Part of living on and adhering to a budget means finding simple ways to cut costs. We did just that and eliminated $10,000 per year in spending.
Cutting costs isn’t as awful as people make it sound. We’ve removed some large ticket items and replaced them with cheaper items, which don’t affect our way of life.120
Original: Gym Membership
Monthly Total Cost: $40
Yearly Total Cost: $480 per year
Last year, we decided to join a gym and get healthy. We joined Planet Fitness because it was cheap but still had the basics needed to get in a good workout. Monthly fees were only $20 per person and covered all work-out machine uses and classes. Planet Fitness was filled with treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, weights, and fitness courses. It’s a great concept but to make it worth the money, it’s necessary to go pretty often. We didn’t. Instead we found ourselves finding reasons not to go and just walking near the house.
Replacement: Running Shoes that we already owned, a Basketball, and Frisbee
Monthly Total Cost: $10
Yearly Total Cost: $120
Being healthy is important to us, but we hadn’t made it as much of a priority over the past few years as we should have. Health and wellness are very important factors to consider when planning a move to a foreign country.
Running on the elliptical machine at the gym was fun for my husband. He would sweat more and feel more accomplished after a gym workout than anything we did at home. Watching TV while working out also helped him pass the time. I’m the opposite. The elliptical machine bored me.
So we decided we would both start having fun with our workouts again and go back to basics, where we both could have fun. We quit the gym and started playing again. Swapping the gym for a neighborhood run, softball scrimmages with friends, one on one basketball, and games of Frisbee has actually made exercise more fun. It’s like being a kid, where it’s all about just running around and getting dirty. There’s not stale robotic gym feel to anything. The only things we needed to have fun again were a few softballs, a frisbee, and a basketball. Come fall we will probably invest in a football as well.
As I write this, I’m laying in bed after playing one on one basketball for an hour and then walking the dogs 3 miles around Sloan’s Lake. It was a beautiful and fun night and not an ounce of it felt like work. Also, I beat my husband at HORSE, so I am feeling very accomplished.
Monthly Total Cost: $500
Yearly Total Cost: $6000 per year
Car payments are expensive. So is car insurance. And unfortunately, in terms of investments, cars are generally a poor choice. They depreciate as soon as the car leaves the dealer’s lot and continue to depreciate with each mile driven.
I’ve had one car in my life that I really loved. It was my red Jeep Cherokee that I bought when I was 19 years old. My Jeep was the first big purchase I made on my own. The Jeep had hail damage, so it had some bumps on the roof and head, but otherwise, was perfectly fine. I sold it 11 years later and I still think about it every time I see a red Jeep on the road.
I never cared about any of our other cars until we got Sven, my sweet blue Volvo, who is as fast as he is good-looking. Sven’s torque is unbelievable and in sport mode, he will literally throw a person back into the seat. It’s so much fun, like a little blue rollercoaster. But, we are selling him because he is expensive and not needed. The $500 is his monthly car payment. It doesn’t even include his insurance costs, gas fill-ups, or his car washes. So in reality, we will actually be saving more than $500 per month. We have a second car, a green Jeep, named Reco. Reco and I are not on great terms right now because his battery has kept dying. Otherwise, he is a pretty decent car and is perfect for camping and driving in the snow.
My husband needs to drive around town for his job, but I don’t need to drive to work. I live 2 miles from my job. If we go anywhere on weekends or during the week, it’s mostly together, so one car (Reco) does the trick. If we have different plans, we use one of the options below.
Replacement: Bike Share and Public Transportation
Monthly Total Cost: $8.25
Yearly Total Cost: $99 per year
For a yearly fee, bike share member receive an electronic red card, about the size of a credit card. The card works as the access key for renting a bike and allows members to have full access to any of the stations. Members can check out bikes as often as they’d like and ride them around the city. It does allow only one bike to be checked out per red card at a time, so it’s not possible to check out one for a friend as well. I work about two miles from our house, right in the heart of downtown, so riding a bike is very convenient. There are about 6 B-Cycle stations within a 6 block radius of my work, so finding a station to drop the bike off at it is pretty easy.
Near where I work, even if I wanted to drive, parking is at a premium and finding a spot during the week is near impossible. Garages are $20+ per day and street spots are metered, so it would require me moving my car every two hours. No thanks! So, I ride a B-Cycle to work daily. In really bad weather though, like a nasty thunderstorm, I take the city bus. The city bus picks up a block from our house and is covered by my Eco Pass. Before I rode a bus to work, I used to think they were gross. Not true. They are actually pretty clean and great for getting work done on the way home. When I take the bus, I multi-task and practice Spanish on DuoLingo while I type emails.
My work covers an EcoPass that allows employees to ride all forms of public transportation, including the bus and the light rail, for free. Many companies are going this way. It’s helpful in getting to and from places besides work too. Recently I took the lightrail to the airport from downtown Denver. Thanks to the EcoPass, the ride was free.
Original: Pasta Dinner and Wine at a Restaurant
Monthly Total Cost: $75 per Meal for 2 people
Yearly Total Cost: $900 per year
For the sake of calculating costs, I’m going to assume we used to go out to a nice Italian dinner once a month. This probably is pretty accurate based on our pre-cash budget spending. I really love pasta!
It’s so nice to be waited on and have someone else take care of all my needs for the evening. I love perusing the menu and finding unique dishes to try. Recently, I had some ricotta, goat cheese, and cranberry ravioli, which was delicious. I paired it with a nice, smooth glass of Pinot Noir (my favorite red wine!). But it was also costly.
Replacement: Pasta Dinner and Wine at Home
Monthly Total Cost: $15 Total per Meal for 2 people
Yearly Total Cost: $180 per year
Truth be told, pasta is not hard to cook. I’m not a great chef, but I can still make a tasty pasta meal. Gnocchi with veggies smothered in vodka sauce is one of my favorites to make. Pasta needs wine as a partner and I can also pour a fabulous glass of Pinot Noir on my own.
We have a wine shop, Marczyk’s, right in the neighborhood. There’s an amazing selection of bottles of decent wine for under $15 per bottle. It’s not top shelf, but it’s certainly not boxed wine either. The best part is that Marczyk’s has free wine tastings every Thursday and Friday night from 4-7, so I can try before I buy. My husband doesn’t like wine, so it certainly is just for me! A bottle of red wine will last me at least two full pasta dinners since I can’t drink a full bottle in a sitting. Well, who am I kidding, I could drink it but I don’t!
Original: Cable TV
Monthly Total Cost: $150 (Includes internet service)
Yearly Total Cost: $1800
I think for many people, cable TV is becoming less and less of a necessity. We were DISH subscribers until about 2 years ago when we realized there were only about 4 shows we were watching and they were all on ESPN and HBO.
Total Monthly Cost: $75 (Cost of internet service)
Total Yearly Cost: $900
I did an internet search on how to best describe Roku, because I’m not great with tech descriptions. Per Google, “Roku is a streaming media player, which means it takes content from the Internet and displays it on your TV.” Like all tech-related items in our house, Roku was a discovery of my husband.
Our internet service comes with HBO and basic cable (Comcast Blast Plus!), so we are able to stream HBO shows via Roku with our Comcast login. Due to our landlording ventures (to be described in upcoming posts), we also have a Dish subscription for our short-term rental unit. We are able to utilize that login for things like ESPN and other channels. Since the Dish subscription is something that is covered by the rentals we receive, we don’t pay out of pocket, all we pay is our Comcast internet service in our apartment and get to enjoy the benefits of streaming and our Dish subscription from our vacation rental.
Original: Hiring Others to do Home Repairs and Projects
Monthly Total Cost: $300
Yearly Total Cost: $3600 per year
Home repairs and projects are a necessity, albeit an unpleasant one, of home ownership. The most convenient method of repairs, in my opinion, is generally to just pay someone to do it for you. Again, convenience doesn’t necessarily equal cost effectiveness.
Floor tiles crack, handrails loosen over time, cabinets need a facelift, and walls need new paint. If we hired someone to do each of the above items, it would add up quickly. I took an average of the large repairs we did for the house last year, and saw what the total amount would have been if we hadn’t done a lot of the work ourselves. It averaged out around $3600 or $300 per month. Hired labor is always more expensive than free labor. There are some things that make sense to hire out, and we will continue to do that when it makes sense. For instance, for a quick turnaround in one of our rental units we will have professionals come in for a remodel if necessary so we can complete it quickly to rent it faster. In our apartment, we will generally do the work ourselves.
Monthly Total: $100
Yearly Total: $1200
There is a learning curve associated with doing home repairs on your own. I give my husband huge credit here. He has taught himself to do electrical work, mechanical repairs, and laying tile. He is amazing. I’m not as skilled yet, but I can replace doorknobs, re-finish cabinets, seal brick walls, and grout showers, among other things. These may not seem like big ticket items but added up that can become quite the big-ticket items. Sealing the brick walls on our own saved us $600 alone. Painting on our own saved us over $500.
We take on day-to-day tasks as well. I shovel my own snow (which I actually love to do!), salt my own walkways, and do my own weeding. Weeding required a weed-whacker, which cost $30. Shoveling was also a one-time fee of $25 for a sturdy shovel. Both are still less costly than paying for monthly services. We do crafts on our own as well. We made our own planter boxes from 2 by 4s. I didn’t like them being plain so I painted mountains and the Colorado flag on them by myself.
Of course, materials to do these things still cost money. But it’s only the materials we are paying for, not the labor.
Original: Newly released movies in the theatre
Monthly Total Cost: $60 every other month
Yearly Total Cost: $360/year
Good movies come out every over month, so I’ve calculated our expenses related to this as bi-monthly. Big draws in our house are the Marvel movies like Iron Man, Thor, the Avengers, etc. Seeing an evening movie is very expensive. Tickets to see an evening showing of Deadpool cost $17 per person, plus another $20 for popcorn and drinks. I like watching movies in the theatre and they make for a great date night, but there’s a cheaper way to have the same date.
Replacement: Watching movies a few months later in the budget theatre
Monthly Total Cost: $20 every other month
Yearly Total Cost: $120
It’s really not that bad to wait 3 months to see the latest Avengers movie. No one will tell you anything that happens in the movie if they know you haven’t seen it yet. So in general, we wait until just before the release of the movie on DVD to go see it in the theater.
In Denver, there’s a chain of discount theaters, called Elvis Cinemas. Watching a movie here, costs $3 per person for the matinée show and $4 per person for an evening showing. Buying a large popcorn and large soda combo costs $10, keeping this date night under $20.
Making the changes listed above hasn’t had too much impact on our lives. The only real effect is that we have more money to save, invest, and do the things we love. Stay tuned as I discuss our investment strategies for retirement in our future posts!
Total Original Costs: $13,140 per year
Total Replacement Costs: $2,619 per year
Amount Saved per Year: $10,521 per year