$7,000 That We Don't Miss
In the spirit of a New Year's resolution, Mr. Spendy and I went through our Mint accounts with a fine tooth comb. We looked for any unnecessary spending and how we could reasonably cut it. From there, we built a budget together on Mint.
We're 1/4 of the way way through 2016 and it's safe to say we're killing it!
I hate reading posts where bloggers vaguely suggest what you can cut from your budget and tack on some ridiculous headline. Instead, I offer you excruciating detail and real numbers.
Here we go!
"Work Lunch" $100 / month ==> $48 / month
It was hard for me not to laugh out loud at this one. Mr. Spendy, bless his heart, had set up a whole budget category in Mint for "work lunch." These were lunches purchased out, often with other co-workers.
It's been a while since I've worked in an office environment so it was hard for me to relate on this one. I know that when you have work friends, it's hard to say no to getting a lunch out occasionally, and that this lunch out would cost a pretty penny more than a brown-bagged one. At some point, I suppose with lifestyle inflation, Mr. Spendy stopped packing a lunch.
Mr. Spendy now takes leftovers from home or makes sandwiches at work (keeps ingredients in the fridge there... no excuse to forget it!). He's down to one "work lunch" a week. Much more responsible!
Lesson: Your inner circle can really influence your behavior. Resist the temptation to keep up with them all the time and do your own thing if it will save you money.
Electricity $80 / month ==> $66 / month
Back in October, our utility company posted on Facebook that its customers could purchase a Nest thermostat from them for just $80. All you had to do was bring in proof of address and the cost would be added to the next bill. I was skeptical that it would actually save us enough money to make up for the purchase price (although the model sells for $250 on Amazon!). I'm still unclear as to why it was discounted so much (subsidy because it's a public utility? the electric company cut a great deal with Nest for buying many units at once?).
Mr. Spendy is a big gadget guy (don't forget about his tumultuous history with drones). When he found out about the deal, he checked out the Nest's savings potential and said it was really worth it. So, we went for it. At this point, it's already paid for itself.
The savings are cool (air conditioning pun!) but it's the daily tracking and metrics that really sold me. I love data.
Lesson: Consider following local companies, programs, organizations, etc. on social media.
Cable & Internet $148 / month ==> $78 / month
When I was in graduate school, I demanded we cut the cable because I didn't have any room in my budget with my measly teaching assistant stipend. However, once I got a real job, I wanted to keep up with my coworkers when they would talk about shows. (I'm easily influenced, what can I say). Plus, I just really missed watching Bravo. I know, I'm lame.
So, we got cable. We lived with one receiver/DVR until I decided that I was spending all my time in bed watching TV and that was depressing. So, we got a second receiver for the living room. Before I knew it, the cost of cable had really crept up to more than I was willing to pay. Plus, it was all so mindless and unintentional. Besides, I was using my DVR mostly to watch things that were available much cheaper through a streaming service.
We cut the cable and instead use Netflix ($11.99/mo) and Hulu ($7.99/mo). Yeah, I still miss Bravo and HGTV.
However, now I select what I want to watch with much more thought and intention. I don't just switch on the TV and watch whatever crap happens to be on. As a result, I've been reading interesting news articles, following personal finance discussions online, listening to podcasts, and reading a few books.
The new cost you see above per month includes internet and our two streaming services.
Lesson: You can really live without cable. I promise, you won't die.
Subscriptions $74.96 / month ==> $19.99 / month
Mr. Spendy decided he didn't need an ebook service anymore ($39.99 saved).
I decided to downgrade my Ancestry.com membership. I couldn't cut it all the way, though, because it's literally my only hobby. ($14.96 saved)
Lesson: If you're not using a service, cancel it and see if you really do miss it.
Eating out $611 / month ==> $245 / month
This is probably the most ridiculous of the categories. Let's note that this excludes Mr. Spendy's work lunch. These are meals out for lunch or dinner, usually together.
Excuses: We work hard and are "too tired" to make dinner in the evening. We decide we are hungry and it's too late to start cooking so we opt for something out. We go to the grocery store but forget one single item for the meal we're thinking of preparing so we scrap everything and eat out. We love brunch.
Solutions: An arsenal of easy meals to make for dinner. We probably buy too much semi-prepared food but it's still cheaper than eating out. We're slowly making progress. We've tried making a meal plan in the past, to some degree of success. We haven't brunched in months and instead make breakfast at home on the weekends.
You would think that our grocery spending would increase significantly by eating out less and less. That's not really the case. You see, when we were eating out nearly every night, we were still buying groceries like people who cooked. It's puzzling, I know. There was a lot of food waste. Not so anymore.
This is a category where two frugal heads are better than one. One of us is usually the hardliner who vetoes a going out to eat suggestion with "Oh, but we have pasta and sauce!" or "Let's use some of the stuff in the freezer!" To be honest, half the time it's me who says we aren't going out but Mr. Spendy has really come around, too. Recently, he's been the one championing the at-home meals. It's a source of both pride and irony, he's becoming Frankenstein's frugal monster!
Lesson: a) Frugality is contagious. b) Don't cut out all of your eating out budget at once if you're used to eating out almost every night; cold turkey will make you feel like you're completely depriving yourself.
Auto insurance $96 / month ==> $54 / month
I was in denial about the value and condition of my car. This will be my car's 10th birthday, and I'm afraid I was insuring him like he was still a newborn. I chose practically the maximum coverage on every single option. When I was extra poor in grad school, I needed my car to be well insured because I had absolutely no savings to replace him.
I dropped comprehensive and collision coverage and suddenly the premium went way down. In addition, I paid my 6-month premium all at once to save even more (using my credit card to help pay off my student loans). I also realized that my insurance company wasn't applying my loyalty discount for being with them for a couple years.
(Side note: Yeah, we considered combining policies. You can do that even if you're not married. You can do it with any person who resides at your same address. However, my insurance is less than Mr. Spendy's and if we combined, I would be paying more. That's a big nope for me!)
Lesson: Tinker with your policy and coverages. Reconsider your payment options. Scour for all possible discounts.