I have more budget victories to report!
More budget victories! We have been on the cancel train! One way to save money is to reevaluate all subscriptions to see what you can live without. Those $5 and $10 a month can add up.
Where the extras go
When we started to get serious about our debt, we quickly amassed a $1000 emergency fund. I started an Emergency Fund spreadsheet and added a subscription column to it. Now that the emergency fund is funded, the sheet has morphed into the Hospital Fund, to make up for The Dude’s missing unemployment checks when he is recovering from his colostomy reversal next month. Once we are over that hump, it will morph again, this time into a debt snowball fund.
We don’t have cable or a television. Instead we watch all of our stuff on our computers. We have a lot of subscriptions to watch these things, and those have gone under the microscope.
In October, we canceled Hulu. We were paying $13 a month for it. But we also have Netflix and Amazon Prime, and it felt excessive. Added it to our column. Although I love reading and supporting NYT and the Washington Post, paying off our debts is more important, so we let those go and added $15 and $5 a month, respectively. As I mentioned earlier, I canceled my Crunch fitness membership and will rely on walking up hill to get that cardio. Another $10 on the ledger.
Stacking deals on deals!
On Black Friday, I found out that Hulu had a sale, 99 cents a month for Hulu with commercials. Less than $12 for the whole year! And then I learned that Ebates was offering $10 off any Hulu purchase. It took some finagling to make it work, but I got a year’s worth of Hulu for $2.84 with tax, or 24 cents a month!
However, this becomes a truly good deal if it replaces something else. Looking at you, Netflix! We had a couple of discussions about it and decided to let Netflix go, for the good of the order. We will now be saving $28 a month in viewing costs. All told, we snipped $58 a month in subscription fees!
Using our library
When looking for budget victories, remember your library. The loss of Netflix is a little easier since I have recently started using the library streaming services: Kanopy and Hoopla. Each service has a ton of movies, TV shows, and documentaries.
Using Internet communities
In the “Help comes from the unlikeliest of sources” category, we saved big time on groceries thanks to Reddit and the Costco meat department. I subscribe to several frugal subreddits. Someone posted on one of them, noting that Costco had an instant rebate on their giant pork loins. We went to check it out and sure enough, $8 rebate on the pork and searched for the smallest cuts because they would represent the best price per pound after rebate. In the end, we found 2 for about $11 each. The rebate was $8 off the total. We took the 2 up to the register and asked the cashier if there was a limit. She said there was but she liked us so she let us ring up two. The regular price was $1.99 but thanks to the rebate, we paid about 50 cents a pound.
We just finished our 10th weekly shopping trip on our new plan. For each and every week, we have remained under budget!! We are at $150 a week for groceries, and we do not include nonfood items in the budget.
Currently, we allocate $70 a month for four categories: $30 for health/beauty, $20 for cleaning products, and $20 for paper products. The categories have just been added in December. Before that it was $50 a month for household. Now we can get a better of where it is going. I am trying to DIY cleaning products to bring that cost down. But even if we remain at $70 total, we are at $166 a week which is below the USDA’s “Thrifty Plan” for a family of 5, and their plan is just for food. So while I may not win a black belt in my grocery frugality, I am okay with where we are.
And now for the most fun victory! We sat down a couple of weeks ago and determined our total credit card debt: $31,000. We dutifully made our debt mountain and I wrote all the numbers up the scale. I noticed something odd in our spreadsheet though. The Dude has all the debt (credit card and student loan) laid out in our budget worksheet, and he updates it monthly.
It turns out that our first number was WRONG!! and we actually owe $24,000 in credit card debt. And just like that, we are $6,000 closer to our debt-free goal! Although I was tempted to color in the base of the mountain to have that first win, cheating our way to victory is no fun. I need to create a new mountain that reflects our actual, lower amount.
Here are some things that haven’t worked for me:
Ibotta, Flipp, and other apps and sites designed to save you money and help you plan shopping and meals. I forget to look at them or they are too cumbersome or both. After 2 or 3 solid weeks with Ibotta, I never hit the $10 mark. Also, I am also staying away from coupons because I don’t get the newspaper. Fred Meyer mails us coupons and I have been using those.
Last week Safeway had a deal where you got $10 off if you spent $50 in their store. I really dislike these sales because I don’t usually hit $50 at any single store. We make my list before we go and then if I find something cheaper at Grocery Outlet or Winco, I will pick it up there. There is a very real danger of spending too much on things in order to save money, and that is dumb and it makes the whole experience stressful. Although I did hit the $50 and save $10, my numbers got squishy near the end and I thought we needed more stuff so I added some things and then was way over and had to make an additional trip to return some things.
My new strategy is to add the $10 off $50 (or whatever) coupon and then ignore it. If it works, great! But I will not stress out about it any more.
Here are my takeaway lessons from this week’s victories:
- Scrutinize all of your subscriptions to see where you can cut back. These monthly $5-$20 hits can add up. See if you can find free or cheap alternative.
- Peruse sites like Reddit, grocery haul blogs (google to find your favorites), and your own grocery store online flyers to find great deals.
- Always double check your sources and your math when it comes to your money!