Friday, October 22, 2021

Changing Habits/Saving Money

I've been watching all of the news about shortages and scarcity and increasing prices.  The "theys" have been telling us that *we* just need to get used to higher prices.  Sure.  Okay.  The problem, for a lot of people, is going to be that they can't "get used to" higher prices, because they are already living at that edge where the paycheck just only might reach to the end of the week.  More likely, they're good until Wednesday, but by Friday night, they're looking for a deposit.   

According to this article, more than half of the American population is living paycheck-to-paycheck, which means higher prices are going to set them back.

The options, as always, are to cut expenses or make more money.

In the last month, Deus Ex Machina and I have done both.  

Here's how:

DIY - Car Maintenance.  Saved $20 - cha-ching!

I learned a new skill the other day, and, frankly, I'm embarrassed that it's taken me this long.

It started with blue lights in the rearview mirror on a long stretch of highway in Maryland.  Deus Ex Machina was driving.  

"The reason I pulled you over is that you have a brake light out," the very kind officer told us. "If you were a resident of Maryland, I would give you a work order citation, and you'd need to have it fixed by xx/xx/xx, but since you're not a resident of Maryland, I will just give you this reminder slip to get it fixed as soon as you can."

That was in May.

I think we forgot.

Two weeks ago, a very kind man pulled up next to us and called out his window, "You have a brake light out!"

I was pretty sure I had a bulb somewhere, which is what I told Deus Ex Machina back in Maryland.  

And sure enough, in the console, there was a bulb.

So last weekend, Deus Ex Machina said, "Let's change that bulb", and he grabbed his wrenches, led me out to the car, popped the trunk, and walked me through how to change the bulb.

Then, we checked and discovered that another brake light was out (the one in the rear window).  I did not have a bulb for that one, and so we ordered a couple of LED replacements.  Three days later, he showed me how to replace that one.

Et, Voila!  All of the brake lights now work.  

The bulbs cost, maybe, $12 (the LED bulb was a little more expensive, but should also last longer).  The labor was free.

To have someone else replace it would have cost us $20 in labor fees.  

By learning to DIY that particular task, we saved $20.

Bake It! - Savings $2.50.  cha-ching

It doesn't seem like such a big deal, really, but as we've discussed here over the last several months, even something as small as $20 can have a big impact on our budget.  I save $24 a year on snack cakes by baking a cake and sending it with Deus Ex Machina for lunch.  

Today, Deus Ex Machina took a piece of homemade apple pie to lunch.  It was in the freezer.  

A whole apple pie (not gluten free) from a local bakery is $24.  If we cut it into 6 pieces, that's $4/slice.  A piece of homemade apple pie is around $1.50.  So, by giving Deus Ex Machina a piece of my homemade apple pie, we saved $2.50.  

That doesn't seem like such a big deal.

But that's the problem.  We often don't think that spending $2.50 is such a big deal, until we stop to add up all of those $2.50 purchases.

Changing Habits - Savings $752 annually.  CHA-ching!

I have recently started a part-time job.  It's a total fluke how I got the job, but I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity, and it really does feel like serendipity.  I am an assistant librarian at my local library.  Isn't that a hoot!?

I work two days a week (this week it was three, because I was covering a shift for another employee).  

I have been walking the two miles to work.  Deus Ex Machina picks me up at the end of the day, because we get off at, roughly, the same time, and my job is on his way home-ish.  

He has also been driving our more energy efficient car, rather than his truck, because it costs about half the amount to fill up the car as to fill-up the truck, AND the car gets around 32mpg versus the 18mpg the truck gets. 

His job is just over 30 miles, round-trip, per day.  Which means he uses about a gallon of gas, per day, in my car versus the two gallons of gasoline per week that he was burning driving his truck back and forth.  The savings is about $15 per week in gasoline.  If gas prices go higher, so do our savings.  

From his job to mine adds one mile to his commute (including the drive from my job to our house).  So, two days a week, he adds a mile to his commute to pick me up from work, but since I walk the two miles to work in the morning, instead of driving, we are actually saving six miles per week (it would be a four mile round trip drive, if I drove instead of walking). 

I won't be able to walk to work once it starts to snow, but if I drive Deus Ex Machina's truck and he continues to drive my car, he will continue to enjoy that $15/week savings in gasoline.  It will cost around $1.43 per week in gasoline (at $3.59/gallon) for me to drive back and forth to work two days a week.  If I come home at lunch, the cost will be $3 per week for gasoline.  I will need to drive for approximately eight weeks.  

Our total annual savings from changing our habit - his driving the car instead of the truck, and my walking to work - is about $752 or about $62/ month.  

So, maybe, $62 doesn't feel like a lot, but ....

The average hourly wage here in Maine is $18/hour.  A savings of $62 per month works out to 3 hours of work, saved.  The bonus is that I am getting an amazing amount of exercise and having a lovely start to my work day, and Deus Ex Machina gets to drive my zippy little sports coupe rather than his big, clunky truck.  

Seems like a winner of a deal to me.

Although ...

... I might need to get a new pair of cold-weather shoes that I can walk in, which will be expensive.  If I do get a new pair of shoes, it will be a pair of Birkenstock clogs, at a cost of around $145. 

The other day at work, I was joking with my colleague that I have a pair of shoes that are older than her son.  He's in the 2nd grade.  I am not ashamed to have been wearing the same pair of Birkenstocks since 2006.

Most people have a love it or hate it relationship with Birkenstocks, but the fact is, they are a really good shoe, especially for the thrifty-minded.  According to this article, not only are the shoes superior for foot health, but the same pair could last, "virtually forever."  So, an initial $145 outlay, with an $80 repair bill every 5 to 10 years, means an annual cost of about $22.50 over a ten year period.   A good pair of sneakers, which need to be replaced every year, costs $85.  One pair of Birks saves $62.50/year on the cost of shoe replacement. 

Now THAT sounds like a good deal to me!


  1. Great ideas! We've saved a ton of money with my working from home since March of 2020 when my employer sent most of us home. I saved a lot of wear and tear on my car and gas and my own time commuting 20 minutes or so each way and that's in good weather. Congrats on your job! I'm a former Elementary librarian and really miss being in libraries although it definitely took a toll on my lower back. I love getting kids excited about reading! Course libraries are different now there's so much Electronic media Etc but it's really great to see paper books in libraries like we have in Boise. That's nice that you're close enough to walk and work and that can get slippery walking in snow and ice! I totally understand what you're talking about with food prices too, two of our largest school districts are not having enough Supply to provide school lunches. Many of our high-poverty families don't have the money to provide that either so how are these kids going to eat! It's a bad bad situation

    1. Another really cool thing that my library does is to collaborate with the local food pantry. The pantry is only open three days a week, but the library is open 5 days a week, and so the pantry delivers food that is set up in the library's lobby so that people can have better access to the food.

      Anyone can take the food, which is also pretty nice, because, as you mention, there are a lot of families struggling, right now, and some of those families make too much to be eligible for the pantry, but not enough to get to that next paycheck on some weeks. You know? That extra loaf of bread, some apples, a bag of grapes, and some lettuce can be a really big deal.

  2. Are you seeing a change in gas prices in your area, Wendy? We saw a jump early this week, from $3.09/gal to $3.25/gal for regular unleaded. Still less than the $3.49 I saw at some Shell stations in a town near here prior, so I'm not arguing - but it was a hefty jump that would definitely affect people who drive more than us.

    So excited for you on the library job; the perfect fit!

    1. Yes, gas prices have been jumping - mostly up. Last I recall, it was between $3.69 and $3.89, depending on which town, and how close to the Turnpike the station was (closer to the Turnpike = higher gas price).