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From My Inbox: We Cut Our Spending and Simplified Our Lives

Here’s another great email from a reader:

A few years ago my husband and I were inspired to get out of debt. Even though the debt we had was not a major burden, we felt that we needed to get out from under the loans just in case a rainy day came our way. And I am so glad that we did!

Literally a month after we paid off our debts my husband was laid-off unexpectedly due to the economy. After a few moments of panic, my husband and I put our heads on straight and came up with a game plan. Here are a few things we did to reduce spending:

Clothing and services

  • Took inventory of our wardrobe and sold pieces we never wear on eBay.
  • Asked my hair dresser to dye my hair back to its natural color, so I could go longer between hair cut appointments.
  • We dropped our health club and formed a jogging group with friends.
  • Asked friends and relatives for hand-me-downs for our toddler.

Housing and utilities

  • Eliminated premium channels from our cable service.
  • Canceled Netflix and used Redbox instead.
  • Reduced phone extras on our cell service.
  • Investigated whether bundled service (phone, high-speed Internet and cable television) might save us money. Turns out they gave us a promotional rate on our high-speed Internet.
  • Washed only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Used a clothesline and used our dryer just to soften air-dried clothes.
  • Kept our home heated or cooled only when we were actually there.
  • Switched to compact-fluorescent bulbs, and turned them off when not needed. Turned off TVs, computers and other electronics when not in use.

Transportation

  • Sold our car that had a car payment. Yep, we became a single car family.
  • Got all the discounts we deserved, such as good-driver, good-student and multiple-car discounts.
  • Because we were driving less, we told our insurer; and got a cheaper rate.
  • We biked or walked as often as possible.
  • Grouped our errands to reduce gas consumption.

Food

  • I brought lunches and snacks to work.
  • Cooked once, ate twice: leftovers were used for a later meal.
  • Used the weekly grocery store circulars to see what’s on sale and used coupons along with sales.

After several months of many prayers, my husband landed his dream job. It was a miracle! However, the pay was significantly less than what he was making from his previous job.

The transition to our new income would have been a struggle, but we had already reduced our spending significantly. In fact, we were able to save $500 a month with all of our reductions. Moreover, we are still a single car family. My husband rides the bus to work everyday and really enjoys it. This experience brought us closer together as a couple. We both agreed that reducing spending has simplified our lives.

Ashley and Ryan are currently living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ashley is a dental hygienist and Ryan works for the Federal Government. They have a two and half-year-old son.

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48 Comments

  • Tanya says:

    This should be inspiring to many people, mainly because the way the economy is headed. I know it was for me.

  • Melissa Martin says:

    Inspiring! Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. God Bless

  • Tanya says:

    @Renee’s Joy Journey,

    Well said….I was watching the news the other day and they were talking about the inflation that was going to take place. According to the news cotton (this will affect the cost of clothes) will be increased by 80%, food 2-3%, and meet 4%. NEVER A BETTER TIME TO SAVE.

  • Allison says:

    This is a great story! I have one silly question though… We pay for lowest subscription on Netflix and get one video at a time and can stream movies too. How is that more expensive than Red Box?

    We estimate that at $1.09 per movie you could still watch more in one month through Netflix. Is that because you were able to use codes for free rentals?
    Just trying to clarify because we’ve considered doing the same.

    • Amanda says:

      @Allison, For my husband and I, Netflix doesn’t make sense for us because we don’t watch enough movies in a month’s time for Netflix to be cheaper.

      • Chad says:

        @Amanda,

        We decided to cancel cable and now use netflix for all our tv. We enjoy finding the TV shows and watching the older shows. Any current show we catch either on an antenna or via the website of the network.

        Probably not for everyone, but it works for us.

        Chad

        • @Chad, We don’t have tv either. We use Hulu to watch tv shows. A simple cord between our laptop and our tv (bought at Big Lots for $12) means that we can watch tv on the television instead of the computer.

          We have internet because my husband works from home, but we chose the slowest choice of cable modem speeds for the lowest cost. It’s still fast enough for working.

    • lindsey says:

      @Allison, we also do not have cable. we pay for internet (Clear) which is only $40/month and the netflix which is $8. now that you can stream tv/movies through a game system with netflix we feel like it is better or at least just as good as cable… and we still get our one disc a month. we also dont ahve to worry about innapropriate commercials popping on TV.

    • april says:

      @Allison, netflix is the best choice for us too…we dont have cable or satellite and with Netflix(17mth) and the internet(15 mth), we can watch a ton of stuff for less than what basic cable would cost here.

      • Jill says:

        Yeah, redbox is only cheaper if you watch a movie a week. Because you have to factor in that you are going to forget to return it a time or two a month.
        During football season we have cable but then we cancel it the rest of the time and use Hulu and Netflix. We use redbox (and cancel Netflix) when we have cable because we have shows we watch regularly on TV (DVR–no commercials)

  • Robin says:

    Great article the only thing that confused me was they went to a single car family but then still got the multiple-car discount? Might be a typo but very inspiring story! 😉

  • Courtney says:

    We don’t have any cable whatsoever and just use the basic Netflix package at around $10 per month. There are plenty of shows and documentaries, not just movies, and if we want the news we can use the internet.

  • nancy says:

    We have been reducing our expenses since I quit working four months ago, and now my husbands is seeing a slight reduction in his take home pay, due to higher insurance costs and funding an FSA, but after redoing our budget I was able to find MORE money to put away! We plan on cutting our Directv subscription, keeping Netflix and getting an antenna, saving another $55 a month. We use Netflix for more than just movies, such as documentaries and Veggie Tales, the cost is negligible compared to a full blown cable or satellite subscription.

    I have to say God has been VERY faithful to us. Thank-you for sharing your story. 😀

    • Jen says:

      @nancy, We use an HD antenna for our TVs as we live in a rural part of our county where cable isn’t an option. We’ve looked into Dish Network (twice) and they say there are too many trees for an adequate line of sight for the dish. We refuse to pay what Direct TV charges. Overall, we’ve been happy with our HD antenna. We found that we can still find something of interest as easily with 10 channels and with 100. Or…not find something too. Also, we did find a channel called Qubo. It runs quality children’s cartoons 24 hours a day and our two-year-old loves to watch…when we let her. 🙂

      • nancy says:

        @Jen, I’m looking forward to getting rid of Directv! We really don’t watch much TV, and if there is less to choose from then there will be fewer reasons to turn on the tube.

  • Kristen says:

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. I love that in all your budget reductions, you were becoming a greener family at the same time!

  • Trixie says:

    The way you and your husband handled this situation is so inspiring — thank you for sharing! I especially like how you grew closer through a challenging time and that it produced an even better job for your husband!

  • Beth says:

    We’ve been a one car family for a year and a half now and it’s worked pretty well. We choose this because around the time our second son was born each of our cars (10 and 11 years old) needed $1100 of work. My husband wasn’t driving at the time due to a medical condition so it seemed insane to spend that money to repair both vehicles for one driver.

    I was very hesitant to go to only one car at first but now I see how well it works for our family. I should mention my husband takes the bus to work and we live in a neighborhood where many things, Library, post office, Target, various stores, my son’s school, are within walking distance. Our children are also still young enough the few activities they have can be easily worked around. This may not be a good option for every family situation.

    Some cities have car sharing programs which would be great for families in situations such as ours. Renting a car is sometimes a good option as well. This past weekend I needed one for work and it was only $19 for a one day rental. Obviously, this isn’t something that would be cost effective if you did it often but if you do the math you can use quite a few rental cars before the cost equals that of a second vehicle.

  • Tammy L says:

    What an inspiring testimony! I loved this. 🙂

  • Jan says:

    >>Kept our home heated or cooled only when we were actually there.<<

    Hope you mean you just turned the heat down and not off completely. Frozen pipes can burst and create a nasty plumbing bill. We have a programmable thermostat that kicks the heat down when we're at work and at night when everyone's in bed. Very worthwhile investment.

    • Kim says:

      @Jan,

      If you live where it doesn’t freeze (I live in Southern California). You can turn your heat off completely when you’re not home 🙂

      • nancy says:

        @Kim, We’ve had freezing pipes here in Las Vegas! My husband was not thrilled to have to get them fixed. 🙁

        • Kim says:

          @nancy,

          Bummer. You definitely have to know that your pipes won’t freeze before turning off your heat. We know that ours won’t. I was just explaining that it is a possibility for some people. 🙂

  • Suzy says:

    Helllllooooo fellow SLC reader.

    Proud of you for all the changes you have made, landing a dream job AND saving money.

    Wishing you all the best.
    Suzy
    SLC

  • Stephanie says:

    Another thing you can do is bid out your property/auto insurance policies, should do that every 2 years or so. Also make sure they are bundled with the same insurer, for more savings. We switched to a different insurer last year and are saving $70 per month plus we have more coverage than we previously had. Plus we asked our mortgage company to recalculate our mortgage escrow as a result of the cheaper property insurance, and we were refunded $900!

    We just recently canceled cable, got HD antennas, and stream Netflix. We are going to save about $80 per month in doing so.

    By the way, the post sounded like this family said they paid off their debts, but they still had a car payment? Auto loans are debt too and should be avoided.

    • Shauna says:

      @Stephanie, It said they sold their car that had a car payment.

    • Katie says:

      @Stephanie, Can you get rid of your escrow account? It is a benefit to pay taxes and insurance on your own without the escrow account. They always keep a big chunk of money sitting in your escrow account as a “safety net” of sorts. You are much better off having that money sitting in your own account.

  • tarvermom says:

    This is inspiring! I am going through all of this right now and this is why I am following this blog because it is giving me hope and a “know how” to survive. Thanks for this post.

  • Lisa says:

    Inspiring story!

    I’ll have to look into streaming Netflix….can you watch everyday TV shows through it? Does it have channels like TLC, NatGeo?

    • nancy says:

      @Lisa, You can go to the Netflix website to see what they offer, but beware that much of the streaming content, especially movies, may be available for a short time not all the time. One other thing to remember, there are no commercials, so your time commitment is shorter. 😀

      • lindsey says:

        @nancy, it has most of the TLC shows (19 kids and counting, american pickers.. jsut a couple of my favorites) but they are not the current season. for the newer episode we stream on our laptop through HULU and have an HDMI cord to hook it up to our tv to watch.

        • lindsey says:

          @lindsey, and they have a TON of national geographic shows! just remember when you stream though a system (we use PS3) your menu is limited. if you use the search option there are alot more options than they display sometimes. the menu online through the computer is earier to navigate and has nmore options displayed.

  • Thanks for all these stories. They keep me motivated on my goal to be debt free.

  • Ruthie says:

    One thing to keep in mind when you have cable anything—keep track when it goes out (date and for how long) and report it to the billing dept. of the cable company for a refund.

    Though it might only range from a few cents to a few dollars, those pennies look better in my pocket than the big company bank account. Also, we’ve gotten free premium channels for 3 to 6 months at a time and lower rates for different services by doing this. Just remember to track how long these “freebies” last and tell the cable company “NO THANKS, DON’T WANT TO BUY THESE!” when they are due to expire.

  • Very Inspiring! Thanks so much!

  • Encouraged to read this today!

    When we first got married, we were both working full time, and I had a nice cushy paycheck. But working full time, commuting tons of hours each week, and trying to be a good housewife took it’s toll on me. My husband allowed me to pursue freelance work, so that I could be home more. Doing so cut a huge chunk of our cash flow, but by following a very strict budget, we’ve been doing just fine. We live comfortably, and enjoy all that life has to offer. I love it!

  • Candy says:

    My husband wants Directv but I’m so against all the filth…..and I’m just talking about the commercials. And it’s alot of money for “nothing to watch”….lol .

    We’ve been considering adding Netflix so my DH can watch a few shows he likes. Is there a place they list the shows and movies that they play?

    Right now, we have SkyAngel. It’s about $25/mt for both the Christian and family packages together. They play alot of older stuff. They have Qubo. They run through your internet so if you have dialup, Idk if it works well.

    When we first got it, I was in the kitchen and the kids (all 4) were watching TV. I heard some music and I stopped to listen so I could decide what it was and if they needed to be watching. (it’s a habit) When I walked in, it was a commercial break playing a christian music video. How great is that?! One of their favorite shows is “The Rifleman”. Yeah, it plays in black and white. I don’t worry what they’re seeing when Skyangel is on.

    You can look up their channels with a discription online. I don’t think its “worse” or “better” than cable or satellite as far as the selection……just different and it does take some getting used to. As far as content, like I said, I don’t worry anymore. They had a promotion when we signed up a yr ago and we got our box for free with a 18mt contract. Later, it was like half price and no contract. Idk what it is right now. If anyone decides to signup, please email me and use my referral number. I’ll get a free month and that makes me happy! 🙂

    • brookeb says:

      @Candy, You can browse netflix without a membership to see what they have; I’m not sure if it differentiates whether it’s “watch it now” or by mail with that search, though.

  • Ashlee says:

    We just got Netflix a few days ago. So far we really like it. Its nice for the winter for us. We’ll probably cancel it in the late spring. We also only get the basic basic cable for $18 a month. But it is worth it to me not to mess with the digital converter boxes and we get TLC/Travel Channel/Hallmark and a few others included in it. We also share our internet with our neighbors. We live in a townhouse so its easy to do. We each pay $10 a month to share it. Its pretty slow, but it works. We have to have it for my husband in law school.

  • Tamara says:

    Very inspiring story. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Julie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I guess we can amaze ourselves when we see how much we can really get by on!

    I didn’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it, but one thing we subscribe to is PuritanPicks. It’s similar to Netflix, but it is full of Christian stuff…documentaries, movies, apologetics, conferences, children’s, creationism, and lots more! Our family has really enjoyed it. We don’t have anything except basic TV with an antenna (and don’t really watch anything on it anyway except Little House on the Prairie). It’s nice to have quality things to put in the DVD player for our family to watch.

  • This is certianly inspirational!

  • Katie says:

    My husband and I are in the middle of doing this. We aren’t swamped with debt but having two kids we would really like to be debt free. Also we want to be better prepared for the unknown my husband has been laid off twice, (every time I was pregnant) so we would like to have a great net egg and no debt if this should ever happen again.

    For date nights we eat dinner at home and then watch a tv show we only get to watch on HULU (we don’t have cabe just the free stuff) 🙂

    Congrats to you guys! What a great and inspiring story for me as we are in the midst of doing this. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  • Thanks for sharing your story! It’s motivating and so encouraging!

    I really want to try a clothesline this spring and summer and have been mulling over it since fall. My mom, ever a source of wisdom, reminded me that I can hardly keep up with the laundry as it is and it might not be worth it to use a clothesline. However, I’ve been drastically downsizing our wardrobes this winter and hope that that will simplify laundry. Our dryer is not efficient at all- it takes 90 minutes to dry a small load of clothes- so this would help us save a lot. We should get a new one, but this one came with the house and right now we just don’t have the money to put into a dryer.

    I’m glad to hear your husband takes the bus to work! I used to do that before I got married (now I live 10 minutes from work and the bus route to get me there would take one hour) and really enjoyed it. It was a great time to read and several times I got to talk to people about the Christ.

    We also live within 5 minutes’ walk of the library/community center/playground, thrift store, two grocery stores (neither one of them my favorite, but still), the post office and CVS (though I don’t really have time at this stage for the drugstore game). I try to walk and take the kids with me in the stroller as much as possible. Our stroller has a great big basket which is perfect for shopping and library trips. It’s good for all of us to get out in the fresh air and it saves on gas, too. I just wish I was brave enough to do it in the winter!

  • Elena says:

    Way to go! The one additional thing that we do to save money is the envelope system. We make a budget for all of our ‘extra’ expenses. I get a monthly budget, my husband gets one, and our kids have an envelope. We are able to save a lot of money thru this system. It just keeps us in check and saves us from buying things we don’t really need! We also have a credit card budget per month for those bday gifts/presents we need to buy each month. We learned it from Dave Ramsey.
    God bless!

  • Ashley says:

    I was the individual that wrote this post. Thank you for all your supportive comments! Many wondered why we dropped Netflixs and it was due to the fact that we never used it. We rarely watch television or movies. Cheers!

  • Alicia Jay says:

    This is a great post! I always appreciate how you put yourself out there to benefit others. I also love that the situation brought you and your husband closer together.

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