Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trimming the Fat and Spending Less in 2011

Our Economy: Who Do You Believe?
Every day I am reading articles about how unemployment is going down, holiday spending was up, consumer confidence is increasing, foreclosures are slowing, loans are getting modified. But everywhere I look, people are still in trouble. Companies are consolidating, laying off, cutting salaries and hours, and people are in big trouble with their homes. And these loan modifications? Sure, they are available, but in reality final modifications are few and far between. All I know is that with my family is still recovering from our excesses of the middle part of this decade, and we aren't taking any chances. We didn't win the Mega Millions this week, and we're still going to work tomorrow.

Where Can You Trim Expenses?
Some say that its a no-brainer to spend less. But when things are tight, sometimes we need to be a little creative. Here are some things that we have done to cut back on our monthly out-go.

Utilities, utilities, utilities!  Call your phone company and find out if based on your usage if you are in the best plan available for you...that goes for your cell phone as well. Better yet, if you don't use your land line as much consider canceling it and using only your cell phone, or doing as we did and going with an alternate service like Magic Jack which runs over your computer and works just as well as my old home phone service. I love it! I still use my same phone, and I don't miss my home phone bills one bit!

Cut back on your cable package. There are so many shows that I "had" to watch that were on premium channels. I have found that my children keep me busy enough, and when I need "entertainment" I read books, plus I try to work out more in the evenings. Also, with services like Netflix - you can check out a whole series for a fraction of the cost of the monthly charge for premium channels. Of course you aren't going to be able to watch the series in real time as it will become available after the current season runs on television. But when I see how many things I record on my DVR and end up watching them a month or two later, I have realized that "real time" doesn't matter to me so much! If you think that Netflix is an "extra" - it all depends on your particular situation. My husband works 4 nights a week, so we aren't going out much. While we have childcare available to us, we really pick and choose what is important enough to take us away from our kids and go out and spend money. We did cut out Netflix down to 1 DVD per month but we have unlimited streaming capabilities...I love it! I even stream work out DVD's like Crunch Fitness Bootcamp and Jillian Michaels yoga. At $12 per month it's cheaper than a class or gym membership! Which lead me to...

Gym membership. I am a huge proponent of being active. But you should evaluate your gym to see if you are getting your money's worth. What amenities are offered? Are you taking advantage of all of them? If you can only make it there once or twice a week just to use the treadmill and are paying $50 a month is it worth it to you? I would say walk or run outside for free. Or buy a treadmill to use at home. If you're taking advantage of the classes, the machines, and sometimes even the childcare or personal training and you feel comfortable working out there and you're paying $80 or more a month, more power to you. It's just another expense you can examine.

Look into your internet provider...can you do a bundle? Just be careful and remember that after the "promotional" period is up, your bill will be heading north as well. Or if you are very happy and loyal to your service, can you get a better deal by signing a 2 year agreement? (Make sure it is transferable if you decide to move.)

Eat more meals at home. This is a biggie. And you can't argue with it. Not only is it more cost effective but it is SO much healthier. Even if saving money isn't a goal of yours, for the sake of your health the bulk of your meals should be home-made. You simply can't control the ingredients in restaurant meals, and so many are loaded with way more fat, calories and sodium than a similar meal made by you. When you compare the cost of a restaurant meal to a similar meal made by you at home, sometimes it almost seems criminal. My favorite examples are typically pasta meals which generally run between $10-12  or more depending on the level of restaurant you are at. When you think of how cheap a whole box of pasta is, you have to wonder if the restaurant is peppering your pasta with gold flakes! But I totally get that restaurants have mark ups due to overhead. I'm just saying if you can cut back on that a bit you will notice your dollars will stretch a lot farther into the month!

Eating less meat will save you some dough. Try having "meatless Mondays". Or instead of serving your family big pieces of meat like steaks, cut large pieces down to smaller pieces and mix with other things like vegetables, potatoes or pasta to make your meals more interesting. You can make stir-frys, stews, and yummy pastas.

Try to be less wasteful. Brown bag it and eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Or get creative and turn your leftovers into something new altogether.

Watch your energy usage. Seems pretty basic, but some things are so minor you wonder why you should bother but over time could save you money. Unplug appliances that are not in use! DVD players, coffee makers, toaster ovens, computers. Get in the habit of turning lights out when you leave the room. If it's summer, keep your house closed up as long as possible to keep the hot sun out, and if you turn on your AC make sure all your windows and doors are closed. If it's winter, try to take advantage of any afternoon sun and let it stream in your windows! Keep windows and shades closed once the sun goes down to insulate from the cold outside. And for heaven's sake, wear a sweater or sweatshirt. You don't need to live in an icebox but by no means should you be comfortable in the month of January wearing a tank top in your living room. I keep my thermostat at 67 and wear long sleeves.

Buy in bulk, when it makes sense. In my opinion, if you are a member of a Sam's Club or Costco and you're there, buy what you use if you have room to store it. Having bulk items at home will make your life so much easier because there are things you won't run out of as often that will cause unnecessary trips to the store (which means using gas for transportation, to go to a convenient grocery store to spend money on something that you'll end up paying more for, and seeing other items you don't really need that you'll pick up just because.) When I am at the grocery store picking up items that I don't need in bulk, meaning anything that would expire before I would use it all, I compare the cost per unit (usually ounces) between different brands and different sizes. Sure the humongous bottle of xyz might be on special, but if you are getting 20 oz for $10 let's say, and the 10 oz bottle of xyz is $5 and you don't need the huge size or may not use it all before it expires get the smaller one or multiples of the small one if its a non perishable item.

Don't be afraid to use coupons. Shop around if it's a major purchase and watch for sales. My biggest problem is that I've always been impulsive and impatient. Not so good if you are trying to save money. I have learned so much about myself and tested myself in ways I never thought possible. I used to love going to the mall and seeing what was new, or buying whatever I saw that I liked...but it kind of bugged me when a few weeks later the very item I paid full price for was marked down. Now I know just to wait. I have come to appreciate the hunt and enjoy places like Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, and Marshall's. Some days I do not have patience for it at all whatsoever but on the days I am in the mood I can find some really great stuff! I am in love with Groupon and look forward to my daily email. The deals are amazing and the offerings are for things I really use - even for places like the Gap - so I'm not spending money on things I wouldn't ordinarily buy. I'm saving money on the things I DO buy.

Downsize your STUFF.  Are you the keeper of stuff (clothes that don't fit, furniture or toys that are not being used, things you are just hanging on to for "just in case")? Simplify your life! If some things are in good condition, you can sell them on eBay or Craigslist. Or host a good old fashioned garage sale. Cleaning house cleanses your mind and spirt, and if you can make a few extra bucks - even better.

Can you refinance your home? Mortgages are usually the biggest expense in families. Even though rates are rising, they are still at a historical low. The main problem is most homes are too far underwater or just don't have enough equity to qualify for a refi. Consult your mortgage lender to see if they are offering any refi options for your situation.

Reduce waste and be "green". Use less paper using washable towels and rags. Paper plates? Convenient, but costly and wasteful over time. Try cloth napkins! Less paper in the landfill...and you won't run out of napkins, just wash them! Get a Brita filter and stop wasting money on bottled water. Those bottles take a zillion years to break down. If you need water on the go buy a reusable vessel such as a Klean Kanteen. My hubby and I each have one, and I also have one at the office.

What do you do to try to cut expenses? I am always looking for new ideas. Stay tuned for my next post on hand me downs!


  1. Great tips! My internet provider is killing me...they keep raising prices. I'm searching for a new one.
    I'm doing a few of these already but it's also good to be reminded to stay on top of them.

  2. New subscriber! Looking forward to getting to know you better!

  3. Well put, all of it! I couldn't agree with you more. My husband and I are going through this exact list this year. We moved to Netflix and cut our cable package, and will probably quit cable altogether when our current deal ends. I also use the cable I DO have to work out using the on-demand feature, so I do not have to pay for a gym.

    We are looking at how we use Costco. We got our membership because of our daughter's formula and diaper costs. But we go there and realize we could get so much more! We've added to our list cooking spray, butter (which we freeze), chicken tenderloins, peppers (also which we freeze), chicken stock and coffee. So we're getting better!

  4. Thanks for the follow. I am now following you too. :)

    Have a great day!

  5. Hey! Like your blog. Looks like we have some of the same ideals & are about the same age. I am now reading The New Good Life by John Robbins (my hero). Check it out of the library (to save money) and don't just press the click button on Amazon (like me). He lost ALL of his money with Madoff and didn't even know it was invested there. His family is the family of "Baskin Robbins 31 flavors" of ice cream. John never accepted the family fortune because he wanted to live a simple life. Anyway, the book is nice as it talks about what we all might need to think about. Cutting back and being healthier. You might like it if you haven't already read it!

  6. Amen! These are fab tips to save money. Got any for losing weight?


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