Life is just so darned expensive. Every time we turn around, Sam and I feel like we’re dropping another couple hundred on some random, unexpected expense. Whether it’s the broken alternator or the leaky washing machine or the vacuum cleaner kicking the can, the “miscellaneous” entry in our budget always ends up so much bigger than we expect. Most months it rivals or exceeds our grocery bill. Ouch!
And that was before we bought a house. Now that we’re full-time home owners, I feel a constant ominous cloud of financial doom hanging over my head. At any moment, something could crack or burn or explode or fall through our roof. And those are just the accidental things that can happen. We might be stupid enough to remodel our kitchen or a bathroom someday. I cringe merely thinking about how much that will cost.
Withstanding this ever-raging economic onslaught requires constant financial vigilance, aka penny pinching to the max. In our family penny pinching takes many different forms. First, we’ve done the big things everyone thinks of: buying an inexpensive house, getting a 15 year mortgage (instead of a 30 year one), buying inexpensive used cars, and staying out of debt.
After the big things though, there are a series of small things we do that add up in a big way. In this post, we’re highlighting six simple money saving strategies that save us thousands.
Strategy 1 – Ditch Cable TV
Sam and I have never paid for cable TV during our eight years together. To us it’s just not worth it to pay fifty bucks a month (often more if you include sports programming) to stare at a screen. We’d rather be chatting about our day, reading a book together, playing a board game, writing a blog, or doing a million other things that would bring us closer together than watching TV ever could.
I know that getting rid of TV seems extreme, especially because most people watch several hours a day. I challenge you to try it despite the difficulties. The first couple of weeks might be hard, but the longer you go the easier it gets. Eventually, you might be like us and throw out your TV (seriously, we don’t own a TV).
If you take the “turn off the TV” challenge, I promise you that both your family budget and your relationship with your spouse will improve. Write us an email to let us know how it goes and we’ll feature your story on our blog.
Strategy 2 – Don’t Pay For a Data Plan
While people did exist for centuries without cell phones, unfortunately cell phones are a necessity in our modern world. What’s not a necessity, though, is having a smartphone with a data plan. Sam still uses a flip phone and I did too until my work gave me a smartphone last April.
I won’t lie and pretend that smartphones aren’t convenient. They are. But we don’t feel that they’re an extra $20 or more a month convenient.
Strategy 3 – Drink Water
In our family, we don’t drink soda, juice, sports drinks, coffee, tea, or alcohol. The kids drink water and milk and the adults drink water. My one exception occurs once or twice a month when I drink a soft drink to help keep me awake through an important meeting (I have a sleeping disorder and sometimes need more than willpower to stay awake).
While we’re primarily motivated by the health benefits associated with drinking water, we also don’t mind the $30 or more a month we save by sticking with H20.
Strategy 4 – Don’t Overpay for Internet
When we signed up for internet access after moving a year and a half ago, we agreed to a “special one year offer.” At the end of the year, our internet company sent us a letter saying that the special offer was over and our monthly bill would now be $30 more. Sam was not ok with that, so she called the company and announced that she intended to cancel our subscription. When she hung up twenty minutes later, our monthly rate was back where it started. Go, Sam, go!
It took some haggling (ok, a lot of haggling) to get the price we wanted, but it was definitely worth the $30 a month we now save.
Strategy 5 – Get Paid to Eat Out
I LOVE eating out. I get to eat food I didn’t make and I don’t have to do the dishes.
What I don’t love about eating out is the bill. Taking all four of us out to a sit down meal costs at least $30, usually more. That’s just a little too much for the convenience of not washing a few dishes.
Lucky for me, Sam found a way to enjoy eating out without having to pay for it. The solution: get paid to eat out as a secret shopper. Once or twice a month we go to a restaurant and evaluate everything about our experience. When we get home we take a 15 minute survey and our meal is reimbursed up to $35. Can’t beat that!
If you want to be a secret shopper, you can sign up here.
Strategy 6 – Don’t Pay for Hair Cuts
The last time I paid for a haircut was August 2006. Since then, I’ve had either a roommate or Sam cut my hair. Granted, my pre-Sam roommates didn’t always do the best job, but I got by. Fortunately, now that I’ve got Sam (who went to cosmetology school), my hair is always looking sharp.
Now, I know you might be saying, “Will, not everyone’s lucky enough to have a beautiful, talented, brilliant cosmetologist for a wife.” And I would reply, “You’re right, not everyone is that lucky.” But a basic men’s haircut is simple enough that most people would be able to do a passable job with a little practice.
An important point here is that I am only advocating not paying for men’s haircuts. As far as I’m concerned, every woman has the right to an hour or two away from her kids while she gets a little bit of pampering at a salon.
Between haircuts for me and the two kids, I figure Sam saves us at least $20 a month.
These six strategies combined save us at least $180 a month. This might not seem like a lot, until you start adding up the expenses over months and years. Saving $180 a month gives you an extra $2160 a year. Imagine what you could do with an extra $2160 a year. At the very least, you could pay for the next plague of “miscellaneous” expenses waiting to ravage your carefully planned budget.
Looking at an even longer term view, if you start investing that $2160 a year when you’re 25 into a retirement fund that grows annually with a 5% interest rate, you’ll have an extra $270,000 dollars by the time you retire.
TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS, all from doing simple things like turning off the TV and drinking water.
In the comment section below, tell us how you and your family save money.