How I Cut Almost $200/month Worth of Expenses

January 13, 2014 Permalink

Last week, I was creating my 2014 budget with Cait’s budget spreadsheet (thanks Cait!) and checking my credit card statements for more accurate predictions of my future expenses, based on what happened in the past year.

This is part two of my financial planning for 2014. The first part was finding ways to earn more income passively.

I did a budget for every month of the year, totalling it all up in the end.

HOLY F-CK, guys.

2014 is going to be an expensive year.

I’m getting married. I’m going on an expensive honeymoon. That’s it, but that’s enough. That’s all my wallet can handle.

After I came to the sobering realization that I would have to either put all of my savings on hold for the entire year, or do something about cutting back my expenses, I decided for the latter and got to work.

Line Them Up

Since this realization came out of the exercise of doing a budget in the first place, I had all of my expenses lying in front of me, glaring a me, and begging for me to pick them off.

If you’re playing along at home, do the most detailed budget you’ve ever done. Every single penny that goes out of your bank account must be accounted for. Don’t lump your vitamins or cleaning products in with your groceries; actually list these things separately.

(Why? Well, you can’t stop eating, but you can cut back on the extras you buy from the grocery store. You can cut back on portions of your bills, if you can’t cut back on the whole bill, so be very detailed).

Pick Em Off

Legend

Greyed out cells: There are some bills you can’t reduce. Your mortgage, any debt repayment you may have (in fact, you should be boosting those payments), different types of insurance. I greyed those expenses out on my budget spreadsheet.

Orange cells: I could most certainly reduce these expenses, but these are more discretionary and where I’d rather see my money go. I would cut back on these as a last resort.

Bold cells: These are the expenses I was focusing on cutting.

Regular text cells: The cells with regular text and a white background are cells that I do plan on scaling back a bit on, but I wouldn’t be able to total my savings on them easily because of the way my finances are set up with my fiances. I left them out.

cutting expenses

(I don’t have cleaning products or firewood on my budget because my fiance pays for those things, and I pay for the pet food/nail clipping, etc).

Instant Gratification

Right away, I was able to save $75 (instant gratification) on:

  • Phone bill
  • Internet bill
  • Banking Fees

Phone Bill

I have some extras on my phone that I probably don’t need, and are costing me $30/month extra. I phoned and got rid of those extras, saving me $30/month right off the bat.

Internet Bill

My brother, who lives in our suite, insists on having the highest speed internet. This is fine with me, because that way we can both be on the internet efficiently, but I don’t like the cost. I phoned Telus (my internet provider) and they transferred me to the client retention department.

Since I have been a customer for 4 years, and I wanted cheaper internet, they cut my bill down to $20/month for the next 6 months and $50 thereafter. That saved another $50 off of our bill. Once the six months expires, we’ll transfer it to J’s name, so he can get the new customer discount.

Banking Fees

I know my fees are only $4.95, but banking fees are such a huge waste of money.

I’ve had a checking account with ING Direct for years, since I started this blog, and it’s free. I cancelled my account with TD so I wouldn’t be dinged so much by their insane fees, and it saved me (almost) $5.

(Sign up for ING with my Orange Key – 35611511S1 – and get $25 for yourself).

Instant gratification saved me $84.95!

Slower Process

Because not everything can provide instant gratification, I’ve decided to cut down in a few other ways, too.

Natural Gas and Electricity

This one isn’t hard – we’ve been pretty bad lately about turning off the lights, and relying on gas heat instead of our fireplace when we’re too lazy to light a fire.

I can’t let that continue, because I just don’t feel comfortable seeing our dollars go down the drain. We experimented over the past month to see how a change in behaviour might reduce our bill and saved just over $60 between both bills.

Health Care and Alcohol

I have amazing benefits with work and as a result, I don’t have to pay very much toward health care. The health care item on my budget is for a supplement which I’m not eliminating, but I am reducing it. I am getting the nutrients it provides in my diet at least partially, so I am cutting back the amount that I use by an amount that works out to cost me about $15/month.

I am having a drink free January and am trying to stay sober throughout the first quarter of the year (at least on my own dime). Alcohol is severely dehydrating and my skin and body just can’t take it in the winter. That’s over $20/month that I am saving (about 2 bottles of wine) but I am rounding down to $20/month.

Parking

There are few expenses I hate more than paying for parking. We have to pay for parking at work, but I have been parking in a residential area and walking to work instead, thereby saving the parking expense. However, two times per month I’ve been parking in the work parking lot, which costs $4.25 each ($8.50 total).

I gave up my parking pass so now I won’t have the option to do that.

 

Just by making a few small adjustments (and spending some time on the phone), I am saving $188.45. Since I rounded down on quite a few of these expenses, it’s closer to $200 than $190.

Have you cut back any of your expenses this year?

 

We’re Doing Big Things to Tame Our Heating Bill

November 20, 2013 Permalink

One of my most hated expenses is the heating bill.

We don’t have air conditioning, so we only experience this type of bill for a few months every year, but it’s still a pain. Our heating bill isn’t even all that much, but it’s enough to make us want to save a bit here and there on it.

We moved in December 2012 to a house that is quite a bit larger than our previous dwelling/shack. A larger house generally results in larger bills, particularly when it comes to heating, cooling, and electricity.

We’ve been able to keep our electricity bill cost neutral, but we’re on a mission to save some cash when it comes to heating, too. So far we’ve taken a few steps to bring it down a bit.

The Attic Re-Insulation Project

Our house came with a big problem when we bought it: vermiculite insulation in the attic, which unfortunately tested positive for asbestos.

We found out about the asbestos when we got our home inspection, and were able to negotiate the removal costs of the dangerous substance, but post-abatement we were left with an un-insulated attic.

We re-insulated the attic and every other point we could get at by purchasing the highest possible grade of thermal resistant insulation we could find. We insulated with R-40 and saved quite a bit of money on it by buying it off of Craigslist. 

Wood Burning Stove

We have a wood burning fireplace, which we try to use as often as possible instead of the alternative forced air heat.

The heat from a wood burning fireplace seems so much warmer than forced air or electric heat, and it’s free.

We don’t buy wood for the fireplace. Instead, we use discarded pallets. There are a lot of companies that have to pay to get pallets picked up and shipped away, so we (and by we, I mean my fiance) picks them up from the businesses (construction companies, grocery and furniture stores, etc) after talking to the management.

He then chops up the pallets and we have free heat all winter.

Changing out the Windows

Our fireplace doesn’t reach our loft, which we’ve turned into our ultimate master bedroom. This is the only room in the house that doesn’t have double paned windows, as the reno company that worked on our house before we bought it overlooked them.

This is next on our priority list. While we don’t really use the electric heat in the loft, single paned windows can be poor for air quality. Condensation can build up more readily with single paned windows, causing mould and mildew on the window sills.

Plus, the loft can get pretty hot in the summer and double paned windows can help with that.

 

What do you do to reduce your heating bill?

What I’ve Watched & Read – Fall Edition

November 14, 2013 Permalink

My posts in the past that touch on what I’ve watched and read recently are pretty popular. I guess I can see why – I love getting recommendations of good books to read and documentaries to watch.

Recap of May

Recap of April

To find documentaries, I usually just call out on Twitter to find out what other people are watching. That way I don’t have to re-create the wheel.

What I’ve Read

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been super busy, but being in planes, trains, and automobiles as allowed me some down time, unplugged, to read. I’ve also always been in the habit to spend at least 15 minutes before bed with a book – no matter how late I turn in – and if I don’t do this, I don’t sleep. Despite it being a solitary habit, reading can also be expensive. Check out my post about how I read 4+ books per month for free.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood

This was such. a. good. book.

Alias Grace

Alias Grace

I got it for free using Swagbucks [referral code], and started reading it on my way home from my vacation. Despite being in a plane/at an airport for over 14 hours, the trip went quick (as trips do when you have a good book to read).

I love Margaret Atwood, and Alias Grace was no exception.

The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton

I loved this novel. I find it hard to describe, but it’s essentially about a little girl (turned teenager and adult later in the book) who is growing up with a self absorbed, dysfunctional chocolate heiress as a mother.

I gobbled it up in under a week.

My mom bought this book and loaded it on her Kindle. This enabled me to read it since we share an Amazon account. Free!

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

I’m currently reading this book. It’s really good. You can tell that it’s written by a young girl, and the writing is good but not amazing, but with a really good story, that doesn’t matter.

Malala focuses on the school that her father ran and she went to, and the horrors that her valley underwent under the Taliban. I’m only about 60% through the book but she hasn’t really focused on the shooting.

So far I’d recommend it.

What I’ve Watched

I love documentaries, and I also have a bit of a weakness for MTV reality TV. This will become apparent below..

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

I love documentaries that make me want to get off my ass and get moving. I find that they usually stoke small lifestyle changes on my part. When I watched Forks Over Knives, I cut out a lot of the dairy that I was eating prior to watching it. Even though I knew that animal products weren’t healthy, I still ate them. Seeing real life examples of the effects of these things and real statistics kicks me into gear.

This documentary had a similar effect. The documentary is about a man who was overweight, had a rare disease, and was overly stressed. He took a few months off and went on a juice diet, and was committed to living a healthier lifestyle. His juice fast lasted for several months, and the transformation was pretty amazing.

I didn’t buy into the whole juicing thing, but it does make you think about what you’re eating and whether or not you are getting the nutrients you need.

Catfish the TV Show

We caught an episode of this when we were travelling and were hooked.

There’s something so interesting about watching people fall in love online, and find out who their internet amour really is. It’s probably more interesting for me, because I met my fiance the old fashioned way – at a party (when I was 18).

Plus, Nev and Max are adorable so that’s helpful.

I watch this for free on mtv.ca.

 

Any suggestions on my next favourite documentary or book?