Recently my husband and I shopped around and got a better rate on our mortgage. That move capped a year where we also installed more efficient water fixtures (which resulted in lower water bills); put in an attic fan (which resulted in lower electric bills during the summer months); and consolidated our credit cards (which meant we saved heaps on interest). An added bonus was a reduced telco bill - for home, broadband and mobile services - when we "just said no" and changed carriers.
Then we went to work on people. First off we replaced our rather inefficient housekeeper of seven years standing and replaced her with a larger professional firm. It costs less and they are more reliable. Conversely, we fired our gardening service, a large organization with heaps of "contractors" who changed week to week and never quite did everything we wanted them to do.
On a roll, we cancelled clubs and memberships that we either weren't using or were generally pissing us off; a local golf course that neither of us had set foot on for the past 18 months and a fitness centre in the former category and the Qantas Club in the latter instance.
Last, but not least, we dropped the services of our respective life coaches - you know, the people who charge you to tell you back what you've already told them.
We saved a heap of money. But there's more, and that's the money we didn't spend. For example, I've been yearning for a kitchen makeover and we'd kinda put that in our discretionary budget. However, in the end we opted not to do it because, as my husband pointed out: "When was the last time you desperately needed a special wok stovetop? In fact, Linda, I've never seen a wok in your hands." And while momentarily tempted to buy a shiny new customer interface, in the form of an expensive brass door-knocker, we both decided that our current one - the doorbell - was actually doing the job just fine.
In fact, if someone were to ask the question: "In 2005, will your household budget be greater, less or the same as it was in 2004?", our answer would be "less". And if that someone didn't ask us why we were spending less, they might think the worst: that our diminished outgoings weren't a result of smarter spending, but that we were - heaven forbid - cutting back. (Omigod, am I gonna be part of a pie chart?)
Okay, I'd better come clean now: I've told a couple of porkies here. First, we did none of the above, zip nil, nought, zero, zilch. Nope, my husband and I are way too inefficient to achieve those efficiencies. However we could have, and that's the point. The other porky? Well, neither one of us have life coaches. No way I'm gonna ever pay someone to regurgitate back one week what I've told them the week before.
The moral of the story? Well, I think it's a penny saved is always a penny earned - but that doesn't make it a trend.
That's it for 2004. Have a safe and sane holiday break. See you in 2005.