Sunday, November 15, 2009

Three things we cut to save $100 a month

When we decided I would quit working at Jennie G's to stay home full time with the girls, we knew we'd have to cut a thing or two from our budget. Here are three things we cut, and what we've done to replace them.

1) Cable TV. We had Charter. They are famous for saying ONLY $49.99 A MONTH!!! (for six months and then it'll be more but we won't advertise how much and we won't remind you when the six months are up either). We'd always call them at the end of the "promotional" time frame and they'd set us up on another reasonable deal. Well, finally--and we'd been thinking of terminating our service anyway--Jordan called and they refused to cut us a deal, even though we'd been model customers, always paying on time. So he told them fine, we would like to cancel. A few days later we got a call from one of their customer service reps. "Guess what!" she said. "Your old rate has been extended for another six months!" We said thanks but no thanks. It was just so aggravating to deal with renegotiating our plan so often, and we were tired of wasting not only our money but our time. Instead, we got Netflix, which costs less than $10 a month. Because Jordan built us an awesome home theater PC, we have unlimited instant access to thousands of movies on our TV and we also get one DVD at a time through the mail. Not all their movies can be viewed online, but lots of them can. It's a great deal, especially if you have a nice big monitor or can do what we did and watch them on your TV. Also, we still get three or four good channels like NBC and Fox (Glee, Biggest Loser, and the news are the shows we love). With the home theater PC we can record, pause and rewind them. This saves us at least $30 a month.

2) Garbage pickup. We were paying $18.94 a month to have people come and take away our garbage once a week. It sounds convenient but really it was aggravating. First, we had to remember to roll it out to the curb. Second, it is windy in our neighborhood and we don't have a garage to keep our garbage can in. It was always blowing all around the yard and the lid kept breaking off. Sometimes I'd come home from work to find garbage blown across the front lawn. Every time the men emptied it they'd break the lid off and just stick it down in the can, so we'd have to reach down in to get it. To top it all off, they didn't do recycling. Eventually I realized that if we were going to recycle anyway, we might as well take our own garbage while we were at it. If you subtract the paper, glass, plastic and metal that we recycle and the food (mostly fruits and vegetables) we either put down the disposal or throw in the back of our yard, there is very little trash left anyway. We got a smaller, flatter container to keep that in and it doesn't blow away. The recycling center/dump is between our house and where we like to shop, so it doesn't require much extra gas. Canceling our garbage service was both a wise financial choice and an environmentally friendly one.

3) Eating out, both fast food and sit-down restaurants. Eating in a sit-down restaurant with a two-year-old and an infant is about as much fun as going to the dentist. Suzi will only sit still for so long, and Ivey likes to be walked around. It doesn't make for an enjoyable meal, so we don't go. Occasionally we do eat fast food, but not a quarter as much as we used to. We only do it when we're away from home and hungry, and we try to use coupons or order only a sandwich rather than a combo. We've gotten better about taking a snack with us when we go somewhere, but sometimes we slip up and have to eat fast food. During those times we try to use coupons or order just a sandwich without the fries and soda. One effective way we've found to keep from stopping is to take water with us when we go on a long car ride. We used to always pull into the drive-thru "because we were thirsty." Then we smelled the food and said, well, maybe we'll just buy a small fries. Oh, and some chicken strips. And while we're at it, might as well get the combo. It took us from $3 for drinks to $15 for two high-calorie meals we didn't really need. The temptation is ten times easier to resist if you stay far away. It's been nice to look at our bank statement and not see $10 here, $15 there for a bunch of greasy food. We save at least $50 a month, as bad as the habit was for us.

Those are three surprisingly painless cuts we made. I also found that I didn't lose as much money as expected when I quit work, but I think I will save the details of that for my next post.