Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Let First Freedom Day Begin!

It's First Freedom Day, pretty much guaranteed to be better than Termination Day, and I'm excited for this great adventure in unemployment to begin!

But with great freedom, comes great responsibility. This job loss slashes our household income nearly in half, and since I haven't landed a new job yet, the very first focus of my newfound freedom is pretty obvious: cost reduction.

I love a challenge, and this will be a big one! Chris already takes public transit to work every day, and we have only one vehicle: a 2006 Elantra purchased with cash, so I can't see any savings to be had there. There's already no debt on the car, and how on earth would we downsize?

Who needs to upsize? Two adults, three kids, one 80 lb. dog, one Elantra = two weeks of cross country road-trip fun! 

The student loans have finally all been retired, and there's no credit card or other consumer debt to be consolidated. We don't have cable (or satellite), the only cell phone in the family is a business expense, I cut the family's hair (including my own), and although I will now start grooming Charles myself as well, it won't be a huge savings because I really only take him to the groomer twice a year anyway (poor guy).

Sorry boy . . . no more doggy spa days. It's just you, me, and the basement bathtub from now on.
We are paying $1790 per month for daycare for the two littlest boys, and that would be the obvious way to save: pull them out, and one of the biggest expenses is gone. I certainly felt like a terrible parent this morning dropping them off at daycare just to come home and write instead of going to work. But right now they are in the best daycare in the world!!! If I pull them out, we lose the spots--spots people spend years on a wait-list to get. And without those spots, that's it. I simply can't work, regardless of whether the work is in an office or on a work-from-home arrangement.

We still have two years until all of the kids are in school. Although part of me desperately wants to spend these last precious early childhood years just being a fantastic full-time mom, two years is a really long time to run the household and pay that big mortgage on half the household income. With a lot of job applications out the door and under review, I'm not ready to make the call on stay-at-home vs. work. So for now, the daycare expense is in. In a few weeks, if there's still no luck on the job front, employment insurance will kick in, and that will cover part of the daycare cost. But not all. So back to cost reduction.

I've been working from home practically since graduating from university. Daily writing and getting out of the house are two of the things I've promised myself I'll do with my freedom while I have it. So I considered writing this to you from a pleasant little cafe while sipping something delicious and beautiful and layered with whipped cream. After all, isn't that what a writer's life is like??? Comfy chairs, soft music, the company of artists and other writers, fancy coffee, whipped cream? ...No? ...Really???

Well, even if that was the typical writer's daily life, in my new austerity land, that would be a big no-no. I almost never worked at cafes or bought fancy coffees when I was employed! To start now would definitely not be cool.

But I am drinking a fancy coffee while I write this. It may not be dolloped with whipped cream, but it's pretty darn good. Ta-da!

And, painfully, this brings me to the first thing that has to go. Luxuries that disguise themselves as necessities. In our household, most of those come in food form. These little Nespresso capsules, source of my fancy coffee, cost $0.69 CAD each. Look at them . . . so pretty, so shiny.

Nespresso capsules, be on notice! In my world, you've just been rebranded a sin!

Now, in my defense, today that lovely cappuccino is a single rather than the usual double. So there! A 50% savings achieved, woot!!!

But baby steps like that won't be good enough for long. How does that $0.69 cappuccino (okay $0.78 accounting for 3 ounces of milk at $4.58 for four litres--sorry US readers, only Canadian prices and measurements quoted here) compare to other options? Well, a little at-home investigation reveals the price of a drip coffee (even a fairly expensive brand brewed strong) to be more like $0.09 per cup, $0.18 when my very generous dose of half and half is added in. And, yes, I did just measure my entire coffee tin out into another container to calculate that.

Look how good unemployment is for one's sense of inquiry!!!

After this highly scientific experiment, from now on, I have no choice but to drink drip.

What else are we indulging in regularly that's costing a small fortune? Looking around the kitchen, the evidence is everywhere: expensive cheese, bakery bread, ultra-premium beer--gotta go, gotta go, gotta go. And look at the sheer volume of food in this place!

Good gracious, that's just two cupboards! If we really had to, I bet we could survive the entire winter living only on the food already in this house.

And then, hiding at the bottom of my fruit bowl, the worst discovery. The thing that, above all else, must be hunted down and eradicated. Waste. Horrible first-world, high-income-household, we-obviously-have-way-too-much-if-we-can-live-like-this, waste. I'm embarrassed to even share the picture. But another thing I've promised myself I will do in this time of reflection, re-evaluation, and writing is be completely honest--especially about the stuff I don't even want to admit to myself. So here it is:

Last week I spent $21.00 on fresh produce, and with the above, plus nearly an entire bag of sprouts rotted and tossed, plus left-overs gone uneaten, I'm guessing at least $7.00 of that was wasted. Around here, unfortunately, this is far from an unusual event. It's a routine. We buy fresh food and good ingredients, we have big plans to cook amazing homemade things and eat lots of fruit. And then we get busy (and lazy), and we don't. I plan to use this gift of unemployment, however long or short it might be, to reorient our family life. And this is the first thing I'm going to change.

There's nothing more that can be done for those poor avocados; the compost pile--the most luxurious, exotic, expensive compost pile on earth--is all that awaits them now. But those overripe bananas and persimmons, I am sure, can be turned into something delicious. And for breakfast tomorrow, there will be no ridiculously expensive (and ridiculously unhealthy!) store-bought cereal on the table. There will be something homemade by mom.

. . . And my kids will likely grumble and complain that they don't like it. They may very well beg for something else. If past experience with Mom's-experimental-baked-goods is anything to go by, there might even be tears from them followed by threats from me. But unlike those past experiences, there will be no giving in and reaching for a cereal box or setting aside what's been prepared in favour of something more enticing. We will use what we have, we will be creative with what's available, we will eat what's been prepared, and we will freeze leftovers that are in danger of going uneaten so they can be brought out again another day. That's how the new world of Freedom is, and eventually, I think everyone is going to adjust. And perhaps someday they will even agree that it tastes very, very good.


  1. Great post Autumn. You had me really laughing!

  2. I would say that is my biggest sin, WHAT ABOUT CHEESE!?!?!?!? (It costs us $5 for a hand sized piece of crappy cheese, but cheese! my little wisconsin heart cries! I am glad worlds away we have similar quandaries