Every week I will share our meal plan for the coming week. Making your own food is a great way to save money, explore new cuisine, and eat healthy (if you choose to make healthy foods). A good meal helps bring people together and as you improve your cooking skills you will impress more and more people! I generally use recipes as a starting off point and then experiment with different proportions or ingredients. Leftovers make great lunches for the 9-5 crowd who might otherwise have to decide between a sandwich or a pricey cafeteria.
This Week For Dinner…
Tuna Salad with Tortilla chips
This simple recipe is one that I learned as a kid and it still tastes great. Cook a box of your favorite short noodles (I like to use tri-color rotini). Drain the noodles and in a big bowl add the noodles, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sweet relish, 1 cup of mayo (or substitute), and 2 cans of tuna. Give it a stir and then put it in the refrigerate. Serve chilled with tortilla chips. note: I rarely measure the relish and mayo so just go with what looks good to you.
Baked Spaghetti with Garlic Bread & Steamed Corn
Spaghetti is delicious but it always tastes so much better on day two. This is the basic recipe I like to use to get that melded flavor faster! Of course, I always add in a bunch of other ingredients to add a bit more texture and flavor. Try adding some mushrooms, green pepper, onion, chile pepper, garlic, and some red pepper flakes. If you use skinny noodles like Angel Hair then the next day it is really easy to cut into small cubes. They’re perfect for packing lunches!
Tis the season for melon fruit in the stores or in your garden. Cantaloupe plus cottage cheese makes a surprisingly refreshing snack that not only fills you up but packs a lot of protein in it as well.
Keeping a budget is almost a necessity for living a responsible financial lifestyle, but looking for ways to cut some expenditures is a great way to live more frugally.
I like to look at recurring monthly expenses because while they often seem small, over time they add up to a large amount. A great example of a monthly expense is the cell phone bill. Not only are there many options available for consumers in this day and age, but there is also the multiplication effect from households often having more than one phone. Shae and I each have our own cell phones so each dollar we can shave off the monthly plan actually saves us two dollars.
In this two parter series, I will share how we have saved hundreds of dollars by not accepting the status quo.
In The Beginning…
A couple of years ago we made a financial mistake. We bought brand new phones on a two year postpaid contract. Telecoms such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile incentivize contract plans because they are proven money makers. Customers buy a new heavily subsidized phone (some are even subsidized down to $0) and then over the next 24 months they pay a higher monthly bill to pay off the original phone cost. In our case we had purchased the cheapest iPhone 4S models and went with AT&T’s cheapest contract plan.
iPhone 4s on AT&T
This set us back $200/per phone upfront and $56.62(with taxes and fees)/mo per phone. Yep… not very frugal. Surely, we must have been getting exceptional services for a combined monthly phone bill of $113 per month. Each plan came with 450 talk minutes, unlimited SMS (text messages), unlimited nights/weekends/mobile-to-mobile, and a paltry 200 mb of data (used for connecting to the internet). Suffice it to say, there were better options out there.
Spending Money to Save Money…
Yes, it is true. Sometimes you have to spend money to make/save money. Part of every postpaid cell phone contract is an early termination fee, etf. Should you decide to prematurely end your two year bondage with the telecom you will face a penalty. AT&T calculates this penalty based on how many months are left on your contract. If I recall correctly, it started in the $300 range and decreased by $10 for every month you had fulfilled. Details can be found on your own telecoms website.
After finding a compatible prepaid plan, more on that in a second, we set up a spreadsheet and calculated if we would save enough on the new plans to offset the cost of the etf. It just so happened that it would.
GoPhone is AT&T’s prepaid option. It works a lot like their postpaid with several key differences. Here are a list of similarities:
They both use the same cell network, if you have coverage on one, you’ll have coverage with the other type of plan.
They both can use your existing SIM card (SIM cards are small chips that identify your phone to the cell network. Your number is associated with your SIM).
You can keep your same phone number.
You can access the internet with the same speed.
The differences mainly come down to billing.
GoPhone you pay for the month that is about to start, PostPaid you pay for the month that just ended.
GoPhone has some cheaper options for infrequent talkers/texters.
You use a different website to manage your prepaid or postpaid accounts even though the money ultimately goes to the same company.
Out of all of the prepaid GoPhone plans, we felt that the $25/mo per phone plan best met our needs. It offered 250 minutes of voice and unlimited texting. Any data usage would cost us an additional $5 for 50mb (about enough to check your email for a month). Since there is an abundance of free WiFi in the places we frequent during our daily schedules we skipped the added data package and cost. The total monthly cost per phone was now $27.32 with taxes and fees. When you add up both phones in the household our new monthly phone bill was $54.64, a whopping 51% savings.
You can start to see my obsession with cutting recurring monthly costs. In just one year, the savings of switching from a contract plan to a pay as you go plan has saved us over $700 a year. Those 200mb of data and 200 minutes of voice data aren’t missed either because we were never using them in the first place. We made a mistake early on by buying new phones on contract. If I was to do it over again, I would buy used phones that were off contract. The upfront cost might have been more, but we wouldn’t have had to pay the hefty early termination fee.
I will conclude Part 1 here. Stick around for Part 2 where we will go deeper into the rabbit hole of frugality and you’ll be amazed at how much more we have trimmed off our phone bill. Until then, leave a comment about how much you are paying for your phone, with whom, and if you are using everything that you are paying for.
Whew! It looks like August finally caught up to Central Illinois this week. The forecast for the next 6 days calls for highs in the 90s (mid 30s for the rest of the world). So how is one to stay frugally comfortable? Here are some of my suggestions.
Turn the thermostat up or turn the AC off completely
(un)Fortunately our home’s AC is not working. So the temptation to even turn it on is not an option. If you are in a more tempting position consider this. Not only will a higher setting save you money, the outside won’t feel quite as startling hot when you have to step outside. Air conditioners also act as dehumidifiers. Lower humidity levels decrease the apparent temperature. We discovered last month that our ~13 year old central AC unit not only did not function properly, it also bumped up our electric bill by $20 for only 4 days of use. If we had run it for the entire month that would have cost us an extra $150!
use someone else’s air conditioning
Chances are pretty good that your place of employment has AC. If you are in my boat and work from home, then you can probably take advantage of the local library or Starbucks.
Open windows, especially at night, for a breeze (if you aren’t using the AC)
A good breeze can do wonders to cool you down. As human beings, we are covered in fine hair that traps heat against our bodies. Air flow helps to remove that heat.
Close curtains, blinds, drapes to block out the sun
We are still working on making curtains for our house, a topic for a future post, but the ones that we have up so far make a HUGE difference. There are over 20 windows in our house so the sunlight has a lot of different paths it can take to dump some radiate heat into our living space.
Not only is it fun for all ages, it is also a fantastic way to lower your core body temperature. Keep in mind that swimming during the middle of the day poses some extra challenges (namely sunburn). I like to go swimming an hour or so after dinner. Not only is the pool nearly empty that time of day, I also don’t have to worry about getting burned and it cools me off before going to bed.
Put a pitcher of water in the fridge
We have a no thrills top freezer refrigerator without a water or ice dispenser. A gallon pitcher of cold water though helps to keep us cool and keep the refrigerator running more efficiently.
Last but certainly not least, one of my favorites…
take a siesta
Spanish culture has perfected beating mid day heat by resting during that time. It is understandable that some jobs won’t permit this, but if you are in a position that allows for some rest in the middle of the day I highly encourage it!
Write a comment with your favorite ways to beat the heat without breaking the wallet.