November "Live For Less" Challenge

by Katy on October 31, 2008 · 12 comments


The Compact (buy nothing new) group that I’m part of, started a challenge last week that I thought I would share with the Non-Consumer community.

The challenge is to try and whittle down one’s set monthly expenses. To bring down how much you life is costing you, without bringing down your quality of life.

The challenge’s author made changes such as canceling her at-home internet and Netflix. She also called her phone provider and was able to drop a number of services she wasn’t using. The upshot was an extra $79 each and every month that she would no longer be needing to earn.

I made similar changes last year when the hospital where I work cut hours for a few months. I was amazed how much I was able to shave from our set expenses.  And more than a little annoyed that I hadn’t done it sooner.

Here’s the changes we made:

  • Insurance. I called our agent and had her go over our homeowners and auto policies. She gave us a new discount for having bachelor’s degrees and raised the deductible on our home owner’s insurance, which we’ve never had to make a claim on. 
  • Telephone. Since our cells phones include free long distance, I cancelled long distance service on our land line and was able to switch to a simpler, cheaper plan.
  • Electricity. Changed over to a “Time-Of-Use” plan which charges different amounts at different times of day. I only used the clothes dryer after 10:00 p.m. and on Sundays when it’s cheapest. I also discovered that my dishwasher has a timer, so I could set it to start after 10 p.m. 
  • Netflix. Cancelled this and started getting movies exclusively from the library.
  • Natural Gas. (Furnace, stove, hot water heater) I reset the automatic thermostat for 60 degrees during the day and 57 degrees at night. If we’re cold, we turn it up, but mostly we’re fine. The hot water heater was already set low.
  • Water Bill. Disconnected our downspouts, for which we received a discount.
  • Credit Cards. Called customer service at Visa and got them to lower the interest rate by doing this.
  • Costco. (Warehouse Club) Cancelled this.
  • Garbage. Went to a smaller size can that we still can’t fill.
  • Online Bill Pay. Not only will the save the cost of stamps and checks, but you’ll never pay a late fee again!
  • All these seemingly minor changes combined to save us hundreds of dollars per month.

    Would you like to cut your monthly expenses?

    Join the Live For Less challenge, and make sure to tell us which expenses you cut in the comments section below.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley

    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

    { 10 comments… read them below or add one }

    jinger November 1, 2008 at 6:49 am

    I embarked on a similar lifestyle several years ago when I lost my job and did not want to return to work full time. I look at it as a challenge to see how well I can live on very little. We have only cell phones now, no magazine or newspaper subscriptions (our library has a magazine swap table) I read the newspaper online, pay all bills online, so no checks or stamps, buy clothing only at Ross or thrift stores, recycle, reuse, and repurpose everything, make all meals from scratch, no convenience foods at all, no bottled water, make Starbucks style coffee drinks at home, no Netflix or Blockbuster, I watch movies online at or borrow from the library, and I take advantage of every free event in my town…this weekend the Texas Book Festival with wonderful authors and seminars…all free!


    joetaxpayer November 1, 2008 at 6:59 am

    I’m surprised Costco savings for you wasn’t enough to pay the annual fee. For me, the food we buy for 2 particular holiday dinners saves more than that.

    Great advise on the CC interest rate, I’ve advised similar, but your script is excellent!

    Sorry – on the water, can you tell me what that means? Disconnect downspout? Are you talking about saving roof runoff into a barrel, for plant watering?



    Andy November 1, 2008 at 7:53 am

    I’m not sure if I could live for less. I track all my expenses in categories and have reduced them all to about the minimum to live a happy life.

    # Car. I sold my car and bike to work. No insurance, gas, maintenance, repair, registration, inspections, or car washes saves $8,000 per year! I can use carshare vehicles around town if needed (like when I moved) which has cost me only about $100 in the last 4 months.
    # Insurance. I got my employer to pay for my health insurance, $4000 saved in a year.
    # Telephone. Just a cell phone, on the minimum plan. No land line saves about $350/yr.
    # Electricity. Our service charges account for almost half of the bill since the usage is only 120kWh per month. The last I calculated we used 18% of average for NYS, and we use less now. The oven is used mostly for batches to make the most of the energy. The fridge is set to a warmer setting. We have all CFL lights, and only laptops (this one uses 13 watts!) About $900/yr savings compared to average.
    # Netflix. I lowered my plan and watch shows on I still need my movies though and the library doesn’t have my taste. No cable TV saves $400/yr.
    # Credit Cards. Expenses are low enough that I don’t use my credit card. I haven’t used it since 10/2006 actually.
    # Alcohol and Eating out. I spend about $100 a year on alcohol and eat out about 3-4 times a year. I’m scared to know what people spend on these on average, but I’ll guess I’m saving a few thousand here.
    # College loans. The above savings allows for plenty of money to pay college loans off. They will be paid in 3 years total instead of 10, which then saves $7000 by avoiding years of interest.

    I don’t know what most people spend each month, but for the two of us here, in a very nice 1 bedroom apartment, with jobs we both love and walk (she walks 5 mins) or bike (I ride 20 mins) to, we have plenty leftover for the things we want to do. Our monthly expenses come to around $1500, which is about one-third of our income. 🙂

    A little bit of planning and living an intentional lifestyle goes a long way!


    Terri November 1, 2008 at 9:58 am

    When I wanted to buy a house and look into getting loans, I felt like a little fish. The same people trying to sell me something, where trying to give me advice. Kind of conflicting. So I read some articles about and contacted them. They didn’t charge me a sent, don’t sell anything, and helped me with my lovely home. They even answered my questions when I contacted them. I guess they are a bunch of people who are real Geeks about the loan and real estate industry. I also used some of the articles from, but they never answered any of my questions when I emailed them. Their articles are a little dry for a new person like me. Consumer Affairs is also good. Just type in mortgages. Good luck!


    thenonconsumeradvocate November 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm


    Portland, Oregon gives you a break on your water/sewer bill if you disconnect your downspouts. I could have rain barrels, and will some day, but haven’t gotten around to making them yet. We have tube diverters (name?) which send the runoff water into our gardens.

    It’s important to not simply disconnect from the sewer system without having a plan for where all the water will go. You can end up flooding your basement or even ruining the foundation.

    -Katy Wolk-Stanley
    The Non-Consumer Advocate


    Joy November 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    This is a great challenge. We decided a few weeks ago to take out the money we’ve budgeted for weekly groceries, and if we don’t spend it all, set aside the left over to either pay down our mortgage or donate or do something else with. It’s AMAZING how much money we’ve saved in just three weeks–I’m guessing $70 or so? Wow.

    Keep us posted on the challenge, it’s a good one!


    Shannon November 2, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Our big savings came when we decided we really didn’t need all those zillions of cable channels. We went from a $100+ a month plan to basic cable for just $10 a month. When we want to watch a movie, we just head to the nearest Redbox and grab one for $1. We’ve also stopped eating fast food (for the most part) and stopped buying groceries at Safeway (we now buy at Grocery Outlet or Walmart). We got rid of our landline years ago when we first got cell phones and realized we were never using our home phone. We’ve kept our Costco card, which has really paid off for us lately because they’ve now got the cheapest gas in town. My husband runs his own business as a computer tech/consultant and spends a lot of money on gas to get to his clients. When gas prices were at their highest, he was shelling out around $600 a month for gas. Now that gas prices have dropped and we’re using our Costco card to fill up, it’s dropped to $200-300 a month. So it’s well worth the $50 a year for us.


    S.R. November 2, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Joy – I am stealing your idea about making a grocery budget and saving the change towards debt. I havent been able to make a budget for everything yet, maybe this will get me started.
    Katy- I am going to try your script with the CC company today, hope it works!


    Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks November 2, 2008 at 11:38 am

    It’s hard to find something to cut, since we are so close to barebones. Take-out coffee, probably. As soon as we have settled in somewhere after this transition, it will be easier to pick out some areas of saving. We don’t eat meat, and dairy only when it’s on sale. I cook most things from scratch (mac & cheese is both junk food and a convenience food to us, so a treat.) If we cut back on electricity anymore, we will be getting a bill just for the service charges…
    In the past, I saved money on dog food by getting cheap cuts and scrap from the butcher and making my own food for them. Some vets disagree with this, but the dogs were healthier in my opinion. This is taking a calculated risk, I know, as is anything that might compromise your family’s health. There’s only so much cost-cutting you can do medicalwise! (Though neither of us has seen a doctor in over 2 years.)
    The biggest savings for us was changing a lifestyle that encouraged casual consumption and impulse buying!


    The Frugalista Files December 1, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I got rid of HBO, saving $120 a year. I may call my insurance company and try to get my renter’s insurance cheaper, too. I have never filed a claim on it.


    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: