Saving Money on Monthly Expenses

Posted Sunday, February 19, 2012

Today we have a guest post from Sweet Child of Mine.
For many people at the moment money can be a difficult issue, and Erin from Sweet Child of Mine has some really useful tips to make that money go a bit further. 

I've shared tips for saving money on groceries, online shopping and entertainment, now I'm going to give you a glimpse into how my family saves money on our regular monthly expenses. First I want to clarify that this is what works for us. It may not work for every family. We all have our things that we can't (or don't want to) do without, and that's fine.

1. Cell phone- We had a phone through AT&T that we were paying about $45/month for. The cell phone is primarily used by my husband to call home when he's working. We were not using all of our minutes, and even the cheapest plan was way more minutes than we needed. I switched us to Tracfone, and we are now paying about $6 per month for two phones (although one phone is out of minutes so we are only using one phone right now). The service is just as good as AT&T.

So far the hardest thing has been getting family to stop calling our cell phones when we are at home, but after a few times of not answering the cell then calling them back from our home phone, they are catching on. Especially since we tend to not even turn the cell phone on (or even remember to bring it into the house) when we're home.

Now Tracfone might not work for a lot of people, especially if you don't have a home phone or if you use your phone for texting or surfing the web. You might want to take a few minutes to check outBill Shrink to see if your cell phone plan is the best for your particular usage needs.

2. Internet- We switched from Time Warner to Clear and are saving $10 per month. It may not sound like much, but it's $120 per year, plus we can take our modem with us anywhere. I know I'm going to love this next month when we go on vacation b/c I'm not going to be searching all over for free WiFi. I have not noticed any difference in the speed of Clear versus RoadRunner. They are not in every city yet, so you can check availability here. Be sure to type in your address, because the coverage map seems to only show big cities. Or if you really want to save money, you could cancel your internet all together and go to the library. This is not something I'm willing to do, as internet is one of my non-negotiables. I justify the expense though because I have an online business and our home phone service requires the internet.

3. Home phone- We use a Magic Jack for our home phone service. If you've never heard of it, the Magic Jack is a device that you plug into a USB port on your computer, then you plug your phone into it just like you would a normal phone jack. The device is $19.99 and service is $19.99 per year (or cheaper if you buy 5 years at once). Since calls go through your high speed internet connection, there's aren't taxes and usage fees added in. I was paying AT&T $25 per month just for local phone service without and extras like caller ID, call waiting or voicemail. For $19.99 (or less) per year you get unlimited local and long distance calling, caller ID, and voicemail. There are occasional glitches (which are probably caused by my computer) but I've always been able to fix them by restarting my computer. The occasional glitch is a small price to pay for such savings. The other downside is that the phone service only works if your computer in on, so you need to keep your computer on. This isn't a problem for us, because our computer is on most of the day anyway. We are saving over $280 per year and aren't adding to our electricity costs since our computer was on most of the time anyway. You would have to figure for yourself if it would be worth it, but I'm guessing it would not cost an extra $23 per month to keep your computer on, especially if you work full time and aren't home all day anyway.

4. Utilities- I try to conserve energy in any way I can. In the summer, we keep our thermostat at 75, and in the winter I try to keep it around 67 and dress warmer. I say try because my husband is constantly turning it up. At night, I turn it down even lower. The kids and I sleep in the same room, so I close the door and use an electric heater (I follow all safety guidelines, plus our heater has an alarm that goes off it it gets too hot). I only do the laundry if there is enough for a full load (who am I kidding, there's always enough). I would love to use a clothesline when it's warm to save even more- that's on our to-do list. Our computer and TV (+dvd player, converter box and antenna) are plugged into surge protectors which are turned off when not in use to save energy.

5. Baby Care- This is not meant to start a debate, but I breastfeed, which has saved us a ton. Also, I followed the AAP guidelines and did not give my kids solid foods before 6 months of age, which also saved us money. When my kids did start eating solids, I didn't bother with the processed, packaged baby foods. I just gave them whatever the rest of us were eating (Isn't that what kids want anyway?). It's way cheaper than the jars of baby food and it's less work! I also use cloth diapers. I used disposables on my daughter for the first 6 months, and spent $50 per month. I've spent a total of $400 on cloth diapers and have so far gotten about 51 months of use out of them between my 2 kids, so that's a savings of $2150 so far. If I have 2 more kids like I want, that's approximately $3600 in additional savings. Yes, there is the additional cost of the extra load of laundry per week, but since our water bill is only $40 every quarter I can't imagine that 1 extra load each week is adding much. Plus I'm still assuming the $50/month for disposables that I paid in 2006 and I'm sure diapers have gone up in cost like everything else. I'm also not factoring in gas money to buy diapers, because I'm sure there would be times that I would have to make trips to the store specifically for diapers. I'll stop there, because this post isn't meant to convince anybody to switch to cloth diapers, just to share what has worked for my family.

6. Gardening- I don't have any hard numbers here. I'm not sure exactly how much money gardening has saved us, but I know from July-October I don't buy tomatoes. This year I plan on canning a ton. Even if my own garden doesn't produce enough, I plan on shopping the farmers markets and even the grocery stores while produce is in season to stock up and can at the cheapest prices. Plus I'm really hoping our peppers do better because they are expensive in the winter!

7. Gym- We pay $50/month for our YMCA family membership, which is cheaper than the other gyms on the area. The Y also offers free or discounted memberships based on financial need. Some people may be able to completely do without a gym membership, but this is one thing I refuse to give up! As a work-at-home mom, I need my "me" time in the form of Zumba classes! Plus my 4 year-old loves her daycare time, and she's starting soccer tomorrow.

8. Cable- We don't have it! The only "must watch" show for us that we can't get on regular TV is Burn Notice. We just watch it on the network's website the next day.

9. Meal planning- We eat most of our meals at home. Planning meals ahead of time helps me to save money on groceries, because I try to plan meals around what I already have on hand (which I've usually paid next to nothing for int he first place). Since I already know what we're going to have for dinner, there isn't an impulse to go out to eat. This is not to say I've never had a rough day and said, "Screw it- we're ordering pizza." The majority of the time though, we eat home cooked meals.

10. Vehicles- We buy our vehicles used and don't have a payment. Of course with how much gas costs, it feels like we're making a car payment.

So there are 10 ways that my family saves money each month. Some might work for you, some might not. The important thing is to be flexible and reasonable, because there's no point in being frugal if it's making you miserable. But if you think you can scale back and live without somethings for a while, then it's worth a try. I remind myself that by saving now and paying off debt, we will be able to enjoy some of the extras in the future!

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Great tips! ..and a lot of them are actually very easy to change/do (if you aren't already). I'd advise people to start one thing at a time if it all seems overwhelming ..and I think the whole point here is to just be more conscious of where we can save money as well as being more environmental and sustainable.
Thanks for sharing!

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