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?