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Cutting Back

Friday, October 21, 2011

Every time I've ever heard the phrase "We're going to have to cut back" I immediately start crying and flailing. Cutting back SUCKS. When has "cutting back" ever been a good thing? It smacks of  poverty and diets and all sorts of other unappealing scenarios.

Unfortch, over the next several months I'll be getting a nice little lesson in "cutting back". Obviously I'm not happy about it. I'll be making about 60% of my normal salary while on maternity leave, and while I appreciate getting to spend up to a year at home coddling my offspring, I'm a bit sooky about the financial implications.

Earning less = spending less. And as it is, I'm not a big extravagant spender. It's not like I've been throwing down $300 on jeans and shoes all willy-nilly each week - I'm already pretty frugal. So knowing that I should be spending even less makes me all kinds of cranky.

I don't know where to start when it comes to cutting back, so I started by making a list of some of my upcoming expenses and trying to figure out ways to save:

Car Insurance: I got my invoice for car insurance for the year: $1,033. I shopped it around and the lowest price I could find anywhere was $1,004. Yes, a savings of $29. Yes, I switched insurance providers. For $29.

Christmas Gifts: Peter and I have already agreed we're going to buy less for one another after last year's embarrassment. We kept picking up "one more gift" for each other and in the end our living room was FULL of presents...presents for us. People came over and were like "oh, where'd you get that?" and we were like..."we bought it for ourselves". Over and over. It was horrible. Or they'd be like, "Wow, is all that for you two?" and I'd try to use the dog as an excuse. "A lot of these presents are actually Rory's."

Ouch...Nevertheless, Christmas is going to be expensive, no two ways around it. Luckily I'll be getting free Christmas cards from my new BFFs at Shutterfly :)

Bills: Not much you can do about bills. We've already installed thermostats to regulate the temperatures in the house and canceled our movie channel package in favour of Netflix which is much cheaper. I'm sure our water and power bills will be higher since we'll be doing 927380 more loads of laundry per week.

Groceries: Again, you gotta eat, but I'm sure we could be eating for less. I'd like to start making bigger batches of things - soups, chilis, etc - in the slow cooker, and freezing portions to heat up. Much cheaper in the long run than buying packaged food. We'll also probably start taking advantage of our Costco membership for some bulk stuff too.

Clothing: I'll soon (hopefully!) be back to my normal-ish size and shape and I'm going to be wanting new clothes. After spending months in yoga pants and H&M empire waist dresses I can't wait to wear real clothes again. I'm signing up for all the email coupons I can find and will continue to troll sale racks like it's my job and hunt for pieces with lots of longevity that will work for many different occasions.

Books: I've been using my library card instead of buying new books every month which has already saved me some dough! Yay!

Entertainment: The baby shall be our entertainment. I'm sure we'll just plop him or her onto their little tummy time mat and command them to make us laugh, and they'll obey.

Obviously, having a newborn will cut down on our dinners out, date nights, and general gallavanting around so we'll have to resort to things like visiting friends and having friends over, board game nights, watching movies at home, cooking fancy dinners and enjoying them by the glow of the baby monitor, and so on. Which, honestly? Doesn't sound so bad.

I also plan on doing lots of crafty stuff while baby naps, with the help of the trusty weekly 40% off coupons from Michael's.

One good thing about going out less is that we'll be burning less gas, too.

Health and beauty: Our gym membership is a must-have so that's an expense that's not going anywhere. I don't go for haircuts often, but I could probably choose a less pricey place to get my hair done - currently I pay about $60 for a cut after tax and tip. In terms of personal care I am probably the slackest person ever. I don't colour my hair and rarely get my nails done, so there's not much more I can do to save in this area.

Baby stuff: In large part thanks to our generous friends and family, we're all ready for baby's arrival. Once they're here, I don't know what kind of money we'll be spending month to month. If breastfeeding works out, that'll be free...if it doesn't, it doesn't. I've heard Costco is the best place to buy diapers and wipes. And everything else we'll just have to learn as we go.

So, new moms and general thrifty people: what do you suggest? If you've been through your own mat leave, how did you cut back? Did you find it hard? Any other tips for saving money that you'd like to share? My bank account and I thank you in advance!

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  1. I have been straight-up panicking about maternity leave cut backs since I found out I'm pregnant. Luckily, mine is the smaller salary of the household so we're losing less. We're pretty good with our money but spending less makes me feel deprived and cranky since I already spend very, very little on material "wants". I'm so nervous about the cost of diapers and possible formula if breastfeeding doesn't work out. But everyone says, "It works out, don't worry about it, you just make it work".

  2. I was stressed about the financial implications of being on mat leave but somehow we were able to save A LOT MORE when I was on mat leave than when I was working. We spent a lot less on date nights and eating out and I seriously cut back on my trips to the mall (it's a lot harder with a little baby than you'd think!) and online shopping. It wasn't too bad! We buy diapers and wipes at Costo. If your friends and family don't mind, you can ask them to sign up on the Huggies/Pampers/Formula/whatever websites and give them to you :)

  3. Kim - it's stressful for sure. I've heard the same thing from people ("you'll make it work")so I'm trying not to worry too much. I have the smaller salary of the household too, so it works out better for us as well.

    Holly - I didn't know you could sign up to those websites for coupons! I'll do that for sure and harass other people to do it too. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Hi, well I was on mat leave in the UK where you get 90% of your salary for 5 weeks and then statutary pay for 6 months and then nothing for 6 months except your right to your job at the end of it. The stat pay is GBP 112 a week so a massive cut for us. We managed to save GBP5000 in the run up to all this and went through it in 6 months. You dont spend as much though if you are not working, you are at home and somehow manage to go through less money. I couldnt keep a gym and instead improvised with walking and running and cycling which was all free and didnt require any trips to actually get there.
    I couldnt nurse and cried over the cost of baby formula, at the time (7 years ago) it was GBP5.03 for a tub. I couldnt believe the cost.
    I think shopping cleverly and buying what you can with coupons for clothes and bulk buying in deal time is a great plan.
    If you sign up for Children Place you get constant email offers and I have been told that if you keep your receipt you can go online when you get home, do the survey and instantly get 15% off your next shop. Its a great store for childrens clothes. We have just emigrated here and paid out huge sums to be here so we are being very thrifty, we only eat out on a coupon and buy at costco. Its a small price to pay to be here though. Good luck

  5. Have you considered cloth diapering? Even if you just do it on weekends would end up saving you a bundle

  6. Allison - we thought about it, but factoring in additional water usage, electricity, etc. we figured it probably won't save a ton in the long run.

    Natasha - I'll sign up at Children's Place for coupons for sure. Thanks for mentioning that! Sounds like the UK system is a lot different than ours. I bet a lot of moms go back after the statutory pay period runs out. We have a family plan gym membership so it's pretty affordable to keep that up.

  7. I *freaked out* when going on maternity leave, as my salary is 90% of our income. We saved...some (not a lot) the last couple of months of my pregnancy to try and have a little buffer, but it really wasn't much.

    So I was shocked when not only did we not run into problems, we actually saved some money. I had a c-section, so the first 4 weeks or so we didn't go many places. That helped a lot. We took as many diapers, wipes, etc from the hospital as they'd let us--between that and our stockpile, we didn't have to buy diapers for a good month or two (we also did cloth part time. But we still had plenty of disposables). I had to buy a few things for me that I wasn't prepared for (new underwear, hi c-section incision), but we were able to keep our purchases really light for the first two months.

    But really, the biggest thing was...we didn't do much with a newborn. Not much going out (some, to get out of the house, but not much). We didn't buy a lot. We ate out WAY less. I wasn't driving so no $50 gas charges once a week. I wasn't working so no lunches out, caffeine drinks bought every morning, or quick pick me up shopping trips in the afternoon. It was astounding how much that added up.

  8. Yeah we definitely have cut down on eating out, cut out cable (I miss it badly!), and have skimmed our grocery bills by limiting the number of organic foods we purchase. As much as I prefer to eat organic all the time, we figure just sticking to the "dirty dozen" should suffice for now. Also, the average baby uses about 5,000 diapers their first few years, with cloth diapers you use about 36 and just rewash them every other day. When you wash them all together and air dry them you DO save money on water and electricity. You'll be doing that much laundry with a baby anyway ;) Not that I know personally, just from what I've been told and through research haha.

  9. Ginger - that makes sense. I'm guessing it'll be similar for us too since we'll be staying home more.

    Maria - I just don't think I can do cloth diapering! haha... even if there are savings I don't think it's going to happen for us :) I hate how expensive organic food is and healthy food in general! We'll likely be shopping around farmers markets in the area to figure out where the best buys are. Right now we just buy whatever we like to eat whether it's on sale or not.

  10. I did cloth diapering - bought mine from bum genius, but not at night, I left a disposable on at night. They were really cute - all different colours with cute names like willow (green) and buttercup (yellow) and they looked adorable under little dresses. I hated the idea of it at first but it saved heaps of money. I couldnt put one on a newborn though as the baby was swamped but when mine got a little bigger on it went. I started to really feel good at the savings. Oh and you get used to scraping poo down the toilet - its no different to anything else you have to do for your small one. When its your children you dont mind. I used to wash mine at the end of each day on their own in the washer on a hot wash. Just wanted to share

  11. Thanks Natasha! We might have to research it more for when baby gets a little bigger. We'll definitely be starting out with disposables and then we'll see. I had only heard bad reviews from parents who did cloth diapering so I kind of killed the notion right from the get go. My mom cloth diapered my sister and I and did disposables with my brother and raved about how much more convenient it is. I wonder, if you do disposables when traveling and cloth diapers at home does the baby get confused? Haha I'm sure they don't, they just do their business whatever's on their bum...just thinking about the convenience of it...if we were able to use disposables when out on the go, and cloth diapers at home that might help.

  12. This is where I come in completely jealous of you. My maternity leave was paid for 6 weeks at 60%... It was supposed to be 8 weeks, but I "recovered too quickly" from my emergency c-section, so they stole 2 weeks back. Awesome. YAY AMERICA ::grumble grumble:: I also never went back there because... it stunk.

    Now then. Instead of having to cut back, we had to take it to the point of no more buying new clothes (well okay, I bought a couple shirts, but that's thanks to great GREAT sales + coupons for those sales).

    Buying BULK isn't always the best. Is couponing big up there? It's given me a small hobby while I'm home (not that you'll have much time for it, a newborn is your LIFE). I've cut our weekly grocery bill from $100ish down to $40 tops. Breastfeeding is amazing, for both the baby (not being preachy!) AND your wallets!! I have a friend spending approx. $210/mo on formula. I'm saving a preeeetty penny. As for coupons, I just got 100 jars of baby food for... FREE. Bargain bargain.

    For your hair issue: I called up a local hairdressing school. I have very long, thick, curly hair. It cost me somewhere around $100 to have it cut, roots and minimal highlights. Now it costs me $35.

    I read this a couple days ago and took your library advice. I lugged Juliana to the library with me and I got a card (we'll share for now).

    Really, it's amazing how you just learn to adapt... It's like something just clicks and suddenly you're able to handle so much.