How We Saved $8,450

I was reviewing the bills and our household budget for the past year, preparing a new budget for next year in comparison with our income and expenses.  I used an on-line calculator that compared “normal” household expenses with ours.  I realize that what some people consider to be “normal” is not normal for us.  Our “unnormal” spending habits resulted in an estimated annual savings of US$8,450.

Here is how we have not spent US$8,450 this year:

1.  We prepare our own meals and eat at home.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner — all prepared from groceries that I cook and serve daily.  We just don’t eat out.  A reliable source indicates that the average US middle class couple spends $279 each month on eating dinner out.  Since we don’t do that, our savings is US$3,378.

2.  Preparing our own meals includes making lunch to take to work.  My partner and I do not eat lunch out.  Another reliable source indicates that we save US$2,080 a year based on the assumption of eating lunch out at the average cost of US$8.50 each lunch x 2 of us x 4 days/week (thinking that my partner and I are at home one weekday each week.)

3.  We don’t go nuts with media.  That is, while we subscribe to services that provide television and internet, we have no-frills, basic services.  We get the normal digital & HD channel line-up, but do not pay for subscription services like HBO, etc.  We do not pay for “on demand” movies and sports packages.  We have high-speed internet, but locked in a three-year agreement that saves about US$25/month from what it could have cost us.  Therefore, I estimate the savings on television media is US$576/year (not paying avg. US$48/mo. for extras) and US$300 for internet = a total of US$876/year.

4.  We don’t go nuts with cell phones.  I have one cell phone.  My partner chooses not to have one.  I do not have a data package on my cell, by choice.  Therefore I do not text nor receive text messages, or have web-access on a mobile device.  I once had that (when my former employer required it, but did not pay for it).  My monthly savings for going “cell only without data” is US$68/month, or US$816/year.

5.  We mow our own lawn and maintain it ourselves.  Neighbors spend US$900/year on lawn mowing services while my partner and I enjoy the exercise and the cost-savings. We also use compost as fertilizer, and spread it ourselves.  We rake, aerate, and weed-wack.  Yes, it takes time from other things (such as riding my Harley) but it’s good exercise, much better for the environment than spreading chemicals, and is cheaper than what some of my neighbors pay US$400/year for a lawn service company.  So what if our lawn isn’t perfect — it’s a lawn, not a golf course. 

All-in-all, the savings by eating at home, choosing to reduce media and cell phone costs, and mowing our own lawn totaled US$8,450 this year alone.

There are many other intangibles that affect our annual budget.  For example, we have zoned heating and cooling, so we only heat or cool parts of our house as needed in certain rooms. We have active solar, which produces electricity and hot water. We estimate our annual savings for solar alone to be about US$3,000 in reduced electric and natural gas bills.  But that is hard to estimate directly since I cannot measure what we do not consume and some of the savings are offset by increased costs of maintenance on this complex household system.  Nonetheless, “going green” does save us a lot of money in the long-run, and saves the planet a little bit, as well.

Life is short:  be financially sound.