Monday, January 5, 2009


No, I didn't come up with the term in the title. I'm not even sure I spelled it right. My husband heard it on NPR, actually, on his way home from work a couple weeks ago. It means "someone who is fairing well or benefiting during the current recession". He told me about it and said, "Hun, that's us!" He was right.

For one thing, even before the recession hit, we lived below our means. We bought a house for $50,000 less than we could afford. Why? Because we didn't want to contribute more than a set percentage of our budget toward our mortgage payment. Also, we've been paying more than the minimum amount on the mortgage every single month. It's just part of the budget. Apparently we're part of a limited group here- according to some reading I've done, only 3% of Americans routinely pay more than the minimum on their mortgage. When I started out, I was basing my plan on some advice I received in a personal finance class in college. It seemed like such good advice, I was shocked later to find out so few people actually do this.

Of course our mortgage isn't the only way we choose to live below our means. It's just a good example. I could think of millions more, but I don't want to bore you. Living below our means is due, in most part, to keeping a budget. If you don't have one, make one. Take charge of your money. Don't let your money take charge of you. Not keeping a budget is the biggest waste of money there is, in my opinion. And when I say "keep a budget", I don't just mean you should know how much your bills are. That's a good start, but when you don't allocate all your money toward one thing or another, you wind up, at the end of your pay period, with no money, nothing in savings, wondering where your money went. You would know had you told it where to go in the first place. We have a very strict budget which includes, within $5, how much we will spend on gas, groceries, eating out, oil changes, hair cuts, everything. Things fluctuate from time to time, but the point is that we can anticipate how much something will cost within the next month or so, what we will need to buy (not "want", but need), and how much we can contribute to savings.

We also look for opportunities to save money where we can. If we can help someone else in the process, even better. Instead of hiring some professional painters to repaint our house this past summer, we hired my brother, who has 5 years' experience painting, to help my husband paint our house. It took about 3 weeks altogether. It cost us more time, but we saved about 2/3 the cost of what it would have cost to hire someone we didn't know to paint our house. I know my husband and brother did a damn good job because they actually care about the house, not just getting the job done. My brother was between jobs at the time, so we worked out an hourly wage for him, and he worked hard for his pay. I didn't have to borrow him any money or gift him any money, but I helped him out nonetheless. Our neighbor is a contractor, and he really wants this air compressor that mysteriously came with our house. We have no use for this air compressor, but we know it's worth a lot of money. So much money that our neighbor wouldn't be able to buy it from us. When we get new windows (hopefully this summer), we'll buy them from a store instead of a salesman, have our neighbor install them for us, and give him the air compressor in exchange for his work. In the process, we will have saved 2/3 of the cost, again, and gotten rid of this air compressor by giving it to someone who really wants it and needs it.

Finally, we've taken the time to learn new skills. My husband didn't know much about painting houses before we made the decision to paint our house ourselves. He researched it. Instead of calling a repairman to fix our dishwasher when it broke, he learned how to fix it himself. We've had no problems with it since. I've learned a lot recently about gardening. That's a separate post or two by itself, but suffice it to say, it's saved us a lot of money. I've learned how to most effectively use coupons and rebates to save us the most money on a regular basis. We have a joke that he saves us money in big chunks, and I save us money in little chips.

I'll write in more depth about all this stuff in future blogs. I plan to write a new blog every day, so check back often!

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