Efficient Living, The Steps We Took

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Reduce our cost to live

While life is not cheap, living doesn’t have to cost a fortune. No, we will not be talking about selling everything, getting a tent, living off the land. Here we will go over ways to reduce cost in our day to day life. Also if your looking for a pay raise, the easiest way is to look at money outflow, bills, a penny saved is a penny earned!

Help Us Grow For Free

In this blog, we speak from our experiences, going over what we did and do now. We both had jobs “Just Over Broke” and our cash flow out was equal to that coming in. The stress of just being one paycheck away from poverty at times was unbearable. This put a strain on the homefront, caused by money or the lack of it, which is one of the leading causes of divorce! That was not going to be us, this is our story of how we rectified our situation, and just maybe, you can learn from our mistakes. 

Show me the money

Before trying to save money, we needed to know our flow of money. If we are living paycheck to paycheck, in the red, what was coming in and going out? This was critical to building a plan for where we wanted to be, how long it was going to take, to fix the financial damage we did. We had to know where we stood before we could plan where we wanted to go.

This exercise was eyeopening for me, Danielle already knew we overspent, but I thought just working all the time fixed everything. What we discovered is we were not living, it was like we lived to work. The high stress we were under wasn’t worth it, working to pay our debts, making someone else rich from out effort. I am really glad we sat down as a couple and decided to take charge of our future, a kind of come to Jesus moment.

How Little We Make

The first thing we did was make a list showing the income and expenses. Use Excel, a napkin, write on your arm, just need a list, it’s critical to know what monies are doing. Income is anything that makes money, for us back then it was just jobs. It doesn’t matter where the money comes from, as long as it’s legal, list all income.

We Spend Too Much

Once we understood what we made, we had to see what we blew our money on. When doing this I started to feel a little “lot” stupid on what I was doing, Danielle already knew “LOL”. We didn’t just right down the big things like home and car, we included all the little things. What we found was we were nickel and diming ourselves to poverty. It was the quick stop for a coffee, impulse gas station snacks, window shopping online, and other things that just pinched money away.

We Lived On What

After our list “Budget” was complete, we then want to subtract what we spend from our earnings. We sighed when we realized we were just over broke, with only pennies to spare if something happens. It was sickening to see that our impulse spending was more than our bills combined. We could have bought another home, car, and still saved money with the wasted cash. We knew that changing our spending habits would help us achieve Big Dreams, breaking ties with the man, and doing what we loved.

Zero work pay raise

Now that we knew where we stood, decisions had to be made to improve our situation, no one else could do it for us. In the rest of this blog is going to go over ways we improved our life by reducing our cost to live, living life to its fullest. Now, this is only our situation, what has worked for use, you may need to tweak to fit your specific needs.

Cutting the Cord to Subscription services

The very first thing we did after looking at our budget, was to stop the subscription services bleeding us dry. We looked at services like tv, internet, phone, and debated what we needed. Then we made a plan of action like to cut the cord on the TV, moving to internet tv, and reducing our phone plans. We found that just calling some service providers, telling them we were looking to reduce or cut, they would steeply discount the service.

Steps we took:

  • Ended our TV service = Saved $175
  • T-Mobile Service changed to Military Vet Plan The included NetFlix = Saved $60
  • Took Insurance off Phones, Stopped all Extended Warranty Services = Saved $130
  • End Gym Memberships and Workout at home = Saved $100
  • Bought higher speed Internet = Cost $25

We ended up saving almost $400 dollars, looking back, we don’t even miss the services. The money we saved what well worth what we gave up. We could now save that much more towards our Big Dreams, even get an extra date night if we want to unwind.

Do I need $5 Coffee

Now on to things we thought we loved, impulse buying. We stopped for coffees, lunches, convenience stores, probably more than anyone should. Not only was this hurting our budget, but the health consequences of this was also killing us. This was going to be a hard one to stop, but looking at our expenses, we knew we had to.

We took charge of our convenience spending, hints the start of our recipes Dining In With Danielle. When we stopped for gas, that was all we got, the coffee started to be brewed at home, work lunch outings turned into bag lunches.  Check out “buying-real-food-on-a-budget” to see how we grocery shop and save big, no were not couponers, just savvy shoppers. All of this we realize over $600 in our pockets right away, and who know the other savings we saw because of the health benefits.

Steps we took:

  • Chris’s Morning Gas Station Stops = Saved $140
  • Lunches at Work = Saved $200
  • Starbucks Coffee = Saved $100
  • Eating Out = Saved $200
  • Probably more was Cut, This is all I could Remember!

budget shopping

Impulse Stuff, Keeping Up When The Jones

When looking at impulse buys online or in the stores, we found it is best to sleep on it before you buy. Do we really need the latest and greatest of anything? Then after we slept and truly did still want it, was it the best deal. We started buying open boxes on Amazon, our last years model at the store. We found we could save sometime more than $200 on products we still wanted after a nights rest.

Steps we took:

  • New Cars = Saved $1000
  • Online Impulse Buys = Saved $100
  • Costco Impulse Buys = Saved $400
  • New Phones Every Year = Saved $100

One of our biggest expenses was getting new cars, at one point we paid over $1000 a month just in what we drove to our to work to pay for it. Not only are cars expensive when you buy them, but insurance, oil, and whatever else you need to keep it on the road. If you need a car look at the used market, there are plenty of people, like we usta be, willing to take the big hit. New cars are expensive until you take it off the lot, everyone loves thousands of dollars in depreciation in minutes.

Owning extra cars will suck you dry monthly as well, just take the above and double it. If you have car trouble and need to still get to work, renting or using uber will be a much cheaper option. Also if you have to cars and one you never drive, it may fall apart from just seating there. 

Looking back at this we were a slave to our stuff. This only cluttered our life, requiring us to spend less time as a couple working for a JOB that stressed us out. Really wish that we would have learned sooner that stuff doesn’t make you happy. We could have achieved Bigger Dreams earlier, hindsight is 20/20, just glad we woke up!

Efficient Living, Time for the hard stuff

Life was getting more enjoyable, not grovel to the boss for a pay raise, putting money away for the future, we wondered what else we could do. At this point, it was getting a little harder to save more. We’ve pinched the above budget, eliminating wasteful spending, still having a few first world pleasures. Now to look at living more efficiently on the services we keep.

This section will mostly go over water, electricity, and gas, ways to reduce consumption. Some things below may cost money to save money, we never recommend replacing working products just to increase efficiency. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if it is broke, efficiency it!

Get unplugged

One of the easiest ways we saved is to turn things off or down. When not in a room, lights and fans are off, fans do not help cool, they only move air costing money. Even efficient led lights can use over 5 KW of electricity a month if left on. Also, look at the thing you can unplug when not in use. Little appliances that have clocks and whatever else the vendor stick in them turn into little electric vampires. These parasitic devices suck 24/7 costing you when the electric bill comes.

We cut our electric bill more than half in a 2,600 sqft home, reducing our bill down to $115 a month. No, we don’t have solar panels on the house, even though we are a big fan of them. We priced out solar and looked at the return on investment, it would be 10 years just to break even. Now let’s go over what we did do, and if you are looking to splurge on solar, the below we help tremendously by reducing the size of solar you need.

Getting Smarter

Taking this one step further, we added automation to our house to unplug things when not in use. We added automated plugs that can turn off appliances at a certain time, don’t have to run around the house unplugging things, just one less thing. The plugs we have, not only can be scheduled, but they also tell you how much power you consumed. This was an eye opener for us, as we looked at our little electric parasites munching down the electricity.  See video below for this plug.

Keeping It Cool

A smart thermostat on the AC is another great feature to have in your home. You can turn it down every time you leave, but a lot of the time this can be overlooked. Our AC thermostat has a fence on it that detect our phones, when we leave it will change to a preset temperature. We also have it set a little warmer in the day, cooler at night, cause nobody like to sleep warm.

Also, look at rooms in your home you don’t use. We are older and have kids fleeing the nest, there is no point to climate control a room not in use. This will reduce the amount of home to cool and heat by closing vents, and stopping the airflow under the door. This can greatly reduce the amount of climate controlled square footage, equaling big savings.

Another way to reduce cost in cooling and heating is blackout windows in the summer, and let the light in during the winter. While large windows in the winter can create solar heat, they really put a strain on your HVAC in the summer and on winter nights. We have blackout curtains through the house, even in the rooms we don’t use, it’s cheaper to cool an led light bulb than the sun.

Not Cool To Over Cool

Like I said above, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if it is broke, efficiency it, well our AC broke. The 5-ton unit we had just could not be saved, the cost to fix it was more than it was worth. So we did what any normal person would do and started calculating the thermal requirements of our home. After crunching the numbers we figured we needed a 3.5 to 4-ton unit. 3.5 was the bear minimum and may have struggled if Florida got over 95F, so we started looking a 4-ton AC units.

We got some bids on a new 4-ton AC unit after doing the calculations on what we needed. Every one of them that came in wanted us to go with there 5-ton or greater AC system, but the 5-to unit we had was flash cooling the house leaving it humid. Bigger is not always better, and we’re not a fan of mold in our home.

So after we got all the bids, we looked at the lowest and highest to see how they differed. Funny how all the systems were so close yet there was a $3000 price difference. We didn’t go with the lowest bid, but we did make the others compete more with the low bid price, and got our 4-ton system for $5000 installed. Just didn’t trust the salesman that gave us the low bid, may have been a great unit.

So after the unit was installed, the issues corrected, we ended up with a lower bill and less humid home. Our advice is for an AC is you really have to do your leg work. All of the ACs we looked at were more efficient, not the most efficient, you have to look at the cost of the appliance plus your return on investment. The ROI may cost you more than the energy you saved, based on the life expectancy of the product or how long you plan to live in the home.

In Hot Water

Another big energy saver was the water heater, we had to replace it because our old one started leaking. We did go with a tankless system that we really love, but this may not be the best route for you. If you can’t install the unit yourself and you are replacing a tank water heater, the payback may be greater than you want to bear.

For us, this was a logical route since we were going to install it ourselves it only cost a little more than a tank water heater. We did buy an open box on Amazon so out total out of pocket for the tankless water heater and everything to install it was $450. If we were going to have someone else install this the cost could have been more than $1,500.

Below we have included our install video of a tankless water heater, we also have other videos about the cost and a Q&A if you go to our YouTube. We estimate we saved about $15 a month in the winter, this should go up in the summer because the water isn’t as cool. You can save a lot of money because you only heat water on demand if you only use hot water when required. You may have to tell the kids that the facet does have a cold water knob. Using cold water when hot water is not needed would save you one a tank water heater as well, just not as much.

Our precious, water

There are many ways to save water, some are free, others you may need to drop a little coin, all add up. We looked at our water bill and wonder why we filled a swimming pool or two each month not having a pool? Hating that money was leaking everywhere we wanted to get this under control. After changing habits and adjust some things we have seen an average of $50 a month saved here.

Flushing Money

Toilets can be using 2 gallons a flush, even more, if the seals are bad. If a toilet runs all the time, replacing the internals, just may decrease water usage by 100s of gallons a day. Once the toilet is working order, look at reducing the float height. Reducing float height reduces the amount of water in the tank, reducing the amount of money flushed.

When we first bought our home all 3 toilets in it were leaking from seals, and all tanks filled to the max. This was not only dumping a lot of water each flush, but the leaks would have wasted a lot of water a month. We did not go with the multi-flush system below, but you can get the same results by doing a manual half flush not fully draining the tank. My broth-n-law has the flush kit below and loves it, and the reason I left the link below.

Once the above is done, go even further to not flush so many precious pennies. There are solutions that will reduce the amount you flush depending on the situation. You may have heard the saying “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down”, but this doesn’t work in our house, so you can get this https://amzn.to/2GUkSW4 and have two different flushes.

Super soaker shower and faucet

Your faucets and shower can also cost big in water, so why not turn them down. There are many ways you can reduce your in-home water usage, not only save on utility bills but also it conserves our water. Nobody wants to be the one using all the water, especially if you live in drought-prone areas or like us and we want to work toward off-grid living.

What we do right now is we don’t turn the faucets all the way on. If doing dishes or washing our hands, there is no reason to do that with a fire hose. We also turn the water off and on like when washing the dishes. We have installed low flow heads throughout the house, this really helps when you have kids that don’t want to practice water conservation.

Now for extreme water savings, there are extreme ways to save a lot of water. Maybe start doing sailor showers, where you get wet then turn off the water, soap up, then turn the water to rinse off. In the Army, we only got showers in the field every 3 days, if we were lucky, and used around 3 gallons of water a day for everything else. Probably would not recommend this for most, but it is done by our services men and women all the time.

Drowning the yard and flooding the road

A sprinkler system can cost you big, we all love green grass but is it really worth $200 or more a month. We are required to keep our lawn green per the HOA we live in, really suck, these lawn dictators. So let’s go over what we did to reduce our water bill for lawn care and keep the HOA off our backs.

The first thing we did was fix all broke or leaking sprinkler heads. Any heads that were leaking got replaced, these can be bought pretty cheaply on Amazon. If heads spray straight in the air like geysers, turn the system off till fixed. If the sprinkler just doesn’t spray, the head can be cleaned.

Then we stop watering the road and neighbors yard. We reduce head flow to two foot within our yard, the cool thing about water is it does soak further than this in the ground. Doing this can cut the water usage of each head almost in half, that is pretty cool.

We then looked at the schedule the system was on. We wanted to make sure that the sprinkler system only was on at night, reducing evaporation of water. Then we took a look at the time and number of days a week it was on, for best results we water longer fewer times a week. This allows the water to go further into the soil making the grassroots more drought tolerate cause they are digging deeper for water.

Finally, cause we are doing this only for the HOA, we turned off heads that watered areas not seen from the road. This included the back yard, and toward the back of the house. For us in Florida this will not make the grass die, it just won’t be as green as the front yard during the rainy season.

Final thoughts

We hope this helps you save money in the future! If you have advice or tips not included here we would love to have them and appreciate if you left a comment below. We are all trying to make it in this world, and the less we have to work for the man to do it, the more time we will all have to enjoy life and life it to the fullest.

Check out Dining in with Danielle for great recipes!

See below for author information and blogs by me!

Leave feedback, all information comes from our experiences, it can be flawed.

All videos are edited with Sony VEGAS Pro

Our video studio does have a green screen with umbrella lighting

All recording equipment is Sony and our main camera is the HDR-CX675 offering servo steadied filming and 5.1 sound.

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