I will post a little bit of what I posted to Summer’s blog. I am hoping that we can all help each other out and find ways to cut back in ‘tough economic times’.

Cutting Back

Another key to getting us back on track was to find ways to trim back. One of our frustrations is that every time we saw a ‘top 5 ways to save money’ type list, we were doing everything on the list already. So for us, it took some searching to find areas that we could save.

  1. TV service. Saved: $20/mo. We were paying for a second receiver, which hasn’t worked since our dog ate the wire on the outside of the house that serviced that box. You know what? We survived without it. We returned the receiver, and also were able to negotiate with Dish to remove the $5/mo fee for not having our DVR connected to a phone line (weird fee – we don’t have a phone jack in our living room).
  2. Change where we shop. Saved: still gathering data. Summer has started shopping at Aldis. Earlier in my life, I would have said something to the effect of ‘I would never stoop to shopping there’. Well, you know what? Their prices are pretty good, and the food is pretty much the same as you would get elsewhere. Summer even bought a certain snack item there (their store brand version of a Fiber 1 Bar) that was cheaper than the Great Value (Wal-mart) equivalent. Not everything is less there – milk was about $0.03 cheaper at Sams, but it was still cheaper at Aldis than at Gerbes (the local Kroger chain).Summer has also started shopping at Goodwill and other consignment stores. This has saved quite a bit on clothes for Silas, but also some of Summer’s clothes as well.
  3. Text messaging. Saved: $10/mo. Last year, Summer and I texted each other enough that it was cheaper for us to get the $5/mo/phone plan from Cingular for a certain number of texts (100?) a month. I convinced Summer that we could just call each other, and if I wasn’t available because of work, she could leave a voicemail or e-mail me.
  4. Cut back on eating out. Savings: $100/mo. We used to eat out, on average, three times a week. I include picking up a pizza in this number as well. We are down to about 1.5 times a week now, and use coupons whenver possible.
  5. Using cash. Savings: unknown. Here is a good example of why you would do this though. I bought a dowel rod and rope at Mendards to put up a clothesline for drying the diapers (another way to save), and I was going to do a little yard improvement as well. I had picked up the items I needed for the yard, and I was really close to the $20 I had taken with me to the store (we had set apart $30/mo for yard and outdoor maintenance, and had funded it with $20 in the second withdrawal). Knowing that I only had $20, I decided that the yard stuff I was going to buy wasn’t that important, and I actually had some things in my shed that would, with a little work, do what I needed just fine. So, I left Menards spending only about $7, whereas I would have previously been ok spending about $19.
  6. Don’t buy what you don’t need right now. Savings: still gathering data. We were buying things when we wanted them, not when we needed them if we needed them at all. Even though some of the things seemed somewhat necessary (bigger cloth diapers for Silas, for example), we could have waited a few weeks or even a month to buy some of the things we have bought.
  7. Save for trips. Our little trip to DC last month was our last big trip, and we only took it because my half was paid for by CARFAX, since I had to be there for a meeting. But, we hadn’t saved for it, and Summer and Silas’ part of the trip could have been a month off our car payment. We plan on going to FL in July (and are committed to now, since we will be the photographers for our friend’s wedding), and we are already saving for the gas, food, and lodging on the trip. We are even contemplating camping a couple nights to save on lodging.

Additionally, I have calculated that should we need to, we could probably save in these areas if we wanted to be a little less ‘comfortable’.

  1. TV Service. $40/mo. I have toyed with the idea of completely dropping TV service. With the $40/mo or so that we spend on Dish, we could buy (err, have the government pay for) a digital converter box and only get local TV service. Most of the shows we watch are on Hulu.com the next day, and the few other shows that aren’t are also online (legally) somewhere (Summer watches Food Network a bit, and their shows are all available on their website). Plus, as Dave pointed out at his event, it is unlikely that a millionaire could tell you who got voted off the island last week.
  2. Cell phone service. $70/mo. Thankfully CARFAX pays for my share of the cell bill, since I am occasionally on call. We have the cheapest family plan that we could find with Cingular, and I don’t want to commit to a 2 year contract elsewhere since ours finally was up last year. But, should it come to it, a pay as you go, such as Net 10 ($0.10 / minute) might be cheaper, especially if we can convince ourselves to talk less.
  3. Local phone service. $25/mo after taxes. We don’t use our local phone for much. We bought it when we moved into the house because DSL service + local phone service was cheaper than cable at the time, and the hospital needed a reliable number to call Summer in case they needed to call her in. But, we could make sure the cell phone was always in reach of the bed at night, and we could call the few people that know our land line and tell them to switch to our cells. And, thankfully to our friend Chris, I now know that the phone company sells naked/dryloop/headless DSL service – the kind that doesn’t need a regular phone line.
  4. Internet service. $10/mo. We have the middle tier DSL plan : 1.5mb down, 384k up. We can go down to 512k down if we needed to.
  5. Find things to sell. Summer has somewhat of a stockpile of Proactive that she didn’t need, and we neglected turning off the automatic shipments for a while. Anyone want a couple months supply?

Suggestions

Does anyone else have suggestions on how to save?