How We Cut Our Cellular Costs in HALF

Like many people, Brennan and I have recently been trying to figure out where we could cut costs in our budget. There weren’t many obvious possibilities, but we saw a commercial that brought us hope.

We have Comcast internet at home, so when we saw a commercial for Xfinity Mobile we were intrigued. It sounded too good to be true, but it has turned out to be everything it promises.

  • You only pay for the data you use – $12 per GB, or unlimited for $45. This gives you complete control over your bill!
  • You can switch back and forth between unlimited and pay by the gig, even mid month! This means you’re always getting the best deal.
  • Xfinity uses Verizon’s network so we have the same cellular coverage that we did with AT&T.
  • You are automatically connected to Xfinity WiFi hotspots whenever they exist, which is frequent! This means you use less data.

Our first bill with Xfinity will be HALF of what we were paying with AT&T. That’s a savings of $100!

The added benefit has been increased quality time: we’ve been trying to not use our phones at all when WiFi doesn’t exist, so we’ve had more quality time together while we’re away from home.

It’s so easy (especially as an introvert) to just pick up your phone and browse the internet instead of engaging with people; but, because we decided that we will try to use as little data as possible each month and made it a game, it’s also increasing our quality time with others.

It was hard to leave AT&T after fifteen years as a satisfied customer, but so far Xfinity is proving to be a much better way to do mobile and it’s saving us a significant amount of money each month.

This isn’t a paid endorsement, but I’d encourage you to look into services like this if you’re interested! It’s worth the switch.

Taking Care of Baby for Free

Note: just because we have made these choices doesn’t mean that we are judging those who don’t! All parents have to make the decisions that work best for their family.

The number one thing I have heard about raising kids is how expensive it is. Between diapers, formula, wipes, etc. it can really add up during the first few years of life. On average, parents who choose (or need to use) formula will spend thousands of dollars just to feed their baby. Diapers on average will cost $3,000 per child from birth to potty training. I don’t have links to prove this, but I have heard these stats enough to believe them.

When we found out that we were pregnant, we knew that I would stay at home with the baby (and all future children), which would mean a slight loss of income. So, being the frugal person that I am, I began to research ways that we could save money and still make life great for our children so that our budget would not be greatly impacted.

By cloth diapering, using cloth wipes, and breastfeeding, we spend very little, if any, money on our baby each month.

IMG_3535.JPGIf you had asked me a few years ago if I would ever cloth diaper, I would have said no! It sounded awful and like so much work. However, I have several friends who have cloth diapered and they blogged about their experiences. As I read their blogs, I realized that this was absolutely what we needed – and wanted – to do.

We spent less than $300 up front for our cloth diapers. We have 21 diapers and at least 20 extra liners. Since they need to be washed every 2-3 days anyway, it’s the perfect amount of diapers for one child.

Because Tori is exclusively breastfed (which is also free), washing the diapers is simple: you put them right into the washer. The poop of breastfed babies is water soluble (and doesn’t stink!), so you just do a cold rinse cycle and then add your detergent and wash on hot. So while we have increased our water bill by about $4 per month, we are saving so much more than that!

In addition, Brennan’s step-mom and her daughter-in-law made us cloth wipes for our baby shower. Again, never thought I would use cloth wipes! They are so wonderful and so good for baby’s skin, though! No chemicals, no waste, and you wash them with the diapers. Even our pediatrician said to not use disposable wipes because of the chemicals.

Tori rarely has any diaper rash and she seems to prefer cloth to disposables based upon her demeanor during diaper changes. We do use disposables at times and have them on hand for babysitters who may be uncomfortable with cloth.IMG_3532.JPG

The best part about using cloth is that these will last until she is 35 lbs, and we can use them for all of our children! That means a savings of $11,700 if we have the four kids we would like to have! Granted, if the next baby is born before Tori is potty trained we may need to buy a few more, but we are still saving thousands of dollars.

Kids don’t have to be expensive. It’s all about what your priorities are, I think. You can choose to use disposables, which are easy and convenient, but expensive, or you can choose cloth, which require a little bit more effort and time but save thousands of dollars. We have chosen to save money while also keeping our daughter’s skin away from chemicals, and it is working well for us.

What steps have you taken to save money while raising children?

 

 

Day Twenty-Six: We’re Thankful For…Our Home.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new 🙂

In September 2012, we were very content to continue renting and not be “tied down” anywhere. Our rent was cheap, our apartment was in an amazing location, and we were happy. But that all changed the following month…

Our landlord had recently placed a brand new manufactured home on our property and told us that he would be renting it for close to $1,000 per month. I was really surprised that anyone would pay that much to rent a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home (our rent was $550 for a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom top floor of a house)…so I started looking at property around our area to see if that was comparable or high. Turns out it was high. 🙂

During my search, an ad appeared on one of the websites that said something like this: “If this were your home, your mortgage would be ____.” Whatever that number was, it was low, and it made me consider the possibility of buying a house so that we could actually SAVE money.

Brennan and I started talking seriously about buying a house in October 2012. We had very few “requirements” – natural gas heat, central air, and lots of space. We saw six houses, and the last one that we toured became our first home together.

On November 1st, with my parents and his mom and step-dad, we toured a bank-owned, not pretty house. It had plenty of space (1,800 sq. ft, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms on a 1/2 acre), it was in a good neighborhood, and it was incredibly inexpensive. It needed a lot of cosmetic work, but nothing major. So, on November 1st, 2012, we made an offer.

We closed on December 21, 2012 and immediately got to work by tearing up all the carpet in the basement. We moved in on January 20, 2013 and that’s when the work really began.

We are so thankful for the opportunity that we had to buy this house – especially because it is worth approximately $55K more than we paid for it. Selling this house will allow us to be debt-free as we could pay off our student loans with the profit.

We are also thankful for the amount of space that we now have for housing/hosting people! It was difficult to have many people over in our little 600 sq. foot apartment; now we can comfortably sleep TEN PEOPLE on couches and beds (and even more if we had more air mattresses!). We recently had a church event at our house and had over 30 people there, comfortably. This house has created such an opportunity for ministry (RYFO, church, etc.) and we LOVE it.

We are even more thankful for all of the people who selflessly donated their skills and time to help us do the work that was needed (my parents, Dan, Kim, Dean, Jason, Courtney, Tim, Stacey, Shannon, Jana, Billy, and so many more!) – we couldn’t have made as much progress without help! There is still quite a bit of work to be done (and yes, we still need a lot of help!), but as you can see in the pictures below, we’ve already accomplished so much.

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Thank you, Lord, for our beautiful home…

Practical Products I Love: eMeals

 eMeals - Dinner Done

About a year ago we decided to finally try eMeals – a meal planning program that Dave Ramsey endorses as it saves time and money while also simplifying the meal-planning process.

“Food is the biggest budget buster of all. I’ve wanted someone to create a practical solution to the “beans and rice, rice and beans” dilemma. Finally… eMeals has done it! Now thousands of my listeners subscribe to eMeals. You will save a ton of time and money.”

— Dave Ramsey

We used it the past two weeks exclusively for the first time and were SO pleased! Granted, we don’t eat every meal they create simply due to our tastes/likes (i.e. I don’t like fish), but everything that we tried was fantastic!

We’re currently using the “Slow Cooker Clean Eating” plan for two people, and this has saved us SO much time, energy, and money already because we’re only buying what we need, dinner is ready when we get home, and I don’t have to spend extra time planning out what we’re going to cook and what we’ll need to make it. It has also helped because our plan is for two people so the portions are appropriate and we don’t have extra food.

How does it work? Each week you will receive an email with the week’s recipes AND shopping list. They come in .pdf format so that you can keep them forever. Even better–if you have a smart phone, download the eMeals app and it gives you full and easy access to everything; plus, with the app, you can “skip meals” that you won’t use and it modifies the shopping list for you! Brilliant! You can change your plan once a month and there are plenty to choose from.

Click on the banner below for more details and start saving time and money!

eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!

Full disclosure: if you sign up with my link I get a small commission (available to all subscribers!) for referring you.

Day Seventeen: I’m Thankful For…Mystery Shopping.

Preface: I thought it was fitting to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I’ve never taken the time to do this, and it will be a challenge to blog each day, but it’s so important to recognize the blessings God has given us! 🙂 These are in NO particular order…

In early 2011 I began mystery shopping, and it has been such a blessing to us.

It all started when Brennan came home and mentioned that the Hotel Hershey had been evaluated by mystery shoppers from Forbes/AAA recently and they had just received their scores. I couldn’t believe that someone could get paid to get a massage! 🙂 I was familiar with the concept of mystery shopping because my mom and grandma had done it when I was younger; so, I decided to look into it for myself and have found it to be a really fun hobby!

Mystery shopping provides us with abundant “free” date nights. We can mystery shop movie theatres, tons of restaurants (ranging from fast food to fancy), hotels, sporting events, concerts, etc. This has been such a blessing to us because we strive to live as frugally as possible and this allows us to still “date” each other frequently (which is very important)!

On the practical side, we hardly ever pay for oil changes, brake inspections, shipping packages, etc. anymore. There are so many ways to get paid for things you need to do anyway! This has saved us so much money in the past two years!

Mystery shopping is challenging and requires a lot of detailed observations; but, once you get the hang of it you develop a system. Brennan is a great help on these shops because he can help me remember the details when it’s time to enter the shop into the system and he really enjoys it as well.

Finally, mystery shopping has been a way for me to bring extra income to the table which has allowed us to pay off our credit card debt so much faster. Since I only work part-time currently, it has made me feel like I am contributing to our family finances more, which I love.

I’m very thankful that God has provided this opportunity for us to date, live frugally, and have fun through mystery shopping!

(To read more about how to get into mystery shopping on your own, read this post.)

Emptying the Storehouse: Update

I have been terrible about blogging about this experiment! It is the last day of April and I haven’t said a word about it in weeks.

Well, we made it through the month of April without grocery shopping (with the exception of fresh produce and milk)!

I will admit that I did have to pick up some cheese because we ran out. But, other than that, we really did well with sticking to this goal, and we STILL have a lot of food left! That’s partially because we did a few mystery shops this month, and we were at MHS for one weekend (where we are fed). And, one of the meals made enough to feed us for three nights, so that used even less food!

We’re thinking that we might just keep this going until we’re out of food completely, but we’ll see. We are out of chicken and beef, and out of cheese except for the little bit that I bought the other day, so I’m having to be more creative (which is challenging given our schedule right now).

If nothing else, this has helped me to step away from the thrill of couponing (which is easily addicting) for a while. I will still use coupons, of course, but I never want to have a stockpile like many people I’ve seen in news articles. I only want to have what we will use or give away.

I’ll keep you posted on what we decide to do next!

 

Emptying the Storehouse: Week Two

This is the second week of us cooking and eating only what we have in the house–no grocery shopping (except for fresh produce)! I decided to call it “Emptying the Storehouse” because it sounded better than “Eating from the Pantry” or anything else that came to mind.

I should have known that I wouldn’t end up sticking to a specific daily menu plan. 🙂

So far, we’re only out of a few things (such as plain frozen fruit, which I use for smoothies) and running low on a few others, so the creativity begins!

I will post links to recipes whenever I have them–some are from cookbooks that I only have in print.

Actual Dinner Menu for Week One:

Sunday: Breakfast burritos and smoothies for brunch; dinner at church

Monday: Easy Garden Bake

Tuesday: Hungry Girl’s macaroni and cheese (added broccoli) and “Corndog Millionaire Muffins” (Hungry Girl)

Wednesday: Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos with black beans

Thursday: (I honestly can’t remember what we ate)

Friday-Saturday: Lancaster County get-away

Sunday: Chicken and black bean quesadillas for lunch; Sautéed fresh vegetables (asparagus, zucchini, grape tomatoes, onion) and spinach berry smoothies for dinner.

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Planned Dinner Menu for Week Two:

Monday: Chicken Tortilla Soup (family recipe–crock-pot)

Tuesday: Strawberry Spinach Salad and some kind of baked bread

Wednesday:  Pasta with steamed vegetables (we love Ronzoni’s Garden Delight pasta) 

Thursday: Dinner out (mystery shop)

Friday: Leftovers from the week

Saturday: Out of town (Disaster Relief training)

Sunday: Applesauce Chicken (crock-pot) with steamed vegetables and quinoa/rice

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Breakfasts consist of any of the following: cereal, smoothies, breakfast burritos, baked oatmeal, etc.

Lunches during the week (for me) are either leftovers, smoothies, or salads. Brennan is able to eat at work.

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