Monday, October 20, 2008

Provident Living: Ways to Lower your monthly expenses

We are facing challenging economic times. Finding ways to reduce your monthly expenses will help you better utilize the financial resources you have so you can save money for a rainy day. Here are some ideas to trim your monthly expenses:

Automobiles are money pits - they constantly go down in value, devour fuel by the gallon, and often require all manner of repairs and maintenance work. How can we reduce the cost of automobiles in our monthly budget?

Buy used vehicles People with normal incomes cannot afford new cars. New cars lose 60% of their value in the first four years. Save your money and pay cash for a used car. You will pay thousands of extra dollars over the life of a car loan.

Use public transportation If you have an option that enables you to ride to regular destinations (such as work, the store, or a shopping center) instead of using your automobile, you can save quite a bit of money on gas and maintenance by just dropping a few coins on the bus or the rail system and leaving the car at home (or parking it at a station).

Sell an automobile If an automobile is sitting in your driveway or garage and isn’t used, consider selling it. If nothing else, the insurance expense will go away, and if you can use the money from the sale to pay it off or, better yet, pocket some of the money, even better.

Carpool If you have an opportunity to share a ride to and from work with someone else, that not only significantly reduces wear and tear on your car and gas expenses, it enables you to use any carpooling lanes on the commute, which almost always save time when commuting.

Keep the tires on your automobiles inflated properly Once a month, stop by a local gas station that offers free air and check the air pressure in your car tires, then fill each one to the maximum recommended amount as stated in your manual. This improves gas mileage by one percent for every two PSI of air you are able to add to your tires.

We all face a continual onslaught of energy costs, especially as we use more and more electronic devices. Luckily, technology has brought us a few effective ways to reduce costs as well.

Install CFLs Compact fluorescent light bulbs are receiving a big push right now and their advantages are great: a longer lifespan and significantly less electrical usage. Stick with the name brands for now, even at a premium - my entire house switched to GE CFLs more than a year ago and I have yet to replace a single one. A tip: when comparing bulbs, use the lumens number to compare bulbs, not the equivalent wattages - the lumens indicate the actual amount of light emitted by the bulb. Remember also that under normal usage (4 hours a day) and normal electrical rates ($0.10 per kilowatt hour), replacing a 75 watt bulb with a 20 watt CFL saves $0.66 per month. Multiply that by all the bulbs in your house to see how much you’ll save every month.

Install a programmable thermostat A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically alter the heating and cooling of your home when you’re not at home, when you’re asleep, and so on, saving significantly on your heating and cooling bills.

Unplug all unused electrical devices Are there any electrical devices around the house that stay plugged in, but that you rarely use? Most electric devices use a small amount of electricity constantly, a phantom charge. To eliminate that usage, unplug the items.

Utilize timers and power strips Along those lines, consider utilizing power strips and power timers to turn electrical devices on and off. A power strip with a switch on it, when turned off, blocks the phantom charge on those devices; a timer can automatically turn off the charge going to a power strip (or anything plugged into it) at a certain time each night. This is a great way to eliminate phantom charge on your home electronic equipment at night.

Install a blanket for your hot water heater and reduce the temperature In many homes, the hot water heater is a major energy drain; the water is kept hotter than most people ever use, plus the heat is constantly lost to the environment, meaning you have to burn more energy than ever to keep the water so hot. Solve both problems by dropping the temperature down to 125-130 degrees Fahrenheit (around 60 degress Celsius) and also installing a blanket on your water heater to keep in the heat - a blanket can pay for itself in about a year.

Air seal your home Air sealing your home can prevent drafts, which can often cause the loss of cool air in the summer and the loss of warm air in the winter, both of which can increase your housing costs. Here’s a great guide to this weekend project from the EERE.

Many people look at entertainment as the first thing to cut when trying to trim costs, but they often forget to look at the regular expenditures that slowly eat away at your financial foundation month in and month out. Here are some things to consider that you may have overlooked before.

Cancel club memberships Look at things like a health club, a country club, and so on. How often do you really use these services? If you’re using a gym membership less than once a week or a country club membership less than once a month, you’re likely throwing away money.

Reduce or eliminate your cable/satellite bill For many people, this advice is beyond the pale, but it’s worth looking at. Perhaps you could trim back on your premium channel selection and just go with basic cable, or perhaps you could even eliminate your cable bill entirely - it will also help with electricity costs because you won’t be watching television as much and you’ll suddenly find you have much more free time.

Look for inexpensive entertainment options Do you utilize the local library? Do you attend local community events like municipal band concerts and so on? Are you aware of local volunteer groups and organizations? Your community often offers many options for inexpensive or free entertainment of all kinds - you don’t have to have a big entertainment budget each month.

Strongly reduce or eliminate travel By being selective about what we travel to - and also open to inviting people to visiting us - we signifcantly cut down on travel expenses.

Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions If you get a magazine or newspaper in the mail but simply don’t read it, cancel that subscription when it comes up for renewal, no matter how much you “like” the magazine. An unread subscription is nothing more than expensive clutter.

Look at and consider reducing/eliminating other regular paid services Look at services like Netflix - are you really getting $19.95 a month out of these services? If not, just drop the service and look for other options, like a local rental store. What about satellite radio? If you use that but find yourself not using it or just sticking with the same things you listen to on regular radio (like NPR or top forty), then cancel the service.

For many people it just seems more convenient to eat out, even though it’s incredibly expensive and not as much of a time saver as you might think. Consider these options.

Cook (and pack) your own meals at home When you cook at home, make plenty so that you can freeze some of it for future meals and, even better, take some of it as leftovers to work, drastically reducing the cost of the typical workplace lunch. Some people may shy away from leftovers, but you can make leftovers as good as the original.

Reduce or eliminate eating out or getting take-out Take-out and dining out can be a huge timesaver for a busy family, but the expense can be tremendous - and it often doesn’t save much time, either. Instead, look at other options for dining at home: prepare lots of meals at once and freeze them for easy cooking later, focus on simple recipes, and choose recipes that utilize the fresh produce in season in your area.

Buy nonperishable items in bulk Many people never even bother to look at some of the larger packages of nonperishable items - they think it’s just too much. Try looking at the cost per unit of all of the sizes and choose the one that’s the best deal; often, it is the big bulky package, but that just means you won’t be buying it again for a long time. Spread out over months and over a lot of items (think of all of the nonperishables in your home - food is just the beginning), this can add up to a lot of trimmed fat.

Start a garden Vegetable gardening is a splendid hobby that can often turn a profit if done well. Focus on vegetables that are easy to grow and produce abundant fruit, like tomatoes, and learn how to store the excess through such processes as canning. Opening up a jar of tomatoes in the winter that were grown by you in the summer and canned in the fall is a wonderful experience - and it can really help with trimming the food bill.

Buy generic Many products (not just food) are available in a store-brand or generic form for significantly less money - quite often with the name brand, you’re paying for their advertising budget with the higher cost. Look carefully at the ingredients in generic and name-brand products and if they’re the same, go with the generic one on a regular basis, which will consistently trim money from your shopping bill.

We all have insurance to protect against the unexpected, but when we overpay for insurance, we leave ourselves vulnerable in a different way by stretching our budget too thin. Look into these options for ways to reduce your insurance premiums.

Comparison Shop for homeowner and auto insurance If you haven’t shopped around for homeowner and auto insurance lately, now’s a good time to get a few quotes, especially if your credit is strong. If you can save a substantial amount and maintain your current coverage, it’s well worth switching to another provider, but give your current one a chance to match.

Switch to term life insurance If you’re paying for whole life insurance or universal life insurance, look strongly at a term package instead. The cost per year will be significantly cheaper and at the end of the term, your life insurance needs will likely be far less than they are right now.

Raise your deductibles If you’re paying a large premium in order to have a small deductible, you might want to consider switching that, particularly if your claims are infrequent. Raising your deductible can often significantly reduce your annual premiums, easing the monthly strain on your bills.

There are many other areas of your budget that can also afford a bit of fat trimmed from them. Let’s look at a few more possibilities for lowering your regular expenses.

Reduce or eliminate your cell phone bill Ask yourself how much you really use your cell phone; if it’s not all that much, look at perhaps getting a prepaid phone with a small number of minutes on it for those emergency situations when you actually use it. If you do use it a lot, look at the features you’re paying for on your bill and see if you can trim any of those.

Reduce or eliminate organized child activities Look for activities that your child is sincerely interested in (if you don’t know, ask them what they really like) and focus on those while cutting back on the rest.

Eliminate services (housecleaning, landscaping, etc.) If you hire out household services to others, consider trimming back or eliminating them. Instead, put aside some time each week to do them yourself - not only will you save money, but you’ll find that many activities can get the whole family involved (like housecleaning).

Shop Garage Sales and Thrift Stores You can find great deals on clothing, children's toys and household items at garage sales and thrift stores. Rather than buying a new bike for our son when we discovered his new bike was too big for him to ride without training wheels, we found a perfect-sized bike for $5.00 at a garage sale. Now he can ride his used bike sans training wheels and will grow into his nice new bike eventually. We often find name brand childrens' clothing at garage sales for ridiculousy low prices.

Strongly reduce or eliminate clothes shopping I have a close friend who insists on having a significant monthly clothes budget. I challenged her to trim her spending in half and instead focus more on looking for bargains - and she’s never looked back. If you need to dress well for work, don’t let that slide, but putting in some effort to look for a bargain can often pay huge dividends. Even better - have a moratorium on shopping for new clothes until you really need something new.

Reduce grooming expenses Instead of having your hair cut and styled weekly, cut back to every other week. If you have your nails done twice a month, cut back to monthly, or have manicure parties where you do it at home with your friends instead. If you buy expensive shampoos, look at lower cost options. It doesn’t have to cost a truckload to keep up appearances.

Move to a less expensive area Many people leave this option out when looking at trimming their budget, but if you can find work in another area, it may be worth considering. Look around at other areas of the country where you can find employment, see what your salary would be there, and look at the housing costs. Quite often, you’ll find yourself significantly ahead by looking at areas like Minneapolis rather than areas like San Francisco, even at a significantly lower salary.

Clean out your house and sell your stuff
If you aren't using that old set of golf clubs in your basement, sell them. Hold a garage sale or sell them on e-bay. You might be surprised at the money you can add to your budget when you sell unwanted or unnecessary items.

Using even a few of these options can really open up some breathing room in a budget, enabling you to break free of debt and chase your dreams.

Source: Most of this is quoted from an article by Trent found at with a few of my ideas injected as well as those of Dave Ramsey


Jodi said...

I LOVE Dave Ramsey! So much of what he teaches is so applicable to provident living. If you are debt free with an emergency fund all this scariness with the economy doesn't affect your day to day living. Add food storage into that and you are even BETTER off!

Anonymous said...

I'll have to keep the tires inflated--they seem to not do well on our car. But instead of going to the gas station to do it, I can do it at home with the air compressor.

Homemade said...

I just stumbled across your blog doing some research. I love all of the information you have! Do you know anything about a nitrogen method, similar to dry pack canning? I've heard that you can can brown rice for an extended period of time this way. If you know anything about this, please email me at homemadegoodnes08@gmail.
Thank you!

Kerri said...

I am not familiar with the nitrogen method. If you discover anything about it, please let me know so I can post it on the blog. You can store food in buckets using dry ice (which is carbon dioxide) but I hadn't heard that you could do it for brown rice. You can find instructions to can with dry ice on PREPAREDNESS MATTERS at

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.

Preparedness Quotes

"When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, 'We can’t afford it, even though we want it!' or 'We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!'" - Elder Robert D. Hales, April 2009 General Conference

"Many areas of the world have experienced difficult economic times. Businesses have failed, jobs have been lost, and investments have been jeopardized. We must make certain that those for whom we share responsibility do not go hungry or unclothed or unsheltered. When the priesthood of this Church works together as one in meeting these vexing conditions, near miracles take place.

"We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt."
- President Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 Priesthood Session, General Conference

"Avoid the philosophy that yesterday's luxuries have become today's necessities. They aren't necessities until we make them so. Many enter into long-term debt only to find that changes occur; people become ill or incapacitated, companies fail or downsize, jobs are lost, natural disasters befall us. For many reasons, payments on large amounts of debt can no longer be made. Our debt becomes as a Damocles sword hanging over our heads and threatening to destroy us."
- President Thomas S. Monson, April 2006 General Conference

“We have built grain storage and storehouses and stocked them with the necessities of life in the event of a disaster. But the real storehouse is the family storeroom. In words of revelation the Lord has said, ‘Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing’ (D&C 109:8.)”
President Gordon B. Hinckley

"We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult--the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value.

"We are living in the prophesied time 'when peace shall be taken from the earth' (D&C 1:35,) when 'all things shall be in commotion' and 'men's hearts shall fail them' (D&C 88:91.) There are many temporal causes of commotion, including wars and natural disasters, but an even greater cause of current 'commotion' is spiritual." Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“Every father and mother are the family’s store keepers. They should store whatever their family would like to have in case of an emergency…(and) God will sustain us through our trials.” President James E. Faust

“We live in a most exciting and challenging period in human history. As technology sweeps through every facet of our lives, changes are occurring so rapidly that it can be difficult for us to keep our lives in balance. To maintain some semblance of stability in our lives, it is essential that we plan for our future. I believe it is time, and perhaps with some urgency, to review the counsel we have received in dealing with our personal and family preparedness. We want to be found with oil in our lamps sufficient to endure to the end.”- Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign, Nov. 1995

"Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had their year's supply of food. . . and were debt-free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have at least a year's supply of debt and are food free." President Thomas S. Monson

"Just as it is important to prepare ourselves spiritually, we must also prepare ourselves for our temporal needs. … We have been instructed for years to follow at least four requirements in preparing for that which is to come.

“First, gain an adequate education. Learn a trade or a profession to enable you to obtain steady employment that will provide remuneration sufficient to care for yourself and your family. …

“Second, live strictly within your income and save something for a rainy day. Incorporate in your lives the discipline of budgeting that which the Lord has blessed you with. As regularly as you pay your tithing, set aside an amount needed for future family requirements. …

“Third, avoid excessive debt. Necessary debt should be incurred only after careful, thoughtful prayer and after obtaining the best possible advice. We need the discipline to stay well within our ability to pay. …

“Fourth, acquire and store a reserve of food and supplies that will sustain life [if local laws permit such storage]. Obtain clothing and build a savings account on a sensible, well-planned basis that can serve well in times of emergency. As long as I can remember, we have been taught to prepare for the future and to obtain a year’s supply of necessities. I would guess that the years of plenty have almost universally caused us to set aside this counsel. I believe the time to disregard this counsel is over. With events in the world today, it must be considered with all seriousness.” - Elder L. Tom Perry, October 1995 General Conference

“Maintain a year's supply. The Lord has urged that his people save for the rainy days, prepare for the difficult times, and put away for emergencies, a year's supply or more of bare necessities so that when comes the flood, the earthquake, the famine, the hurricane, the storms of life, our families can be sustained through the dark days. How many of us have complied with this? We strive with the Lord, finding many excuses: We do not have room for storage. The food spoils. We do not have the funds to do it. We do not like these common foods. It is not needed -- there will always be someone to help in trouble. The government will come to the rescue. And some intend to obey but procrastinate.” - The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.375

“All too often a family's spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress” - Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

"Be prepared in all things against the day when tribulations and desolations are sent forth upon the wicked." D&C 29:8

"Too often we bask in our comfortable complacency and rationalize that the ravages of war, economic disaster, famine, and earthquake cannot happen here. Those who believe this are either not aquainted with the revelations of the Lord, or they do not believe them." President Ezra Taft Benson

"Fear not little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. . .Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." D&C 6:34, 36

"I believe that the Ten Virgins represent the people of the Church of Jesus Christ. . . They (five foolish) had the saving, exalting gospel, but it had not been made the center of their lives. They knew the way but gave only a small measure of loyalty and devotion.

"The foolish asked the others to share their oil, but spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant. . . . This was not selfishness or unkindness. The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable. . . . In our lives the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living." - President Spencer W. Kimball

“We encourage families to have on hand this year’s supply; we say it over and over and over and repeat over and over the scripture of the Lord where he says, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say?” How empty it is as they put their spirituality, so-called, into action and call him by his important names, but fail to do the things which he says." - President Spencer W. Kimball"/>


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