As we move into another year, I take a look back at how 2018 went and ways I can improve for the new one. Where did we spend too much? Where can we cut back? Do we really need this or that expense? And, can we do better overall?
While a main focus of mine has been to make more money through business enterprises (building assets), focusing on lower expenses is also another way to keep more money in our pocket.
Our expenses are often something we can all control – obviously to a certain extend. And when you've thought you've reached the end of cutting or looking for ways to save – there could be more ways you'd never thought of, but you may need to be vulnerable and ask a friend or family member. Sometimes it helps to get a trusted, outside perspective on your finances.
So, here's a few areas I'm looking at cutting back this year.
If you aren't already, I would highly recommend that you sign-up for Nextdoor.com. It's a place where many of your neighbors are hanging out and you can connect with them on various subjects from handyman recommendations, lost animal notices, to keeping abreast on local utility bills. Just the other day, one neighbor stated how he was charged over $700 for his bi-monthly water bill! Without any leaks in his home to be found, he enlisted the help of neighbors to see if they had tips on what could be amiss. While this is likely something he'll end up taking to the city's utility department – many neighbors chimed in about what they were paying for their water bills and how they've reduced 'em. Since higher than normal water bills are likely due to a hidden water leak, one gentleman recommended installing a gadget that notifies you of when there could be problems in your plumbing (which I had never heard of).
Utilities are one of those bills that often vary from person-to-person based on their usage – but it certainly can help to know what others may be paying if they have similar living arrangements as you/your family. If a family of 4 with similar sized home and same-age children are paying $100 less than your family of four in electricity, it could prove beneficial to find out what tactics they're employing to use less energy.
I've sometimes checked in with our single neighbor to see how my wife and I can challenge her water / electric bills. While we may never get to her expenses, it is good to have something to aim for.
Charlie has recently mentioned to me that he's looking at installing automation tools in his home that would shut lights off after a period of time and perform other energy-saving measures (he already has a Nest thermostat).
This is something that I need to speak with the wife about (as she often has veto power) – but I want to eliminate some of our entertainment expenses that have crept up after we first cut our cable bill.
Right now, we have Hulu ($8/mo), Netflix ($8.60/mo), basic cable (about $25/mo). I've just really been surprised how easy it is to waste time on the streaming services. It's like they are engineered for you to binge mindlessly!
It will help to cut or eliminate some of these.
After suffering high cell phone bills, we discovered MVNO providers that offer good service at excellent prices. If you don't know what an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) is, they basically “rent” space off the big networks for a set price and then pass on the savings to customers. You can really get some excellent deals with these services.
All three of us guys use an MVNO. Matthew has been with Ting for several years, Charlie – Republic Wireless and myself has used Tello for a couple of years (paying $11.35/mo for 200min, 300MB and unlimited text). We've all been happy with their service AND the pricing.
Next on my agenda is to get my wife on board with one of these offerings. She is with AT&T, paying 6x what I pay monthly.
For our landline, we moved to Ooma and pay $5.50/mo – but this is an expense I'm considering cutting due to lack of use.
Gosh, everything is going up in price these days – including food. My wife and I made a decision years ago to invest more in our health by eating higher quality / better-for-you foods. But it is not cheap. We're hoping this “investment” pays in health costs down the road (there's still room for improvement in eating better) – but I'd still like to cut our food bill another 25% this year by purchasing less – shall I say – carbohydrates.
Since we do a majority of our shopping at Whole Foods, we are paying a premium on groceries. Good thing is that with Amazon purchasing them this past year, there are ways to save including scanning the Whole Foods app (connecting it to your Prime account) at the check-out counter and using a Amazon Prime credit card (which can net you 5% back). Any sale items you purchase will get you another 10% off when using the app.
Last year we were able to keep our “eating out” expenses to around $50-60/mo. I'd like to cut that by 50%.
I'm a fan of Qdoba or Chipotle – so I typically request gift cards to these establishments when asked what I'd like for birthdays or Christmas. I also hunt for deals they run – but it seems they are offering these less and less these days.
Debt is expensive. After taking out a smaller home equity loan to buy our business last year, it really opened my eyes to how much I pay in interest yearly. We often don't think about it – but getting rid of those high-interest credit card bills (if you're not paying off monthly), car and school loans, and yes, even mortgages (like Charlie did in '18) will net you some serious expense savings.
We're hoping to pay a little extra on my wife's student loans and mortgage in 2019 to save us money down the road.
This is often one category we cannot control – we certainly try and do our best at taking care of ourselves by eating better, getting exercise and maintaining healthy social and spiritual connections.
We're fortunate to have good health coverage through my work that helps us save on healthcare. We also utilize an FSA account to take advantage of tax incentives.
But if you / your family are in good health, a health-sharing plan could be an option for you. Matthew and his wife have been using Medi-Share for over a year now with good success and savings.
Those are ways in which we're looking to cut expenses in the new year. How about you? Love to hear.
I forgot, I three more ways that I save:
(1) I have over-the-air (OTA) television – completely free! I live in southern California so my tv antenna on the roof is within 35 miles of all the tv transmitting towers. FREE.
(2) ROKU: I bought the Roku device on Amazon for under $40 (one time purchase) and get TONS of FREE movies and television shows. I can’t believe how many channels are available. You have the option to purchase paid channels like HBO, Hallmark, etc.
(3) GOOGLE VOICE: I bought the Obi 202 device from Amazon (one time purchase) to set up Google Voice. I read everything I could on how to do it, and configured it myself and have FREE telephone service (a land line phone that uses the internet). I make and receive calls for FREE, called VOIP, exactly like Ooma, and others. But no phone bills. Google Voice gives you a free telephone number. It’s amazing all the things you can control on your phone using GV. I plan to add a second free google voice phone number to use as a fax number (using my oll-in-one printer).
Does anyone know or use FREE faxing over the internet? Can you recommend?
I just found out about Mint Mobile (www.Mint.com) and for $15 / month you can get unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 3 GB data. You pay more for more data. The SIM card is free. Mint uses the T-Mobile network. Can purchase up to 4 rate plans per order (if you want to add friends or family). You can use Wi-fi talk & text and you have Mobile Hot Spot. You can bring your own phone, a GSM, unlocked phone that works on AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, Simple Mobile, Straight Talk, and MetroPCS. You can purchase service in 3 month, 6 month or 12 month plans. The 12 month plan is $15 / month. What a deal for someone like me who does not need a lot of data. Hope this helps anyone looking to lower their cell service plan costs.
Hey Julie! Mint is on our radar to try-out. This sounds like a great deal! Be interested to hear your thoughts on it after you’ve been with them for awhile.
These are some good tips. I use Nextdoor to keep in touch with neighbors and see what’s going on. I really haven’t thought of using it as a way to save money, but I may have to think on that angle.
Honestly, for us, we pay more for cell phone service than most, but our reason is that we do a lot of camping around the state, and we’ve only found one carrier (Verizon) that allows us to have coverage in most areas. The other providers simply don’t deliver service, which would leave us without service for several weeks. In the end, though, I think it does sort of pay for itself because my wife runs an online business, and because we have service available, she can keep fulfilling orders, whereas with cheaper cell phone service, she was forced to shut down her shop.
Yeah, if you need solid, never fail service I can understand why your wife goes with Verizon. And, like you say, it’s a write-off.
You can consider filling gas in Costco, as it is very less compared to others.
you can buy in bulk in Costco or Samsclub for house hold items.
You can reduce water heater temperature to reduce electricity bills.
Go for high deductible health insurance and car insurance plans
Cancel unused memberships like magazines, newspapers
Costco is a great way to save on a lot of things, including gas. Thanks Venkataraman.
Oh, I’ve got a huge list of ways we have cut expenses and hope to continue to find more..I’ll start with:
1) Netflix- We use it for streaming and dvd use. I pay $19.68/mth for both of these.
2) Amazon Prime- it’s half price if you’re a student and comes with the video streaming/ 2 day shipping on purchases. Our son pays for that and we all use the video streaming. We do ask nicely if we ordered something on Amazon and want it here faster, as well.
3)Gasoline- After getting jobs closer to home, we’ve saved 75% on gas. Plus, our jobs require uniforms, so no more dry cleaning.
4) Electricity- We are leasing our solar panels from a major company. We did put money down to lower our price per kwh used. Any electric that we make but do not use gets sent to the power company and we get a refund check at the end of the year. (I described the process very simply here). We pay $29.90 per month for electric. Seriously.
5)Clothing- I’m stable in weight and made a decision to not buy clothing. Unless it wears out and I don’t have a suitable replacement.
6) Medical- Through our employer, our premiums are low. The co-pays/ co-insurance/ out of pocket expenses are not. We try NOT to see a doctor, but if we do, we can go online and put in different types of testing (MRI, bloodwork) and it will show us what we will end up paying. It’s pretty accurate. If you do certain tests regularly, you’ll know what to type in. I also use herbal supplements and such, which has made a huge difference in my lab work. Finding someone who is knowledgeable in holistics got me there.
7) Car & Home insurance- Shop around. We do this every year and save hundreds.
8) Online shopping- use retailmenot for the latest coupons. I also put items in my shopping cart and then leave it there for days. In most cases, the store will send me an email and ask if I forgot something and offer a discount code. I only buy for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. It definitely eliminates a lot of expenses.
9) Car Maintenance- Find a mechanic! My car needed a 90,000 mile check-up and the dealership wanted $1500 as this required a timing belt/water pump replacement, fluids check, etc. My mechanic charged me $300 and I bought the parts. Also, check your tires and if they need air, Discount Tire does it for free.
Wow – excellent ideas, Lisa! Left off the car/home insurance one but that is certainly one to check-up on every year.
We have been with the same home insurer for a decade. When we had a major theft, as in the $40,000 range, our local agent was able to cut through the red tape of the main office to get us a fast and equitable settlement. A friend who had a similar claim for about $15,000, had an almost year long hassle getting his insurance company to pay up. I really felt like having a personal, long term relationship with our insurance guy paid off in the long run (literally!). Over the years he has also helped us figure out ways to cut our insurance bill, with things like taking a free class and then being able to get a 10% cut in the auto insurance…maybe it is because we live in a small town in Alaska so personal relationships are more crucial in general…