Saving On Our Minds

How can we maximize savings when living in an expensive area? How can we cut back when there’s nothing much to cut? How do we allocate what goes into two important savings accounts and continue to put away money each month for our child’s college education? These are some of the questions Brett and I have been pondering these past couple of weeks as we think about increasing the amount we save each month.

What was somewhat easier for us to do in the past is not so easy these days as we have nothing to sell, nothing much to cut back on, and completely different commitments. Our streaming services are all free or in the case of Amazon Prime, one we’re not willing to cut because we (maybe unfortunately) need Amazon here. Our insurance, phone, and Internet services are already as low as we can get them, and all utilities are included in our rent. We don’t have cable. We drive an older car with great mileage, so our gasoline expenses are already low, less than $50/month, even with the higher prices here. Maintenance expenditures loom though. We have nothing to sell – we did that before we left in 2018 and everything we have accumulated since we returned needed and used – there’s nothing “extra.” During more normal times I suppose we could find jobs, but there are currently none of those on Kaua’i, and if there were others that have been out of work for months on end need them more than we do.

While we continue to save for YaYu’s college expenses we also want to save for a future downpayment and for future travel, which remains very important to us (especially as we have family living overseas). This past week Brett and I combed over our budget and figured out the maximum we can put away each month from each of our income streams. The money we put away for YaYu is already set, but we found some other $$$ to put into other accounts although how much goes into each one may shift as we figure out the best ways to allot that amount.

However, besides paying our savings accounts, what else can we do to save? How can we increase the amount we put away when we’re already living very, very small.

With some thought, there are a few things we can do, as it turns out:

  • Continue making a budget each month and sticking to it. Put the money into savings first, then spend. And, always, always try to spend less than what’s budgeted.
  • Food: We already have a fairly tight food budget, but I believe we can cut it back a little bit more. One way is to follow Coco Chanel’s maxim for accessories: Before you go out, look in the mirror and take off one thing. We can do the same with our grocery list – before we shop, go through the list and remove at least one thing (if not more). Also, we need to be even more mindful of needs versus wants. We have lowered our farmers’ market budget from $20/week to $15, and still are able to get a lot of good produce with that and I’m sure we can do the same with our regular grocery lists. Also, we need to be sure there is no impulse shopping or stopping at the store for one or two things “we forgot.” We need to get what we need for the coming week(s) when we do our regular shopping. There will always be exceptions to this (like finding ground pork at Costco), but we can keep this to a minimum.
  • Change/$1 bills: Continue to challenge ourselves to always have something left over any time we shop and put that change aside each time. It really does add up.
  • Cut back on driving: We take one day off a week from walking, so that gives us one no-drive day a week. Brett has figured out though that six loops of our dead-end street equals three miles, so we can do a couple of days a week here and keep the car at home. Less driving means less gas and more saving. We can also strive to be more mindful of combining errands and keeping our gasoline purchases at two a month.
  • Use what we have on hand: I need to be better about always, always, always checking the pantry, fridge, and freezer before making a menu or putting something on our shopping list. Same for buying toiletries and other household items. I haven’t been as good about this lately as I have been in the past, but it makes a big difference in our spending. This is not just for food though – both of us have plenty of clothing, and other than a new pair of walking shoes, have everything else we need. Necessary items like new shoes can be added to the budget ahead of time.
  • No more purchasing books. I bought several books last year, especially when it was a book that had a long waiting list at the library, or something we both wanted to read. This year we’ll wait for the book to become available, however long that takes, and Brett has already started going through my Kindle library and reading things we already own.

These are a few of the small changes we can make, but generally, by being more mindful and careful about these sorts of thing we know we can make a real difference in the amount we are able to save.

Brett has also signed up and is earning Swagbucks again in order to pad our Christmas budget this year. He’s not as gung-ho as I am about it, but what he earns will make a difference and allow us to keep more in our savings accounts.

The blue one was the first temari I ever made, the purple the second. My style is monochromatic and subdued while Japanese temari style tends to be multi-colored and bright.

Finally, I’ve also decided I want to begin making kimekomi temari again to sell on Etsy, and possibly at some local shops. I checked some kimekome sites on Etsy and they do well, but my temari have a very different (i.e. more Western) aesthetic and have sold well in the past. I have supplies on hand now to make only two of them, but have found online sources for more supplies, including the ball cores and new fabrics. However, package service between Japan and the U.S. is still restricted, expensive, and takes a l-o-n-g time (the package our son sent took over four months to get here), so I am going to wait to order until those restrictions are lifted. If this endeavor goes well, I can also purchase more supplies next time we’re in Japan.

This is our last year of helping with YaYu’s education costs, so that will help next year, and I’m sure other things will come up along the way that allow us to save even more. We can do this!


16 thoughts on “Saving On Our Minds

  1. Yep. All income streams go to savings and when time comes to pay bills or buy food/ necessities I transfer the needed amount to checking. When Joe died and we lost 75% of our income, health insurance and all his wonderful and cost free car maintenance and fixit skills.. I managed with a lot of the ways you have discussed. Wants and needs are crucial. One of my favorite things to do still is looking at catalogues and on- line, choosing things I want.. and then deleting ‘shopping bags’ and recycling pages torn out of the catalog. There is some satisfaction in doing that. And I surely have everything I need. Including appointments for the vaccine and a trip planned to Seattle to see Juju and his parents❤️


    1. Congratulations on getting an appointment for the vaccine – yeah! It looks like we’re going to have to wait a little longer than we though. All the bad weather back on the mainland screwed up shipments of the vaccine over here, and apparently lots weren’t able to get their second dose so that has to get caught up before they open the next tier (which is us). Fingers crossed, but in the meantime I’m glad we’re in a safe area and that people here are conscientious about distancing, masks, etc.

      That’s a good idea about sending all our income into savings, and then just taking out what we need. Our income is fixed, we know what’s coming in each month, and the amounts going out are fixed as well. But there’s usually always a few dollars left over that we don’t catch and it would be best for them to stay in savings.

      Enjoy your time with you boys – it’s been too long.


  2. Have you thought about asking your girls to add you to their local library? Also, I don’t know if Brett needs to go back for the doctor…but have you ever shopped HawaiiMart in Honolulu? There is also a small Japanese fabric shop close to the Hale Koa. Your materials are right up the line of what they might carry.
    Once we finish our house we will begin to save for our grand’s schooling. Agggg! The oldest just turned 13. My high school was $250 a year. His will be $17,000 and that is a low cost one! Public schools have been closed for a year and have rumblings of another closed year coming up.


    1. We don’t know yet whether Brett will have to go back to Honolulu or not. If he does we’re planning to go together and spend a few days there, just for a change of scenery. I will investigate the fabric shop anyway and see if I can find out anything. A local source would be ideal.

      I will be happy for all of us once YaYu makes that last payment in 2022 and the amount we’ve been putting away reverts back to us and our needs. We plan to start traveling again in 2022 and that amount will go toward those expenses. It will be needed as one of the trips will be to Japan.


  3. What about options on flexjobs, or something similar that’s geared towards working remotely. I can’t remember your background, but if you are willing to find something that’s 5-10 hours/month (each?), many jobs that were previously in person have pivoted to be flexible. Education is in hot demand now, but I’m guessing a variety of types of roles might fit.


    1. Thanks for this idea. I know there are ESL sights where I could probably find something, but want to give us a couple of months before I do and see what we’re able to do on our own. Any extra income throws our taxes into a mess and I don’t want to have to put away what I earn just to pay the taxes (or possible get my SS cut).


  4. It’s a whole different mindset, as we age, isn’t it? Early widow here, wondering what life will look like! It’s really important to me to remind myself of my faith that what’s meant to be, will be; needs vs wants, things always work out somehow, etc.


    1. It really is, Jen. We’re pretty motivated right now to tighten thing up, and thankfully are enjoying living small these days – we don’t need much, especially so here in Hawaii. We really have all we need – we’re blessed. Things will work out the way they’re meant to work out.


    1. Thanks, Lucinda! We are starting to work out a plan, or I guess I should say a plan is becoming more focused. There are things we still want to do before we can’t, but to get there will require motivation and concentration.


  5. I so understand this post! My youngest son got a full tuition scholarship to law school, and I intend to help with his living expenses. I am attempting to delay retirement three years because of this, and because I do not want to pay for health insurance before Medicare, which is four years away. I also think I will move when I retire. So many changes/ decisions in the next four years.


    1. The thing is Cindy, that those four years will be over before you know it! That’s what’s both frightening and encouraging, that we won’t have enough time to meet our goals, but also that the time for us to make decisions and get things done will be here before we know it.

      I will so SO GLAD when we’re over and done with saving for the college expenses!


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