How I Pay $13,576 Less in Bills Now than I Did in 2010

The differences in my expenses between 2010-11 and 2013.

The differences in my expenses between 2010-11 and 2013.

In 2010-11 I paid almost $25,000 in basic bills – home, utilities, clothes, cell phone, etc. This year I am on track to pay almost $14,000 less – for the exact same type of bills.

I did this by slowly changing eight major things in my life over about three years.

I changed my spending habits by instead of continuing to do what I had mindless done previously and/or doing what others had done, are doing and many times would like me to do; I started to choose things that were important to me and for me.

As a reward I don’t have to cough up almost $14,000 that I had to years prior and am still living almost the exact same type and quality of life. I would not be my father’s child if I didn’t mention that saving $13,576 a year also means that I don’t have to earn $17,648 – the pre-tax equivalent of what I am saving. In short this means I could – and did – move from a full-time to a part-time job.

Here is how I did it:

1. Kicked the iCrack HabitIn 2011 I paid $120 a month for my Blackberry through AT&T. Today I pay $66/month ($50 for unlimited text, talk and 500 mb of data + $16 a month for two years for a Samsung Galaxy II) through T-Mobile. I save the data by using local WiFi networks when they are available and my home WiFi network when it is possible.

2010: Paid $1440/year
2013: Pay $792/year

2.The best gym on earth – is on earth

In 2010 I paid $33 a month for a gym membership.

I recently paid $70 for a State Parks Pass. This allows me to give money to something I believe in while I explore the area around me. (Kind of like how being on a treadmill does, right?) I have also used for $9.99 a month for unlimited yoga, pilates and meditation classes when it is too freaking cold to want to do anything but stay inside and wear yoga pants.

2010: Paid $396
2013: Paid $70

3. Sold my car lease

In 2011 I was paying $346/month for a lease payment, $140/month for car insurance and about $300 for my yearly registration. I called my financing company to find out how much I owed on the car. I then put the car on Craigslist for that exact amount – and sold it. Now I pay $60 a month in insurance for a car I paid $4ooo cash for.

2010: Paid $6132/year
2013: Will pay $790/year (This is estimating $70 for registration.)

5. Reviewed my credit card bill

Instead of blindly paying my credit card bill every month I started to look at it. (Genius, no?) I found the insurance I cancelled months prior was still being charged to my account.  One phone call later, my account was credited $400.

2011: Paid $400 extra
2013: Pay $0 extra

6. Buy $200 jeans for $90 dollars.

You can buy $200 jeans used for $10 to $30 at the secondhand store. You can also buy brand new $200 jeans for $90 dollars on eBay. I started going to Neiman Marcus and Nordstroms, finding the exact jeans I wanted,then found and ordered the exact same jean on eBay for 50%+ cheaper.

2010: Paid $800
2013: Pay $360

7. Let someone else pay my mortgage

I own a house. I just don’t live in it. I first rented it after I accepted a job in Amsterdam. When I returned home I wanted to live less expensively so I let someone else pay the $1250 it costs to live there and found somewhere cheaper.  The IRS looks at it as a business expense that I can depreciate over the years as I collect equity in it and allow someone else to eventually pay the entire thing off for me.  Now I pay $750 a month in rent.

2011: Paid $15,000 to live
2013: Will pay $9000 to live (and collect equity, tax benefits, etc, etc)

8. Stopped paying for my utilities

I found a place to live that pays for my water (average $15/month) and gas (average $40 – $50 over the year/month). Now I just pay electric.

2010: Paid $660
2013: Will pay approx. $240


With the exception of dealing with the scoundrelous a-holes at cell phone companies, I have found this entire experience fulfilling. What I have found in interviewing others who have gone through similar processes is there an enormous amount of richness and joy in life to be found in thoughtful, pre-meditated spending. I would be surprised if you did not find the same in looking to save and spend money in ways that were meaningful and made sense to you.

I continue to save money by:

  • Buying used books from local bookstores.
  • Getting 95% of my furniture from friends who just wanted it out of their homes and/or from others who very generously gave it to me. If you were to come over you would see a pretty obvious hole in my living room where something *should* go. Eventually something inexpensive will find its way there. Eventually.
  • Buying things such as snowboard boots (recent $200+ pair from Craigslist for $25) and other life necessities from second hand shops and from individuals where there is no reason to buy new – especially when I can get what I need at a 1/10 of the cost.
  • Staying away from Groupon, the site a friend recently described as, “The place I go to save money on things that I would have never bought in the first place.”
  • Selling everything I do not use which others would find useful on Craigslist.
  • Not owning a TV
  • Using my credit card (which I pay off every month) to earn points for free plane tickets around the world
  • Cleaning our own house, making our own food and going out to dinner when it is going to be a good / special experience and not just because we are too lazy or dumb to think of anything to cook. But sometimes because we are too lazy and dumb to think of anything to cook and well – there is nothing wrong with that either.

15 thoughts on “How I Pay $13,576 Less in Bills Now than I Did in 2010

  1. 🙂 … Through Skype I just got a year long unlimited phone plan throughout the USA for $94.68/year. They offer an unlimited outgoing call plan to the USA for $2.99 a month & an unlimited incoming call plan for $16.05 every 3 months or $5.35 a month. Together that equals $7.89 a month for both unlimited incoming and outgoing phone calls – cheaper that 2 fancy coffees at the Buckeroos! I know it is not for everyone … but anyone that is often times close to an internet connection could save some money through switching to Skype. I now pay annually half of what I use to pay monthly for my Verizon bill. Added bonus – no cell phone next to my head! Skype – you and Google should have a baby!

  2. Solid, practical advice anyone can employ. Welcome to the frugal family! Dining in trades time for money. My crockpot ensures delicious meals no matter what arises. Buying and selling nearly-new or vintage apparel goes one better when you whittle down the overstuffed closet – gain space and cash. And always, always shop for insurance each year instead of blindly paying those regular rate hikes.

    Beware false economy, however. Before trading down, check ratings on goods and services. A new vehicle was the smartest investment I ever made to my small biz – zero down-time. My phone service far exceeds the runner-up in coverage and connectivity, zero customer service time in 8 years. Basic TV features Movie Night In, costing about the same as one trip to the theatre with the obligatory snack bar, and includes high-speed Internet connection and land line – a business write-off.

    *Bonus – when an earthquake on the West Coast knocked out cell coverage for a time, and power too, my old Conair wired phone, used to diagnose working/non-working lines, was the first connection to resume service, and I invited all the neighbors to check in with their children’s schools, distant relatives, etc. We turned on the (new car) radio for updates and rolled down the windows, got out the BBQ, put on the camp coffee and became the neighborhood check-in place.

    Don’t overlook Magic Jack for home phone service. It’ll FWD: to your cell and has voice mail.

  3. Linda –

    I teach people about this all of the time. The key to wealth management has little to do with how much you earn – but has EVERYTHING to do with how much you spend. Now I’ve got a place to send them that shows how the little things matter and really add up. I like the fact that you’ve changed very little of your lifestyle!

    There is a book called “You are Broke because you want to be” that talks very much about similar strategies.

    Thanks for being a great example!


    • Reed! Thanks for your thoughts. You have been on my mind. I wanted to do a piece on you and your thoughts on saving, spending, investing, etc. I am going to shoot you an email. Would love to hear more!

      And p.s. My lifestyle has become so, so, so much better. I have traveled a zillion times more than I ever did make 2 to 3 times more and everything around me just seems to have more meaning. It is fabulous. So glad you are helping people do the same!

  4. I recently moved out of a house with backyard, pool, etc. I now live in a one bedroom apartment which I love. I don’t have to pay for landscaping, pool care, or fixing appliances, carpet cleaning, tile repair, etc. I may not be getting a tax write-off, but I’m also not spending the tax write-off credit on household repairs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.