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Nickeled, dimed and dollared | Pamdemonium
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Nickeled, dimed and dollared

April 15, 2010

The little stuff adds up.

As the economy continued to crater, some columnists suggested a silver lining existed, that we Americans had become financially flabby and complacent and a little discipline would well serve us as well as the nation.

Somehow I doubt these pundits were struggling to pay their bills but I don’t doubt that I spend money needlessly. I am not talking about rampant Internet shopping or spending sprees but rather the premium for convenience and habit. I started thinking and calculating and figured Tax Day was as good as time as any to share.

“It is no big deal,” I’ll say. “My gym membership is only $35 a month.” At $420 a year, that means each of the 20 visits or so I possibly made in the last 12 months or so cost $21. Netflix is a great idea, if we watched the movies timely. They sit around for weeks, sometimes months. That’s another $240 a year. We upgraded to digital cable when we bought a new flat-screen TV but the converter box we have doesn’t accommodate it. The cable company hasn’t called to give us our money back or let us know of the gaffe, nor have we called. We’re either ditching Netflix or downgrading cable, so stay tuned.

As much as I love reading The New Yorker, I could not remotely keep up and the stacks of them taunted me. I didn’t renew. A few other indulgences got the same treatment. MORE magazine is nice, but yes, I know I am over 40, thank you, and the “article” that suggested other women will know you are “old” in the locker room or spa if you don’t have a Brazilian wax irked the crap out of me. I think it was meant to be funny, but we’ve already established I don’t go to the gym, so there. Sure, the subscription “is only $20,” but five of those “only $20” add up to $100. I did not renew my subscription to DWELL because even though I like the houses, I’d grown weary of the publication’s almost studied attempt to avoid discussing how much anything costs. Another $20, or maybe $22.

Going local is great for food and for two years we had a half-share in a CSA, meaning a box every other week. With only two of us, too much landed in the compost pile and the trip across town always turned out to be a pain. And this year I am planting more vegetables. Cha-ching. $400 not spent.

A recent Wallet Pop piece did the math for convenience store soda purchases. Three a day at $1.50 a pop consume $1,642.50 annually. My Diet Coke habit is fierce but not quite that intense, though one a day at $1.50 still comes close to $550 a year. I could give it up (but I can’t, yet); instead I’ll buy store brands in 2-liter bottles and try to portion them out during the week. The generic chemicals can’t be any worse for me than brand name chemicals.

This is all pretty small stuff but it adds up. Not including any potential progress on the Diet Coke front, I get nearly $1,600, roughly $130 a month.

With one simple phone call, I nearly doubled those savings. For years, we’ve had all our home and vehicle insurance with a big national company that starts with an “A.” We own three vehicles and, with rental property, carry policies on five dwellings, so increases multiply in a big way. I talked with an insurance broker who recommended a large national company that starts with an M. Same coverage. Annual savings: $1,400. A few calls could save someone with one house and a car or two a few hundred.

Trust me, this is just a start, but putting it all together, we are looking at not spending $3,000 in the next 12 months that simple habit would have dictated. That sum could finance a nice vacation, but first I need to get to the gym to cancel my membership. I have to do it in person – I know because I called.



LeeAnn April 16, 2010 at 7:04 am

Love this and it’s motivated me to call on my insurance, MN property is with another carrier not sure my GA carrier starts with at T will cover out of state but I’m going to call and find out :-)

My dogs are the big wallet drain lately teeth, kidney problems, special food, etc any ideas there? (as we both know getting rid of the pups is not an option!)

My gym membership… $174 yearly i’ll keep it but I’ll let some magazine subscriptions (gardening mags galore!!) lapse. Too scared to add them up!

admin April 18, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Let me know if you save any money! Insurance companies are up there with banks in my book of evils!

Karen Price April 16, 2010 at 8:22 am

Our cutbacks so closely paralleled yours, it’s scary: the magazines, the organic farm membership, the cable, the gym. However, moving to Europe is a huge expense that will take a few years of cheap healthcare to get back ($170 for a surgical root canal AND a crown on another tooth makes a nice start, though.)

If I could give up gin & bitter lemon I’d make more headway. Thank goodness the wine is cheap.

Pleeeeeeeeze keep your website going forever, it’s a little island of pleasure for me.

admin April 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Karen-your support helps keep me going. I plan to keep going as long as I can….so spread the word and the love. Perhaps I’ll make Pamdemonium t-shirts for the holidays.

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