Thursday, June 26, 2014

Frugal Housewarming Gift

I have a friend that lives in my hometown that is about to move to another state 12 hours away. She is leaving her entire extended family to move with her husband and two of her three children. I know it is emotional for her.

I will be visiting her next week and wanted to have something to bring to her to help with the moving adjustment. I did some looking on Pinterest and found lots of great ideas. Some of them included dinner in a basket, or wine glasses, or new kitchen towels. All of those are nice ideas, but they were not right for this friend in this situation. And some of those can get pricey!!

I opted for a sentimental gift that cost me nothing out of pocket because I had everything on hand to make this frugal gift. I needed a frame, a blue piece of paper, a pencil, a heart shaped cookie cutter and a glue stick. Any ideas what I making?

I made this Pinterest inspired art of her hometown map cut in the shape of a heart and mounted in a table top frame. The truth is it may not match her decor, but I think the idea behind it will be felt. She could also make her own, or re-frame this one to fit if she chooses. Again this cost me no money at all because I had a frame and map I was willing to give up to make this gift a reality.

I think if one really wanted to bring a gift to a housewarming party that anything homemade, such as cookies, a salad, or even a full meal would be appreciated. It is stressful and tiring to move! The situation with my friend doesn't warrant seeing her in her new home for awhile, so this is the best I can do since I will be seeing her after her home has been packed but before she leaves for the new state.

Have you received a housewarming gift that you especially liked? Do you have a gift you always give to those moving into a new home? Have you actually been inspired to do something from things you have seen on Pinterest?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Frugal Computer Maintenance

I did a little computer maintenance last night that I consider frugal.

My Dell Inspiron 1545 was getting pretty hot and I could tell the fan was running quite a bit. I discovered that this is caused by the vent getting blocked. I found a You Tube Video that explained how to open my computer and pull out the cooling assembly, so that I could get all the cat fur dust out. I have done this in the past so I did have the thermal compound on hand, as well as a can of air. I did have to go buy rubbing alcohol since I had recently discarded ours. The new bottle was $2.54 at Target.

I was able to complete this little maintenance task in about 10 minutes. And now my computer is running much cooler and likely using less energy running the fan to cool it! According to the man in the video, I likely saved $25 to $50 by doing this task myself.

Do you use YouTube for any home, computer or car maintenance tasks?  Do you do it for frugal reasons?

Monday, June 23, 2014

No Shopping Means Less

I am behind on getting to the grocery store. I really need to go to get groceries. I almost went today, because I was sure I would need to get something to eat for dinner tonight.

As it turns out I remembered that we had everything we needed to eat breakfast for dinner. And I don't mean cereal! A couple of us had eggs, toast and turkey bacon. And the other two had pancakes with syrup. No money spent and it was a filling meal. And the dishes are put away in the dishwasher, which I will run tonight!

I will likely get to the store tomorrow, but if I can find something for us to eat in the freezer or cupboard, I might be able to stretch it one more day. There sure isn't anything wrong with eating what we have on hand. I also don't mind that we might not all eat the same thing for a night or two. It keeps the food from going to waste!

My only spending today was for two half hour flute lessons: $40.

Do you eat breakfast for dinner? Do you try to delay going to the store by scrounging for things you can make without going?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Frugal Saturday Task

I did laundry today. I washed clothes for three people in two loads, lights and darks. I always use cold water to save the energy and cost of heating the water. I have found that I really don't have any issues only using cold water. I currently use traditional mid grade detergent, not the least expensive and not the most expensive. I know that I bought the current detergent on a sale at Target. 

I have recently stopped using using dryer sheets. In the past I would rip them in half to save and make them last longer. However, I heard about how the chemicals on those sheets stay in our clothes and then rub against our skin. Yuck, I don't like that idea at all. It turns out, I have not noticed any difference by not using them! Interesting. I call that another frugal move. One less thing I need to buy with our hard earned money.

The day wasn't entirely frugal though. The girls and I ate out at Subway today, primarily as a treat for summer, but also because there really wasn't much food to eat in the house. I ended up at the store to purchase dinner, which was cheese tortellini, salad and croissants. We had the lettuce, tomatoes, pasta sauce and dressing. I did need to buy the pasta, bread and a cucumber. That was today's only spending.

Do you use dryer sheets or fabric softener? Did you do anything frugal on your Saturday? 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I Was Frugal Today

Oh, I did spend money today. I was not planning on it. In fact, I was expecting to run errands and actually return things today. This would have put more money back into my pocket. Unfortunately, a child stayed home sick. The money was spent on a smoothie and lotioned tissues.  I had no coupon for either item. Boo.

I did make lunch at home today. I even lured my husband home to eat lunch when I told him what I made. I used a canned of black beans, about a 1/4c of red onion, 1/4 c of feta cheese, 1 T olive oil and 1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar to make a little salad. We like to eat this with chips or put in a tortilla. Today, I added a small tomato that I knew should be used soon. I just recently threw out three of a similar size that were moldy. Ick! Anyway, I had it all on hand and it was quick to put together.

I cleaned today, since I was home with the sick child. I first stripped the girls beds of sheets to be washed, but I stopped before I started because I realized I could probably add more to the washer. So I headed off with my micro fiber cloths to clean the bathroom. I used a little bit of glass cleaner with the cloths too. I have found I can use far less when I use micro fiber cloths. Once done in there, I thew all the clothes I used in with the sheets. I made sure to grab the wash cloths and towels from the kitchen as well.

I'm also helping another child get ready for an art fair. We realized we needed to put some cardboard in some frames we purchased to display and sell the art. I found paper board mailers that I was able to cut into nine 8x10 backing pieces for these frames. Free! We also want to have a way to transport the frames without scratching or breaking to the art fair, as well as providing a safe way for customers to get them home. I have a large bag of thin Styrofoam material that we kept when we bought our dining room table. Again free to us! I try not to save a lot of packaging for shipping, but if I know I have an event on the horizon I will make an effort to keep some. In the two cases above, it was a good choice.

What did you do that was frugal today?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Save On Home Phone Service with Ooma

With cell phones it seems people are calling home phones less. It is no different at our house. I was determined to find a less expensive way to have a home phone line since we were spending nearly $40 a month to have that home phone service with the local telephone company. 

We found Ooma! It is a device that allows you to send and receive calls over your home internet line. All long distance and local calls are free. Each month we pay about $3.75 in Federal taxes. We are able to call 911 because we pay those fees, so no complaints on that. 

It is very user friendly to set up. You can generally keep your home phone number (for a fee), or chose a new number for free. We went with a new number since our phone company would not allow the transfer. The nice thing about that is we have very few, if any calls from telemarketing companies. Bonus!!

The Ooma telo system retails for $149 most of the time. Right now, through April 28, you can buy a new Ooma system for $99 shipped. To get the $50 discount on the Ooma system, click here to use my referral link. I will receive $20 for referring you, which ends up lowering our phone costs. As a Ooma user, you will eventually (maybe 3 months after sign up) get the opportunity to tell your friends about your Ooma phone and be eligible to earn up to $100 in referral credits per promotion. This ends up making the Ooma telo system free. 

And don't forget the savings you will see each month by not having to pay your local telephone company! Do you still have a land line? How much are you paying? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lose Weight Spend Less

My husband and I have both been watching our food intake (calories) for over a month now. We are clearly spending less money. I have in the past bought three bags of chips for our family to consume in one week. Now we are not even going through one a week. Chips really were never my thing, but they sure are for my husband. Of course, when we watch our food intake he realizes that there isn't much satisfaction in only eating 8 highly caloric chips. 

The food is lasting longer. I might buy a package of cheese, but it takes longer to consume, since we aren't putting it on as many things. I know we are using less butter, in fact, I think only one of my daughters is actually consuming it every day. We are buying more fruits and vegetables, but those are a big portion of our diet now. We consume them up pretty quickly, but we aren't eating them in excess, just appropriate portions. I also try to find the fruits and veggies that are in season and generally less expensive. 

The interesting thing about counting calories is that it is a similar habit to watching your dollars when you are trying to save. They both require attention to the details and regular effort. I think if you can lose weight you likely have the skills to manage your money wisely if you choose. I think the opposite is true. If you know how to manage and save your money, you can lose weight and get healthy. They both take work and at times we falter, but the payoffs are highly satisfying. 

Do you think you spend less when you are watching your calories? Or do you think you spend more because you are buying healthier food?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Preparing the Kids Financially

A discussion came up two days ago with our kids about how they feel they aren't prepared to handle things financially and are afraid they will make mistakes. They are 17 and 13. The thirteen year old seemed the most concerned. The first thing I said was "You are lucky you have me for a mom because I am glad to help you along the way." I think they knew that already. :)

Here is what my girls know already:

  • You have to work for money.
  • How to make change for transactions.
  • How to use a debit card for payment at a store and online.They each have their own.
  • How to write a check, although they do not have a checking account.
  • It is good to save your money.
  • It is okay to spend some of your money.
  • They know credit cards charge interest if you don't pay it off right away
  • They know you can borrow money for a house or a car, which they have seen us do.
  • They know we can compare different options at a store to find the best price.
  • They know coupons can lower the amount you pay out of pocket for an item.
  • You can sell your used items to get cash.
  • They know you need to set money aside for retirement.
  • They have heard of insurance; health, auto and home.
  • The oldest daughter knows how to track her money in a check register.
  • That income it taxed and those tax dollars go to the government to decide how to use.
What the likely don't know yet:
  • How to open a bank account.
  • File income taxes.
  • How to determine withholding for taxes.
  • Where to save their money for retirement.
  • Different investment vehicles, such as CDs and mutual funds.
  • How to pay loans off quickly.
  • How to complete a budget (actually they have had a little experience with this in school).
  • How to chose insurance and what a premium and deductible are.
  • How credit scores affect interest rates on loans.
These lists are by no means comprehensive, but writing them out helps me realize they do know quite a bit, but clearly there are things they will need to learn. I sure don't think my 13 year old needs to know how to buy insurance just yet! I do plan to help them along the way. I also will try to bring up more topics at dinner to explain financial terms like 'deductible' and 'premium'. It sure won't hurt them one bit to have more information. 

Do you systematically teach your kids or grand kids about finances? Are they aware of quite a few things or nearly clueless when it comes to money and personal finance? Any good financial advice you learned when you were young that really stuck with you into adulthood?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Still Saving...Really!

I know you aren't reading much on this blog lately. It seems I have been hit with the fitness bug and I'm spending more of my free time contemplating better health than I am finances. This sure isn't a bad thing. I look at staying healthy an investment in my future health. I fell off the wagon in the last year, so it was time to get started tracking calories, and getting exercise in.

The good news is that our finances are on auto pilot in so many areas that I don't have to spend much time working on finances. Part of me is sad about that, but the other part is happy with the freedom that comes with it. Our Roth contributions and college investments are all automatically withdrawn from our checking account. Several of our utilities are auto withdrawn as well. I'm even saving for that 52 Week Saving Challenge automatically, which I now have $409 saved there!

I still have several things I need to go online manually to pay or check on, but I have found that once a week is plenty to check on any credit card transactions and due dates, or any upcoming bills that need to be paid. I usually do this on a Friday or Monday depending on the time I have available. I do hope to keep coming back here to cheer you on and give you new ideas, so keep checking in!

Are you able to keep your finances on autopilot? Are you on a fitness or diet regimen since the new year?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dental Insurance

Just returned from our six month dental check ups. All is good. No cavities. They are still watching the wisdom teeth for my oldest daughter. They are sure acting like they need to be done, and since she is my daughter and I had to have mine removed, they are probably right. So we need to start planning on WHEN would be a good time to have that done.

The bad news from the dentist is they are no longer accepting our insurance as full payment. They have attempted to negotiate better payment without success. As a result, we will now have to pay out of our pocket for the difference between what our insurance pays and the dentists charge. For all I know this is $20 each. I didn't take the time today to find out since they are still accepting full payment from the insurer for this visit since this decision was just made and our appointment was already schedule. They will also provide 10% off the difference if we stay with them. I think they are being reasonable. I know our last dentist in our old town made this same decision about this company two years ago when the military switched insurance carriers. They are getting sufficient coverage for their costs. How can they be expected to do business that way? I may look for another dentist, but so far I do like them, so I don't feel like changing, especially since we may be moving in another year or so. To be clear, the insurance company will still provide some compensation, but the dentist no longer agrees that the compensation is fair or justified and we will be charged more above that amount. 

Have you had a dental provider reject your insurance company? Would you be looking for a new dentist if you were in my situation? Did you have your wisdom teeth removed? Do you remember anything about that experience?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Pay Day Thoughts

I paid and recorded our bills for payday. Some bills are automatic, so I only need to record them. Other bills I just need to go online and authorize a payment. All credit card bills are current. Yea!

At the beginning of the month I save $50 for Christmas, $114 towards auto insurance and registrations, and $57 for the 52 Week Savings Challenge. The mortgage which includes an extra $103 towards principal, water bill, cellular bill, gas bill, and electric bill are all paid. I also give a small allowance to our girls. I pay the Target Red card and any balances on any other credit cards. I set aside cash for the upcoming pay period. And if there is cash left, I save it!!

This payday I was able to save $510. I like that! February was definitely a low spend month for us. With the cold weather it was just easier to stay in and out of the stores. I think that using up things last week also stretched our grocery bill a little, too. I still have my eye on a few things in the cupboard that need to go soon.

I'm fully aware that we will owe money for taxes in the next 6 weeks. Our daughter has a birthday in March. It is also spring break from school and we are taking a mini road trip to visit a college. Family is  near there, so only gas and food, no hotel costs at least. I will pay our auto insurance, but this is already saved for, as I mentioned above. And if it gets the least bit warmer it will be time to buy some new spring clothes. We don't buy a lot, but several of us will at least need new capris and shorts. We are probably pretty good on short sleeve tops. I also know one daughter will need a jacket. So although I saved that $510, I do see increased expenses in the future. Which means at least some of that money will be spent.

Yep, it was a good pay day! I'm very grateful for the blessings bestowed upon us.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Frugal Eating

Our family isn't exactly frugal with our eating. This can be seen by our grocery bill and unfortunately some of our waistlines. Ugh! I really would like to think that we are more frugal than some people. While I don't want to blame my husband entirely, he has some expensive tastes and goes through chips and snacks fast. As a mom, I also easily give in to my children's wants. I have noticed my older daughter has pretty good portion control, so no complaints there!! My younger daughter is picky, which is another way of saying she doesn't eat a large variety of foods. All of that to say, we don't have this eating thing down perfect.

What we do well over many of our peers, is that we watch for sales on foods we normally buy and use coupons when we can. Although, I've noticed there are not many coupons for fruit and veggies, but they do go on sale and are less expensive in season.

We make a list when we go grocery shopping. This means we make fewer trips to the store, which saves time and money, but also keeps us  from buying too many extras. Yes, extras do pop into the cart at times. Darn extras!

The one thing that helps the extra spending on food is that I make a point to make sure we eat what we purchased with as little waste as possible. This involves looking in the cupboards and fridge before we go shopping and while we are making our meal plan. For example this week, I chose to make tacos since I noticed we had a full container of sour cream. We need to use that up. We also had tomatoes, shredded cheese and refried beans already on hand. I plan to eat a salmon filet that has been in the freezer awhile. I will probably eat it for lunch since there is only one. I might make a salad to use up carrots and lettuce we will have leftover from tacos.

I have my eye on some applesauce, margarine, and ripe bananas that need to be used up this week. We'll see what I can come up with. Banana bread is a strong possibility!

Do you make a conscious effort to eat things up in your fridge and cupboards as a way of being frugal with the things you have already purchased? Do you have anything you can make an effort to use up this week before it expires or use instead of buying more at the store?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Simplest Way to Track Spending

I was thinking about the early money days in our marriage recently. One thing that I remember doing is tracking everything we spent. I specifically remember a three month period where I was very meticulous about it. If I remember right, it was just to gauge where we spent our discretionary money and how much that generally was. In this case, I mean discretionary as in anything that wasn't a bill with a due date. So this included gas, groceries, formula and diapers. 

I wanted to keep things simple because I had two young kids and a husband who worked three jobs and didn't have any interest in the information. I found a used envelope, wrote the month on the outside and stuffed all receipts inside. Some receipts my husband gave me where ATM withdrawals. Initially, I didn't care what he actually spent the cash on. Once it was out of our checking account it was spent. 

At the end of the month, I went through every receipt and did my best to categorize each item we purchased. It wasn't perfect, but I was able to get an idea how much we spent on diapers, formula, eating out, groceries, gas, entertainment, and even cash spending (even though I didn't know what it was spent on). I also made sure to know the total of all this spending for the month.

After tracking for at least three months, maybe four, I had an average we spent in a month. I ended up using this number or a number as a starting point for our budgeting system. I'm not entirely sure I remember the number but I think it was around $1000. Since my husband was paid weekly, we set aside $250 each week to cover all those discretionary expenses. I'm pretty sure this was relatively tight. Not too tight, but not so loose we were out buying music or eating out every week. 

I would take each paycheck subtract bills due that pay period as well as the $250 to see what amount we had left to do something else with. I do know some had to be saved for our mortgage payment each pay period as one weekly paycheck alone didn't cover our mortgage. And I'm positive some money each pay period was either sent in to pay down debt or at least set aside to add as extra on a debt we would pay later in the month. 

Over the years the amount we set aside each pay period has increased. We just recently increased our discretionary spending to $1000 per pay period. My husband is now paid twice per month. I think it was necessary to increase it as we have two teenage daughters and our grocery spending seems larger, likely inflation, but probably being more relaxed about what we buy. 

It doesn't have to be difficult to track your spending. I think it is an important exercise to try for a few months. It can help you see where you spend the majority of your discretionary money or to establish a discretionary spending amount for your budget each pay period.  All you need is commitment to holding on to your receipts, a place to store them and a calculator and pen to add them up at the end of the month. Then do it again for another couple months. This can be the start of knowing where you money goes and how much you really spend. Of course, if you have a budgeting spreadsheet that works too!! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Start a Slush Fund

I've got a little tip for you! If you are just starting to get control of your finances and budget your paychecks you might want to establish a slush fund. A slush fund is pool of money set aside for unexpected expenses. It is a little similar to an emergency fund, but for use for non emergency spending. Maybe you budget a certain amount for entertainment or eating out each month, but you get a call near the end of the month from out of state friends who want to meet for dinner. Your budget for eating out is zero this time of the month! Yes, you could say no, but you really want to see these friends. This is where I dip into the slush fund, because I know that it isn't an emergency. Some people might pull from another budget category and that would work too.

At our house, we don't budget by categories in great detail. Yes, we set aside money each month for Christmas, auto registrations, car insurance, but we don't break it down by groceries, gas, clothing, entertainment and so forth. We have a set amount we set aside for all of those things and just watch our spending as we go during each pay period. When we get near that set amount, we really slow our spending down or wait to buy something until the next paycheck. The amount we set aside for discretionary spending is conservative. We purposely do this to keep spending in check. And I will say we have increased it a little in recent years as we have noticed the price of food has gone up, but again very conservatively.

Our slush fund varies from month to month. It rarely is over $500, maybe an average of $300. Sometimes we don't put anything in because it is already funded well enough and we would rather send extra money to pay down our mortgage or save for our vacation. Some months the fund gets a lower than $50 if we have several dips into it. There is really no right or wrong amount. If the fund starts to get too big, over $500 in our case, I will pull that excess away from the slush fund and apply it to our current goal. For some this might be adding to an emergency fund or paying down credit card debt. In our case, we are currently paying extra towards our mortgage principal. I should also say some months we don't dip into the slush fund, because our discretionary spending is within the amount we set aside.

We keep our slush fund in our checking account currently. I am able to do this because I use a simple spreadsheet to track the slush portion of our checking account funds. It might be a little complicated for first time users. In fact, my husband probably doesn't even get it! If you are establishing a slush fund for the first time, you might consider a second checking account at your current bank, especially if you can get one for free. This way you will keep those slush funds separate and clearly know when you are dipping into those funds and for what amount. A second checking is better than a savings account, as many of those have rules on the number of times you can withdrawal from them without a penalty. You might be dipping in more than those, especially when you first start. I think it is important to keep it at the same bank because of the ease of transferring the funds. Usually instantly. An account at a different bank will have a couple days of wait time for the funds to be available.

Because we get paid twice per month, I simply evaluate the balance in our slush fund each pay period. Do I need to throw some more in, do I need to adjust the balance down for extra spending that occurred, or do I need to take some out because the amount is to big. I find it helpful and comfortable to have a slush fund, because it is stressful to see the balance in your checking account close to zero when you really NEED something or have an opportunity come up that you don't want to say no to. I do suggest that you try not to touch your slush fund too often, if you are doing it everyday there is a something wrong. You likely are spending too much, or cutting your discretionary fund to close.

Try it out, tweak it. Make a slush fund part of your personal budgeting plan. I really don't think you will regret it!

Do you already have a slush fund? What do you call it? What amount do you tend to keep in yours? Where do you keep it?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fastest Way to Pay Debt Off

The fastest and best way to pay off debt in my opinion is utilizing a method of paying on one debt as you pay minimums on the rest. The key is to continue to use the same amount or more money towards debt each month, while at the same time not adding to your debt. This is often called the Debt Snowball Method.

The best way to start is to list debts, balance owed smallest to largest. In the example below, there are four debts listed with the amount owed and the minimum payment. The plan involves making minimum payments on all debts except the one with the lowest balance.
  1. Medical, $1000, minimum $75
  2. Credit Card, $2250, minimum $90
  3. Auto Loan, $6000, minimum $210
  4. Student Loan, $8000, minimum $125
The total amount of debt in this scenario is  $17,250 in this example. Overwhelming, huh? Now if you didn't pay any extra on this debt it would take 35 months to pay this off. IF you weren't being charged interest. And IF you didn't add any more debt. This isn't a bad plan to get rid of debt if you can stay on the plan. It will get paid off, it will just take time. (Yes, I did ignore interest in these examples for the sake of simplicity.)

If I were starting with these debts listed, my first goal would be to pay off the medical debt. It is the smallest debt and I can knock it off pretty quickly. And even quicker if I were to add more money each month. Let's assume I can add an additional $200 per month towards the payment of debt. Here's what the pay off schedule would look like:

That payoff schedule eliminates the debt in 25 months! Ten entire months faster than if I didn't add the extra money. Once all the debt is eliminated I have the original $500 I was paying on debt and that extra $200 that can be put back in my budget. That will feel nice to have $700 to plan with.

Do you want to see another scenario? Maybe one where you can send in another $300, or $500 over the $500 you are sending in, for a total of $1,000 per month. It gets exciting!

Using this method of snowballing and adding double the normal payments, this debt of over $17,000 is eliminated in 18 months! And see that last month? The payment is only $250. Again once that debt is off your plate, you now have $1000 in your budget to work with.

What would you do with out debt? Save more for retirement, save for a down payment or college? Pay for something in cash? Any debt snowball questions?

 If you wonder where to find extra money, check out my blog at Saving Advice where I write a lot about snowflakes...small amounts of money that I find to apply towards paying down our mortgage debt.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Another Emergency Fund Savings Alternative

I know people like quick fixes to their money problems. I personally think many money issues could be avoided in the first place with a well established emergency fund. But where do you begin if you don't even have one?

You have probably read about having a garage sale, or saving your change. Not bad ideas if the weather was warm and you have lots of things to sell. And as I have mentioned  there is the 52 Week Savings Challenge that many are participating in. And on my Savings Advice Blog, I have been tracking snowflakes as a way to build up cash. Those sources of income come from many places, which you can read about over there.

I ran across a new idea for you today. This might be one single way to increase your savings. I found the explanation on this blog, The Simple Dollar. It is called $4 Per Gallon Savings. You basically charge yourself $4 for every gallon of gas you purchase at the pump. The amount you save is the difference between the total if you paid $4 and the actual amount you paid. The author of the blog mentioned above explains it in more detail. I think if one could make this idea alone a habit, it could quickly get an emergency fund started. Now if you ride a train or subway, this probably won't work for you the same way. Maybe you could round up your fare by a dollar, each time you ride and save those.

I find it interesting to read about alternative ways of saving. Have you come across any new savings ideas?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Frugal Inactions?

I've been keeping my mind open this week for more frugal things we are doing around our home that you might like to hear about. I realized some of the things that are frugal are things we don't buy or don't do. See if you notice those in the list below.

  • Used half a dryer fabric softener sheet for an entire load of laundry.
  • Used fabric napkins at dinner.
  • Reused my tea bag once each day.
  • Borrowed a movie at the library.
  • Sent my sister a $5 Starbucks gift card I received for free.
  • Used thread from my stash for a sewing project, and get to return the one I bought.
  • Used the ends of old bread for breadcrumbs on our Chicken Parmesan.
  • Used half the amount of seasoning in a recipe because I ran out. It still tasted great!
  • Used a bar of soap that is very, very thin for washing my hands.
  • Turned the thermostat setting down 2 degrees more for when we are sleeping. 
  • Wore long underwear under my jeans in the house so I wouldn't need to increase the temperature in the house. 
  • Only wore makeup one day this week. 
  • Used piece of flannel on our Swiffer to pick up dust and hair off the floor. Then tossed in washer.
  • Drank water from the tap. 
  • Reused a mailing envelope to send a package.
I know those things don't seem like much, but imagine the opposite of some of those. If I bought  a new mailer each time at the post office, I would likely be paying $2 or more just for the envelope. Or how much would I spend on disposable Swiffer cloths in a years time if I didn't use a reusable cloth? So if you gathered from the list that we don't buy napkins, most movies, bread crumbs, bottled water, or too many mailing envelopes, you would be correct!

Do you buy some of things I buy, such as tea bags, or dryer sheets? Do you have an alternative? What are some things you don't buy, that many people do?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Yes, Stay At Home Spouses Can Get Credit

There was a small period of time where stay at home moms and dads were not able to get credit cards because we did not have employment or income. Well we still don't have those, but currently we are able to use household income as a way of showing a source for paying our debts. I will refer you to this blog post on Million Mile Secrets for the details.

I personally talk to my husband about ALL credit that we open. We are honest and open about where we stand. Of course, it helps that we pay off our debt in full every month so there are really no worries when you know that is how we operate in our home. I would make sure you have an open line of communication with your spouse regarding credit card debt, especially if you are the one at home and looking to open an account in your name. It is only fair and likely how you would like to be treated if the employment situation was reversed.

The really nice thing about being able to open credit as stay at home spouse is that you can take advantage of credit card bonus offers twice! Double cash is good. Do not open credit cards for rewards unless you can pay your balance in full each month and have established this pattern already. We never pay interest on any of our credit cards.

Did you know stay at home spouses were legally able to apply for credit in their own names, but based on the household income?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Today's Frugal Habits

I will admit we aren't the most frugal people on the block. When I stop to think about things we do that are frugal, I can come up with several. Here is a peek into some of our frugal habits today.

We made our own coffee at home this morning. Right now we are using Trader Joe's coffee that we received as a gift over Christmas. It is really good. I consider this frugal simply because so many people run to the nearest coffee shop to get their fix of caffeine.

I made a list for the grocery store. I almost always make a list. Do I always stick to it? No. Generally, that is because I forget to put something on the list and then remember at the store that I do need it. Today, I didn't purchase anything that wasn't on the list. I used a few coupons, but otherwise bought generic and used my Target Cartwheel coupons.

We ate all our meals at home. Dinner was homemade pizza. I made the dough from scratch for two very large pizzas. The sauce for one pizza was from a jar, which we recently started using, but we have found it is too salty! The other pizza had leftover barbeque chicken that I had frozen in the freezer and made a point to thaw this morning. I was able to use barbeque sauce, onion and cilantro already on hand. I did buy shredded cheese. One of my goals this year is to get in the habit of shredding our own cheese. I think it is healthier without extra preservatives.

I sent my husband to get a haircut. I didn't technically send him, he knew he needed to go. :) Usually we have coupons from Great Clips, but we were out. I was able to find a competitor coupon for a $9.99, and Great Clips honored it. I noticed this on a sign in their store the last time I was there. That just means more coupons available if I keep my eyes open for them.

My husband is also working on getting ALL the lotion out of the bottle before we open a new one. The last step is to actually cut the bottle open to get the very last of it out. We do this with liquid makeup, hair styling products, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and even laundry detergent. The first time I did this with some gel my daughter uses on her hair, I was shocked at how much was left that she could use. Probably enough for 3 days. Effectively this saves us from buying one bottle of hair styling product per year, which saves $16. Doesn't seem like a lot by itself, but if we use up everything we buy in full it saves us from buying more. We get the full value of our purchase as well.

We kept the thermostat at 69 degrees. I realize this isn't really low, but it was really tempting to increase it with the blowing winds and colder temperatures we were experiencing today. So I counting that as frugal for today. We do have a programmable thermostat which is set to drop to 62 degrees at night in the winter. I should probably try to drop it a bit more this winter to offset the need to have it a little higher in the day time hours.

We did do some shopping today, so I cannot say we spent nothing today. I purchased a pair of Smartwool socks for my sister. I spent about $20 for one pair. I know this seems crazy expensive, but these are socks made of wool that can be worn all year long. They will last years! So well worth it. We also bought three books of stamps today. The rate of First Class stamps is increasing tomorrow from $0.46 to $.049, which is a 6% increase. I bought three books of stamps to cover our needs for at least the next year...maybe more. I also bought some items from Joann's. I made sure to use a 40% off coupon on my most expensive item which was two yards of fabric normally priced at $7.99 a yard.  This fabric and part of the rest of the purchase is actually a business expense that will be reimbursed. I helped the buyer out really. :) I suppose the other frugal part of this portion of our day is that we did all of these errands in one trip, so only one time out today in the car.

It's a Saturday night and we are staying in. My husband and I have a $5 bottle of wine and have purchased a movie rental. I like to say the movie was free, but we couldn't find a free one we wanted to watch. Instead we found one for $4 to digitally rent. We could watch it as many times as we want in the next 24 hours, but the likelihood of watching it more than once is slim!

In other frugal news...we used microfiber rags to do our dusting and cleaning. No disposable wipes, just reusable clothes that can be washed again and again.

What frugal thing did you do today? How much did you save?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Play With Your Tax Refund: Calculators

I wrote a post quite awhile back on my Savings Advice blog about checking your withholding, especially if you generally receive very large refunds. The post is on this blog too, here . I think tax season is a good time to evaluate whether getting a large refund is really worth it. We have had our share of them over the years. In the beginning, I just couldn't figure out how to avoid them. It just happened it seems. Well, in truth not really in most cases. It really comes down to knowing how to calculate how much you should have withheld based on your expected salary and other factors. The IRS has a calculator to help you figure this out. And it is free!

If you are trying to take control of your finances and get out of debt, this change to your withholding could actually mean more money in your pocket each time you are paid! That means you would have MORE money to work with each month to pay down those debts. It could mean getting a debt paid off sooner, and paying less interest on that debt. That would be a huge relief to me personally.

Now, I'm going to call you out. Somebody reading this is saying to themselves "but I won't have a big refund in February, and I wanted to buy X." Really? You want to stay in debt and have more stuff? Yes, I get a new sofa, bathroom makeover, vacation, Playstation, or carpet all sound really good. But you really, really need to look and see if that item is something you would have bought at any other time of the year. Would you have spent the amount equal to your refund last June for that same thing you want? Why not? Oh, you are in debt and don't have any money? Who's money do you think this is that is coming to you in this big lump sum? It is YOUR money. You do have that money, but you have been sending it to the government who doesn't need it for free each month and letting them hold it for you, again for FREE. Banks actually pay you interest if you park money with them.

The average tax refund is $2,651. If you had that money in your pocket each month you would have an additional $220.92. Nice huh? What would you do with it if you were receiving that much EXTRA each month? I suppose some could go to that debt goal you might be working on. Maybe you could increase your emergency fund with a little. Or even save some for that thing you want to get. If there were four goals you are working on, you could just divide that extra in fourths and use over $55 each month towards meeting each of them at the same time.

I challenge you to consider how you could plan your finances if you had that extra refund money in your hand each month. It's okay to dream about it. Think and ponder it. Mull it over. Get excited! Okay, and a little scared knowing there probably won't be a big refund the next year. If you get an emergency fund set up, you will have money to fall back on every month, rather than waiting for that one time per year to save you. There really is freedom and security in having less debt, and more savings. Again, I dare you to at least try the process on paper of changing your withholding (on the W4) and planning your budget with more money in your pocket each pay period.

Tell me about how it goes. Did it make you feel motivated with your goals? Were you excited or scared?

P.S. If you need help calculating your net paycheck amount based on the new withholding amount, check out Paycheck City for a free calculator for hourly and salaried workers.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Free and Low Cost Tax Filing Options

Isn't it bad enough that we have to file a tax return in the first place, but it has become so complicated we need software to file many types of returns and generally have to pay for it? I'm really not complaining, but it does seem it has become more complicated and more costly.

First of all, if you income is below $58,000 per year you actually shouldn't be paying anything in order to file your taxes. The IRS has offered Free File in the past and is doing so again this year. The best way to find the free programs you are eligible for is to link directly to the IRS and click on the Free File tab. Or here is the link where that tab will take you. You definitely get to e-file your Federal return for free. It could be a different story based on your state, so look over your options closely before you get started.

If you are military, there are often options available specifically for you that may be entirely free. There may be some caveat that you need to have served in a combat zone, so make sure the free option really applies. If you aren't military, it is good to consider if your bank, professional organization, church or community offers a service for free preparation and filing. Do your lots of possibilities!

For those of us with incomes over $58,000 per year, there are still relatively inexpensive ways to prepare and file your income tax returns. Most of them are online services. In fact, I would completely avoid any in package software discs you might find in the store, unless you do not have internet access or the software comes with a rebate lending the software free! I have used TurboTax, TaxAct, HRBlock, and several other services. I know some people don't like to switch because last years information is often imported if you use the same service. I personally am happy to switch if I can get the service free or cheap. It doesn't take much time at all to input the information again.

Last year I was tipped off about another service called FreeTaxUSA (I don't get any referral bonus for saying this). The charge was free to complete and efile the federal return, and just $9.99 for the state. This year the Federal return is still free, but the state return is now $12.95. This is a very good price, but you can get it lower! If you use a coupon site, check to see if there is a coupon that will reduce the price you pay for this or tax service you end up using. I happen to know that Ebates has a coupon for 25% off FreeTaxUSA, with coupon code FREETAXUSA25, good all the way until November 1, 2014 (yes, even available for you late filers!). And if you connect through your Ebates account, you can also get 25% cash back. If I did my math right this brings your final cost after the rebate to $7.28. That is pretty good if you want the software and ability to efile your return. If you don't have an Ebates account, you can sign up here.

Right now I plan to use FreeTaxUSA, unless I find a better deal. If I do, I'll let you know!

Do your homework.  Look around for the least expensive way to do your taxes that you feel comfortable with! Do you have any other good tax preparation services to share with others? Please leave them in the comments for others to check out.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tax Prep

I have been doing my own taxes since I had my first job at sixteen. I had to use paper forms, instructions and a pencil. I think I may have lucked out and been able to do the EZ form a couple times, but at some point I switched because of investment income. At least that is my memory...I could be wrong.

This time of year, I start keeping my eyes open for available tax forms in the mail, or notifications of availability by email. For those that arrive on physical paper, I have a file labeled 2013 Taxes (original I know). I also have a folder on my laptop with the same label, where I download donation receipts and tax forms. Both of these files were likely started sometime in 2013. Ideally, I should have started it right at the beginning of the year. It just doesn't always happen. In fact, I don't yet have a 2014 file.

I will admit I am a little partial to my physical folder. I usually write on the inside of the file folder a checklist of documents needed for filing. Once I have all of them in hand, I know I can start our taxes without much delay. My list this year includes the following:
  • My husband's W2
  • 1099 - INT from all banks we earn interest from
  • 1099 - R (for a rollover of IRA money...will not be taxable)
  • 1098 from mortgage company with interest and real estate taxes paid
  • Donation receipts
  • Vehicle property tax amount
This may be the first year where we do not itemize, but I won't know for sure until  I start adding up the variables. The last estimate I did was at the end of December, which indicated that we would not have enough to itemize, and would owe about $400. If we don't itemize, I don't need the last three items on my list. That does make it easier!

My intention is to file online, as I have been doing for many years now. It makes it so least if the software is set up correctly. I've had at least two years where I have had to switch companies before filing because their software didn't do the calculations correctly. That sure doesn't give me faith to try them again in the future. I hope to have our return completed by the end of the week, as I am expecting I will have all the documents I need at that point. If we owe, I will not be too quick to send in our money early!

Do you have a system in place for getting your taxes ready for filing? Do you file your own taxes? Anyone still file by snail mail? Come back tomorrow, and I'll write up a few tips for finding low cost or free tax filing software. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Low Spend Update

I'm guessing you are here because you want to know how my low spend week is going. Not too bad. It could always be worse. Thursday was a no spend day, which I'm happy for. The spending started about 4pm yesterday. The afternoon munchies hit my daughter. She knew we didn't have much at home she wanted to snack on. This resulted in a stop at Super Target. We bought 11 items. Some were basic junk food, but I did buy mushrooms and another ingredient for a soup I will make tonight. I also bought a bottle of semi cheap wine...definitely not a need. Our total for that trip $27.25.

You would think the spending would have stopped there for the day, but it seems I fell for some marketing. I received a Pizza Hut email offer for two medium pizzas for $5.99 each. It just sounded good for a Friday night. I wasn't in the mood to cook, even though the plan was simple pancakes. I spent $12.82 with tax on the two pizzas. We ate them for dinner last night and finished up the leftovers for lunch, so the expense was not wasted. This is not an expense that I should be having during a low spend week!!

No that wasn't the last of the spending for Friday. We wanted to watch a movie. One of my daughter's and I looked for nearly 30 minutes on Amazon for a free movie we could download. If it was just me, I think I could have found something. Yes, I am blaming this expense on my daughter! We ended up renting Mr. Holland's Opus for $3.99. You would think the price would be far less considering how old the movie is. It was an enjoyable movie. We even cried tears at the end!

Our Friday spending alone was  $44.06. I'm glad I wasn't spending this amount every day this week. Today, I did have to buy gas for one of the vehicles. I was out driving around and the light indicating I was low on fuel came on. Considering it is snowing and the roads are deteriorating I figured it really was time to buy fuel. I spent $58.01 to fill the tank up. And yes, that is the rest of the spending for today. We don't need any food. We don't need to rent another movie as we really do have plenty of free entertainment options.

The total from last Sunday through today, Saturday is $183.90. I don't think I could have whittled this down too much further. I know there were things that could have been skipped entirely, like the wine, pizza and movie, the car wash and a snack item or two. I would have still spent about $150 without those items. I'm actually really pleased with the results.

I'd like to try for another week, but I don't know that I would get similar results. We may be having guests one or two nights this week, so that could change my meal plan slightly. I think I can keep expenses pretty low through Tuesday, if I work on it. I know I will be going to the store before then. I might as well give it a shot to buy only needs for the next few days. Then I guess instead of a low spend week, we could call it a 10 day money fast. :)

Did you attempt to keep your spending low this week? Or maybe you just told yourself no to some of those things you buy nearly everyday? Tell me about it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

No Money, But I Need to Buy....

I'm having this low spend week, just to keep things in check. It is good to take a break and make a conscious effort to watch spending. Sometimes we even need to do it by necessity. I've noticed this week, that I still have thoughts of spending. Those just don't seem to go away even when the goal changes. Darn it!

Depending on the item I have thought about buying, I think about my choices and options. One was laundry detergent. I still have some, but I can tell we are low. It most likely can wait. But what if I realized I'm on my last load of detergent tomorrow, but I have three baskets full of laundry? It is human nature to first think, we MUST go purchase detergent. But after that thought, I realized I could sort the three baskets of laundry to find the most needed items to be washed and narrow it to one load. I could even wash a few items by hand with dish or bar soap. That does depend on the item, as I'm pretty sure I couldn't get jeans clean with dish or bar soap! Although I would be willing to try if necessary.

Do you shop online? It seems so many things are just far cheaper online. And often for the very same thing! Combine online shopping codes, rebate sites like Ebates, free shipping and credit card rewards, the deals are amazing. The disadvantage of online shopping is that you can't get the item in the next 15 minutes. But with some advanced planning you can purchase ahead of time and avoid that extra run to the store. I've noticed that we purchase cat food every two months. I actually have a note on my email calendar to remind myself of this purchase. Once I have the reminder sent a week or so before the food is needed, I have time to be looking for the best price on the food we purchase. It also has time to be mailed. I'm pretty good keeping stocked on toilet paper, vitamins, hair product, furnace filters and cat food.

I'm not an expert in timing all the needs our family has by any means. Not long ago one of my daughter's need a cowboy hat for a concert. The notice was very short. Just a couple of days. Unfortunately I had just donated a cowboy costume hat the week before! Ack. I did ask my neighbors if they had any to borrow. No such luck. But we were able to find one at a thrift shop for less than $2. I don't know my true savings on this item as I don't know what I would have paid at a costume shop, but my guess it was significantly more than $2!

Another thing that seems to come up that can derail spending or my need to go to the store is running out of an ingredient while in the middle of cooking or baking. So frustrating! I know I recently was making a soup that had many different spices in it. I was completely out of one. I ended up leaving it out and it still tasted just fine. It was not worth going to the store for. I will put it on my list for the next time I'm at the store. But what if it is an important ingredient? That is where looking online for substitution ideas or calling a neighbor might be the best choice. Did you know in baking you can substitute applesauce for an egg? Or add lemon juice to milk to make a buttermilk substitution?

It really does pay to stop and take moment before you run off to buy something whether there is another option. One that is free or cheaper and meets the need just as well can be quite satisfying! Do you have an example of a way you have saved recently that might be considering thinking outside the box?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Savings Update

I mentioned my plan to participate in my own 52 Week Savings Challenge back in December. I have made two deposits since then of $57 each. My total in the challenge is now at $181. It is moving along just fine since I made the transactions occur automatically!!

My low spend week is definitely working so far. I have spent only $15.35 since I mentioned my plan on Sunday. I just spent that money today. I mailed a package at the post office for $2.24. This was for a child, so I didn't think it should wait. I also made a run to Target to purchase a few food items: cranberries, romaine lettuce, spinach, large container of vanilla yogurt, frozen mangoes, and 3 pack of gum. I stuck to my list. I was tempted to grab a soda and a cliff bar, but I refrained. Yea me!!

I can see the fuel in the vehicles dropping each day. I'm really hoping to make it through Sunday, but I have a feeling that I may end up filling at least one of the vehicles up before then. I still have a fabric purchase to make, but I keep putting it off as I have another project I need to complete first. And I'm procrastinating that one! I guess that means procrastination is saving me money. That is not always the case, such as paying a bill late.

If you are doing any type of savings challenge this year, it is not too late to start or get back on track. Just pick up where you left off. Keep up the good work, if you have made all your goals so far.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Don't Throw Money Away!

I was doing my daily Swagbucks and saw an article about throwing away money. It focused primarily on those items we purchase only to throw them away. Some examples were paper plates, plastic wrap, paper towels, and tissues. The point was to not buy these disposables in the first place if there is a reusable alternative because it can save you money! Buying them is essentially throwing money in the trash. Now who would ever actually throw real money in the trash? Not me!

We have quite a few reusable items in our home. Some were bought with the intention of saving money, while others are more convenient or better for the environment. In our home we have rechargeable batteries, reusable grocery bags (primarily obtained free), glass containers for food storage, reusable sandwich and snack bags, reusable water bottles. We use rags for most cleaning, including on our Swiffer which we use both dry and wet.

I do purchase toilet paper, tissues and paper towels. I personally rarely use the paper towels, but I do see that my husband it quick to use them for cleaning and one daughter uses them to wipe her hands and face. I buy the select a size, so I think we are going through the paper at a slower rate.

If you are looking to trim expenses, it is good to take a look at what you are buying and throwing away. There may be an alternative that is less expensive, and maybe even better for the environment! Do you buy any disposables that could be replaced? Have you invested in some reusable items? What other items do we Americans buy that could be replaced with a reusable version which could save us money?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How Low Can I Go?

My goal for this week is to keep spending to a minimum. Payday occurs on Wednesday, but I know that the days between the next pay period will seem long.  I don't have a specific goal, but anything less than $100 will be a success. Zero would be ideal. :)

I bought groceries today which should cover us through Saturday. I spent $59.24. I also got a car wash for $5. It was nice to get the salt from the last two weeks or more off the van.  I know that I have to pay $20 for a flute lesson, but that money has already been accounted for when I withdrew the cash earlier this month.

I intend to focus on exercise, sewing projects and cleaning to keep me out of the stores. It really doesn't seem like we NEED anything at all, but it always seems something comes up each week. Last week, I had to buy a new pad lock for my daughter, hers was cut off the locker over the holiday break. That was less than $4 out of pocket, but it seems like a lot of those little things do add up!

I should have enough fuel to make the trips to school and the gym. I will pay any regular bills that are due. My main goal is to just keep the extra spending as low as I can go.

Are you up for a low spend week? Do you ever plan for a low spend week or more? Any bets on how much you think I might spend before next Monday?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Today's Frugal Happenings

By definition, frugal is the characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources. Another source, indicated that frugal is being careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to. The second definition is true for us. We probably don't need to be frugal, since we do have money available to save. And the truth is we aren't frugal in everything we do. But I personally find it fun!

Here is a little sampling of the frugal things I did today:
  • finished leftover bean dip and chips for lunch
  • returned an unopened item for a refund
  • used samples of shampoo and conditioner received in the mail
  • used half a dryer sheet in the dryer
  • paid bills online, rather than mailing a check
  • opened a tube of hair product to get the last amount out
  • turned off lights after I was in a room
  • used a tea bag twice
  • used the back side of printed paper for my errand list
  • checked out two books at the library
  • washed reusable sandwich bags for tomorrows lunch
  • snapped the zipper pull tab back on a piece of clothing (at first I thought the zipper had been rendered useless, but after inspecting the pieces I realized they could be snapped back together)
  • our thermostat is set to drop to 62 degrees at night in the winter
I'm sure there may have been other frugal things I did today. In fact, most of those things above, I do out of habit.  I did really think for a few moments that I had lost that piece of clothing because the zipper tab came off. The odds of finding a zipper to replace it with would have been slim. Now I can get more use out of a perfectly good item! I find it is in my nature to first consider if something can be repaired before I toss it out. Of course, there are times where repairing an item isn't possible or it doesn't make financial sense.

What frugal things did you do today? Is there something frugal you can start doing that you weren't before?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review Expenses

Ah, a new year! A clean slate. Time to start making goals for the new year. Save more. Pay down debt. Common goals, right?  And very good ones, too! I feel that making progress towards any goal is to review where you are currently. If your finances are in such a place that you can't save the amount to get to your goal you are setting yourself up for failure. It's simply a wish that can't come true. And that is sad.

To make that wish a goal requires a little work, one of which is reviewing your expenses. Ugh. I know. It seems boring.  But it can pay off.  The easiest expenses to look at are those that are fixed. The ones that are due every month, usually at the same time, for the same amount. Like rent, or your mortgage payment. Sometimes the amount isn't fixed, but you know that it is due each month. Examples are your cell phone bill, electric or gas. I think a simple list is good place to start.

Mortgage. We could consider refinancing to lower the principal and interest portion of our payment. We could shop around for less expensive homeowner's insurance, increase our insurance deductible which should lower our insurance, appeal property taxes, take on a renter, or move less expensive housing.

Cell Phone. We could consider changing plans to fewer minutes, a no contract plan, a prepaid plan or eliminate one or more phones entirely. I don't think we would eliminate cell phones at this point, but it really is an option!

Life Insurance. We could shop around for lower premiums, lower the insurance amount, or eliminate insurance entirely.

Electricity, Water, and Gas. These all really involve using less of the particular utility. Setting the heat lower while away. Lowering the water temperature of the water heater. Taking shorter showers and running fewer loads of laundry.  Turning off lights, unplugging items that are not in use. Investigate other ways to save on utility costs.

Water Softener Rental. In our case we pay by the month, but we could look into purchasing our own rather than renting. We could eliminate the water softener, which we also save us on salt, but would cause us to use more soap (and likely lotion for our dry skin).

Ooma Phone. This is a voice over internet phone line that we pay just $3.72 a month for local and long distance. This is actually something new at our home. We cancelled our land line which was costing us about $30 a month. By switching to an internet phone we have save over $26 a month. We could eliminate this new service if we wanted to lower our bills even further.

Internet. It seems almost wrong to say it, but we could eliminate our home internet service. Or since we have pretty high speed service, we could probably downgrade our service and pay less per month. We could also shop for other providers who could service our area at a lower cost.

We do have other expenses than this list. Clearly we eat, and drive cars. Those expenses can and should be reviewed later.  I hope that in reviewing some of our regular expenses you can see how looking at each expense is a good exercise in really looking at what you are spending and what your options are for those expenses. Eliminating an expense really is an option. Remember, you have a goal! A goal to eliminate a debt that is dragging you down, or a savings goal that you want to reach as fast as possible. Reducing your expenses can be just as good as getting a job. The less money you spend, the more you have to make your goal more than just as wish.

After writing this post,I've decided to talk with my husband about increasing our homeowner's deductible to reduce our premium, as well as look into downgrading our high speed internet. The cell phone bill has been on our list of things to do for awhile. I'm actually concerned that we may end up with a larger bill!

Do you review all of your expenses regularly? Are you overdue for taking a look at your expenses? Is your goal to reduce debt or save this year?