when the wedding is. That is something that is generally sitting in a pile. We had a birthday we went to that we got the invite MONTHS in advance. So we just left the invite in the "pile" for many months. OF course it was on the calendar, but I just had no where to put the actual invite, aside from the "pile." Oh, that folder system would have been so nice for that. Big Grin

Anyway, read that link - it may change your life!

The funny thing was I had went to the store for manila folders a day or two before I came across that post. All they had was a set of 50. I probably only needed a few. I thought, "well, here is a lifetimes supply of folders," and just bought them since it was all I Could find. So I have suddenly found much use for all the extra folders.

Lazy Laundry

October 3rd, 2010 at 03:15 pm

I recently declared myself to be a "Cut a Lot of Corners" mom. I kind of realized that a most of the moms I know seem to really struggle with priorities.

On the flip side, I know that I often give off the impressions of some sort of perfectionism. Which is laughable since I don't do half the things most my mom friends do. Rolleyes I suppose it's funny that I just kind of am putting two and two together. I decided to add a category in my blog called "Cutting Corners."

Anyway, I just read this post from small notebook (which got me thinking about all this initially when she started blogging about her own shortcuts):

Text is and Link is

A great post!

Laundry is one of those things I don't really *get.* While everyone else is griping about how it is the worse chore ever, all I can think is that it is the EASIEST chore ever. The machine does all the work - doesn't it? Throw it in? Take it out? What else is there to do?

Aw, this post reminded me. Sorting, folding, ironing. Yeah, I don't do any of that!!

First off - our number one rule is no dry cleaning. Not only is it expensive, but dh is allergic to the chemicals. Thus, we have a good excuse to never waste our money on dry cleaning. We just shop accordingly.

My main rule is no ironing. I will iron something on occasion, but again, I refuse to buy anything that needs constant ironing. I would just go insane. I HATE ironing. I am sure this surprised dh when we first married. His mom delighted in ironing all his clothes (probably sheets and towels, too). & though I don't mind most household chores, the first thing I told him was, "I don't iron." I don't think he believed me at first, but it's just one of the few things I have completely refused to do.

WE generally put the kids' laundry away, but instead of folding it neatly, we just kind of lay everything flat in the drawers (huge time saver). Dh and I tend to leave our laundry in laundry baskets. He does most the laundry, though I certainly don't mind doing it - and do it often. We don't sort anything but the obvious reds and tie dye stuff we don't want to bleed. New clothes I always wash with my dark work clothes first in case they bleed. This always works.

My work clothes are another story. Most of them need to be washed in cold water, delicately, and hang dried. I have a drying rack in my closet and so wash those once a week and hang them on the rack. (I don't let dh touch these - and he is currently banned from my swimsuits after ruining one in the dryer). It's generally quicker/easier than folding or hanging. I tend to leave most my clothes there (on the rack) as I wear them over and over.

Bed sheets - we are the same way - tend to just wash them and put them back on the bed. So not a lot of folding. The towels tend to stay in the laundry basket until someone folds them and puts them away. I think we probably fold them more than not, but the thing is we don't do it all at once - they may sit a few days before we put them away.

Thus, we always have plenty of clean laundry. This is not a chore we ever get behind on (probably a must since we tend to have pretty small wardrobes). But we don't spend time making it more complicated than it has to be.

I LOVED doing laundry in our condo. The laundry room was right outside our unit. Back then we would save up laundry for a while and then do 4 loads at once. Clearly we didn't fold it all and hang it all up immediately. I always thought having a communal laundry room was a plus, myself. Big Grin


It was a funny exercise having MIL stay at our house all week with the kids. The exact same concept. She just made everything so much more complicated than it had to be.

It was funny because she was total Martha Stewart - of course everything was immaculate when we came home. But she was too tired to heat up our frozen meals every night (more like, too tired to clean up after) so it sounds like they ate fast food every night. I just thought it was kind of funny. When she was younger she truly did it all. Out of practice and aging, she tired out by dinner. But she decided running around and making the house immaculate every second was more important than eating well. Poor kids! I can only imagine all the fumes of constant house cleaning that they had to endure. Nothing they usually experience. Wink

Since she did 10 times the work we would ever do (& there are TWO of us!), it was funny how she would go on and on how we do SO MUCH. Dh and I just kind of roll our eyes. Not really?

Honey Do List & Priorities

August 17th, 2010 at 05:15 pm

Well, so far so good (knock on wood). LM had a great first day of "all day" school. He's only been going 3 hours a day for 3 weeks.

I think the pre-K program was extremely helpful! HE was so chipper last night, that I started to wonder if going to school was taking less energy than being home with brother all day. Could be. I remember BM being very cranky the first few weeks of school - and he has tons of energy. It's just quite an adjustment.

It's only one day - so will see.


If you asked dh, I think he'd tell you the best part is being able to sleep in! Not that he has gotten to yet. But, soon enough.

I usually either work Saturdays or go to aerobics at dawn. SO, he gets Sundays to sleep in. BUT, easier said than done, with kids who like to wake up and dawn. SO, he now gets 2-3 mornings a week while I take the kids to school. (I could care less about sleeping in. I rather go to bed early - which I do often).

I am working on a honey do list, but it isn't very long. Yet. I am used dh doing a lot for me, and don't really intend to add to his load too much. But I am thinking of a couple of things that need to be taken care of with his newfound free time.


The other nice things is lunch dates. We always do lunch dates (more economical), but we have to plan them eons in advance, it seems.

Now we have our pick of 5 days a week. Big Grin


When BM started Kinder, it was a shift from a simpler life to more complexity. We really hadn't had much of any schedule for a long time. School is very schedule-y. Lots to plan around.

LM starting school is kind of the polar opposite. WE are used to the schedule now, and he shares it with BM. This just frees up a lot of time for dh. So, it's making life simpler, for the moment.

Dh and I will definitely enjoy. Before long, I expect he will be working again, and life will then be much more busy. So, we are definitely enjoying the slower pace for a time.

I could ask dh to help me with a lot more, but I feel content. I don't really need help with anything. The thought crossed my mind that if he was so free, I could ask him to take the kids for a day, Saturday or Sunday. But, I don't need a break, and nothing I need to do, so, eh.


I had another weekend with cranky moms...

I thought to all of the talk of simpler living, recently.

I looked at this blog earlier, as recommended by another blogger.


I did like it. One of the first blog posts really struck with me.

Text is and Link is

The Hierarchy of Cleaning...

Clean yourself
Clean your clothes
clean the trash/dishes
Worry about the rest later...

That sums it up pretty well. Big Grin

That one stuck with me because, that is completley my style of cleaning, for one. Secondly, cleaning is an area where I don't see moms being very practical. They are stressed out, they are tired, they are a mess, and they still spend hours every day cleaning. I don't quite understand why.

I've always thought, "Thank goodness I am not a neat freak."

But, as a mom friend griped to me over the weekend, I realized that there was no rhyme and reason to her priorities. She was telling me she had no time for x, y, and z (no idea how I did it), but she was spending all this energy on a, b and c, and I wasn't quite sure why.

For example, her child has been at school one full year and she asked me how the buying lunch thing worked. My jaw about hit the floor. They eat out every night, but she makes lunch for her kid every single day? Seriously? It just struck me as odd.

Anyway, I know I come across off as the "Do it all Mom" to my friends. (They've all said it to me). Which is completely ridiculous!

The truth is I am the "Ask for help" mom and the "Cut a lot of corners" mom. I am definitely the "I know how to say no" mom.

That hierarchy of chores said it pretty well. I do what needs to be done. I am good at prioritizing. I don't generally go around bragging about all the corners I cut. In fact, most people would look at me like I was crazy if I told them. But the end result is a MUCH simpler lifestyle. (Should I brag about it more? It's not like I even care, but the same moms always look horrified when you mention the corners you cut, so you can't win).

An example? I don't bathe my kids every night. (I grew up in drought country, and I think it is a ridiculous waste of water AND time). But most people think this is crazy talk! But, by only cleaning the kids when they NEED it, I save myself a couple of hours a week. That is just one example of MANY. I see quite easily why I have so much free time compared to most my mom friends.

So, is prioritizing the key to a simple lifestyle?

I don't know if it's key, but it is a skill that is just kind of inherent in my nature. I have always been pretty good at prioritizing, since I was a small child. I do think that it makes life easier.

There's probably a lot more to simplicity, than just prioritizing. But it's probably a very good first step.