Frugal Living 

Understanding “Trimmables,” or, Purposeful Saving

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What is a trimmable? It’s something you’re paying for on a monthly basis that you could remove and it would not negatively impact your life. A gym membership is not a trimmable, unless you don’t actually go to the gym. A Netflix account is a trimmable. A gym membership you don’t actually use is a trimmable. And guess what? You only need to cut your trimmable temporarily until you earn enough money to achieve your goal. Understanding your trimmables can be the secret to buying whatever you want.

I know this sounds like a very basic idea – that’s because it is. The beauty of it is that you can cut a trimmable temporarily to save up enough to buy what you want. Do you want one of those new iPod nano’s? Let’s say you have a $15 Netflix membership… all you need to do is to cut it for 17 months and that iPod nano could be yours. Seventeen months sounds too long? Find yourself another trimmable of $5 and you cut down that time to twelve and a half. If you scrounge up $40 in trimmables, you get that iPod nano in six months. Find $50? You get it in five.

List all your monthly payments and see what you can do without for a few months. Don’t cut out things that drastically improve your quality of life (cell phones, gym memberships) but look for things you can really do without (most will be entertainment related) such as an Netflix membership and you will be able to buy whatever it is your heart desires. Remember, you will only need to suspend that trimmable temporarily and it’s for a purpose, such as buying a widget or going on a vacation.

You’ll find it’s easier to cut that trimmable when you’re working towards something. Want to go on a cruise? Save a little extra, trim a little extra, and you’ll see that vacation getting a little closer. Add on the fact that you can use a credit card and get a 1 month grace period and that little goal is that much closer. Set your sights and trim something!

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “Understanding “Trimmables,” or, Purposeful Saving”

  1. Caitlin says:

    Well said. We only subscribe to a premium cable channel when the one show we want is airing new eps – this way it only costs us about $45 a year vs $167 because the $13.95 charge is only added for about 3 months. I felt like I had a real “Aha” moment when we thought of that one LOL

    And something like Netflix (and cable) is trimmable in a flexible way, its not an all or nothing charge (like tivo access) but its tiered. So while I usually pay nearly $19/mo for Netflix, my analysis has shown I can drop to a less expensive tier and not impact my movie watching at all, or drop to $9.99 and maybe impact it a little bit (or drop that low when I do a lot of biz travel and have less DVD watching time at home for example)

    Good ideas Jim!

  2. Byrne says:

    Jim, nice post, but your concept of “trimmables” may be too ambiguous, or incongruent with some of your examples. You define trimmable as “something you’re paying for on a monthly basis that you could remove and it would not negatively impact your life”. But #1, what about things you don’t pay for on a monthly basis? You could easily live without an iPod nano. As could a new grill, or stereo system. Yet these items are generally not paid for on a monthly basis.

    You use the qualifier “something you could remove and not negatively impact your life.” Well this is an arbitrary statement. Who’s to say Netflix is less valuable than a gym membership? For several people, removal of Netflix would much more negatively impact life than a gym membership. These blanket statement value judgements just aren’t summed up best by a blog post.

  3. jim says:

    Yes, trimmables are ambiguous and I might not have done a good job at explaining what I meant. The motivation for the post was trying to “find money” you were spending now and reallocate it to savings with the purpose of spending it on something else. A lot of people have a lot of monthly expenses (versus some one-time expenses such as buying a new grill, ipod nano, groceries) that they could probably live without if they knew they were saving it for something else.

    And what you pick to remove and not negatively impact your life is arbitrary… i say a gym membership is more valuable than a netflix account because on average a gym membership should improve your level of fitness, though that might not be the case for everyone.

    I don’t mean to make a value judgement, I was merely providing an example. Thanks for the comments Byrne!

  4. Uncle Foobar says:

    One thing i’ve seen modelled
    (the book is “All Your Worth” by the “Two Income Trap” women)

    Is this idea:

    Take your income;

    50% goes to Must haves (basic needs)
    30% goes to “Wants”
    20% goes to savings, including paying down cc debt.

    That way you can build your “wants” for a specific purchase
    without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.

    Also, Quicken Win (not mac 8-( ) has a “savings Goals”
    that can go t a similar idea; kind of a “christmas club”
    way of managing a savings/checking account.


  5. Carnival of the Vanities #163

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the Carnival of the Vanities. I’m honored to be the host this week and hope I can live up to the great tradition of this carnival. Per my usual carnival policy, I’m listing the

  6. Dr Zen says:

    Jeez, am I the only person round here who doesn’t have any trimmables? I have three young kids. I suppose I could trim one of them if the white slavers come calling…

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