Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Cost of Energy

At the first of every year, I tend to reevaluate my life. I have friends who do this on their birthdays, and others who plan a meditation retreat one weekend every year, but for me, the New Year just seems to work.

This year I am reevaluating my career choice and the cost of energy. And before your eyes glaze over, this isn't really about gas prices beginning to go up. I left my career in accounting to be a teacher for a couple reasons. One, the Lord told me to. Two, when I drug my feet about opening that new door, he threw me out the window. (I found myself unemployed a little earlier than I had planned on. Luckily I was only a couple of months away from beginning my new career in education.)

Being an accountant, I had created several spreadsheets that did a cost analysis - could I go from making a nice salary to only getting paid for 9 months of work? Several factors were involved: drycleaning, maid service, and childcare costs. I figured I could squeak by, but it would be a sacrifice.

Teaching has been more profitable than I ever imagined. In the past 5 years, we purchased a house, a new (to us) car and began a new savings account. This doesn't really seem possible when I look at the spreadsheets. However, sometimes the little things add up. Now I don't buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned. Per month savings: $50. No maid service - per month savings: $150. Free parking - per month savings $70. No afterschool and summer care - annual savings....$5000. Not driving during rush hour - approximate savings of $200 per month.

The biggest change was meals. Although, I come home tired, I don't come home late. We actually have time to cook a meal instead of eating out. I used to have lunch out every day. Sometimes I'd eat in the company cafeteria, other times I would escape the great and spacious building. Average weekly cost for lunches - $40 including tips. When I started teaching, I would purchase my lunch from the bacteria at $2.75 a day, saving me nearly $25 a week.

This year during lunch, my friends and I were discussing budgets and several of us made a goal to eat lunch for less than $10 a week. This means bringing food from home. I was excited because I could eat leftovers from the previous night's dinner since N & B don't believe in leftovers. This worked great until October. For some reason in October, there stopped being leftovers. I couldn't figure out what was happening, until I noticed the heaping platefuls that Ben was eating. The 7th-8th grade growth spurt has hit. My grocery budget started having severe shortfalls - and I was not getting a good lunch. I learned to shop the sales and eat Lean Cuisine and the like. But then, my Lean Cuisines started going missing from the freezer. It seems that Ben would eat them for a snack after school. (I'm sure in your mind you are thinking that he must be HUGE, but on the contrary, he's getting taller and not wider.) The cost of fueling my son is a major expense these days....surpassing our insurance bill and our summer a/c bill.

So I'm thinking that I need to leave teaching and return to the business world so that I can afford to feed my child. But first I'm going to try something new...stop at the grocery in the morning and buy my lunch. That way I'm sure I'll get to eat it!

Another strategy is to spend more time planning meals and looking for savings. I especially love the $5 blog. I get some great recipes there and hear about good sales. Right now they are even having a giveaway for a designer lunch tote. Check it out!

Now, if I can find some way to convert the cost of fueling B into a savings in another area of our budget....maybe I'll feed him in exchange for lawn care - then I can cancel the lawn service. Or maybe he can pay me for his meals...he has that dog-walking job. Or maybe I'll just enjoy this stage of life and find ways to make it through without changing careers or taking out a loan.

1 comment:

Rebecca and Co. said...

You need to post some pictures of Ben!!!! I miss that boy!!!

I like your cost anaylysis. Seems that somehow it all works out.