Now that I’m no longer hunting for a condo, moving, or refinancing the condo and my savings plan is likely to be a bit more static, I’ve decided to turn to the other side of the table and work on my expenses. My goal for 2013 is to keep my non-mortgage spending under $24,000 for the year or under $2,000 on average each month (including travel). I think that this is definitely doable. One of the ways I’ve been working on this is by tackling the little things.
Interested in a book? I used to just go on Amazon and buy it for my Kindle. But recently I found out that my local library has e-books in addition to regular ones! So that’s a free book for minimal effort beyond buying it! My Kindle is almost 3 years old now, but it still works great! I probably will replace it when it completely dies, but I have a feeling it will last for a little while yet.
Food: Muffin, tea, lunch, fruits and yogurt? I can buy a muffin mix for $2-3 at the grocery store, make some on Sunday and bring them in. (Yes, I realize I could also make them from scratch. That’s the next step.) The office has free tea, hot chocolate, and coffee, so there’s no need to pay $2-5 for those. And I can bring in sandwich makings and yogurt from the grocery store for much cheaper than buying them for 4-5 days each week. In January/February my food spending totaled up to:
- $68.41/$2.72 Dining out – This was an anomaly month and probably won’t happen again (see super cheap February at $2.72), so I’ve lowered this budget from $110/month to $70/month. (Note that only eating out with just me or me and my boyfriend that I pay for goes in this category. Eating out with friends goes in Entertainment.)
- $246.36/$139.66 Groceries – I made once weekly trips to the grocery store to cover breakfasts, dinners, and work lunches except for one week. There was definitely a bit of stocking up since I noticed some sales at the grocery store, so this might go down next month. (up $119.81 from my 2012 average spending) Yup, definitely went down in February. Not bad!
- $49.22/$48.00 Work Lunches/Coffees – I ate out every day the short week of the holiday and the last week of January due to various work functions. This is the least I’ve spent on work lunches in one month over the last three years. (down $122.65 from my 2012 average spending) Sweet, I spent even less in February!
It looks like the grocery and work lunches differentials in January about evened out, so I didn’t really save any money. It definitely went better in February when I made fewer trips to the grocery store! I lowered my work lunches budget from $200 to $80 and increased the grocery budget from $150 to $200.
Cell phone bill? I switched from Sprint to Ting, terminating my contract early. Even with paying the early termination fee (ETF), it still would have been cheaper, but I was able to get in on the giveaway Ting was doing to pay your ETF, so I’m saving money instantly. I found that I wasn’t using data much at all, so this should work out well. I was paying about $83/month with all the taxes and fees with Sprint for way more than I needed (it was an “unlimited” plan of sorts). But now with Ting, it looks like the taxes and fees are way cheaper at around $2-3/month versus almost $14/month with Sprint and my plan is way cheaper too. Their thing is that they adjust your billing plan each month based on which usage tier you *actually* fell into. I figure that I should spend about $34/month including taxes and fees, which shaves about $48/month off my cell phone bill and it would have been cheaper for me to switch even if Ting wasn’t paying my ETF. I also got a $25 referral credit from someone online, which was a pretty sweet bonus!
New cell phone? I was setting aside a bit of money each month to buy a new cell phone once my contract was up and switch carriers. Since I was able to bring my phone with me when I switched carriers and I’ve already set aside almost $300, I’m not going to add any more money to that line item in my budget. I zeroed this out and sent it to the mortgage in February.
Internet bill? I’m working on this one. I never seem to manage to call my internet provider during “business” hours. But I’ve been shopping around and actually found another provider that has a better rate, even when they force me to bundle it with their phone AND they’ll lock the price for 5 years. Even with needing to buy a new modem since the new provider doesn’t support my current one, I will still save about $14/month by switching. Having the local phone and combining that with Google Voice will actually significantly reduce the minutes I use on my cell phone and could reduce that cost as well! I’m more hesitant to pull the plug on switching internet providers because it is not as clear of an immediate savings and it would mean changing from cable to DSL, which I’ve never actually tried.
Easier option: I called Comcast and asked to lower the speed. My February bill was cut to $8 instead of $50 and I will only pay $31 going forward each month. It seems that I can still VPN with the lowered speed and everything is working fine. Sweet!
Pandora? I decided to nix this. Upfront savings: $36 since it was just about to renew. Monthly savings: $3.
Remember the Milk? I decided to nix this, but I’m still not completely sold. I’ve tried other to do systems and just stuck with this one out of habit and not bloating up my phone too much. If it’s actually gone, $23.08 in upfront savings and $2/month.
Insurance? After my 25th birthday, I’m going to ask my current insurance company to re-pull my insurance score (re: do a soft pull on my credit) and see how that lowers my rate and then shop around to see if there is anything better out there. I shopped around for car insurance back when I was buying the condo and I didn’t see anything worth switching to, probably because I was still under 25. My umbrella insurance will also get about cheaper once I turn 25. I’m curious to see how much turning 25 saves me on my car insurance. I’m guessing $10-20/month?
Feminine hygiene? I calculated that in 2012 I spent at least $60 on such products. I spent about $40 to buy a menstrual cup in January which should last for several years. Not a huge cost savings in the first year, but I’ve heard good things about it in general and I figure it’s worth a try. I still have a few months’ worth of prior supplies left, so I will run through those a bit more before trying out the cup for a whole week.
Tax return preparation? The last couple of years, I paid a CPA. But as I’ve mentioned a few times, I wasn’t overly pleased with the service. I spent the first weekend in February working on this for maybe 3-5 hours using Free File Fillable Forms. I’ll e-file by the end of February, once I’ve had a chance to double check my math at least once. Total cost this year: $0.
Electricity bill? The most expensive things here are: lights, heating, and the water heater. Maybe the fridge, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I unplug the appliances that I’m not using. I keep lights off that I don’t need. I only run the dishwasher and clothes washer with a full load. I finally figured out that my programmable thermostats (came with the place) weren’t really programmed, so the heater was keeping the bedroom at 70 F all day. ALL DAY while I’m at work. My electricity bill for December/January was incredibly expensive. As such, I’ve increased my electricity budget a bit, but also trying to fix things somewhat and hopefully the next bill will be much cheaper and I can reduce my budget. Electricity has probably been my biggest budgeting change/unknown since moving to the condo. It’s an older building than my apartments were and it’s also a lot larger of a unit. On the pro side though, I do actually have programmable thermostats and if I didn’t, buying them would save me a ton of money.
Clothing? I’ve evaluated my wardrobe and what I spent money on in 2012. I’ve made a decree that other than buying bras if I don’t have any that fit properly, I’m not going to spend any money on clothing going forward in 2013. Let’s see how I do with this! This is probably honestly one of the bigger “fat” items of all the ones I’ve listed here with food/cell phone being a close second.
- $50/month lowered entertainment budget from $150 to $100. Can you believe that it used to be $300/month? :)
- $35/month lowered dining out budget from $70 to $35.
- $30/month lowered budget for each person
- $16 upfront – don’t need a hair cut in March.
- $65 upfront – not going in a sports tournament that I had planned on.
- $77 upfront – not going to renew my annual gym membership. I’ll switch to punch cards when it’s up.
- $6/month – will keep Tivo for at least 5 more years.
- $48 upfront – have plenty of fuel budget rolled over, so don’t need to add more in March.
- $2/month – never spend more than $3 on parking meters.
I estimate that all of these “little” things should save me about $200-300/month. That means an extra $200-300/month that I can throw at the mortgage and $6-9k less that I need in investments in order to be financially independent. I’ve lowered my checking account direct deposit from $2,500/month to $2,200/month. (Note that that amount includes a $350/month travel budget that rolls forward indefinitely.)
I got off to a good start with January and February! This whole new year, new mortgage thing has been great to motivate me to cut out some of this fat.
Readers, have you recently done any budget overhauls? What kind of fat did you find in your budget to cut?