I just finished reading a book called Living More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. The subtitle is “a pattern for living with less and a wealth of practical suggestions from the worldwide experiences of Mennonites.” It’s basically random ideas from people on how they saved money. I would summarize a lot of the ideas as “share” and “don’t buy stuff” or at least not new stuff. It did have a lot of ideas for using things you already had to do other things, some of which I remember my Grandparents doing. Anyway, in the spirit of the book, here are some of my ideas for cutting your phone, internet, electric, and heating bills.
Phone: Get on a family plan. TSH and I used to pay $70/month for the both of us on a phone plan. The last two years we added a couple of our friends to our phone plan, and now we pay $98/ month for all four of us, and they send us a check for their half. So we are saving $240/year from what we used to pay. That is a hefty chunk of change! One good news here is that there is nothing (at least at Verizon) that says you need to actually be family to be on a family plan. It’s just a matter of one person paying the bill. The other good news is that you don’t need to change your phone number to join someone else on a family plan. You just all go in, and say, “we’d like to go in together on a family plan,” and they transfer you over. I think 5 people is the max you can have on a plan. You do need to find someone who uses similar amounts of minutes/texts as you, as you’ll share these, unless you opt for an unlimited plan. Credit for this idea goes to my Asian friends, who are very frugal, and all join in family plans whenever they come to America.
Internet: This is similar to the phone advice, but if you can (based on your situation and trust in your neighbors), share an internet connection. We live in a house with 3 apartments. We pay $45/ month for 10Mbps, give our neighbors in our house (who we trust not to hack us) the password, and every month, they each pay us $15, so we are paying $15/month for fast speed internet. Now if we only got a speed of 1Mbps by ourselves, which makes it hard to stream separate things on different computers, and kind of annoying for shows/movies, we’d be paying $30/month (without a home phone line). So we are saving between $180 and $360 per year here, depending which speed internet we’d opt for on our own. Not too shabby.
Electric: We are still waiting on the bill that will be the follow-up to the electric bill guest post by the TSH, but in the meanwhile, the tip is to line dry your clothes sometimes. We actually have a coin-operated machine in the basement, so each dryer load is $1 for us. The loads add up quickly when you have a kid in cloth diapers, so if I line dry 75% of the loads, I probably save about $15/month, or $180/year. If you don’t pay for the dryer in coins, according to Tampa Electric’s website, a 14lb dryer costs 46 cents per load. That still adds up. (7lb dryers are only 24 cents/load). In the winter, the clothes actually dry pretty quickly (on a rack inside), because the humidity is so low. Anyway, especially if you dress casually for your job, this is not a bad option.
Heating: This tip came from my friend Katherine, who moved way up north this past summer, to my chagrin. Basically–insulate better. Shrink film for your windows (example: here). Caulk and weather stripping for your doors. If you own your house, add extra insulation in your attic (tip from my parents, which they say helped with both air conditioning and heating). One couple of our friends who had oil heat in their last apartment got the November’s oil bill for $500. They freaked out, of course. By using shrink film, and taking some drastic measures like only living in part of their house, they were able to cut it down to around $300. Still bad, but much better. Hopefully you have natural gas heat or something else efficient, but if you don’t, or if you live up north, maybe these tips can help.
I am feeling good right now about saving a minimum of $600/year on our monthly bills. Did any of these help you? Do you have any other ideas?