Thrift Week — Day 4, Lower Your Set Living Expenses

by Katy on January 20, 2009 · 7 comments



Thrift Week


Welcome to Thrift Week. Today’s topic is lower your set living expenses.

I wrote in November about how I was able to lower my family set bills, thus saving us hundreds of dollars per month. Here’s how I did it:

  • 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. I told how how little we drive, and got an additional discount for that.
  • 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. This program is designed to keep excess storm-water out of the river.
  • 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. We also went to monthly service.
  • Online Bill Pay: Not only will this save the cost of stamps and checks, but you’ll never pay a late fee again!
  • Cable TV: Never had it never will. 
  • All these seemingly minor changes combined to save us hundreds of dollars per month. And remember, when you spend less money, you don’t have to work as much. You commute less, spend less on a workplace wardrobe, eat out less, and get to spend more time doing the things you love. It’s a win-win situation.

    Have I left anything out? Please share your expense saving tips in the comments section below.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

    Tomorrow: Thrift Week — Day 5, Parenting.


    { 7 comments… read them below or add one }

    Kate January 21, 2009 at 9:19 am

    One I would add is buying groceries on a set schedule. We do a big shop every two weeks, with small in-between shops to pick up milk and fresh produce. Because I do this shop every two weeks, I can stock up on whatever is on sale that week (i.e. pasta, roasts, tomato sauce). My pantry then never gets to where I can’t find something to cook for dinner. Saves on impulse buying for food (people tend to buy more expensive and easy to prepare foods when hungry or in a rush) and on going out for food (when there is nothing to cook in the house).


    GLM January 21, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I agree about food shopping. I have $40 a week for groceries (I live alone), and I read the circular and plan my meals based on what is on sale that week. I regularly have money left over to eat out on that $40 a week. Nothing fancy, but a breakfast at the cafe at work once or twice a week is a nice way to get something I normally won’t cook.

    I have basic cable, because Comcast kept shutting me off when I just had Internet service. I do watch tv, but I rarely go to movies, so I think it’s a fair trade off.

    My condo fees include utilities, so I don’t have room to cut there.

    My hardest thing to do is to plan for car maintenance and to quash discretionary spending, especially when I tend to buy junk. The budget helps, as well as staying away from the mall, period.


    carocoknits January 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    There are so many ways to reduce your expenses. We changed our mortgage to a line of credit that doesn’t penalize us for paying extra. (We are loving the 1% prime interest rate right now…) We live in a town of 650 people so there is no electricity rush hour. We run around and turn things off. We keep our house cool and use the fireplace as often as we can. The permit costs $5 and we go to government land and fill our truck several times over with standing deadfall. Our water bill is higher because of capital payments on a new treatment facility. That will be done soon. We don’t have good enough cell phone plans for getting rid of the land line, but it is coming, and we are waiting. My cell phone plan is not even advertised – it was an enticement to keep me as a customer and not go to Pay and Talk. My kids have $10 Pay and Talk per month and are not allowed to use text messaging. Movies are a rare treat, mainly because of the limited access to them. I do wish we had a better library. I have access to other small town libraries in Alberta, but really, there is a limit to what libraries can develop with such small populations. I track my mileage and contact our insurance agent each time our bill comes due. We have the lowest insurance rate available, mainly because of where we live but also for how little I drive. It really comes down to analyzing whatever you need to pay cash for.


    Pennie January 21, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Helpful (and satisfying) things we’ve done in the last 1-2 years to scale back expenses:

    Discontinued Netflix–thought I’d miss them, but honestly don’t.

    Began heating with wood–can get cheap/free wood here in Oregon easily.

    Daisy-chain many stops to make for only one driving trip. Keep a cooler in the trunk so that I can safely cart around cold food items on these jaunts.

    Discontinued house landline that included DSL. Went with a Verizon 3G USB aircard instead–live rural but can get superior connection speeds rivaling DSL by simply purchasing a small antenna that suction-cups to a window (they make other ones that can be sat on any flat surface, i.e. picnic bench). We used the aircard with our laptop when we traveled (4 week driving trip across the entire United States and back–only in remote Oklahoma could we not get connected!), and also use it at our desktop computer when we need to print/scan something. Love, love, love the convenience and portability, and saved $40 mo.

    Started buying socks of a certain same color and design–easy to match up a lone sock with another lone sock and make a new pair when the inevitable hole or too-thin patch develops!

    Cook entirely from scratch. Hard at first, easier as a few basics got learned and the challenge to “use up” became fun (and tasty!)

    Quit watching television.

    With above new-found time, enlarged my garden so that I could freeze and pressure-can enough food to last the duration of the year until the next season’s bounty arrived.

    Began washing and rinsing all laundry in cold water. Began mixing all of my own household cleaners from a basic list of ingredients–baking soda, washing soda, vinegar, water, dish soap, borax and drop or two of essential oil such as lemon or orange so that everything smells clean and fresh!

    Put the word out that I LOVE books to everyone that I know–you’d be suprised at the number of people that just want to unload them onto someone else without all the “fuss” of reselling or recycling. What I can’t read or aren’t interested in, I either take into my used bookseller for credit, sell at my yearly garage sale, share with another person, or donate to the local library for a tax credit!


    Mandy January 21, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I’ve done a lot to just cut down on the little things.

    I dry clothes on racks.
    I don’t buy junk food or soda anymore.
    I’m an obsessive about turning off lights.
    As lights go out I replace them with CFLs.

    But the biggest thing I am doing right now is trying to live as close as possible to school and work. I currently live in campus, so it’s been hunky dory. But I am ready to live in a real apartment. I just found an apartment that is smack dab between both (1.5 miles to school 1.3 mile to work). Walking and biking here I come! I really want to give up my car completely – and most people think I am crazy. But not having to pay for car insurance, gas, or fixing problems – would save me 100s a year.


    Susan Lee January 21, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Staying home and not giving in to the impulse to shop for something helps us to save money. It seems whenever we go out, not only do we spend gas money but end up spending money! My husband is a “gotta get the latest” guy and I’m the cheapo, non-spender. It’s been a tough road keeping his hands outta the bucket, especially since he’s the one earning the money solely now. I work hard to rein him in frequently which ends up saving us a lot.

    Trading off babysitting with another family is a great way to save when going on a date. Plus, now that my girls are older and can stay home some during the day, we’ve switched to daytime dating and don’t need any babysitting arrangments. Still not fond of leaving them after dark, even with the “killer sounding” dog and alarm system.

    The one thing about the big box stores like Costco and Sam’s is that if I buy a large quantity of what we use, I won’t be visiting the store anytime soon for it, which leads me to buy other “stuff” I didn’t know I needed till I saw it. Did that make sense? The $50 a year is probably saving me money in that respect.

    And….I’m still driving alot less with the same mental strategy of when gas was nearly $4.o0/gallon. Even though it’s much less now, I’m still conserving tremendously, combining trips, not running out needlessly, etc. The money I was spending on gas can now be saved or put against credit card debt! Woo-hoo!


    Magdalena January 22, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    We don’t have a car loan, so insurance is now cheaper without all the “pay back the bank” features on it. Now that the vehicle is older, it doesn’t make sense to fully insurance it for everything.

    I sew my own clothes – which works because my clothes are pretty basic! Gym clothes are either way old but still good or purchased from the Sally Ann. (I’m no style maven in the gym, either.) We bought our workout shoes at the end of the year, discontinued model sale and got at least half-price discounts.

    We don’t have a credit card. I shop only when we really, really need something. I avoid the mall and the big box stores. Grocery shopping is twice a month, although it’s hard to keep the rest of the family that disciplined. That means planning the menus well in advance to take advantage of sales. I don’t believe in ‘stockpiling” – buying ten of something you might use up eventually just because it was on sale.


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