Back in 2009, when we got serious about getting rid of our debt, I became hooked on personal finance (PF) blogs as well as blogs on frugal living and/or what is called “simple living.” These blogs were loaded with ideas, and provided quite a bit of motivation as we took our own journey to becoming debt free. As our debt decreased and then disappeared though so did my interest in the PF blogs and others’ attempts, successful and otherwise, to pay off their debts. I still read them, but not as actively as I did before.
My interest in frugal living blogs, on the other hand, has remained steady. As we revamped how we lived and how we spent, I became more interested in the ways others practice frugality and how they save. Some of what I read was a bit too much for me (i.e. downsizing to just 100 things, or extreme couponing), and some blogs had a holier-than-though attitude, but most offered useful tips not only on how to save and live more simply, but also how to adopt a more frugal mindset and enjoy living a more frugal life.
Becoming even more frugal helped us get out of debt, made it possible to retire and move to Kaua’i, and now allows us to live in a high-cost area and still save and dream about future travel. But, as we currently have given ourselves a big savings goal for future travel, I’d like to crank our frugal ways up a bit if we can to help us save. The question we are mulling over now is: What can we or do we want to change or do better so we can save more?
These days though I find fewer and fewer, if any, tips or ideas on the frugality blogs I read. We’re already doing most of the things that are recommended or have already removed non-frugal things from our budget. Currently the only obvious thing we can find to cut is our basic cable TV. Cable is necessary here if you want to watch any broadcast TV, but we’ve discovered over the past year that we really don’t watch any except for a couple of shows on PBS. So, after the end of the final season of Downton Abbey next year (which I still want to see on the “big screen”), we’ve decided our small cable bill will go away and we’ll only watch what we can stream from Netflix and Amazon. We currently have a very affordable pre-paid family phone plan through T-Mobile, and haven’t found anything better that gives us the texting, data, etc. that gets regularly used by all of us. Also, by keeping our current plan we can help our daughters keep their expenses down while they attend college. Meiling is already paying us each month for her portion of the bill ($20), and WenYu and YaYu will do the same when they head off to college ($10 each).
We’ve cut back our monthly food budget by nearly $350/month since we arrived last year, but are still limited by what’s available here on the island and the fact that the girls still at home are BIG eaters. Neither Brett nor I have any interest in researching and chasing down food deals on the island, so Costco remains the best choice for reasonably priced food, supplemented with produce from the farmers’ market and speciality items from either Amazon or local stores. We still make a list when we shop, and stick to it. We rarely eat out either, just for very special occasions only. Any items from Amazon are paid for with gift cards earned through Swagbucks.
I’m not sure what’s left for us to do or even if we can cut back any more. We can’t lower our rent unless we move, and what we pay here is actually very reasonable for the area and includes all our utilities. Our car and rental insurance are already very, very low, and our gasoline expenses have been less than a third of what we budgeted. We use the library, and the activities we enjoy here (i.e., hiking or going to the beach) are free. Health insurance is thankfully not an issue as we are retired military and Brett is now on Medicare with Tricare providing no-cost supplemental insurance. We rarely buy new clothing, and we’re already way under our budgeted amount for that and other expenses.
We’re definitely not perfect and certainly far from experts on frugal living, but I feel there are still changes we can make. I’m stumped though as to what those might be or whether they’re ones we’d even want to make at this stage. Brett thinks we’ve hit the sweet spot and just need to go with what we have and enjoy it.
Can we get more frugal and still live a quality life in Hawai’i? I honestly don’t know right now. We’re in what feels like a good place, but I’d still like to do a little bit better.