I'm making several lists, actually.
These are my "road to debt reduction" lists: (1) Things to eliminate forever; (2) Things to eliminate until I can really afford them; and (3) Things that are not crucial but will make my life miserable if I don't have.
My lists are personal and highly subjective. There are things on that third list that others will look at and say "You're kidding! You can live without that!" I could, but I don't intend to. On the other hand, the second list is my most important one--the things I can give up for the short term in order to get my finances in line.
The trick is to make sure that the first and second lists are longer and include more money than the third list. It does me no good if I think I must have everything right now or if I find that I can't cut any items.
So what's on my list? Cable TV, for one thing. The premium channels are on List #1. I can get the movies just as easily from Netflix or Blockbuster or my local library. But the next two tiers of "digital classic" channels through Comcast are on List #2. As I whined in an earlier post, I've given up Bravo channel for the sake of my debt reduction. But I'm letting "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" back into my life just as soon as I get my credit cards paid off!
Same with house cleaning, a major List #2 item. I used to pay $30 twice a month for a cleaner. That's gone for the time being, but it will be one of the first things I put back into the budget when my debts are history.
Still, my lawn and garden service, at $40 per month is on List #3. A luxury? Sure. Something I could do for myself? Maybe, though I'd have to buy equipment first. Something I don't want to do without? You bet. I want my home to look presentable. I want my neighbors to be happy. And I know myself well enough to know that even with the right equipment, the chances of me edging and mowing my lawn on a regular basis and keeping the flower beds weeded are not high.
I gave up my health club membership easily. It's a List #1 item for me. But I have friends that would sooner give up one of their children than their daily work-out. My thought is that I can exercise at home. My friends point out that I don't. They're right. And that's why gym membership belongs on their List #3.
It helps me to put most of my budget cuts on List #2--I can cut back on most things for a finite period, so long as I don't see myself deprived forever.
If, along the way, I find that I don't need some of items on List #2 after all, so much the better. My List #1 will get bigger.
I can live with that.