Even before we had the baby, Meg and I have been doing our best to see where we can cut back when it comes to expenses. We may not be disciplined enough to chuck all the expenses and go live in a tent somewhere, but here and there we’ve found some things that may seem a little quirky, but have helped cut down a little here and a little there in our overall expenses.
And believe me, now that we do have the baby, yet still have my massive student loan debt, every little bit helps.
Here’s a few of the things we’ve taken a crack at.
Like many other folks we know, we used to have the standard Digital Cable plan. The box, the DVR, hundreds of channels, the whole kit and kaboodle. However, one day, long before we were even expecting, we just looked at each other and realized how often we were finding things amid the plethora of channels, even if it wasn’t great, just for the sake of watching something. It was like paying for all those channels made you feel like you needed to be watching one of them. What we started realizing as we’d flip through the channels, was that there were numerous times where we’d find nothing to watch, even with that large a selection.
So, we decided to try the experiment of going down to basic cable and see how it went. It took a little getting used to and there’s still some shows Meg misses seeing (she loves those DIY and Cooking programs), but we’ve now been going a few years strong with just basic cable and it’s been great. We’ve discovered which shows we enjoy enough to look for when they’re on (versus DVR) and have really embraced the variety of programming on our local PBS station. (Sunday nights have never been the same for us since Sherlock and Downton Abbey)
When we decided to do away with the cable, we thought we would rely more on Netflix for entertainment. At that time, we had the one disc at a time plan, that also included streaming if you so chose. However, in time, Netflix made that two separate plans and began charging people for each. So, we made the conscious decision after seeing a number of discs sit around for weeks and weeks without viewing, to cut our losses in half, do away with the disc option and go solely streaming. Sure, your choices are different and you may not always find what you want, but we’ve discovered some very entertaining films, documentaries and television shows, both old and new, that we would never have had we had the ability to have ‘whatever we wanted.’
This one doesn’t really equate to a monthly bill, but while we’re on the subject of entertainment, I wanted to throw it in. We’ve had quite a few offers for a new television, whether it’s a friend or relative getting rid of some widescreen behemoth or relatives offering one as a Christmas present. While grateful, we’ve respectfully declined each time. We like our little 4×3 television set. It’s the same one I’ve had since college, and not only has it lasted like new over the more than a decade since I got it, we still have Meg’s (almost the same model) in the basement if this one ever goes.
Okay, so they’re not saving you a fortune, but every little bit helps, right? Some time ago, my wife and I realized how we were always (or fairly frequently) spending money on napkins at the grocery store. So, while at Target one day we decided to purchase a package of cloth napkins. We also used to use brown paper bags for our lunches. However, the purchase of a reusable cloth lunch bag has meant we haven’t had to buy any brown paper bags in years. It’s amazing how reusable these items have been, all with a simple run through the wash with the rest of our laundry when they start to get a little dirty.
There are few things satisfying as knowing that you did something with your own two hands. Since moving into our little starter home, I’ve had to learn to do a lot, mostly out of necessity. Whether it’s installing a new front door, renovating a bathroom, putting in floors, it all has been infinitely cheaper to purchase materials and devote the time and elbow grease needed to get the job done instead of hiring someone else to do it for us.
Your library card can be one of the most valuable pieces of plastic in the arsenal that is your wallet, and I highly suggest taking full advantage of it. It breaks my heart every time I hear about another library not doing well, and not just because I worked in one in college. I love libraries. The idea that a place filled with the knowledge of a civilization or civilizations stands, ready and accessible for anyone to come and partake, is just breathtaking to me. And as long as you follow the rules, it’s absolutely free. What an amazing thing. Whenever I come across a title that I’m interested in reading, I always check the library first. If I like it enough to read it multiple times, I’ll purchase a copy, but if it’s only getting one read, why spend the money? Libraries are a great place to gain some knowledge, test some literary waters, and save a pretty penny.
On the same topic of books, I find myself often looking at our bookshelves and realizing how many books we have that I either haven’t read yet or haven’t read in so long that it’s like new! It’s like going to a book store where a) it’s free and b) they carry your favorites.
I love eBay. Not so much the buying, although I do now and then, but I love having an auction at my fingertips to unload items that I realize have been sitting around our house since we got together and heck, in our individual apartments well before that, doing nothing but collecting dust. I’ve learned that we, as humans, have a weird ability to create sentiment toward EVERYTHING, even when it’s not warranted. There’s nothing wrong with having a connection to something, it’s just having a connection to everything where you stir up trouble. Assess what you have, what you need, what you really want, and what you’ve held on to ‘just because’ and you’ll find there’s a lot of ‘just because’ you will be just as happy without, and someone else will be quite happy to take off your hands for a price. And if you have books you can’t seem to unload, try something like paperbackswap.com, an online book club where you list books you’re willing to send out to those who want them in exchange for credits that you can then use for books you’re looking for.
This isn’t an end-all, be-all list, of course – just a few small ways that we’ve taken on in an ongoing effort to “trim the fat,” as they say. They may not be huge, but they help, and I feel like at the same time, I’m learning a little something through each one of these efforts.