In this post I will detail how much money we have saved (that is, not-spent) by making simple, painless changes in our life. We really haven’t given up anything by making these choices, although sometimes the workarounds can get a bit creative! I’ve ranked our choices from most money saved per year to least.
Moving Closer to Work While Reducing Our Rent
Two years ago, Kyle and I were living in a luxury apartment and we really loved it. However, we did not love when our complex decided to increase our rent by $60/month (the previous rent increase had been $5/month). Kyle tried to negotiate with them, but they didn’t budge. So we moved! We moved to a townhouse of the same size that was much closer to school and church and reduced our rent by $110/month. A few months ago, we moved again and reduced our rent by an additional $25/month.
Had we not moved, in the last 17 months we would have paid $18,105 in rent. Instead, we have paid $15,090 in rent and $853.85 to move twice (I have documented the costs of the first move and the second move). That’s a savings of $2,161.15!
I should emphasize that we still have approximately the same size home – we went from a 2 BR/2BA apartment to a 2 BR/2.5 BA townhouse. The only thing we gave up was having a small gym and pool available to us in our complex (but we have that at school anyway).
Our savings per year (comparing our current rent to what our rent would have been): $2,340. (This is actually an underestimate because our utility usage has dropped and we spend less on gas because our commute is shorter.)
Giving Cable the Boot
Cable is so egregiously expensive that I never really paid for it. Kyle had it before we were married, but within a few months after I moved in we decided there just wasn’t room for it in our new joint budget. We canceled our cable in October 2010 and have never looked back. The biggest unknown was how we would continue to watch sports (our university’s men’s basketball team, chiefly, but also pro football and basketball, tennis, and special events like the Olympics), but we found several workarounds that I assure you are worth the mega savings. Now we watch all the TV we want for free.
Just before we canceled, we were paying $135.67 for cable and internet. When we went down to just internet, the price dropped to $57.95, and through two moves and buying a modem, we now pay $34.99. Had we never canceled, in the last 41 months we would have paid $5,562.47 for cable and internet. Instead, we have actually paid $2,017.61. That’s a savings of $3,544.86.
Our savings per year (comparing our former cable+internet rate to our current internet-only rate): $1,208.16.
Getting Cash Back and Bonuses on Everything
Before Kyle and I were married, I had one credit card but I very rarely used it to make purchases (I was a bit scared of credit cards). Kyle had one gas rewards credit card that he used for everything. At first, I had to get on board with putting all of our possible spending on credit cards, which wasn’t too difficult because we always pay our credit cards off in full in the month we spend the money.
When the rewards on the gas card were downgraded, we started exploring which other cash back credit cards would fit our lifestyle long-term. We eventually added a few more cards to the mix, keeping one base card and signing up for some others for special kinds of spending and once for a free Kindle. We even asked ourselves how many cards would be too many because we loved further optimizing our rewards.
We are still debating adding a few more cards for long-term rewards potential, but the high sign-up bonuses on some travel credit cards have caught our eye. We recently churned two Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases (that’s an affiliate link; please read my review), netting us over $850 in bonuses (so far). But we are trying to keep from fully buying into the credit card hype. We are careful that we use our cashback rewards only toward spending we would have done anyway, which means that they effectively go straight into our short-term targeted savings accounts. For that reason I consider these rewards savings.
I’m not sure how much Kyle built up in rewards with his BP card, so I’ll compare against my $0 in rewards for my first three years after college. In contrast, in the past year we’ve redeemed $566.18 in rewards, and we have on deck the $425 sign-up bonus from our second Barclaycard ready to redeem as soon as we make another travel purchase. I don’t know if we’ll be able to repeat this every year, but it’s true for this past one.
Our savings per year (over our previous system): $991.18.
Spending All Our Time Together (i.e. Downsizing to One Car)
Calculating the money we’ve saved by going from two cars to one is a little trickier than the other categories. When we were first making the decision, we estimated we would spend $972.03 less over the course of a year by driving only one car, based on reduced gas usage, no need for insurance on the second car, not registering/inspecting/paying tax on the car, and buying only one parking permit. I still think that is a good way to calculate our savings. The repairs we had to make on the car we benched are still pending, so I don’t want to add in any no-repairs savings at the moment, although of course there would be some wear on the car if we were driving it. We’ve even seen some benefits to our relationship from sharing one car.
Our savings per year (estimated): $972.03.
Signing Up with an Alternative Cell Service Provider
In 2012, I was paying $35/month for a dumbphone with limits on talk and text I never reached.
How much money have we saved since switching?
The out-of-pocket costs to us have been over the past 15 months $522.09. Nearly all of of that is the two smartphones I’ve bought for the service (the Defy XT and now the Moto X) since most of my monthly payments have been covered by referral credits from other people using my link to sign up for Republic Wireless. If I had stuck with my dumbphone, I would have paid $525 through that time, believe it or not. Obviously, I would have paid more for way less capability, and over time the Republic Wireless gets ever cheaper because I won’t upgrade my hardware again for at least two years (I swear, this time!).
But that’s not really a good side-by-side comparison. A better one is to compare what we pay for Kyle’s smartphone with what I pay for mine. Kyle doesn’t have unlimited talk or data, but he does have a big enough data plan that he never reaches his limit. He texts through Google Voice so he doesn’t have to pay for texting as a part of his plan. He is in a two-year contract with Verizon Wireless (which we don’t like), in comparison with my contract-free plan. However, his phone is with Verizon, which has slightly better coverage than Sprint in our area.
Kyle’s plan is $69.70/month after applying a discount from our workplace. Again, I’m paying only $26.30/month with Republic Wireless. He paid $246.08 for his iPhone 5 last fall, and we just paid $299 for the Moto X (not counting referral credits) but will receive a $100 gift card rebate.
Our saving per year (calculated by the best comparison and not counting referral credits): $544.34. ($839.20 for the Moto X and two years of Republic Wireless service vs. $1,918.88 for the iPhone 5 and two years of Verizon service.)
Republic Wireless offers plans ranging from $5 to $40 per month. If you use the banner below to sign up, we will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting EPF!
I know most of you are thinking “I could never do that!” about one or more of the ideas on this list. Don’t sell yourself short! We had trepidations about every item on this list before we actually tried them out and they’ve all worked out swimmingly. Except for moving, all of these changes are easily reversible, so if you try it out and it doesn’t work, you can rapidly return to what you were doing before. I encourage you to consider making a big change to your lifestyle this year that will increase your net worth, either by painlessly cutting an expense like we have or by earning more money.
What big change have you made that helped you not-spend a lot of money? Have you ever done anything on this list and how much money did it save you?