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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Frugal strike. . . .

It's entirely possible that within the next two months, my labor union will choose to go on strike. We don't know when, and we don't know for how long; all we know is that contract negotiations between the university and the faculty union have been cool at best and downright nasty at worst.

Six months ago, our upper management received salary increases in the 10-25% range. We are being offered 7% over two years, and that isn't even retroactive to last summer, when our contract expired. 7% would probably about cover the anticipated increase in cost of living over the next two years---there are no additional funds for merit increases or any other recognition of outstanding work.

A year ago, this news would have struck fear into my heart---I was living paycheck to paycheck, covering the gap between my expenses and my income with credit cards.

Today, I have a small emergency fund ($1,000), enough to cover a short period if I were to go on strike. I'm feeling somewhat uncertain about the future, but I'm confident that I can survive this. My emergency fund and my new frugal lifestyle has given me the freedom to support my union and my colleagues, if it should come to that.

What new behaviors can I thank for this newfound confidence?

Working a second job in the evenings. Last May, I was lucky enough to be offered an online job that I could do from home. I only make $13 dollars an hour, but it's about 25% more than the other moonlighting jobs I considered last year, and the extra earnings are allowing me to pay my credit card off twice as fast.

Canceling cable. I work two jobs, and I go to school part time. Who has time for anything other than local TV?

Downgrading my cellphone plan. I am NOT a 'phone talker'. I don't spend hours on the telephone---I prefer speaking to people face to face, or via email. My cellphone is primarily used to make plans with people (i.e. "when/where are we meeting"?) when I'm away from the house. I switched to an unadvertised 'low minute' rate, and saved $10 a month. Soon, I'll do away with Verizon altogether, and transfer to a pay-as-you-go plan.

Using tuition benefits to go back to school. My first master's degree cost over $30,000. This one will leave me in debt to the tune of $0. That's an amazing thing.

Saving money on utilities. I kept my thermostat at 58 degrees this winter. I was diligent about turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use. I'm saving about 30% on each of my gas and electric bills, when compared to last year.

Paying myself first. This really works! The first thing I do when I get my paycheck is transfer funds to each of my savings accounts. Not having the money in my checking account means that I truly don't spend it.

Zero-based budgets. Dave Ramsey's book, Total Money Makeover, was an eye-opener. I recommend it to anyone struggling with debt and under-earning. I created my first zero-based budget in February, and although I'm continually tweaking throughout the month, this type of budget has changed my life. I'm now planning ahead for things (like my quarterly water bill) that used to send me into a tizzy each month, wondering where the money was going to come from.

Note: here are links to my February, March, and April zero-based budget posts.

These are some of the most important factors in my continuing education toward a frugal lifestyle. There are more, and I'm sure I'll be learning some new tricks over the next year. I hope I don't have to go on strike; but my finances are secure enough that I think I can do it if I need to.


Liz said...

What does a zero based budget mean?

Finally Frugal said...

Hi! A zero-based budget is something I learned about from Dave Ramsey. Bascially, it's a budgeting system in which you are to allocate a 'home' for each and every dollar coming in. So, about a week prior to payday I create an Excel spreadsheet that shows how much I'm bringing in, as well as where every dollar goes---equaling $0 at the bottom, or 'remaining' category. I've linked this post to my previous one about zero based budgets.

Thanks for the head's up on the link!

Finally Frugal said...

P.S. Here's a link to Dave Ramsey's FREE 'cash flow planning' worksheet. I use a much, much, more simplified version, but this might be helpful.


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