Budget Cuts: Part 1

How in the world do I expect to go from a reasonable ‘grown-up’ salary to no salary at all in the span of six months?  Well, savings will of course make up a pretty major part of it. I have kicked into high-gear saving mode, and here is the breakdown of what I have cut out, and what I haven’t. Although I am living, working and earning in Swedish kronor (crowns) I will put the amounts in American dollars… since it has been brought to my attention that not everyone knows the exchange rate for SEK off the top of their head.  It is about 7 SEK to $1, or about 9 SEK to €1, in case you do what to know those numbers.

Cuts I’ve made:

  • Reduced my phone plan to the cheapest one available (possible only since my contract expired in June).  Was:  450 kr/month ($66 USD/month) Now: 175 kr/month ($26 kr/month) Savings: $40 / month
  • Stopped buying alcohol to bring to parties. I already have a wine cellar and a ‘bar’ shelf – I am going through that first. Booze is expensive in Sweden. Very, very expensive.  Savings: About $60 / month. (This seems like a lot, but this is the price for six beers or a bottle of wine, once a week.)
  • Reduced my ‘eating out’ nights to one per week, maximum.  And when I do go out I try to go to the less expensive student pubs – however this usually backfires since I then drink more beer.  Savings: About $25 / week.
  • Bike to work.  Or walk, if it is raining – this takes a while, but I hate biking in the rain.  Driving to work costs me about 20 SEK / day + petrol ($3 plus about $1 petrol). Not to mention if I drive to work I am more likely to go by the store on the way home, which usually results in impulse buys of food I don’t actually need. Savings: About $20 / week – plus it is healthy!  Some of these habit changes have their costs as well.  Cost: One bike crash – which I recovered from physically, but it did cost me a few beers to have a handy friend come and swap out my mangled front tire.  My front brakes still haven’t been reattached.
  • Canceled the TV subscription. The only TV I watched was MTV’s Awkward and some awful TLC reality shows. Since dropping the TV subscription (289 kr / month) I think my IQ has increased by default. I also love pretty much anything with Brian Cox in it, but luckily I have the whole Wonders of the Universe series on DVD already, so if I need some science and a soothing voice I still have the DVD player.  Savings: $42 / month.
  • Got a roommate. I found the perfect roommate – we have opposite travel schedules for the next five months! So not only did I get a roommate, I actually won’t have a roommate when I’m at home, plus I don’t need a cat sitter when I’m away! Not that he wouldn’t be great to live with, but really… how perfect is that?  Savings: $590 / month.

All in all, I am currently saving roughly $750 a month, just on these simple little lifestyle changes! This means for every month I stick to these cuts I will be rewarded with funding for nearly an entire month of travel.  Not bad, eh?  Makes you think – what does one really need in life?

Cuts I will not make:

  • Buying good, local organic produce when possible.  This is such a rarity in Sweden that I cannot possibly buy Argentinian or New Zealand veggies when for once we actually have good stuff coming from near by (i.e. summer veg).  How much I could be saving, but am not: About $15 / week.
  • Climbing. The climbing gym costs me about $10-$15 a week, depending on which one I go to and how often.  I have decided that I am not allowed to put money above health (this also applies to the above item).
  • Cat food. Only the best for Wally, no exceptions. Although I could save about $30 / month by switching to the ash-filled grocery store brand cat food I will not stoop to this level!
  • Travel around Scandinavia. This is expensive, yes. But I’m already here!! And I am only going to be here for a few more months, so I have some places that need to be ticked off the list before I go. Like, for instance, going to Åland (Finland) last month, or to the Lofoten Islands (Norway) last week. I am reducing costs by camping instead of hosteling, and bringing my own food along. Still… I got the travel bug & I can’t help it. Cost:  $0-$450 / month. This seems like a lot. And it is. But remember the category is ‘cuts I’m not making,’ which means this was my normal travel budget before – it isn’t a new, or added, cost.

Cuts I haven’t decided about yet:

  • PLAN Canada support. For the last few years I have sponsored a girl in Nepal through monthly donations to Plan Canada. This costs me $39 / month, and I know the money is better used by PLAN than me. I think I will have to discontinue my sponsorship at least at the beginning of my travels. However, I will be bothering everyone I know to begin sponsoring a child so that it isn’t a net loss to the program. And on that note… want to sponsor a child? I highly recommend it! Click here to go to PLAN Canada, or here to go to PLAN International. I promise, if you have a monthly salary you won’t even notice the money is gone.

I will post a follow-up version of this list in the final month or two before I take off to show how I (hopefully) ramp up savings in the eleventh hour.

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