In December 2010, I quit my day job. Leaving behind a salary and benefits was a tough decision to make, and I wasn’t under the illusion that I’d be able to make up for the lost income solely by saving money. Predicting my future expenses wasn’t difficult. Some expenses would automatically decrease, like travel expenses, while some would likely increase, like heating bills. There was at least one surprise, however.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve attempted on several occasions to train myself to prepare my lunches ahead of time and bring them to my office every day. At work, a refrigerator was available for storing personal food, so I had the opportunity and capability to save money every day. Nevertheless, either my lack of discipline or lack of desire prevented me from achieving one of the most basic tenets of saving money for the working middle class.
For several years, I traveled out of the office almost every day with co-workers to buy lunch at a variety of local quick and unhealthy restaurant options. Later on, I opted for lunch from the office cafeteria, which was often just as expensive as dining out, but possibly healthier. This was a fairly expensive habit, sometimes about $50 a week.
Although I was able to afford it in the past few years, it was an unnecessary expense that I was never able to tame. Now, two months into my new routine, I’ve established a healthier and less expensive pattern. In the past, lunch was my largest meal. Now, I shop for groceries once every week or two weeks, and make my own lunch with relatively healthy ingredients.
My “dining” category in Quicken, which includes dining out at restaurants, ordering delivery, and buying food at the office cafeteria, has been significantly reduced from an average of about $350 a month to a little over $200. On the other hand, my “groceries” category has increased by about $75. I’ll need a few more months of data to be able to get a good look at the trend.
In the “auto” category, which includes fuel for my car as well as tolls and maintenance, my expenses have decreased by about $100 a month. I’ve slashed my spending on fuel alone in half. My car, a Honda Civic with 128,000 miles, will thank me for its increased longevity.
I expect to be doing more traveling in the future. For example, there are conferences across the country I’d like to attend. I’d like to use my new flexibility to travel for personal (non-business) reasons, as well.
The “utilities” category includes my gas and electricity usage, consolidated on one bill from PSE&G. Considering I’d be spending most of my time at home, I expected a big jump in my power bill. The latest bill covered service from December 13 through January 13, a time period that includes several major snowstorms and cold weather. The total was about 25% higher than the amount on last month’s bill. That’s not bad, considering that except for a week out of the apartment, I was maintaining a comfortable temperature for working almost all day every day.
My electricity and gas usage what about the same as January’s bill last year, and I had expected a significant increase from January 2010 to January 2011.
It’s still early, and with the holidays and more snow than usual, it’s been hard to gauge what kind of expenses will be normal. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to save enough money to make up for the loss of salary and benefits, but the extra freedom is allowing me to do more with my time while reducing my levels of stress. I’ll be watching my expenses over the next few months to determine whether there are more opportunities to save money by working out of my home.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about my experiences after quitting my day job to focus solely on Consumerism Commentary and other related projects. I’ll continue to write more on this topic as I discover more about myself through this process.