There are a lot of ways to save money or, technically, spend less of it. I’m always looking for new ways to spend less and I read a lot of blogs & articles on the subject.
When looking for tips & ideas for saving money, keep a FIRM grasp on your common sense. I’ve seen some really fantastic ideas for saving money, but if you have to completely change the way that you work, live, eat & sleep to save a few bucks, it’s just not going to be worth it in the short run let alone the long haul so, no thank-you. There are easier and better ways to save some money.
Here’s how The Hubster and I saved over $9,000 in the course of a year just by changing a few habits. We didn’t really give up much of anything, nor did we have to change our lifestyle all that much.
Cut The Cord!
The first thing we did was to Cut The Cord! We really weren’t paying much attention to how much we spent to watch TV. When I looked into it, I was stunned. When we first got satellite television hooked up, it was the least expensive way to go. At that time we were saving about $30 a month over cable TV and we got so many more channels. Years went by and I revisited our Dish bill and I got a pretty good shock. Since it was a payment that came out of The Hubster’s account and the bill went to his e-mail address, I wasn’t aware that the charges had increased. I knew it had gone up from $32 to $58 when we asked for HD & added a few new channels, but didn’t realize we were paying $98 a month (and had been for awhile). We had no premium services at all & nothing really fancy. I called Dish to see if they had any deals or any way to reduce my cost and they offered nothing that we were interested in — and they didn’t seem to care that we’d been a quiet, undemanding customer for 5-plus years, so we decided to cancel. Interestingly enough, after we cancelled our service they have been jumping through hoops to get us back. The idiots just don’t get that if they had worked with me while I was still their customer we probably wouldn’t have cancelled. Instead they are wasting tons of money sending me crap in the mail on a weekly basis trying to woo us back … that is the ultimate definition of a MOE-Ron. Sorry – I’m back on track now, abject stupidity just pisses me off.
Here’s the breakdown of what we were paying before we cut the cord:
- Dish: $98
- Netflix: $7.99 streaming + $11.99 for 2 DVDs
- Amazon Prime: $99 per year for unlimited streaming
- $1,514.76 TOTAL Per Year
Here’s what we pay now:
- Netflix: $7.99 streaming
- Amazon Prime: $99
- $194.88 TOTAL Per Year
$1,319.88 Total Savings per year on television. Not bad!
We still get all the television we need and, for the most part, still watch the same shows. We simply have to either download them a few days later or we wait until the season becomes available on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. There is so much available to watch as it is that it became senseless to pay so much money every year for cable/satellite.
If you are a sports fanatic; hooked on the nightly news, talk shows or soap operas, Cutting the Cord may not be for you. Those items may not be available via download or streaming, so do your research and test what you are willing to do without before making any final decisions.
Switch to a Non-Contract Mobile Carrier
We used to have AT&T as our cell phone carrier. We had a contract and I found out the hard way that contracts with a cell phone carrier ONLY benefits the carrier. I damaged my phone and to get another one I had to pay full price or I had to extend my contract another 2 years. No, thank you! I kept the phone with a busted screen until our contract was up. Then we made a switch and we’ve never looked back.
Here’s what we were giving AT&T every month:
- $148 per month – service for 2 phones, unlimited calling, NO TEXTING, very limited data
- $1,776 TOTAL per year for mobile phones
I did some research and discovered a great mobile carrier called PureTalk USA. They had a Family Plan and other affordable plans that included texting with NO CONTRACT or extra fees. We didn’t get texting with our AT&T and it was nice to have it — especially for so much less money! When we switched, we chose the Family Plan. At that time it was $10 per month for the 1st phone and $5 per month for each additional phone. PureTalk USA also gave us new SIM cards for our existing phones for free and they even paid for shipped. Minutes could be switched between phones & any unused minutes rolled over to the next month. We used that plan for several years until they came out with plans that included data.
When we switched, this is what we paid each month:
- $15 per month – service for 2 phones, 240 minutes per month, 200 free minutes our first month, included text messaging, NO DATA
- $180 TOTAL per year for mobile cell service
$1,596 Total savings per year on mobile phone service. Not bad!
We currently pay a bit more per month because PureTalk USA’s service has changed and gotten better. We now have unlimited talk & text plus some data for $35 per month per phone. So, if we were just now switching our savings would be $936 per year. But for over 3 years we saved more than $4,800 before we upgraded our service to the unlimited plans.
The only down-side to going the route of a non-contracted phone carrier is that there will be no more $10 iPhones, etc. (I have no idea if there ever were $10 iPhones – but I know there were some really great deals on cheap fancy phones for awhile.) If you do your research, you can still find brand new unlocked phones at a good price. I just purchased a new mobile phone last month — I got an Amazon Fire Phone on a Daily Deal that I’m thrilled with. I paid $159 for the unlocked phone (meaning it can be used with any carrier service) and Amazon gave me a free 12 month extension on my Amazon Prime account. So technically I paid $60 for a brand new smart phone (with no contract obligations). Sweet!
Pack a Lunch!
I know, I know … everyone tells you to pack a lunch. If you actually spend a month HONESTLY tracking how much you spend on eating lunches at restaurants, fast food joints or quickie marts you will be amazed at how much it all adds up to.
The Hubster used to spend about $10 per day on lunches. He thought he was only spending around $5 a day, but when I asked him to track his lunch expenses it came closer to $10 (he wasn’t adding in mid-morning coffee or an afternoon water or drink).
I would occasionally eat lunch out and I liked items off the fast-food $1 menu and spent less per meal. If there were leftovers and if I remembered to pack them, I didn’t eat out that day. So my tracking results weren’t quite as shocking, but it was still more than I anticipated.
- $200 per month for lunches – The Hubster
- $60 per month for lunches – Me
- $3,120 TOTAL per year spent on just Lunch … gasp!
The Hubster doesn’t have the ability to reheat food at lunchtime, so when he takes his lunch he’s not able to pack leftovers. He’s a sandwich lover anyway, so he doesn’t mind taking his lunch a few times a week. We aren’t unreasonable or unrealistic. The whole point of this exercise is to save money and not change our lifestyle more than we want to. He doesn’t want to eat sandwiches for lunch every day and he may only be working close enough to home to come home for lunch maybe once or twice a month. We were able to reduce his lunch cost per month from $200 down to approx. $84. He now consciously chooses to purchase from restaurants that offered good deals at lunchtime such as local deli’s & pizza shops or fast food where he can get a meal for about $5. He takes his lunch twice a week and eats out 3 days a week, switching off for variety.
I now work at home, so I no longer have any excuses to eat out at lunch-time. When I shop for groceries, I figure lunches into my menu and plan on leftovers when I cook. That takes care of me. I do admit that sometimes when I’m out shopping I’ll treat myself to a meal I don’t have to cook! So here’s what our lunches look like now.
- $84 per month for Lunches – The Hubster
- $20 per month for Lunches – Me
$1,872 TOTAL Savings per year in Lunches
Pack Your Snacks & Drinks!
STOP using vending machines. It sounds like such a simple thing, yet for some reason many of us will consistently feed dollars and quarters into snack and soda vending machines instead of bringing these items from home.
At one or more grocery store every week, canned & bottled soda is on sale. I just checked the sales circulars today and 6-packs of Pepsi 16-oz. bottles are on sale for $2.00 or $0.33 each. When you buy a soda from a vending machine or a convenience store, they range from $1.50 up to $2.49 each. Personally I think it’s highway robbery and the convenience isn’t worth it. Bottled water at Sam’s Club is $3.98 for a 40-pack or $0.10 per bottle. Yet buying a bottle of water from a vending machine will set you back $1.25 or more — and people still do it day after day after day. Snacks are just as inflated from vending machines and just as easy to pack from home.
Don’t even get me started on morning and afternoon coffee at shops like Starbucks or Seattle Coffee. Some folks willingly pay $5 for a cup of coffee and do it once or twice a day. If you brew it yourself and take it with you in a thermos you will save so much money it’s not even funny.
We were not immune to the mindless call of vending machines, convenience stores & the occasional fast food coffee. Although we got our coffee from McDonald’s where it’s was any-size-$1 instead of $5 for those other brands. When we again tracked our purchases the results were pretty ugly.
- $92.20 for coffee, water & kombucha per month – The Hubster
- $125 for soda & snacks per month – Me
- $217 TOTAL per month on vending/convenience store items
We started buying our water & soda as well as a variety of healthy snack foods at Sam’s or the grocery store and now that I work at home, I don’t even drink soda. I make sun tea or iced coffee for myself instead. The Hubster only buys coffee out once a week and takes bottled water with him to work. He will still buy an occasional kombucha since I stopped making it at home. It was too hard to keep the culture alive when he wasn’t drinking it consistently. Here’s what we pay now:
- $12.50 for coffee & kombucha out per month – The Hubster
- $0 for soda & snacks from vending per month – Me
- $35.96 for water, soda, coffee & snacks purchased from Sam’s & grocery instead
- $48.46 TOTAL per month for Snacks & Drinks
$2,022 TOTAL Savings per year for Snacks & Drinks from vending & convenience stores
Eat At Home
This is a big one for some folks. In the case of several of our neighbors, asking them to stop eating at restaurants would mean they’d starve to death. We have one neighbor that has never turned on the oven in their kitchen and they don’t care who knows it.
We used to eat out at least once a week, if not more. Every Friday night, a bunch of us would go out and we really didn’t pay attention to the amount we were drinking or eating. We just ordered, chatted, had fun & spent-a-lot-of-money! We don’t regret the evenings out we spent with friends, but times change and we decided it was time to stop spending so much money on eating out.
- Approx. $2,500 per year in Restaurant dinners
Now we still eat out and I don’t suggest that anyone give up eating out totally. I checked our calendar and it seems that we eat out maybe once every other month — I’m sure we’d eat out more often, but we simply prefer eating at home. Interestingly enough, we spend the same amount or maybe even less on groceries than when we ate out more — I think we just waste less food than we used to.
- Approx. $210 per year in Restaurant dinners
$2,290 TOTAL Savings per year in Eating out! YAY!
Let’s add all this up:
- $1,319 – Cutting The Cord
- $1,596 – Switching Mobile Carriers
- $1,872 – Packing Lunches
- $2.022 – Staying Away from Vending Machines
- $2,290 – Eatting Out Less
$9,099 TOTAL YEARLY SAVINGS!
When we added up everything we’d saved, we impressed ourselves and we were thrilled. I’d love for you to feel the same thrill that we felt in saving the same kind of cash and without really giving up anything! There are other things you can do to save even more money, but take a look at how making a few simple changes can save a whole bunch of money that you can use for something else instead (like paying off bills or credit card balances)!