Rufus Wainwright said it best didn't he? The road is truly long and those turns are many and winding. That being said starting off on a debt free path can be difficult. First of all where do you start? For me starting down the road began with doing the budget and cutting costs. Here are some of the things that I did to cut costs. These things were done prior to any budget adjustments and budgeting. These were first steps before getting started. Why start with so many budget issues when you can start with cutting costs then budget it around your new fees?
Cutting Costs in Entertainment.
My partner and I read constantly. We both love movies, anime, and certain television shows. At the start of my journey we had a $200 a month bundled cable bill. Cable (with extended channels), phone, and Internet. Nice right? Wrong! Here's why. The phone was a virtual phone that was part of the bundle. The down side to these cable company sponsored phones is that if the power goes out so does your phone modem and thus so does your phone. These are not land line phones! If you see a modem that your phone line plugs into, even if another line runs to the phone jack, it is NOT a land line phone. We found this out the hard way. So basically we were paying for Skype. Seriously that is what it amounts to. One year of skype was the same as one month of phone service. The first option was to move to skype but why? We would still have no phone service if the power went out. The second option was a prepaid cell phone. Great now we are paying for a phone that is virtual and will die if the power goes out plus a prepaid phone. My first thought was the power is out, the storm that knocked the power out is going strong, we have an emergency, and now I'm standing on top of a hill in a rain storm trying to get enough bars on the cell phone to call for help. Yeah, not a good scenario. Funny but not good. It was not worth paying for two phones either.
The other issue was the cable. We weren't watching it. We were finding that our cable would be out more than it was working. We were also watching television shows online and moves online with Hulu and Netflix. In addition to that our Internet service would continuously go out. I work from home and we both are gamers. This was not good to say the least. So what was the solution to our problem. We got rid of the headache. We switched to a company that offered actual land line phone service and reliable Internet. We did not order cable TV. Instead we took our two extra desktop computers (older models that we weren't utilizing), purchased two $10 monitors from the thrift store, and hooked one computer up in the bedroom and one in the TV room. Wireless Internet and presto we had any television or movie we wanted to watch. Netflix was $10 for the lowest package that allowed unlimited streaming video and Hulu is free.
The result of this one change from cable TV to Internet was a $115 savings per month.
Now onto the books. We were paying anywhere from $10-$20 per book and we go through them FAST. I know a lot of you are chanting the word library. The library is a great option, unless your like me and can't remember to take the book back on time. We needed an option that would lower the cost, offer the same wide range of books that a bookstore offered, and that didn't have a deadline. We ended up swapping to Paperback Swap, free online book sites (legal no torrents), and Amazon's free kindle download. Oh yeah, did you know they had that? You can download Kindle for PC...FREE! They even offer books for free and low cost. Paperback Swap allows you to swap books you no longer want for credits. There is a bit of a trick to them. If you want to know more about them please see my upcoming blog on the real cost of paperback swap. Don't forget many places like paperback swap have referral programs that earn more credits for books.
That switch saved us $75 a month.
This is still a work in progress because I have not figured up the actual savings and only can go on the estimated savings having had these concepts implemented for a short time. As time goes on I will able to update the savings and give a better idea of what it has done for us over the long haul.
Cleaning products were a huge problem. With recent income changes and tax return adjustments the plan I used to have has fallen to the wayside. I will take a moment though and say that if you have a rather large tax return consider buying for the year on certain items. We bought shampoo, conditioner, soap, dishwashing tablets, laundry supplies, and toilet paper for 6 to 12 months and stored it. We only recently ran out of the toilet paper and laundry soap so it actually lasted around 7 months. Not to bad but not something we, or a lot of people, can do every January. That being the case, here is what we have implemented to help out.
Having to purchase Oxy bleach, stain spray, softener, etc. is a lot of money when it adds up. I researched and landed on a great youtube video for making your own laundry soap. It basically was 1 cup of washing soda, 1 cup of borax, 1 bar of ivory soap (worked great by the way), and 2/3 cup baking soda. Mix it in a food processor. It took around 10 minutes to make three batches. That's it. The clothes came out AMAZING. Clean, no sports or icky "pit" stains, and the greying that some whites get was gone.
With this step we went from 23 cents per load for the cleaning product to 3 cents per load. That's not counting the savings on gas because we ordered everything through drugstore.com with some other needed household purchases and got free shipping.
For household cleaning I took a wine jug (the big glass ones) and mixed the peel of 3 medium sized oranges, 1/3 cup of borax, 3 tbs of baking soda, and water. I let it rest for one night. Used it in the bathroom the next day and it was awesome. Everything came just as clean as it did with the harsher chemicals and the smell was a pleasant citrus. No stickiness or any kind of film. Just replenish the water and borax/soda mix as needed. I even used the mix to clean the tub and used the broom to scrub. I didn't kill my back, the broom cleaned the tub while getting clean itself, and everything was clean!
I have not figured the savings out on this but judging from the fact that we get certain fruit for free (see the food section below) I imagine that this will prove to say a good deal of money over the long haul. I'll keep you posted.
For the food we have only put in a few initial plans. We have a local supermarket owned by the Western Supermarkets chain. If you have one of these or an A&P near you then you may have the same deal we do. They have a meat and vegetable section that is 5 for $20. Many times we can get our meat for the month for around $80 using this deal. It is an ongoing deal so there is no need to worry about missing out on it. Just check your store flyer. Some days the meat cuts are better than others but overall this is not bad at all and the packs are not small. One pack of chicken generally has around 6-8 drumsticks and if you have kids that is an awesome deal.
My partner loves tomatoes and will eat them constantly if he could. I am implementing the tomato planting. I am NOT buying a topsy!!! You can implement the same upside down planting technique with any hanging planter basket, felt or some other screen to keep the soil in place, tomato plant, and soil. Just make the hole bigger on the bottom of the basket, stick the tomato plant through the hole with the top of the plant facing down, cover with soil, and utilize the top soil for an herb garden or small lettuce heads. All for about $10 or less if you have a dollar general or dollar tree store! Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries can all be handled this way! Just hang in your back yard or do what we did and get Shepard's hooks for each plant. They hang at a perfect height and look lovely in a row. Also, you can recycle old coffee grounds into the soil for richer gardening. Making your own compost bin is easy to and will save on potting soil.
No eating out! We do not eat out unless it meets a certain criteria. The meal has to be under $10 with or without a coupon, last for more than one meal as leftovers, and can only be once a week. If it meets that criteria then it falls under the entertainment budget. All other meals are made at home.
We will be putting more into effect as we go and I will update on that. So far though with just the meats, not eating out, and making everything at home we have seen a savings of about $100 a month.
So there you have it. Some of the simple things we have implemented to help with cutting costs and we haven't even really started tweaking the budget yet! I hope this helps some of you out there and if you have any questions about the programs or how-to's of what we have done please follow the links below! Leave any comments or questions!!! I love hearing from readers.
How to Swap from Cable to Internet for movies and TV
Making your own compost bin
Making your own laundry soap
Amazon Kindle for PC