Boot Camp Graduation

You know what?  Boot Camp is tough!  Seriously....I spent so much time reading and researching and thinking, that my head ached several days in a row, lol.  Did I learn anything?  Yes, I did.  I was reminded of much and I came to appreciate afresh the work that goes into living frugally.  Yes, work.  It's not just a matter of saving, it's creating the savings in the first place sometimes.

So I did just loads of studying and reading and note taking.  As my last test of Frugal Fitness, I sat down with a pen and paper and covered over eight pages front and back with things to incorporate into my frugal life. Eight pages...and lest you think I'm being repetitive and merely writing down what I did two years ago, no...There are a few that are repeated because I need to continue to practice hard at that particular mindset/skill or because I never incorporated them and I should at least try, but some of these are new to ME, though not necessarily new. 

It is sobering, after all these years of attempting to leave frugally and well, to discover how much more one might be doing.  I am not interested in living in a deprived way but I do want to be a good steward of our resources and I do indeed want to determine where I might save a little more, in order to make the best of what we have, as well as to add whatever I might to our retirement years.

I took my budget sheet and worked my way down each category and listed savings means for each that I might use to trim costs further.  This is the way we paid off our debt load. It is the way we will successfully retire on a low budget.  I find it a little disheartening at times to look at how slowly raises came over the last fifteen years, how costs have risen,  and how many avenues we've employed only to have them dead end, but we travelled each path as long as we feasibly could and new pathways opened from there.  In order to not be overwhelmed, I will take one item from each category and work upon it until I have become mistress of it and then incorporate another.  I don't want to overwhelm myself.  Boot Camp is meant merely to fire the creative thinking parts of my brain and it worked very well.  Now the real training begins.

I warn that this is likely to be two or three posts worth of stuff, perhaps more than that, so bear with me.  Graduation is nearly as intense as my work during boot camp was!

The two things we do every pay period: we pay our tithes and we set money aside for savings.  This is not all the savings we make each month but it generally is the bulk of our cash value savings.  I'd very much like to not only manage on our remaining income this month but also to save more.  So to that end, I'll begin my graduation with new ways to actually physically set money aside each month. 


#1.  Save $20 every week.  I'd like to do this with my personal allowance, as well as with our mutual account.  I"ll combine this with the tip to 'save all $5 bills', as an easy way to approach my savings.  In week one I had $40 in $5....It was the bulk of my allowance and I went right ahead and saved it since I get allowance only twice a month, but I applied it all to my credit card bill for July.  That is paid in full thanks to that bit of extra savings.  I'd like to save the money in our mutual account towards vacation spending each year.  This will mean that we don't take away money we might use elsewhere.  My personal savings will be used to refresh the house/yard/wardrobe over the year.  In both cases I am boosting my overall savings and spending power by planning ahead.

#2. Save all $5 bills....See above.

#3.  Round down deposits to the nearest dollar and round up miscellaneous expenses to the nearest dollar. I plan next pay period to subtract the rounded up bill amount.

#4.  Set a savings goal.  I decided to try for $200/month at present.  This will be split between two savings accounts we have, one of which is small.  I am happy to report I have that amount set aside already this month.

#5.  Determine which savings account is paying the best interest return and move money to that account, being careful to keep minimal balances in place to avoid service charges.

#6.  Build up a medical expenses account to pay medical bills as they come in.  And since most providers are all too happy these days to set a monthly payment amount each month, do that when necessary.  It is interest free, unlike a loan or bulk credit card payment to pay them off right away.  Yes, it will show as a slow pay on my credit report but no one can argue if the bills are being paid.  Having an excellent credit report overall will stand me in good stead.

#7.  Use windfalls to build up the sub-accounts where we stash money for tags/taxes, and other annual fees.  This will help to eliminate the need to set aside small amounts monthly and free up cash for other needs.  At this thought, I had to define what a windfall is: unplanned overtime hours that have not already been purposed (planned overtime generally has a purpose in mind when John begins to work those hours.), gifts of money that are not related to a personal gift (not birthday or Christmas), door prizes that have value (aka gift cards of any amount), refunds, rebates.  I know that at this moment, next pay period I will have two hours of overtime to apply to the sub accounts.

Electricity and Propane Savings

#1.  I set a target goal for electricity and propane at $180 or less each month. 

#2.  Rather than use the 'average' feature at the electric company, I will set aside that amount of money monthly as that's the average I came up with when I figured our amounts over a 12 month period.  I will likely have to start during cooler months however, since right now our current billed amount is a smidge higher than the average.

#3.  I set a start/stop date for usage of the propane heater.  I will not use heat after April 15 of any given year, nor turn it on prior to October 15.  Air conditioning is a little bit trickier to set start/stop dates upon as it truly does depend upon how long we have heatwaves (hello Christmas at 90f) and various pollen/mold seasons, etc.  However, I will do my best when it is below 72f outdoors to have windows open instead of using AC.  We will not lower the AC below 77f.

#4.  I will price a propane heater that has a thermostat that allows it to be set so we don't have to choose between roasting or freezing.  This is an improvement we've spoken of several times and I think if it's reasonable we will make it a priority investment.  Initial looks online suggest we're looking at about $700 for that improvement.  I'll see what's available locally and we'll discuss from there.  I think the electric savings in a couple of years time would make it worth while to purchase.

#5.  Use the blinds and draperies to save energy.  In winter when it's bitter cold and windy, pull the drapes closed to shut out possible heat loss.  In summer, use to shade windows on the sunniest (and hottest) side of the house.

#6.  Use natural light to work by as much as possible.  Work in the rooms where the light is. Avoid using electricity unless it's dark.

#7.  Use grill, crock pot, electric frying pan and microwave for summer meals to avoid heating the kitchen.  Build up a repertoire of warm weather recipes that allow the kitchen to stay as cool as possible.   In winter months, when the oven is in use, maximize the usage and fill it up.

#8.  Save dishwater, catch shower water while water is heating, rinse dishes for the dishwasher over a dishpan.  Use that water caught up to water plants. I am saving dish and rinse water.  The bucket for the shower water is now in the bathroom ready to start that task.

#9.  Use cold water to pre-rinse dishes.  This I've started doing.  I'd been in the habit of turning on the hot water to do this task which is doubling the electricity usage, as it runs both the well pump and the hot water heater.

#10.  Wash only full loads of clothes or dishes.   Use the shortest possible load settings. Hang as many clothes as possible to dry.  Keep heat dry feature on dishwasher turned to off.  I can air dry dishes once washed.  This too is something I've been doing but it's such a good savings tool that I want to keep it going.

#11.  Don't wash small amounts of dishes in dish pan.  Rinse and stack until ready to wash.  Only partially fill dishpan and then just to add hot water to temper the cold already in the pan.  I don't need a full pan of water to wash dishes!

#12.  Turn off all fans, lights when we leave home.  Increase AC temperature if we're to be gone for an extended time.  In winter, lower the heat temperature when we're gone.  As long as the house stays 50f pipes will not freeze.

#13.  Run computer off battery.  Plug in only to recharge.

#14.  Use computer or car to charge cell phone.  Look into solar chargers. (about $31 but they may need an initial electrical charge in order to work.)

Cable, Cell Phones and Internet Services

We did a lot of work in this area last year.  Cable is about as low as it's going to be.  I'll be calling back at end of August to try and negotiate a better rate when most of our discounts run out.  John is still not quite ready to cut that cable cord despite all the options we've seen/heard of.

Cell phones are still fairly low, too.  Not the lowest of the lows, but low.

Internet service...Sheesh.  We intended last year to only slightly increase costs and ditch the super slow, on/off DSL service we had with the local phone company.  We opted to go with Hughes net and three or four months into service we suddenly were without data mid-month and were offered the option of purchasing tokens for more usage.  After hours on the phone, running equipment tests etc., they couldn't discover why we'd suddenly lose data in a lump sum.  So we increased our service and now pay twice what we paid for service locally.  Reading customer reviews of the service this is typical  of the company...  This is not ideal, but we're locked into a two year contract.

So my option here is to buy out our contract or just stick with it for two years and run like crazy when we're free.  In the meantime, I mean to look at ALL our other options.  The local company has a satellite plan.  There is a possibility of getting a smart phone with a hot spot and using the cell phone service company's data plan.  I'll research this one out to the very end.  In the meantime, we're being extremely careful of data usage. 

What this means is that we run any videos on the very lowest setting (144), which affects nothing as far as quality of video is concerned.  I avoid using Swagbucks for anything but shop and earn unless I can get on during the 'free' usage hours for downloads which is 2am-8am daily.  And we drop any friends or family who post loads of videos on facebook since they are data usage hogs which we cannot turn off (not even with facebook special settings).  It's frustrating and it's awful but it's our mistake in choosing this company and ours to have to deal with. be continued...


Lana said...

The Facebook videos are frustrating on our smart phones too since we cannot turn them off and they just eat up our data when we are away from wi-fi. Changing the setting does not work there either.

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Karla Neese said...

Another tip for winter months that my mom used to do. After using the oven for baking, she'd open the oven door a bit to let the heat escape into the room after it was turned off.

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