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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Budget Busters: Little Recurring Expenses

Ah, those recurring expenses: cable, cell plan, internet access, health club membership. These are examples of some of the biggies; financial experts always exhort you to negotiate on these or cut them out entirely.

Some are really big. When my in-laws moved from the house in Pasadena with the under $500.00 annual tax bill (thanks to Proposition 13), they incurred a tax bill on their new home about 20 (not a typo) times higher, even though the houses were of equal value. My parents bought a condo in a Florida community with a clubhouse, which now costs my mother about $500.00 a month. Without it, her social life would be non-existent. Both parties would, I am sure, say these monthly expenses were worth it. I guess the moral is: be aware at the outset. My mother said some people left the community and moved elsewhere (Or tried to. Florida condos are not easy to sell) because, with the decline of their investment portfolios, they simply could not afford the club.

Then there are the little recurring expenses. These are ones we barely think about, because they are measured in dollars, not hundreds or thousands. I have an Amazon gift card (a great gift! Thanks to the giver!). I was looking under Grocery and Gourmet items, because they sometimes have decent prices on food, my favorite gift, because it is--literally--consumable. I sorted by Bestsellers, because often the ephemeral bargains show up there: the limited time markdowns.

Guess what most of the top-sellers were in Grocery and Gourmet foods?

. . . . . . PAUSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

DIAPERS (not food, I know, but they showed up) and COFFEE PODS.

All I have to say is: if I, the least domestic, slacker-type housekeeper on the face of the earth, can use cloth diapers, anyone can. At least you only need them for a few years. When I see the prices, I realize that my children's college funds were jumpstarted by the cloth diapers we used.

As for coffee pods: do these have any redeeming features? You buy one of those coffee makers and are forever locked into a wasteful, expensive, un-green system. And, in my experience, the coffee isn't very good. I read a while back about a GREEN coffee company (organic, fair trade, and so on) that had a crisis about these: they were big money-makers, but the antithesis of green practice. They ended up making the product somewhat less wasteful, but still...I forget how they justified the product.

Have you gotten locked into monthly fees that end up being budget busters?

13 comments:

Marcela said...

I know I may save some money, but using cloth diapers with twins was not an option for us...I already slept only 2 hs in a row for way too many months...I save on other things!

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com said...

Definitely doing the cloth diaper thing on my kids. Better for the environment, in my opinion.. and the savings from that is a good thing, because then I can save it for their education funds.

metscan said...

I should end the subscriptions of some newspapers we never even read. I should plan my town trips better, too much driving done. And the internets should be closed, when not in use. Just to mention a few.

Shelley said...

It's not a budget buster, but I foolishly bought a whole life insurance policy on husband #2 when we got custody of his son (day 17 of the marriage - surprise!!). Don't know what to do with it, so drip...drip...drip...$25 a month.

Duchesse said...

I think about this too, we're ready to sell a house and buy a condo. The fees of condos in our potential new location range from $18 (that's not a typo) to $400/month. But we also would be freed from exterior home maintenance/repair costs, which are not recurring but still inevitable.

My hair is a big recurring expense, but every time I'm complimented on the colour or cut, I think, "Okay, it's worth it for awhile longer."

As for the FL clubhouse, my parents had that and the cameraderie and sense of community were practically priceless.

RoseAG said...

I think the most important thing is to be aware of the expenses and get rid of the ones that aren't worth it.

I bought a business supplement to our local paper - $1 a week extra. That's $52 a year. I've found job tips for my son, been clued in on some changes in the treatment of leases on balance sheets and a host of other small items that I'm glad I know. Fifty two dollars a year for extra sports news would be a waste for me. For business news it's been useful.

Jane said...

I'm living pretty lean right now - cancelled my newspaper subscription, would cancel cable if my daughter didn't scream so loud lol! I will when she moves out. Insurance is a must have, cell is only $33/mos. on a corporate plan, switched to a different natural gas provider to get a lower rate, getting the hydro down pretty low - not much else to play with. NOT giving up my occasional Starbucks! Today was 2 for 1 day so we saved a couple of $$.

Suzy said...

home phone/internet - I could live with a 'hot spot' and tracfone but my parents are down and my mom makes phone calls and my brother and sil call here to talk with them so I had to go with the modem and phone adapter making me pay for 3 services.

townhome is expensive for the monthly dues and taxes are too high IMO for a townhome..I'm finding myself hoping I can refinance at much lower rate and then the value can go down some since I don't want to move.

already ditched cable..switched phone companies and got a hot spot added all for less than what I was paying with AT&T.

also already ditched cell phone service nearly 2 yrs ago and got tracfone for Christmas and just add 60 min/90 day cards when I run out of days(so far have plenty of minutes since I don't use it)

I tried to lower home and auto insurance but living in bad county/city limits and having a townhome put me high on the insurance..car can't be lowered til another year when accident is cleared off after 3 yrs but may do defensive driving and see if that helps.

no gym membership but pay for weight watchers which I seldom use but go completely offplan without it as a backup but may switch to online.wish they'd improve the online with at least a monthly video to watch but not raise the price.

never had kids so no diapers to deal with!

Terri said...

My senior citizen mother bundles her phone, tv, and internet services. By paying all three annually, i think she saves the cost of one month's combined services!

Liamsmom2 said...

@Suzy
Check out www.sparkpeople.com
A great, free website with likely all the info/support/journaling of ww.com without the cost. I love it!

Funny about Money said...

Tax and insurance bills are crushers. I think of insurance as just another tax: something that you really can't get out of paying.

One of the things that does give me pause about moving to a condo or patio home is the monthly association fees.

On the other hand, at one point I figured out what I have to pay on upkeep and realized that it's a wash. A very lovely co-op in a mid-town high-rise had what looked at first glance like a bracing monthly fee. But wait: it covered the utilities (about $300 a month in my house, all told), repairs on the building (including plumbing), insurance ($750 a year on my house), and a real, live 24-hour security guard/concierge.

When I compared the costs that I now pay to various providers with the cost of the monthly association fee, the difference was only about $10...and I don't have a guy hanging around the lobby keeping an eye on the place at all hours of the day and night. Or cable, which was included in the fee.

Coffee pods, ah, coffee pods... Well, I wouldn't have them around the house, but y'know, they DO make a mean cuppa coffee. The college library has one of those machines. For a buck you can buy a pod and a plastic cup. Your dollah buys you delicious coffee, far and away superior to Starbucks' or any other commercial coffee seller's. It's a wonderful treat. Every time I have to ride herd on the little McBoingers in the library or the computer commons, I reward myself with one of those pod brews.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela--Sorry for the delayed response. As you know, with twins, you're excused.

@FB--And the diapers are so soft!

@metscan--I need to do all those things myself. Keeping the internet on is also too tempting--a time waster.

@Shelley--Hmmmm. There are ways to figure out if you should keep these or cash in--or is it out? It's not THAT much...

@Duchesse--Hair is huge for many, but it is such an esteem-maintainer.

As for condo/fees--So true. Problem is when fees go up, sometimes dramatically.

@Rose-Awareness is key for everything. Sounds like your $1 is well-directed.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Jane-Sounds like you're already where you need to be. And I think the occasional treat makes life worth living.

@Suzy--I'm impressed by how you've worked all this out. One of my peeves here is auto insurance--very high because so many are uninsured. GRRRRR.

@Terri-That's a good idea. So far, we haven't gotten cable. That's a big savings in itself for us.

@Funny--Tax/insurance--you are right. The pod coffee I've had has been horrible. Glad to found a good way to treat yourself. Nothing is better than a cup of coffee.