Note: The examples below are just examples. Since everyone has a different situation, they may or may not apply to each one of us.
When our child was born, our budget structure changed from double to single income. Gradually, we learned to adjust our expenses accordingly. It was important for us to have gone through this gradually so that the process is not overwhelming. Here is what we did, in roughly chronological order.
- Cell phone: I need a cell phone but use only occasionally (probably about 30 minutes talk and several text messages a month). So, I switched from a monthly plan to a prepaid plan, "Pay-as-you-go" of T-Mobile (2006). Initially, I spent about $50 for a absolutely basic phone and $100 for the first 1000 minutes, resulting in the Gold Rewards status. With this, the purchased minutes would not expire even after one year as long as more minutes are purchased before the expiration of the last purchase. Every year, I purchase a small number of minutes and extend the expiration by one year. For example, the last three or so years, I spent only $10 a year on my cell phone.
- Credit cards: Certain types of reward cards can be used for cost saving. Nowadays, we use Chase Freedom card for certain rotating categories (5% reward), Amazon card for Amazon purcases (3%), drug store, dining, and office supply (2%), AmEx Blue Everyday card for grocery (3%), gas and department store (2%). Everything else gets 1% on any of these. We also have CapitalOne World Mastercard, which is great to receive rewards automatically but not much used as the other cards cover our categories better. (since 2007)
- Computers: We started to use compatible, not genuine, toners for our laser printer (since 2008). Unfortunately, some compatible color ink cartridges didn't work with our color printer. I started to use Open Office instead of Microsoft Office (since 2010). Recently, I purchased a refurbished/dent/scratch desktop PC from Dell Outlet (2012).
- Grocery: I gradually learned where to buy what. For example, for King Arthur whole wheat flour, I go to Wegmans, where it is always about $3.5 compared to around $4.5 or more elsewhere. I buy Sage Valley lightly salted corn chips at Shop Rite, under $2/lb for this organic product. Although I love meat, we eat only a modest amount of meat. Roughly every other week, we spend $3-5 for chicken at King Foods at Trenton Farmer's Market, for a week of our meat consumption as well as chicken stock. But probably the biggest change is that we now eat out much less frequently; this certainly reduced our expense.
- Utility: We gradually replaced most incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones. We also gradually change the thermostat setting, higher during the summer and lower during the winter. As a result, our house is now hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. But we are getting used to it. Another thing is that we stopped using clothe dryer and dishwasher (2009); now, we are pretty much used to the life without them.
- Cars: When we purchased a Prius, I started to try to practice moderate version of hypermiling with my 1998 Honda CR-V (2009). I stop engine when the car stops for a significant amount of time (including most red lights), accelerate slowly, coast in neutral when possible, etc. While the EPA figure for the car is 20mpg, my overall average is about 25mpg.
- Phone: We moved too slow on this. But recently, we got rid of Verizon land line and got MagicJack (2010). It has an annoying video clips on its home page and its international connection is not as consistent (we also used CallingCards.com for international calls). But cost saving is enormous. There are some additional benefits too, e.g., phone messages as e-mail.
- Yard work: I hate yard work. Nevertheless, we finally stopped our lawn service (2010). I now use a reel mower, Fiskars Momentum. It is probably the most advanced (and most expensive) hand mower and works fine on our 0.4 acre lawn, mostly shade (slow growth).
- Utility: We are considering to change electric supplier from PSE&G to another, North American Power. This may reduce a portion of electric bill by about 10%, possibly about $10 month reduction. Before we make a decision, we would like to know more about the experience of others. Another thing we are considering is to replace all light bulbs to LEDs. We are waiting for the availability of less expensive products.
- Internet: We are still thinking about whether to stay with Comcast or to switch to Verizon Fios. We do not watch TV and we do not need phone service (as we use Magic Jack).