I started a series about living below your means or LBYM, or rather below our means.  We are trying to become more frugal and make our money go further.  We’ve done most of the big, obvious stuff.  We’ve paid off our vehicles, sold some stuff we didn’t use, downsized our possessions, etc.  Now we’re down to the details.  These things, once we identify them, are usually easier to get rid of but they are harder to find.  It takes a little detective work.

A good place to start searching is all the plans in your life.  Cell phone plans, cable or satellite plans, gym memberships, the list goes on and on.  I am pretty sure we are paying for roadside assistance with multiple companies, for instance.  Sure it’s only two or three bucks a month, but the small stuff does add up.

I am going to look into all of our plans and see what I can eliminate.  Maybe we don’t use the service often enough to justify paying for it.  Maybe it’s a redundant service or something we didn’t even know we were paying for.  Companies love to add little charges for stuff nobody ever uses.  Ever really look at your phone bill?

In addition, I’m going to ask for discounts.  I’m going to ask our insurance company to reduce our rates.  I’ll ask our satellite provider to do the same.  I might even get rid of the our second phone line.  My wife has one for work and we both have cell phones.  And while I’m at it I’m gonna look at ways to reduce our monthly fees for our cell phones too.

It might also be worth looking around for different providers.  We live in a rural area and don’t have a lot of choices, but I do know there is another internet provider.  We now have three propane companies serving our area.  Even a small discount on propane could save hundreds a year.

Another trick we have taken to using lately is planning for and spreading out our purchases.  There occasions throughout the year when we will need to spend money.  Birthdays, Christmas, car registrations, eye glasses, tires, etc.  We plan for those so we don’t over spend that month.  We used to think of these months as exceptional, but we’ve found there is rarely a month without some necessity.

As I’ve said before, we use our American Express card a lot.  We get points and there is no interest.  We know we can spend a certain amount every month on the card and not go over our budget.  We figure out what necessities we have to spend money on and then we know how much is left for discretionary purchases.  Sometimes we have a lot, sometimes a little.  The card helps keep all of our purchases in one easy to track place and we’ve set up an alert to help us out.

Once we’ve determined our necessary expenditures, we know what we have left to spend on discretionary purchases.  For those purchases we’ve learned a little trick.  We spread out our larger discretionary purchases.  All it takes is a little patience.  We prioritize the stuff we want and buy it as we have the money.  We have to wait many times, but that’s better than going over our budget and having to skimp on fuel or food.

For instance, I bought a telescope with fantasy football winnings last winter.  I want some accessories to make my experience more enjoyable.  I could just go on a shopping spree and buy all of it now, but I can’t really afford that.  So I have a list of accessories and as I have money, I buy them.  Sure, I’d like them all know, but I can wait.

There’s a couple of benefits to this approach beyond just holding our budget.  First, sometimes when we wait we find we don’t really want the item.  Time often erodes at the urge to buy.  Second, we have plenty of time to look for deals and find exactly what we want.  We rarely buy stuff impulsively and then find we paid too much or there was something better available.  In the case of electronics, the price will often go down.

Another little trick we use is to buy stuff with “found” money.  Money we receive as gifts, money we get from selling other stuff, even money we win such as my fantasy football winnings.  I’m going to buy a jeep by selling my car and my boat.  The laptop I’m writing this on was purchased mainly with money I received as gifts from my parents and sister.

Sure you have to wait until the money appears, but at least it doesn’t come out of your pocket.  It’s essentially free stuff or at least your trading one thing for another.  Even if you just sell a couple of things on eBay, you can maybe buy a new dress, some apps for your iWhatever, or just go to dinner.  Getting rid of stuff you don’t want or don’t use and getting something in return you do really want is almost like getting it for free.

OK, that’s it for now.  I will work on my plans and see what I can save then write-up the results.  Even a few hundred bucks a year can get my wife and I to Las Vegas for weekend or take the family out to dinner now and then.  Better yet, we could save it.  That’s probably going to be the next phase, translating our spending reductions into actually building our savings.

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