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Life After Salary: Changes in My Expenses

This article was written by in Frugality. 17 comments.


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.

Food

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.

Travel

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.

Utilities

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.

Published or updated February 13, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Investor Junkie

One way around the increased heating and electric bills, stay over your GF house, or work at a Starbucks ;-)

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avatar Jenna

But then his “dining”category would go up again. Coffee at home is significantly cheaper than coffee at Starbucks.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,475 (Platinum)

I solve this problem by not drinking coffee. Vile stuff. Hot chocolate, on the other hand….

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avatar TakeitEZ ♦549 (Dime)

Congrats on lowering your food bill. I can truly understand your food consumption and struggle to make food from home when you were at your prior job. So many times I have made the decision to stop eating out for lunch and make my own but it usually doesn’t last more than a couple of weeks. But I will keep on trying until I am consistent with it.

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avatar Donster

Congrats on working for yourself. Some thoughts after 10 years of working from home:
1) Check your auto insurance. Most companies have a discount for traveling less than a certain number of miles per year.
2) You can now prepare a nice dinner almost every night, and have the leftovers for lunch. This will save you significant money.
3) You will miss the office (somewhat). The daily interaction with people, while distracting, is also a mood lifter. Make sure you get out and see real people at least once a week.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,475 (Platinum)

Thanks for the suggestions! I do need to check back with my auto insurance — I know I can reduce my rate by indicating I drive less than 5 miles to work every day.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

i feel your pain with regards to food. i too have struggled to bring my lucnhes to my workplace, but i have been doing better of late. my plan to get in shape has been the main reason. so it is a “win” “win” situation, as i am eating better and keeping a better eye on my bottom line as well.

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avatar Squirrelers

This is great that you’ve been able to reduce costs in this way, particularly food costs. It’s interesting how extra time can allow one to spend a few minutes prepping a cheaper, healthier home-cooked meal. Those quick on the go lunches with coworkers can be a big drain on the pocketbook and health. One pays for such convenience in one way or another.

To second the comment made above, I do suggest going out for lunch once in a while. Find a place where you can get a relatively healthy meal, and go once a week. Having been in job search mode in the past after a layoff, I can tell you that it’s great to be out and about. Not that you’re in that position, but human interaction is huge. Maybe a lunch with an old colleague or friend works best.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

Please keep doing these type of articles. I love them and since I am considering quitting my job for a much needed time off. I would like a year off and then maybe try to get another job. I need these type of articles since they do make me think of things that I may considered.

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avatar gotr31 ♦224 (Cent)

I enjoy them as well! Keeps me motivated to find ways to earn outside a full time job and encouraged that people really can do it!

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avatar MR ♦295 (Nickel)

Sounds like overall, a decent win for you! If I were in your shoes, I probably would consider driving to the library at least a few times a week. It would be a decent temperature, plus you’d get to check out the magazines and newspapers to give you idea for your articles.

My library has wireless access for laptops in addition to the hard wired PCs… Plus they sell coffee there too (definitely not anywhere near as good as Starbucks though…)

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avatar Will @ HackingTheBank.com ♦258 (Nickel)

Thanks for posting about your expenses. I had suggested it in one of your other Life After Salary posts. Glad you did it. Your utilities didn’t increase as much as I would have guessed. Guess that goes to show us just how much energy our appliances are zapping when we’re not using them.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

Would like to hear your way of dealing with health insurance. So many other expenses are changeable but this one and it dogs me.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,475 (Platinum)

Ceecee,

I wrote about my recent experiences with health insurance here (evaluating options, searching for individual health insurance in NJ) and here (choosing COBRA).

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avatar Cheapskate Sandy

I love this series. I know that this is a stupid question, but do you use coupons? You can reduce your grocery bills depending on where you shop and how prepared your foods are.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,475 (Platinum)

I don’t spend a lot of time with coupons.

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avatar eric ♦1,549 (Half-Dollar)

Love this series. I brown bag it every day to work too. Sometimes it’s a hassle but I know I’m saying the $10 every day that most co workers spend.

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