Slash and burn: Cost-cutting

I’ve been thinking about minimum living costs lately. As in, that threshold below which it’s very hard to cut costs any further. (If I made $60k a year, I could easily save half of that; if I made $40k, I’d be lucky to save 10 percent, because beyond a certain point, it’s impossible to escape the realities of rent, transport costs, food and the other necessities.) For us, a realistic threshold is $2500 – but that number is about to go up.

That’s right. Rent is going up! Boo. It’s increasing from $250 to $280 a week, to be precise. (Gosh, we’ve been here 18 months already!) That means $560 a fortnight, and with my income slightly down, we really should tighten the belt.

Our power bill is also way up, and that’s because our usage is up compared to the same months last year. It’s certainly not due to heating because this winter has been one of the mildest in a long time. I’m guessing it’s down to a) gadgets being plugged in all the time – MySky, computer, etc and b) cooking and baking more, including use of the oven and crockpot. I can’t, or won’t, do much about the latter, but I’m definitely cracking down on turning switches off at the wall. That includes our outdoor sensor light, even though it’s nice to get home and not have to fiddle with the lock in the pitch dark; T puts it on when he leaves at 5am and I turn it off when I leave after 8am.

Our phone bill is down, thanks to a new internet package. On the other hand, while my cellphone is now paid for by work, T’s smartphone plan costs more than his prepaid one, so it probably evens out.

Could we give up Sky TV? I guess we could, at least once our 12-month contract is up. T loves it almost as much as he loves me, though, and it’s also relatively cheap entertainment. I can’t tell you how much we used to waste on late DVD fees (and no, we don’t have Netflix or the like here). In dire straits, I’d cut this without a thought, but we aren’t there yet.

Where I reckon I could further cut costs is clothing. I really don’t need anything else, and the good thing is that I don’t walk past clothing shops (including my favourite secondhand store) everyday anymore. I mean, you’ve probably noticed I wasn’t big into retail therapy anyway, so removing the temptation has hardly fazed me. So unless I come across a charcoal cardi, or tops in deep purple or red, the plan is to not buy any clothes until next year (Fabulously Broke and Krystal have done shopping bans; so can I!)

And we can get stricter about our eating out and grocery budgets; while I still budget weekly, looking at our monthly spending is a better way to gauge how we’re doing, and my online banking makes that really easy to do. And I might reinstate weekly grocery recaps to help keep us under budget. (I’ll try to make them somewhat interesting…maybe menu plans to accompany them? I don’t know if I can manage to photograph our haul all beautifully stacked like some of you do, though; once we bring the bags in from the car, it’s a matter of getting the unpleasant task of stowing it all away done as quickly as possible.)

I also think it’s time to repeat November’s challenge, although I’ll have to set aside travel expenses in August because we’re off to Wellington for a weekend.

What’s your living threshold number, or when was your last rent hike?

8 thoughts on “Slash and burn: Cost-cutting

  • Reply Sense August 1, 2011 at 13:57

    That is a tricky question, because I’d feel uncomfortable not saving ANYTHING. I’d have to cut something to save just a little bit, no matter how much I was living off of. Right now, if I cut as much as I could while keeping a reasonably sustainable lifestyle, rent + food + the other little necessities would cost me about $1700 a month. MINIMUM. That’s good because it is approximately half of my take home salary. I usually spend an average of ~$2500, including $415 savings, a month. So I guess I spend about $400 more a month on fun and extras that could be cut out if I wanted to, then.

    I’ve lived here for 3 years nearly, and rent has stayed the same (thank the Lord!). My landlords are fantastic. So my last rent hike was from $750 USD a month in San Diego in 2008 to about $920 NZD a month (average) here in Auckland. If I had to move house in Aucks I’d go somewhere cheaper, for sure.

  • Reply Stephany August 1, 2011 at 14:43

    Our rent just went up and we were worried it would be a big hike since my apartment complex is doing a TON of renovations but it only went up by $20 which isn’t bad at all. Right now, I don’t know what my threshold is but I look forward to seeing what it will be once I start working and can actually learn to support myself financially. 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie August 1, 2011 at 15:06

    Our rent will be going up, but that’s because we’re moving into an apartment for two people (instead of splitting rent 4 ways in our current place).

    By living threshold, you mean the least amount we could make and still afford necessities, right? I’ll be honest, even though I should know, I don’t really know offhand. I mean, I guess I could run off and add up all my monthly expenses. Paying all necessary living costs (split between the bf and me) plus paying my student loans will be at least $1500. But I always transfer a good amount of money into savings and my retirement funds every month, so I’d be up to that $2500 moving out of my checking account per month. Yikes!

  • Reply Miss J August 1, 2011 at 21:06

    Our rent just went up from NIL to $530 per week. A little bit scary but the last time we rented a year ago, we were paying $460 a week (hey we’re in Sydney alright – the city of inflated everything!) & we’ve had a few pay rises from that time so we know we’re going to be alright. I think we’ve cut down a lot on grocery shopping though which is really helpful.

  • Reply First Gen American August 2, 2011 at 02:00

    2.5 years ago I calculated the minimum number of $$’s we’d need to cover basic expenses and it was like $45,000/yr (and that’s with ditching my $20K/year daycare expenses.) The number made me freak out big time. The number was high because we were paying for 2 mortgages (mine and moms). Now, it’s like 1/2 that. phew.

    It seems like you are already living a pretty frugal life. Is there a way to quickly increase your income? Maybe take on some additional freelance jigs?

  • Reply Stephanie August 2, 2011 at 15:09

    Is it common in NZ to have rent in $/week rather than $/month?

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