Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cutting Back

I watched a piece on NBC Nightly News last night about “cutting back”. An expose on how people are saving money in these hard times.

I saw the train wreck coming four years ago. The first to go was my truck. I had a beautiful Dodge Dakota, but even at $2.00 a gallon, it was costing me $50 a fill. At that time, I was commuting 100 miles a day to Mount St. Helens where I worked with the Forest Service. I traded it in for a little manual transmission Hunyadi Elantra. It is still my car. In conversations about gas conversations, I still talk with pride. Not about the car, but my sacrifices.

NBC news talked about other locations where we could save. They included coffee, cigarettes and lunches (Gosh, eating leftovers). As it turns out, I don’t drink coffee. I don’t smoke and average one purchased lunch each month. That is right, I take my lunch almost every day to make sure I save money. Much to my boy’s chagrin, I pack them a lunch four days a week.
By far, our largest “fluff” expense is on television. We have an excellent package of television programming from DirecTV. My wife is a big TV fan and frankly, it allows us a way to kill time…call it cheap entertainment.

Next are the cell phones. We have three phones from Sprint with individual numbers. One for home, one for my wife and one that serves as the main number for the house. My phone is my work phone between my two jobs. Somewhere, somehow, I have to figure out how to provide a budding teenager with a phone….hopefully without a new number. It might be a little much, but I don’t feel as much guilt as with the television package.

Finally, the third potential place to cut is the hi-speed broadband service that I receive from QWEST. Not even negotiable. The internet has landed me my last three jobs, and I currently work as a writer for a small newspaper where I email my photos and stories. This expense more than pays for itself.

What has been cut is travel and experiences. I used to explore almost every weekend. A drive to a location within 60 miles or so and then a hike. It was costing me $20 to $30 a trip for gas X 4. Doesn’t sound like much but it was an easy place to cut. Is that what I have the DirecTV package for? (I say this with a bit of sarcasm).

Now that I am being paid to experience things and write about them, I can add that last item back to the list of things I don’t have to think about saving.. Darkness looms in 2009. I am guessing that my #1 employer that also allows me to buy my family’s insurance for about $600 a month will be cutting my job completely and working for a small-town newspaper won’t pay the bills and buy my luxuries.

Where will I cut next?

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