Over six months have gone by since I last negotiated our internet rates with Comcast (see here). Our 25 Mbps (mega bit per second) connection went from the promo price of $35/month to $67. I tried calling in late December to get rolled over to a new promotion. Like always, I call in and navigate the voice menu to canceling all services. That lands you into their customer retention department and the best possible deals.
The rep offered $50/mo for internet and phone service. I really didn’t want to add a service that we are not going to use and the price is still about $10 more than what I want to pay so I declined.
Comcast runs new promos every 30 or so days, so I gave them a call back at the start of January to see if they had anything new. This rep offered $55 for internet and basic cable. An even worse deal in my opinion. She also offered a $40/mo for internet only, but it was a meager 6mbps. The only competitor in town has that same level of service for $30.
Again I declined, and figured I would call back in a day or two (the second rep was not very friendly).
This afternoon, I called for a third time, persistence is key! I got the first offer again, phone + internet for $50. I agreed, and have set a reminder on my calendar to try again in February.
The new deal is good for 12 months and will save us $204 over what we have now for the same level of service. It is not a particularly great deal, but it beats the standard rate and matches the competitors price without the hassle of moving accounts. Sometimes we just have to take the small wins. :-\
Happy New Years! Here is a recap of our 2014 in numbers
1,224 GB Data Used
While I don’t have full usage history for our internet connection, I do have the past four months. If I extrapolate that data then I can summarize that we have used on average about 102 GB of bandwidth each month in 2014. Most of that is probably Netflix related. In total we spent $399.78 for internet in 2014, or 32¢/GB. You can read more about trimming your bill here and here.
1,140 CCFs (852,000 gallons) of Natural Gas
Our furnace, water heater, and oven all use natural gas. Heating continues to be the number one demand for gas in our household. 1 CCF is 100 cubic feet or the equivalent of 748 US gallons. An olympic swimming pool holds 660,000 gallons. We couldn’t quite trap all of the natural gas we used this year in an olympic sized swimming pool.
Insulating (part 1 and part 2) our house will hopefully conserve more resources in the future. Our main enemy are our leaky windows (temporary fix).
Is the amount that we have trimmed off our mortgage principal. We started making quadruple payments in April and are motivated to be mortgage free by the end of next year. Living frugally and skimping on gifts to ourselves has helped (see frugal gift ideas here). Debt is an emergency!
18,700 Gallons of Water (2,500 cf)
That is about three milk tankers.
According to the EPA, the average American uses between 80-100 gallons of water a day. Thanks to the installation of low flow faucet aerators (here) and low flow toilets (here and here), we averaged about 25 gallons per person (with Frugal Boy included it would be about 17 gallons).
5,514 kWh of Electricity
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average household uses 10,837 kWh a year. We came in about half of that thanks to using CFL and LED lightbulbs instead of incandescent. We also use the low heat setting for our dishwasher and try to turn off lights and other energy suckers when they are not in use. Our total electric bill for the year came out to be $652.92. $49 of that was just to have service provided.
$36,757.30 in Medical Bills
Having a baby is expensive, especially when things don’t go according to plan. Having good insurance and understanding what it covers means that we only paid $387.98 out of pocket. That was even with the highest deductible plan. Health Savings Accounts, HSAs, are awesome (especially when it is employer money)!
The number of states we visited this year. Read more about it here, here, and here.
I was too lazy to make a new map showing Wisconsin as visited, just take my word for it
The number of teeth that Frugal Boy has. Aye aye aye!!!
The number of times we bought prepared food (restaurants, take out, forgot to pack a lunch, anything except the grocery store). February we had a baby and grabbed more than one lunch/dinner from the sandwich shop. July and September we went on semi long road trips. Maybe a good challenge for 2015 would be to go a month without going out.
1,320 Minutes Talking on the Phone (Andrew)
According to the little statistics screen on my phone, I blabbed for about 22 hours in 2014.
1,083 Blog Visits
Google Analytics tells me that is how many sessions (not to be confused with page views) that this blog has had in 2014. 90% of those visitors are from the good ole United State of America. 7.5% are from Russia (hey leave a message, assuming you aren’t a bot), and the rest are scattered about.
2,157 Spam Comments Blocked
You may have noticed that you can no longer comment on older articles. That is my attempt to cut down on spam. Thankfully I have to do virtually no work to manually eliminate the junk because of the wonderful Akismet wordpress plugin.
The number of roads a man must walk down or maybe just another good year. Enjoy and live frugally!
Now that it feels like summer time, it seems like a good point to turn back and reflect on this past winter. On the books, it was our coldest and snowiest winter ever recorded (it might have been 2nd coldest, idk). We practiced some good energy saving tips such as keeping the thermostat set low (62 for most of the winter), closing unused rooms, wearing extra clothing, and sealing up any leaks that we could find.
Below is our gas usage history. Our utility company estimates the meter every other month, that is why January, March, and May (actual readings) are high while December, February and April (estimated readings) are low.
In the summer months when we were only using gas for cooking and the water heater, our bill was about $15. If I subtract out $15 from November-May, our furnace gas consumption for the coldest winter cost us $632.83. That’s right around $90/mo for heating.
Other heating costs included one routine inspection, $99, and one furnace breakdown, $230.
How’s that compare?
I’m always looking for good quantifiable data. I suppose it is the scientist in me that wants to be able to say, “here are the facts.” This article from Chicago Business talks about what Chicago residents paid on average for heating in 2014. Most of the article discusses the stark pricing difference between Chicago gas and suburbanite gas. While we don’t live in the suburbs of Chicago, we do have the same gas company mentioned in the article. Yep, Chicagonites paid an additional 78% per therm compared to us ($1.21 vs $0.68). Ya gotta love the city that works.
On average, the not gauged folks paid $626 for heating from November through March. We paid $633 for November through May.
In conclusion, we paid a little bit less than the average for our area. Our circa 13 year old furnace did break down once and the repair cost put us over the average. So long winter!
I first heard about www.myenergy.com from my gas company. They wrote a short blurb about them on either their website or newsletter (I don’t remember which). Anyway, I decided to check the website out.
The gist of the website is that you sign up for a free account, link your online utility accounts (electric, gas, & water), and they keep a running tally on how your doing in regards to conservation. I hear you proclaim, “wait a second, I already know how much I’m spending on utilities!” Good point, but do you know how much your friends are spending or how much other citizens of your city or town are consuming?
The second reason to consider using the website are rewards. Taken verbatim from the website:
How it works MyEnergy analyzes your past patterns of energy use and makes a prediction of how much energy you’re likely to use in each subsequent month, accounting for variations in weather from the past to the present. When you use less than the prediction, you’ve saved! Here’s how many points you get for your savings:
Gas 10 points per therm
Electric 1 point per kWh
Water 1 point per hundred gallons (or 10 points per 1,000 gallons)
So far we’ve earned 106 points for doing nothing except the initial sign up and living our daily lives. What can you exchange your points for? That’s hard to say, I think it depends on what state you are in as it seems to be a mix of local and national products & services. For example, one of the rewards is a free one month supply of Popchips for 100 points. I googled around to try and find some details about how much you get and the best I could find in about 30 seconds of searching was that it was a $30 value. That doesn’t sound half bad.
“It all sounds too good to be true, what’s the catch?”
The catch so far as I can tell is that MyEnergy is owned by Nest. Nest is probably best known for its iOS-esque thermostat.
Naturally, there are ads on the website encouraging you to buy Nest products. Also, I would be shocked if Nest isn’t collecting all of this utility data (anonymized hopefully) for their own commercial benefit. If you’re a company specializing in home automation devices that save consumers money then what better way than to offer a website that aims to do just that. “Hey, you spent a lot on your electric bill last month, try getting a new thermostat to help out with that.”
The social nature of the website just ties into the marketing. Does Big Brother knowing how much energy I use every month bother me? Mmmm, let me think that over with a chip… nope. It does not. The only problem that I’ve had with the website so far is that I cannot link my water bill to it. While that is likely the fault of the municipality that I live in, it still bugs me that I cannot link all of my utility accounts (and thus lose out on rewards and being able to peep at others usage).
If you’d like to join the website and friend me click on the button below.
If you haven’t read part 1 yet, then you can see it here.
GoPhone prepaid wireless service was saving us a lot of money and we were happy with that for several months. However, nothing is sacred on our budget, and when I was looking over numbers a month ago I was convinced that we could save even more money without sacrificing any change in lifestyle.
I began looking for alternatives and was intrigued when I read a blog post on mrmoneymustache.com. Mr. MM goes into considerable detail so I will provide a synopsis of sorts. By switching from AT&T’s prepaid GoPhone service to Airvoice Wireless we could get a comparable level of service for only $10/mo per phone.
Airvoice is one of dozens of MVNOs, Mobile Virtual Network Operator. You can think of an MVNO as a reseller who buys network coverage and airtime from AT&T and then sells it in different packages to customers. Of course there are MVNOs that do the same thing for the Verizon network. In order to switch from GoPhone to Airvoice we had to do a few things.
1.) Purchase new SIM cards
While it may be possible to switch over to the AirVoice network and retain your original AT&T sim card, Airvoice cards can be found pretty cheaply ($5) online. There are several different sizes available nowadays thanks to the smartphone race for thinner devices. Our
iPhone 4S phones required micro sim cards.
2.) (Optionally) Port Your Phone Number
Airvoice Wireless makes it easy to keep your phone number. Just fill out the form on their website and within a day or two your new SIM card will have your old phone number attached to it. When GoPhone got our port request they terminated our account. We knew this was coming, but it’s worth saying that any credit or account balance that you had with them gets wiped out (i.e. if you had $5 in your account it is theirs now).
3.) (Optionally) Enable Data & Texting
By default Airvoice has texting and data disabled on new accounts. You simply have to give them a call and ask for them to enable it for your account.
Here is what $10 gets us each month with Airvoice:
250 minutes or 500 text messages or 30mb of data or some combination of all three.
We’ve only been with Airvoice for a week or so and I still need to switch over Shae’s phone. There are a few key differences between the two prepaid services. I like some of them and others I’m not terribly fond of.
Pro’s of Airvoice:
Cheaper than GoPhone with similar features
Don’t have to explicitly add a data package (saves us $5 when we travel and want maps/email on the road)
Same network coverage
Unused dollars rollover to the next month
Con’s of Airvoice:
A message pops up on the phone after each action that costs money. For example if I send a text a popup appears on the screen telling me how much it cost, $0.02, and my remaining account balance. Some people might find this helpful, but I wish I could limit it to once a day or once a week.
Their website is very lacking. While auto refills can be set up. It takes some digging to find where and how to do it.
Visual voicemail does not work. With GoPhone it would work so long as you had a data package.
Account balance will expire unless you add to it every month. For example if you skip a month you lose service.
So there you have it. We started off a couple of years ago spending $113/month for phone service and once we finish switching over to Airvoice we’ll be spending just $21/month.
We will save over $1100 a year in our phone bill by paying only what we need and not a penny more. What could you do with an extra $1100?
Pssst, the correct answer is to invest it, earn 5% return for 20 years, and have an extra $16k in interest for a grand total of $38k. Is your phone really that important to you?!