This year, we started the year with about 25k in savings, rainy-day fund, and over the course of the year, well, it rained. Three cats with cancer, one new computer, two vacations, and a couple other extravagant purchases later, we have officially drained the rainy-day fund.
To make matters worse, I changed jobs, which is a good thing for me and our family considering the Hellish commute and crap management/political infighting/reindeer games at the old place, but I have taken a big step down in pay to make it happen. Next year’s forecast is that I will take home 13k less than 2008.
We are planning to do a lot of belt-tightening, especially in the “dining out” arena. As in, cut our dining out and take-out by half. That will mean eating at home a lot more… our habit has been an average of 4 or 5 nights a week getting take-out our going out, and we’ll need to scale this back to 2 per week. I’ll need to scale back my lunch budget too, and get serious about sandwiches again. That also means we’ll need to buy groceries, and cook for ourselves, as the primary food source *and* as the backup plan (i.e. frozen or canned items as the “emergency” item, not Baja Fresh.) We will also cancel some extras like Vonage and Netflix, but that’s only 50/month combined, so small change.
If we make serious cuts in the dining/entertainment area, have no new computers or bling next year, have no other huge disasters, we will just about break even next year. That’s not a comfortable position for me… I’d really like to have savings equal to 6 months of living expenses (or at least, enough to cover 6 months if we cut non-essentials like dining out at all and directv).
The biggest impact for next year will be the plans for fixing up the house and moving out. Our house may have dropped in value, but we still have a hefty equity stake. Last time we moved, we were fortunate to be able to buy a new house, move, and then show our old condo in an empty state, and made a considerable profit on it. Most of that profit went into this house’s equity, so the house we bought for 460k we probably owe 320k. If we could sell it for what we bought it for, or more, that would mean we have 140k or more for downpayment and reducing our loan. But, if we move into a house that costs us roughly the same amount, our loan will end up being the same amount (and same monthly payment) as now. We also have no cash to apply to needed improvements/completions. I’d like to check around to see if we can get a house we can tolerate for less than our current house, and if we can get a 2nd loan or home equity line (I should have kept the old equity line open but it had a hefty yearly fee).
More extreme measures? I suppose if we were to totally clear out the spare room, we could take on a roommate and share the rent. M is highly skeptical of this idea… I could think of a few people we wouldn’t mind as roommates but they are all unemployed at the moment. Another option might be asking M to go back to tech writing- if she were to earn 10k or 15k that would definitely help.
So, friends. What are some of your favorite cheap, easy foods to make at home. I’m pretty good at making large soups, salad, spaghetti, hamburger-helper or other boxed side dishes, steaming veggies, and other simple stuff. Any other ideas are welcome!