- Buying drinks/appetizers/dessert at restaurants. We have a small budget for dining out and usually work in a coupon on our visits to optimize the possibility of going out more often.
- Renting movies. Goodbye to our dear friend Blockbuster. Once in a while when there is a new film we have been dying to see we will splurge on a Redbox rental, but it is always sure to make it back the next day before extra charges.
- Compulsive grocery shopping. As I mentioned before, I have a vigorous grocery list system, which includes a detailed and specific list of meal needs, ad matching, and coupon printing. Gone are the days when we would add candy bars or IBC Cream Sodas into the cart on impulse. We also only go shopping every other week, which makes for a very full cart, but less trips to the store with less odds and ends to pick up and add up on the bill.
- Shakes. Once or twice a month Greg and I liked to enjoy specialty milkshakes. We consider ourselves to be icecream connoisseurs and have been known to often frequent Jakes, Abs, Iceberg, Leatherbys and Coldstone. Now I work whichever icecream is on sale into the grocery budget and make the milkshake from home.
- Books and magazines. I love to read and I love to scrapbook. Before I always bought the book our book group was currently reading and I subscribed to my favorite scrapbook magazine for inspiration. Now, both outlets come from the library. The library has become my best friend. I know every inch of it. I reserve novels, audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, cookbooks and most recently Creating Keepsake magazines.
- Dates. Not that I feel we went out a whole lot before, but now the phenomenon is fairly nonexistent. Mostly because it costs money to get a babysitter and it costs money to go to a movie, bowling, etc. However, we have more frequently begun to take advantage of free entertainment opportunities as a family. We love the park, we visit it often. We go on walks. We swim at the fitness center with my free membership. If you are looking, there really is a lot out there to enjoy at little or no cost.
So, my conclusion on budgeting: yes, it's difficult, yes, in many regards it outright stinks, but I do believe it is worth it. We are sacrificing yet we are gaining many advantages and opportunities through such sacrifice. We are realizing the difference between wants and needs. We are being humbled. We are growing together as a family as we purge material things and refocus on what is important. We are better for it, not just financially, but also spiritually and even emotionally. And as for that vacation... we'll get there someday and since we'll be debt free, it'll be all that much more enjoyable.
Alright, I'm off my soap box now. But I would like to know, how have you cut back? Do you know any great money saving tips?