The everyday or almost everyday babblings of a Mama that lives along a Brook

Cutting Expenses and not Sacrificing…

We have been trying really hard to cut our expenses around here. But honestly we do not have very many places we can cut. We pay for everything cash, which means no credit cards. We do not have a single car loan and to be honest as long as I can control this, we will never have a car loan again. We do have some debt, but it is limited. We have a line of credit, which is currently closed while we pay it off. We used this when we bought the house to purchase things, car repairs and more.  We do have a SnapOn account, just a bonus of my husband being a mechanic. We have a mortgage and a home equity loan. When we bought the house we had enough for closing but did not have much to put down. So we did what they call an 80/20 split. 80% is the mortgage and 20% is the home equity.

In the last 6 years we have paid off 5 or 6 different credit cards, medical bills and a car loan. During this time we have had many changes in our income levels and most of the time it went down between pay cuts and unemployment. We survived two maternity leaves in a 19 month time frame and I was currently the main bread-winner. Thanks to God we have managed to come through those times of struggle. We are a paycheck to paycheck family and from time to time we still struggle, but those times are fewer and fewer between now. We like to say if families had to go through what we did for the last 6 years and survive on what we have they might be much more thankful for their blessings.  Yet we do know there are families who have harder times than we do.

During all this time while struggling we have decided that credit cards are not for us. We not only paid them off but we closed the accounts. This has completely made us 100% cash living. At times this is extremely hard and difficult. Especially when the car breaks down and the budget for the week has no room to breath. What are you to do? Thankfully my hubby is excellent at repairing our cars and getting good parts cheap, but most of all I thank God for providing us with reliable vehicles. We have also started thinking of ways to save money. Years ago I got rid of DirecTV and went down to the basic cable. This way we still had TV but we saved $50 plus a month. I used to call different insurance companies/agencies every year to make sure our homeowners and car insurance is the best rate without loosing coverage or going with a fly by night company.  We switched our house from Oil heat to Coal heat.  We re-cooped the cost of the coal stove in less than one winter season.  I used to call the credit card companies and ask for better interest rates and most of the time it worked as long as you threatened to close the account. If you left the account open they would lower the rate, for us that was okay since we cut up the cards.

Since those times financially thing have gotten better and we had a little more room to breath. During the better breathing times we allowed ourselves to pay extra on the debt and became less concerned about the saving money in our finances. We went back to DirecTV and so forth. The last couple of months I believe God has instilled a mission on me to cut our expenses again. I spent a lot of time thinking, not praying about how can I do this. All we have are utilities, mortgage, weekly expenses (groceries, daycare, gas, tithe) and minimal debt we are working on paying off. We have nothing we can cut except groceries and any extra spending we have.  After I finally started praying about it I decided to see if there was a way I could cut our utilities any.

First was the cable bill (we got rid of DirecTV and got cable last year to save us $20/month). We did nothing but complain there was nothing on. So I called the cable company and asked about what options they had. We decided to switch from the standard cable ($50/month) to basic cable ($20/month). That was great until again we did nothing but complain and barely watched it. God said why are you paying for tv if all you do is complain and you do not watch it. After conversations with friends we decided to invest into a Blu-ray player ($98), get Netflix ($7.99/month) and cancel cable all together. Well we did it. We are a cable free household and we love it.  We figure it will take us a couple of months to re-coop the cost of the Blu-ray player but we agree it has been worth it.  Average Savings a Month:  $12.00 (once we re-coop the Blu-ray play’s cost)

Second was the Electric bill.  We have been on a budget plan for years now and that is a huge help.  Also the only thing on our electric bill is electric, no heat or hot water.  We use coal to heat the house and water.  There isn’t much you can do other than makes sure extras are not plugged in when not being used.  My only option here other than going Amish was to shop my electric out.  I am proud to say I did this yesterday.  I used PA Power to Switch to find the best rates.  Our current electric company is charging $0.0927 kwh and the company we switched to is $0.0834, saving us about 10%.    Average Savings a Month:  $15.00

Third was our home phone and internet bill.  We do have a nice bundle package for home phone and internet together to save money.  In the home phone package we have unlimited calling to the 48 states, caller id, call waiting and voice mail.    The negative with the bundles are there will be a contract and an early cancellation fee.  I decided why not call and see what options I have.  I found we are still until contract till June.  I thought no big deal I will call and save us money then.  As I was telling the representative this, she said ‘I can offer you a $10/month credit on your bill for the next 12 months.  Are you interested?’  After considering other options I felt this was a good deal for us.  Everyone we call is long distance and by keeping this phone plan we are able to save on our cell phone bill.  All together we only will be paying $70/month (after taxes and fees) for all internet and home phone (with all the options above).  Average Savings a Month:  $12.00 ($10 plus the taxes and fees)

Fourth was our Cell Phone bill.  We are currently with AT&T Wireless and are very happy with their service.  After examining our monthly usage I found that our plan with 700 shared minutes a month was more minutes then we need.  We where constantly rolling over 200-250 minutes.  I decided to change our plan to the 550 minute plan.  This saved us $10/month just by doing this.  AT&T will allow you to change your rate plan at any time.  So I figure I will ride it out at the 550 minutes for now and when our rollover minutes get to be below 250 I will then up our plan again until we build them up and then drop the plan again.  The $10/month difference is worth it at times since it would cost us over $10 if we have to pay for 30 minutes at a per minute rate.  At least what we don’t use we get to keep.  Average Savings a Month:  $15.00 (after taxes and fees)

As of today I have done my best to save us about $54/month in our utilities.  I personally think awesome since in 12 months we have saved $648 this way.

What is next?  GROCERIES!!!! We currently only spend about $75-100/wk on them now, but I know we can do better than that.  I am planning to complete the 31 Days to a better Grocery Budget from Money Saving Mom.  I hope to post my journey here on my blog.  I hope to take my $75-100/wk bill to $50-75/wk.  Preferable more $50 weeks than $75.00.  I will not be able to complete this plan in 31 days with two kid and working 2 days outside of home.

I also plan to try to sell stuff on Ebay and Etsy to see if I can make enough on average weekly to pay half of our grocery bill.  More information on this to come.

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2 responses

  1. WAY TO GO! I’m gonna try to do some of this myself. Thanks for the info and inspiration!!!

    One question: how much do you pay for your cell phones?

    April 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    • How much do we pay for cell phones???? It is probably best to give it to you prior to taxes and fees, since we get random charges like me buying a game or a ring tone or Mike getting a text or three or ten. We do not have a texting plan on him since the lost level they have is $10 and at $0.20 each he never uses that many texts to be worthy of the $10.00.

      Here is the plan breakdown:
      550 anytime minutes – we share these, calling other AT&T customers is free so these are only for non AT&T cell phone calls and what we do not use we rollover.
      My phone has unlimited data (internet) and unlimited texting (I love to text, sometimes it is the only way I have a conversation with my BFF, due to kids and our busy schedules)

      Here is the Cost:
      First phone is $50.00
      2nd phone is $9.99
      One phone having unlimited texting and data $30.00
      Subtotal: $89.99 plus taxes and fees (so grand total is about $100-120/month depending the extras mentioned above.)

      On a side note, we are seriously considering when our contract is up (his phone is up in 10/2011 and mine is 1/2013) of getting rid of AT&T. It has absolutely nothing to do with service and everything to do about price. We are looking at that Straight Talk that they sell at Walmart. A friend of mine had them and loved them but switched to Boost when they offered the shrinkage package. Due to lack of service per the map of Boost that will not work here. Boost does offer something really cool. Anyway with Straight Talk I can get our cell bill down to $75/month and no contract. Straight Talk using the Verizon network so the service should be good.

      Here is the break down on Straight Talk’s plan:
      Mike would have 1,000 anytime minutes, 1,000 messages and 30 MB of data for $30/month. He doesn’t need all this but it is the lowest plan they offer.

      My phone would have unlimited minutes, unlimited texting and unlimited data for $45.00. Now if I could get my texting down from 2,000/month to the 1,000 then I would take the package Mike will have but oh well, still a good bit cheaper than AT&T, Verizon or Sprint.

      So here is what we are pondering and trying to see what to do. Mike’s contract is up in October 2011, I will still be in contract for 15 months after that. Do we switch Mike come November and and keep me on AT&T at a different plan. It is expensive for a single phone for what I would need/want, but over all we would be saving some money. Or do we come June (when Mike’s phone is available to upgrade, which he needs desperately) upgrade Mike, sign another 2 years. This would put him in contract 6 months longer than I am. OR do we just wait till October and switch Mike and pay the early cancellation fee for my phone and switch us both. The big question is… where is the best cost effectiveness?

      Sorry so long.

      April 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm

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