Tightening the $$ Belt.

Lately, Jason and I have been re-evaluating what we’re spending our money on. We’ve gone through and canceled a lot of services that we’re recognizing are just sucking money from our paychecks. Jason found Mint (a free personal finance software) which allows us to digitally track all of our spending (yay for less paper!). It tracks everything: our 401Ks, Roth IRAs, investments, mortgage, checking, credit cards . . . everything. It’s amazing that it’s free. It will also help you analyze and assess where you are spending your money. It’s a great budgeting tool!

Most recently, we canceled our TV service for a variety of reasons, the first being that we don’t want the TV to suck time away from our lives – we want to be intentional with how we spend our time! When we don’t watch TV, we find that our nights are so much longer and enjoyable; we spend time talking, reading and pursuing our hobbies. The second reason is that it saves us $75 a month to not have TV service. That money adds up! There are also a variety of free and legal ways to watch TV. We have a HD antennae which allows us to pick up free local HD channels. Hulu.com offers many shows up for free – you just connect your TV to your compy and you’re all set (not to mention many networks offer their shows up on their websites: NBC, Comedy Central, etc etc). This forces us to be thoughtful about what shows we watch and how much time we spend watching them.

We canceled our home phone and took our internet package down to the cheapest option. . . we’re on the computer all day at work. . . Do we really need the best internet at home?

We’ve canceled our pest control service for a variety of reasons. One of which is that traditional pesticide is bad for everyone, animals, kiddos, us. We also don’t really have bug problems. And if we do, old fashioned squishing will do the trick. 🙂 So why spend that money on something bad for the environment, bad for us and bad for our wallets? That one was a no brainer.

We’ve also cut back on our eating out. We may eat out for lunch once a week, and dinner once a week (if even that) . . . everything else is prepared at home. This saves tons of money, not only because we’re spending less on food, but we’re driving less to get our food!

There are also a series of things that we’ve done to been ‘green’ that have ended up benefiting our wallets as well: carpooling, using cloth napkins instead of paper, reducing our use of anything disposable (plates, utensils, paper towels), composting, growing an herb garden, installing low flow water fixtures (lower utilities), only running full loads of laundry and dishes (which ends up being about 2 loads of laundry a week and one/two loads of dishes a week), switching to Camelbak reusable water bottlers instead of disposables, using craigslist to find things we made want/need. . . etc.

What are your favorite ways to save money? What are your favorite ‘green’ ways to save money?

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13 Comments

  1. Posted November 7, 2008 at 11:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    Dang. What timing! I just finished emailing Chance about a similar subject: I felt like I’d been frivolous lately. I’m generally a penny pincher to some degree- but lately…I’ve just splurged. Been eating out more (which I love and hate, simultaneously)…and just spending unnecessarily.

    I guess we try to save money by buying some generic products, using half a dryer sheet or less, I dunno – when we DO shop for clothes we almost always only buy sale/clearance items. Craigslist is a definite yes for us. I dunno. We’re good at watching our spending, but clearly not as good as you guys – goodness. We have some work to do!

  2. Elizabeth
    Posted November 7, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I went through a similar period where I felt like I was spending so much money! I bought bunches of fabric, random cooking supplies, a new pair of boots. . . and then I kinda felt sick about it all! I tend to be a penny pincher in general too, but I go through phases where I spend more money than I realize. . .

    I agree with you on the eating out thing, I love it and hate it at the same time. . .

    I don’t know that we’re better than you at watching our spendings. . . we allowed ourselves to get sucked into what we thought was normal spending habits (like regular pest control) and then kinda forgot about it. For two years! It seems like we can build up services that are unnecessary that we can certainly do without if we’re not paying attention to what we’re really signing up for!

  3. Posted November 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Love your saving tips. I’ve been using the Camelback water bottle too. I work for Intuit, makers of Quicken. We now offer Quicken Online, a free personal finance tracker, geared toward helping you see where you spend (and tighten the belt, as you say). One cool point of differentiation with Quicken Online is that we project your upcoming expenses. Let me know if you have any questions!

  4. Posted November 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m glad I’m not the only one. I guess it’s good that we at least realize when we’re spending too much (I’m SURE there are people that don’t).

    I’ve just gotten in a cooking rut – after the detox (and cooking every day for 21 days)…I just haven’t felt up to it – and I have absolutely no creativity or motivation – Chance has only been home for dinner a few days in the past few weeks. Just gotta get out of the rut.

    just found this website that I thought you might enjoy:

    http://www.goodguide.com

  5. Posted November 7, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    woot. haven’t had a tv service since June.

  6. Elizabeth
    Posted November 7, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I understand the cooking rut. Nothing has sounded appetizing to me lately so it’s been hard to want to cook. I’ve been eating a lot of pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese. Boring, but at least it fills me up. 🙂

    I posted about Good Guide awhile back! Turns out one of my old roommate’s cousin help put that site together. I love that it ranks products on sustainability, health and social impact and it also shows you the price of the products.

    I think it is true that we ‘vote with our dollars’ – in terms that, what we spend our money on empowers cooperation to do things we believe in or that we don’t believe in. I don’t want my money to go to a company that is going to pollute the environment, contribute to the chemicals in our bodies or mistreat people that are assembling the product. Good Guide helps me figure out what in the world I SHOULD spend my money on (wow, that sounded like I was paid to say that)!

  7. Posted November 7, 2008 at 4:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I cut coupons (yay!) and we have started only buying groceries that are on sale (never pay full price!). It is different planning meals around what is on sale and what you have instead of picking whatever you want, but it really brings down your grocery bill a ton. Brian wants to get rid of our cable service, but I am tutoring extra so that we can keep it. 🙂 I figure if I am willing to work extra to keep it, that’s not bad, right? Haha. It does suck up too much of my time, I do admit that. I’m not as strong as you, Beth!

  8. Posted November 8, 2008 at 9:54 am | Permalink | Reply

    that was super inspiring. i am working on a new budget as we speak 🙂 i am trying to find ways to cut back as well and you have some excellent ideas!!!

  9. Elizabeth
    Posted November 8, 2008 at 11:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    Jenn – I love the idea of cutting coupons but we don’t get the paper because I know we would never read it and it would be a waste of paper for us! I tried signing up for the grocery game, but found that it wasn’t helpful because the HEB flyer had the same information in it for free! I also find that the items I buy, since they’re not processed foods (for the most part), tend to not have coupons but store specials. And the items I do buy that require packaging, like dishwashing detergent, I am very specific on the brand that I want to put my money to (for example, Seventh Generation products) and those brands usually don’t have coupons!

    I do tend to plan meals around what I know is in season, which means that it is usually on sale.

    In general, I really struggle with all of this because I know that I could probably pair down my grocery bill but it would mean supporting companies that I don’t agree with. Thankfully, I love HEB and know that they treat their employees well, they are fairly local (San Antonio) and their food products are often more nutritious than national brands (for example, their cake mixes, icings and frozen rolls have no trans fats, but all of the national brands do).

    Whew, that was long!

    S – I’m glad the post was inspiring!

  10. cooperella
    Posted November 8, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    great post, and very relevant topic!

    Two years ago I stopped coloring my hair and growing it long – partly because I was ready for a change but also because I was ready to be done with regular trips to the salon that were costing $100+ every 6 weeks. It’s pretty sickening how much $ a girl can spend on personal beauty in a year’s time when you consider hair cuts/color/mani’s & pedi’s/massages/facials – especially when most of those things you could do at home!

    Thanks for passing the Mint software on, I’ll check it out!

  11. Elizabeth
    Posted November 8, 2008 at 10:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Ditto for me on the hair thing Mindy. It’s the reason my hair is now longer. Short hair is way too expensive to maintain!

  12. Rachael Becker
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 2:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    These all sound like good things, Beth. I’m curious as to what you have decided is more important to do with the money that you are saving?

    Matt got rid of our TV a few months ago; he was saving up to buy a new one. At one point he decided that he was too focused on getting that awesome new tv he spent all his time thinking about, and he decided to do something a little less selfish with the money.

    I’ve been okay with the no tv thing, but I’ve noticed that I now spend more time on the internet. So, basically, I waste time when I want to, not because I have all these distractions. Eventually, I’d like to get a new tv (i miss watching movies every now and then), but I guess maybe what I’m learning is that our lives need to have balance and right priorities. It takes discipline (like you mentioned today!) And I think that you are educating your blog followers about being responsible too.

  13. Elizabeth
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 3:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Rachael – part of it is the economy – Jason’s job is 100% commission and with the state that the economy is in . . . you can draw your own conclusions. The other part of it is a desire to be able to worship with our money. To really evaluate what we’re spending our money on, if it’s necessary and if it’s blessing anyone. It’s easy to get caught up in materialism and we want to make sure we’re not getting swept up in that.

    Props to you for getting rid of your TV! And props to Matt for setting aside his desire for a ‘bigger and prettier’ TV to be less selfish. 🙂 You guys are great!

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