Challenge Everything

For 6 years now I’ve been blogging about everything from debt, to budgeting, to saving, investing, home ownership, you name it. And over these years I’ve come to a few conclusions regarding money, one of which being that earning more is the fastest way to growing your wealth. This is why I sling side hustles left and right, and why I probably work way more than I should ;)

Then I read this article from the man himself, Mr. Money Mustache:

“The most important thing to note is that cutting your spending rate is much more powerful than increasing your income. The reason is that every permanent drop in your spending has a double effect: it increases the amount of money you have left over to save each month, and it permanently decreases the amount you’ll need every month for the rest of your life.”

That last line stopped me in my tracks: “it permanently decreases the amount you’ll need every month for the rest of your life.”

I had never, in all my years blogging, EVER heard it put this way. Yeah I know cutting back expenses is one of the two main components to financial sexiness, yada yada yada (the other one being to increase your income), but it never occurred to me that cutting back could have just as nice a compounding effect as investing. And for the rest of your life too! (Provided you don’t start taking up the expenses again, but the same holds true for making income too – ie if you stop bringing it home).

This hit me hard, especially now that I’ve come to realize retiring hinges heavily on your monthly expenses. You can stop working a helluva lot earlier if you only need $1,000 a month to live vs, say, needing $10,000. You may not be living as sexy a life as you’d like, but mathematically that’s what you’re looking at. And it’s been years since I really did a thorough walk-through of our expenses.

In fact, here’s a quick timeline of my financial journey:

  • 15 years ago: Poor college student and was a frugal bad ass
  • 12 years ago: Poor NYC resident and was a frugal bad ass
  • 10 years ago: First 9-5 job and started treating myself to niceties
  • 8 years ago: Started making over $60,000 and spent like I was rich! (damn lifestyle inflation!!)
  • 6 years ago: Bought a house, started this blog, got married, realized money mattered
  • 4 years ago: Challenged all expenses and cut them as low as possible for my desired lifestyle
  • 3 years ago: Became self-employed, concentrated on earning vs spending
  • 2 years ago: Had kid #1, expenses went up
  • 2 months ago: Had kid #2; expenses about to go way up (once daycare starts)
  • Today: Time to challenge every last expense again!!!

Now don’t get me wrong, I have been paying attention to our expenses throughout the past 6 years, especially in the “less stuff” buying department, but there comes a point where you feel like you’ve cut them as much as possible and you’re ready to call it “good enough.” There’s a balance you have to hit until your quality of life starts to go downhill – at least in terms of what you perceive to be “quality of life.” For me, this would be getting rid of things like coffee, beer, travel, internet connection (unless you want me to mail you these posts? ;)), and even my hobbies like coin collecting. Sure I could cut back on every last one of these guys, but that wouldn’t make me a very happy person. To me it’s about spending on the stuff I love and cutting back on the stuff I don’t.

But here’s the problem: If you don’t revisit your overall expenses as time goes on, especially as major events happen, you’ll continue to save/spend based on your OLD ideal lifestyle/goals vs your new ones. And this is pretty much what I’ve been doing over the past 4 years despite my life changing pretty drastically (although fortunately for the good).

So this post is as much for me, as it hopefully is for you – a huge ass reminder to stop and review all your monthly expenses. And not only to review them, but to *challenge* them. What can you get rid of nowadays that won’t bother you as much? What could you tweak/change/replace in order to maximize happiness? What do you REALLY need to live your ideal lifestyle?

After being inspired by MMM’s words up there, I’ve decided it’s time for me personally to start challenging my own expenses again. Even the ones that normally I’d be okay with, such as our house, groceries, entertainment, luxuries, utilities, services – everything. I’ll still be working on making as much cash money as I possibly can too – I still think it has the winning edge over frugality, don’t shoot me! – but it’s high time to check-in and thoroughly review what’s going out the door too if I truly want to make a run at early retirement.

And I’m starting with the usual suspects for July:

  1. Our iPhones — We love ’em, but do we really need to be spending $150+ every month for them? [UPDATE: We switched to Republic Wireless and now saving over $100 a mo!]
  2. Our cable & premium channels — TV is a must as it’s a nice break from working 24/7 (and quite honestly my wife would divorce me if I cut it), but is there a better/cheaper way to consume it?
  3. Insurances — There’s gotta be some savings in the half dozen coverages we have?! [UPDATE: Just nixed $30/mo off our car insurance! Working on the others now…]

[PS: Last month I challenged our investments and moved to Vanguard – not only drastically cutting expenses, but making sure our money’s aligned with CURRENT goals, not old ones there too!]

I’ll work on these first, and once they’ve been thoroughly examined I’ll move right along to the other areas in our expenses. Taking it one step at a time so that we don’t overdo it and end up giving up entirely (which helps no one). I’ll be focusing on the *recurring* expenses vs. the one-offs too, making it all the better as time pushes on… A couple hours of effort once for forever monthly savings!

I hope you guys will join me this month too :) You don’t need to do 3 if that’s too hardcore for y’all (although, is it really?), but DO promise me you’ll spend some time this week at least coming up with ONE thing you can tweak and save some money on. Or better yet, nix completely! If you did that every month you’d have rocked 12 different expenses over the year GUARANTEEING some lofty savings. A change in habits is much better for you in the long run too!

So that’s your goal for the week: Review your entire monthly expenses and zero in on *one* thing you’ll commit to improving. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is – just that you do it. And if you don’t have an accurate picture of your monthly expenses, stop reading this right now and go make that happen! You can’t track your success/goals if you don’t know what you’re playing with…

It’s go-time, baby! What are you going to challenge this month?

UPDATE: We’re now tracking the success of this mission – and how much we’ve banked because of it so far (over $4,000!) here: Challenge Everything

[Photo cred: Jeffrey Rowland]

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  1. Kirsten @ Indebtedmom June 30, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    Oh, I haven’t quite been putting it that way, but I’ve sorta been thinking about how yo reduce expenses as we head toward retirement. Things like paying off your mortgage and having reliable cars, etc.

    I have challenged my husband I to bring our grocery bill waaaaay down – like cut in half because we are spending a crazy amount on groceries and throw away a lot of food each week. We did ok this week (our first week), but I am using a lot of previously purchased items. But I’ll keep plugging away.

  2. Jon @ Money Smart Guides June 30, 2014 at 7:01 AM

    Great post! I agree that saving is good, but you can only go to a certain point before your quality of life starts to go below what you want. I make it a point to review my spending every 6-12 months and see if there are things I can get rid of or reduce the price. Recently, I walked into AT&T and found out I can lower my monthly cell phone bill and get a better plan! I also love satellite radio but hear about all of these people paying $5 a month just to “stay” as a customer. So I called them up and got the same deal!

    Now that I have some extra savings, I changed my auto invest plan to invest this extra money each month because after all, if you aren’t actually putting your savings into a savings or investing account, you really aren’t saving it. You’ll probably end up spending it!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      “If you aren’t actually putting your savings into a savings or investing account, you really aren’t saving it.” – EXACTLY!! If only everyone remembered that part!!

  3. Brandy June 30, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    So, I’ve been thinking about doing this with our insurance lately. Bumping up our deductible is probably the easiest way to save some cash each month. While I’m on the phone, I’ll ask if there’s any other discounts we can take advantage of, too!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      There you go :) Just make sure you don’t cut out any coverage you’ll be sorry about later! Saving money NOW is good, but not if you have to dish out more down the road… There’s probably a happy medium you can get.

  4. June 30, 2014 at 7:17 AM

    Cable is the biggest hidden expense as a lot of the discount given expires. My biggest money suck was when I had a company vehicle and a luxury car,that was a total waste

  5. jestjack June 30, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    I too am a fan of MMM…It’s funny how certain “niceties” become “neccessities”…i.e. cell phone bills, cable TV service and auto purchases. If one does embrace the frugal lifestyle…first you have the immediate savings but then as this lifestyle becomes the “norm” you don’t need as much money in retirement because your needs and wants are much less. And I just observed a pretty good “case in point”…Unfortunately, recently I had to evict a tenant from one of my rental properties. And of course they left a BUNCH of stuff and a bunch of paper work. going thru the paperwork I see a pattern. Late notices and late fees along with “unbridled spending”. Some examples….gas and electric bills AVERAGING $300 a month…cable bill of $180+ per month…cell phone bills of $150+ and the list goes on. Some folks just don’t get it. In addition, these folks left a “boat-load” of stuff behind….some good stuff and some not so much….

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      The frugal lifestyle is def. hard to stick to, as much as a lot of us want it. I feel like I’m maybe 50% there but still have a ton more to go. The nice part is that I’m good with all *future* stuff – now that I have a better mindset – but it’s still dealing with all the past/current stuff to get up to speed. One day at a time though!

  6. Dee @ Color Me Frugal June 30, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    I recently called up our cell phone company and our trash company and discovered in both instances that I could save money on my bill because they have new plan offerings now. Total savings = $15 per month. It’s not terribly exciting, but I’ll take it! I should really call up our insurance companies as well to find out if there are any new offers we could take advantage of.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:27 AM

      $15 EVERY MONTH for prob less than 15 mins on the phone – doesn’t get easier than that!

  7. Dave @ The New York Budget June 30, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    Nice post J$!

    I think financial bloggers often fall into the trap of CHOOSING frugality or earning power. I love that you recognize the value of both. I am slowly working on the earning side of my equation, but I definitely have plans to look at the spending side on a regular basis and adjust there as well.

  8. Anne June 30, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    Love this post! We’ve been working on cutting our spending lately as well but I never really thought of the effects it could have for our future retirement in terms of how much less money we would actually need. Only have been thinking of it as how to get more money for retirement. I am at that point where we aren’t quite sure what else we can can cut or reduce. But I just got an email from my job that they’re hosting a defensive driving course which could save me 10% on my car insurance and our cable contract should be up soon which should allow us to reevaluate our package. Here’s hoping we can find some more savings there too.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Yeah, needing less means you *don’t* need more money later ;) But you’re right – there’s only so much you can cut until you’ve gotta focus on the earning side of things… I feel like if you could get in a good habit of re-evaluating expenses every 6 months or so (rather than YEARS like me!) you’d always come across some fashion of savings… I’m gonna start putting on calendar items to remind me to keep on checking later!

  9. Catina Mount June 30, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Great post! MMM is a blog I check in to daily just like yours to make sure I am not missing anything. :-)
    My cell phone is KILLING me. It’s like a car payment. I plan to make the swap on all our family phones to Republic Wireless as soon as each phone comes off contract. I have a Roku and stream Netflix/ HuluPlus for a whopping $15 per month total so I can’t make much progress there. ( I don’t watch TV but my son does)
    Time to review the rest of my budget to see what’s hiding. It feels bare bones but we’ll see! Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Catina Mount June 30, 2014 at 8:23 AM

      Oh! I forgot that I did decide to cancel my P.O. box ($120) per yr and my Carbonite (computer backup, $60 per yr) so that’s a little something.

      1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        Rock on! I’m starting with Republic Wireless too – excited to check them out!

    2. Choices Choices July 3, 2014 at 4:48 PM

      I recently switched to Republic, and when i ran the numbers, I found that I would save the most money by leaving my previous carrier BEFORE the contract ran out. There was 3-4 months left in the contract, which equated to a $70 pro-rated early termination fee. At a monthly savings of $45, it would only take me less than 2 months to recoup that fee. So always run the numbers!

  10. Brian @ Debt Discipline June 30, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    One of the things I’ve been wrestling with as we are getting close to be coming debt free and having some extra cash per month. Tempted to just go spend it, but would rather look at ways to continue to cut further to increase wealth even more. Thanks J$ and MMM fort he nice friendly reminder.

  11. John @ Wise Dollar June 30, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Great post J! As a few others have said, I think all too often we put all our focus on either cutting back or earning more when you can do both and double what you’re doing. Your dead on when talking about those major life events and allowing them to bring in expenses that really shouldn’t be going on. I’ve gotten to where I’ll compute out what that money would do for us in a retirement account. It drives my wife a bit nuts, but I’ll say this could do “X amount” towards maxing out our Roth/SEP for the year. Looking at our expenses, I know darn well we don’t need our $150/month cell phone plan and could easily cut it by 2/3. That’s instantly $1200 we can throw into a retirement account as opposed to going to the folks at Verizon. As for the cable, my wife would likely divorce me as well. :)

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      It’s a hard balance sometimes :) But keep on prodding!

  12. Shannon @ Financially Blonde June 30, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    We started challenging everything about 2 years ago and that was when we started thinking more about financial freedom vs retirement. We realized if we cut our basic “needs” from a long term perspective, then financial freedom would be A LOT closer than we anticipated. The lower your monthly expenses, the less you need to maintain yourself, the less you have to bust you a$$ and the sooner you will reach freedom. I would much rather take this approach then have a need for a lot bigger retirement cushion just to support unnecessary costs.

  13. Jen @ Jen Spends June 30, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    We’ve been pretty bare bones since I quit my job almost 6 years ago. At this point we spend $100 per YEAR on my prepaid cell phone, no cable, etc. Even so, budget creep happens, so it is a good idea to look at things again at least once per year. Our car insurance has slowly crept up, so I definitely need to do something about that. I can also do better on food expenses — I’ve been too lackadaisical about our grocery budget lately.

    There’s only so much you can cut, though, and for some people an income increase really does need to happen. But I don’t understand people who work their tails off in order to throw away their money on extras. It’s not worth it.

    1. Jen @ Jen Spends June 30, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      Ah, just remembered another one…I’ve been paying close to $20 per month for Vonage, which is ridiculous. I’ve been meaning to switch to MagicJack, and keep forgetting.

      1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        YOU ARE HARDCORE!! Haha…. wow. I am officially impressed :)

  14. Michelle June 30, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Wow I love the way he put that. I have never thought of decreasing your spending in that way, but it definitely makes sense.

    Right now, we trying to determine whether or not we should cancel our cable. We recently bought Netflix and haven’t turned on our cable once, so we might have to do this!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      that’s exactly the route we’re going to investigate too – switching to Netflix vs premium channels… nice to know I’m not the only one in the late boat! :)

  15. Broke Millennial June 30, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    I just went over this yesterday! Our cost of internet went up $10 a month, so we’re going to try and be sneaky and switch it out of my name to my roommate’s and see if that makes it seem like we’re new customers so we get the new customer rate.

    I do feel like I’, bleeding money right now thanks to weddings and an upcoming trip to London, so I sat down and started to really ponder where everything was going. I’m fortunate to not really have many major expenses, what with no dependents (not even a pet) and not being a homeowner. It seems like my currently massive (for me) credit card bills will stabilize soon. Just need to grin and bear it through the next month.

    1. EE July 5, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      I wouldn’t bother changing it to your roommate’s name – just call your provider and ask for a lower or promotional rate. If you have a decent history of paying on time, etc, they tend to give you a short-term – around six months – discount just because you ask for it. It’s worth doing a little research first so that you can quote their competitor’s price, too. Set up a reminder in your calendar to do this every six months – right now we’re paying $20 per month less than the standard price after I made one five-minute phone call to our provider.

  16. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life June 30, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    This is definitely something we have been thinking about the past few days. With lack of time on our hands, we notice that we buy a lot of small stuff to tide us over. Like multiple trips to the grocery store for ‘fun food’ or going out to eat. It’s easy to see it all creep on you looking back, but it’s in the moment that it looks all so normal.

  17. Syed June 30, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    Awesome reminder. I’ve been looking into trimming the cell phone and cable as well. With the little one and with the missus starting grad school soon, not sure how much TV we’ll watch. Worst case scenario, we can always sign up again.

  18. Million Dollar Ninja June 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    I don’t have cable, only internet, but I was under a promotion for a year and now my bill went up. My goal this month is to try to get that promotion back. If I can’t get the promotion back, I’m going to cancel and have my fiancee get it under her name so we can get the new costumer promotion.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Y’all are so sneaky :)

  19. Green Girl Success June 30, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    MMM rocks! In the last several years, I too have really downsized my life, and a lot of expenses that came with it. It did not at all feel like depravation, but rather, liberation… true freedom! I cut cable, started going to the library for DVDs and books, and sold my car. I don’t even try to ‘budget’ for food because I buy everything organic and fresh at local farmers markets, when available. We live in a condo and we use our neighbor’s internet access in exchange for them using our balcony for their satellite dish. I have a cheap, pay as you go phone (because I despise contracts) for $35 per month for unlimited texting and 9 hours of talk time.

    I couldn’t be happier with this life. As a result of such a low cost of living (and some rental income), I have been able to leave my full time job and work on my side businesses. This has made me tremendously happier and healthier! And more environmentally friendly!

    I still travel overseas every couple of years, but I find I don’t crave it as much now that my personal and professional life are more fulfilling. Being downtown, I have access to a wonderful variety of free museums and free music events. Because I have time on my hands, I volunteer with a couple of community non-profit organizations. My life couldn’t be more rich and my basic expenses come to about $14k per year.

    I coach people in this respect of cutting needless costs, so here are my suggestions: sell your car, ditch the gym membership, get rid of cable. Also, try sharing an expense with a neighbor to reduce your costs.

    1. Aimee July 1, 2014 at 6:12 AM

      I LOVE the idea of sharing costs with neighbors! People put all kinds of passwords on their internet in living complexes to keep people from “stealing” their internet which is the opposite of what makes sense.

      1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        YES! WOW – you are killing it! So so great…. You should check out Republic wireless too – could get your monthly unlimited talk fee down to even $5/mo if you don’t care about internet access ;) Though you do have to cough up the money to pick up the phone (no contracts though)

  20. Natalie @ Financegirl June 30, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Good luck with your cutting! It sounds like you know what you’re doing. For me, I stopped spending so much on groceries this summer. I like to cook a lot but realized I really want to payoff my student loans fast and still be able to go to some friends weddings this summer. So, cooking has been put on hold. I’ve been eating lots of pb&j sandwiches and ramon!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      I eat PB&J every other day just cuz I like them :)

  21. Joe@StackingBenjamins June 30, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    I love the idea of challenging expenses, but most people do that off the top of their head. I’ve always found that when people begin tracking their expenses they’re suddenly thinking, “Dude, I spend THAT MUCH at Dairy Queen! But I’m lactose intolerant!”

    The lesson? If people track expenses they’ll probably end up with more friends and more money….. ;-)

    1. Not Quite Sexy Darrell June 30, 2014 at 1:54 PM

      “But I’m lactose intolerant!” too funny! Mint does great tracking for me. I just need to review transactions from a handful of places (amazon, target, kohls) to get an accurate look at what I’m spending in certain categories.

      1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Yeah, tracking expenses was the biggest thing I ever did years ago – mainly because of blogs like ours back in the day. To say it puts things in perspective is an understatement – I was blowing through $300/mo when I thought I was SAVING $300 a month! What a dummy…

  22. Joe June 30, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    Our expense has been going up over the last few years. Mainly it’s due to traveling again, but smart phones and other new bills have been creeping in. Two years ago, we were at the bare bone because I was preparing to quit my job. Now that it’s been working out, we’ve been spending a little more freely. Anyway, I’m putting in a long term plan to cut our housing expense. If all goes well, we’ll half our housing expense in 2 years. We’ll see if it works out. :)

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      Holy $hit, that would be awesome if you could pull that off man.

  23. Jackie June 30, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    Well I’ve been working on this lately:

    1)Going to cut our basic cable and buy an antenna to get at least some channels for free.
    2)Saving to buy new cell phones from Republic Wireless and make the switch when our current AT&T plan expires next year. Cutting cell phone expense to more than half!
    3)I’m using you tube to learn to cut my family’s hair myself.

    Any advice on where to get cheap, fast, reliable internet and dump the cable company all together?

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      If you find out, let me know!

      1. Tim October 31, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        Ask you neighbor if you can give them $15 a month for thier wifi password… Or a case of beer every other month!!! Instant savings.

  24. EL June 30, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    Yeah that is a great line and it states something most of us already knew but never realized it. Do not confuse anything because consciously maintaining a lower cost of living is tougher than it seems. If income all of a sudden explodes 50% more, not many people can stay consistent with their spending patterns. I have been doing both for a few years, trying to earn more, and cutting things. The trick is where you place the savings and or earnings above your budgeted expenses.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      True, but you gotta stop and try every now and then or else the money will ALWAYS go up and out the door! :)

    2. Morgan July 1, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      I don’t think that is true for everyone. We have absolutely no qualms about lower cost of living lifestyle. Its such a refreshing, freeing feeling to have no silly cable bill, shop at the goodwill, and make what we can. Our cars are 10 years old, paid for and not fancy. Our kids don’t ask for every new toy/movie/whatever because they aren’t subjected to ridiculous advertising on a daily basis. It can be embraced the same way people embrace flashy homes, designer clothing and expensive vacations. It does take a priority shift, but it isn’t hard, just different.

  25. Not Quite Sexy Darrell June 30, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I’m working on this, but I’ll post an extended description on our food costs to a) show people how much this can get out of hand and b) as a plea for help!!

    We spend much much higher than average, to the tune of $19,500 per year, and 73% of that is at the grocery store. (married with 3 kids…all under 6 years old). We worked on this all week, but have had zero results in our first week of efforts. We dropped spending only $15 from our weekly average, which is nothing because we didn’t host any guests, which probably ups the weekly average. I’m having a REALLY hard time with this because I don’t buy the food; my stay at home wife does. She bought ingredients to make pizza at home this week, and even AFTER having heart-to-heart discussions about food costs, she still bought three different kinds of cheeses, one of which costs $8 a pound! I really don’t know how to fix this one short of biting the bullet and doing the grocery shopping myself (I work full time and side hustle). I figure we have at least $6k – $7k we can save here per year, right?

    Tips would be appreciated!!! Especially links to good articles.

    1. Aimee July 1, 2014 at 6:26 AM

      “Fancy” foods might be a pleasure your wife really appreciates in her stay-at-home life. I can’t imagine how hard it is to not be bringing in money and being with kids all day. It’s a joy and an emotional/social drain at the same time. Perhaps you can agree to only use the triple cheese just for the adults’ pizza or not on nights when the kids’ friends are over. I personally might feel like I have no control if my husband “won’t let me buy some damn cheese”! Not passing judgment or being critical here just maybe shedding some light on ways to negotiate and come to an agreement where all are happy. Good luck!!

      1. Not Quite Sexy Darrell July 1, 2014 at 2:14 PM

        Yeah, I remember reading that blog and it felt like an Anti-keeping up with the jonses’ contest. “I spend only $120 a month on groceries.” “I spend only $20 a week!” A) I didn’t believe them, and B) if it were true, I just don’t think I could institute that drastic of a change. I’m trying to cut out $8 cheese, not cheese altogether, you know?

        It’s probably how an obese person feels when someone says, “I exercise 90 minutes a day.” “Oh yeah? I exercise 2 hours! Twice a day!” It’d be a buzzkill for someone that loses their breath walking up stairs, just like a $120 a month budget is a buzzkill for someone that just spent $1,900 in May (true story…and I rounded down!)

        1. J. Money July 2, 2014 at 12:29 PM

          Haha… well, I don’t think people are lying just for the fun of it, but you never know. The point is that people DO spend a $hit ton less, you just have to care enough to make it happen. There’s tons of things I’d *like* to save on but no way I’m gonna do them cuz I’d rather have what the money gets me :) like, coffee and internet for example. Much better than the $1,350,082.34 I’d save in 30 years if invested throughout! haha…

  26. Radio Wright June 30, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Yo J. Money!

    I’m concerned. All this focus on money and it looks like you getting chunkier. A million bucks is not worth dick, if your health suffers.

    Eat Paleo gangster!
    Do a little crossfit sometime or play some basketball.
    Track your food with the MyFitnessPal app for a month
    Take a walk around the block for break time.

    I cut my expenses, you cut your bad calories. Deal? deal.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      You know me so well…

  27. FF June 30, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    I think I’ve heard MMM phrase that as something like “flexing your frugality muscles” (that’s probably inaccurate, but close enough) throughout your life so you’ve got ’em good and strong when you quit working.

    I agree with that approach, and it also reminds me of some concerns I have. I’ve been wondering recently if there’s a level that you don’t want to go below for planning. Doesn’t mean you can’t live cheaply today and flex those muscles, but what’s the lowest I want to set up for myself into once I stop working? 1,000/month, 4,000/month, X,000/month (all inflation adjusted of course) for the rest of my life? I don’t know what I don’t know about the future and health (not to mention healtcare) etc. so it’s tough to plan.

    All that said, it still makes sense to spend little and earn more when possible. I guess all we can do is do our best and adjust as time goes on.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      For sure… I think it’s more for me about having almost the *same* comfortable lifestyle as we do now, just for a cheaper price. Like, I’d never get rid of my iphone or tv completely, but could I still keep both around for half the price? (Or more?) So I guess this is more about finding ways to stretch the dollars than dwindle down to a frugal rock star. There’s something to be said for spending money freely once your usual expenses are primed and working nicely :)

  28. Mortgage Free Mike June 30, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    Great post and I agree with MMM. I will commit to taking a closer look at food expenses. Not only reducing how much I buy, but how much I waste.

    Secondly, I have a 6-month plan to take a closer look at auto-related expenses. I am considering giving up a vehicle– which could save me more than $700 a month after I factor in all of the associated costs.

    Living in a major city it takes sacrifice to lower those monthly costs, but I believe it is possible for most of us to improve our situations. It just takes reminders like the one you provided!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      And the DC area isn’t as easy to give up a car than, say, NYC either – at least if you’re living in the outskirts. So I’d give you mad respect if you can pull the cord – I couldn’t! :)

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Already on my list, senor! Thx for the idea though :)

  29. Free To Pursue June 30, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    Excellent post. Life does change, doesn’t it?

    I hear you on the review of insurance. Two phone calls earlier this year, one for home insurance and the other for business insurance ended up saving us over $500 per year! Nothing to sneeze at.

    As for some expenses, can you justify some current personal expenses as business expenses? At least you can save the tax. We deduct part of our iPhones as a business expense, given we respond to business phone and email messages and use the data features for business when we’re out and about. Just a thought, but I’m sure you’ve considered these already.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Yup! But would save me/my business even more if the costs were lower too :)

  30. Marie @ Grad Money Matters July 1, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    I do agree that saving is really important. For this month, I am challenging myself to save $500. Because I usually saved half of it every month. I want a change. :)

  31. Mrs. Frugalwoods July 1, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Yes! Great post. We had an awakening when we realized how very little we can get by on each month–it was eye-opening for us! If you don’t need to spend the money, you don’t need to make the money.

    We love uncovering those “why the heck are we paying for that!?” expenses and knocking them out. Good luck this month!

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      Thanks :) I hope you continue to find more and more “why the heck are we paying for that!?” things too! Haha… or wait, is that bad?

  32. Michelle July 1, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    My husband and I have to reevaluate our finances and our budget around every three months or so. When he was unemployed, we found ourselves constantly looking at our budget weekly in order to make ends meet.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      One of the only nice perks of unemployment! Gets you to really stop and think about stuff! :)

  33. J @ the expat investor July 1, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Nice post! I would like to challenge myself to keep my expense down in July, but I find it hard I have some upcoming travel expense coming up that probably won’t be able to find good deals for it. Hopefully after July month I can cut my expense way down until I travel again.

    1. J. Money July 2, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      No one said it was *easy* ;)

  34. Julie Gosnell July 1, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    I haven’t had Cable Television for over five years. I thought that I would miss it and not be able to live my life with out the premium packages. I rented a hotel the other day and was flipping through the channels and all I could think was…”Gah, there is nothing on t.v.”!!!!! I do not miss the money I was spending on the packages. I use Netflix, hulu, and Amazon Prime and am able to watch enough stuff to keep me entertained.

    1. J. Money July 2, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      I think that’s what we’ll end with too – netflix and amazon prime – or at least in some concoction or another. Just need to start poking around once and for all!

  35. Nicola July 1, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    I love this post! I’m going to challenge our grocery spends as they seem to be creeping up, and those misc. spends that seem to add up to a lot over the month. I’d love to get our monthly expenses lower and lower, so the amount we need to bring in is less = less pressure.

  36. Kassandra July 1, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    I am definitely going to watch our meals expense line as I’m seeing it climb slowly every month for the past few months in a row.
    We’re both self-employed and often eat outside due to travel but some of that could be cut down if we at least brought some snacks or light food to go.

    1. J. Money July 2, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Gotta channel your inner kid – they love snacks! (And as a parent it’s HELL when you go out and forget to bring some along for them! Haha….)

  37. Jacob July 1, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    ” it’s about spending on the stuff I love and cutting back on the stuff I don’t.”

    I keep trying find other ways to say this, because this is essentially my entire blog. I guess I could just post this sentence once a day forever and be done with it… ;)

    1. J. Money July 2, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Haha, right?

      We need to set up an auto text messenger that sends that line over and over again to all our readers :) And ourselves, for that matter! We need all the reminders we can get.

  38. Athena July 1, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    This reminds me that I need to go through everything and cut back. I am of the philosophy that every penny helps, especially when you aren’t make an extreme amount to begin with. If you only cut $30 a month, by the end of the year it’s $360 you could have saved elsewhere!

    1. J. Money July 5, 2014 at 4:47 PM

      Exactly! But *only* if you indeed SAVE IT. That’s the key right there, because if you’re not you’re just spending it in other areas again :(

    1. J. Money July 5, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      Thanks man! So glad you enjoyed it :) Appreciate the kind words too – if you’re trying to get a free beer off me, it worked.

  39. Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans July 2, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    I tend to shy away from tracking my actual expenses mostly because I’m scared of the findings :P I know it’s something I absolutely MUST do, though.

    1. J. Money July 5, 2014 at 4:50 PM

      Only if you want to retire early and/or not worry about money at some point ;)

  40. The Phroogal Jason July 3, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    When I started making $35K I was spending like I was rich then I realized I was spending 110% of my salary. This got me into debt. Began six figure income and then repeat. Eventually I learned what you heard from MMM that curtailing spending has a greater impact in your financial well being than increasing income.

  41. Sharona Saves July 5, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Was going to switch to republic wireless for savings but after factoring new phone purchases for 4, switched instead to Cricket, using our own phones! Previous bill $190 with 3 data plans on 5 phones, new bill with 4 data plans on 4 phones $100 total !!!!!!

    1. J. Money July 5, 2014 at 4:51 PM

      nice! way to go!

      I had no idea Cricket was set up to use your own phones? that’s kinda cool… I’m in the process of testing out Republic Wireless now, so I may have to check out Cricket next… though my damn iPhone is half broken these days, ugh… #firstworldproblems

      1. Sharona Saves July 6, 2014 at 4:48 PM

        Purchase a new to you iPhone off of eBay at a fraction of the cost. Picked up a replacement for $100 easy as pie!

        1. J. Money July 7, 2014 at 11:09 AM

          you’re good at this game :)

  42. FI Pilgrim July 8, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    This is one of the core tenets of the book “Your Money Or Your Life”, which outlines how to become financially independent, and is one of the major reasons I decided to start a blog. The book’s a great read if you haven’t had the chance!

    1. J. Money July 8, 2014 at 9:22 AM

      It’s been sitting on my shelf for 3 years now! Haha.. one of these days I’ll finally get around to it.. like, when I stop popping out babies ;)

  43. Kat Reag August 7, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Just came across this article after I JUST did the same exercise last month! It showed me that spending an entire lunch hour on the phone with multiple companies can REALLY make a difference in my monthly expenses. These are my monthly expenses now:

    Rent – $316 a month (I bought a house and have two roomies paying most of my mortgage!)
    Car – $0 Finally paid it off last month! Almost $300 I am saving a month w/o a car note
    Cable/Internet – $175 :( roomies would kill me if I cancelled, but I did get them to cut out $30 a month just by asking/threatening to cancel if they didn’t upgrade me :)
    Electricity – $100ish (per roomie) – expensive as I live in Texas and it’s the dead of summer, I did start turning the temp up when I leave the house though!
    Auto Insurance – $72, Switched to Allstate, saved me $60 a month!
    Home Insurance – knocked $30 off a month by switching to Allstate!
    Gym – $69, no wins here. However, I figure I will save health costs down the road by staying fit!
    Groceries – $150 per month, grocery bill went up bc I started eating in more! I see this as a win.

    Trying to keep my expenses under $1000 per month so I can continue to seriously save!!! Definitely helps when you lower your monthly living costs.

    1. J. Money August 19, 2014 at 8:33 AM

      Holy crap!! That’s amazing – esp in the home area! Well done, friend! :) We pay $1k alone just for one of our child in daycare each month! Haha… You’re killing it.

  44. Niki P. August 13, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Such an inspiring post!

    I switched to Republic Wireless in January and love only paying $29/month for a smart phone!

    I was paying more than $80/month for car insurance through USAA. They’re the only company I’ve ever used and figured they were the best because of their customer service. Turns out I could save $30/month by switching to Geico. And switch I did!

    Thanks for the little kick in the pants. Next I want to figure out how to budget for grocery costs a bit better. This seems like the wild west though if you’re trying to eat well and avoid eating out.

    1. J. Money August 19, 2014 at 8:35 AM

      Oh man, yeah I’m completely lost on the grocery stuff – you’ll have to let me know if you figure it out :)

  45. B @ Uni Student Life September 2, 2014 at 4:50 AM

    As a college/university blog owner, I find that its hard drilling down on fellow students about cutting down on useless expenses. I believe that a few youngsters really don’t think about saving till its too late. As such this generation (me included at times) appears to only live for the now, and not the future!

    Great post, really insightful into your financial timeline!

  46. Jordan September 4, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Hi J. Money,

    Thanks for the awesome article. It is very inspiring, and it convinced me to start challenging everything as well.

    Since reading this article, I have done the following:
    1. Satellite TV – reduced by $15 ($60 down to $45) by switching to a lower package that still has our preferred TV channels, but I am working on convincing the wife to drop completely :)

    2. Cell phone – reduced by $90 ($160 down to $70) by switching my phone line to Republic Wireless $10 plan and moving my wife to a single line plan with Verizon ($60) – I am trying my hardest to stick to the $10 Republic plan but may have to go to the $25 plan whenever we go out of town away from my usual wireless networks :-/

    3. Internet – reduced by $25 ($55 down to $30) by doing a quick online chat with a representative to ask them how I can lower my monthly payment because I have noticed another competitor offering lower cost/higher speed. They quickly gave me a monthly bill credit. Maybe I should try this with my satellite bill as well! :-D

    Total savings so far: $130 per month

    1. J. Money September 6, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      Thank you so much for sharing this with us! SO AWESOME!!! The perfect example of taking action and getting future benefit for months and years ahead. That’s a lot of extra money every month to be put to good use! What are you going to do with it now? :)

  47. Jennifer G October 13, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    We are in the process of challenging our expenses too. I just found your blog (again) today. We also recently switched my phone to Republic Wireless (saving $47.50 over Virgin Mobile which we switched to a couple of years ago from AT&T, which didn’t save us much, I think about $20 a month, but we went from extremely limited dumb phones to unlimited everything smart phones). I figured we would try out RW’s 30 day return policy, if I didn’t like it I could return to V. Mobile. I LOVE it, so hubs will be switching in a few weeks too (we are saving up for his phone). Once he switches, that will save us $95 a month.
    We are also in the process of building our media center. We are under contract with our “cable” satellite until Thanksgiving. But we will be cutting it as soon as we can, and once we do, that will be another $125 a month.
    Hubs had a really bad run-in with a herd of pigs a couple of months ago and then a run in with a huge deer a couple of weeks ago. If the car is totaled (and it looks like it will be) we will use the insurance check to pay off the loan and whatever is left from it (hopefully around $2000-$2500) we will repair our other cars (we never sold our 1998 Jeep, so hubs has started driving it again and I drive a 2001 Avalon…both paid in full). Once that is all said and done, there will be another $162 staying in our account. (as well as saving on our car insurance because we will be insuring 2 cars instead of 3…though with 2 recent wrecks on the policy, it might not go down very much)
    We unfortunately have quite a bit of credit card debt, so all those savings we will see, will be put toward paying off our credit card for a while. But once it is paid off, we will be looking at close to $1000 (combined) not leaving our account each month. We are enjoying the challenge and will love seeing that debt disappear too.

    1. J. Money October 18, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      NICE!!! That will be a crazy chunk of mine to be used towards your goals going forward – way to keep on top of this stuff and really dig in to shave stuff down… To me it’s one of those things where once you get the mindset right everything else starts becoming a no brainer. So best to take advantage now while you’re hot and before you lost motivation/mindset later! ;) Keep going!

  48. Mr Average Finance March 3, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    I have seen “The most important thing to note is that cutting your spending rate is much more powerful than increasing your income.” passed around a couple of blogs now ands its quite powerful. Another good tactic is that even if your income does increase, keep your spending the same and save/invest the extra.

    1. J. Money March 3, 2015 at 9:36 PM

      Yup! Not sure if one side is definitely better than the other (cutting expenses vs growing income) but I know that it helps *immensely* paying attention to both :)

  49. Jen February 6, 2016 at 2:10 PM

    Love this concept! it has motivated me to make a few calls. Got interest rates reduced on 2 cards. When I called Discover, they would not reduce the rate. Guess who I am using the debt snowball process on first! Reduced my cable bill, cell and the escrow on my mortgage was just reduced. I have extra money in my account so I can payoff those pesky credit cards bills sooner. I am so motivated to dump that debt.

    1. J. Money February 8, 2016 at 3:27 PM

      Niiiiice!!! You are on fire, way to go!! Love hearing this!