Making Choices: What we skip or skimp to make room for things like morals and munchies
Young House Love posed the question about things we skip (or skimp) to save money. I started to comment but then it got reeeeallly long so I thought I would put it up here and make a shorter list in my comment. Now, my title talks about morals because some of these choices for reusable things instead of disposable are environmentally motivated as well as financially. As I've mentioned before, Mr. Moon responds to financial motivation more than anything, but over the last three years we BOTH have come around to being more willing to do things primarily for the Bigger Picture benefits outside our own small lives. Gardening is one of those things we have tried to do for something bigger than ourselves, with only meager success.
Subscription TV: I haven't paid for it in 9 years, Mr. Moon and his roommates had done away with it years before I met them. I watch seasons of TV shows when they come out on DVD, have Blockbuster and now more recently Netflix, so for $16 a month I have DVDs come in the mail and stream a bunch of TV shows and movies. Although I have no idea what is going to happen with internet at our new apartment. It is possible that we will be using cell phone internet--it would only cost us $20 more than what we are paying now on our data plans, and we checked with our current internet company--no way we will go through the larger data plan even streaming as much as we do.
Paper towel: I bought a pack of bar towels from a restaurant supply store for $5 and haven't replaced them in 3 years. It was going to be about time that I was going to break down and resign these to Dirty Jobs cloths and get new ones, but now we are moving unexpectedly and I will just make these do for a while longer. We were probably spending $10 a month on paper towels before that.
Toilet paper: My partner still uses it, but I made myself flannel wipes and switched 11 months ago and won't look back. It didn't cost anything to make, I used a flannel top sheet that was going to be donated and half a spool of thread I already had sitting around. 3 hours of my time (because I didn't have a rotary cutter yet and had to use scissors, otherwise it would have been 1 hour) and I have enough wipes to last about a week. I've tried using TP a couple times when I ran out of wipes once, waiting for them to wash. Hasn't happened since. Can't stand the paper anymore. But hey, it saves me $40 a month!
Reusable menstrual products: Cloth pads in my case, though there are cups and sea sponge tampons and I'm sure some other options out there. So far at the prices I was paying before I switched, I have saved myself over $5k in the last 8 years (I'll save you the math: That's about $50 a month, no that's not a typo). Obviously not everyone can expect that kind of savings, but for me it was clearly worth it.
New Furniture: While I DID want to splurge on a nice couch here soon, that's not going to happen with our sudden move. I typically get my furniture from thrift stores and the side of the road. Oh, bought something that now doesn't fit in the new place? Donate it. Broken? Burn it or typically, re-use pieces of it to build something else. Don't like the color? Paint it or wrap it in fabric. Moving across the country? Yard sale/donate/curb pile. No sentimental attachment to large, bulky items means that I can afford to redecorate, or just release the items when I'm done with them. (Sometimes it helps to think of it as renting them or borrowing them from the thrift store as if it were a library with a small fee for unlimited usage.)
Fancy Clothes (ish): I had to completely resupply an entire wardrobe three times in 2 years due to life events. It was frustrating and devastating. I didn't have time to slowly pick select pieces at the thrift store so it was almost all brand new. I got them at discounts and discount brands but that just makes it even more important to care for them well so they will last. I DID spend bigger bucks on some items that I KNEW for sure I liked, so that they would last longer. MANY of my clothes don't get dried or at least not every time. Rarely is it the worst thing ever if something that usually hangs to dry goes through the dryer. It also means that for every 2 loads that go through the washer, only 1 has to go through the dryer. So that means less $$ on the dryer (esp for coin ops, which may be a Thing again with this move) and less $$ replacing cheap clothes that wear out too quickly. And we also don't usually use the dry cleaners. Which means that there has been a pair of pants there for over a week because they were super snazzy wool interview pants that I didn't want to wash and I forgot about them. Ha.
Jewelry: My mom looooves buying me jewelry as gifts. For one, they are fun and shiny and another, they transport cross-country very well. Even so, it's still inexpensive jewelry. I balked when she paid $15 for a pair of earrings once, it's almost unheard of. My earring holes are a little crooked so they tend to let earrings drop off me so I have a collection of singles. I got a single hole punched in one ear so I can still wear them. Necklace breaks? Meh. I have a couple more expensive pieces from other gifts and don't even like wearing them because they just make me uncomfortable wearing that much money that might get lost or stolen.
Primping: I don't shave my legs (7 years now), and no one has ever noticed (some even after I've pointed it out in person). I spend about $3 a year on razor heads for my reusable handle, for shaving the other parts of me that I still do. My partner got an electric razor as a gift, and doesn't use disposables or shaving cream anymore--plus it means he doesn't get razor burn as he used to no matter what before, so that's even better. He shaves his head with the electric razor, and we shave mine into a mohawk with it. I can do my own bangs, and the occasional trim from a student at the cosmetology school can keep my mohawk at the right angle (it looks like a bob cut when you see it from the side, so it's sort of angled and I can't do that quite right by myself--plus I like the texturing they can do with their fancy scissors). I dye my own hair into fun colors, last year my hair cost me a total of $8. I'm estimating $12 for this year when you count the one haircut at the school. Less hair means less shampoo, coloring it means I shampoo it less often; I've had the same bottle of shampoo for two years now and it's not even half gone. We use bar soap instead of body wash.
Spa Days: Recently I had a spa day that consisted of a "revitalizing mineral soak" (epsom salts, green tea, rose petals, a few drops of rosemary and grapefruit oils); "refreshing body, hand & foot scrub" (sugar, olive oil, peppermint and tangerine essential oils); "exfoliating & moisturizing facial masque" (avocado and cucumber, mashed together with some sugar); "build-up stripper/body-building scalp massage" (baking soda, fingertips); "deep conditioning hair masque" (literally wiped the masque off my face and into my hair then rinsed with a reserved pitcher the green tea bath water); all with a refreshing agua fresca (a pitcher of water with cucumber and mint steeped into it). I checked a local health spa recently and for all that I would have paid over $1000! And I wouldn't have even gotten the massage or the mani-pedi I wanted!
Laundry: We make our own detergent. It cost me $3 to make enough to last us about 6 months. If our new place even has a dishwasher I'll make my own soap for that too. Stopped using fabric softener years ago and don't miss it. The clothes come out brilliant, too! Much cleaner and the towels absorb again.
Fancy cleaners: Baking soda and vinegar do darn near anything. I've got off-brand powdered Oxy Clean for the occasional laundry boost (powdered peroxide, cleans the toilet wipes). The only other thing I sometimes need for cleaning is hydrogen peroxide or dish soap.
Bottled water: We have reusable bottles and refill them. Although the mister managed to lose three of mine this year, but they were ones I didn't like much anyway. They didn't even get replaced. But I am thinking about buying a case of them, because we love ONE SPECIFIC flip top over all others and if I buy them by the case I can get them for $2 each, have the two colors I hate to give away as gifts, and still have color-coded water bottles.
Soda pop: I DO buy plain carbonated water to which we sometimes add flavored vinegars or syrups. But mostly when I want soda, I drink our homemade kombucha. It's refreshing, hits that craving for something bubbly, and MUCH healthier for us.
Coffee: I mostly make my own at home. I do occasionally splurge on the go, but when I do I make it REALLY count. Something super fancy I could never make at home.
Restaurants: We have a few specific things we eat out for. Sushi is one of them because when I want sushi I WANT the presentation and the variety of flavor options, and I can't get the same quality of fish they can. But generally we eat much better at home, both healthier and more flavorful, even if we spend the same amount of money--which we rarely do. I won't go out to eat and order something I can make (better) at home. This means I never eat pasta out, rarely order a steak, but the perfect burger, fish fillet on fancy wood boards or anything deep fried is totally on the table. That also limits how much deep-fried or sweet food I eat, if I don't ever make them at home.
Gym membership: This one gets me because I prefer to swim more than anything for my exercise. It's what's best for my body anyway, because especially right now, weight-bearing exercise is bad for my joints. But I generally skip it unless I can get a fantastic deal for a while. I have allowed an extra $20/m for rent in our budget for our new apartment if it has a pool I can swim laps in. But so far those places have actually been comparatively priced to the places without pools and we wouldn't be paying the extra $.
Movie theaters: It is VERY difficult for me to sit through a movie with my joint and back issues. I pretty well can't sit without propping my knee up, which means we have to go to the expensive theater with the recliner chairs and footstools. The expense itself makes it not a regular activity, and if I'm going to pay lots of money to suffer through a movie theater it is going to be for a movie I REALLY want to see with the surround sound and big screen. (Though bonus, we will soon have an expensive 21+ theater near us that has $5 Tuesdays and all the requisite seating arrangements for me, so we might get to go more than once a year.) When it doesn't cost as much, I feel much more able to just leave if being there becomes too much for me to handle.
The Bar: Yes, I know we go to the bars and we enjoy ourselves. But if I want a cocktail, I can have it in the comfort of my own home. For the price of two of us to go have cocktails at the bar, we can buy a couple bottles AND host friends for dinner. So while we don't completely forego the bars, we go for the socialization and the fresh-brewed beer, but mostly use the cocktail menus as inspiration of what to make at home. Plus it's easier to find fruit-wine (i.e. not made with grapes) in stores rather than in bars. So if I want wine, I HAVE to drink it at home. And sitting around the fire pit is pretty awesome.
Books: Mostly just use the library anymore. But both our families LOVE giving books as gifts, so it also makes an easy Wish List for gift-giving holidays. The things we REALLY love to read again and again can get treasured space on our limited bookshelves, and everything else can usually be borrowed.
I have to say, we don't feel deprived by most of this. Sure, I would love to go shopping for clothes whenever I want and see any movie I choose to, and I KNOW Mr. Moon would be at the bar every night if he could afford it, but these are ways that we fit our personal needs and save money in the budget at the same time.