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Financial guidance for financial independence

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Ways to Save on Everyday Expenses

I’ve been on a mission to track and reduce my household living expenses for quite a while now. Along this path I discovered some fairly lucrative ways to save across multiple areas of spending that have had little-to-no impact on quality of life.

I’ve decided to compile those discoveries here as one long list broken out by category. Feel free to browse through. My hope is that there are at least one or two items that might also help your household save some money with relatively minimal effort.

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AUTOMOTIVE

This one is fairly straightforward, but being a car guy it’s never been easy for me to adopt.  Simply put, automobiles are a terrible investment (unless you’re the rare person who has a talent for properly restoring classic cars).  Buying a new car is a bad money move.  Leasing a car is a bad money move.  What is one to do?

It seems to be the”‘best” of the losing financial options is to buy a 3-5 year old used automobile in cash then run it until the wheels fall off.  This way you are letting some one else lose on the heavy initial depreciating years of the vehicle and not incurring financing charges on the purchase, all-the-while striking a nice balance of useful remainder life for financial outlay.  An automobile is an expense, nothing more.  The more you can mitigate the size of this expense the better.

I am trying my hardest to implement this policy with our current car (the 4-door Mini Coop-de-Loop).  We paid it off and are now running on 70k miles, hoping to get 2-3 times that when all is said and done.  But it’s a struggle for me even though I love our vehicle.  That new car itch strikes quite often forcing me to talk myself down (I know there are others out there that can relate).

CELL PHONE PLAN

For years we were Verizon Wireless customers.  Even though we knew they were high priced, we assumed that their coverage was superior to everyone else and so the premium we were paying was likely worth it.  Then we discovered the dirty little secret that discount wireless providers actually use the bigger providers networks.

This is when I made the switch to Total Wireless.  With Total Wireless you can bring in any phone you want (as long as it’s unlocked) and use Verizon’s network for nearly half the price.  Other providers have similar pairings (Cricket w/ AT&T for example), but over a year in w/ Total Wireless and there has been no fall-off in service and over $60/month in savings.  Heck yea!  There is no going back.

GROCERIES

My wife and I used to shop for groceries based on convenience.  What store was closest often drove our store decision.  But after tracking our grocery bill for a few months, it became clear that not all stores are equal.  We knew Whole Foods was expensive but was surprised to find that even our local perceived lower cost grocery chain (Giant Eagle) was still fairly high priced.

That’s when we discovered Aldi and became converts.  It takes a small learning curve to get the hang of the concept (quarter needed to get shopping cart, bring your own reusable bags, relatively few brand names), but these are tiny obstacles for the quality and value received.  Once past the initial learning curve, expect to save a minimum of 20% from your standard grocery bill.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Beginning in 2018, the quote for our household healthcare exchange premiums shot through the roof.  This led us down the path of exploration for any alternative and more affordable options, which also led us to the world of health sharing ministries.  In essence, a health share ministry is a faith-based health insurance alternative (not actual insurance) that provides health care protections for a fraction of the cost of traditional insurance.

Two of the leaders in this space are Liberty HealthShare and Medi-Share.  Here is a detailed comparison of the two with a nice overview of what you can expect from each.  We went with Medi-Share and cut our “premiums” by half of what we were paying in 2017.  Overall it was a pleasant experience with great customer service and support.  But also worth noting is the fact that we didn’t have any major medical issues that popped up during the year, so we never really tested the limits of their coverage.

HOUSING

There is lots of money to be saved by making the right housing decision

There is lots of money to be saved by making the right housing decision

Housing is the largest expense for the vast majority of households.  The problem is that most people also have emotional ties to their place of residence, and emotions can skew financial decision making.  I get it.  A home is where memories are made and can be highly sentimental.  But also understand that a home is also where a lot of families makes their biggest financial blunder.  As with most everything involving finances (and life), balance is key.

So when it comes to deciding where to live, I urge you to strive for an open mind.  There is no shame to living in a smaller home.  Absolutely none!  Downsizing can save a ton of money while also delivering some rather unexpected side benefits.  Also, know that owning a home is not always the best course of action.  In fact, there are times when renting just makes much more sense than buying.  Renting is usually the smarter play for households where flexibility is important and/or home prices are high.  Plus, renting can free up home equity that can be invested elsewhere (otherwise known as opportunity cost) which can boost the path to financial independence.  It did for me!  My wife and I sold our condo back in 2015 and have been renters ever since.  It allowed us to jump start our journey into real estate investing which has led to more freedoms and opportunities than we would have ever had previously.

Click here for some general guidelines on the buy versus rent decision.

LIFE INSURANCE

When applying for life insurance most people simply turn to their longtime insurance carrier for coverage.  I did the same thing, initially.  The problem is that the large majority of insurance agents are affiliated with a specific company who utilize their own proprietary products.  This makes sense for the insurance company, but not for you as it limits your options and ability to score a good deal/quote.

You’re better off shopping a nationwide database of providers to get the most bang for your buck.  I love services like Quotacy because they have access to all major insurance carriers while making the process of getting an initial estimate quick, painless and absent the divulging of confidential information.  From there, you have the information on hand to continue the process with a reputable provider who’s giving you the most for your money.

TELEVISION

By this point in time, you’ve likely heard of the cord-cutting phenomenon that is sweeping across the nation.  This movement is going nowhere, as it only looks to pick up steam in the years ahead.

So if you haven’t yet cut the cord with cable or satellite, what are you waiting for?  All you need nowadays is quick internet service.  Streaming companies like Amazon, Hulu and Netflix have taken over home entertainment.  Local broadcast channels can still be had for free with a digital antenna.  Or if you really miss the old TV experience, services like Hulu + Live TV, Sling, or YouTube TV offer it to you in a streaming package at a fraction of the cost of your old cable bill.  Just make sure you don’t add on so many streaming services that you’d be paying more than you were before cutting the cord!

The Sutherland household has been cable/satellite free since 2013 which has now resulted in thousands of dollars in savings.

UTILITIES

It’s easy to think of the utility bill as a necessary expense that has little to no wiggle room for savings.  And while it is true that utilities are necessary, what is not true is that these bills have no wiggle room for savings.

Even if living in a deregulated state, often times your gas and water bills will be serviced by one provider which handicaps your options to shop around.  This being the case, you can often still negotiate a budgeted monthly rate directly with the company which could end up saving you money and make your bills more consistent/plannable.

For electricity the situation is often a bit different.  While you might likely have one electric distribution option (company who owns the lines that bring electricity to your home), you can still choose which electric supplier you want coming through those lines.  Look closely at your next bill and see who your supplier is, then scour your market to see if any other local suppliers are charging a lower kWh rate than you’re paying now.  If so, you are normally able to make a change in supplier with just a few clicks online.  I continually monitor our market and more recently found a supplier that was both cheaper and more environmentally friendly.  Win-win!


What are some other savings you’ve found in your journey to tidy up your household expenses?  Please share!