First of the Self-Sustaining Series

As my boyfriend and I begin our search on sustainable living, we have discovered another word…frugality. These two words, it turns out, are not mutually exclusive. To live a happy, stress free life is our goal. To that end, we want become as debt free as we can, live on less and grow and raise our own food.

Don’t worry; we aren’t going “off the grid.” I still like my TV and Internet and there are still some places I want to visit in this world.

However, our research into becoming “happier” has led to a variety of topics and ideas that have really opened our eyes.

Originally, this started as one post, but as I wrote and wrote about the things we had learned I realized that I was going to have to chop this up into several posts. So, here is the start to my series on becoming self-sustaining and living a longer, healthier, happier life.

My boyfriend’s mother, who I affectionately refer to as my mother-in-law, sent me a book that I thought was amazing. The book was written by Amy Dacyczyn and is called The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Though it was written in the mid-1990’s, there are still a ton of ideas in this 1,000 page book that hold true today. Some of the ideas I feel go a little too far and really don’t provide any cost savings, but the whole idea of the book had me thinking about our life.

Between my boyfriend and I, we earn an income that is above both the national and state average. It bugged me that every month our money would disappear and there never seemed to be anything left over. As I continued to do research both on the Internet and through the book my “mother-in-law” sent, I began to realize that we were not looking in the right places to save.

The rules of sustainability and homesteading require you carry no debt. Unfortunately, both my boyfriend and I came into this relationship with debt and now you could say we have twice the debt we had before. Getting rid of debt isn’t an overnight exercise and because we were spending more than we should our combined debt continued to grow. That put us in a pickle, as we now had to figure out how to live within our means AND continue to pay off the debt we accrued.

Doing research on homesteading, one of the things people often write about is not having cell phones or cable TV. We don’t have a landline, and we run a small side business so having cell phones was a necessity. I wondered though if we really needed two cell phones.

I went online and looked at our bill, I mean really looked at it, to see if I could find any savings. The first thing I noticed was that we were paying for 3GB of data. In looking at my phone, I realized that I use less than half of 1GB. We looked at my boyfriends phone and realized he was using close to 2GB. Why?

We realized that there were settings on the phone that were different on his than mine. We adjusted the settings, set up a warning for when he hits .5GB and watched.

We had originally had 3GB because my boyfriend’s daughter had been on our plan. When she moved out she went off our plan. I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t reduce our data plan to 1GB. So I made the adjustment online and saved us $30 per month.

The next thing I looked at was our cable bill. I pay my bills online automatically so I never have to worry about it. I now realize that this may be convenient for the vendors, but it was costing me money. I never really looked at out cable bill in detail before. We were paying $187 a month for something we hardly used.

Granted, we need and use the Internet extensively, so we knew we couldn’t budge on that, but the TV portion of our bill was still outrageous. My son doesn’t even have cable. He streams TV and movies through outlets like Netflix and Hulu and loves it. So, I picked up the phone and called my local cable provider.

Just by talking to her for a few minutes, she found ways to scale my cable bill down to $99.95 per month. That’s an $88.00 savings! We did lose a few channels, but were able to keep both the DVR and On Demand and most of the channels we watch. She also upgraded our Internet speed as part of the package.

Now, some may ask do you really need cable at all? Couldn’t you save even more? I did the math. (Remember, by day I am a cost analyst) To get just Internet at the slower speed we had been using would cost us $66.95 per month. That’s only a savings of $33.00. To stream Netflix is $8.99 and to rent their movies is an additional $8.99. If I want to watch other shows, I would have to subscribe to them as well. ITunes carries some of the shows I like, as does Hulu. By the time you are done paying for all these separate services I’ve already eaten up most of the savings I would have had by getting rid of cable. So in this case, the $99.95 deal was the best one for us at the moment.

We have lots of pets. Probably too many, but we love them. Our biggest pet is a Newfoundland named Elli. Elli has food allergies. In case you were wondering, there is nothing worse than a 110lb Newfoundland with food allergies. (I’ll let you do the visual on that one.)

After much research and trial and error, my boyfriend had found a food that she could easily digest. However, that food costs $65 for a 25lb bag. Now consider the fact that the 110lb Newfoundland also eats 4 cups of food a day and you can see that this can add up quickly.

I finally convinced my reluctant boyfriend to search for an alternative. It took some time, but we found a brand of dog food that met our (and Elli’s) needs. The price is just $35 for a 30lb bag. Big savings.

So overall, we have saved ourselves…wait for it…$148 per month. And that doesn’t include the savings with the new laundry soap and house cleaning supplies I wrote about last time.

But we didn’t stop there…

On my next post, I will fill you in on food shopping and comparison pricing. You’ll be surprised on where we found savings.

I will also add a post or two about “why” we want to raise our own food. You’ve heard the horror stories about factory farming, right? Trust me. If you think cigarettes shorten your life…I’ve got some gruesome news for you.

Stay tuned.

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3 thoughts on “First of the Self-Sustaining Series

  1. Saving money is always good. One way we saved some money on our internet bill was simply by asking for a deal. We heard that by asking for the Loyalty Dept we could get a better rate. Sure enough after a 5 minute chat….40% off the monthly rate. That was good for 1 year. When the second year rolled around we called again (2 weeks before the 1 year ended) and they said they couldn’t do anything for us. We called back after the 1 year ended….sure enough we got another deal. Seems like a glitch in their call centre system where they can’t offer a discount until after the current discount period ends. It’s been 4 years of getting between 25% to 40% off!
    I wonder how many other places offer discounts for being a loyal customer. Can’t hurt to ask.

    • That is an awesome idea. I have heard that even though they offer you a deal that is only good for one year (or so), you can call back and ask for new deals when that period is over. You are right… it never hurts to ask. All they can do is say no and all you have to say is cancel my plan. They usually come around.

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