Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cutting Corners

 I've been trying forever to find new ways to make our very small fixed income stretch just a little bit farther. I've read every single article I've come across over the years that have anything at all to do with cutting debt and saving pennies.  Before we moved from Texas many of these things had already put into place.  We've never had credit cards and so have none of those debts that plague many folks.  We sold all the vehicles and now have the old faithful Dodge diesel.  Mars bought it before we moved from a friend of his and got a great deal on it.  With good driving records we have a very small insurance payment.  I shop around a couple of times a year to make sure we have the best rates available and only carry the minimum required by law. 

  We don't go out to eat anymore and cook most everything from scratch.  I make our bread and bake our desserts as  well.  I grocery shop with a list and try to hit the sales for the best deals.  I used coupons until the printer croaked and since we don't buy the Sunday paper anymore we don't get those either.  I buy in bulk as much as I can.  I know folks talk about all the good deals they find at places like Sam's and Costco, but I can't justify the annual expense of being a member.  It just wouldn't save us as much as it cost for the membership.
Hopefully the garden will produce well this spring and summer and we will be able to cut back there as well since I plan on canning or dehydrating as much food as possible.

  We have a landline phone because after doing all the research it was the cheapest way to go.  Neither of us use the dang thing much anyway!  If we could get away with it I think I would just disconnect it but with family in other states I just can't do that. 

  We don't have a TV and so don't have that to pay for although we DO still have our Netflix DVD account. Our internet is our "connection" to the world.  Out here there are only a couple of choices for internet and so satellite is what we went with as it is the least expensive here.  Unfortunately we have to watch the bandwidth we use.  Let me tell you that THAT was the hardest thing to get used to.  Until we moved out here I had never been limited to the amount of time spent or things downloaded on the net. 
  We no longer have a water bill as we are on well water now.  Our stove runs on propane and averages out to about $6.00 a month.  We go to town 2-3 times a month and so save on diesel that way. 
 We've pretty much done most everything we can to trim things back. Other than the land payment the biggest bill we run into has been the electric.  We've been keeping the thermostat down to around 60 degrees  this winter.  Which is actually pretty comfortable.  I LIKE wearing my winter clothes and don't mind layering them at all.  But even with that our electric bill was HIGH.

 I don't remember if I've ever said anything about the situation with our electric company.  When we moved out here they hooked us up at what they call RV rates which are more than double the rate for regular homes.  I was told at the time that once we got the trailer "permanently" on the land they would send someone out.  He would then decide if we would be able to have our rates lowered.  Well, once we got the trailer skirted in I called the electric company to let them know what we had done so they could send the guy out to check it.  Imagine my surprise when I was told that "An RV is an RV no matter what you do to it".  At first all I could think of to say was... "BUT...BUT...." YOU SAID...."
Anyway, I almost went into meltdown mode.  You would be so proud of me though!!  I calmly asked for a Supervisor and waited patiently for the callback.  When she finally called that afternoon we had a very long conversation in which I explained to her what we had been told when the electricity was going in.  She assured me that "An RV is an RV no matter what you do to it".  I wanted to reach through the phone and let the choking begin!!!  I explained all the things Mars has done out here to become "permanent" including wiring up the barn and the well.  All the sudden she said "The barn?  You have electricity in the barn?"  Well of course we do, its dark in there....  lol  Anyway, long story finally coming to an end now (I bet you're thinking "whew, bout time")  They came out, looked at the wiring from the pole to the barn and POOF just like that our rates were cut to less than half of what they had been. Which means that $250.00 bill for last month is now running at right around $120.00.  Quite the savings!  Once spring gets here we will have that cut down to probably around $25.00. That danged heater is expensive to run....

I'll keep looking for ways to cut more corners but I think they've already been cut so much they are now round !!

                                      ~~~~~~  Hey ... I'm Just Sayin' ... ~~~~~~


  1. Now why in the WORLD would the electric company charge you TWICE the amount just because it's "an RV".....then when you mention you have a barn, it's "all better now". I swear they will use any excuse to get more money out of someone, and the "logic" used to determine one's billing rates? Frekking insane. Glad you finally got it resolved.

    I hear you on the cutting back stuff. It's tough when you are allready doing all those things in the do you cut back when you've BEEN cutting back all this time?

    As for the grocery store, I used to go in with a list & get what I needed, but now I just go in with the idea that I have X dollars to spend and I'm going to get whatever is on SALE and work my meals around that.

    I also have to admit that my guilty expensive pleasure is the internet. It costs us close to $60 a month because we HAVE to have the phone line to get internet here so I'm paying for a phone I don't use just for the privlege of paying for internet access. But where we are, it's really the only option we have.

  2. You had me worried at the supervisor's question, 'You have a barn?' I was thinking she was going to ding you MORE for that little luxury! Glad you got them to cut the rates. I think it's absurd that the same amount of electricity should cost a house dweller one amount and an RV dweller a different amount. That's just crazy. Can you imagine if a pound of ground beef was $2.50/lb if you were going to make burgers, but $5/lb if you planned to make a meatloaf? That makes as much sense...

    Save everywhere you can because we all know the 'rainy days' are coming.

    : )

  3. Good for you for persevering but I don't understand either why RVs should have double the electric rate.

    Anyway, when we were trying to lower our electric rate I read the meter every day at the same time, then reviewed what we used electric for. For us it was AC, we live in FL. Making small changes, like using fans, cooking outside, keeping everying heat producing turned off unless in use, dropped our KW usage. However, unless we stop using the AC it can't drop much lower.

    We do use a program that averages our electric bill over 12 months - that helps. We did have to wait 12 months to start the program, for a baseline reading. Perhaps your electric company offers something like.

  4. Hey Sci...
    Sounds to me like you have done just about everything you can to cut cost!

    Utility companies do live in a different world than the rest of us, that's for sure!

    Hope that everything continues to go well for you, my friend!

  5. You really done your homework to save money. Now the heater. I hope to add a potbelly stove into our home as there is ample wood available. Keep us informed on how your doing.

  6. I save money on the phone using Magic Jack $20.00 per year and uses my internet conection. I don't know if you have tried using power strips to kill vampire loads, but if something uses a remote or has a clock (Microwave)it can make a small difference every month turning stuff off at the power strip.

    1. I agree with Adventures in Self Reliance. We connect most of our appliances (except stove, refrig, washer and dryer) to power strip and turn each strip off after usage. This does save money on electric over time.

  7. Sci - i know nothing about Skype but have read on all different blogs about people using it for the phone? you do it on the computer or something? anyway, i just thought i would pass that on to you.

    you and Mars have done amazing things to cut your monthly budget. we are in the same boat as we have base-board heating in this crappy little cottage. but keeping an eye on the temps and wearing appropriate clothing (which we hate) has helped reduce our bill. we only use the heat in the winter months (4 max) as the rest of the year it is temperate.

    anyway, just wanted to say hi buddy!

    your friend,

  8. Carolyn, crazy isn't it? They tried to explain to me that because they "spent so much money" to run the power line loop. And that as we were in an RV they couldn't know if we would just up and leave before they recooped their $$. BS but...thats the story they were sticking to

    HB, We are all going to need as big an umbrella as we can find soon, for sure!

    Bellen, actually I have thought about having them "even" out the payments but as you said, we have to have that one year baseline first.

    Jim, thanks for stopping by! You know I think they really ARE on their own planet!!

    Stephen, thank you for stopping in today my friend.

    Nancy, I would love to be able to use a wood stove. Actually we have one, but as we can't put it in the RV we have it in the barn for now. Maybe one day....

    ASR the problem we have is that satellite isn't compatable with VOIP phones and so our choices are the land line or a cell phone. The land line won as I've fanagled the bill down to six bucks a month. Ohh, and the vampire electric? I read one of your posts a long time ago where you had mentioned it... Guess what I did?

    Kymber, we used to have SKYPE and it was really really inexpensive. With the satellite connection it just won't work. As for the "appropriate" clothing.... LOL (I'm not gonna say it!!! ) Thanks for stopping in buddy!!

  9. I had a hard time justifying a Costco membership at first. Right now we have a Costco credit card and earn 1-3% back on many purchases. I barely visit the grocer anymore so our grocery bill has been just about cut in half and I've been able to build the food storage. Next month we are expecting a check for round about $500.00 and then in March another check to cover the membership fees. I'm not trying to convince you just letting you know it is worth it if you work it.

    1. Congrats on your savings! One of the reason's I don't get a membership card is due to the fact that the closest Sam's Club's to us is over 40 miles away and to be honest.... I hardly ever get to the Big City these days. It might make it worth it if I did though.

  10. Way to go on finally getting them out without having to choke them. Energy is expensive enough without it being doubled!

    We are cutting corners where we can to as we both have been formally unemployed for over 2 1/2 years now. We recently purchased the Magic Jack Plus and love having long distance again to stay in touch with family and friends. I am not sure how that would work for you though. We also go Roku so we could watch Netflix. We both have been catching up on show and documentaries we have been dying to see.

    Like you we are also hoping our garden works out better this year than it did last year. Making plans and hoping for the best.

    - Genevieve

    1. Cutting corners till your's are round too? The reason we went to the Netflix DVD's is because we don't have enough bandwidth to watch any streaming movies and be able to "surf" the net all month too. My brother and SIL have a Magic Jack and love theirs. They are stationed in Japan and call home all the time with it!
      Here's to ALL our gardens doing better this year!!

  11. I know what you mean,times are hard for most every body. I would like to think times will get better but have no faith in that. We just have to watch our spending,and you put me to shame,but I do try to cut corners where I can. Blessings Jane

    1. Jane, you are so right. Things are tough on everyone for sure. And that's my motivation to get all these "projects" around here done this year. If we can produce our own vegetables, meat and eggs we will be so much more self sustained. Thanks for stopping by today!

  12. You old cheapo, go spend some of that money and get on chat more !!!!!

    1. KC!!!! LOL isn't that just like you calling the kettle black! I miss chatting with you guys, but this satellite connection is iffy at best in there. Very unstable and I keep getting those darned socket errors... Miss Ya'll all and I'll try to chat soon.

  13. I was going to mention Skype, but Kymber beat me to it ;). I have a landline phone, too, and my Internet is a DSL connection through the phone company. It's great, because if the power goes out, as long as I can power my modem, I can have the Internet (and the phone). We have a little bicycle generator with a battery back-up that would provide just enough juice to give us the Internet (we have laptops and could charge the batteries with an inverter in the car when we had to drive anywhere).

    I could never justify the Sam's Club or Costco memberships, either. They don't have the same selection as the grocery store, and when we started trying to make our diet more local, it didn't make sense to shop at a warehouse store where nothing is local.

    Good luck on continuing to reduce. Sounds like you've already snatched all of the low-hanging fruit, and there's not much else you can do ;).

  14. Hi Wendy!
    I was hoping to get DSL for our internet just for the stability factor but we live far enough out that DSL will be a long time getting here yet. Like I was telling Kymber I used to have SKYPE and it was great and very affordable but my connection here won't support it. :(
    And Girl! Not only have I snatched all the low-hanging fruit... I've climbed up to the top of the tree and snatched the uppermost ones as well! :D

  15. SciFiChick, We have been trying to live frugally for several years now. We only have one income and at time it gets tight. We stockpile groceries when we can and only when money is not tight during a pay period. Yes, we use coupons (I purchase a paper every now and then. I have asked people at the church if they get a Sunday paper and don't use the coupons if they would not mind donating them to me. With those coupons I buy for our family and when I have great deals (free food/goods which is often) I donate to the church pantry to help out others in need.

    We have also disconnected our cable and only kept our computer line connection. It's is so crazy what cable companies want for cable. We now save $90.00 a month just by cutting our cable television out. We watch TV through the computer with a wire connected to the TV. We also went out and purchased a ROKU box ( 1 time charge) hooked it to the TV and computer and watch all kinds of different programs. You can also add netflix, amazon all kinds of venders.

    Another way to save money is to cover your windows in the house by using foam board in the windows (firmly fit). If that is to expensive, use a really dark heavier material with velco and fit it to the glass on the window. Place one piece of velcro on the very top of the glass all the way across and place the other piece to the material fit it firmly in the window. This will also cut out the light at night (you probably don't have light out there) and make it easier to sleep and help with drafts.

    Another suggestion bake some breads and sweets (cakes/pies) and sell them to the local farm/mom pop stores to make additional income.

    As with your family, we are relying on our garden and canning. We will continue to strive to find more ways to be efficient. Good Luck Sweetie and I am looking forward to chatting and following your blog.

    1. Hi Sandy,
      It sounds like we are "like-minded" on frugal living. It's taken us awhile to get things "whittled down" but as you know, living on a small income will sure make you get creative! I need to work on couponing again. I've kind of fallen off that wagon these days. I saved quite a bit of money with them and they can sure help "beef up" food storage.
      Thanks for the cool ideas about the windows. You know its funny but as I was making bread today I actually thought about making some and trying to sell it at the Farmer's Market here. I like the idea and LOVE baking. Hmmm....
      Thanks for hanging out with me and welcome!

  16. Yeah the lag in a SAT. connection sucks rocks. While better than dial up that's about the nicest thing I can say about it. Yes, I had a sat. hookup so I know what you are going through. I wish I had a a fix that was at least better than what you got. I don't know how cell phone service works in your area but and sell a 3 G modem for laptops/PC's and some are pay as you go monthly service.

  17. ASR you sure aren't kidding about the satellite! I'll have to check out the cell phone angle. The last time I did some research cell service is available but you know how cheap.... errr frugal I am. SAT is the cheaper way to go for now. Who knows, maybe one day we will be able to get DSL but I'm not going to hold my breath. I'd be turning Smurf Blue by the time that happened! LOL

  18. Sci, I was reading a post recently that said to ask a member to give you a gift card from the bulk stores. You can shop all you want with that "free" membership.