By Erin Allen & Sara E Walker
A few weeks ago we arrived in our new city after having made some momentous life-changing decisions. Thoroughly aware of what we were taking on, whether it was groceries, electricity or fuel, we knew life would be more governed by a budget than either of us had been used to for many years.
Not knowing what it would cost us to live, we did a skeleton budget in hopes of stretching our savings. The biggest challenge is typically food, but for us, there is also the weather (heating costs) and our distance (fuel costs) from the closest store. Our place is heated through panels along the ceiling, and we have yet to get an electric bill. So we've been erring on the side of caution, utilizing blankets and space heaters to keep the thermostat down until we can figure out that happy (and hopefully warm) medium. As far as gas, we've been trying to be better about taking turns who is driving, although our cars are significantly different as far as gas mileage. And, as you can imagine, coming up and down steep mountains has more of an effect on gas consumption.
We had previously capped the weekly grocery budget at $135. Having made a stop at Trader Joe's in Albuquerque on the way to Durango, spending $80 on long-term staple items, we only had $55 left over for our first Durango grocery trip. Harnessing the power of Dave Ramsey, we pulled out our coupons, armed ourselves with our list and walked each aisle as if we had never seen a grocery store before. This trip took an inordinate amount of time as we were scouring each item ensuring it was on sale or we had a coupon for it. We laughed at each other as we diligently compared and analyzed everything on our list before it went into the basket. At the time of this grocery trip, neither of us were familiar with coupon apps or the cash back apps, but we are now! Ibotta is always just a finger-swipe away.
Having spent our allotted budget, we found ourselves eating modest portions and really doing our best to stretch the food. We don't go hungry, but we are eating far less than we ever did before. Even though eating out is another past time that is low on our list, we still want to enjoy our new town. So far we have eaten local Nepalese, Mexican and some of the best pizza around -- all with coupons and sharing meals to optimize the dollars! Because of the eating out, we've been able to stretch this first week of groceries a bit further; however, even with the coupons for eating out, we do realize that a certain amount of restraint may be in order.
Both of us have had to live on strict budgets before when we were college students and young professionals, so this economical way of living hasn't been as taxing on us as we had thought. The temptation of living on champagne tastes is still fresh, since both of us had jobs affording us disposable income. Honestly, the beer budget of our current lifestyle is somewhat bittersweet. However, it's also rather empowering since we are choosing to do it for reasons of personal and professional freedom; a few sacrifices along the way will hopefully pave the way for success. And, we all can probably do with a lesson of learning to live without. It makes rewarding ourselves that much sweeter and keeps focus on what is really important.