On Wednesday, I was sitting at the library trying to come up with an idea to blog about. Actually, I had a “to blog” list, but none of them struck a chord with me, so I started reading some magazines instead. Luckily, I found an article in Money Magazine that I can comment on – “My very cheap day” by Kristen Bellstrom. (Thanks to Brian for finding the link for us.)
It’s not easy for frugal folks to cut expense
Her mission was to spend one day trying to cut every expense she encountered. Aha! I already found something to disagree with.
“While this would be (heavily discounted) cake for more frugal folks, when I am asked to choose between convenience and savings, I confess to have an unfortunate tendency to go with the former.”
Let me tell you, it is not a piece of cake for frugal folks. We are already frugal so there isn’t much more to cut! She chronicled her discretionary spending throughout the day and showed us how she saved $87.93.
Anyway, it seems like Kristen choose a good day to be a cheapskate because she had to run to the drugstore, grocery store, coffee shop, dry cleaner, and eat lunch and dinner out. She was able to save $87.93 and that’s pretty good, but I’m surprised at her burn rate. I guess being a single New Yorker can be quite expensive. It seems that on a normal day she spends about $110? That’s a lot of money and we’re not even counting housing, car, and other fixed expenses.
Her story inspires me to share my Wednesday.
RB40’s very cheap day
8:00am Breakfast home ($1)
Split with Baby RB40: 1 Thomas’ everything bagel, Neufchatel cheese, and fresh chives from the community garden. I had coffee from our French press and Baby RB40 drank whole milk.
10:00am Runabout at the park ($0)
We went for a quick walk around the neighborhood. We usually go to the playground, library, or walk to the river, but it was raining today so we just took a short walk.
Noon Lunch at home ($4)
I stir fried some Yakisoba noodles with broccoli, carrots, onion, and a little beef. Grandma RB40 made gyoza from last night’s leftover wonton soup filling. Everything probably cost less than $4 to feed 2 adults + toddler.
2:00pm Blogging at the library ($0.50)
I took the streetcar to the library to catch up on blogging. Baby RB40 stayed home with Grandma and took a nap. I paid $100 for the streetcar annual pass and it works very well for me. It probably cost about 25 cents per ride considering how many times I ride it. At the library, I caught up on my emails, did some blog maintenance, and wrote most of this post. I also got 2 books and 7 DVDs.
5:00pm Happy Hour ($0)
This is a bit unusual. One of my old coworkers found Retire By 40 on the internet and wanted to chat. Usually, I’d be home getting dinner ready at 5pm. I had an IPA and a snack, but my old pal generously paid the bill. Thanks man!
6:30pm Dinner at home ($5)
I went home after happy hour and everyone already finished dinner. They had beef broccoli stir fry, some fried eggs, and rice. I ate a bit too.
7:30pm Really small snack ($1.25)
Mmm… This will sound very extreme cheapskate…. We had half a piece of chocolate left. It was the last piece of some really nice truffles Mrs. RB40 got for herself for Mother’s Day. I was going to split the last piece with her the previous evening, but she was conked out so I saved her half. Anyway, she said we could have it, since she had eaten another one earlier, so I split the half with Baby RB40. So we each had a quarter piece of the tarragon grapefruit truffle and it was quite yummy. Baby RB40 also munched on some dried apricots.
We took Mrs. RB40 out to Tasty n Alder for a nice brunch on Mother’s day so I’m not that cheap. It was also National Train Day on Saturday so she got to see some trains as a bonus. What a lucky mom! Sorry to get sidetracked. Let’s get back to Wednesday.
8:00pm More snack because the ¼ truffle wasn’t enough ($2)
Baby RB40 wanted more food so I found some cheese and crackers for him. He scarfed down 6-7 Ritz crackers and some nice soft goat cheese spread from the farmer market. I had a bit too.
Total estimated expense: $13.75
Our expense is a whole magnitude smaller than Kristen’s, but I do have some serious advantages. I’m not working in an office anymore and don’t have commuting or dry cleaning expenses. We also eat out only about once per week or so.
This whole exercise reinforced how the 80/20 rule works. You can get 80% of the result by applying 20% of the effort. Cheapskates like me already cut our expenses and it’s much harder to trim any more fat. I guess we can eat less expensively, but why do that when we don’t have to?
On the other hand, Kristen was able to cut 80% of her expenses quite easily. She sounded frazzled by the end of the day, though and I wonder if she can keep this up. Hopefully, she can come to a happy median and spend less money while staying content.
For me, I think we have achieved our 80% effectiveness already. I’d say on the cheapskate scale of 1 to 10, we are at 7 or 8. Kristen was probably at 2 before her cheapskate day. How about you? Can you trim any fat from your expenses? Would you want to?
Related article – No one ever get rich by being frugal.