Monday, January 15, 2024

20 Ways We Save on Our Bills

Whenever I am scrolling through reddit, there are invariably posts about how people can no longer afford even their most basic bills (housing, utilities, food, etc).  Not that these tips will work for everyone but this is how we can easily afford our basic household bills:
  1. For our mortgage, we moved from a HCOL city and bought a nearly new house in a (at the time) LCOL city.  Our mortgage payment is super low and so is the interest we pay on the loan.  Not everyone can do these things (especially finding low-priced homes and low interest rates these days) but not buying a house in a super expensive city will obviously save lots of money (my nephew bought a starter house in LA for $800k+ which is a stupid expensive price).
  2. I shop around once a year for a bundle price for our house and car insurance.  Prices vary widely so every few years we switch to any company that gives us a better price on insurance.  We also go with a higher deductible since we have the amount of the deductible in savings to use if needed (we also try not to file claims on anything we can reasonably repair because that also causes insurance costs to skyrocket).
  3. Property tax.  We do several things to lower the property tax on our house including getting a veteran's discount (many places offer senior and/or veterans discounts on property tax), living in an area with low property tax rates (New England property tax rates are ridiculously expensive, our area is super cheap), ensuring we get the lower property tax cap rate (the tax cap is 3% for owner-occupied houses and 8% for houses that are used as rentals), and challenging any property tax rate that is higher than it should be (we can submit comps to the assessor to challenge property values that are not in line with actual sales in the neighborhood).
  4. Electricity.  At first we would record our electricity usage everyday so we could see what made it increase, now we do all we can to conserve electricity, right down to unplugging everything in the guest rooms unless we have guests to avoid 'phantom electricity usage'.
  5. Natual gas.  Ditto.  The next time our gas water heater dies we will switch to an on-demand hot water system to save even more money.
  6. Water.  Ditto.  We conserve water as much as possible so our water bill is always very reasonable.
  7. Garbage.  While we would like to process our own garbage, in the city, having garbage service is required so we just pay this every quarter (the price is actually very reasonable).
  8. Sewer service.  Again, this is a flat-rate fee but we pay the fee once a year in order to get a discount over paying a higher rate if we were to pay monthly instead of annually.
  9. Internet.  We go with the lowest/slowest internet plan (the internet is not actually slow since we don't do gaming, video editing/uploading, or use many devices at the same time).  I call anytime they raise the price and they always give me a lower price (and often faster service), and I also buy a router/modem every few years instead of renting one from the internet company.
  10. Cable TV.  We don't have cable TV and instead use an over-the-air antenna as well as a Roku device (one time cost of $20) and we end up with more channels than we will ever be able to watch.
  11. Car.  We have one car that we share, bought it brand new, paid it off quickly, maintain it as needed, and will probably drive it until the wheels fall off.  The brand of car also matters.  We have a Honda which is a middle-of-the-road car; it's not fancy but will run for a good long time.  I've heard that people with Hyundais can barely get (super expensive) insurance because that brand is stolen so much here and friends with Mercedes' or BMWs pay an arm and a leg for all repairs/tires/insurances simply because of the brand of the car.
  12. Repairs to home or car.  Our first step when something needs fixed is Amazon for parts and YouTube for how-to-fix-it videos which has saved us A LOT of money.  We also have several handy friends who will help us if needed and our final option is to call a pro (I generally search the reddit for our city to find recommendations for the services we need).
  13. Consumables.  We have bidets on all toilets (this saves A LOT of toilet paper), use towels and rags over paper towels, wash dishes over using paper plates (we know several people who only use disposable plates/bowls/etc just so they don't have to do dishes), and don't use a lot of things other people do (disinfecting wipes, Swiffer wipes, fancy air fresheners, etc).
  14. Eating out.  Our eating out is usually limited to free meals in casinos (thanks to hubby's poker comps), and the rare good deal on fast food.  If we do go to a restaurant we will split a meal, order water instead of soda, and usually end up with leftovers to take home (portion sizes are crazy big here so we split a meal and still have enough food leftover to take home for a third meal!).
  15. Food.  Mostly we cook at home.  We usually cook everything from scratch, shop loss leaders and sales, shop at a half dozen stores in our area to get the lowest prices, and use store apps for even better discounts.  We also take food and drinks from home if we will be out for the day so we don't end up eating fast food all the time. 
  16. Clothing.  ALL of our clothes are bought at the Goodwill.  I can't remember the last time we bought clothes at a regular store but we do buy shoes, socks, and underwear new (again, it needs to be on sale or heavily discounted when I buy it).
  17. Cell phones/service.  We use the $15 per month Mint Mobile plan for cell service (we pay annually so with the discount, we each pay $185 per year plus tax for cell service).  I also buy a new unlocked cell phone (usually from Best Buy, Amazon, or from Samsung) every couple years then pass my phone down to hubby.
  18. Health insurance.  This is a huge thing for many people but is kind of a non-issue for us as we have free-ish health insurance from the military.  Our total cost for insurance is $30 a month and there are no co pays for appointments/prescriptions/etc.
  19. Hobby stuff.  Hubby likes bowling so he pays a reasonable $10 per league to bowl once a week.  I like walking so I buy steeply discounted shoes/socks/backpacks/etc online.  Ditto for tech stuff.
  20. Everything else.  We occasionally go to $4 movies on senior day, rodeo events are free to watch, being in a major entertainment city, there are dozens of free things to do everyday here, and our library is amazing and best of all, free.  Friends host house parties all the time, our city is criss-crossed with trails for walking, hiking is a short drive away at state and national parks (hubby has a $10 lifetime national parks pass and we get an annual senior state park pass each year), and there are many one-off events like getting freebies for our birthday, being in the audience of events filmed in Vegas, etc.
And to save even more, we don't carry debt (or pay interest), have a time share (a permanent money sink), have subscriptions (to gyms, Spotify, etc), have expensive hobbies (boats, RVs, horses, golf, etc) or spend money randomly (purchases are well thought out and then we wait for the item to go on sale).


  1. We make it work very similar to you except for the bidet, lol.

    1. You really should try the bidet! Hubby didn't try it for nearly two years because he thought it was icky. I told him to try in three times then I would never bug him about it again. Needless to say, he loves the bidet and we now have them on all of our toilets. Even our guests take pictures of it so they can order one from Amazon because they had never been able to try one until coming to our house!

  2. Those are lots of good tips. We do many of the same things when applicable.

  3. The almost free healthcare premium is a huge blessing! That alone would save about $1500 a month - (plus there is a $10K deductible to meet first). I know a lot of people bought bidet's during the Covid TP shortages. I've often wondered but never took the plunge. More thoughts on your bidets would be welcomed as I'm still on the fence. :)

    1. Get a cheap bidet from Amazon (we have the neo 120 which is about $35 now). It is easy to hook up. Now after I pee, I use the bidet to wash off then dry off with old washrags (which I wash with a hefty dose of bleach). After pooping, use the bidet to clean off (it's kind of like a power washer!) then dry with toilet paper (I guess you could dry off with old washrags then wash like you would wash baby diapers, with a bunch of bleach). Everyone I know who has finally got a bidet now wonders why they didn't do it sooner (and it definitely isn't icky)!.

  4. This is a great blog post on saving money. I'm going to start writing down my daily electric usage in my calendar every day. When the power went out last Friday we still managed to use 29 KwH.

    1. Our electric bill was so high when we moved to Las Vegas that we recorded the daily number on the electric meter then recorded what we did (ie: use space heater, did lots of laundry) so we could see what activities raised our electricity usage. Now we shut off everything from lights to TVs when not in use.